Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

How have I not read this before? Lovely, lyrical writing that made me pause to admire turns of phrase. For example, in July, as the author waxes poetical about bird song, “We sally forth, the dog and I, at random. He has paid scant respect to all these vocal goings-on, for to him the evidence of tenancy is not song, but scent. Any illiterate bundle of feathers, he says, can make a noise in a tree.”

I loved the almanac structure and how it reflects the changing seasons. For example: “By September, the day breaks with little help from birds. A song sparrow may give a single half-hearted song, a woodcock may twitter overhead en route to his daytime thicket, a barred owl may terminate the night’s argument with one last wavering call, but few other birds have anything to say or sing about.”

“In June it is completely predictable that the robin will give voice when the light intensity reaches 0.01 candle power, and that the bedlam of other singers will follow in predictable sequence."

This is a very birdy book overall, which of course delighted me as a birder. “Distant crows are berating a hypothetical owl, just to tell the world how vigilant crows are”.

I was not enamored of all the hunting, but that’s a sign of the times, and at least even then Leopold showed restraint as a hunter and acknowledged the danger of over hunting. Leopold lamented our use of economic value to determine importance in 1949, and things have gotten much worse in that regard.

“The fallacy that economic determinists have tied around our collective neck, and which we now need to cast off, is the belief that economics determines all land use. That is simply not true.”

Reading A Sand County Almanac left me both awestruck at the beauty of the natural world and melancholy about the disappearance of wild places.

If you enjoy reading about nature and are worried about the future of our wild places, I recommend A Sand County Almanac.

The Galesburg Public Library has A Sand County Almanac in print and as an ebook. The Food for Thought book group will be discussing the book on August 23.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews

From the publisher: Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. Ex-army captain Justin Thornhill—though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome—is anything but a romantic hero. Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to manage his household—and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife, and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one. Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. But when Helena’s past threatens, will Justin’s burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

I’ve read two novellas by Mimi Matthews, but this is her first full-length novel, and it’s a lovely one. A true historical romance – not an excuse for wild sex and not a comedy of manners – from the author’s Perfectly Proper Press.

The main characters are complex and well developed. Their fears and insecurities are understandable and justified. The plot seems plausible, not filled with coincidences, misunderstandings, and unlikely decisions. (An event near the end was a bit predictable and clich├ęd, but otherwise the ending is rewarding.) I enjoyed listening in to the thoughts of both the hero and the heroine in turn.

The real threat in Victorian times of heirs being institutionalized in asylums so family members could take their fortunes plays a significant role in the book, as does the horrific Siege of Cawnpore in India. It is a pleasure to read a historical novel that also teaches me about history.

If you like clean historical romance with conflicted characters and happily ever afters, you may enjoy The Matrimonial Advertisement and other books by Mimi Matthews.

This seems to be the first book in a series, and I eagerly await sequels. I read an advance reader copy of The Matrimonial Advertisement from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be published on September 4 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Promises and Primroses by Josi S. Kilpack

Lord Elliott Mayfield aims to correct the very messy marital mistakes and scandals of his brothers and sisters by requiring his nieces and nephews to choose worthy companions.  If they choose wisely, they will receive their generous share of the family’s inheritance. Peter, Elliott’s eldest nephew, thinks the entire idea is ridiculous. A widower with two young daughters, he simply needs a governess, not a wife. Julia Hollingsworth certainly has the credentials and the experience, but is altogether too young and pretty for such a job. Julia loves working as a governess, despite the objections of her mother, Amelia. And as it turns out, Amelia has a lot to say about the Mayfield men—none of it good. Amelia, whose heart was broken thirty years ago by none other than Elliott Mayfield, is determined to prevent any relationship from blooming either between Peter and Julia—or between herself and Elliott. Hearts and history collide as both couples must face their pasts and decide if risking it all is worth the promise of new love and a new future.

Promises and Primroses is the charming first book in a new series by Josi. S. Kilpack. I enjoyed the book and how the author writes. There are believable obstacles to Happily Ever After for the two couples involved. I liked that after Elliott broke Amelia’s heart, she found a good man to love and share her life with. Peter and Julia’s relationship is proper for the times – no falling into bed before they’ve done much more than say hello (or, indeed, until they are married). When Julia accidentally reads a letter not intended for her eyes, it doesn’t lead to pages of misunderstanding – she confronts Peter with it and the misunderstandings are cleared up.

The plot involves no surprises, but the characters are real and flawed, and it was fun to watch the two couples travel from A to B. It was also nice to see middle-aged people pursuing romance and Happily Ever After. And the story features dogs! 

If you enjoy clean, well written romances with thoughtful storylines, I recommend Promises and Primroses. I read an advance reader copy from Netgalley. It will be published September 4 and will be available for checkout at the Galesburg Public Library