Friday, April 15, 2016

How to Live - An Amazon Kindle Daily Deal

If you read my post, or someone else's, and think you'd like to read this book, today it's one of Amazon's Kindle Daily Deals for $1.99.  This may only be available at this price in the U.S.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Three for the Price of One

Today, I'm catching up.  I don't post about all the books I read.  You can see what I've read in the end of month lists I try to remember to post.  I just finished three very different books.

I only knew Eleanor Perenyi as the author of Green Thoughts.  I used to be a serious gardener, when I had the space to garden.  I loved learning Latin names for plants.  I loved trying to grow things no one else I knew grew.  I loved reading gardening narratives, and Green Thoughts was a good one.

I had no idea that, in 1937, the American Eleanor, at the age of nineteen, met an impoverished Hungarian baron almost twenty years older than she was and married him.  Both families protested.  She moved to his country estate in Hungary and they managed it together.  Until Europe started to fracture.

They were at different times ruled by Hungary, the Czechs, or Ruthenia.  Things didn't usually change much for them, no matter who was in charge.  Until her husband had to enlist in the army.  To be honest, I had trouble keeping the nationalities straight, so I can't tell you what army he was in.

She got pregnant, things heated up more in Europe, and her husband and mother decided that she must leave for American before she can't leave.  She didn't want to go, but she and her mother sailed from Italy for the United States.  She didn't hear from her husband for two and a half years.  Their son was born, but he didn't know his father as a small child.

Perenyi ends the book with the first letter she received from her husband after those two years, but the introduction, written by a friend, elaborates on what she's left out and what happened after the book ended.  I enjoyed the book, especially when she wrote about the estate, the village, Budapest, and the people of the Carpathians.

This book, The Books that Changed My Life, is the kind of book I read when commercials are on on TV.  There are one hundred short essays, one or two pages long, written by, as the title page says:  "authors, actors, musicians, and other remarkable people."  To be honest, I skimmed some of them.  I skimmed if I didn't know the person or if they selected a book I didn't think I'd like.  I confess that I'm not thrilled by most modern literary fiction.  It usually seems too full of itself.  A few of the people asked said there was no 'one' book, that there were many.  Others got off topic.  A few touted their latest books.  It's the kind of book I consider 'filler'.

This is the second Annie Haynes mystery I've read.  I've liked both.  In The Bungalow Mystery, a nasty man is shot in his library.  The housekeeper runs next door to get the doctor.  The doctor finds a pretty young woman hiding in the curtains and decides to help her escape.  He thinks she must have shot the man but thinks that she must have had a good reason.  The girl disappears.

There is a train wreck that evening and the doctor's good friend is badly injured.  In fact, he loses both legs.  He calls off his wedding and secludes himself in his country estate.  He hires the doctor to care for him.  The doctor meets a young woman who lives in the estate next door and falls in love with her.

Much of the book revolves around who the girl in the library is and, of course, who shot the evil, blackmailing man.  I started to figure it out only near the end.  As I said, I liked this book, too, and plan to read others by Annie Haynes.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Riviera - William Scott

I collected A. & C. Black travel books back in the 1990s.  I found my first one, The English Lakes, at a library sale in Massachusetts and was enchanted.  They have illustrated bindings and many paintings and drawings inside.  This one has 75 color illustrations.  I've always liked travel narratives, especially the old ones.  They were often inexpensive at library or yard sales.  I love the first person tales of foreign, or sometimes not so foreign, places.

Katrina  and I discovered that we both had this book, so we decided to read it at the same time.  It's taken us longer than we had expected, but I think we're both finished now.  Look for a post at her blog shortly.  My copy isn't in the best condition.  I think I paid $30 for it.  You may think that's a lot, but a pristine copy of this book sells for about $245.  The inside is in good condition, except for a water stain in the back along the spine.  All the tissue-covered illustrations are there and the illustrated fold out map is still in the back.

I was feeling guilty writing about a book that's hard to find and often expensive if you can find it.  But I was looking for it on-line and it appears that it's a free down-load here.

William Scott, the writer and illustrator, doesn't hesitate to tell us what he thinks about places.  He often tells us that 'there is nothing of special interest in the place' or 'there is nothing at present to detain us'.  He thinks that the French Riviera is more enticing to travellers than the Italian Riviera.  He thinks that Italy is not as welcoming to travellers, although he admits that those seeking the raw beauty of nature will find it in both places, but perhaps more so on the less developed Italian side.  He tells us which restaurants and hotels to avoid, sometimes naming them, and which places will always give us simple but good food and wine for a reasonable price.

Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Hyeres and loved it.  There are Roman ruins and tall aqueduct arches in Frejus.  Grasse smells of the perfume and candies it's famous for and is, to him, the perfect city, with no poverty.  Vallauris, home to the pottery industry, is a 'pleasant outlet for superfluous cash in over-burdened pockets'.  In 1907, when this book was written, there seem to be trams and trains to everywhere.  Travel was mostly by train and then by foot, bicycle, or carriage, with the occasional automobile.  I want to go back to those slower times with fewer people!

Monte Carlo and Cannes already had casinos, and reactions to them were mixed, as they are today.  He says that people who lived in Monte Carlo were not allowed to gamble in the casino, except on one day a year.  The casino also had the right to refuse entrance to anyone it deemed undesirable.  It's his opinion that many amusements aren't worth indulging in, that they invite a  'rowdy and undesirable element', that 'Life can be enjoyed and be pleasant enough without them, if personal worry, that arch enemy, be absent.'  Yes, that's true.  If only we could get rid of that pesky 'personal worry'.

Scott would rather ramble up a steep cliff to admire the view or visit an ancient village, many of which have been desecrated by modernization.  The ancient town of Antibes, one of the rare Medieval walled towns, has been 'uselessly sacrificed to a pestilent craze for modernity'.  And it continues.

He raves about the stupidity of customs officers. He thinks they are the scum of the earth, having no qualifications or skills and reveling in their powers to annoy and delay.

I think Scott would be a bit prickly to travel with, but I enjoyed travelling with him via this book.

Moby Dick - Audio

I just noticed this link at the Books on the Nightstand web site.  I read a few chapters of Moby Dick in a high school English class, but I've never read the whole book.  It's a book I think I should read, so I pulled it off my shelf and have been looking at it and moving it around for many months.

This link sounds interesting.  The entire book is read by people whose names you might know and some whose names you might not.  Either way, it's been suggested by other readers that the key to getting through and enjoying some of the longer classics is to listen to them while reading.