Sunday, February 19, 2017

February's Bookish Art...

Jean-Jacques Henner -- Woman Reading
"Lost in a book is a great place to be found."
-- Shannon Taylor Hodnett

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Another serendipitous find from the M shelf...

Title:  Arrowood
Author:   Laura McHugh

Then:  "My little sisters were neither alive nor dead, hovering somewhere in between, in the hazy purgatory of the missing. I had been the sole witness to their kidnapping when I was eight years old, and I had spent my childhood wondering  if the man who took them might come back for me. He was never arrested, and no bodies were ever found."

Now:  Leaving her master's thesis unfinished, Arden Arrowood returns to her family's ancestral home, Arrowood, in Keokuk, Iowa, to the very house from which her twin sisters disappeared seventeen years ago. The house itself feels the same, and Ben Ferris, her first love, still lives nearby, but so many other things have changed. Even her memories of that fateful September afternoon when Violet and Tabitha went missing don't feel so reliable any more. And when Josh Kyle shows up investigating the mystery of her sisters' disappearance for a book he's writing, Arden can't help wondering where the truth actually lies. Only not everyone in Keokuk wants her digging up those long-buried secrets from the past.

My thoughts:  What a great read! I loved McHugh's words and imagery, and the way she builds such quiet suspense all the way through to the end of the book. And her characters are very well-written:  Ben and Josh are likeable, Heaney, the care-taker, is a little creepy, Arden's mother is so passive and superficial it made me want to slap her, and Arden herself, who hasn't been able to move forward or find her own happiness because of what happened to her sisters and her own sense of guilt over it, felt very authentic and real. I liked her a lot. I would definitely recommend this mystery to anyone who enjoys a good story.

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bookish thoughts...

On Wives and Daughters.
I still haven't read this Elizabeth Gaskell novel, but I did see the BBC version of it a couple of weekends ago, and I really enjoyed it. The characters are great, especially Roger and Molly. In fact, Molly reminded me a lot of Fanny Price, Jane Austen's unheralded heroine from Mansfield Park. I even liked Cynthia, Molly's outspoken and flirtatious step-sister. Sometimes a good movie-version of a book makes me feel like I no longer need to read it, but this one just made me want to read the book even more.



On books and art.
You know I love me some art, especially when it's bookish art, which is why I do an art post every month. And why I couldn't resist buying this book:  Women Who Read Are Dangerous written by Stefan Bollman. It is full of amazing art with paintings by a variety of artists from Charles Burton Barber to James Tissot. Every page offers a different painting of a woman reading. So, if you want to see some great art, check this book out. Or just stay tuned ... I'll be posting some of my favorites in the coming months.




On reading to your children.
In Amanda Ripley's well-written and well-researched The Smartest Kids in the World, she makes this statement:  "When children were young, parents who read to them every day or almost every day had kids who performed much better in reading all around the world....Read to your kids!....Could it be that simple? Yes, it could."  Just something to think about.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Some bookish happiness...

Sometimes I just want a book that not only makes me smile, but that ends with a happy sigh. Drops of Gold does both. Written by Sarah M. Eden, this Regency romance has endearing characters, a nice dose of humor, and a happy ending. Is it perfect? No. Is it predictable? Yes. Do either of those things lessen its enjoyability quotient? Not for me.


Want a brief summary?  Newly orphaned and now penniless, 19-year-old Marion applies for the job of governess at Farland Meadows with a forged letter of recommendation and an assumed name. As Mary Wood, her job is to take care of young Caroline Jonquil, whose widowed father, Layton, is haunted not only by grief, but by guilt. Marion does her best to bring joy to both Caroline and her father, never intending to fall in love with Layton Jonquil--not just because he's her employer, but because she has secrets of her own. Only Layton is a hard man to resist. I bet you can guess the rest. The thing that makes it fun is that Layton's six brothers show up in some of Eden's other novels.

So, there you have it. My happy book of the week. The one that made me smile and sigh at the end. But as much as I liked Drops of Gold, I have to admit that I liked Eden's The Kiss of a Stranger and Seeking Persephone even better. So you might want to start with those.

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 6, 2017

A bookish journey to South Sudan...

"After two hours, the sounds of attack faded. I took stock of my situation. I had just turned 13. I was naked. I carried no food or water. My village had been destroyed. I had become separated from my mother and siblings. Armed men who spoke a foreign tongue combed the forests and grasslands, and if they found me, they would most likely kill me. The only good thing I could imagine was that I might be safe for awhile ... It was then that I realized the man who sat beside me was not my father."

God Grew Tired of Us is the memoir of John Bul Dau, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. His Dinka village was attacked by the djellabas, Arab militia, when he was just 13. He escaped to a refugee camp in Ethiopia almost 300 miles away. Then, when Ethiopia erupted into its own civil war, John and tens of thousands of other Sudanese refugees were forced to flee again, this time to Kenya. There in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, John went to school where he learned to read and speak English and even earned his high school diploma. He was brought to America in 2001 where he had to learn to adapt to an entirely new way of life. John's refugee story is a truly amazing one. He survived the bullets and beatings of his enemies, hunger, thirst, disease, fear, and even crocodiles in his long journey from Duk Payuel in South Sudan to Syracuse, New York. And throughout it all, he never lost his faith in God or his hope for a better life.

I loved this book. It's very well-written, and it gave me a much better understanding of and empathy for refugees throughout the world.  John Bul Dau has such a resilient spirit. I really admired  his optimism, and his gratitude, and the way he and the other Lost Boys worked together and helped each other to survive. Even in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances, John stayed true to the values of his Dinka heritage. And he never gave up. That's what makes his story so remarkable and inspiring...and so worth reading.
"In the 19 years since that August night, as one of the 'lost boys' of Sudan, I have witnessed my share of death and despair ... (but) I know that I have been blessed and that I have been kept alive for a purpose. They call me a Lost Boy, but let me assure you, God has found me."
Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Lost by Michael Robotham

I slump back in bed, smelling bandages and dried blood. Holding up my hand I look at the gauze bandage, trying to wiggle the missing finger. How can I not remember?... For me there has never been such a thing as forgetting, nothing is hazy or vague or frayed at the edges. I hoard memories like a miser counts his gold. Every scrap of moment is kept as long as it has some value....Now for the first time I've forgotten something truly important.

Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz is fished out of the Thames with his ring finger missing, a gunshot would to his leg, and no memory of how he got there, or what he was investigating when he got shot. He thinks it might have to do with Mickey Carlyle, a little girl who went missing three years earlier, but he can't remember anything else. Luckily, he has Ali Barba, a fellow police detective, and psychologist Joe O'Loughlin to help him follow the clues, retrace his steps, and figure it out.

Whenever I'm in a bookish funk, I know there are certain authors I can count on to pull me out. Michael Robotham is one of those authors. I like his main characters, and he always weaves together a complex page-turning mystery. And his books never disappoint. Lost is the second book in his Joe O'Loughlin mysery series, and is told from Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz's POV, which made for an interesting change from his other books which are told from Joe's POV.  And while I've been reading (and enjoying!) these books out of order, it's probably best if you read them through from the start. My favorite so far is Say You're Sorry, but I've liked every Robotham novel I've read. Which is why he's become one of my go-to authors.

Happy Reading!

Another favorite Robotham read:
      Shatter 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bookish first impressions...

Books with great first lines grab me every time; here are a few books I've recently read where the lines that followed were just as good as the first:

Our Dragon doesn't eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
(A truly magical read; just check out Melody's review if you don't believe me.)


There were plenty of good ways to die.
Cold Copper by Devon Monk
(This is the third book in Monk's Age of Steam series were steampunk fantasy meets the American Wild West. Cedar Hunt, the main character, and Will, his brother, are great!)


By the time Gib Cameron found us, my sister and I were failed southern belles who could no longer count on the kindness of strangers.
When Venus Fell by Deborah Smith
(An enchanting Southern blend of romance and mystery.)


The grave stones were black.
Legend in Green Velvet by Elizabeth Peters
(One of my favorite Peters' mystery; plus, it's set in Scotland!)


The winter rain slashes at my face like icy razor blades, but I don't care.
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley
(The fabulous and funny Flavia de Luce is back!)

Happy Reading!