Monday, December 29, 2014

A bookish summary...

From birdwatching in the Galapagos Islands to hiking and ziplining in the mountains near Salt Lake City, 2014 has been a pretty good year. It's been a good year in books, too. I completed two fun reading challenges:  What's in a Name and R.I.P. IX; I read 11 of the 12 classics on my list; and I got 'blackout' on my Reading Bingo card. I didn't read as many non-fiction books as I originally hoped to (only 9), and I also didn't get the number of unread books on my shelves below 20 (currently my shelves sport 38 TBR books), but other than that I did okay.

I read twice as many books by women as by men; I also read more mystery/suspense and supernatural fiction than any other kind. My least read genre: (surprisingly) chic lit/romance. (See my previous post for a list of my favorite reads in 2014.) As for new authors, I read twice as many new-to-me authors this year than authors I already knew.
Longest book read with 585 pages: Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Total # of posts written and published this year: 135
Most popular post: Reading by the Numbers

To everyone who read my blog this year, and especially to all those who took the time to comment, THANK YOU!  You're the best.

Happy New Year
and, as always,
Happy Reading!

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Reads...of 2014

It's been a good year of reading for me... 
I read a lot of books that I really liked and some that I loved. 
Here are a few of my favorites:

My Absolute Favorite 2014 reads:
Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer
The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari
First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

Two Favorite New Authors:

Three of the Funniest Books I read this year: 
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox

Definitely the Scariest book:
Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

My favorite bookish journey through time:
My summer of reading books from 1914

My least favorite read:
Homer's Odyssey

And finally, my Five Favorite Suspense reads
that Thrill and Chill:
Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough
Silence by Sarah Rayne

Happy Reading!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


I hope your holidays are merry and bright and filled with the love of family and friends.
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reading the Alphabet, part Y

There are a lot more Y authors to choose from than Z:
Yarbro        Yamamoto        Yellin       Yip       Young        Yttrup

The one that caught my eye?  Yoon, Paul

Snow Hunters is the quiet story of Yohan, a North Korean soldier who defects to Brazil rather than return home to North Korea after the war. Can you imagine? Brazil is so different from Korea. Without knowing the language or understanding the culture, Yohan becomes an apprentice to a Japanese tailor and slowly makes a new life for himself in this strange new country. 
"In the harbor, crates hung suspended in the air. Birds circled them. The sea was clear. It moved toward him and faded and (Yohan) felt the time that had passed and his time here. He thought that he had made the best of it all, that he had worked and made a living, and he felt the contentment of that. He thought of what the years would bring, what sort of life was left in him. ... (And) he wondered what choice there was in what was remembered; and what was forgotten."
This beautifully written book is a story of hope, second chances, and overcoming past sorrows. I loved the glimpses of Yohan's experiences as a soldier and prisoner of war in Korea set alongside his current experiences in Brazil and the kind people he meets and befriends. This isn't a long novel, only 196 pages, but each sentence is thoughtfully crafted, each word carefully chosen. I savored every page. And to think, if I hadn't been browsing the Y shelf at the library I never would have known it existed. Here's to the letter Y!

Happy Reading!


Next up: Young, Sara (My Enemy's Cradle)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Twelfth Classic of 2014 ... On Hold

Literally.

This post was supposed to be about Thomas Hardy's A Pair of Blue Eyes, but when I went to check it out from the library I discovered that they no longer owned a copy of this Hardy classic. (Although they did when I made my list last January.) Talk about frustrating. And while I really want to read this book, I'm not sure I want to buy it ... so I put in a request to have the library either purchase or borrow a copy. I was really hoping they'd borrow a copy through inter-library loan so I could get it quickly, but they decided to buy a copy instead. Good for the library; not so good for me. Now it'll take weeks for the newly ordered book to arrive and who knows how much longer for it to be processed. So, even though I'm at the top of the hold list, I doubt I'll get to actually read A Pair of Blue Eyes any time soon. Certainly not in time to write a post about it before the end of this year. It's disappointing--coming so close to reading all twelve of the classics on my list only to fall short at the very end--but I guess that's life. So, I'm waiting (impatiently!) for my last classic of 2014 to come in. Until then...

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two Too Good To Miss...

Title: Jackaby by William Ritter
Setting: 1892, New Fiddleham, New England
The Advertisement that starts it all:
Investigative Services
Assistant Wanted
$8 Week
Must be Literate and Possess A
Keen Intellect and Open Mind.
Strong Stomach Preferred.

Summary & Thoughts: Intrepid and feisty Abigail Rook answers this ad on her second day in New Fiddleham and becomes Mr. R.F. Jackaby's latest assistant. Her new boss has an extraordinary investigative gift--think Sherlock Holmes with a supernatural twist. Their case is not a simple murder. (Nothing with Jackaby ever is.) Abigail is about to encounter more of the unexplained and strange than she ever knew existed. She's a great character, and so is Jackaby. In fact, I loved everything about this book:  the unexpected mystery, the humor, the rich writing, Jackaby's ghostly roommate, even Charlie Cane, the young police officer who's not what he seems. I can't wait for Jackaby's and Abigail's next case!


Title: The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero
Setting: Axton House, Point Bless, Virginia, 1995
Thoughts: Axton House is eerie and full of secrets. The last owner leapt to his death out of a third-story window; the new owner is having strange dreams and seeing ghostly shadows in the bathroom. Is it because of the ritual performed every December 21st by members of a secret society, or something else? Reading this book is like piecing together a puzzle without knowing the final picture. I love how it's narrated through a series of letters, journal entries, newspaper clippings, notes, and cryptic ciphers. There's a slow building of suspense in this gothic mystery, like deciphering a code without the key. The ending, by comparison, is quick, unexpected, and felt a little too abrupt. But I still liked this book.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December's Bookish Art

Sir John Lavery - Miss Auras, The Red Book
Read. 
Read anything. 
Read the things they say are good for you, 
and they things they claim are junk. 
You'll find what you need to find.
Just read.
--Neil Gaiman

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Icelandic Mystery


It's supposed to be a relaxing New Age health resort on the west coast of Iceland, but Jonas Juliusson, the new owner, thinks it's haunted. So he calls in his lawyer, Thora Gudmundsdottir, to come investigate. But Thora's investigation quickly takes a dark turn when the young architect working at the resort is murdered on the beach and found naked, beaten, and with pins stuck in the souls of her feet. Now Jonas is one of the prime suspects. Thora, along with her German boyfriend, Matthew Reich, must act quickly to find out who the real murderer is before it's too late.

My Soul To Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir is Nordic crime fiction at its best. There's something haunting about it. Sigurdardottir expertly weaves Iceland's unique culture and history into a deliciously compelling mystery. And Thora and Matthew are great characters; they also appear in Sigurdardottir's first novel, Last Rituals, which is a much darker and more disturbing mystery. I liked this novel better. It's fun and fast-paced and will keep you guessing until the very end.

Happy Reading!

Also by Yrsa Sigurdardottir: The Day is Dark

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Bookish Wishlist

What do I want for Christmas? Hmm. I wouldn't mind a new condo or a 2015 Mini Cooper, but who has that kind of money? Luckily, there are a few other items on my list that anyone can afford. What are they? Books, of course! So here it is, my bookish wishlist.....

Three bookish favorites I'd love to own:
 An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James
Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

Three more I'd like to read:
Valentine by George Sand
The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola
The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

And three that are out of print...and (sadly) out of reach
(but a girl can always dream):
The Summer Birds by Penelope Farmer
The 4-H Filly by Patsy Gray
Growing Up With the Impressionists - The Diary of Julie Manet

What's on your bookish wishlist this year?
Happy Reading!



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mistletoe and Murder

"What, after all, would life be without puzzling death?"



It's Christmastime and Buckshaw is abuzz with excitement. A film crew has arrived at the de Luce family home to shoot a movie starring the famous Phyllis Wyvern. While there, Phyllis agrees to give a benefit performance at Buckshaw for the local villagers; the whole town comes to Buckshaw to see her play Juliet one last time. As always, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is right in the middle of everything, from pestering the film crew (and her sisters!), to concocting her own homemade fireworks, to setting a trap on Christmas Eve to catch Father Christmas. All her plans change when one of their visitors turns up dead. Everyone is suspect. With a blizzard outside and a murderer within, it's up to Flavia (and Inspector Hewitt) to figure out who did it. 

What a perfect December mystery. I think Alan Bradley's I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is my favorite Flavia de Luce novel so far. Flavia is as delightfully incorrigible as ever. Her plans to trap Father Christmas and prove his existence made me laugh, and I loved how she puzzled out the who and why of this Christmas murder. This is definitely a fun yuletime read. 

Happy Reading!

The first Flavia de Luce mystery:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Taking a library leave of absence...

Lately my library books have been coming between me and the books that I own. I love going to the library, but always having a stack of library books on hand keeps me from reading anything else. (I blame those pesky due dates.) So, when Lory at The Emerald City Book Review suggested going an entire month without checking out any library books at all I thought it was a great idea.



Check it out! One whole month to read (and re-read) books from my own shelves; one month to whittle away at my TBR pile with no library books getting in the way. What a great way to start the new year. My only problem will be in deciding which of my books to read first. Feel free to join in and enjoy a library-free January.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Thanks Lory!

Friday, November 28, 2014

From the Z Shelf...

Author: Zeltserman, Dave
Title: Monster, A Novel of Frankenstein 


For me, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is more sad than scary; truth be told, I've always felt sorry for the monster.  Zeltserman must feel the same way. His retelling of Frankenstein is told from the monster's point of view (and his portrayal of Victor Frankenstein is not a very flattering one--in his version Frankenstein is well-acquainted with the Marquis de Sade). Zeltserman's sympathies lie with the "monster" who once was a man. Before he died, Friedrich Hoffman led a scholarly life and had a fiancee he loved very much; now his fiancee is dead, the world thinks he murdered her, and he's become an abomination thanks to Frankenstein's experimentation.
"I am a dead thing brought to life by dark satanic forces. There is no cure that could help me. ... As Friedrich Hoffman I led a gentle life with barely any harsh thoughts pervading my mind, and certainly never any regarding revenge and murder. Now I was consumed with such thoughts, and it worried me that my soul might become as coarse as my outer appearance."
It's the other side of the story. Still not a happy one, but an interesting take on Mary Shelley's classic novel. I liked Zeltserman's writing and his imaginative portrait of a monster and a man. (Who are sometimes one and the same.) Friedrich Hoffman, while far from perfect, is still a sympathetic character...and one I liked. This book was definitely a serendipitous find from the Z shelf. See what happens when you go to the library without any lists in hand? Maybe Reading the Alphabet wasn't such a bad idea after all. Here's hoping I find some equally serendipitous reads from authors whose last names begin with X and Y.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen


The books of Jane Austen. A possible murder. A literary mystery. Two witty bibliophiles--Sophie Collingwood and Eric Hall--and an Austen-worthy romance. Combined, these five elements make First Impressions by Charlie Lovett one of my most favorite reads this year. It's every bit as good as his first novel, The Bookman's Tale (which I loved). The chapters in this book alternate between past and present, between Jane Austen and Sophie Collingwood, a narrative style that normally drives me crazy but which I actually didn't mind here. In fact, I enjoyed reading both story lines.

Here's the first line of the first Jane Austen chapter:
 "Fond as she was of solitary walks, Jane had been wandering rather longer than she had intended, her mind occupied not so much with the story she had lately been reading as with one she hoped soon to be writing."
And here's the first few lines of Sophie's story, present day:
"After five years at Oxford, Sophie Collingwood had mastered the art of reading while walking ... This was a useful skill for someone so absorbed by the books she read that she often pictured herself at the center of whatever romance or mystery or adventure played out on their pages."
 These first lines lead to a delightful tale of old books, intrigue and mystery, friendship and romance, and some of Jane Austen's best writing. I thought it was a lot of fun. I'm glad Charlie Lovett wrote it...and even more glad that I got to read it !

Happy Reading!

 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bookish Thoughts...

On lexile numbers. In what universe does The Diary of a Wimpy Kid deserve a higher lexile number than Harry Potter? Lexile numbers, which rate the "readability" of a book, are supposedly determined by a computer analysis of sentence length and structure, word frequency, syntax and complexity. So please tell me how the Wimpy Kid books rate lexiles ranging from 950-1050 while the Harry Potter books rate only 860-960? Open either series at random and compare the two side by side and tell me which is a better-written and more challenging read! I've always thought lexile numbers were arbitrary and stupid...now I have proof.


On rereading.  Lately my library books have been coming between me and the books I own. See, there are books sitting on my shelves that I love and really want to reread, but there's always a stack of library books that I have to read first. It seems that books with a due date take precedence over books that I own and can read any old time. And I don't know what to do about it. Not going to the library is not a viable option (at least not for me); but never having time to reread my favorite books isn't working either. I should just limit the number of books I check out...which sounds good in theory, but when I'm actually at the library all my good intentions fly out the window and I end up filling my library bag and coming home with more books that I meant to. So, what's the solution? I have no idea. It's a bookish dilemma I haven't quite figured out yet. But I'll keep you posted.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

172 Hours on the Moon...

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, NASA is holding a contest. Three teenagers, randomly chosen from around the world, will get to join the next lunar expedition and travel to DARLAH 2, NASA's secret moon base 238,000 miles away from home. It promises to be the adventure of a lifetime. What none of the teenagers know is that something sinister is waiting for them on the moon. Something they might not survive.

Is it believable that NASA could build a base on the moon and keep it secret for fifty years? Or that they'd consider sending three untrained teenagers into space? Of course not. But is it a fun premise? Absolutely.

The three winning teens couldn't be more different from each other:  Mia, resourceful and tough, is in a Norwegian punk rock band, Midori is a high school student from Japan, and Antoine, the oldest at seventeen, is from France. Then there are the actual astronauts (five in all) accompanying the teens; one of them knows more about DARLAH 2 and it's hush-hush past than he's telling. And then there's the question of the moon base itself:  why was it never used and why is NASA so determined to revisit it now?  Norwegian author Johan Harstad has written an intense YA science fiction story. 172 Hours on the Moon has a little bit of everything: good writing, great characters, mystery, action, and suspense. Plus there's a twist at the end--a very surprising twist that you may or may not like. I'm still undecided...but overall, I thought this book was a fun read.

Happy Reading!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Bookish Art for November

Three Women Reading - Uemura Shoen
"If you have a good book to read you are never bored or alone."
--Sherry Young (columnist for the Deseret News)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Eleventh Classic of 2014...


     "I have frequently told you, and the holidays just past have convinced me, that my prime has truly begun. One's prime is elusive. You little girls, when you grow up, must be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur. You must then live it to the full....One's prime is the moment one was born for."
 "Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life."

So speaks Miss Jean Brodie, a 'progressive spinster' and teacher at the Marcia Blaine School in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1930s. She surrounds herself with a small circle of eleven-year-old girls, 'The Brodie Set', presumably to mold them in her image as they grow up, but mostly to have a captive audience for all her stories and grand ideas. She's unconventional and energetic and I wanted to like her, but mostly I found her imperious, judgmental, and completely self-centered. Sadly, I didn't find much to like in any of the Brodie girls either, but maybe that's because of Spark's narrative style which is a bit aloof and removed. What a disappointing read!

I've read a few of Muriel Spark's other novels--books I quite enjoyed--but I didn't like this one at all. I was expecting something funnier and more warm-hearted, but The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is not a feel-good novel; in fact, this book left me feeling cold. At least it's short and I was able to finish it quickly. I wish someone would tell me why people like this novel so much. I just don't see it. With my apologies to Muriel Spark, this is one classic I won't be reading again. 

Happy Reading (some other book)!
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reading the Alphabet...

I think I might read my way through the Alphabet, starting with Z and working my way back to A. (Or maybe jumping around from letter to letter.) Why? I want to explore the library shelves again; I want to get away from To Read lists and books on hold and rediscover the serendipity of stumbling upon a great read from an author I never even knew existed. Plus, it sounds like fun. I could probably read my way through the alphabet in a year, reading a different alphabetical author every two weeks...but that feels a little too forced for me. I want this to be enjoyable; I don't want it to feel like an assignment or a chore. After all, reading shouldn't feel like work, should it? And I really don't want to stress about getting the next letter of the alphabet read in order to meet some imaginary deadline just so I can blog about it. If I want to spend a month reading from the Z shelf, I will. If I want to move on to a new letter after just one book, that's okay, too. I just want to read whatever and wherever the bookish spirits move me. So keep watch. A post called Reading From the Z Shelf just might be coming your way soon. (Or not.)

Happy Reading!



Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Hero's Guide...

"There's a lot you don't know about Prince Charming...Some of you may not even realize that there's more than one Prince Charming. And that none of them are actually named Charming. No one is. Charming isn't a name; it's an adjective...(And) if there was anything that Liam, Duncan, Gustav, and Frederic all had in common, it was that none of them were very happy about being a Prince Charming. Their mutual hatred of that name was a big part of what brought them together. Not that teaming up was necessarily the best idea for these guys."

Whatever you do, don't dismiss this book simply because it's shelved in children's fiction. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healey has a lot to offer to readers of all ages. First and foremost, it's funny. (Laugh out loud funny in some places.) I loved getting the princes' perspectives on Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, especially Prince Liam's. (He's the prince from the Sleeping Beauty story and by far the handsomest and most heroic of all the princes. Unfortunately for him, in this book Briar Rose is much more Briar than Rose--you would have called off the wedding, too.) These four princes are tired of getting short-changed in all the stories. After all, they're the heroes! Each one is uniquely flawed (and not always that heroic), but all of them made me laugh, especially Duncan, Snow White's talkative, eccentric and excitable prince. In fact, the only prince I didn't like quite as much as the others was hardheaded and impulsive Gustav, who charges into every situation without thinking, but even he had his humorous moments. Frederic is the quietest of all the princes and the least like a hero. (Most of the time he just wants to go home.) Their adventures are more like misadventures, and at times it's questionable whether or not they can save themselves let alone save a kingdom. Then there are the princesses. Ella is by far the best; she's adventurous and brave and the kind of girl who doesn't need a prince to rescue her...she'll rescue herself, thank you very much. I also liked Prince Liam's younger sister, Lila; she's daring and smart just like her brother. There are also trolls, dwarfs, a giant, a dragon, and an evil witch. Healy takes these classic fairy tale characters and makes them fresh, surprising, and fun. I loved everything about this book. (And so will you.)

Happy Reading!


Monday, November 3, 2014

The Day is Dark



Yrsa Sigurdardottir has written several thrillers, but this is the first one I've read. I picked it mostly because of the setting--it takes place at an arctic mining camp on the Eastern coast of Greenland. It's isolated, forbidding, and according to the locals, cursed. Three workers from the camp have disappeared and Thora Gudmundsdotter, an Icelandic lawyer, and her boyfriend, Matthew Reich, an employee of the bank underwriting the mining company, have been sent to this hostile landscape to investigate. What they find surprises even them.

The back of the book calls this mystery "chilling, unsettling, and compulsively readable", and I couldn't agree more. You don't know if the people at the camp went crazy, or if the harsh climate was responsible, or the locals, or the spirits of the dead ... but you don't want to stop reading until you find out. And even though Thora is a recurring character, it didn't seem to matter that I hadn't read any of her previous novels. This novel stands alone just fine. I thought it was a great read--an intense Nordic crime novel without being too dark or too gritty. I can't wait to try this author again.

Happy Reading!


Similar reads:
     The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi
     Where Monsters Dwell by Jorgen Brekke

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Whither the Weather?

I've been trying to find a book with an element of weather in the title for the What's in a Name 2014 Challenge all year without any luck. Frost Hollow Hall (my first choice) was unavailable; The Wind in the Willows (my plan B book) was uninteresting; and Snow Garden (picked up on a whim from the library) was unreadable. I tried a couple of other snow-related titles (Snowblind and In Falling Snow) but ended up not finishing either book. And I'd already read Gone With the Wind, and I just wasn't in the mood for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Obviously, weather isn't my thing.


So I'm changing directions. At the library this week I found a trio of picture books with clever stories and delightful illustrations and they ALL have an element of weather in their titles, from a great big storm to a windy day to the first snowfall. They're lots of fun to read, the pictures are great, and I recommend them all. (And if that's cheating for this challenge, I no longer care.)

Happy Reading!




Book titles: The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm by Paul Bright
                    Flora's Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall
                    Snow by Uri Shulevitz

What's in a Name Challenge: 6 books read; 0 to go!!!
(This challenge has been a lot of fun, but I have to admit...I'm glad I'm done.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tenth Classic of 2104...

"The Moonstone will have its vengeance yet on you and yours!"


Stolen from a Hindoo shrine by an Englishman, the Moonstone is a large yellow diamond with a curse on it--a promise of "certain disaster to the presumptuous mortal who laid hands on the sacred gem, and to all his house and name who received it after him."  Upon his death, the Englishman leaves it to his niece, Rachel Verinder, in his will. It is presented to her by her cousin, Mr. Franklin Blake, on her birthday. Twelve hours later the diamond disappears. What follows is the mystery of the Moonstone.

T.S. Eliot called this novel, "The first, the longest and the best of the modern English detective novels." This mystery is a great example of Victorian fiction. Each section is narrated by a different character who was witness to certain events surrounding the mystery, like the rambling Gabriel Betteridge, one of Lady Verinder's servants, and the tedious Miss Clack, Mr. Bruff, the straight-forward lawyer, and most important of all, Franklin Blake himself. (I enjoyed some narratives more than others, can you tell?) While I didn't love this book as much as I did Collins' The Woman in White, I did enjoy the many characters and the cautious unfolding of the mystery. Needless to say, at 446 pages this book is not a fast-paced page-turning thriller. It moves slow, but it's still a fun mystery. Wondering what really happened to the Moonstone kept me reading for 400+ pages.  But then, I really like Wilkie Collins.  I can't wait to read his novel, Armadale, next year. 

Happy Reading!

P.S. If you've never read Wilkie Collins before I recommend reading The Woman in White first. It's my favorite (and his best).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bookshelf envy...



Oh, the books I could read in a room like this!
How would it be?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

R.I.P.


Title: The Poisoned House by Michael Ford
Genre: Gothic/Mystery/Supernatural
Length: 319 pages
The Peril: Greave Hall in 1855 is not a pleasant place for scullery maid Abigail Tamper. Her mother died almost one year ago, old Lord Greave seems to be losing his mind, his only heir is off fighting in Crimea, and Mrs. Cotton, the cruel and autocratic housekeeper, seems to be hiding her own dark secrets. There's something else disturbing this unhappy household--an otherworldly presence. Is it the spirit of Abi's mother trying to warn her, or someone much more dangerous?

My Thoughts: Abi Tamper is a great narrator. Though she's just a scullery maid at Greave Hall now, her mother taught her to read and write and she grew up reading books from the library and playing with Lord Greave's son, Samuel. She's a brave and tenacious heroine, determined to figure out what (or who) is haunting her...and why. While there are some ghostly occurrences here and there, this novel is more mystery than ghost story. And there are plenty of secrets buried within Greave Hall that give this story an added Gothic feel. I really enjoyed it. It's interesting, and not too scary, and it reads fast. I didn't even mind the first-person narration. What a great way to wrap up this year's R.I.P. challenge! I read four books in all. It's been a a lot of fun and I can't wait to do it again next year.


R.I.P. level completed:


Happy Reading!

Monday, October 20, 2014

October's Bookish Art

Arthur Hughes - The Compleat Angler

"...explore something, even if it's just a bookshelf.
Make a stab in the dark.
Read off the beaten path."
--Phyllis Rose, The Shelf  

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Word Exchange...

"On a very cold and lonely Friday last November, my father disappeared from the Dictionary. And not only from the big glass building on Broadway where its offices were housed. On that night my father, Douglas Samuel Johnson, Chief Editor of the North American Dictionary of the English Language, slipped from the actual artifact he'd helped compose. That was before the Dictionary died, letters expiring on the page. Before the virus. Before our language dissolved like so much melting snow. It was before I nearly lost everything I love."

When I read those opening lines I knew I was going to love this book. Alena Graedon has written an imaginative dystopian novel where the printed word is all but dead and everyone relies on handheld devices called Memes for their news and entertainment...and even their words...instead. Anana Johnson's father, Douglas, is one of the lone hold outs. But then he disappears--leaving Anana a one-word SOS: Alice. Anana finds herself falling down the rabbit hole as she tries to figure out what happened to her father and, more importantly, why.

This is a thought-provoking novel of words and language, technology, communication, addiction, and love. When a new virus, the "word flu", begins robbing people of their ability to speak they turn to their Memes and its Word Exchange for the words they seek. But who's controlling the Exchange? Because whoever controls the meaning of words, can also then control what people think. The future Graedon imagines in this book is a chilling look at what can happen when technology goes wrong. Talk about a haunting conspiracy theory!
"The end of words would mean the end of memory and thought. In other words, our past and future. It may seem to some readers that the dystopian future we're imagining is exaggerated or, at the very least, a long way off. We can only hope, for all our sakes, that they're right. Because if not, then these and all words may very soon lose their meanings. And then we'll all be lost."
I thought this book was a lot of fun. Each chapter is headed by a letter of the alphabet and a corresponding word and definition. (Perfect for a word junkie like me.) And not only is Graedon's writing amazing, but I also loved her quirky characters. In fact, this is one of the best books I've read all year. It has mystery and humor; romance and suspense. The Word Exchange is a remarkable and unforgettable read!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

R.I.P.

 "Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY."
I bit my lip and stared at the mirror. Jess claimed there was a right way and a wrong way to summon Bloody Mary. This time we were doing it the right way. ... The candle on the vanity cast eerie shadows, our forms tall and distorted against the walls. Our hands were clenched together so tightly our fingers trembled. This time, it took only seconds for condensation to cover the glass. A thick fog swirled, gray tendrils of smoke spinning in a maelstrom, before a black figure appeared, the vague outline of a woman...

Title: Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan
Genre: Supernatural/Ghosts/Horror
Length: 248 pages
The Peril: A candlelit bathroom. A line of salt under the mirror. Four teen-age girls holding hands. Let the summoning of Bloody Mary begin. It's Jess's idea, but Shauna, Anna, and Kate all agree to the plan. And the thrilling fear of seeing the ghostly Mary through the fog of the mirror is a lot of fun until the ritual goes wrong and Mary gets out. Now she's gotten a taste of Shauna's blood, and she wants more. The girls have to figure out how to get Mary back in the mirror before time runs out.

My Thoughts: I remember playing the Bloody Mary game at sleepovers when I was growing up. None of us actually believed in ghosts, or in the legend of Bloody Mary, but there was always this inch of doubt when it was your turn to stand in front of the mirror. If I'd read this book back then, there's no way I would ever have considered saying Mary's name out loud even in fun. This book is that scary, especially when Mary claws her way out of the mirror and attacks Shauna. I don't recommend reading this book late at night if you're home alone. Mary is genuinely creepy and the absolute last ghost you want following you around in every and any shiny surface (from car windows to shower doors). Monahan does an excellent job of building suspense and I liked the mystery she created around Mary Worth, and how and why she became Bloody Mary in the first place. This is definitely a R.I.P.-ping read (my third!) and a book that will haunt you. I loved it.

Happy Reading! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A little bookish wisdom...

Here are a few memorable lines from some recent reads that are not only well-written, but wise.

"Mediocrity always lives in fear of excellence."
--Nancy Richer, The Imposter Bride

"It's just as exciting to buy a new experience as it is to buy a new dress--more so, in fact."
Agatha Christie, The Secret of Chimneys

"The chess piece cannot play for both black and white."
Elizabeth Ross, Belle Epoque

"I'm never going to be too old for it," said Garnet. "All my life
whenever I see a merry-go-round I'm going to ride on it..."
Elizabeth Enright, Thimble Summer


Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

R.I.P.

"They built it out of stone--dark gray stone, pried loose from the unforgiving mountains. It was a house for those who could not take care of themselves, for those who heard voices, who had strange thoughts and did strange things. The house was meant to keep them in. Once they came, they never left."


Title: Asylum by Madeleine Roux
Genre: Mystery/Supernatural
Length: 310 pages
The Peril: Dan, Abby and Jordan are attending a summer program for gifted students, but Brookline, the dorm where they are staying, used to be an insane asylum. And Brookline holds some very dark secrets (especially down in the locked lower levels). Dan is the first one to start seeing things that aren't there and having nightmares; but he's not the only one haunted by Brookline's disturbing past. Then a student is found dead. Was he killed by one of them, or by something else?

My Thoughts: Bad things happening in an asylum for the criminally insane is a bit of a cliche, but can you think of a creepier setting? No wonder Dan starts to question his own sanity. Roux even got me wondering what was real and what was just hallucination. My favorite part of the book, though, has to be the illustrations--unsettling black-and-white photographs of patients and rooms, some of which came from actual asylums. Talk about eerie. I did wish Roux had spent a little more time developing the mystery, especially the asylum's back story, but overall I enjoyed this book. It's suspenseful and scary and fun. (And a great second read for this year's R.I.P. challenge.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Silence Once Begun

"The story of Oda Sotatsu begins with a confession that he signed."
A confession that isn't true.
Then Oda Sotatsu stops talking.
In jail. At the trial. When he's condemned to die.
He never says a word.


Jesse Ball is determined to find out the reason why. So he interviews Oda Sotatsu's family, reprints the newspaper coverage from the trial, talks to the prison guards, and finally tracks down Jito Joo, the mysterious girl who faithfully visited Sotatsu through it all. 
In searching for a way out of my own troubles, I had found my way into the troubles of others, some long gone, and now I was trying to find my way back out, through their troubles, as if we human beings can ever learn from one another. To simply find out what had happened to Oda Sotatsu, that was the main thing. That was always the main thing. But if in learning that, I could see somehow farther....
Set in Japan, this novel reads like a literary documentary. Even though Oda Sotatsu remains illusive throughout, the mystery of his silence is oddly compelling. The author himself, acting as interviewer and scribe, becomes a character in his own novel. I thought it was a unique and interesting way to narrate a story and that it worked surprisingly well. This book, which is only 232 pages long, reads super fast. It's stylistic, and different, and worth checking out. I liked it a lot. I don't know what Jesse Ball's other novels are like, but I intend to find out.

Happy Reading!
  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bookish Thoughts...

On Reading Bingo. I'm one book away from achieving blackout on my bookish Bingo card. It's been a fun way of tracking the books I've read this year, and it's pushed me to read a few books I wouldn't otherwise have read--like a book based on a true story (Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald) and a book with non-human characters (The Humans by Matt Haig), not to mention a graphic novel, a book with a dragon (Seraphina) and a book set in another world (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown) from the YA Bingo card. If you've never played bookish Bingo there's still time to print out a card and join the fun!

On my growing TBR pile. At the start of the year I set a goal to get my stack of 29 TBR books under 20, and I was making real progress. In fact, I had almost reached my goal of having less than 20 unread books on my shelves, but then .... I ordered a few books on Amazon, and a few more from Powells, and I had a birthday ... and my once-shrinking TBR pile ballooned seemingly overnight to 34 books! So I'll be setting a new goal next year: 15 TBR in 2015. (And I'll try to keep my book buying in check until then.) Wish me luck!

Monday, September 29, 2014

R.I.P.

"It was in the middle of that summer of endless rain that the first child went missing. It all started on a Tuesday, an odd sort of day that could have passed like any other, but ended up being one that profoundly changed the lives of a number of people."

Title: Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Length: 353 pages
The Peril: It starts with a child's abduction from a Stockholm train. At first, the police suspect the girl's father. But when the little girl ends up dead, with the word 'Unwanted' written on her forehead, Inspector Alex Recht and police officer Fredrika Bergman soon realize they're hunting for a manipulative and ruthless murderer instead.

My thoughts: I loved the pacing; this novel begins on Monday, ends on Sunday, and never slows down once in between. The characters are nicely complicated, too, especially Fredrika who's new to the squad and not exactly a people person. In fact, the other members of the squad don't think she's suited for this job at all, but it's Fredrika who spots connections in this case that the others don't. I liked her a lot. I also liked the mystery itself; it's compelling and unpredictable--the moments with the murderer are especially chilling, but not graphic or explicit, which I really appreciated. The subject matter is a little dark, though. All in all, this is a great R.I.P. read (which stands for Readers Imbibing Peril). I'm hoping to read three more books with thrills and chills before the end of October. What about you? Read any good mysteries lately?

Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Language of Trees...

After his wife leaves him, Grant Shongo returns to his family's cabin on Lake Canandaigua to reconnect with his ancestral spirits and to try and heal his heart. But he finds himself haunted not only by the memories of his past--memories of his parents, and of Echo O'Connell, the first and only girl he ever truly loved--but by the spirit of a little boy who drowned 12 years earlier.
"There is nowhere else he could have gone but to the lake. Canandaigua is the place where he feels God in the trees...Time is different here: the minutes, hours, and days tracked by a set of different colors, smells, directions and strength of wind across the water...(The lake's) restlessness has always calmed him."
But there are complications here, too. The dead boy's sister, Melanie, has gone missing. A wounded gray wolf shows up at Grant's door. And Echo returns. And Grant suddenly finds himself with a second chance at love and life.

Ilie Ruby's novel is a story of regret and hope, second chances, forgiveness and love. The setting is beautifully described, and the Seneca legends and traditions add depth and interest. It's mostly Grant's story, but there are several other secondary story lines threaded through the narrative. I have to admit, I liked the chapters told from Grant's POV best; he's definitely my favorite character. I wouldn't have minded if the story had focused less on the mystery of Melanie's disappearance and more on Grant and Echo and their relationship , but overall, I liked this book. Especially the small touches of magic in it.

Best of all? This book fulfills the bonus 6th category for me in the What's in a Name 2014 Reading Challenge: read a book with a school subject in the title. The Language of Trees checks this one off. Now I just need to find a book with an element of weather in its title and I'll have completed the entire challenge. (Got any suggestions?)
What's in a Name Reading Challenge:  5 books read; 1 to go!

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bookish Art for September

Henry Caro-Delvaille - Women Reading, 1910-1911

"I cannot imagine a day without reading in it."
Donalyn Miller, Reading in the Wild

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ninth Classic of 2014...

"I suspect it is the tragedies in life that arrest my attention more than the other things and say more to my imagination; but on the other hand, if I fix my eyes on a sun-spot I think I am able to see the prismatic colours in it."  --Henry James
 I have been a fan of Henry James ever since I first read The Portrait of a Lady. I love his command of language and how no matter how long his sentences may be, I never get lost in them. I love how he manages to find beauty in tragedy. But most of all, I love his characters. They are the reason I keep coming back to his books time and time again.

The Europeans is one of his shorter, more accessible novels. It is only 12 chapters (and 164 pages) long, but it offers up several memorable characters. Like Felix Young and his older sister, Eugenia, Baroness Munster, who come to visit their American cousins, the Wentworths, and to breathe some needed life and color into their straight-laced, sober Puritan lives.

Eugenia is the driving force of the pair; she is clever, ambitious, brilliant rather than beautiful, and very European. "If she had come to seek her fortune, it seemed to her that her fortune would be easy to find." Her American cousins have never met anyone quite like her. Neither have the young men of their acquaintance--Robert Acton and Mr. Brand--who find themselves drawn to her. "When she desired to please she was...the most charming woman in the world," but "she was sometimes hard and perverse."

Felix, on the other hand, is charming, good-humoured, and genial. He is delighted by Boston and by his American cousins. Painting portraits and sketching the scenery, Felix finds beauty every where and is able to "extract entertainment from all things." Styling himself a Bohemian, he does not take life too seriously. As he himself says, "I don't think it's what one does or one doesn't do that promotes enjoyment. It is the general way of looking at life." He sees all life as an opportunity, a much different philosophy than that shared by his solemn American cousins.

The four Wentworths--Mr. Wentworth, his two daughters, Charlotte and Gertrude, and his son, Clifford--are drawn to their lively European cousins, but they're wary of them, too. Except for Gertrude. She's the kind of girl who skips church because the sky is a particular shade of blue; and she's always been restless without knowing exactly why. Her imagination runs deep and in the warmth and brilliance of Felix's and Eugenia's company, her true nature finally awakens and comes to life. She's the most changed by their visit.

I love these characters, and this story. But then, I love all of Henry James' novels. In classic literature, he reigns supreme.

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gimme an I...

I tackled my bookshelves this weekend--I needed to do some rearranging to make room for new books, as well as some decluttering and re-alphabetizing, and I noticed that I was missing a couple of letters of the alphabet in my small assemblage of authors. It didn't surprise me when I had no books by authors whose last names start with an X or Q, but it did surprise me that I was also missing I and U. Last names that start with those letters aren't that uncommon, are they? But then, when I tried to come up with some author names that begin with either letter, I came up blank. I couldn't think of a single one. (Can you?) I know there are some, but they don't exist on my bookshelves. Which struck me as a little strange. I mean, I have books for Z (Zafon and Zigman) and Y (Young), but not for I or U. It's a bookish incongruity. What about you? What letters of the alphabet are missing from your bookshelves?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Girls from Planet 5...


"The women had taken over the United States by 1998." Except in Texas. Texas is still Man's Land where "the soil...was rich and nourishing for the transplanted male chauvinist." So, when journalist Dave Hull's girlfriend is promoted over him, he decides to go to Texas where men still ride horses and carry guns. Add to this mix an alien invasion of Lyru--a race of beautiful warrior women secretly controlled by a sect of old Crones--and you have the beginning of Richard Wilson's entertaining science fiction novel The Girls from Planet 5.

Published in 1955, Wilson creates "a topsy-turvy society where all the women act like men and too many men think they have to act like women" and one of the more unique extraterrestrial invasions ever written. What these beautiful alien invaders really want is unclear, but it just might fall to Texas to come to the country's rescue.

I picked this book up on a whim last month mostly because the cover and the premise made me laugh. And so did the book. Especially the whole thing with Texas. I also liked Dave Hull and Lori, the Lyru girl he meets. Is this book great literature? No. But it is an amusing take on the battle of the sexes. Wilson seems to be poking fun at both militant feminists and male chauvinists as well as the 1950s mindset on the traditional roles of men and women. It is not a novel to be taken too seriously. As Wilson himself said, "Writing, particularly science fiction writing, is fun--or should be. I enjoy putting predictable people in an unlikely situation and letting them get out of it as logically as they can. If a little hilarity creeps in, fine, but instruction, no. One whose nearest encounter to the sciences consisted of flunking intermediate algebra twice in high school and once in college can pretend to instruct no one." So, if you're looking for a little science fiction fun, give this crazy book a try. It'll definitely make you smile.

Happy Reading!
  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another Favorite Read...

 "I arrived in the Alice at five a.m. with a dog, six dollars 
and a small suitcase full of inappropriate clothes."


One woman, four camels, a dog named Diggity and a 1700 mile trek across the Australian outback. Robyn Davidson's Tracks is one of my all-time favorite travel/memoir/adventure books. With four stubborn, sassy and mischievous camels, Davidson travels from Alice Springs across the vast and forbidding Gibson Desert to the western coast of Australia ... alone. It's a crazy, poignant and brave journey. Her funny mishaps with the camels always make me laugh, but it's the inward journey she makes along the way--that hard-earned discovery of truth and self--that I remember most. This is a thoughtful and empowering book.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from this amazing book:
"The two important things that I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision."
"To be free is to learn, to test yourself constantly, to gamble. It is not safe. I had learnt to use my fears as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks, and best of all I had learnt to laugh."

Happy Reading!


 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Feeling blue?

Whatever mood you're in, there's a book for that. Romance, friendship, travel, magic. Every shade of blue imaginable. Maybe you're in the mood for a dystopian future. Or maybe you prefer England in the 19th century. Wherever you want to go, whatever mood you're in, there's a book for that. So, if you're feeling a little blue, here are a few books that just might fit your mood:

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Blue Willow by Doris Gates 
Mali Blues by Lieve Joris
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy


My favorite?


What color are you in the mood to read? 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

On Edge...

In Japan, when a person mysteriously disappears they attribute it to kamikakushi. Kamikakushi "most often takes place in the springtime, usually at dusk. Before the disappearance takes place, a strong wind always blows. If the person who is spirited away is lucky enough to return home, he or she never retains any memory of where he or she has been. Naturally, that leads people to concoct all sorts of explanations for the mysterious experiences."

Saeko is a free-lance journalist whose father went missing in 1884. Now, eighteen years later, she and TV director Hashiba are investigating several new disappearances. What do these missing persons have in common? They all disappeared near an active fault line on a day with unusually high sunspot activity. That's not the only strange phenomena occurring; the value of Pi has mysteriously changed overnight, and it looks as if the stars are starting to disappear one by one.
"If the world as we know it ever begins to collapse, then our first signal would be a small shift in mathematics."
Koji Suzuki's novel Edge is not only unusual, it's unusually cool. As Saeko and Hashiba begin to put together all the pieces of this puzzling mystery, it just gets stranger and stranger. But I think that's why I liked it so much. There's a little bit of everything in this novel from number theory to quantum mechanics. Saeko's relationship with her father is also a key component. There's so much to this novel! It's complicated, haunting and completely unique. Suzuki does a masterful job of creating tension out of nothing. And you'll never guess the ending.

Happy Reading!

 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Wrapping up 'Reading 1914'


When I think of Leonard Woolf, I think of Boomsbury, the Hogarth Press and his wife, Virginia; I don't think of compelling fiction novels. But in 1914, Woolf's second novel, The Wise Virgins, was published. It's about Harry Davis, a young cynic, the elegant Camilla Lawrence whom he loves, and the four virginal Garland girls who live next door. Woolf based all of his characters on people he knew. Harry is clearly Leonard himself, while Camilla is based on Virginia. The portrayals are well-drawn, witty, and at times a bit scathing. (Something that didn't exactly go over well when the book first came out.) I found Woolf's writing intelligent, his story well-crafted, and his observations of society cynical, but also honest and amusing. And I really enjoyed this book. Sadly, The Wise Virgins was Leonard Woolf's last fiction novel.

It's also my last book from 1914, which makes me even more sad. I've had a lot of fun this summer reading books published 100 years ago. Every one exceeded my expectations. I read and enjoyed children's books, young adult novels, and literary novels; I also read several other books not published in 1914 that deal with World War I and the events of that year. It's been an excellent summer of reading. Here's a list of the books I read if you want to check them out:

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Peaches, apples, and pears....oh, my!

"Oh those weeks of harvesting and peeling and preparing apples, peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers, plums and beans. All day the kitchen smelled like heaven and was filled with steam. The stove was covered with kettles and vats, and upside down on the windowsill stood processions of mason jars full of bright color..."
--Elizabeth Enright, Thimble Summer 



It's that time of year again. time to turn Gala apples into sweet applesauce; time to bottle peaches and pears; make fresh pear cake, peach jam, and yummy fruit cobbler; and time to bottle pickles, relish, and homemade spaghetti sauce. It's a lot of work (and a lot of clean up when you're done!), but this annual ritual of bottling fruit is like bottling a little piece of summer to enjoy all winter long.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ireland, Archaeology and a Mystery

Erin Hart's Haunted Ground offers all three. When a bog body is found in the Drumcleggan Bog, Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin team up to investigate not only the red-haired girl's identity, but when she lived and how she died. But that's not the only mystery troubling the small town of Dunbeg. Two years ago, Mina Osborne and her small son went missing. The police suspect her husband, Hugh, but no one knows what really happened. Maybe Cormanc and Nora can help Detective Devaney find evidence to solve that mystery, too.

I really enjoyed the archaeological aspects of this novel--how things can be preserved in the peat for hundreds of years, and how, once found, they offer a doorway into the past. I also loved getting to know Ireland a little better--glimpsing part of its history and culture, even its music. But it's the mystery surrounding Mina's disappearance that drives this novel. Haunted Ground is well-plotted and well-written, with likeable characters. (Especially 39-year-old flute-playing Cormac with his dark brown hair, intense dark eyes, and lean rower's build, and his love of the past.) There were a few coincidences at the very end surrounding the red-haired girl from the bog that felt just a little too neat and convenient, but that didn't stop me from enjoying this book. It's an interesting mystery; plus, it's set in Ireland...what more could you possibly want?

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Eighth Classic of 2014...

The Odd Women by George Gissing

Written in 1893, this novel deals with the role of unmarried women in Victorian society. Some of Gissing's characters are militantly single and opposed to women marrying; some are women of independent means generously trying to help other, poorer women achieve the same; and some of the women just want to get married. I liked the mix of views; they gave the novel added depth and made it feel more honest. Rhoda Nunn is one of Gissing's militant characters. Her take on single women in society made me smile:
"Do you know there are half a million more women than men in this happy country of ours? So many odd women--no making a pair with them. The pessimists call them useless, lost, futile lives. I, naturally--being one of them myself--take another view. I look upon them as a great reserve. When one woman vanishes in matrimony, the reserve offers a substitute for the world's work."
Monica Madden, on the other hand, is the youngest of three single sisters. She's working as a shop girl in London when she meets an older gentleman named Edmund Widdowson. Although she doesn't love him, she wonders if marrying him might not be such a bad thing. After all, her older sisters don't appear to be very happy or satisfied in their single lives.
"As things went in the marriage war, she might esteem herself a most fortunate young woman. It seemed that he had really fallen in love with her; he might prove a devoted husband. She felt no love in return; but between the prospect of a marriage of esteem and that of no marriage at all there was little room for hesitation. The chances were that she might never again receive an offer from a man whose social standing she could respect."
I really enjoyed reading about these 'odd women'. Their lives are funny and sad, sometimes fulfilling, (more often not), hopeful, poignant and brave. As a single girl myself, I could relate. I also enjoyed Gissing's style of writing. It's as if he borrowed the best of Jane Austen--her characters and her wit--and combined it with Thomas Hardy's gritty realism. There aren't a lot of happy endings (or happy marriages) in his world, but then this book is a criticism of Victorian society and its oppression of women, not a romantic fairy tale. There were moments when I wished for a little more happiness, especially for Monica and Rhoda because I liked them both so much. But, in books as in life, we don't always get what we want. Still, I'm very glad I read this book.

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

I just couldn't resist...

So I was at Marissa's Books, a used bookstore here in Salt Lake City, just browsing the shelves, not really expecting to buy anything, when I spotted a book with a cover and title I just couldn't resist picking up:


Then I read the blurb on the back:
Out stepped two gorgeous girls...  The mysterious spaceship hovered over Washington and the whole nation was alerted. A small craft detached itself from the ship and came down to earth. The occupants emerged...
Thus begins Richard Wilson's immensely entertaining novel of the host of lovely ladies from outerspace who invade a U.S.A. already dominated by women. It's as exciting as it is deft and entertaining.
So I flipped it open and read the opening line:
"The women had taken over by 1998 but this had never bothered Dave Hull personally until just now."  
And I just had to buy it. (Even though I don't read much science fiction.) Call it a bookish impulse. I don't know if it's any good or not, but it made me smile. And any day with a new book in it is a good day, don't you think?

Happy Reading!

 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bookish first impressions...

While a book's cover or title may make me pick it up, often it's the first line that helps me decide whether or not to read it. First impressions are so important! Here are the first lines of some books I recently read---books that I enjoyed reading, but didn't review. See if any of their first lines strike you.


First Line:  "By 1927 there were twelve girls who danced all night and never gave names, but by then the men had given up asking and called them all Princess."
Title: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
(This is a creative retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales: The Twelve Dancing Princesses; I love that Valentine set her novel in the Roaring Twenties.)

First Line: "I want a refund from ancestry.com."
Title: Ungifted by Gordon Korman
(This is a fun and entertaining middle-grade fiction novel about kids who are gifted...and those who aren't.)

First Line: "The first time Nakajima stayed over, I dreamed of my dead mom."
Title: The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
(A quiet and beautifully written novel about two lost souls living in Japan and their hesitant romance.)

First Line: "The water was so cold it took Heather's breath away as she fought past the kids crowding the beach and standing in the shallows, waving towels and homemade signs, cheering and calling up to the remaining jumpers."
Title: Panic by Lauren Oliver
(This book is NOT a copy of The Hunger Games like everyone said. For one thing, it's not set in a dystopian future, for another, the seniors who decide to participate in the Panic aren't forced to play. And it's a game played for money. I thought it was a fun read.)

First Line: "The bride stood like a pillar of salt, rigid under layers of itchy petticoats."
Title: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
(This novel is a poignant immersion into the arranged marriage of Chani and Baruch and into London's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Very interesting!)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bookish Art for August

Marcel Duchamp - Apropos of Little Sister, 1911


"Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things 
which escape those who dream only by night."
--Edgar Allan Poe




(P. S. It's my 200th post today! When I started this blog I never thought I'd get this far. And I just want to thank everyone who visits, comments on, and reads my blog. You're the best!)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Devil's Wake

Don't let them bite you!
Wear thick clothing.
Avoid exposing your skin.
Take drastic measures if necessary.
And if you are bitten...don't go to sleep!


No one knows what caused the outbreak; no one knows how to cure it, only that it's spreading fast--infecting thousands, leaving chaos, fear, and death in its wake. In order to survive, six teens will have to band together. They have an old school bus and a little bit of food, but can they make it past the freaks and monsters to safety without becoming infected themselves?
"We're on our way to Threadville. And if that doesn't work, maybe to Devil's Wake. We're trying to believe in something, but some of us believe more than others. I don't know what I believe yet, or if believing matters. Maybe there are no schools, no safety, no such thing as family anymore. All I know is that I want to survive."
So how do you stay alive as civilization dies and the world around you falls apart? And what would you be willing to do in order to survive? That's always the question in stories like this one. Life and death situations seem to bring out the best...and worst in people. And it's that exploration of the human spirit that draws me to these kind of apocalyptic novels. That and the fact that they're fast-paced and fun to read.

I admit that not every disaster/survival novel is worth reading. In fact, a lot of them are poorly written and downright dumb. But I enjoyed this one. It's very readable and I liked the characters, especially 16-year-old Kendra, who loses her family to the infection and has to survive on her own until she crosses paths with Terry and his friends. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Domino Falls. So if you like reading about apocalyptic disasters, check this book out. It's a fun ride.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     Trapped by Michael Northrop
     World War Z by Max Brooks