reading: Summer of Night (1991)


Remember I read the book The Terror (2007), by Dan Simmons, sometime last year? I’ve been going back and reading other Simmon’s books, and he truly is one of the best writers around. I read Hyperion, nominated for either Hugo or Nebula awards (possibly both) and liked it, but not enough to read book 2. Simmon’s is definitely a world builder, and one of the best. And able to maintain momentum like nobody’s business. I read Fires of Eden, and that one was a miss. I read A Winter’s Haunting which happens 30 years after Summer of Night, because I didn’t realize the two were connected. Winter’s Haunting was excellent as a stand alone book, and scary.

Here’s what Stephen King says on Summer of Night‘s blurb:

    “If Summer of Night isn’t the best horror novel of the last five years, it is surely one of the best three — a gorgeous and terrifying story of five boys who come face to face with a monstrous entity during an enchanted Illinois summer thirty years ago. Simmons writes like a hot-rodding angel, loading his American nightmare with scares, suspense, and sweet surprising nostalgia. This is one of those rare must-read books….I am in awe of Dan Simmons.”

Which, you know, coming from SK is high praise indeed. And I love SK and read his books as they come out, but my complaint about him for the last 20 years is he fills in too much detail that has nothing to do with the story, it’s like blathering to your friend and wandering away from the point far afield, but your friend lets you wander for just so long before nudging you back to the point. In SK’s case, he has no one to nudge him and he’s a page-turner just to get to where SOMETHING HAPPENS.

Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons, is nothing like that. It’s a page turner because something is always happening, and more is about to happen, and oh-my-gosh I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

I was recommending the book to someone, and she said she didn’t like to read books that were too scary. So I have to say, I read The Strain series (Guillermo Del Toro) and those were absolutely read deep into the night and then go to sleep with the lights on kind of books. But Summer of Night, while scary, is not that kind of scary. It’s the kind of scary children cringe from, of shadows and imaginations and not truly being aware of the limits of reality. Oh, there’s a monster in it, but it’s still not I-can’t-go-to-sleep scary.

Using my armchair psychology, I think Summer of Night is the story SK has been trying to write all these years. But Simmons is the better writer.

reading: The Terror, (2007)

If you were to tell me, “You need to read this book. It’s about the British Navy trying to find the Northwest Passage in 1845 and getting stuck in the ice for two years,” I would have said in reply, “No, that doesn’t sound interesting.” But wow, was I wrong. The Terror is the book title and the name of one of the naval vessels making the doomed voyage. Dan Simmons has written a fictionalized account of what may have happened to the sailors on that voyage; history has yet to determine for sure. And the book is 800 pages of riveting adventure. It was one of those stories that did not get boring, unfolding slowly in a cascade of unexpected events propelling the crew to their doom. I did not want the story to end, and I am going to look for other books by Dan Simmons. I hope The Terror gets made into a movie.


Just as I was finishing the book, I noted an article on the web saying the other ship making the voyage, the Erebushad been discovered in the arctic. So perhaps a little bit of the truth of what really happened will be known soon.

reading: We Took to the Woods (1942)

I spotted this book on the bookshelf of someone’s blog (I know!) and requested it at the library. I figured if that person had a copy, it must be a good book. And it is.

We Took to the Woods, by Louise Dickson Rich, is a collection of remembrances of a decade lived in a home deep in the Maine woods in the 1930s. No electricity, no indoor facilities, but there was at least a water pump in the kitchen. The man and wife were writers, so were able to afford to live on next to nothing and come out of the woods only a few times a year. This is a book that is great for your guest room on the night stand. No incident lasts more than a few pages, and all of it is fascinating.

Here is a passage pulled at random:

    “This is what I can’t decide:–Whether I don’t have any spare time at all, or whether most of my time is spare time. Spare time, as I used to understand it, was the time left over from doing the necessary, unpleasant things, like correcting Sophomore English themes or washing out silk stockings in the bathroom. It was the time I frittered away on useless, entertaining pursuits, like the movies or contract bridge. Now almost everything I do — except cooking — is fun, and it is also useful. There is no line of demarcation between work and play. It makes it hard to explain what I do with my spare time.

    “Take the matter of smelting, for example. I happen to be among those who consider going smelting a form of sport. Gerrish agrees with me, but Ralph thinks it’s hard work. Therefore, since someone has to stay home and mind the fires, he’s the one to do it, while Gerrish and I sally forth into the night.

    “Smelts are not, unfortunately, the most co-operative of fish. In this country they’re about the size of average sardines — the Norwegian kind — and normally they live deep in the lakes, where you never see them. In the spring, however, after the ice is out of the brooks but before the lakes break up, they run up in the brook mouths to spawn. We stand on the bank with dip nets, dip them into pails, take them home, and eat them. The hitch — and never let anyone tell you that Nature hands over anything without a string attached — is that they don’t start running untilafter dark, and they’re extremely coy about the whole thing. You can never tell what night or what time of night they’ll pick to run, so you have to be there every night.”

From We Took to the Woods, by Louise Dickson Rich. You can pick it up and put it down at your leisure, but it’s always fascinating. Their home was near a logging camp, where the loggers were described and treated as hobos “outside” the woods, but became good friends (for a season) with the family. There is described the time the folks who filmed the newsreels came to document the loggers, and staged most of the incidents for the camera. “Reality film” was not even reality back then!

Look for it at the library, or search out a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

reading: Smoky the Cow Horse (1926)

Now that Little Girl is advanced enough to read chapter books (I know!), I spend some time looking at the “Juvenile” section in the library and pick up one now and then for myself. I spotted the “Newbery award” tag on the spine of this book,

but the book was so old no title was etched on the spine. I checked it out on the basis of the award, and when I looked at it at home I recognized the line-drawings right away,

and flipping to the cover page, saw the book was written by Will James. (Remember I reviewed his The Three Mustangers a couple years ago?)

A good book makes you both happy and sad when it’s over. And makes you want to start over re-reading it right away. How many books take you like that? Not many. Not one out of hundreds. This was one of those books. I’ve never been able to get behind the Black Beauty book, even though it’s hands-down the most famous horse book. But I totally loved Smoky the Cow Horse. Just-folks grammar and all, I see why it won the Newbery award in 1926.


I’m going to have to start searching out Will James books now. I’m glad our library still has this copy, and I hope kids stop and check it out. Are kids put off by a book that looks “old?” I bet they are. A foxed, musty smelling book must be filled with old-fashioned ideas. The library staff culls books every year to make room for the many new books added to the shelves. They must look at the check-out record of every book, and if a book hasn’t reached a certain level. . . out it goes. It occurred to me it might be a certain kind of kindness to check out these old favorite books, even if you don’t intend to read it, just to assure the books stays on a shelf for another year by adding to its “hits.” Maybe the one kid who needs to read it will find it, just like you did a long time ago. Try and remember the books that changed your life, and then go check it out a couple times a year. Or else it might be culled and replaced by a book a whole lot less important.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a flash mob checking out important old books? Heck, go ahead and re-read and try and remember why that special book changed your thinking, or introduced you to new ideas and places.

Smoky the Cow Horse is one of those books that deserves to stick around.

reading: Mollie Makes Feathered Friends

Remember I won a blog giveaway and was sent the wrong book? I have received the right book now! I was so excited to win Gretel’s giveaway on her blog, one of her projects had been included in the crafting book, Mollie Makes: Feathered Friends. I love Gretel’s toy designs expressed in her illustrations, and her needle-felted designs. She inspired me a couple years ago to buy my own roving and needle-felting needles, but after finding myself poking my fingers quite often, plus not having the wonderful inspiration Gretel has, I set aside the tools and pretty much forgot about it.

And yay for me, I won a copy of a crafting book, wherein projects from 3 bloggers I follow are included. I love seeing what other people are making, and I do always hope to have enough time to make as many things as I wish I could. So many projects bookmarked for that day!


In Feathered Friends, I would like to make these projects:

The simple design for this clothes pin holder is perfect. Handy, and the pins won’t fall out. The birds make it so pretty.


The tone of these roosters is perfect, and I need to think about how to adapt it to a rabbity design. I love this as is, and might make it just to become comfortable with the steps.


And when the day comes I learn to confidently crochet, I will definitely be making this granny square throw with the alternating bird squares. I mean really!


reading: Mouse Trap Caper, The (2012)

The Mouse Trap Caper (2012) was recommended to me by one of my wonderful customers, and the book is a quick and satisfying and chaste read. All the will-they-won’t-they-get-together excitement of a romance novel, but with normal, average people who are believable and fallible and with ordinary personal quirks like everyone has. And it helps if you like horses, as Gaby Pratt centers her story around a barrel-racing heroine who finds herself unaccountably the target of seemingly random malicious attacks: the story begins with Kerry, our heroine, being hit over the head while she’s in the paddock, is followed up by her horse having it’s tail cropped, her horse trailer’s tire is slashed, and finally her own home is fire-bombed. Trying to keep her head above water while dealing with these emergencies, Kerry is aided by the brother of her now-deceased best friend. Gradually the two develop feelings for each other, as each demonstrates strength of character through these travails.

I found the emergencies helped propel the plot in a believable way. Who wouldn’t first panic, and then be mad, and all the while furiously try to figure out what the heck is going on? The romance is front and center, but the mystery aspect gave the book cohesion.


If you are looking for light summer reading, something to keep packed in your purse for the plane or time at the swim park, this is one you won’t be ashamed to let your kids see you reading.

Update: Gaby says Mouse Trap Caper is a finalist in the Wisconsin Chapter of Romance Writers of America, inspirational romance category, Readers’ Award Contest. The judges are readers not associated with the publishing industry. Winners to be announced in June. Yay!