A Girl And A Horse

A stuffed horse named Jake.

Stick horses ridden around the back yard with her best friend.

Books about horses; Misty of Chincoteague, The Black Stallion, National Velvet, By the Shores of Silver Lake--the part where Laura rides the pony.

My daughter has always loved animals and horses have always been pretty high up on the list.

horseback riding lesson Sugar Magnolia Farm

horseback riding lesson Sugar Magnolia Farm

Her grandparents gave her some money to spend however she wanted.  She chose to buy herself a few horseback riding lessons.  I don't think I have ever seen her so happy.  She started off very quiet and solemn, that intense silence of a child who is completely enjoying herself.  By halfway through the lesson she was smiling constantly.

new england barn

horseback riding lesson outdoor arena

I was impressed with the farm where she took her lesson.  The instructor was kind and patient.  She spent a lot of time explaining everything she was doing and had Celia help with all of it.  She said they teach the care of a horse, not just how to ride. Celia was taught how to comb and brush the horse, how to put on the saddle and bridle, and how to lead the horse to the riding ring.

Then she rode the horse, a real horse and she was on it.  I am not sure life gets any better than that.  At least it doesn't for an eleven-year-old girl.

It is pretty special to see your child doing something that you know she will remember for the rest of her life.  I was proud of her because she tried something so completely new and different. Of course, it made me happy to see her so happy.

Celia is literally counting the days until she goes back.  We are spreading the lessons out a bit so they aren't all over in a month.  We think that gives her something to look forward to.  She thinks the wait is going to kill her.  Either way, it seems we have started something we are going to find it hard to stop.  How do you tell her the dream is over?  I don't think we can.

One of the first things Celia said when she saw me taking photos was that she thought I should write a blog post about her riding lesson.  So, this post is for her. The post has been heavily edited by Celia.  She made me change some of the photos and she didn't approve of some of the wording.  She does, however, agree that the wait is going to kill her.  Twenty days?  How is she going to survive?

In Which I Attempt To Pick Favorites

I am not good at picking favorites and I am especially not good at picking favorite books.  There are so many variables.  A new book or reread?  Fun fluff or deep and meaningful?  Fiction or nonfiction?  I  frequently sink into a morass of confusion and eventually give up.  But this time I am persevering and giving you a slightly arbitrary selection of my best reads of 2016.  Really, it is absolutely amazing that I kept track of what I read this year. I have only done this for a few years in my whole life.  I am not sure how I feel about keeping track of my reading.  On the one hand, I like having a list of what I read during the year.  On the other hand, it is easy to get caught up in how many books you have read and those reading challenges don't help.  A Dickens novel is going to take much longer than three Georgette Heyer novels read in a row (yes, I did both this year) but the Dickens novel only counts as one book.  I have decided that for 2017 I am going to make a simple list and ignore the numbers.

There are a few things you need to know about this list.  There are no rereads on it.  That rule was made out of pure self-preservation.  I reread a lot of old favorites this year and if I had to put them on the list I would be writing this post till doomsday. Which reminds me, I reread Doomsday Book by Connie Willis this year.  So good.  Go read it if you haven't yet.  That isn't on the list, it is a bonus recommendation.  Also, you should be aware that there are no reviews for all these books on my blog.  I talk about books pretty much constantly but I don't post a review for everything I read.  I guess you would say this is a book love blog instead of a book review blog.  Finally, this list is in no particular order.

I started this year by reading Bleak House by Charles Dicken.  Dickens was an immensely popular novelist for a reason.  I hadn't read Dickens in years and I had forgotten just how immersed in his world it is possible to become.  I swore I would be reading more Dickens this year and it didn't happen.  His books are perfect middle of winter reads so maybe in January I will pick up another one.  Read my review of Bleak House here.

This was also the year in which I was introduced to the Lymond Chronicles.  I read the whole series but they are only counting as one spot on my list.  Set in Scotland during the 1500s they follow the fortunes of Francis Crawford of Lymond, a "scapegrace nobleman of crooked felicities and murderous talents, possessed of a scholar's erudition and a tongue as wicked as a rapier."  How can you possibly resist that description?

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki was recommended to me by A Reader of Literature. It follows the lives of four sisters in Japan in the years just before WWII.  It was fascinating to get a look into a world so different from my own.  It is a quietly written and subtle book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Read my review here.

I reread Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice this year but they aren't allowed on this list because I have read both about five million times.  However, I am still managing to slip some Jane Austen in with my next two selections.  Jane Austen--A Life by Claire Tomalin is a fascinating depiction of the woman who wrote some of the absolutely best books in the world (not an exaggeration.)  I also read Jane Austen's Letters edited by Deirdre Le Faye.  I heartily recommend both books.  They bring Jane Austen to life as a real person and not just the myth and legend she has become.

I read two nonfiction books by Juliet Nicholson.  Singled Out is the account of "how two million women survived without men after the first world war."  Millions Like Us is a detailed and fascinating depiction of women's lives during WWII.  If you enjoy social history and reading about the time period around either of the wars then these are the books for you.  I found them both to be absorbing.

Elizabeth Taylor is such a nuanced writer.  I have enjoyed all the books I have read by her and I am working my way through her books very slowly because I will be sad when I run out of them.  I read At Mrs Lippincote's this year and loved it. Julia and her husband Roddy, who is in the RAF, rent Mrs Lippincote's home for a time during WWII. It is not really a war book but instead is more about relationships.  Elizabeth Taylor always seems to write more under the surface than above which is why I enjoy her.

The Half-Crown House by Helen Ashton is the story of an English country house, and the family that lives in it, over the course of one day. It is a quiet book but I enjoy that.  It has a lot to say about the changes to society and the big country houses after WWII ended.  It was an interesting insight into a world that was disappearing.

My Dear Bessie--A Love Story In Letters edited by Simon Garfield was emotional and touching.  It is a compilation of the real life letters written by Chris Barker and Bessie Moore while they were apart during WWII.  I highly recommend it.

I read several Persephone Books this year which is always a guarantee of wonderful books.  Two of them made my list of best books.  Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton is a enthralling depiction of two families and their interactions over the years.  Read my review here. I also loved Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge.  It is about the "day-to-day life of a middle-class English family, living in narrow circumstances in an Oxfordshire village."  Really though, it is about so much more: about family and marriage and children and ambitions and relationships.  I want to read it all over again now.

There you have it, my best books of 2016.  Now if I can just manage to resist starting 2017 by rereading all of them because they are just so good....

Tell me, what were your best books of 2016?

Bookshop Love--Brattle Book Shop

Brattle Book Shop in Boston is my favorite kind of bookshop.  It isn't a chain.  You won't find all the latest releases.  There isn't a coffee shop or a play area for your children. It isn't full of comfy chairs and carefully curated displays. What it is is a real honest-to-goodness secondhand bookshop and there aren't too many of those around these days.  Nothing says happiness like rummaging through an eclectic selection of old books and discovering a treasure you didn't even know you were looking for.

I only had half an hour before I had to be at an appointment but it was a half-hour I put to good use.  I skipped lunch in order to visit Brattle Book Shop and I think that is a sacrifice any true book lover will completely understand.  The bookshop has been around since 1825 and has been in the hands of the Gloss family since 1949.  It is now one of the largest antiquarian bookshops in the country.  And it is absolutely wonderful.

The first thing you notice when you walk down the street (well, after the sign shaped like a giant yellow pencil) is the outdoor saleroom in the lot next door.  I could have spent hours just here.  I started grabbing books off the carts but then realized I had to be a bit more discriminating since I was going to have to carry the books around with me for the rest of the day.  So many good books.  I will definitely be back, probably with a few friends to help me carry my purchases.  One young guy had discovered a volume of Ogden Nash poetry and was gleefully reading it to his girlfriend.  I grew up on Ogden Nash and it was fun to hear the enthusiasm with which he read the poems.  I hope he bought the book.

Inside there are shelves and shelves of glorious books and the whole place has that wonderful old book smell.  The store doesn't look like it has been updated in recent memory and that is fine with me.

I bought three books and could have bought so many more.  First of all, I got Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden.  It is a memoir of a few of their childhood years in India.  I don't know much about it, I bought it because I have always loved Godden's book, An Episode of Sparrows.  Second, I bought The Points of the Compass by E. B. White.  Of course I know him from Charlotte's Web but I came across some quotes on Goodreads lately that I loved so I want to read some of his essays.  Finally, I bought War Letters From Britain, edited by Diana Forbes-Robertson and Roger W. Straus, Jr.  I have frequently mentioned my fascination with life in Britain during the war and this looks like a fantastic addition to my growing library on the subject.

In my childhood, used bookstores were very common.  I have fond memories of rooting through piles of old books in many different towns and states.  These days the slightly grubby, treasure-filled bookstores I remember are few and far between.  Last week I wanted to move into a library, this week I want to move into a bookshop.  It is a joy and a pleasure to find such a perfect bookshop.  You can keep your children's play areas and your carefully curated displays.  I'll take Brattle Book Shop's utilitarian shelves jam-packed with forgotten treasures and wonderful discoveries.

Currently Reading--Too Many Things At Once

I really should know better.  For the last few weeks I have been reading five million books at once, give or take a million.  My usual method is to have two books going at once, one fiction and one nonfiction, but somehow I just kept starting books until it got completely out of hand.

I spent quite a while binge reading a science fiction series that belongs to my son.  I am not sure why, other than Lois McMaster Bujold I am not really a huge science fiction reader.  However, a world of aliens, spacecraft, new worlds, and the occasional battle seems to have been just what I was in the mood for.  Pure escapism.

At the same time, I am reading The Victorians by A. N. Wilson.  I know, could I possibly have picked anything more different?  I read Victoria--A Life by the same author earlier this year and was fascinated by it.  I am finding this one a bit heavier going since it is about a time period instead of an individual but it is still very interesting.  I just read about the Irish potato famine.  Absolutely horrifying.

When I was raiding my son's bookshelves for science fiction I came across Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian.  He enjoyed it and wants me to pick up the rest of the series as I come across them.  I also believe Hamlette from The Edge of the Precipice recommended them to me.  I am about halfway through and my son says I am just reaching the good part.  I must admit all the sailing jargon put me off a bit but I am persevering since the series is so beloved by many.

These are the only two books I have bought recently and I am reading one of them.  Lory at The Emerald City Book Review is co-hosting a read-along of Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.  She already posted the discussion questions for the week but since I am reading five million books at once I am a bit behind with this one.  I am finding it absolutely fascinating though and keep inflicting interesting pieces of information on my family.  Always a sign of a good book.  I read a review of The Perfect Summer on a blog somewhere and promptly bought it.  Now I can't remember which blog it was.  I need to start writing these things down.  I am not letting myself start it until I finish a few other books.

I also picked up Me Before You by JoJo Moyes at the library when I took my daughter on Saturday but I abandoned it half read because I was finding it so irritating.  It seems to be a popular book and I know a movie was made of it but it seemed predictable and I just had no desire to continue.  Now maybe if aliens had shown up and abducted the two main characters and there had been a huge space battle and the heroine had saved the day...

Do you read five million books at once?  What have you been reading lately?

A Quick Visit To The Boston Public Library

I think I am in love.  With a library.  That is acceptable, isn't it?  I was in Boston yesterday and I popped into the library and now I want to move there.  To clarify, I want to move to the library.  Do you think anyone would care if I just took up residence in the reading room?  It is big enough that if I just moved from room to room I could probably evade discovery for days on end.  Oh, that reminds me of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. There is another book I need to get for my daughter.  Anyway, the library is gorgeous.  I only had about 20 minutes to run through it (I will be back)  and it was too dark to take any pictures of the courtyard (it has a courtyard!  I love courtyards!) but I still fell in love.

Look at those ceilings and the chandelier!  And the lions.  I love the lions.  I did feel like I should be wearing an elegant gown while walking down those stairs.  I can't say my local library makes me feel that way.

I kept thinking about the quote that says "I have always imagined that paradise is a kind of library." The Boston Public Library is magical and wonderful and paradisiacal. I will have to go back with my good camera and some time to spend wandering.  I am sure there will be another post about it when I do.  There is a Shakespeare exhibit going on that I would like to visit so hopefully that will be soon. There is also a book store in Boston that I have been wanting to visit.  I do love Boston.

What libraries have impressed you?

Recipe For A Snow Day

Take one heaping serving of a surprise snowfall.  Mix it in with the luxury of not having to go anywhere.

Feel very slightly sorry for your children who only had a two hour delay instead of a cancellation.  Ignore the fact that the snow is turning to rain.  Insist on still calling it a snow day in your head.  Rain day does not have the same ring.

Add in a cup of tea. This is not the time for cups of tea that have been made and abandoned on the kitchen counter because you are too busy to drink them.  Make a pot of tea. Use a pretty mug. Drink it when it reaches the perfect temperature. Repeat as necessary throughout the day.

Combine an appealing stack of books.  This is also not the time for serious reading.  The more frivolous the better.  Or, alternatively, you can abandon frivolity and read that serious tome you have been meaning to get to but are always too tired to concentrate on.  The decision is yours.  Maybe a bit of both?

Fill your house with the scents of delicious things in the kitchen.  I recommend hearty soups, molasses cookies, and cinnamon bread.  Enjoy the soothing routine of mixing and kneading and chopping.

If you have a lazy cat you can consider your day a success.  Give him his own afghan so he won't fight you for yours.

Watch that show you have been meaning to get to.  Maybe, if you start to feel restless, tackle that closet that needs to be cleaned or that stack of papers on the coffee table.  But only if you feel like it and only if it will give you that necessary feeling of accomplishment.  As soon as you start to feel frustrated return to the cat and the tea and the books.

Welcome your family home and feed them the cookies, the soup, and the bread.

Try not to gloat as you tell them all about the wonders of a snow day.

Ignore them as they point out that the snow is gone and it has been raining for hours.

They are just jealous.