Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: historical fiction

The Mayfair Bookshop: New Read

Four non-fiction books in a row means it’s high time for a novel, especially since I finished my previous read the night before a holiday. And this time it’s The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight! Why did I choose this book? Well…that’s a bit of a story.

My TBR shelf has turned into shelves, and you know that’s not allowed. Generally, I keep my TBR to one shelf, but with the windfall I accumulated a couple years ago due to a friend’s sudden move out of state (and she had to leave her books behind), I’ve allowed myself more than one shelf for a while now. I swore (a not so solemn oath) that I would read the books I had before I bought any more, but alas, here we are.

In my defense I have slowed down and this month promised I would refrain from purchasing the darlings and make an attempt at whittling down the pile, and then we went to Costco.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t usually buy any books there, but I do almost always peruse the stacks, just in case. There are sometimes fun novels there that beg to be taken home. Honest, they beg. I hear them.

This time as we moved toward the aisle where my precious coffee is located, my husband glanced down at the cart and looked back at me. “What’s this?” I smiled. “A moral imperative.” He laughed. “Why these ones?” I point to the words on the covers, “bookshop” and “library.” “Ah, I see.” I cannot resist a book about books and readers. They’re like friends coming to visit. He knows this.

At the checkout, I had to rescue them before he threw them on the conveyor belt right along with the meat and frozen vegetables. Seriously.

I posted on Instagram that I had begun a beautiful Easter Sunday (although I had forgotten it was Easter until I opened Facebook) with this fun book and several extra cups of coffee. That post led me to receive a comment from the author herself, which thrilled me to the bone.

I read for three hours yesterday morning, and my first thoughts were, “Charming.” and “I’m in love with these characters.” Last night, when I couldn’t fall asleep, I thought I’d get up and read a bit and see if that helped. I sat down, opened the book, “No, wait. I need a cup of tea.” Put the book aside to start the kettle, went back to get the book and read while my tea steeped.

I imagined the characters becoming exasperated with my indecision. “Is she going to read, or not?” I’m sure they are all in there waiting, their action paused, for me to pick the book back up. I wonder what they do while they wait.

This morning, I’m already halfway through this delicious book and I’ll probably read a bit more before I start the rest of my day. You know, the part of the day I spend off the couch, outside a book. The boring part!

I’m sorry Ms. Knight, but I do have one complaint. I feel compelled to add all the books you mention in your story to my TBR list. And call me ignorant, but I didn’t realize this was historical fiction when I picked it up, and that Nancy Mitford was a real author. So, thanks for that!

That’s sarcasm in case it didn’t come across that way. Almost every book I read adds two or three more books to my list. Reading is never-ending entertainment and information accumulation. And a TBR list is always one step forward and two steps back, or three, or four. It’s beautiful.

I have many Costco adventures. Click over to Shopping Cart Antics for more!

Want to read more of my thoughts on this gem of a book? Try Beautifully Relatable Characters.

“A Student of History”

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Why did I pick this book from the shelf at the bookstore? Two reasons: it said “student” and “history.” I’m not picky when it comes to novels. Most times I judge a book by its cover and its synopsis. Reading the inside flap of this one, I thought it sounded a bit like Sunset Boulevard, so I decided to try it.

I have to be honest. I wasn’t that impressed. It was a good mystery. There were some interesting parts. I liked the characters mostly. But it was a little predictable and not very deep. The history would be more interesting if I was more familiar with Hollywood and Los Angeles maybe. I didn’t really care for the main character. I felt like he just fell into what was happening around him, kind of naïve, but maybe that was the point?

“Maybe I’d learn something about LA history – I was, after all, an historian – although, stupidly, with what I realize now was the particular arrogance of the overeducated and underemployed, I didn’t believe that there was anything the wealthy could teach me.”

Familiar. I think most of us believe, stupidly, that people different from us have nothing to add to our lives. That seems so bizarre. How can you learn anything from someone exactly like you? It goes both ways. The rich have something to learn from the poor too.

“I avoided the pile of books on my desk as if they were a lover with whom I’d split but still shared an apartment.”

I just loved this because I have a pile of books on my shelf just like this. I need to get to work, but someone on Facebook is wrong and I must set them straight!

“If you can’t buy something outright, you can’t afford it at all,” she said.

“Mrs. W-,” Dalton, chuckling, “the price was four hundred million dollars. Not too many people can afford four hundred million dollars.”

“That’s right!” she said. “And those that aren’t rich have no business pretending that they are.”

I know a lot of people would disagree and find this snobby, but she’s not totally wrong. If you’re making payments on something, you’ve borrowed from the future in the hope that you will be able to afford it. Save up for it instead. Houses, I guess, can be the exception, I suppose. It doesn’t make financial sense to spend money on housing AND save up for a future house at the same time. But everything else? Save up.

“And yet here he was, and my mother too – who despite her simple clothing and Target-bought handbag did not believe she was lesser than anyone.”

Attitude is everything. I wish I didn’t care what other people thought of me. I wish I could feel that I “belonged” wherever I wanted to be.

“I thought for a moment about taking a picture with my phone, but noticed that nobody else was taking pictures. Apparently the event was so commonplace that it did not require documentation.”

They weren’t taking pictures because it would be rude, not because it didn’t require documentation. Sure I’d love to remember seeing Mel Brooks at the Rite Aid in Buena Park (if it ever happened) but it would be rude to take pictures.

I don’t regret reading this book and I would recommend it for light, fun reading. It’s a good book. It’s just not one I thought was as “edgy and spellbinding” as the back cover said. It did emphasize one truism though. The divide between rich and poor is not that great. We all have our troubles. We all hurt. We all screw up. The very rich and influential have the added bonus of being public. When they do human things, we all get to watch and criticize. It’s sad really.

Two New Books

I started two new books this week. The first one, “Democracy for Realists,” was recommended by Mark Manson on New Years Eve. It’s fascinating, but a long and more difficult read for me. I can only stay focused on it for about an hour before my brain starts to get tired!

I’ve had the same idea, that elections really don’t mean anything, for a long time but couldn’t really defend it. This book is giving me some great insight to my intuition. I’ve run across a few things I don’t agree with though. Government, federal and state, has gotten into the habit of micro-managing the people and the people have learned to depend on it instead of taking care of themselves and their own families privately.  The election process we have resembles a professional sport now, with one team against another and no principles to speak of. This book gets into why that is.

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Because I can only read this book for about an hour before my brain gets buzzy, and I my goal this year is to read for an average of three hours per day, I picked up another book to read at the same time. It’s called “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson.

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I found it at the thrift store for a dollar a few months ago and was intriqued by the cover. Yep, that’s how I find books sometimes, especially if they are a dollar. If I don’t like it right away, I stop reading it and drop it back at the thrift store so they can sell it to someone else. I’m only out a dollar.

This book is turning out great! World War II, Japanese immigrants being sent to Manzanar. It’s historical fiction and one of my favorite eras. I’ve been to Manzanar with my family and read a few other books about what happened. One was called “Nisei Daughter” by Monica Sone. What I already know is blending into this story so well.

One thing I found so strange when I first started reading about the Japanese Internment was how quick we all were to “evacuate” these people. The more I read, the more I understand.

It wasn’t like we all just turned on them. We were already wary of them. Japanese culture is very different from Western culture. Many behaviors that the Japanese consider respectful and honorable, we see as rude and suspicious. It was difficult for Westerners to accept them into society and the many immigrants did not want to assimilate either. They wanted to live thier own way and be left alone. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, it was easy for us to villify the Japanese immigrants and our government was happy to comply with our wishes.

I’m really fascinated about cultural differences and how they affect people’s perception of others. Don’t think we have outgrown our wariness of strangers!

There was a lot more going on at the time, especially on the west coast of the United States. It’s a interesting topic. Since I’ve read a bit about it in the past, this story’s setting is very clear to me and a fictional account of a love triangle and forbidden relationships in the midst of World War II is icing on that cake.

I think it’ll take me awhile to read “Democracy for Realists.” It’s long and involved, but I’ll write more about it as I read. I’m already more than halfway done with “Snow Falling on Cedars.” It’s that engaging!

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