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Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Nature on the Cover

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller review coming tomorrow!

The Garden in Every Sense and Season: A Year of Insights and Inspiration From My Garden by Tovah Martin (nonfiction)

The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt (nonfiction)

Bicycling With Butterflies: My 10,201 Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration by Sara Dykman (nonfiction)

Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food by Gina Rae La Cerva (nonfiction)

A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred Year History of America’s Hurricanes by Eric Jay Dolan (nonfiction) I’m currently listening to this one, so a review is coming soon!

Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkle (nonfiction)

Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer

Small Wonder: Essays by Barbara Kingsolver

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

 

Why not join the fun next week? You can read the rules here.

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Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week Review: Jamaica Inn

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My Interest

“She realized for the first time that aversion and attraction ran side by side; that the boundary-line was thin between them.”

Not only is it Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week, but I am actively reading through her “backlist”–I supposed that isn’t really the correct term since she’s dead, but it’s the same principle. I’m trying to read through all of her books and story collections. So, this week I’m able to cross another one off the list.

The Story

“She realized for the first time that aversion and attraction ran side by side; that the boundary-line was thin between them.”

Mary Yellan has just lost her mother and the farm she loved. Now she’d obeyed her dead mother’s wishes and gone to live with her Aunt Patience. Little does she know that he Aunt’s husband, the much-feared Joss Merlyn, the proprietor of the Jamaica Inn is involved in what would be called “nefarious activities”–smuggling, murder, and more. Mary has not been brought up to a life of crime, but nonetheless can stand up for herself. Along the way she encounters an local vicar–an albino with a seemingly sympathetic air. Finally she meets her Uncle’s brother, Jem. Life at Jamaica Inn is not at all what Mary’s late mother expected for her daughter. The barred room at the end of the corridor features a rope for hanging and Mary is told to go to bed and hear nothing and see nothing that goes on. She endures it all for her poor, downtrodden Aunt. Then on Christmas Eve…[no spoilers]

“I don’t want to love like a woman or feel like a woman, … there’s pain that way, and suffering, and misery that can last a lifetime. I didn’t bargain for this; I don’t want it.”

My Thoughts

“…Christianity…built upon hatred and jealousy and greed…while the old pagan barbarism was naked and clean….

As always Du Maurier’s Cornwall is dark and creepy. Jamaica Inn is darker and creepier even than the neighboring moors. Her brutish uncle, her miserable Aunt who for an unfathomable reason won’t leave her brutish husband, the ill-mannered men who assist her uncle in his middle-of-the-night crimes all make the reader’s pulse race with apprehension. No one tells a creepy, gothic tale like our Daph and this one is no exception. Making the unctuous clergyman be a “freak of nature” (an albino) was pure genius, but giving him a secret hobby that is so “illuminating” surpasses even that choice (and, that is as much of a spoiler as I’ll give).

“…he concealed his impatience well, but it was there in the flicker of his eye and the tightening of his lips…”

Listening to the audio version of this tale was both mesmerizing (the descriptions as always are fabulous) and, at the right times, deeply unsettling. I could feel the floorboards creak, could hear the damp, could taste the fear at every point in the story. Du Maurier is a rare author that I’ll allow to unnerve me. I do not enjoy being frightened by books or movies, but I make an exception for Daphne’s beautifully penned tales. Like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (both of which I was surprised to enjoy) a perfectly crafted tale is enjoyable even if it is upsetting. Too many such tales fall-short of the beauty of the gothic craft and simply leave the reader “creeped out.” Not so with Daphne. Her tale takes us fully inside Mary Yellan’s mind (even if I did keep hearing the very American “Mary Ellen”).

While The King’s General, then Rebecca are my favorites, Mary’s tale was as well told and as riveting and will leave me with many satisfying memories of listening to it.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

#DaphneDuMaurierWeek #DDMreadingweek

My previous Daphne Du Maurier Reading Week post

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Springathon 2021: May 1–14, 2021

Thanks to A Curious Reader [her blog] or her Youtube channel for hosting along with: Emma @A Cup Of Books Juliana https://theblankgarden.com/ Doris @all D books Heidi @My Reading Life

I will be honest and say I don’t know if I’ll get an entire book read on such short notice (I just found this readathon today!). But I love a good readathon and so do many of the people who read my blog. So, I’m at least helping to (belatedly) get the word out.

However, I am reading some seasonal books this year so I will definitely be dipping in again to these two:

 

One Woman’s Year by Stella Martin Currey (the gray Persephone book)

Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden (a re-read)

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dana McAnulty

 

Prompts

The prompts are optional, but fun. Themes for your reading.

Migration/Home

Bloom/Decay

Forage/Hibernate

Buzz/Stillness

 

Here are a few of my most recent nature reads

Wintering: A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook

Will you be joining the Springathon? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

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Review: World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

My Interest

I devoured Kitchen Confidential when it came out, but oddly, I’ve never watched more than a few minutes of any of Anthony (“Tony”) Bourdain’s tv shows–I prefer reading about food and travel (and, until last week when my daughter gave me one) I do not own a tv. (I occasionally watch online though). After reading this book, I doubt I’ll go in search of any of Boudain’s tv shows, but I would be I might read more of his word. His style is not mine. It’s more Bobby Knight than I’d like–especially around food. But he certainly knew good food and exciting travel.

The Story

At the time of his death in 2018, Bourdain and his “lieutenant,” Laurie Woolever, were at work on the project of telling about people, places, and most importantly, food he had encountered over his twenty years of making travel and food tv programs. Unfortunately, they only got to have that one meeting. Tony ended his life and left Laurie with the idea to finish the project. Instead of Tony writing about places and experiences he’d loved, friends, coworkers, and relatives have contributed prose and memories. Tony’s words, drawn from his television shows and writing, make up the balance of the book.

In this world tour, I enjoyed all of his stops, but I was especially drawn to two places–the first of which is Salvador in Brazil. I was taken in by the interesting sound of the taste of a caipirinhas [a lime juice-based cocktail with sugar cane “spirits”] and for the acaraje. What’s not to like about this:

“[A] paste a batter, a falafel-like wad of smushed-up black-eyed peas, seasoned with ground dried shrimp and onions, deep-friend till crispy and golden, in some chili-spiked dende oil [red palm oil]. On top you got your catapa which is, sort of, a shrimp curry paste, and your tomato salad, your friend shrimp, your cararao frito. A must.”

As Bourdain points out in his tv show [transcript] the slave trade was very big in Brazil. You can certainly tell that just from the description above of the acaraje. Black-eyed peas [“cowpeas” in some parts of Africa], red palm oil, dried shrimp? How much more West African can you get? But you are eating it in South America. Love that whole picture. Wash it down with a caiprinhas. which to me evokes memories of Malwai and Cathay, a sugar cane “spirit” that could knock over a Teamster with its kick.

The second most compelling portrait was of Barcelona:

Outside of Asia, this is it: the best and most exciting place to it in the world.”

That’s a pretty bold statement even for as bold a guy as Tony was.

“The simple, good things of Spain that most Spaniards see as a birthright…’How can ham be this good?! How can something that comes in a can be that terrific. Simple things–an anchovy, an olive, a piece of cheese. Really really simple things, the little things that you see every day here–that’s what’s cool about Spain.'”

I love everything about this statement–simple food that lends itself to daily life, to visiting with friends. Food that fills you up but doesn’t weigh you down. Sign me up!

My Thoughts

There was no place in this book I wouldn’t want to see and experience. I must admit, though, that shark’s live and various types of tripe do nothing to my taste bud, but do make my gag reflex kick in. Ok, so I’m not as adventurous as Tony–not many of us are. But to eat my way through all the versions of wonderful Piri-Piri chicken in Mozambique, or sample street foods in India or Singapore. Those would certainly be amazing meals.

As for the book–it isn’t nice to criticize a posthumously published book. But, this, in essence, was a copy-and-paste of a dead man’s tv orations, padded out with words from a woman who was his assistant and with whom he wrote a cookbook. While Laurie Woolever’s prose was wonderfully descriptive and does set the scene well, I must say I was underwhelmed by this repackaging of Tony. When Laurie was asking herself if the world really needed this book, she should have listened to her gut saying, “Probably not.” Tony’s vision for the book would have been much better as it would have been populated with his planned essays on places, food, experiences, and more. Bourdain’s larger-than-life personality does well on the tv screen. Transcribing those words spoke, shouted, or muttered into the camera in a specific context, is just not great reading. Nonetheless, it is still a decent addition to contemporary travel literature for those who want a super-quick read. [“How thoroughly passive-aggressive can she be?” I hear you asking! LOL]

My Verdict

3.0

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Recent Additions to My TBR

This week’s topic was “ My Ten Most Recent Reads (maybe share a one-sentence review to go with?)” but I review books all the time, so I changed to what I’ve recently added to my TBR.

 

 

 

Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford

No one can ever explain why books get retitled and recovered in different countries. This one is very interesting. The diver is facing the opposite direction on the cover and the title has been tweaked for the USA edition. Thank you to A Life In Books for the review that led me to add this one–click on the linked words to read the review.

Fiction

 

 

The War Nurse: A Novel by Tracey Enerson Wood

The Ballerinas: A Novel by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan [not out yet in the USA]

 

Nonfiction

 

Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford

Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR by Lisa Napoli

Bicycling With Butterflies: My 10,201 Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration by Sara Dykman

Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine by Olivia Campbell

Why not join the fun next week? You can read the rules here.

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Review: Band of Sisters: A Novel by Lauren Willig

My Interest

I’ve always wondered “what would I have done?” about both World War I and World War II. I like to think I’d have signed up and served in some sort of uniform. This story, then, was almost a personal fantasy of “What if?” for me.

The real Smith College Relief Unit (image source)

The Story

Based on the real-life group of Smith College graduates who served in France helping near or at the front lines, this fictionalized account of their lives focuses on Kate, a scholarship girl [why, oh why does every such person come from a “hardscrabble” existence?] and Emmie, the wealthy heiress, daughter of the formidable Mrs. Livingston Van Alden and her relative, Julia a doctor (and very Eleanor Roosevelt-ish in height, and teeth). 15 other Smithies, as they were known for their degrees from the prestigious Seven Sisters (women’s college version of the Ivy League back in single-sex days) arrive in France in new uniforms, filled with idealism, and then realize they must put their trucks together, sleep in cellars and, well, get on with the work to be done.

Of the generation who founded the Junior League and did good works in tenements and Settlement Houses in New York, Chicago, and other cities, these women really were trailblazers. They pretty much put social work on the map. Julia, a doctor who fought for her education to escape her privileged societal position, and Emmie who chafed at being Mrs. Van Alden’s daughter were typical of the society girls of their era who were “over it” as we’d say today and wanted “more.” Kate, tricked into coming by Emmie, has what today would be called “leadership” skills, but back then was just seen as a little bossy.

While the ladies work tirelessly helping the villagers reclaim their homes and lives stolen by the first battle of the Somme, the second battle is gearing up (but they don’t know that, of course). Helping with food, health care, education, entertainment, gardens, and livestock, the Smith Unit brings hope and practical assistance to the war-ravaged area. Each woman driving a truck or her accompanying Smith associates form bonds with the villagers, find a little romance, and learn things about their own strength that no modern-day corporate trust exercise or MBA program could hope to teach.

1916 Ford Jitney from Wikipedia Commons

My Thoughts

I loved the ways Emmie and Kate mature and find their strengths. That was very well done. While I did roll my eyes at Julia’s pc moment, it too was appropriately told and dealt with in the manner of 1914 and not of today. I do not like it when historical fiction goes off into modern-day thought and happily, Willig is a much better author than that. I was also thrilled beyond measure that this was told in chronological order, with memories here and there, and not in the now-overused dual timeline and a cheesy “Oh, look  Old Aunt Gerty’s scrapbook…if it could only talk…the tales it would tell…” storyline [is this a “trope”?]. Thank you, Ms. Willig, for skipping that garbage and telling us a great story instead. I wish actually hope there will be a sequel–I would love to hear about the rest of the fictional lives of Kate, Emmie, and Julia, but if not, I am glad to learn from the well-done author’s notes on the true story that a nonfiction book is in the works on the real Smith Unit. I will buy that the minute it is avaiable.

I loved the story, but there was one huge, annoying problem–the lack of an editor. Even a bestselling author needs one. The phrase “meant to” appeared on nearly every page of the book. It should have been the subtitle of the book. The phrase was ubiquitous! Never did she substitute “ought to” or “should have” or “are to be” or anything else. The first “ought to” finally came way into the book–I cheered. Then suddenly one chapter (a re-write, perhaps?) overused “ought to” before “meant to” returned. UGH UGH UGH! Spellcheck is not an editor. Someone should have called her out on this and made her fix it. The story is so good! The characters as deep as they get in this level of fiction, and the actions were believable, but the reader is bludgeoned to death with the words “meant to.” I’ve also never encountered a single America of any age (even back to my Grandmother born in 1904) “haring off” somewhere. Hares–rabbits just don’t “inform” or movements. That appears at least twice.

My verdict

4.0

Band of Sisters: A Novel by Lauren Willig

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Spell the Month in Books: May

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Thanks to Fictionophile for “reminding” me with her own Spell the Month in Books post. Thanks, also, Jana at ‘Reviews from the Stacks‘.to the created it.

 

 

The Lusty Month of May (From “Camelot”

Tra la, it’s May, the lusty month of May
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray
Tra la, it’s here, that shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear
It’s May, it’s May, that gorgeous holiday
When every maiden prays that her lad will be a cad
It’s mad, it’s gay, a libelous display
Those dreary vows that everyone takes, everyone breaks
Everyone makes divine mistakes, the lusty month of May
Whence this fragrance wafting through the air?
What sweet feelings does its scent transmute?
Whence this perfume floating everywhere?
Don’t you know it’s that dear forbidden fruit
Tra la la la la, that dear forbidden fruit, tra la la la la
Tra la la la la, tra la, tra la, tra la la la la la la la la la
It’s May, the lusty month of May
That darling month when everyone throws self-control away
It’s time to do a wretched thing or two
And try to make each precious day, one you’ll always rue
It’s May, it’s May, the month of yes you may
The time for every frivolous whim, proper or im
It’s wild, it’s gay, a blot in every way
The birds and bees with all of their vast amorous past
Gaze at the human race aghast
Tra la, it’s May, the lusty month of May
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray
Tra la, it’s here, that shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear
It’s May, it’s May, the month of great dismay
When all the world is brimming with fun wholesome or un
It’s mad, it’s gay, a libelous display
Those dreary vows that everyone takes, everyone breaks
Everyone makes divine mistakes, the lusty month of May
 

The Mountains Sing: A Novel by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

 

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

 

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

 

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Six Degrees of Separation: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary.

Here’s the brief version of how this meme works:

“Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.” You can read all the rules here.

I have a confession to make. Even though Beezus and Ramona was published in 1955, and I started school approximately a decade later, I have no memory of anything to do with Beverly Cleary until my own children were in school in the 2000s! I have not read this book.  Her Henry Huggins book I THOUGHT I had read, but further investigation reveals I was remembering Homer Price. The closest I’ve come to Cleary is my daughter’s obsession with Junie B Jones.

Here is the blurb from Amazon:

“Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn’t always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus’s birthday party. Will Beezus find the patience to handle her little sister before Ramona turns her big day into a complete disaster?” [Amazon]

My Chain

A birthday and a sisters–this is how Judy Leigh’s fun new book starts

My review tells the fun story. This is a wonderful light read by the way! Who doesn’t want to live in Spain and Mexico and find romance at beyond 40?

Molly and Nell learning a little about Mexican culture while Chasing the Sun. Another great read that features a little of Mexican Culture is the amazing Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. This really is a magical book. It is short and sweet–if you haven’t read it, get it!

Tita, in Like Water for Chocolate, loves to cook. Another who loves to cook is Emoni Santiago–teen mother and chef-to-be in the incredible With the Fire on High. Everything Elizabeth Acebedo writes is incredible. Do not be mislead by the stupid YA label–this is a great book. Do not miss out on this wonderful author–I truly believe she is a voice of her generation.

What a poignant coming-of-age novella! The sweet little boy is in love with the odd lady who sells sandwiches. Growing up is so hard, isn’t it? Miss Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami.

Single moms (I was one) have a lot of struggles. Sons of single moms look for warmth and love where they can–even in the sandwich department of their local supermarket.

A boy in love with “Miss Ice Sandwich” leads to a family of ice cream makers who move from Italy to the Netherlands. The Ice Cream Makers: A Novel by Ernest van der Kwast.

Another book about family in the Netherlands that includes food is The Dinner by Herman Koch. I look forward to Koch’s books because of this one. My review was lost in a crash of my old blog, but trust me and read it.

I couldn’t go full-circle and back to a book with sisters and a birthday, but it was still a fun chain, right?

June’s Starting Book

Next Month the starting book is The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld.

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Run for the Roses: New Nonfiction Horse Racing Books for Derby Week!

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The Run for tee Roses, aka The Kentucky Derby, IS America’s horse race. People who never give horse racing a thought will watch the brief race on t.v. In Louisville, the home of Churchill Downs where the race is held, parties are held with mint juleps, Hot Brown sandwiches, Derby Pie, and other goodies each year (see this post for more on the special foods). It’s the one day in America when a lady’s hat matters! Except for the First Lady on Inauguration Day, I can’t think of another day on which American ladies put on a hat anymore.

Most Americans can name Secretariat and Seabiscuit thanks to the popular books/movies, and possibly still Man O’War and a few others, but there is more to horse racing than just the Derby [pronounced Der-bee here]. You can read about those books in the other post (here’s another link to it). Horse racing is a popular sport in many parts of the world. While I am giving some books today on American horse racing, others will be from around the world. Place your bets and enjoy the races!

The Books

The Ones To Pre-Order

The Triple Crown winner, those horses who’ve won the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes, all in one season, are among the world’s greatest athletes. This book, due out in August, tells their stories. The Lucky Thirteen: The Winners of America’s Triple Crown of Horse Racing by Edward Bowen, can be pre-ordered now.

“An exploration of living and working at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans comprising photography, interviews, and personal correspondence of jockeys, horse groomers, trainers, and other key backside players.” (Amazon). This book was scheduled to release on April 1, 2021, but has not yet appeared. The Horses Pulled Me Back To Them: Life On The Backside Of The New Orleans Fair Grounds by Aubrey Dawne Edwards, Jay Addison, and Frank Bernis.

The New One

Newly out in April, author Nicholson returns to horse racing to look at “Zev,” a horse billed as “racing for America.” This book looks at the lives of the major players in the race, including the scandalous and even criminal background of Zev’s owner. Racing for America by James C. Nicholason. See Nicholson’s older book, Never Say Die. It tells the story of the Kentucky-bred horse who won the 1954 Epson Derby.

When I read the blurb on this one, I immediately added it to my TBR: “Czechoslovakia, October 1937. Vast crowds have gathered to watch the threatened nation’s most prestigious sporting contest: the Grand Pardubice steeplechase. Notoriously dangerous, the race is considered the ultimate test of manhood and fighting spirit. The Nazis have sent elite SS officers to crush the “subhuman Slavs.” The local cavalry officers have no hope of stopping them. But there is one other contestant: a countess riding a little golden mare…” (Amazon).  Unbreakable: The Woman Who Defied the Nazis in the World’s Most Dangerous Horse Race by Richard Askwith.

The Mongol Derby, a horse race composed of 25 wild ponies competing over approximately 621 miles (i.e. 1,000 kilometers) sounds undoable. But the author of Rough Magic set out to ride it–at age 19! Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Palmer.

Jim Crow drove most of the African American jockeys and trainers out of American horse racing. This book tells the story of the “hidden” aspects of Kentucky Derby history.  Hidden History of Horse Racing in Kentucky by Foster Ockerman Jr.

Do you know of other new nonfiction books related in any way to horse racing? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

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Run for the Roses: Horse Racing Fiction for Derby Week!

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The Kentucky Derby IS America’s horse race. Americans are not that racing obsessed though there are die-hard fans of the sport here. Across the pond in the UK (aka “England” to Americans–U.K. is too often the University of Kentucky, home of the Derby) there are all sorts of horse racing mad folks who bet openly and legally on all types of races. Even the Queen has an occasional “flutter.”

In the UK there is flat racing and steeplechase racing. The Epsom Derby is flat, the Grand National of National Velvet fame is a steeplechase. People known as “jump jockeys” ride in those. Cool name. Here in the good old US of A, we race on the flat and we go the “wrong” way around the track, too. Or is it the Brits who run their races “backward?” Hmmmm. There are “turf” races and track races. In the US it’s track. In the UK turf seems to be the big thing. The US also has harness racing. I’m not sure the UK does.

Ladies’ hats are a big part of the greatest fashion spectacle in horse racing, aka Ascot Week, where the Queen drives down from Windsor Castle (next door) with members of her house party in quaint carriages. Ladies Day brings out designer gowns and gowns that should never have been designed. There are bets placed on what color the Queen will wear! In America, as I said yesterday, ladies’ hats matter only at the Kentucky Derby (well, they might matter to the sorority girls from the real U.K. who visit Keenland for the racing).

So make yourself some Hot Browns and some Benedictine for sandwiches, and a Mint Julip to go with the Derby Pie and read some racing novels! Sorry, the strawberries and cream will have to wait. You can find recipes right here in my previous Kentucky Derby Post.

 

The King of the Sport of Kings Fiction

The late Dick Francis, and now his son, Felix Francis, is the undisputed King of racing-thriller fiction. I love his/their books! I often chose one for a road trip. They are perfect for such a day. Pick any of them–you cannot go wrong.

 

Fern Michaels is the perfect read for people who prefer ladies who lunch to thrillers. Her Kentucky series, pictured above, is about women in the horse racing world–the world of the super-rich owners. Kentucky Rich (book 1), Kentucky Heat (book 2), and Kentucky Sunrise (book 3) all by Fern Michaels

The Sport of Kings by C,E. Morgan, nominated for too many book awards to list, “is an American tale centered on a horse and two families: one white, a Southern dynasty whose forefathers were among the founders of Kentucky; the other African-American, the descendants of their slaves….Newly confronted with one another in the quest for victory, the two families must face the consequences of their ambitions, as each is driven—and haunted—by the same, enduring question: How far away from your father can you run?” (Amazon).

Britain’s other horsey-author-legend Jilly Cooper isn’t that well-known in the USA, at least not compared to Dick Francis. Velvet Brown of National Velvet-fame isn’t the only woman to want to enter the Grand National Steeplechase. Etta Bancroft wants to enter her foundling super-horse in the race. Will she make it? Jump by Jilly Cooper whose best-known character, Rupert Campbell-Black, is supposedly modeled on the Duchess of Cornwall’s ex-husband (and Princess Anne’s one-time beau) Andrew Parker-Bowles.

Horse Heaven: A Novel by Jane Smiley “is a novel about horses and their breeders, owners, trainers, grooms, jockeys, traders, bettors, and other turf-obsessed humans. It takes place over two years and chronicles the lives of various horses and their people” (Goodreads.com).

I’m reluctant to throw in a number 21 in a series, but The Black Ascot referred to in the title is one of the coolest tributes ever paid to a racing fan. When Edward VII died in May 1910, and court morning was still enforce, racegoers wore black for the late King. This novel is set during that “race meeting.” The Black Ascot by Charles Todd. Note to Americans “Ascot” in this case is not pronounced (as-cot) but more like “askit.” We can’t pronounce it exactly right though, I’m told.

The racing novel I reviewed in 2020

Derby Day by D. J. Taylor features the “other” Derby–the one at Epsom in the UK, i.e. the one run backward (or is it the correct way and the Kentucky one goes backward?). hmmmm.

Prefer audio?

Chirp has this one on sale for $1.99

Want to sign up for Chirp? Use this link: http://fbuy.me/rr2an This DOES get 20% off if you do everything they want. I do NOT make money off my blog but decided with my commute now back to 3 days a week, and library budgets slashed by COVID, I’d post this ONCE to see if anyone want it. I rely on audiobooks for sanity on my long commute.

Care to add to this list? Do you have a favorite Dick Francis novel? Or another novel involving horse racing? Leave me a comment with the title or link to your review.

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