Summer at Fairacre

Read, Miss. Summer at Fairacre. Boston: Houghton, 2001.

Reason read: Miss Read’s birth month is in April.

After a long winter the folks of Fairacre cannot wait for sunshine and roses. No one is more anxious for warmer weather than schoolteacher Miss Read. She is looking forward to a long list of many projects. They do not include the unwanted attentions of Henry Mawne while his wife is out of town. Any woman could relate. If a married man brought another woman flowers, or brought her books, invited her to lectures or a sherry party, or mailed her postcards signed with love, all while his wife was away for whatever reason, people would talk. But Henry Mawne isn’t Miss Read’s only problem. She has issues with the woman who cleans the school and her house. Miss Read spends most of the book fretting about who will clean these places while Mrs. Pringle is ill. I have to admit it is a little curious how Mrs. Pringle can string Miss Read along.
One of the best things about Miss Read is how real her character was throughout the story. How fiercely protective she was of her private time. The episode when she had a twitch in her eye that led her to wonder if she was going blind was so apropos. How many of us have felt a pang and instantly wondered if we had an incurable disease? Despite Miss Read’s wonderful personality, I loved friend Amy even more. She was hysterical.

Quote I liked, “What would happen if we all spoke the unvarnished truth?” (p 14) and “Sometimes life seems as contrary as a cat” (p 201).

Author fact: Miss Read’s real name was Dora Jessie Saint.

Book trivia: Summer at Fairacre is number sixteen in a series. My only other book on the Challenge list was Thrush Green.

Nancy said: Scenes of British village life can be found in the novels of Miss Read.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Barchester and Beyond” (p 15). As an aside, I have no idea how I ended up reading two books from the same chapter in the same month.

The Painted Desert

“…April is over. Will you tell me how long before I can be there?”
-The Painted Desert, 10,000 Maniacs

I will have that song playing in my head from now until June. Not only am I planning to be there, the trip cannot happen soon enough. But for the purposes of this post: April is over and here are the books accomplished:


  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope.
  • The City and the House by Natalia Ginzburg (EB & print).
  • Summer at Fairacre by Miss Read (EB).
  • Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding.
  • All Souls by Javier Marias (EB & print).
  • All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor (AB and print).


  • Sixpence House by Paul Collins (EB & print).
  • Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs.

Series continuation:

  • Hunting Season by Nevada Barr (EB and print).
  • The Game by Laurie R. King (AB/AB/print).
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith (EB & print)
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov (EB)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwimana

For fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – Yes! I finally finished it!

May 2011 was…

May was a month of deja vu. The Just Cause walk. Wanting to go home. Same old, same old. Nearly everything I read this month reminded me of something else I have already read. Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann reminded me of The Defiant Hero by the same author was the most obvious because the plot and characters were very similar. Almost too similar. To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite reminded me of Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell. They had similar plot lines: taking on a difficult classroom of students as a new teacher. Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham reminded me of Where the Pavement Ends by Erika Warmbrunn. Two stories about traveling through difficult, foreign terrain by bicycle.

So, here’s the list:

  • To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Education Month. This was a really quick (but good) read. Read in one day.
  • Catfish and Mandala: a Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of May’s Memorial Day. This was probably my favorite book on the list.
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month. I have mixed feelings about this book (as my review pointed out). Read in one day.
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of May being Graphic Novel month. This was super hard to “read.” Read in one day.
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece. I keep forgetting this plot so it was good to read it again. Read in one day.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor of Asian-American Heritage month. Read over a weekend. This was one of my favorites.
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month. This was an audio book and very different than everything else I have listened to so far.
  • Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand ~ in honor of the Kentucky Derby.
  • The Dean’s List by Jon Hassler ~ in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May. This reminded me a little too much of my own work place!
  • A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters From the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward edited by Isaac Metzker. Read in two days.
  • City of Light by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of history month. Interesting story about Niagara Falls and the advancement of electricity at the turn of the century.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Iran. This was amazing. Can’t wait for part II. 
  • Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman ~ in honor of Prayer Day being the first Thursday in May. This was a fun murder mystery. Read in one car ride home.

I didn’t get to three books on my orginal list: China, To Me, House on the Lagoon, and, Art and Madness. I forgot to pack them and ended up finding Persepolis and Friday the Rabbi Slept Late at home.

May was also the month for crazy travel. I slept no more than two nights at a time in Bolton, Concord, Boston, Chicopee, Peaks Island, Rockland and Monhegan all in eleven days time. I took two boats, one bus and three different cars. Walked over 75 miles. Saw family. Saw friends. Breathed in the woods. Inhaled the ocean. I enjoyed every second of it.

May 2011 is…


  • To Sir with Love by Edward Ricardo Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Teacher Day (May 3rd)
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of graphic novel month
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor Asian-American Heritage month
  • Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of Memorial Day
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month (I’ll explain that connection within the review). I’m listening to this as a training book.
  • House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre ~ in honor of May 5th being Cinco de Mayo
  • City of Light ~ by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of May being History Month

Lastly, for the Early Review program for LibraryThing – Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe.

I put so many books on my list because a) a few of them are really, really short so I know I can read I can read them in 1-2 days time and b) I don’t have plans to travel anywhere until May 20th so I should have more time to curl up with several good books, and c) AFTER the walk I have ten days of NOTHING to do. I am picturing myself on the back deck, a glass of wine in one hand and a good book in another.

Confession – Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham looked so good I started reading it on April 28th. Sue me.
May is also (finally) the Just ‘Cause walk. I am not confident I did everything to train (but then again, there is only so much walking one can do), and I know I didn’t fund raise as hard as I should/could have. I am $100 off from the amount I raised last year. I am guessing not asking aunts, uncles, cousins, (mother), grandparents….anyone from my mother’s side to donate played a big part. C’est la vie. Or, to quote mom, “whatever.”

Miss Timmins’ School for Girls

Currimbhoy, Nayana. Miss Timmins’ School for Girls: a Novel. New York: Harper, 2011.

Disclaimer: When I first saw this was a Harper publication I balked. Not because I personally have a problem with the “26 e-book renewal” drama, but rather because, as a librarian, I should be standing with my fellow librarians and sharing in their boycott efforts. I’m not because this isn’t an e-book, I didn’t borrow it, and as far as I know, it won’t self destruct after 26 reads. But, I digress. Onto the review:

Miss Timmins’ School for Girls is intense! It’s a complicated romance ensnared with a murder (suicide?) scandal. Churu a new teacher at Miss Timmins’ School. Outwardly, she tries to fit in with the other missionaries. She wears her clothes properly and has civilized tea. After dark Charu finds drugs and friendship with a troubled, misfit teacher named Moira Prince. When Moira is murdered the school community is a whirlwind of chaos. After some time witnesses put Charu with Moira right before her death. Did she do it? When a shocking love affair is revealed the story becomes more complicated. When a birth mother is revealed the story takes another twist. It keeps twisting until the very end.

In all honesty, every time I put Miss Timmins’ School for Girls down I found it difficult to pick it back up. The story dragged on and on. In places I felt certain scenes weren’t necessary and I questioned why they were included. None of the scenes were overkill, they just added more to the story that really wasn’t necessary. Charu’s own personal conflict with her mother could have been a book in and of itself. Her relationships with Merch and Prince could have been another book. Combining this with the murder at Miss Timmins’ School for Girls made the book tedious.

Up the Down Staircase

Kaufman, Bel. Up the Down Staircase. New York: Avon Books, 1964.

I admit it. I left work in a hurry. I didn’t clean up my desk and I didn’t pack my books. So, I had a weekend with nothing to read. True, I had some loose ends to finish up (Close Range turned out to be not my thing), but determining that didn’t take all weekend. Desperate for something that would be a quick read I found Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman. Funny! I was supposed to read this sometime in May. Oh well. It ended up being a July 11th read.

In the spirit of every new-to-the-business, green educator, Sylvia Barrett is no different than all the rest. Every first year teacher can claim Up the Down Staircase illustrates his or her career. When Sylvia begins her first term in New York’s Calvin Coolidge high school she has nothing short of big dreams and great expectations. Within days she discovers her classes, her students, fellow teachers and the entire school administration are nothing like she imagined. Getting through to the students is an exercise in swimming in quicksand. Getting through to the administration is like screaming into the wind. In both situations Sylvia plods through with humor and grace. What makes this book such a pleasure to read is how the story is communicated. Through “intraschool communications,” homework assignments, suggestion box missives, and letters to a friend Sylvia’s teaching triumphs and tragedies come to life.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Teachers and Teaching Tales” (p 230).

Why so Few Blacks Study Creative Writing

Eady, Cornelius. “Why So Few Blacks Study Creative Writing.” The Gathering of My Name. New York: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1991.

Such a long title for such a short poem! Here are the tags words I used for this poem: teacher, education, writing, students, culture, and faith. To me this was all about a growing frustration of a teacher; frustration with his students and their lack of interest in writing. I could almost see the blank stares, the “I don’t get it attitude.” I don’t think this is a cultural problem, but a culture-less epidemic that spans illiteracy and disinterest.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Poetry Pleasers” (p 189).