Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson

Five reasons to read this book:
     1.  It's set in Paris. Think Montmartre. Pere Lachaise. The Jardin du Luxembourge. All during the Belle Epoque. What could be better than that?

     2.  Maud Heighton, a young English lady, is studying to be an artist at the Academie Lafond with several other young women. But Paris is expensive, and she is poor.
"Paris ate money. Paint and canvas ate money. Maud's training ate money. Paris yanked each copper from her hand and gave her back nothing but aching bones and loneliness ... She had thought herself rather wise in the ways of the world until she came to Paris. Every day that passed, she was in danger of thinking a little less of herself"
      3.  The air of Gothic mystery surrounding Christian Morel and his opium-addicted sister, Sylvie, for whom Maud is hired to be a companion. At first everything seems perfect, but then, in an unexpected twist, Maud finds herself caught up in their dark secrets...and in a life she never imagined.

     4.  The art. It's 1909 and Paris is alive with the art of Pisarro, Cezanne, Degas, Matisse and Picasso. Then there's Maud's own paintings and those of the other young artists she meets. I just wish this novel came with full-color illustrations!

     5. Robertson's writing. It's richly detailed, stylish and smart, and her characters have depth and spunk. I found this book a hard one to put down.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bookish first impressions...

Here are a few first lines from some books that I recently read and enjoyed, but didn't review; see if any of them make you want to read more.

First Line: Libby Deaton and May Harper invented Princess X in fifth grade, when Libby's leg was in a cast, and May had a doctor's note saying she couldn't run around the track anymore because her asthma would totally kill her. 
Title: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
(Fun YA novel that's part mystery, part comic-book, superhero adventure.)

First Line: "Blast it all!" Crispin Handle, Lord Cavratt, did not generally resort to muttering under his breath, but an exasperating female could push even the most levelheaded gentleman to extremes.
Title: The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah M. Eden
(Delightfully funny Regency romance; I loved it!)

First Line: On the boat we were mostly virgins.
Title: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
(An interesting novel about Japanese "picture brides" told in the collective voice.)

First Line: Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up. 
Title: Lockwood & Co. : The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
(Set in London, this award-winning YA novel has psychics, ghosts, and lots of adventure.)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

From the T Shelf...

Author: Haley Tanner
Title: Vaclav & Lena

Vaclav, a Russian immigrant boy, dreams of becoming a great magician and performing at Coney Island, just like his hero Harry Houdini. His assistant, Lena, is one month younger than Vaclav and also Russian. She is essential to Vaclav's magic act. For him, "There is no show without Lena. Lena is necessary for all the illusions ... Lena is irreplaceable." Together they navigate public school, the English language, and life in America. For Vaclav, Lena "makes everything better just by being there." For Lena, Vaclav "is a place to go instead of nowhere." And then, one day, Lena is taken away. And for seven years they are apart.
The power of saying good night each night to Lena is great. On the first night that Lena was gone, Vaclav said good night to her, put the good night out into the scary, lonely darkness, and meant each word in a very specific way. Good night. Not a dangerous night. Not a cold or lonely or nightmare-filled night. He filled the words with all his love and care and worry for Lena and launched them out to her, and like homing pigeons, he trusted them to find her, and he felt, that night, that his words would keep Lena safe, that if he thought about her and cared about her and showed this to the universe, then bad things would not happen to her...
They are seventeen when they are reunited, but they both question whether they even know each other any more. This is such a great book! Vaclav and Lena share a connection that is both rare and poignant. I was drawn to them immediately. I especially loved Vaclav's penchant for lists and magic tricks and his unquestioning loyalty to Lena. So much so that I didn't want this story to end. Haley Tanner is an incredibly talented storyteller; I'm very glad her novel was sitting on the T shelf when I went to the library last week. It's books like this that make reading the alphabet rewarding and fun.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tackling the TBR Pile...

I have 25 unread books on my shelves, and I can't seem to make myself read any of them. And I'm so close to reaching my goal! See, this year I wanted to read 15 books from off my TBR pile, and so far I've managed to read 13. But now I seem to be stuck. So even though there are three more months left in the year, its starting to look like I'm not going to reach my goal.

There are some good authors in my TBR pile, too. Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Gaskell, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Fred Vargas, Stephen Hunt, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Ann Radcliffe, and Louisa May Alcott to name a few. I just wish I was still in the mood to read them. Any of them. I mean, the reason I bought them in the first place was because they sounded so good. But now they make me feel tired. I think I'm experiencing TBR apathy.

It almost makes me want to go to the bookstore and buy a couple of new books that I do want to read.

Just kidding!
So ... how many TBRs are waiting for you?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A bookish trifle...

Sometimes I need a break from thoughtful, literary reads; I mean, books that are serious or dark or thought-provoking are great, but there are days when I just want a bit of fluff instead. That's the kind of mood I've been in this week, and why I ended up reading The Widower's Wife by Prudence Bice.

It's set on the "Wisconsin frontier" (who knew Wisconsin even had a frontier?). Jillian Grey answers a newspaper ad for a mail-order bride placed by newly widowed Dalton McCullough who needs a mother for his three young children. It's strictly a marriage of convenience for both of them, until they start to fall in love. But it's never that simple or straight-forward in these kinds of romances. There are misunderstandings and things from both their pasts that need to be resolved. Still, we all know how it ends.

Was the plot completely predictable? Yes.
Did it lessen my enjoyment of this novel? Not really.

I was in the mood for something light and fun, and this book fit the bill. It doesn't have a lot of substance, but it was still satisfyingly sweet--kind of like eating a box of divinity. (Or Turkish Delight.) And while I wouldn't want a steady diet of it, once in awhile it really hits the spot. Don't you think?

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A bookish update...

Recent read that I loved: I Love I hate I Miss My Sister by Amelie Sarn

Recent read that I didn't love: Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
(The ending ruined it for me.)

Bookish thoughts from Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
* Unread books accumulate
*For books, timing is everything. 
The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. 

Good News: My library is open again!!! 
(And it still has all its books.)

Recently checked out from my library:
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson
The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters
Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford
The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey

Up next: Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Seven books everyone's read ... except me

1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
(Although I've seen so many film/TV versions of this story I feel like I have read it.)

3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

4. The Boys on the Boat by Daniel J. Brown
(Every book club I know is reading this book...except mine, of course.)

5.Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

7. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

There are others, of course, but these are the books people seem to keep talking about. And I smile and nod like I know what they're referring to, even when I don't. Will I ever get around to reading them? Maybe. Maybe not. I can get stubborn when it comes to certain books and authors...especially when they've been hyped a little too much. What about you? Are there books out there that everyone's read except you?

Happy Reading (Or not)!