Sunday, October 14, 2018


Zin: The History And Mystery Of ZinfandelZin: The History And Mystery Of Zinfandel
by David Darlington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is interesting more as an historical oddity than anything else. It was written in 1991 (and was originally published under the title Angels' Visits) and published by Da Capo Press in 2001 when a new afterword was added.
David Darlington travels around California, mostly in the late 1980s, talking to various men who are making Zinfandel in commercial wineries (as opposed to home winemakers). They drink wine, they analyze what they are drinking, and they philosophize (sometimes at a length well beyond sober judgement) about why Zinfandel is the great American varietal. We do hear quite a bit about the home-wine making activities of the author and his friends. The histories of these people (some of whom run wineries that are now huge and successful, like Ravenswood) and how they came to be making wine is interesting. Because of the time it was written none of them know that Zinfandel is going to be successful, it is a fringe thing these few people are playing around with.
I am counting this book toward the What's in a Name Challenge as a title that begins with Z and am linking up with Weekend Cooking. It also counts toward my nonfiction reading challenge and I'm linking up with Nonfiction Friday.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Great Believers

The Great BelieversThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Powerful, beautiful, sad book.
I felt like this novel continued the conversation that Andrew Sean Greer began in his National Book Festival interview about how the AIDS crisis took the people that would have been role models for how to be old and out. Makkai talks about writing this book, which is set in Chicago in an interview with New City Lit.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation

The #6degrees meme is hosted at Books are my Favourite and Best.

This month the chain begins with The Outsiders by S E Hinton. I read this book as a kid and I liked it. My absolute favorite writer at the point in my life when I read The Outsiders was Paula Danziger who wrote (#1) Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? Danziger visited my school library when I was in 6th or 7th grade and I was so excited to meet her and have her sign my copy of one of her books. Since then I have gotten to meet lots of authors (one of the benefits of being a librarian) but mostly it isn't as exciting as exciting as it was the first time. A few years ago I met a teenager at an event where Jodi Picoult was speaking and she was super excited to meet Picoult because (#2) My Sister's Keeper was her very favorite book which is about a kid suing her parents. It was a huge thrill for me to meet (very briefly at a huge event) Katherine Paterson because she wrote (#3) Bridge to Terabithia which I loved as a kid even though it was SO SAD.  The ambition to be a great runner is part of that story, which brings me to (#4) What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Running is not a topic I am interested in, but Murakami is fascinating no matter what he talks/writes about and this was a great audiobook. Neil Gaiman is another author who I will listen to an audiobook by no matter what the topic is because I could listen to that man read the phone book and be riveted. My favorite of his books is (#5) Stardust. He is my husband's favorite writer and he likes the short stories better than the novels and especially liked (#6) Smoke and Mirrors.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Top Ten Longest Books

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is the ten longest books you've read and is linked up at

  1. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (965 pages)
  2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (940 pages)
  3. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (925 pages)
  4. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (884 pages)
  5. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (882 pages)
  6. Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan (864 pages)
  7. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (849 pages)
  8. A Place of Hiding by Elizabeth George (800 pages)
  9. A Century of Women by Sheila Rowbotham (784 pages)
  10. With No One as Witness by Elizabeth George (784 pages)

Monday, October 8, 2018


by Bram Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (really 4.5)

This book tells the story of a small group of people who come into the world of Count Dracula and end up fighting for their lives and their eternal souls. It is told entirely through letters and journal entries by the various characters and is incredibly well told.
According to The Oxford Companion to English Literature (5th ed., 1985) the tale was influenced by an 1872 story called "Carmilla," which appeared in Le Fanu's In a Glass Darkly.  It is difficult to imagine what reading this book must have been like in 1897 when all the mythology of the vampire was not well known. There were many layers of mythology and various actions taken by characters in the novel that must have built the suspense and the mystery of who, and what, Count Dracula is very well. Knowing all the tropes of vampire novels now it was totally obvious why garlic flowers were ordered and what it meant that there were 2 small puncture wounds on someone's neck and why that bat kept lurking at the window. This diminished the suspense of the unfolding tale, but it still deserves credit for the wonderfully built tension.

This book is on my Classics Club List and it counts toward the Back to the Classics Challenge as a book with a single word title.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Blind Assassin

The Blind AssassinThe Blind Assassin
by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up o you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then, later, they spring." (p, 190)
I read this book in 2002 and I remember liking it--it started my love for Atwood's work--but didn't remember a lot of detail about it. I just re-read it and was completely impressed by what a great writer Margaret Atwood is. The story is the lives of two sisters and mixed into it is the tale of the Blind Assassin (and a few lizard men of Xenor). It is fabulously well-constructed and beautifully written.
"Breakfasts, picnics, ocean voyages, costume balls, newspapers, boating on the river. Such items do not assort very well with tragedy. But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream. It includes everything that led up to it. Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment: the knife stab, the shell-burst, the plummet of the car from the bridge." (p. 417)
This book counts toward the Canadian Book Challenge.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder

Lemon Meringue Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen, #4)Lemon Meringue Pie Murder 
by Joanne Fluke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“On the one hand, it was nice to have someone who was concerned about you. But on the other hand, you couldn’t ever feel truly independent. Marriage was a trade-off. You gave up some things and you gained others.” ― Joanne Fluke, Lemon Meringue Pie Murder
This is #4 in the Hannah Swensen series. Like the earlier installments it was a charming story about a woman who owns a cookie shop in a small Minnesota town and gets herself mixed up in a murder investigation while juggling 2 romantic interests and a mom who never misses an opportunity to point out that she ought to get married before she gets any older. She also spends a lot of time feeding her cat and drinks more coffee than anyone I have ever seen. These are fun, fluffy, novels with recipes mixed in. The orange cookies sounded delicious. 
I am counting this book toward the What's in a Name Challenge as a book with a fruit in the title. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

An Ocean of Minutes

An Ocean of MinutesAn Ocean of Minutes
by Thea Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't "really like" this book as I thought it was very sad. However, it is a very well written book and the characters were so well drawn that their sorrows seemed very real to me as I read it.
This is the first novel of a woman who grew up in Singapore and now lives in Toronto. It is about a woman who falls in love and is faced with a decision about her future because she is given the option to travel forward in time in exchange for saving her beloved. How her choice works out for them is the core of the story which moved back and forth between the time before her choice and the time after. There are also a lot of ideas about memory, and objects, and history, and the passage of time.
"I do not know that this is the last time I will ever leave this house. This is where I became myself. I should have gone from room to room touching everything, seizing as much as my memory could hold: the flip clock on the oven, the accordion door always stuck in its track, the dust motes and how they twinkle when I open the blinds. But I don't know." (p. 250) 
I am counting this book toward the Canadian Book Challenge.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back to the Classics Check-in

Back to the Classics 2018 hosted at Books and Chocolate is one of my 2018 reading challenges. I committed to read at least 6 books for this one, each in a different one of the 12 defined categories.

I have read books for 5 categories so far:

These are the remaining categories with some ideas of what I might read for them:
  • A classic in translation.  
    Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak; 
    The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 
  • A children's classic.
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; 
    The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting; The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. 
    Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie; 
    The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton; The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald; Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
  • A classic with a single-word title.
    Dracula by Bram Stoker; 
    She by H. Rider Haggard; Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • A classic that scares you.
    Swann's Way by Marcel Proust 
  • A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction.
    No ideas for this one -- if you have a recommendation please let me know.
  • Re-read a favorite classic.
    There are several possibilities for this, but I am not much of a re-reader so am not sure I will complete this category.
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