Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Mystery & suspense...

Title & Author:  The Retreat by Mark Edwards

The Setting:  Nyth Bran, a writer's retreat in North Wales

The Main Characters:  
JULIA -- the owner of Nyth Bran who's still grieving the disappearance of her young daughter, Lily.
LUCAS RADCLIFFE -- a horror writer who's working on his next book...or trying to anyway.
MAX, SUZI, and KAREN -- the other writers at the retreat.
ZARA SULLIVAN -- the private  detective Lucas hires to look into Lily's disappearance.

The Mystery:  Three years ago, eight-year-old Lily disappeared along the River Dee. Most assumed she drowned, but her body was never found. Did her disappearance have anything to do with the legend of the Red Widow? Did a stranger take her? Or is she still alive as her mother believes? Her disappearance is not the only mystery at Nyth Bran. Strange things have been happening at night:  a girl's voice singing, an unexplained smell of fear, and a whispered warning, "You're not welcome here!" Are Lucas and the others being haunted by Lily's ghost? Or by something more sinister? And what is watching Lucas and Julia from down in the woods?

My Thoughts:  This is a tangled and twisty, compelling and eerie mystery. I didn't guess where it was headed, but I happily went along for the ride. It's entertaining; and it's a page-turner! Lucas was my favorite character, but maybe that's because I've always been drawn to characters who are writers. I also really liked the way Mark Edwards writes. I'd definitely read him again. The Retreat is a fun R.I.P. read.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Got the time?
Here is the perfect clock for all of us bookworms:
(Don't you love it?)

On unwanted blog comments.  Like all of you, I get spam comments from time to time on my blog. All from Anonymous, of course. They're mostly annoying, but sometimes I do get a good laugh out of them. Like these recent ones:

  • I used to be able to find good advice from your blog posts.
  • With exactly what went via your head: uhh.
  • Heart tattoos can encompass lots of senses.
  • Generally Ido nnot read article onn b1ogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very forced mee to try and do sso!.
  • Hack my singing monsters.
  • Plus, solar panels are not transportable either.

So, there you go. Pithy comments from questionable sources that I usually delete as spam, but thought I'd share this time around. Hope you got a laugh from them like I did. (The last one is my favorite.)

Have you seen these Strange Planet cartoons by Nathan W. Pyle? They're all about aliens interpreting life here on earth in ways that always make me smile. Here are two of my favorites... the one with the three-eyed dog, and the one where they're watching a horror movie:

Funny, right?
Pyle has a book of these clever cartoons coming out next month:

And I definitely want it!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Seek by Anthony O'Neill

"If he be Mr. Hyde, I shall be Mr. Seek."

As Henry Jekyll's lawyer, Gabriel Utterson was one of the only people who knew that Dr. Jekyll was also Mr. Hyde. So when Edward Hyde was found dead almost seven years ago, Utterson knew his friend, Henry, was dead, too. But he couldn't tell anyone how he knew without revealing his friend's darkest secret. So, when a man suddenly appears in London claiming to be Henry Jekyll, Utterson is the only one who knows he's an imposter. Everyone else thinks that Jekyll has finally come home. And Utterson can't convince them of the truth. In fact, the more he argues the point, the more they start to question his own motives....and his sanity. To make matters worse, as Utterson obsessively seeks to prove that Jekyll is an imposter, he discovers that several people who once knew and could identify the real Henry Jekyll have recently died. Is it just a coincidence? Utterson himself imagining things that just aren't real?

I found Utterson's search for answers in this book quietly compelling. I also empathized with his frustration at not being able to convince anyone else of the truth. And the suspense really mounts when he begins to question his own sanity. Could Jekyll really be alive? Is Utterson going mad?

I love Robert Louis Stevenson's original tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and while this sequel doesn't equal that one, it's still a fun mystery. It's short, only 216 pages. And Anthony O'Neill does a good job of capturing the unsettling atmosphere of the original novel. The ending, though, is a bit abrupt and not nearly as satisfying as I wanted it to be. For me, it left a few too many questions unanswered--questions that the author himself raised. So, I didn't love this one, but I did like it. Best of all, it counts as my second R.I.P. read

Happy Reading! 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Got Monsters?

If Monet Painted a Monster by Amy and Greg Newbold is a whimsical picture book that imagines how 16 famous artists, from Frida Kahlo to James Whistler, might have painted a monster. The text is fun and the artwork amazing. I loved the entire book! Here are just two of my favorite illustrations:

(A play on Edward Hopper's Nighthawks...

(...and M.C. Escher.)

Now don't you want to buy the book and see the rest?

Happy Reading!

Their other picture books, If Picasso Painted a Snowman and If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur are equally amazing. If you haven't already seen them, be sure to check them out. They're awesome!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Wicked Fox (Gumiho #1) by Kat Cho

Gumiho -- n. an immortal nine-tailed female fox who can take the shape of a human woman, and who survives by consuming the gi, or energy, of men. 

Miyoung is eighteen and half-gumiho, half-human; in order to live she takes the energy of human men every full moon, killing them at the same time. But she's not a monster. With the help of Nara, a young shaman who sees ghosts, she chooses men who aren't innocent, but who are guilty of their own terrible crimes. It's not ideal, but she doesn't want to die.
"If I stop absorbing gi for a hundred days, I'll die. I trade human energy for my life and for immortality."
Jihoon, on the other hand, is a typical Korean teenager. He prefers video games to school and usually manages to charm his way out of trouble with his boyish grin. He stumbles upon Miyoung one night in the woods just after she's fed. She ends up saving him from a dokkaebi, a powerful goblin, losing her fox bead in the process (that's the bead that holds her gumiho soul). It's a problem. Jihoon now knows her secret, and that puts both of them in danger because the gumiho have many enemies. But even though Miyoung tells Jihoon to leave her alone, he persists in trying to be her friend. Because he can't seem to forget her.
"It had been a long week of thinking of Miyoung. Of worrying about her. Of remembering that night in the rain. That night ... he'd been tempted to kiss her. He'd wanted to see if she'd taste like rain. He suspected it was more likely she'd taste like lightning."
Melody suggested we read this book for our next buddy read and I'm so glad she did! I loved the fantasy part of it that revolves around the Korean folklore of the gumiho, and the dokkaebi, and the shamans and their power; and I loved the 'teen-ness' of Jihoon's friendship and growing feelings for Miyoung, and her guardedness against getting involved with him...or any human. Jihoon's loving relationship with his aging grandmother was another favorite part. Miyoung's mother, Yena, on the other hand, kind of scared me. The modern-day Seoul backdrop, with its distinctive culture, added really nice flavor to the entire story. This fun YA novel has humor and magic and suspense, along with death and loss, forgiveness and love.

I also thought it was really well-written, though there were times when the dialogue felt a little stilted and not quite realistic. And I could have done without the epilogue. But overall, I really liked this one. The chapters are short, so it reads fast. The characters are great. And there's even an unexpected twist or two at the end. Be sure to check out Melody's review of this entertaining novel!

Happy Reading!

Here are Melody's questions for me...and my answers:

Q. Prior to reading this book, have you heard of this Korean mythology featuring the mystical nine-tailed fox? In this story, what do you think of Miyoung preying on men who did evil deeds?
A. I'm not very familiar with Korean mythology and wasn't familiar with the gumiho at all. But after reading this book, I'd like to read more about these Korean myths and legends. And while I've never been a fan of characters meting out their own justice on people, I sympathized with Miyoung's desire to not be a monster while she's forced to kill in order to stay alive herself. The fact that she tries to only steal the life energy of evil men made me like her a little more.

Q. Love and trust seem to be the core factor surrounding this story. Which scenario touched you the most? 
A. Jihoon doesn't really know his father, and his mother left him with his grandmother when he was four, so it was his relationship with his grandmother that touched me the most. Especially what she was willing to sacrifice in order to save his life. That kind of love always makes me cry.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Book Titles With Numbers In Them. I did a very similar post to this several years ago called Reading By The Numbers where I listed ten book titles with numbers from 1 to 10; I even added a classics version. So, to change it up a little bit today, I decided to choose ten books from my Goodreads "want to read" list that have numbers in their titles. These are some of the books I hope to read this next year:

Seven At Sea by Erik & Emily Orton

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

One Way by S.J. Morden

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang

The Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly

The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung

The Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Another classic...

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West begins with the death of Lord Slane, former viceroy of India and prime minister of Great Britain. He leaves behind his six grown children and his eighty-eight-year-old widow.
"...and the problem of her future lay heavy upon her sons and daughters. Of course, she would not question the wisdom of any arrangements they might choose to make. Mother had no will of her own; all her life long, gracious and gentle, she had been wholly submissive--an appendage....That she might have ideas which she kept to herself never entered into their estimate. They anticipated no trouble with their mother."
But Lady Slane surprises her children. Instead of dutifully accepting their plans for her, Lady Slane sells her house, moves to Hampstead, forbids her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to come visit her, and makes friends with a few eccentrics. Lady Slane's small rebellions, and her children's indignant reactions to them, made me smile. Only her youngest daughter, Edith, cheers her on. I found myself cheering her on, too. This is how Lady Slane defends her newfound freedom to her children:
"If one is not to please oneself in old age, when is one to please oneself? There is so little time left."
Written in 1931, All Passion Spent is one of those quiet, character-driven novels that is contemplative and melancholy at times, and unexpectedly humorous at others. Some of Lady Slane's reminiscences about her younger self, and the dreams she had of being an artist that she gave up when she married, made me a little sad. But I was glad she managed to steal a little happiness for herself at the end of her life.
"How oddly it had come about, that the whole of her life should have fallen away from her--her activities, her children, and Henry--and should have been so completely replaced in this little interlude before the end by a new existence so satisfyingly populated! 'Perhaps,' she said aloud, 'one always gets what one wants in the end.'"
Only 167 pages long, this is a charming little read. I admired Sackville-West's writing except for one thing:  her overly long paragraphs. Many were a page and a half long! And that did slow down the narrative for me. Overall, though, I liked this one. It's a little bittersweet and sad, but not depressing. And I liked the characters. Best of all? It fills my Classic By a Woman Author category in Karen's Back to the Classics Reading Challenge.

Happy Reading!