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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic


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Currently reading

The Summer Tree
Guy Gavriel Kay
Progress: 10/383 pages
Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
Nancy MacLean
Progress: 134/574 pages
The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance
Northrop Frye
Progress: 43/200 pages
All the President's Men
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Progress: 73/383 pages
Women's Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide (American Popular Culture)
Kay Mussell
Progress: 17/157 pages
The Looking-Glass Portrait
Linda Hilton
Really Neat Rocks: A casual introduction to the rocks & gems of Arizona and the lapidary arts
Linda Hilton
Progress: 61/61 pages
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende
History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 1718
Wallace Notestein

Re Kathleen Hale

(Edit #1 at the end)



I've just received an email notification that someone going by the name "Sarah Hutchins" posted a comment to a post I wrote on a long-abandoned Wordpress blog.  The post is dated 22 October 2014.






I had completely forgotten about this blog.  It was one of those things I started and then . .  dropped.  I do that far too often.



Edited Sunday morning, 23 June 2019, to add


When I posted all this last night, I was took stunned and too tired to do any real research.  Thanks to GreyWarden aka darkwriter aka John Green over on Twitter, I looked for a link back to the writer of the post and (double facepalm) there it was right at the end of the email notification:




I just forwarded the emal to Scaachi Koul, writer of the Buzzfeed article that seems to have brought Kathleen Hale back into the spotlight.



Essential Reading -- A Few Additions

1.  Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy by Tad Williams -- The Dragonbone Chair, The Stone of Farewell, and To Green Angel Tower.  There are others related, but this is the foundation. 


2.  The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins -- The stereotypes are almost eye-rollingly laughable, but the solution to the mystery is deliciously clever.


3.  Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber -- Witches, like science, don't require that you believe in them.  The film version, variously titled Burn, Witch, Burn and Night of the Eagle, terrified me the first time I saw it.


4.  The Amethyst Box by Anna Katharine Green -- Sometimes called the mother of the detective novel.  I've read two of her novels, The Amethyst Box and The Forsaken Inn, and enjoyed both of them.  I have several more Kindle freebies downloaded, just waiting for the time to read . . . everything. 

Reading for Space #36 -- Travel to Europe.

Above Suspicion - Helen MacInnes

I thought about reading Above Suspicion because it was one of the old paperbacks in my collection, but what made the decision for me was reading author Helen MacInnes's "Introduction" to the paperback edition.  I'm not sure precisely when the paperback was published, though apparently some time in the 1960s, but the book was originally published in 1941.  MacInnes comments in her opening that this and some of her other books were written during World War II, and that she had to be careful how she set events in Europe while the war was still going on.


Because I grew up during a very different kind of conflict, the one we call the Cold War, I'm familiar with the spy thrillers of that era, the James Bond and Jason Bourne adventures.  Mostly they're set in Europe, and I have to admit that until I read MacInnes's words, it didn't really sink in for me how different the reality and the legacy of war are when you're in the place they've been fought, a place where the physical threat s far more present than the ideological one.


Given the times we're living in now and their frightening resemblance to another, I thought this might be a good choice.  We'll see.

Linda Hilton's BookLikes-opoly Game Tracking Post

Edited to add: I will be adding new info -- rolls, spaces, books, etc. -- at the TOP of this post so you don't have to scroll through.


I'm now on Space #36 w/Scottie Dog card in reserve.


Space #36 - Read a book that involves travel to Europe, or that has an image of any European city or monument on the cover, or that the letters of the title can spell the name of any European city* that I visited on my trip *Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Geneva, Rome, Florence, Venice & Barcelona.


21 June 2019 -- Finished The Hounds of Carvello by Frances Cowen for Space #20 (because th bok also features a lake)  208 pages = $3.00



3 June 2019 (the day of the wind storm that damaged my house and turned my whole life into chaos which is why I can't figure out where I am on this game!) -- Finished Sea Glass by Anita Shreve for Space #13.  376 pages = $3.00


25 May 2019 -- Finished The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden for space #6 Stay-Cation.  321 pages = $3.00



Next regular roll (I'm not sure if this is a day for a roll or not, because it's been so long!)



That puts me on Space #13

13. Read a book with sunglasses, swimsuit or other beachy items on the cover, or that has a cover that is more than 50% yellow.


While I'm on this computer, I'm going to add my two holiday week-end rolls while I'm at it, then figure out what I'm going to read!



Holiday Roll #2



Space #29:

29. Scottie dog: Roll again & hold card to play later; post a list or poll of 4 books, and ask your fellow players/followers to "fetch" you a book.



Holiday Roll #1



Space #20:

20. Read a book that features a dog or which has a dog on the cover or that is set in an area known for its lakes or on a fictional lake.





Scottie Dog roll again (If needed???)



And Scottie Dog card held in reserve:


Space #36:

36. Read a book that involves travel to Europe, or that has an image of any European city or monument on the cover, or that the letters of the title can spell the name of any European city* that I visited on my trip *Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Geneva, Rome, Florence, Venice & Barcelona.


Whew!  Now I just have to find some books. . . . 






I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm going to try to join in this game!



Starting Bank:  $20.00

Game piece: Lighthouse






Space #6 - Stay-Cation.



Time to read a library book!


UPDATE 20 May 2019 --


I have several library books that are due 5 June and can't be renewed again.  Among them is Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale.  So that's what I'm going to read!


This book would never have made it out of a critique group

The Hounds of Carvello - Frances Cowen

Disclosure:  I own a very battered, tattered paperback copy of this book, obtained years ago from an unknown source.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical romance and contemporary gothic romance, as well as various and sundry non-fiction.


Lots of spoilers, but I don't think anyone here is ever really going to hunt up this book to read it.  It's not as ridiculous as Fog Island Horror, but it's not very good.


Half a star because it's not totally offensive.


The Hounds of Carvello had very little to do with this story, but they're in the title, there is a dog in the book, and there is a legend about the historical hounds, so I'm letting this qualify for my BookLikes-opoly post, which I've forgotten the details of and will update later.  I just know it had to have something to do with dogs, and this book was in the pile of old gothics, so I read it.


The plot is nonsensical, and both the main female character and her predecessor are TSTL.  Maybe the publication date of 1970 suggests the publishers were desperate for romance novels -- both traditional gothics and Harlequin Romance were very popular -- but this book in its manuscript form would never have survived any of the critique groups I've ever been in.


Young Englishwoman Ann Mannering has been governess to the children of a rich and powerful Italian for 18 months.  She has become frightened of something, so she breaks her two-year contract with the Carvello family and plans to return to England.  But she offers her young, recently widowed cousin to take her place!


Okay, wait a minute.  Ann's afraid of something so dire that she's willing to break her employment contract, but it's okay to put her cousin in the same danger?  Um, no.


The explanation given is that since Harriet Newcombe, the cousin, doesn't speak Italian, she'll be fine.  Say, what?


So Harriet, who is well aware of her own beauty, hies off to the Italian countryside to teach the seven-year-old twins, Carlo and Isabella, of the Marchese and Marchesa of Carvello.  Their Palazzo -- yes, it's always capitalized -- is almost as big as Blenheim and larger than Castle Howard.  The Marchesa is an American, so she speaks English, and the two kids do well, too.  They referto their mother sometimes as Momma, sometimes Mom, sometimes Mommie, and maybe even Mommy, but I'm not going to look to confirm that.


The Marchese has a younger brother, Niccolo.  He's Harriet's love interest, but unlike in most gothics, he never comes across as menacing.  The other potential, American Mark Rathner, is much older (40s) and never becomes a serious contender.


Within a day or so of Harriet's arrival, she learns her cousin Ann never arrived back in England.  Well, of course, Ann has been murdered but it's all covered up.  Harriet's father -- who is Ann's uncle -- comes to Italy to collect Ann's body, and he begs Harriet to come back with him.


She refuses.


Of course, she does, because she's already in love with Niccolo.  So much so that she's going to defy common sense.  Of course.


She's also determined to find out what really happened to Ann.  Except through the course of the book she never makes the slightest effort to do so.  And indeed, neither does the author!  The book ends, and we don't have any idea what happened to Ann!


The actual hounds of Carvello are a legend, but there is real dog in the story, sort of. Enough to make this count for the game, I think.


The plot is dumb, but the writing is dumber. I don't know who edited this thing, but they really needed to go back to basics.


I can overlook the unnecessary capitalization of Palazzo, Summer, Uncle (when not part of a personal name), and so on.  But why is the head of the household staff referred to as the Major Domo?


Some of the errors are simply typos, like the La Scale opera house or the ancient Italian noble families the Sforsis and E'estes.  Typos don't explain the varied use of Contessa, Comtesse, Comtess, and Comptesse for the title of a minor character.  The repeated use of "condittiori" instead of the correct Condottieri made me want to hurl the book against the wall.  (These are things you learn from reading books like Prince of Foxes and Lord Vanity.  Thank you, Samuel Shellabarger!)


But there were other writing flubs that just made no sense.


She went to her bedroom, undressed, then took a bath in the deep shallow bath off the suite, she used the salts there, accepted the luxury.  (p. 124)

In another scene, she's writing a letter to her mother back in England, describing the preparations for a Royal visit to the Palazzo:


She was expiating on these preparations when there was a sharp knock on the door.  (p.144)


As for that Royal visit, there are frequent references to the Prince, but what he's Prince of is never identified.


All in all, it was a really disappointing read, but I pushed through because it was 208 pages for the game.





Brief update on all the chaos

1.  I'll be finalizing orders for the repair work on my house sometime today and/or Monday so work can begin.  Insurance will cover most of it, though I'll be left with a sizable deductible because there are two separate claims involved.


Not that it came as any surprise, but some contractors, even those who have been in business for 30 years and have good reputations, are not exactly honest.


2.  The Woodbury fire is now listed as 40% contained, but it has moved further east (as expected, given our winds this time of year) and now the areas of Roosevelt and Roosevelt Lake are being evacuated.  I am way WEST of the fire, by a good 12 to 15 miles, so nothing her to worry about at least for the present time.


The fire has now covered over 66,000 acres.



3.  I finally read a book for BookLikes-opoly last night and it was laughably terrible!  review to come later today.


4.  I can't count.  ;-)

Essential Reading -- The Books That Made Me A Writer

(Updated with links)


I had always been a reader, but there was a point at which the telling of stories became as liberating as reading them.  When did I decide I wanted to be a writer?  I don't think there was a specific point; I just started writing.  I began, as maybe a lot of pre-adolescent girl writers did, with horse stories, but long before I was out of junior high/middle school, I had moved on to adult fiction.  That is, writing about adult people leading adult lives, or what I thought of as adult lives when I was only eleven or twelve.


A lot of different books and types of books influenced me along the way, everything from traditional children's books to, well, here they are.  Some may be surprising.  In no particular order . . . .


1.  Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl  -- This was the first adult book I ever read, my dad's book club edition.  I had started to outgrow the Black Stallion and Nancy Drew but wasn't quite ready for adult fiction, so I was probably no more than nine or ten years old.  I was fascinated by the adventure and danger, but I also learned facts from this book that I never forgot.  I learned about Peter Freuchen and the Humboldt Current.  This was a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but it was also true!  Aku-Aku, Heyerdahl's book about Easter Island, was published in English in 1958 (I was 10 at the time) and much of it was published in one of the American magazines my parents subscribed to, Life or Look or the Saturday Evening Post.  I devoured that, then went out and bought the paperback edition.  I lost my copy somewhere along the way, but picked up another used several years ago.  I also have his earlier Fatu-Hiva


2a.  Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey -- This was the first adult novel I ever purchased, though it wasn't necessarily the first one I read.  I have never lost my fascination with plots, because this one is so precisely and neatly perfect.


2b. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey -- As an entertaining mystery within a novel, The Daughter of Time is thought provoking, especially in light of recent discoveries.  But it's also a case study of character.  Inspector Grant starts out just being bored and needing something to occupy his time while he recovers from a broken back, but author Tey takes over by literally showing the writer how to develop a character.  Not telling, but showing.


3a.  Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger -- Back in those junior high school days, I had seen the movie -- with Tyrone Power, Orson Welles, Everett Sloan -- on television and was immediately entranced with costume drama.  That there was a romance involved didn't hurt.  I found the book at the public library, then discovered my dad had Shellabarger's Lord Vanity in a book club edition.


3b.The Highland Hawk, Lord Johnnie, The Hepburn, The Saracen Blade, Caravan to Xanadu, Yankee Pasha, and all the other historical adventure/romance novels in my dad's collection.  Over the years I've picked up almost all of them in one edition or another.


3c.  The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss -- I include all of these in a group because the whole idea of historical romance, and of "the romance novel" as a genre, did not begin with Woodiwiss and The Flame and the Flower in 1972.  If The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables are "romantic," they lack the "happily ever after" ending that marks the romance novel.  But HEA was very much a part of the books written by Edison Marshall and Samuel Shellabarger, Rafael Sabatini and Frank Yerby, Lawrence Schoonover and Jan Westcott.  All of them are essential reading in order to understand the genre.


4.  Peyton Place by Grace Metalious -- I actually read Return to Peyton Place first, because my mother had a paperback copy stashed in her nightstand drawer and I sneaked reading it when babysitting my younger brother and sister.  It wasn't the sex that interested me as much as the wicked relationships between the characters.  Years later, long after the television nighttime soap opera version put a slightly sanitized Peyton Place in our living rooms -- along with Ryan O'Neal and Nick Nolte -- I would understand how this novel altered the public's view of sex and, ultimately, paved the way for 50 Shades of Grey.


5.  Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence -- I discovered this when babysitting for the son of a high school English teacher, Mr. Kalisch.  Of course I was drawn by the forbidden, but what kept me interested was the relationship between Connie and Mellors.  She was young, her husband was invalided by the war,  so what was she supposed to do?  I would love to see the story written by a woman . . .


6.  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas -- I read an abridged version when I was in junior high, when I was of course too young to understand the power of this novel of revenge and what it can do to a good man's soul.  Now I think of it as one of the purest novels ever written, one that should be studied in depth more often than it is.


7.  Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne du Maurier -- Non-fiction by the author of Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica Inn and The House on the Strand.  I didn't like Rebecca, and even on the first reading years ago of Jamaica Inn I found problems with it.  I much preferred The House on the Strand, though it, too, may suffer on a closer reread.  Vanishing Cornwall is about the place, and about the relationship between the person as person as well as as writer and the place.  I will probably never get to Cornwall.


8.  Poldark (The Renegade) by Winston Graham and the rest of the series -- I fell in love with the 1970s BBC series, which as far as I can tell was far more faithful to Winston Graham's original than the more recent edition.  Graham added to the novels after the television production outstripped them, but he kept the created world alive throughout. 


9.  The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye -- I started this book several times and couldn't get past the first 150 pages.  Booooooring.  But something drew me to try it again and again, whether the cover art or the lush writing or what, I don't know.  On a long flight from San Francisco to Fort Wayne, Indiana, I determined to get into it.  And boy, did I!  Got home and couldn't put it down. I lost two or three nights' sleep until I finished it.  I've reread it a couple of times since.  Ash is a boy and then a man without a country, forced from birth to believe he is Indian, then forced to live as an Englishman, he slips between both worlds with uncomfortable ease and very much aware of their failings.  His ability to live in both worlds also fuels his love for Anjuli, herself an outcast of a different kind.  There are odd moments when I look out the window at the mountain that dominates my own landscape and imagine my own far pavilions, complete with Ash's "It's not fair!" complaint.


10.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Because.


11.  The Writing or the Sex, or why you don't have to read women's writing to know it's no good by Dale Spender.  This is where I first read Margaret Atwood's observation:  "Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them."  Also by Spender Women of Ideas, and what men have done to them.


12.  The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory/Candace Camp, and Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer -- Those of us who plunged head first into the historical romances of the 1970s and 1980s got plenty of aristocrats, kings and princes and knights and men of wealth and power.  When I first read Hummingbird in about 1984, it was the humor that stood out. But when I put it together with Camp's The Rainbow Season, I recognized that the power in both stories was that they were about ordinary human beings who had to deal with everyday real life.  They also had women characters who struggled physically and emotionally but never lost their dignity.  See also Alexis Harrington's Homeward Hearts.


13.  The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis -- It's so bad it's good.  All kidding aside, this is the book to read to get a feel for what truly bad writing is.  You can also read Paul Clifford for the original dark and stormy night, but The Eye of Argon is in a class by itself.


14.  The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler -- Larry Block's Writing the Novel from Plot to Print is good.  So is Stephen King's On Writing.  But to understand what the various parts of a novel's structure mean and how they operate together to make the whole. this book is absolutely essential.  If you want to be a writer, or if you want to understand writing better, read this.  Then read it again.  Then read it again.


15.  Sword Dancer by Jennifer Roberson (and sequels) -- Told in first person in the viewpoint of a shamelessly chauvinistic male, these are a fantastic departure from the norm of 1980s sword and sorcery.  Roberson made her name with these.


16.  Be Buried in the Rain by Barbara Michaels -- I've read most of the Michaels/Peters books and this is the creepiest as well as the best written.  When we read Ammie, Come Home for a buddy read here on BookLikes, we found glitch after glitch after glitch, to the point that I personally wondered how it ever got published, or why no editor caught the errors!  But by the time Michaels got around to Be Buried in the Rain, she had worked out all those pesky glitches.  This one is structurally clean and deliciously creepy.  


17.  King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry -- From about third grade on, I read every horse book I could get my hands on, and a lot of the dog books, too.  The Black Stallion and the Island Stallion series by Walter Farley.  Jim Kjelgard's Big Red and sequels Irish Red and Outlaw Red.  Albert Payson Terhune's collies.  Bob, Son of Battle.  And most of Henry's other books.  None of them left the emotional stamp King of the Wind did.  Again, it's that struggle of the underdog, the little horse with indominatable spirit and the voiceless boy who stood faithful watch over him.  They were taken from one culture and thrown into another utterly alien to them, left to struggle and survive on their own. Of all the books I first read as a child, this is the one that mattered the most.  It still does.


18. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy -- We had to read it senior year in high school, and I never did finish it then.  A few years later I did, and I honestly wondered what Miss Leonard was thinking of when she had us read this tale of lust and adultery and infidelity.  It's actually a damn good romance!  But once again, it's the characters that make the story, and if maybe Hardy lays it on a little thick about Egdon Heath and the gorse and furze and the turf cutters, the people still stand out.  Clym Yeobright and Eustacia Vye.  Damon Wildeve and Diggory Venn and Thomasin Yeobright. 


19.  Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody -- I had read Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa when I was in college the first time (1966/67) and I think that somewhat prepared me for Moody's autobiography when I read it at the beginning of my third attempt at college (1998).  I never did find out if the title was a play on Mead's, but I suspect it was.  There was nothing of the innocent South Sea island paradise in Moody's account; it was quite the opposite.  Interestingly, the courses in sociology and anthropology that I took later, after reading Coming of Age in Mississippi, put it in a whole new light: Instead of the academics being the observers and recorders, Moody got to tell her own story.  And maybe that's why I was so outraged over The Help.


20.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand -- because she got so very much so very, very, very wrong.


Most of my selections would probably fall into the category of "fluff," and that's okay with me.  I had enough of the "Life's a bitch and then you die" bull shit:  The Old Man and the Sea, The Pearl.  Although I don't entirely agree with Jayne Ann Krentz, as she wrote in Dangerous Men, Adventurous Women, that romance novels are our fertility myths, I do think the narratives and tropes and themes we find in popular culture have a very powerful impact.  Academically and maybe even culturally, we ignore that power at our peril.

This is what happens to you when you read

Grandson #2, the hockey player in New Jersey, has been an avid reader almost since he was born.  He's now finishing eighth grade and will be entering a STEM magnet high school in the fall.  (I don't know what the name of the school is.)


His middle school, East Hanover MS, has an annual Vocabulary Bee, where the students have to define various words that they've encountered in their reading through the school year.  What I didn't know was that Elliot had won the school vocabulary bee in sixth grade and in seventh grade.


This year he won again, the third year in a row, and became the first EHMS student ever to do so.  According to my daughter, the school board was so impressed with his accomplishment that the Vocabulary Bee is now going to be named after him!


There are some pictures, but no reporting, on the EHMS Facebook page.


The contestants



The field narrows (and that kid on the end is very bored?) but the boy at the microphone will not be the winner.



And one remains.



It runs in the family.



(She came in 7th in the state, but didn't make it that far the following year.  She is always horribly embarrassed when I mention it.)



Because Dogs



Dogs’ Eyes Have Changed Since Humans Befriended Them

Two specialized muscles give them a range of expression that wolves’ eyes lack.




A really fascinating article for all of us who see -- and treat -- our canine companions as almost human.


And maybe they do the same.  Moby wasn't too sure about this mannequin when I set it up in the living room to model some scarves last summer.  He barked and growled, then finally went up to it to make sure it wasn't a threat  . . . to me!



Wildfire update

As if the disaster of my wind-and-hail-damage insurance claim weren't enough, we are now contending with a wildfire.




As of 10:00 P.M. yesterday, the Woodbury fire had covered approximately 26,000 acres in a remote, rugged area of the Superstition Mountains.  The blaze started last Saturday -- we noticed the smoke as we were driving home from dinner -- and has 0% contained.


The smoke was particularly thick a few nights ago, but then lessened.  This morning the smell of smoke was very noticeable again with a faint visible haze, and when I drove into town, the low-lying plume was visible drifting north well into the Mazatzal Mountains by Four Peaks.


Right now the fire itself is about 12-15 miles away from me.  It's not in any populated areas but it is also almost impossible to contain because of the terrain.  The prediction for 100% containment is 1 July.  That's two weeks away!




My house is down in the lower left corner of the map, just a few blocks north of the little green block labeled "Silly Mountain Park."  There's no imminent danger, but it is hot and it is dry and now it's rather breezy, too.


I think I'll take a nap.


When you're really and truly bored

The Cottage at Avalanche - June Wetherell

Disclosure:  I owned a very badly deteriorated paperback edition of this book.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and a bunch of other shit.


My life the past two weeks has been taken up with insurance matters pertaining to the wind and hail damage done to my house.  I've been calling contractors, meeting with contractors, examining damage, and so on.  I needed a break.  A mindless break of mindless fluff.


The Cottage at Avalanche was just such a break.  Mindless.  Fluff.


Though marketed as a gothic, it's really more a straight mystery/suspense. 


In the summer of 1941, young Connie Darien leaves San Francisco to head to the mountains of Washington, where her two elderly aunts live.  She's been unable to make a living on her own since a family tragedy, so Ruth and Nell McKay are her only hope.


The sisters live in an old cottage just outside the small town of Avalanche, in the ski country of the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.  On the way to Avalanche, Connie meets Hank Whittemore, who works at the local ski resort.


The McKay sisters are eccentric, Nell the elder being more stern while Ruth displays flashes of humor and kindness.  But of course not all is as it seems.


There's a local legend of a fabulous cave, which one of the guests at the lodge would love to make the center of a tourist attraction.  The entrance to the cave, however, was lost when the avalanche that gave the town its name plowed down the mountainside.


Connie's mother died in an accident when Connie was just a baby, so she's trying to get back to something of her roots as well.  What she discovers is a lot of mystery.


Everything abut the book is pretty predictable, right down to which of the three possible suitors will eventually prevail over the others, who will be the villain, and the whole secret of Connie's ancestry.  The writing is decent, if nothing out of the ordinary, and all in all it was exactly what I needed -- mindless fluff.


Though copyrighted 1972, The Cottage at Avalanche read like an older book, maybe from the 1940s or '50s.  There was a lot of cigarette smoking going on, which would have been normal for the time period of the 1940s, but maybe not if the book had been written after the Surgeon General's warnings started appearing on cigarettes in the 1960s.  And there were a lot of references to popular culture of the 1930s -- music, films, radio programs -- that were reasonably familiar to an oldster like me but might not be to today's younger readers.


Connie Darien was a bit on the TSTL side, often talking when any sensible person would have kept her mouth shut, and more than a little bit gullible.  Again, that character type seemed more suited to an era before 1972.


Not really recommended, but it was okay and served its purpose.


This is not tolerable -- BBA

(Update from the blogger is here  https://redhatterbookblog.com/2019/06/14/hatter-chat-the-last-post-about-this/ )






The author is K. Alice Compeau.  The publisher is Limitless Publishing and they have dropped the author.


Title is Easy Love.





serious weather damage

UPDATE #1 at the end






I was just sitting here on the couch, minding my own business, when a gust of wind ripped the front awning off my house.  And it's still windy.  Part of the awning is lying in the back yard on the other side of the house.  Two more sections are in the creosote bushes in the front garden, and one mangled piece is in the mesquite tree.  I can't tell how much damage has been done to the roof.




Piece in the tree




Piece that was in the power lines across the street, then fell out of the wires.




Piece in the back yard.  I heard this piece go over the roof and land.  When I went outside to look, while I was actually on the phone with the insurance company, I only knew about this piece, not the others.  I thought the other pieces were on the roof, still attached to the rest of the awning.


They weren't.




As you can see from these ^^^^ two pictures, the corrugations of the awning material are now parallel to the front of the house, so that whole section was twisted 90 degrees.  The corrugation is supposed to be perpendicular to the front. 


One of the supports is lying on the ground, barely visible, but there is another one that's missing entirely.  Maybe it's on the roof???  I don't know where it is.


I have no idea how much damage has been done to the roof itself, if any.


The first time this happened, about ten years or so ago, the damage was not nearly as severe and insurance covered repairs.  The crew was only able to make the repairs, however, because I had matching material on hand from another awning.  That material is gone now.


There is really only one insurance company for manufactured homes here.  When I had another small claim a couple years later for roof damage, the adjuster completely missed the far more serious damage going on under the loosened/missing shingles.  It was so bad that the roofer who put on the whole new roof said it was a miracle that whole section of the roof hadn't caved in: it was completely rotten under the shingles.  And yes I have pictures.


Right now I'm more than a little shaken.  My dog, Moby, has been under the weather (bad turn of phrase) this past week with something called "old dog vestibular syndrome."  He's recovering, but it's been an emotional drain.  Now this with the awning.  And there are some other issues going on that have me really stressed.


Fools on Twitter can expect no mercy!





Tuesday morning


Claim has been filed and I have emailed photos of the damage as best I can take them.


There also appears to be minor damage to the awning on the other side of the house, but so far as I can tell it's only some bent supports and maybe some of them ripped from the concrete.  May be repairable, may not.  I will get photos of those later, after the shade has moved over to that side of the house.


Adjuster called yesterday evening, asked some questions.  He did not inspire confidence, since he didn't seem to understand exactly what kind of "awning" I was talking about.  He acted like it was a canvas awning over a window!  "No, it's metal and it's 60 feet long and about 12 feet wide," I said.


He did not say anything about coming out to look at the damage, but acted more like he was going to make a determination based on my photos alone.  THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.


He also asked what I was doing to prevent further damage.  "Like what?" I asked.  "There's nothing I can do.  There are sheets of corrugated metal on my roof, and I'm not climbing up there to get them off.  I have no way of anchoring any of the rest of it.  I'm not going to risk doing MORE harm and/or possibly hurting myself."


It will be one to two business days before he looks at the photos, three to four business days before he makes a determination.


I am not a happy camper.  And there is a possibility that I will be even less happy when this is over.




Adjuster called Wednesday afternoon, approximately 48 hours after damage occurred. 


His first comment was that he had checked the weather report and there had been no high winds on Monday.


Me: "It was a sudden gust, a microburst, a dust devil, a mini-tornado.  They happen all the time in Arizona.  You think I just ripped that awning up by myself?"


He stammered a bit, then asked me if I had called a contractor to get an estimate.


"Uh, no.  Was I supposed to?"


Adjuster: "Well, when you get a contractor to come out there and look at it, then he can tell if it was a gust of wind that did the damage.  Then you can get an estimate and I can go ahead and figure out where we go from there."


Me:  "Do I get an awning contractor and a roof contractor, too?"


Adj: "What do you need a roof contractor for?"


Me:  "To determine if there's damage to the roof.  You can see in the pictures I sent you that at least one part of the fascia board is exposed where the awning trim was ripped off.  I don't know if there's more damage to the roof."


Adj:  "Oh, there's roof damage, too?"


Me: "Yes.  You can see it in the pictures I sent you."


Adj:  (Looks at pictures again)  "Oh, yes, I do see where it looks like some of the roof is lifted up."


Me:  (Thinking, "No shit, Sherlock.")


Adj: "Well, I'm going to hand this over to a field adjuster and have him come out and take a look at it."


Me: "So do I still need to find a contractor?  How do I find one that's approved by your company?"


Well, then he finally got the message that I wasn't going to go along with his shit -- he had not given me ANY indication how much they were going to offer to pay for the damage -- and said he would give the whole claim to a field adjuster who would be in contact with me within the next 24 hours and take it from there.


Me:  "Is this field adjuster going to come out and actually look at the damage?"


Adj:  "He'll make that determination."


I'm livid.


We're now getting little gusts of wind, nothing more than a breeze really, but it's enough to rattle and bang the damaged material lying on the roof. 




 Update #3 - Friday afternoon


The field adjuster arrived at 10:00 a.m. this morning with a contractor who was qualified to assess all the damage.


The damage to the roof was far more serious than suspected.  Part of the material that had been flung onto the roof had gouged a bunch of shingles.  The corner of the section of the awning flung onto the roof, however, had punched a hole through the singles and through the plywood decking underneath!


The initial determination was that the whole front awning would have to be repaired.  Then the adjuster noticed there were dents in the awning panels.  HAIL!


I don't know if I posted pics here or just on Twitter, but last October we did have quite a hail storm and I went out onto the porch and took pictures.




Further examination of the front AND back awnings revealed extensive hail damage. Not only were virtually all the panels severely dented, but many had huge paint chips. 


The adjuster asked me if I had ever noticed water dripping from the awnings, and I said yes, but I thought it was just condensation.  When I pointed out the specific locations that I remembered having seen this dripping, he easily identified awning panels that were so badly dented that the waterproof joints were likely compromised.


There was also additional wind damage discovered to the back patio awning.


I don't know exactly how it's all going to work out, but two separate claims have now been filed, the one from Monday's microburst/dust devil wind damage, and now a second one for the hail damage from October.  It may mean paying two deductibles, depending on how things are worked out with the contractor.


(Wind is banging the broken parts again already. It doesn't take much.)


The end result should be two completely replaced awnings.  The saga is on-going, however, so we'll see.

I do not know exactly what happened because it's complicated

Some of you will understand what's going on here, and for some of you I can only offer my apologies.  I no longer know where to go with this crap.


Apparently another Goodreads member has been banned for negatively shelving a book, or books by a particular author or something.


I don't know this reader.  I think she may also be a writer, but at this moment I'm not sure.


There have been so many issues going on that I don't trust my memory to be 100% accurate on this, so I'm more than open to correction, especially with documentation.  I have some screen shots, but not a lot.


The reader's Twitter handle implies her name is Angela, and that's how I will refer to her.


As I recall, Angela and several others were engaged in discovering the various Amazon book stuffers.  I was one of them.  We all worked together, some of us doing more and some of us doing less, to identify the books and authors who had violated Kindle Direct Publishing's rules to game the system.  That was one of several issues.


There was also an issue with a specific book and it author who appeared to be engaged in some kind of racial insensitivity.  That's the only term I can think of to describe it, because I wasn't involved.  I don't remember who the author was or the title of the book.  Angela engaged with this author on the issue.  I didn't.  I don't even know why I didn't; I think I was engaged in other issues.


Another person on Twitter, an author whose name I won't mention because I don't want to draw her attention, challenged Angela.  I don't want to say she attacked Angela because I didn't see enough of the various exchanges to characterize their interactions as an attack.  The other author was apparently outed as having several Twitter accounts and using them to challenge other people.  Apparently, according to my sketchy memory, she denied having the other accounts, but there was substantial evidence presented to show that she was not being entirely honest.


While all of this was going on, one of Angela's supporters challenged me about something.  I asked for clarification or additional information before I would come dow on one side or another.  Twitter being what it is, with its limited space for expression, there may well have been misunderstandings.  I didn't get any clarification, and the next thing I knew, both Angela and her supporter had blocked me.


I think part of the issue was that I suggested Angela and/or her supporters not keep poking the bear or risk getting bitten.  I tend to do that.  There's a point at which antagonism no longer generates any return on the investment in indignation.


At least one other of her supporters has not blocked me.


The other author, the one accused of having multiple Twitter accounts, has also not blocked me.


I don't know all the details of the Bane event.  I know part of it, but I've not been particularly active in it.


I think everyone knows how I feel about authors who attack readers or tell readers how to review.  Bane apparently was engaged in reader silencing or intimidation.


Bane is also pretty much of a nobody, I guess.  Jill Mansell is not a nobody.  She's now going after readers, and it's getting ugly.  If Angela has been removed from Goodreads due to her shelving of Bane's books, this is further intimidation of readers.  Those of us who go back to 2013 know what that was like.


A good part of the problem, however, goes back to the fact that readers are not protected.  They aren't safe when voicing unpopular opinions, even if only unpopular with the authors.  Bad books are bad books, even if only one reader thinks so.  On Amazon, on Goodreads, on Twitter: Authors feel safe in attacking readers, and too often there aren't enough defenders.


For the most part, we've been very lucky here on BookLikes.  We post our one-star, half-star, and no-star reviews and the authors leave us alone.  Yeah, there were the goofy posts from Weinberg and his minions, but that was minor.  I've had one author on Twitter stalk me here and get all upset because even without mentioning her name or the title of her book, I made a disparaging remark.  But we aren't likely to get booted for negative reviews, and we can shelve without retaliation.


But BookLikes is not in the forefront of book reviewing.  Goodreads and Amazon -- and they're joined at the corporate hip -- are.  And when a reader is removed from those platforms, she's effectively silenced.


Too few of the attackers ever are.






Sea Glass by Anita Shreve -- BookLikes-opoly Space #13 - Broken Bits and Pieces

Sea Glass: A Novel - Anita Shreve

Most of my reviews seem to fall in the 3.5 Stars range, and Sea Glass is no exception.  It gave me, however, a good excuse to explain why this is.


First of all, a sort of spoiler -- This is not a romance, which I didn't think it would be anyway, and so it doesn't have a traditional happy ending.  But that didn't affect the rating.


Second of all, what did affect the rating was the use of third person, present tense narrative.  I hated it.  For the first one-third to maybe even one-half of the book, I kept putting it down after just a few pages because the present tense was so annoying.


For me, the use of present tense takes away the reflective quality of the story.  Instead of the narrator telling the story with all the benefit of hindsight and reflection, the impression is more of a disinterested -- and perhaps uninterested -- camera recording the actions.  Even when it slips into something like, "She thinks about Halifax and wonders if her life would have been any different," the feeling was lost.  When the author does revel details from the past, such as what happened in Halifax, it comes across as stilted.  "Well, I really want to stay in present tense because it's so clever, but I can't so you'll have to bear with me for this contrivance."  Ick.


Present tense is gonna drop anything at least half a star.  At least.


Now, the story.


The events are set in the late 1920s, just before and just after the stock market Crash of 1929.  The setting is a New Hampshire coastal resort area, occasionally referred to as Fortune's Rocks, which is the title of the preceding novel in this "quartet."  I have it, but haven't read it.  The nearby town of Ely Falls is a textile mill town, where the treatment -- abuse, exploitation -- of the workers is a central focus of action.


As the textile mill element of the story began to take shape, I was immediately struck by the similarities between this book and Emile Zola's classic Germinal, which I had to read for an honors seminar class in college.  The Zola work covered French miners rather than textile workers, but many of the elements were the same, right down to the imported organizer of dubious background. 


The ending wasn't a whole lot different either.

(show spoiler)

What stands out, however, in Sea Glass are the characters.  If any of them show up in subsequent books of the quartet, I may have to track down those books.


Honora Willard is working in a bank when she meets typewriter salesman Sexton Beecher.  They have a kind of whirlwind courtship and then get married.  They have the free use of a huge, slightly decrepit beach-front "cottage" if they contribute to its upkeep.  After they've put a lot of effort into fixing it up, they learn it's up for sale.


Their neighbor on the beach is Vivian Burton, a very wealthy socialite from Boston, who is sharing another cottage with her friend and sometimes lover Dickie Peets.


They have little contact with anyone in the town of Ely Falls, but a couple of chance encounters bring them together with Quillen McDermott, an Irish millhand, and young Alphonse, who is eleven going on fifty-six. 


The mill families, like Alphonse's, are desperately poor, desperately over-worked.  Though he is under the legal age, Alphonse works six and seven days a week, plus helping to take care of his siblings and his mother; his father is either dead or disappeared.  Yet they live in dire poverty, while of course the mill owners live in luxury.


The Crash devastates almost everyone, but some more than others and in unexpected ways.  Honora, who has already endured traumatic tragedy, finds a well of strength that surprises some of those around her, and she's not reluctant to use it, even though it may ultimately cost her dearly.


The symbolism of the sea glass, the bits and pieces of broken, ocean-battered color that Honora collects while walking along the beach, is obvious, almost too obvious.  Shreve takes that symbolism one step further, I think, by breaking the narrative into very short broken "chapters" each from the point of view of these various main characters:  Honora, Sexton, McDermott, Alphonse, Vivian.  I'm not sure if it was effective, or merely affected.


As I wrote above, the present tense style drove me nuts and kept me from really getting drawn into the story.  The dramatic action of the last third of the book made it more compelling, but that tense still kept me at arm's length, though I finished the last 150 pages in one sitting.


Sea Glass is very well written, and for that alone it was a welcome change from some of the dreck that my eyeballs have crossed these past few months.  If not for the present tense, this would have been a solid four-star read.

The Bear and the Nightingale -- Review

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel - Katherine Arden

Disclosure -- I obtained this book through loan from my local public library.  I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted non-fiction.


Over the years and for various reasons, I've done a tiny bit of reading in both Russian history and Russian mythology, so I wasn't completely lost reading The Bear and the Nightingale.  That helped a lot, because I think someone completely unfamiliar with the various spirits -- the rusalka, the domovoi, and so on -- might have found those elements frustrating.  Russian names with their various diminutives can also be confusing.


And I seriously wish authors would put glossaries at the beginning of their books rather than at the end!  Or at least put a note at the beginning that the various words and phrases are explained . . . somewhere.  This is especially true when the real world history is less commonly familiar than, say, the French Revolution or even the Wars of the Roses.


The Bear and the Nightingale is set in a pseudo-mythical, pseudo-medieval Russia of sorts, but no real dates are given.  Other than the names of a few "grand princes" -- who would later be more or less the equivalent of the tsars -- there are no concrete clues as to the time period to help the reader get her bearings.  Again those notes are at the end of the book, by which time it's too late to clear up the reader's possible confusion.


Are we just supposed to sneak a peek at the end to see if there are notes?  What about those of us who don't want to be accidentally spoilered?


Okay, those are the negatives.


I enjoyed the story and the characters, even though for the most part they were frustrating.  Frustrating in a good way, in that I wanted things to work out for them even while I understood how their struggles were building.


Vasilisa is the daughter of a well-to-do landowner -- not quite a noble -- and a slightly mystical woman who dies giving birth to her.  She grows up with several older siblings, and her devoted nurse Dunya.  Vasilisa is nominally Christian, as they all are, but she has her mother's magic and ties to the old religion of house and woodland and water spirits.


As she approaches maturity, Vasilisa is brought into contact with Morozko, the Frost Demon.  There are of course dangers in this relationship, but Morozko also seems to be the only one who knows what Vasilisa really is.  He hasn't revealed all that information, not to her and not to the reader, by the time this volume of the saga comes to an end.  I guess there's more in The Girl in the Tower, the next book in the series.


The writing is wonderful.  After reading so many poorly written Kindle freebies, I was ready for some fine composition, and Arden didn't disappoint.  I'm not sure exactly when I'll get around to it, but the book is due back at the library next Wednesday, so I'd better hurry!