I haven't seen this much snow in years. When I woke up early Saturday morning, there was only about an inch on the ground (measured by the tried and true "dog paw print depth method"). But the snow came fast & furious all day. I shoveled the walk and the deck about 10:00am, and again around 1:30, clearing about 4-6" of snow each time. By 3:30, there was no evidence of shoveling, and it was still snowing. My Labrador retrievers were romping in snow up to their bellies (and loving it). A flock of grackles had taken up permanent residence at the bird feeders; apparently their normal food supply had been buried in snow. Things slowed down overnight, and there's at least a foot of snow on the ground today. It's all quite beautiful, really, especially since I don't have to travel in this weather. And it's a perfect time to curl up with a good book. I didn't do as much reading yesterday as expected, instead spending my time on chores, cookie-baking, letting the dogs in & out & in ..., and drying the kids' wet clothes.
One of the high points of my weekend has been a Secret Santa with the Virago Modern Classics group on LibraryThing. We had 34 participants from all over the world: US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, etc. We've been chatting about it on our talk threads since mid-November, and December 19 was designated as the start of the gift opening period. We set up a thread just to record all of the "oohs and aahs" from delighted group members. The first to open her gift lives in the Philippines, so she posted when it was still Friday evening in my part of the world. I waited until Saturday breakfast: after the first cup of coffee, but before shoveling snow! My Secret Santa lives in Texas and is someone who has come to know me fairly well over the past couple of years. She also has impeccable taste in books, and chose very well for me. Every single book is right on target, many fit with 2010 challenges or reading goals, and I can't wait to dive into these:
This lovely collection includes two Virago Modern Classics, two books in translation, one from the "1001" list, and one National Book Award winner. Oh, and the Santa pictured is by Eldreth Pottery, a local artisan I've recently discovered.
While I didn't do a lot of reading during the blizzard I still managed to finish my second book of the week: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This book gets rave reviews from the YA crowd, including my younger daughter who has been pushing it on me for a while. I'd also read several positive reviews from book bloggers, and was intrigued. It did not disappoint. As a work of dystopian fiction, Collins does a nice job developing the post-apocalyptic North America where the story takes place. Yet the characters are very familiar, and much like people readers would know today. They deal with typical teen concerns like appearance and relationships, but are also fighting for survival. The book is a real page-turner and, since my daughter now has a copy of the sequel (Catching Fire), I suspect I'll read it one of these days. Click here for more of my thoughts on The Hunger Games.
Also this week I read a wonderful Virago Modern Classic, Crossriggs. This was a delightful story of two sisters: one a helpless widow, the other a strong, independent single woman, each making their way in Victorian Scotland. I liked the strong character best (no surprise, and I believe that's what the authors intended). I read this book for the Women Unbound challenge, because it explores some issues we still face to some degree today. As I wrote in my review:
Today I hope to spend more time with a book than I did yesterday. And I've decided to lose myself in sunny Italy through E.M. Forster's A Room with a View. Forster is the December focus of LibraryThing's Monthly Author Reads group. Initially I didn't think I'd have time to participate, but I've been moving quickly through my December reads that I decided to squeeze it in. I've seen the 1985 Merchant Ivory film about a million times; it was superbly cast and received an Oscar nomination for cinematography. So it's impossible to read without imagining Helena Bonham-Carter as Lucy, or Maggie Smith as Charlotte. And it's easy to visualize scenic Florence and the English countryside. So I intend to really key in on the language and look for nuances that may not have been apparent to me on film.
I've just started A Room with a View, but after that I'll be reading The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. I'm on vacation from work for the rest of the year, so I may need one more book to take me through the rest of 2009. Looking over my stacks yesterday, I zeroed in on Barbara Pym as an author who would suit my winter reading mood, and the "comfort reads" theme I declared for December. I've really enjoyed three of her books (Excellent Women, Quartet in Autumn, and Jane & Prudence). Her portraits of English village life & manners are brilliant, sometimes comic and sometimes poignant. I have three of Pym's books on my shelves that I haven't read yet: An Unsuitable Attachment, No Fond Return of Love, and Less than Angels. Have you read any of these? Which one would you recommend? Leave a comment and help me choose!
Read more from The Sunday Salon here.