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Sunday Salon: the Books, and Just the Books

September 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon.com
My typing pain is lurking around the edges, so no musings today, just straight to the books! (Also, my backlog of reviews is beginning to wobble precariously, so rather than add to it I’m ruthlessly covering all the books I read this week that weren’t from Netgalley today, despite all of those ‘five star’ reads I have that I wish I could spend posts and posts analysing and praising. If you noticed a lack of nonfiction, it’s because most of those were ebook review copies!)

And for those that missed it last week, I’ve copied and pasted my explanation of the new format as a footnote (not sure how long I’ll need to keep including that, perhaps I’ll just always pop it down at the bottom…let me know if you have any advice).

Books I Loved and Found Every Page a Delight


Read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson if…you love psychologically creepy little stories (this was a reread for me…you can read my post from my first reading back in 2008 if you want more detail).

Read The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic if…you’d like to read more US 19th century lit or you’re interested in novels that tell a compelling story while incorporating quite a bit of philosophical or religious musings or you love meeting idiosyncratic, strong women characters who break stereotypes (thanks to Frances for suggesting this!).

Read Mrs. Malory Investigates by Hazel Holt if…you’ve always secretly resented Agatha Christie for writing so many more Poirot novels than Miss Marple ones and want to discover another wonderful, puzzle-style mystery series featuring an older woman sleuth.

Read The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan, trans. by Earl Jeffrey Richards if…you want to be reminded that yes, smart, strong women have always existed, and yes they could make kickass, intellectual feminist arguments centuries ago or you just love Medieval allegory and need a fix or if you don’t know if you’re into lit from the Middle Ages but you’d like a place to give it a try and you’re a lifelong lover of list making and categorising (can you tell it’s killing me to not do a whole post?).

Read Elective Affinities by Goethe, trans. by David Constantine if…you’re still not convinced that eighteenth century lit can be engaging and ‘modern’ or you enjoy fiction in which the author is playing with ideas and philosophy as much as with characters and stories.

Read The Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery if…you need a comfort fix, have already read The Story Girl, and don’t mind open endings.

Books I Would Have Loved, Except for One or Two Little Quibbles that I’m Now Being a Bit Petty About but Oh Well, or Books I Really, Really Liked


Read Nothing Left Over by Toinette Lippe if…the idea of reading a wonderfully polished essay collection/memoir by an older woman now retired from the publishing industry loosely based around the theme of leading a simple life appeals to you, and you don’t mind when authors hold strong, slightly random personal opinions.

Read Arabian Jazz by Diana Abu-Jaber if…you love immigrant stories or slightly zaney, off-kilter fiction (I hestitate to call it magical realism…if magical realism : fantasy, then this book : folk/fairy tales; it reminded me quite a bit of Luis Alberto Urrea’s fiction, actually).

Books I Definitely Liked, Although They Didn’t Blow Me Away or Books that had Great Points Counterbalanced by Not-Great Ones


Read Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz if…you enjoy reading slightly fluffy books about dogs, with a few scientific facts thrown in.

Books I Finished but Wish I’d Abandoned


Read Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James if…you find suggestions like ‘sell your boat’ helpful when thinking about simple living.

New Format Explanation: I’ve arranged my one-sentence thoughts into rough groups by how much I loved/didn’t love the book. You’ll notice that there are five groups, presented in descending order from most to least loved; remember that these represent a judgement of my reading experience, rather than the actual book (for a bit more detail, see my books read page). The first three (loved through liked) are all categories I would definitely recommend, more or less enthusiastically; the final two (didn’t really like and wish I’d abandoned), I’d (usually) still recommend but to those with different tastes than myself. I hope the new structure is helpful for anyone who wasn’t always sure how I felt about a title based on my one-sentence recommendation! :)
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36 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2011 7:38 am

    A great post. Love the way you descrie your reactions to the books. And they are quite a variety!

  2. September 18, 2011 7:43 am

    Oh, selling my boat is the key to simple living? Wow, now I that know I will get right on that ;)

  3. September 18, 2011 7:55 am

    Great post! I was going to say basically what Teresa said above about the boat. :) I really need to read some Montgomery books.

  4. September 18, 2011 8:23 am

    LOL Ohhhhhhhh THAT’S how I can simplify, so good to know. haha. Lots of great sounding books here!

  5. September 18, 2011 8:34 am

    I think I’ll be skipping the Holt book, because I always like Poirot more than Marple anyway so thanks for the warning. ;-) As always, I love your format here. Keep up the good work and don’t worry about not doing enough…whatever you do is great.

  6. September 18, 2011 9:11 am

    I read We Have Always Lived in the Castle in high school, and I still remember how creepy it is. Jackson is a master of creepiness without too much outright horror.

  7. September 18, 2011 9:25 am

    Oh good picks! I’m seeing Shirley Jackson everywhere right now …must be fall!

  8. September 18, 2011 10:31 am

    The LM Montgomery one sounds delightful. I love the sound of that one and I haven’t heard of it before.

  9. September 18, 2011 10:58 am

    I love this format so much, I’d love to steal it…although I might incorporate the “read this idea if…” idea into my monthly summaries of books read. “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.”

    You read such a rich variety of books. I’m so glad I found your blog. :-)

    • September 18, 2011 8:08 pm

      Debbie, steal away! :) I’m of the opinion that the internet works by everyone ‘stealing’ inspiriation from everyone else, so I’m not possessive about my ideas/projects/etc. If you’d like to link to me the first time you try this format, that would make me feel honoured, but I won’t freak out if you don’t. ;) And thanks for the compliment!

  10. September 18, 2011 11:37 am

    Aww, The Golden Road. I was always mystified as to why (spoilers but not really because it is telegraphed like mad) she decided to kill off poor Cecily. It would have been depressing but at least not super predictable to kill off someone else that wasn’t all sweetness and light. Hrmph.

    • September 18, 2011 8:08 pm

      Well, since the death doesn’t actually happen in the narrative, I’m just choosing to ignore its existence. LOL

  11. September 18, 2011 11:41 am

    I love this new format of yours, Eva! The books you loved most seem all very interesting.

    Your post made me remember that I own a copy of The Book of the City of Ladies but have not yet read it. Too many books, too little time! :)

  12. September 18, 2011 12:36 pm

    Christine de Pizan is wonderful! I do wish you could write a whole post, but for right now I’m just glad you read and enjoyed. I love it when historic women (especially medieval women obviously) sit up and surprise us. Such a fantastic reminder that, even if they did get buried in history written by men, they actually did their best to counter it.

  13. Jillian ♣ permalink
    September 18, 2011 1:04 pm

    I’ve never heard of The Golden Road — sounds really good. I don’t mind an open ending.

    I love your one-sentence reviews. :-)

    Also, I see you’re reading a Tolstoy biography. That looks really interesting!

    • September 18, 2011 8:09 pm

      I got the bio on Netgalley: it might still be there! :) Anyway, I’m about 100 pgs in & it’s v fun and readable. There’s a lack of secondary sources so far, but I’m hoping once she moves past his childhood/family history there will be more voices other than Tolstoy’s own, if you know what I mean.

  14. September 18, 2011 1:09 pm

    Ha, your comment on selling the boat reminded me of the advice given to a friend of mine when she attended a workshop given by her graduate school on how to finance your education: they advised the students to ask their parents for their planned inheritances early. My friend called her dad and told him that and they had a good chuckle. “You mean all the debt your mother and I are planning to offload onto you when we die?” he asked.

    • September 18, 2011 8:10 pm

      LOL That wasn’t a joke? I sometimes tease my mom that the only thing missing from my life is that trust fund I should’ve had. ;)

  15. September 18, 2011 3:58 pm

    I’m overdue to reread We Have Always Lived in the Castle!

  16. September 18, 2011 4:34 pm

    Oh, another L.M. Montgomery I haven’t read! I’m almost torn between wanting to be upset at my library for not having absolutely every book she wrote on the shelves and excitement that I still have new books of hers left to discover, but ultimately the excitement of more of her books wins hands down.

    Your comment regarding Simplify Your Life makes me laugh. It reminds me of a meeting I was in once, where I swear everyone else in the room had a boat–I felt really out of my element in a wow, I don’t belong in this group sort of way.

    • September 18, 2011 8:11 pm

      I can’t believe I never read anything by her but the Anne books when I was a kid, but I also love being able to read all the other books now!

  17. September 18, 2011 4:39 pm

    Just discovered your blog. What a great source for book recommendations. I am taking notes and will use your suggestions on my next visit to the book store. Thanks!

    • September 18, 2011 8:14 pm

      Thank you Sunday! I’ll be popping over to your blog soon. :)

  18. September 18, 2011 4:47 pm

    I hope your hands feel better! I have “We Have Always Lived in a Castle” on my reread list and I hope the library has The Book of the City of Ladies somewhere on their shelves.

    I should sell my boat? What about the Limo:)

  19. September 18, 2011 5:34 pm

    Oh, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of Sea of Poppies.

    • September 18, 2011 8:14 pm

      Sea of Poppies is a reread for me: I loved, loved, loved it the first time! :D

  20. September 18, 2011 6:26 pm

    Love when you run all your reads down like this. And appreciative that you made time for the Harold Frederic. An under-rated novel for sure.

  21. September 18, 2011 8:15 pm

    Thanks to everyone who left comments! I read and value them all; unfortunately, I have to limit my typing so I only respond directly to comments asking (or implying) questions. But thanks again!

  22. September 18, 2011 10:38 pm

    I really like the new format! I’ve never read anything by LM Montgomery other than the Anne series, so I’ll have to look into the ones you mentioned.

  23. bookgazing permalink
    September 19, 2011 10:57 am

    Hehe! I actually could get that last book for a new colleague who has a boat (yes I was a bit bitter when I first found out). Maybe f he simplifys his life I could take the boat off his hands…

  24. September 19, 2011 11:14 am

    I wanted to read We Have Always Lived In The Castle for this year’s RIP but my library didn’t have it on the shelf, and I can only request up to 5 books at a time and my queue is filled! So hopefully it will show up before the end of the season. I hear good things about it.

  25. September 19, 2011 1:45 pm

    I just put THE BOOK OF THE CITY OF LADIES on my library for later shelf. Sounds very interesting!

  26. September 20, 2011 5:56 am

    I’m especially interested in “The Book of the City of Ladies”. For Finding Ada Day I’m reading a great book called “Pandora’s Breeches: Women,Science and Power in the Enlightenment” that makes exactly that same point: there were powerful feminism voices long before feminism was ever a word.

  27. September 21, 2011 12:17 pm

    Oh, I’m so glad that you liked Elective Affinities! I’ve been wanting to read that for the longest time.

  28. September 21, 2011 4:34 pm

    I’ll definitely have to check out Mrs. Mallory …. I love Miss Marple, and yes there should have been more Miss Marple books!

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