Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Midsummer Mysteries, and Other Books I'm Reading

It's midsummer already, and I haven't written a book post since the spring. Looking back at what I have written about, besides fashion, I notice a lot of angsting and ranting. Hmmm. What's with that, do you think? But even though I haven't been writing about reading, I have been reading, my friends. My mind may be all over the place this summer, but my butt is still firmly planted in my chair with my book in hand. 

Of course, I've been reading lots of mysteries. 


Paula Hawkins' new novel Into the Water

I recently finished Paula Hawkins' new book Into the Water. I read one review that enthused this second book was even better than Hawkins' hugely successful Girl on a Train. But I tend to agree with the somewhat less breathless praise in Alison Flood's Guardian review , or Tara Henley's review in The Toronto Star

aula Hawkins author of Into the Water
Paula Hawkins   source
In this latest novel, Hawkins deals with the mystery surrounding a series of deaths by drowning, all taking place at the infamous "drowning pool," a part of the river that flows through the fictional town of Beckford, in the north of England. The latest death is the possible suicide of a woman who was obsessed with all the previous deaths, who was writing a book about them, and who lived in the old mill which straddles the river that so fascinated her. Hawkins uses her considerable writing skills to paint a vivid picture of the setting and the characters. But the plot, told from multiple points of view, all eleven narrators as utterly unreliable as the three she used to such good effect in Girl on a Train, becomes too confusing. As Flood says in her review, "there are more unreliable narrators than you can shake a stick at." Yep. Too many. The technique of using a first-person, unreliable narrator can be really effective, and suspenseful, if used wisely, as Hawkins did in Girl on a Train, which I loved. But while I liked the ideas behind this new book, Hawkins' take on historic and not so historic misogyny, for instance, I didn't love the book. Still, it is worth reading, so don't dismiss it altogether.

Peter Robinson's new Inspector Banks novel When the Music's Over

I've also been catching up on some of the newer books by my favourite mystery writers. I love Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series. And When the Music's Over did not disappoint. If you're not familiar with Robinson, he's a Canadian writer, who sets his mysteries in Yorkshire where he was born. Actually, he didn't move to Canada until he had finished his undergrad degree at the University of Leeds... but he's Canadian now. And we're proud to claim him. 

I love this shot of him with singer Judi Collins below. Robinson's Inspector Banks character is a great music lover. You can read a review of this latest in the Banks series here. And if you've never read Robinson, and you love well written mysteries, well... you have a treat in store for you. Actually lots of treats. This one is number twenty-three in the series. Happy reading.

 Peter Robinson with Judi Collins
Peter Robinson with Judi Collins  source
I also finally got my hands on Ann Cleeves' newest Shetland mystery Cold Earth. I've really enjoyed all of Cleeves' novels, her Jimmy Perez stories set in Shetland, and the Vera Stanhope books set in Northumberland.  I don't think her novels are as brilliant as those of Peter May; his Lewis trilogy are among my favourites. But I'm still a huge Cleeves fan. You can read an interesting interview with Ann Cleeves here, where she talks about this latest book, both of her fictional detectives, her writing career, and why she is glad that her success "did not come early."

Anne Cleeves, and her newest Shetland novel Cold Earth

The other book that I want to tell you about is not a mystery. It's one I read a while ago. And one that I found deeply affecting. In fact, Indian Horse by Canadian Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese is one of the best books I've read. Ever. It's a difficult book, and not one I was sure I wanted to read. But I'm so glad that I did. I think it's an important book. And one that every Canadian should read. Wagamese tells the story of a young Ojibway man named Saul Indianhorse who begins life in the northern bush. Who suffers in the residential school system that we've been hearing so much about these last few years, but about which many of us know so little beyond the headlines. And who finds escape, at least for a time, through the game of hockey. Wagamese's descriptions of Saul on the ice are sheer poetry. Of course Saul's story does not end with his success on the ice. But you should read the book yourself to find out. Wagamese writes beautifully. Indian Horse is about suffering, alcoholism, and cruelty. And it's also about friendship, love, solace, indomitable spirit, and, ultimately, redemption. 

 Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese     

Richard Wagamese was a gifted storyteller who lived a difficult life. He battled homelessness, and alcoholism, among other things. He died this past March at age sixty-one. You can read about his life here. His books are not about politics, but they are political. Of course they are; everyone has an opinion on the situation surrounding indigenous people in our country. In his books, Wagamese makes the political personal, from a perspective that few of us non-indigenous people can understand. But we can learn at least something about that perspective if we read his books, or the books of other indigenous writers. 

Richard Wagamese, author of Indian Horse
Richard Wagamese   source
Countries like mine which were colonized by European settlers all have a dark past when it comes to the treatment of the indigenous peoples those settlers encountered. I think it behooves us all to know more about that distant past, and the not so distant past, the ramifications of which are very much with us today. I'm not an expert on any of this. I've toyed with the idea of writing this post for a month now. Trying to get my thoughts in order. I didn't want to get anything wrong. And if I've underplayed the tragedy in Wagamese's life, or in the lives of his characters, it's because I can't really do any of this justice. You simply have to read his words for yourself. Should read his words... for yourself. 


That's what I've been up to, my friends. Reading, reading, reading. I've read some other books which I won't recommend. Some of them I didn't finish. Gasp. I know! Heresy, one might even say hypocrisy, from someone who chided kids for so many years to finish the novels I'd assigned. 

But as I've grown older, I've come to the conclusion that I'm too old to read books I'm not enjoying. So. No guilt. No apologies. Back to the library they go. 

You might say that I remain untucked, sometimes unread, and unrepentant. Ha. 




Right now, I'm taking a break from murder and mayhem... and serious issues. I'm reading a book by Elizabeth Taylor... no, not that one. An English novelist, Taylor wrote back in the mid-twentieth century. She's kind of Barbara Pym-ish, and a bit Dorothy Whipple-ish. What's not to love? I discovered her on the Persephone Books website. You can read an article about Taylor here




Now it's your turn... as midsummer approaches, what are you reading, my friends? 




Linking up with:  Saturday Share over at Not Dressed as Lamb and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner.  

42 comments:

  1. Oh good , a book post . I've read all the Peter Robinson books & thought this one was very topical , with subjects that have filled our newspapers recently . Yes he's Canadian but he has good Yorkshire blood :-) I especially like that he sets them in a fictional Yorkshire Dale with trips out to all the places I know , including York . Some books I've read & enjoyed lately are A Pleasure & Calling by Tim Hogan , Wait For Me Jack by Addison Jones , Their Finest by Lissa Evans & Alberto's Lost Birthday by Diana Rosie . I can recommend all those & I enjoy Elizabeth Taylor too . As usual my reading is pretty lightweight , nothing to keep me awake at night ! Like you , I'm quite ruthless if a book doesn't grip me by 50-100 pages & then they're off to the charity shop - I've got a pile to get through here .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Robinson does have good Yorkshire blood in him. He (mostly) fills the gap left when Reginald Hill died. Sigh. I so loved Hill's books. I remember when we were in Yorkshire, especially Whitby, I was so excited to see some of the places that I'd been reading about for so long in Hill's books.
      I'm adding to my list from your list. Thanks, Wendy!

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  2. So much to say, so early in the morning ... First, I only recently discovered the Shetland series on Netflix, based on Ann Cleves' Jimmy Perez books, and I absolutely loved it. I haven't read any of her books, but will now search for the newest.

    Second, I'll add the Richard Wagamese book to my list, thanks to your recommendation. As a Canadian who grew up knowing nothing about the residential schools I, like you, feel duty-bound to do what I can at this late stage in my life to engage with indigenous Canadians in whatever way I can, always with the understanding that I'll never get it quite right. In my years of working in the addiction treatment field I worked closely with indigenous organizations and communities and spent hours listening, silently, to deeply moving and disturbing accounts of a lost way of life and the implications of repeated indignations at the hands of people who looked (look) a lot like me. It broke my heart, as it ought to have, and compelled me to take their side, messy as it almost always is, as they move forward, or not - it's up to them. Like you, even in writing these words, I'm afraid I've somehow missed the mark. If so, I apologize.

    Finally, I, too, have left a book or two unfinished this summer, which isn't at all like me. Most significant are the ten unfinished pages in a book I had long anticipated: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, author of one of my favourite books of all time: The God of Small Things. Her most recent (and only her second) novel is a completely different animal and, while I would never deny that she's a brilliant story-teller, by the time I got within spitting distance of the end of the book I'd had enough. I closed the book, put it on my shelf (intending to return to it within a day or two), and moved on. I haven't returned to it and likely never will now that I'm deep into Elizabeth Strout's My Name is Lucy Barton with more books calling to me from my bedside table.

    Thanks, as always, for the book recommendations. These cool and changeable July days are perfect for sleeping with the windows open (ahhh, heaven!) and reading. Ottawa summers, strange as they can be, are exactly why my husband and I return home for the summer months. He's golfing (which he wouldn't be doing in the 35 degree heat back in North Carolina); I'm gardening, riding my bike, sewing, reading, and napping. Life is good.

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    1. The Shetland tv series is lovely, isn't it? And if you like Cleeves' other series, the Vera Stanhope books, there's a tv series for that too starring Brenda Blethyn. It's great as well.
      I still haven't read the Elizabeth Strout books. Not sure why.
      Ah...sleeping with the windows open this past week has been wonderful. I doing the same as you, waving Hubby off to golf, and then getting stuck into my own things. Except...no gardening ... or sewing for me!

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  3. You are the one who told me about Peter Robinson, whom I adore! I just checked my list of books read, and I've read 22 by him, so I need to see which one I've missed!

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    1. And there's a new one due out any day now!

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  4. I love all these English detectives on tv that is! I am now reading a lot of Tess Gerritsen.

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    1. We pretty much watch only British television. I love it when a book series is made into a tv series, like the two shows based on the Ann Cleeves novels or the Inspector banks series based on Robinson's books.

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  5. I'm right with you on giving up the notion that a book, once begun, must be finished. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is on our book club list for the coming year, so it will be interesting to see if I have the same experience as LiaMac.

    On my nightstand right now is Toby's Room, the 2nd book in Pat Barker's 2nd trilogy and I'm enjoying it immensely. I took a break after reading the 1st book, Life Class, as her writing is intense and this one is set in WW1 England, as was her Regeneration Trilogy. But I love a good mystery and have never read Peter Robinson, so there's something to look forward to! That, and the 800-page 4321 by Paul Auster, which is our September selection for book club.

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    1. That will be interesting, Adele. Let us know how it goes. I read Toby's Room a few months ago and loved it. I'm a big Pat Barker fan. Loved the Regeneration trilogy when it came out years ago. Funnily enough I didn't love Life Class as much.
      I will have to look up that Paul Aster book at our library. 800 pages...wow. Hope you have lots of reading time in August to get through that big book:)

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  6. I do like a mystery, especially when on holiday. To that end, I have just ordered two more in the Falco series, which I used to gobble up but which fell by the wayside as my teaching life took over...shameful. Most of my reading is un-serious and have just been discussing my disliked of Henry James and why I can't really get all fizzy about Jane Austen. As ever, I am about to re-read The Pickwick Papers, a tiny and gemlike edition which my husband gave me for my birthday. I do this every few years for the pure pleasure and exuberance of the experience. I will admit, cheerfully, that I love schlock and blockbusters in the summer months and will merrily chew up Dan Brown and Lee Child, but my major reading is always re-reading. Often struggle with buying new books and new authors, much prefer to read again those I have loved. Finishing a book you dislike? Never. Like watching TV that is unappealing. Book worship makes me very uncomfortable and why make a toil of a pleasure? I loved Girl on a Train, Elizabeth is Missing and Gone Girl but am now a bit done with unreliable narrators. Having said that, just re-read the excellent Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers and Robert Eustace. Perfect, tight writing.

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    1. I love Dorothy L. Sayers. I should have a look at some of hers again. I've never heard of the Falco series... is "Falco" the writer or a character?
      My self-indulgent reread is always Nancy Mitford. Love her wit.

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    2. Falco is the hero of the novels by Lindsey Davis, set in Rome in the first century AD. Fast, funny and clever. She plainly knows her stuff but doesn't over-egg the historicity. Nancy is the one I read again and again. Click goes the camera and on goes life...my favourite line by her. Always makes me want to cry.

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    3. I'm off to see if the library has her books...thanks!

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  7. Another interesting read, "Magpie Murders" by Anthony Horowitz, screenwriter of "Foyle's War", "Midsommer Murders" and the "Poirot" series. Its a tribute to all mystery writers, and involves the reader to solve.

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    1. Oh, I just finished Magpie Murders on audio; it was wonderful! The two narrators were amazing and for a diehard, longterm British mystery reader like me, the book was a lot of fun. --Catbird Farm

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    2. I'm always looking for good books for my i-pod, to listen to while exercising... or housecleaning. Thanks for that!

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    3. Anthony Horowitz´ books are all well written, the Young Adult series as well as his grown-up books. He did two Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, very good ones, so thanks for the tip on the Magpie Murders.

      Susan, sorry for barging in here for the first time. I only just found your blog but did some catching up on older posts because I find I love your voice as well as your topics and the thoughtfulness of your writing.

      I share your passion for Peter Robinson and Ann Cleeves, must look up Peter May. An author I liked this summer is Denise Mina, a Scottish writer with a rather edgy voice and very interesting characters. And then of course there are Mark Billingham and Elly Griffiths.

      Still, I have never found someone to come even close to P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. Maybe that´s just as well as they were so very good in what they wrote.

      Thank you, Susan, for your blog.

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    4. My goodness, Ines, no need to apologize for "barging in." New readers and commentors are always most welcome. Barge away!
      I'm definitely going to try to find Anthony Horowitz. He's a new name for me. I like Denise Mina, her Paddy Meaghan books are my favourite. I didn't care for her latest, The Long Drop which I recently tried, and didn't finish. Non-fiction is a new avenue for her, I think. Love Billingham's Tom Thorne series...I keep forgetting about him. And Also Elly Griffiths. I included her in a post I wrote quite some time ago about what I call "value-added books." Love the setting detail and the stuff on archaeology in her Ruth Galloway books.
      As for PD James and Ruth Rendell... I concur. They're right up there with Dorothy L. Sayers. Gone.. but still voraciously read and re-read.

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  8. Thanks so much for the author suggestions. I liked what nohatnogloves said about struggling with new authors. I fall into that trap, always waiting for the next book by a favourite author. I watched the Shetland series on Netflix, so I will definitely try Ann Cleeves other books! -Jenn

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    1. I know what you mean... you just want them to hurry up and write the next book:) I love discovering a new-to-me author who has written a ton of books.

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  9. I've been reading J. Maarten Troost's books on living on various tiny islands in the Pacific. They are very funny and well-written. I love Ann Cleeves and Peter Robinson, and look forward to following your example with Peter May and Richard Wagamese. Your recommendations are always good.
    Janie

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    1. Thanks, Janie. I've never heard of J. Maarten Troost... must check this writer out. My list grows and grows!

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  10. Well,this is so interesting,how books,book posts (I love them so much,thank you),comments(I value all the recommendation and write them for future) are woven through our world (wide web)!
    Into the Water is waiting for my seaside holidays (if I were going at all) in paperback,for the beach-although I've heard that it is NOT better than The Girl which I liked very much
    I've mentioned here earlier that I can't watch Shetland series so I was binge reading (if this phrase even exist,but that's what I've been doing!) first five and keeping and savouring the last two for the sea,too
    I've read and liked My Name is Lucy Barton and finished Dorothy Whipple's Someone at a Distance (even recommended it before I even started reading :-)) and The Thoughtful Dresser,as well as Stoner
    Yes for Peter Robinson and yes for Dorothy Sayers (thank God for e-books, it was so difficult before to get her books),I adore her,but forgot what I've read,so I'll take nohatnogloves idea and start again.I love to re-read books,it is like meeting the old friends again
    Elisabeth Taylor goes to my ,longer and longer list,to read.I'm very intrigued by Wagamese,but he'll wait to autumn
    I've just finished Frog by Mo Yan,the Chinese Nobel's laureate's book-he writes about ups and downs in Chinese demographic politics and a lot of abrupt changes through the life and impacts of politics on life in province of Gaomi after WW2 till nowdays
    I find it cruel and sad, absurdities,miseries and long sufferings woven with magic and fables,with a little or no hapiness at all -but it was worth reading
    And yes,I quit the book I don't like
    Dottoressa

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    1. You are such a voracious reader, Dottoressa. You put me to shame! So happy you liked Dorothy Whipple and Linda Grant's Thoughtful Dresser!
      P.S. You can get Richard Wagamese's books on Amazon Kindle.

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    2. Thank you,but you and Frances (and some of the ladies here) have opened a lot of new worlds ,especially in older English literature or in Canadian one (beside Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood and some others)
      I like to read (and get recommendations)and unfortunately have a lot of time waiting in hospitals for my father or else,so mobile phone and "comfort read" are helping me a lot-we still don't have an e-library (it was a project but only for a month),so I'm afraid I buy more books than clothes
      I am only sad that I can't share with you some very good ( excellent!) contemporary croatian books I've read as well.
      And thank you for Kindle check(I've read Lisa's article on Medium and hope that the owner behaves better now,because it's the best book platform for me- with Oxford dictionary included )
      Dottoressa

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  11. So glad you're banging the drum for Wagamese -- he's a wonderful storyteller whose books I've long loved (and I've had the privilege of teaching them as well -- students are very receptive). Because of its theme, Indian Horse has less of his brilliant humour (which works to balance the painful material he doesn't shirk). See what I mean by picking up a copy of Keeper 'n' Me....

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    1. I know that Indian Horse is on the reading lists of some high schools too. Must have been wonderful (not sure that's the best word) to teach. I will check out Keeper'n' Me. Thanks.

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    2. and I really loved Ragged Company. . . and Medicine Walk. . . and Wheels. . . ;-)

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  12. I've been on an Elizabeth Strout kick myself. I really like My Name is Lucy Barton, so I pre ordered Anything Is Possible and LOVED it. That sent me down the worm hole to read all of her other works, so I read The Burgess Boys (loved it), Abide With Me (OK, but did not love it) and am going to order Amy and Isabelle. Does anyone else get on "author kicks"?

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    1. Me, me... I get on author kicks. I remember when my friend heard that I had read and liked a book by Barbara Pym and when I arrived at work the next day there was a stack of Pym books on my desk. Love it when I find a new writer and can go back and read my way through all their books!

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  13. Dorothy Sayers is one of the authors I return to again and again. Lindsay Davis as well. I liked her "The Course of Honour" even more than the Falco series. I prefer to read a series in chronological order. That is how I worked my way through Tony Hillerman, and Elizabeth George, too. I put Peter Robinson, Ann Cleeves, and Richard Wagamese on my list, but it may be difficult to get their books in the library, even more so if I do not want to read them in German.

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    1. I ordered my Peter Robinson through Amazon Kindle... very inexpensive. I try to get all my books through the library but when we were travelling I just couldn't pack enough books to get me through the whole trip. I found books by Chris Brookmyre for $6.99 (CAD). If I bought all the books I read in hard copy, we wouldn't have any money left to travel:)

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  14. Thank you for this latest book post and I must add reading all the comments as well. Many of the books mentioned I also enjoy, Peter Robinson, Ann Cleeve, Dorothy L Sayers etc and I will certainly check out the Wagamese book. I have been travelling a bit and so like to take 'light' books with me so will save the Wagamese book for the fall. However, one mystery writer that hasn't been mentioned is Deborah Crombie and I have just read her latest Garden of Lamentations that I enjoyed. I also read Lisa See's The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane which is set in SW China during Mao's time and beyond. I found this book fascinating about the making and sale of prized teas as well as the subtle way the political changes are handled. Obviously a work of fiction but a lot of research went into the writing.

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    1. I should have mentioned Deborah Crombie. I ordered Garden of Lamentations for my i-pad when we were travelling last winter. I enjoy her books. And love the ongoing back story. I'm going to see if the library has that book by Lisa See. It sounds interesting. I always like to hear about new writers. Thanks, Christy.

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  15. I forgot to add life is short to spend time reading books that you don't enjoy. After the first 100 pages if they don't grab me then back they go to the library.

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  16. Like an earlier commenter, I wonder if you would like Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway mysteries? Not very serious but well written and atmospheric without being too creepy.

    ceci

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    1. You're right, Ceci. I do like Elly Griffiths' books. Love the setting detail about that part of the world in the Ruth Galloway series.

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  17. Thanks for mentioning Indian Horse, Sue! I wish I had been able to comment earlier on this post, as it may not be seen by many now, but I want to recommend Bev Sellars as an accompaniment to Indian Horse. She wrote her memoir They Called me Number One, describing her life at home, in a sanitorium and at Residential School. She is roughly same age as Don and I (Don worked with her on the Royal Commission, and they are acquainted). I think it is a good reminder to us non-Indigenous Canadians that this is not a problem of the past - but it is a very current and hidden part of our history.
    I am going to find a pure rollicking narrative to read during my upcoming summer holiday - as light as I can stand it!
    :) N

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    1. Thanks for that, Nancy. Hope your summer is going well... rollicking and reading!

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  18. Third times a charm, right?

    I've lost TWO comments to the ether, so I'm hoping this doesn't go the same way.

    YOU look great in everything, my friend! Alas, we of the vertically challenged, overly horizontal sort do not. Give me elastic-enhanced waist-to-ankle SKINNY jeans every time! Though these days, I'm just working to get myself back in my "fat" skinny jeans. (SIGH)

    xo

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.