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What are we reading in June?

last month

Just finished Ann Patchett's State of Wonder and enjoyed it far more than I would have expected, despite the setting of the Amazon rain forest, as snakes and creepy-crawlies have never been my favourite things. Despite this the characters were well-drawn and the story held together well. If you are of a scientific bent you might take issue with the medical experiments taking place as I don't know if Patchett has any 'training' in this field but it worked fine for me.

Comments (56)

  • last month

    I too enjoy Maeve Binchy and first came across her writing during a spell in hospital. It was a book of her short stories which managed to both hold my attention and dull the tedium of several bed-bound days.

  • last month

    Annpan (or anyone, really) - I can't remember if I've already read Maeve Binchy's Circle of Friends. I might have read it before I started keeping a reading journal. Can you give me a short description without giving away the plot?

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  • last month

    Circle of Friends is about three girls, Benny, Eve and Nan and how their lives develop.


    I went online to check on another Binchy novel and noticed a link to Bookey. It gave a plot of Tara Road which is nothing like the book! I am astounded! Even the character's names are wrong. The writer can't have read the book or has read a fan fiction of it!

  • last month

    Thanks, Annpan.

  • last month

    I don't have any new mysteries to read unfortunately but I am enjoying reading guidebooks I bought on various trips I was fortunate enough to take in the past. I barely skimmed them at the time but now have time to savor the art, history, gardens and scenery. I just finished one on Santa Maria Novella church in Florence and am now reading one on the history of Roman Bath and the archeology there. Bath came to mind as I'm watching the latest season of McDonald and Dodds which is set there, a beautiful city.

  • last month

    Circle of Friends is the first Binchy book I read (long, long ago). What I remember is how impressed I was with her portrayal of those teen aged girls. I have read all her books and liked them all.

  • last month

    Ginny, thanks for reminding me about McDonald and Dodds. I only saw the first two series here and thought it was ended! I have just come from a DVD shop and got Series 3 to watch this weekend.

    I was lucky to stay at a cheap B&B in the Royal Crescent in Bath in the late 1950s when I visited twice. I believe it is very upmarket now!

  • last month

    Annpan, Lucky you to stay in the Royal Crescent! That must have been lovely. What a treat. I really like McDonald and Dodds, both for its setting in Bath and the two lead characters. They are now showing season 4 but it's only three episodes unfortunately.

    I just finished Ruth Rendell's The Best Man to Die. It was pretty good but I did guess the culprit which I rarely do.

  • last month

    Ginny, yes, I was lucky! The house I stayed in had curved rooms at the front to fit the style of the buildings.

    I have had some very wealthy/cheap accommodation at times without any effort in my part!

    I had a cabin on the Promenade deck of an ocean liner when I was a subsidised migrant to Australia and a shared apartment in a very upscale suburb in Sydney!

    It just fell into place.

  • last month

    Sounds wonderful, Annpan. I have had a few lucky travel bump-ups too. One was being bumped to first class on Iberia Airlines flying home. A cocoon all to myself and one of the best meals I have ever had. I didn't want to land!

    Such experiences help blur some of the bad travel experiences we all have. I hope I never see the New Jersey Turnpike again! Crawling, crawling, crawling. :)

  • last month

    I have never been bumped to first class but managed a couple of business class ones. It ruins you for cattle class!

    I have had a couple of bad trips too. A Force 10 gale sailing on the North Sea was the worst although having my bunk break under me in a Bay of Biscay storm came a close second!

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    Via BBC radio 4 I have been listening to Long Island by Colm Toibin, the follow-up book to Brooklyn. The characters are twenty years older and a visit back to Ireland brings back old friendships mingled with sad memories, unpleasant pushy mothers and mother's in law and an inability for meaningful decisions to be made or chances taken.

  • last month

    We watched a programme called Dopesick, which was about the spread of OxyContin painkillers in the US, pushed very hard by a pharmaceutical company. It was quite interesting, so I ordered the book from the library (same title, by Beth Macy). The book was disappointing though. Rather than an investigative journalist approach, it was mainly anecdotes from mothers of people who became addicted and didn't follow a straight chronological line.

    Meanwhile, I am listening to The Covenant of Water by Abraham Vergese, and enjoying it very much. It is a family saga set in India, starting in the early 20th century, and has a lot of interesting characters.

  • last month

    I’m reading Inheritance by Nora Roberts. It’s a pretty good story. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but it involves a long family history and a haunted house on the coast of Maine.

    There is one thing Ms Roberts does a lot that drives me crazy, which is many sentences missing an ”and”. Such as, ”She picked up the wine glass, the bottle, then went to the library.” I could see using this occasionally, but there are several sentences on every page that really should have an ”and”.

    I’m enjoying the story and I’m trying to ignore the syntax.

    Donna

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    I’m reading Long Island, by acclaimed Irish author Colm Toibin. It’s the sequel to his best-selling Brooklyn. Both feature a young Irish woman who emigrates tto New York tho she had not planned to. Unexpected events drive the plot of the first book. The second book picks up her story twenty years later after a shocking discovery. Highly recommend both.

    Later—Finished the book. It’s very engrossing but ends with a cliffhanger which leaves many readers unsatisfied, including me, I must say.

    vee_new thanked ginny12
  • last month

    I'm reading Bad Actors by Mick Herron. I think it's next to the last of the Slow Horses books. They are so different--MI5 agents who messed up and are kept on with nothing jobs, except they still have their skills. Reading them is like going to the dentist and then finding out nothing is wrong.

    vee_new thanked Carolyn Newlen
  • 29 days ago

    Vee, I note that you have just read Marrying the Mistress which I read many years ago. It annoyed me that the author wrote that a married woman could not have a job! I wrote a review and pointed out that women could work after marriage.

    The Civil Service employed them and they could take a kind of Dowry money the Govt granted but lost ranking if they went back to work after the marriage.

    I recall that I did not like the story very much.

    vee_new thanked annpanagain
  • 29 days ago

    I finished Inheritance (Nora Roberts) last night. I thought it was a very good ghost story. It’s the first of a trilogy, and it ended in the middle of a dramatic scene. Now I have to wait till November for the second book to find out what happens!

    Donna

  • 28 days ago

    I'm reading Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet.

    It is the first in her Max Tudor mystery series.

    I'm enjoying it and wonder how an M15 agent became a studly vicar ?!


  • 28 days ago

    I liked the Max Tudor books, Yoyo. Unfortunately, my library is missing Pagan Spring, and I don't like the books well enough to buy it.

  • 27 days ago

    Yesterday, I finished a nonfiction book, Dinners with Ruth, by Nina Totenberg. Ruth is Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the U.S. Supreme Court Judge who passed away in 2020, and Nina Totenberg is the long-standing legal correspondent of National Public Radio.

    While I enjoyed this very educational book, I was disappointed that it was not what I expected. I incorrectly assumed that Nina and Ruth had regularly dined together, just the two of them, over the many years of their friendship and the book would contain descriptions of some of their most interesting conversations. I can blame no one but myself (and the somewhat misleading title) for this false expectation. The book was mostly about Nina's adult life and career and her friendships with many important and influential people in Washington, D.C. Among these many friends, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the most prominently featured. But there was very little focus on their dinner conversations, and all dinners included at least their husbands and often several other guests. Nina is quite adept at organizing dinner parties.

  • 27 days ago

    Carolyn....There's a copy on Ebay $4.08 and free shipping.

  • 26 days ago

    Thanks!

  • 25 days ago

    Some years ago I read several works by Maeve Binchy and I do enjoy her work. I jot down comments on books as I read them, and here was what I had to say about the Binchy works I read:


    MAEVE'S TIMES: IN HER OWN WORDS (2013)

    This is a selection of Maeve Binchy's columns for the Irish Times, written over several decades. They include several amusing accounts of royal weddings, a dissection of Emily Post, and many pieces about people the author has met--the somewhat eccentric characters she has been fond of highlighting. There is even a short piece about her battle with ants.

    28 February 2016

    EVENING CLASS (1996)

    Interesting novel involving an Italian language class.

    26 December 1998

    LIGHT A PENNY CANDLE (1982)

    Good novel tracing the lives of two women, one Irish and one English, from the World War II years of their childhood through their subsequent romances, marriages, and widowhood.

    23 November 1998

    NIGHTS OF RAIN AND STARS (2004)

    Sometimes I get cynical about Maeve Binchy and wonder if she has an eye on the movies in some of her novels. This is one of them. Set in Greece, which is always good for scenic shots (clear blue skies, the Mediterranean, ruins--who could ask for more?), its characters include a few Greeks who are almost too sage and perfect to be believable, especially the aging Andreas.

    Several tourists--from England, Ireland, the United States, and Germany--are brought together in this part of Greece when a tragic boat fire kills 24 people, many of whom are known to the townspeople. All of the visitors are fairly young, and it turns out that all of them are running away from situations they found intolerable.

    Soon their old lives are catching up with them, and decisions have to be made. It is astonishing how appropriately everybody behaves in this novel. It is as if they are marionettes whose strings are controlled by a crew of social workers. For things get wrapped up by the end of the novel, new pairings-off are transpiring, and a couple of long-gone sons are returning to the fold.

    This novel has one very strong message: Families ought to stay close to one another. Families ought not to allow their closest relatives to stray far afield, no matter how great the lure of other parts of the world.

    A very conventional message, to be sure, but Binchy presents the story in a tolerable way that is also enjoyable, even right down to the scenes with dancing Greeks that put one in mind of Zorba the Greek and other movies showcasing the Greek way of life.

    2 April 2008

    THE RETURN JOURNEY (1998)

    This is a collection of Binchy short stories. I had never read any of her shorter works, and I have to say I prefer her novels.

    These are interesting, quiet stories about families and relationships. But they are a bit thin and slight. I wish she had fleshed them out more.

    18 November 2007

    TARA ROAD (1998)

    A fairly good novel about two troubled women who swap houses for a summer. One woman is an American who has recently lost her teenaged son, the other is Irish, and her husband has left her and the two children because he is involved with a much younger woman who is pregnant.

    28 February 2000

    A WEEK IN WINTER (2012)

    Maeve Binchy has given us a long novel, populated densely by characters who have a connection, in one way or another, with a hotel that is starting up under the auspices of Chicky, an Irish woman who has lived in the US. There are those who have been in prison, those who drink too much, those who have to get married, even a couple who have served as doctors on board ship.

    The stories move forward with the Irish lilt that is typical of Binchy's style, and we find ourselves acquainted with an assortment of lovable and somewhat eccentric people.

    --Not too eccentric, though. Binchy makes it clear that isolated people who aren't team players are suspect. In her world you'd better be one of the fun-loving crowd. Women who are too keen on rules while being in charge of libraries or schools come in for her particularly withering scorn.

    14 November 2014

    CHESTNUT STREET (2010)

    This is a posthumously published collection of stories about assorted characters, all of whom live on Chestnut Street, a semicircular street with some thirty houses.

    Binchy's characters are often put-upon, taken advantage of, tossed about by chance, doomed to loneliness, but the author's relentlessly sunny view of the world has a way of rescuing them sometimes that seems all too tidy.

    Some of the stories are very slight, little more than anecdotes, and in at least one--"Flowers from Grace"--Binchy seems to be straining too hard to teach a Lesson: Grace needs to loosen up and stop organizing everything.

    But as always, Binchy spins a good yarn with interesting, realistic characters and situations.

    4 September 2015

    vee_new thanked phoebecaulfield
  • 25 days ago
    last modified: 25 days ago

    I think the saddest story Binchy wrote was about a newly widowed English woman with four children who finds she was married to an Irish bigamist. She has to decide who should hold his funeral and where he should be buried.

    His Irish wife, children and all his family do not know until his brothers come over and the whole deception comes out. She decides to keep the secret and let his Irish family have his body.

    The short story was turned into an award winning play.

    I enjoy her situations but have an occasional wince when she puts Irish idiom into other mouths!

  • 25 days ago
    last modified: 25 days ago

    Annpan, are you able to remember the name of that Binchy story please? I don't think I have read it.

  • 25 days ago

    I have started A Marriage Under the Terror by Patricia Wentworth. It is set in Paris at the beginning of the Reign of Terror and is not what I expected from Wentworth.

  • 24 days ago
    last modified: 24 days ago

    Carolyn - I know nothing about Particia Wentworth's writing, but I'm curious to know why your current book is not what you expected from her.

    Annpan, Vee and Phoebe - I have not read the story about the Irish bigamist either, but that does indeed sound like the kind of plot that Maeve Binchy would write. It's been a long time, but I remember The Glass Lake as being my favorite Binchy novel. Perhaps it's time to read it again and see if that still holds true.

  • 24 days ago

    Following in Phoebe's footsteps, I checked the reading journal that I started in 1991 (so it's missing a couple decades of my adult reading) and found that I've read the following Maeve Binchy books. I'm only including the titles and the year I read each one. I'm not including my descriptions because they are chock full of spoilers.

    The Glass Lake - 1999

    Evening Class - 2004

    Quentins - 2004

    Nights of Rain and Stars - 2005

    The Lilac Bus - 2009

    A Week in Winter - 2023

    Light a Penny Candle - 2024

    It's nice to have an author you can continue to enjoy over the decades of your life. Thank you, Maeve Binchy!


    vee_new thanked kathy_t
  • 24 days ago

    Kathy, Wentworth wrote a lot of mysteries. I didn't know she also wrote lots of other books. If you weren't aware, you really didn't want to be a aristocrat in much of France during the Revolution.

  • 23 days ago

    The Binchy bigamist short story was turned into a play called "Deeply Regretted By" and I have read the script which was published. I think the original story is in Maeve;s Times which I do not have on hand to check.

    vee_new thanked annpanagain
  • 23 days ago

    Thanks Annpan, I have ordered 'A Week in Winter' from the library. I may have read it before!

  • 22 days ago
    last modified: 22 days ago

    A quick read Absolutely and Forever by Rose Tremain was a strange and sad book written in the first person by (to me) a very silly, dreamy girl who we meet while at boarding school in the late '50's. She is obsessed by a good looking boy and the remainder of the story follows this theme. She never gets him out of her head. She dreams about him while she fluffs her school exams, at her secretarial college, and when at work doing boring jobs; even when married to someone else. I remember that time well plus boarding school privations and wonder what I missed out on . . . were 15-16 year olds so free with their sexual favours? Could girls receive/send romantic letters? All our letter, both 'in' and 'out' until we left aged 18 were opened and read by the nuns! But, in fairness the real lives of late '50 school girls was SO boring that some literary licence is necessary!

    Tremain is good at the language of the day, from silly school-girl chat to the 'voice' of her army officer father and to the upper middle class neighbours, all with double-barrelled names.

  • 22 days ago

    I've started another Beatriz Williams book, The Golden Hour. I'm so glad I found this author!

  • 19 days ago

    I recently "finished" Table for Two by Amor Towles. That is, I finished as much of it as I plan to read and will take it back to the library where there is a long line of holds awaiting its return. It is a book of six short stories and one novella. I have never been a fan of short stories, which I suppose is why I remain less than enthusiastic about this book. I did real 5 1/2 of the short stories and really enjoyed these four:

    "The Ballad of Timothy Touchett"

    "Hasta Luego"

    "I Will Survive"

    "The Bootlegger".

  • 19 days ago
    last modified: 19 days ago

    I was a fan of all the Ruth Galloway books written by Elly Griffiths and mostly set in Norfolk. However, she wrote the last of that series last year-- #15. I've also read two other mysteries by her and enjoyed them. So I just got her latest, The Last Word, from the library today. I'm looking forward to it.

  • 18 days ago

    I have been listening to the first and second books of another Cynthia Harrod-Eagles series, this one about the inhabitants of Ashmore Castle. It's of the upstairs, downstairs style and set in 1904, and the main theme is the restrictions placed on women in that time. I think she writes very well, with good characterisation and believable dialogue.

    I have been reading The Lemon Tree by Sandy Toth which is an interesting story of two families who live in a particular house (with a lemon tree) in Palestine/Israel at different times. I feel the author has been very fair in presenting both sides of this extremely complicated story.

    vee_new thanked Kath
  • 17 days ago
    last modified: 17 days ago

    I'm reading the second Max Tudor mystery, The Fatal Winter by Malliet. It's a nice cozy read with a very hunky vicar :0) Perhaps it's reminiscent of the tv series Grantchester.

  • 15 days ago

    I liked the idea of The Excitements by C. J. Wray but was disappointed in the story.

    The book was recommended for older readers being about two old sisters going to France to be honoured with medals. They both have back stories and chapters jump to various times.


    Without giving much away, it seemed to me like a mix of several rather old plots.

    I got bored halfway through and just read the last few pages to confirm what I had already guessed about the mysteries.

    Apparently from the reviews, a lot of readers liked it. I didn't even warm to the characters, even the male relative who escorted them to Paris and was so solicitous about frequently reminding them before a car ride to "spend a penny"!

    I am 87 and I don't need constant reminders about unreliable bladders while reading! Especially as we are in the rainy season here.


    vee_new thanked annpanagain
  • 15 days ago

    Ann, in this case I disagree with you. I read The Excitements yesterday and just loved it. Laugh-out-loud funny in places to me amidst all the war, age problems, and other mayhem.

  • 14 days ago

    Carolyn, it just wasn't my cup of tea! Glad you enjoyed it though.

  • 14 days ago

    I just finished The Last Word by Elly Griffiths. It follows another book she wrote about the same trio of unlikely detectives, set near Brighton in England. The mystery was just ok--multiple murders connected with a writers group. But the political correctness was a constant distraction. There are many characters--too many--and there can't be any group that was unrepresented. It all made for a rather unbelievable scenario.

  • 14 days ago
    last modified: 14 days ago

    I recently finished Light A Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy. So many here have been praising her work I thought I’d try it. At first I thought it was slow, so I returned it to the library. After a few days I decided to give it another try. I ended up liking it pretty well!

  • 14 days ago

    Interesting Donna, I just took out from the library Binchy's A Week in Winter although two thirds of the book takes place before the week in question. All MB's usual 'types' although as this must have been one of her later books one sees a subtle change in her attitude towards the very conservative lives led by the people up until the '90's. Rather more 'free love' ('though without benefit of contraception . . . then still against the law) and the problems this can bring. I am expecting a positive and happy ending.

  • 14 days ago

    I hope you get a happy ending, Vee! To me, the end of Penny Candle wasn’t happy.

    vee_new thanked msmeow
  • 13 days ago

    I'm starting another Beatriz Williams, The Secret Life of Violet Grant. I'm so glad she has written a lot of books.



  • 13 days ago

    And I have started another Rumer Godden, The Greengage Summer. It's the fourth I've read by her and I also am glad she wrote a lot of books. It's good to have books to look forward to.

    vee_new thanked ginny12
  • 13 days ago

    Carolyn.....that was the first of her books that I read and I was hooked !

    It is the first of a series of three stories about the Schuyler sisters.

    She rarely disappoints me.

  • 13 days ago

    After a hard day's reading, I finished Violet and saw there were two more about the Schuylers. There's just no way to ever catch up, is there? So many books . . .

  • 10 days ago
    last modified: 10 days ago

    Carolyn.......life is good !