Monday, May 22, 2017

The Zig Zag Girl

Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens and magician extraordinaire Max Mephisto met during World War II when they served together in a secret military unit known as the Magic Men. Now, five years later, two murders committed in Brighton, England, have brought them back together. Not only are the murders based on two of Max's magic tricks, but they are also linked to the Magic Men. And the killer has just sent a warning to Stephens that another "trick" is on the way.

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths is a well-plotted and entertaining mystery with an unlikely and unforgettable duo in Stephens and Mephisto--Edgar is sincere and idealistic while the more cynical Max is the consummate show man. I liked them both. And while this is not one of those page-turning thrillers that'll keep you up all night, Griffiths does a nice job of building tension and creating a few fun twists along the way. She's written at least 3 more books with these same characters and I'm looking forward to reading all of them. (Her Ruth Galloway series is also really good.)

Happy Reading!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Why don't I review every book I read?

Mostly because I read too many books.
And I'm lazy.

I mean, think about it. Me actually writing 125+ reviews each year? Not gonna happen. Plus, not every book I read is worth writing about. I find it hard enough coming up with the right words to describe a good book let alone one that is merely mediocre; I mean how many ways can you say something is just okay? So I tend to skip reviewing the so-so reads. But I have to admit, even some books that are really good don't always inspire me to pen a post.

(Did I mention that I'm lazy?)

I probably should do more posts about the books that weren't worth finishing, but I don't like dwelling on the negative. And do you really want to read about a bunch of books that I either didn't like, or didn't finish? Maybe it would be different if I were clever and had a talent for humorous harangues, but sadly I'm not that funny. (Although I sometimes wish I were!) Besides, one of the main reasons I started blogging about books was to help me better remember the plots of the good reads, not all the failures and weaknesses of the bad ones.

So, I guess for the 75 or so books that I do end up reviewing each year, I'll stick with the ones I loved. Or at least liked. Along with those others where the review just seems to write itself. Because blogging shouldn't feel like work. And neither should chatting about books.

Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

From my TBR shelf...

"It is a quiet place, especially at night.  Too quiet, you'd be entitled to think, for any kind of monster to live among its pretty, tree-shaded lanes....If you let yourself think this, you would be wrong. For 17 Orchard Lane is the home of the Radleys, and despite their very best efforts, they are anything but normal."

The reason I bought a copy of the The Radleys by Matt Haig a couple of years ago is because I liked his witty and wonderful novel, The Humans, so much. (And also because my library didn't own any copies of this one.) So I don't know why I then let it languish unread for so long on my shelf. Maybe because I was afraid it wouldn't be as good as I hoped. But I needn't have worried. The Radleys is a very readable and entertaining novel with a great ending. I liked it a lot!

It's about a married couple, Peter and Helen Radley, who are vampires that have chosen to become "Abstainers" in order to give their two children an ordinary, human life. The only problem? Clara and Rowan Radley aren't human; they're vampires, too. They just don't know it. Until the night Clara is attacked by a boy from her high school. When she fights back and tastes blood for the very first time, the secret Peter and Helen have been keeping from their children is revealed in a big way. And suddenly Clara and Rowan know who they really are...and what they're meant to be. To make matters even worse, Peter's brother, Will, an unrepentant blood-drinking vampire, shows up at their house causing even more havoc for Helen and her family. And suddenly their quiet existence is threatened with extinction.  "The Radleys explores the lengths to which a parent will go to protect a child, the costs of denying your true identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting bonds of family love."

Happy Reading!

P.S. This book counts as my fourth TBR read for The Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard. Only six more TBRs to go!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May's Bookish Art...

Edouard Vuillard--In the Library, 1925
"I have always imagined that Paradise
will be a kind of library."
--Jorge Luis Borge

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A favorite fantasy...

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

With her white hair and black eyes, Sybel has a wizard's power that she has inherited from her father along with his white stone house and his collection of mythical creatures. There's the Lyon Gules, Cyren, the white-tusked boar who holds the answers to all riddles but one, blue-eyed Ter, the falcon to wizards and kings, and even the great dragon Gyld. Then one day, when Sybel is just sixteen, Coren of Sirle comes to her lonely house with a baby for her to hide and raise--Tamlorn, the son of a king. And Sybel finds herself drawn into the world of men. Because how can she not love Tam as he grows from boy to man? And then there's Coren of Sirle himself who seems able to look into her soul and see her like no one else ever has.
"I thought of you with your hair of silver as snow all through that cold, slow journey from Sirle. I felt you troubled, deep within me, and there was no other place in the world where I would rather have been than in the cold night, riding to you. When you opened your gates to me, I was home."
5 reasons why I love this book:

  • the romance between Sybel and Coren of Sirle
  • McKillip's lyrical prose
  • Cyren the Boar's wisdom and wry riddles
  • all the other mythical, magical animals in Sybel's home
  • and did I mention how much I like Coren of Sirle?
Patricia A. McKillip is one of my favorite authors. I never get tired of reading (and rereading) her fantasies. For me, they are all magical reads! She really knows how to create characters that I end up loving. Sybel and Coren are no exception.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Art in Fiction

There's a story behind every great work of art, which can lead to some very good historical fiction. Here are a few excellent reads about some of my favorite artists and their muses....each novel is as unique as the artists themselves. Enjoy!

Title & Author:  With Violets by Elizabeth Robards

This novel transports you to the world of the Impressionists and into the life of that remarkable artist Berthe Morisot. (But the book of her personal correspondence with family and friends edited by Denis Rouart is even better!)

Title & Author:  Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman

This charming little gem of a novel paints a portrait of Mary Cassatt as seen through the eyes of her sister, Lydia, as she poses for five of Mary's paintings.

Title & Author:  Marie Dancing by Carolyn Meyer

This YA novel takes you to the Paris of Edgar Degas and tells the story of 14-year-old Marie von Goethem, the young ballet dancer from the Paris Opera who posed for his famous Little Dancer sculpture.

Title & Author:  Strapless:  John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis.

This is an excellent non-fiction account of Sargent's most provocative portrait, and the American beauty, Virginie Gautreau, who posed for it. (And there were some serious repercussions for both of them when Sargent showed this portrait in public for the first time.)

Title & Author:  Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

The story behind this Vermeer painting is related in this quiet and well-written, novel....which I thought was as good as the movie.

Title & Author:  A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

This is the fictional memoir of the woman who inspired Andrew Wyeth's most famous painting, Christina's World, which I recently read and really enjoyed.

Then there are these art-inspired novels that I haven't read yet, but that I hope to read soon:

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Another serendipitous find from the L shelf...

Title:  The Watcher in the Wall
Author:  Owen Laukkanen
Genre:  Psychological thriller

Main Characters:  Carla Windermere, an intense and driven FBI agent, and her partner, Kirk Stevens, a cop with twenty years experience who's now a special agent with Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The Premise:  A classmate of Stevens' daughter commits suicide and she wants her father to look into it. When he and Windermere do, they discover an online chat room dedicated to suicide and fear that there's another teen out there about to take her own life. But was it a real suicide pact, or something more sinister? As their investigation continues, Windermere starts to believe it's the latter.
"This wasn't about finding some suicidal mystery girl, not any longer. There was something going on here, something deeper than a couple of kids with a death wish."
But an online predator like this is hard to catch. Still, Windermere and Stevens are going to do everything they can to catch him before he causes more teens to die.

My thoughts:  This is a good read. It's fast-paced and intense and the premise of an online predator stalking lonely teenagers and urging them to commit suicide is very chilling. I also liked that there's not a ton of language or graphic violence in it, just good writing.  I found it hard to put down at the end. This lucky find from the L shelf is psychological suspense at its best. Even better? Laukkanen's written several other books about these characters which means there are more thrillers waiting on the L shelf for me to read and enjoy.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Two Recent Reads...

Patricia Briggs and C.S. Harris are two authors that I love, mostly because of two series that they write. The two series couldn't be more different:  Briggs writes urban fantasy books that have werewolves, vampires, the fae, and an unforgettable heroine named Mercy Athena Thompson; Harris writes historical fiction mysteries set in the early 1800s in England with an equally unforgettable hero named Sebastian St. Cyr. What they have in common is great writing, well-plotted adventures, and characters that I love. They also each have new books out this year.

Silence Fallen is the tenth book in Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. I actually wasn't sure I was going to like this one as much as all the others because Mercy and Adam (her werewolf husband) are separated in the very first chapter when Mercy gets kidnapped, and they spend the rest of the book running around Italy and Prague trying to get back to each other. But once again Briggs came through with an entertaining and enjoyable fantasy adventure that I ended up reading all in one day because I found it so unputdownable.

As for Where the Dead Lie, it's the twelfth book about Sebastian St. Cyr Viscount Devlin. In this latest mystery, some of London's street rats are being abducted and brutally murdered; no one seems to care about their fate except for Sebastian. But he's determined not to let this killer go unpunished. Dark and intense, this particular book may not be my favorite in this series, but I still enjoyed reading it. I mean, it's got Sebastian St. Cyr in it---and what could be better than that?

It's nice to have authors you can count on and series to read that never seem to disappoint. These are only two of mine; what are some of yours?

Happy Reading!

Similar post:
     Why Kings Confess by C.S. Harris

Friday, April 28, 2017

Another favorite poem...

This one comes from Rainer Maria Rilke's Book of Hours:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you:  beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Isn't that amazing? 
There are other of his poems that I like equally well; I had a hard time limiting myself to just one.  
But then, I love Rilke. 
Especially his book Letters to a Young Poet.  It's one of my favorite reads; one those timeless books that I find myself returning to year after year. And it never gets old. At least not for me. But then, like I said, I love Rilke.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A bookish journey to Jerusalem...

Esther's hand raced over the paper as if the colored pencils might be snatched from her, the quivering inside her wild, foreign, thrilling. All this time she hadn't known that "blue" was actually seven distinct shades, each with its own name--azure, Prussian, cobalt, cerulean, sapphire, indigo, lapis. She pressed the waxy pencils on the paper, amazed by the emerging hues....In this stolen hour at Mademoiselle Thibaux's dining-room table, she could draw without being scolded for committing the sin of idleness, God forbid.
Talia Carner's Jerusalem Maiden immerses the reader in the world of the Haredi, a community of ultra-orthodox Jews, at the turn of the 20th century when the Ottoman Empire is coming to an end. At the heart of the novel is Esther Kaminsky, a young girl who finds herself torn between her passion for art and her desire to please God. She feels her talent for creating beautiful sketches and oil paintings must come from God, but according to her strict culture there are no Jewish artists, drawing portraits is especially forbidden, and "marriage is the greatest destiny for girls". Esther struggles to accept her destiny without giving up her own desires and dreams. But she can't choose her art without betraying both her family and her God. She is trapped by her birth. And I really felt for her.

I found this book fascinating, especially learning more about the Haredi culture; I couldn't believe the strictures placed on women in this very narrow and pious community. It was pretty eye-opening, and also frustrating and a bit maddening. (And it made me very glad Esther's life isn't mine!)  Still, to be able to visit not only Jerusalem, but also Paris in the early 1900s, made for an amazing bookish journey. Both places are always so interesting and fun to read about. As for Esther, her story is moving and poignant and ultimately bittersweet. I cheered for her, cried for her, and wished I could change her world for her...or that she would do something amazing and brave and change it herself. But not all books have happy endings. I can't say I loved this book, but it was an interesting read and Esther is one of those characters I won't soon forget. Probably because I felt so bad for her most of the time.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
     The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Anatomist's Wife

I don't know why it took me so long to read The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber, especially considering it contains so many of the elements that I really like in a book. For example, it's a mystery with suspense, atmosphere, and good writing. And it's set in Scotland in 1830, a time period and place that I love. But most of all, it has well-crafted and memorable characters like Mr. Sebastian Gage and Huber's most engaging of protagonists, the infamous Lady Darby, who also narrates the story. I ended up really liking this intrepid heroine. Here are five passages from the book that'll show you why:

Death was not unfamiliar to me. I had seen more than my fair share of corpses in my lifetime, and I had been quite happy to escape them for the last sixteen months. So I hardly relished the appearance of yet another one, and in my sister's garden no less. I shivered, feeling the fear and shadows stir inside me I had worked so hard to lay to rest since my husband's death.

I had never been very successful at the art of flirtation. I knew my sister was quite capable, having listened to her and Philip verbally banter with one another daily for over a year. My brother Trevor also seemed competent in the arena, if the number of young ladies in London angling for a marriage proposal from him were any indication. I, on the other hand, seemed to be missing that mysterious skill.

It didn't matter what Gage believed. I knew that I was innocent, and so did my sister and brother-in-law. All I could do was focus on what I had set out to do in the first place--protect my sister and her family by finding the real killer--and in the process, prove my innocence, perhaps once and for all.

Several hours in my studio did much to soothe my tattered nerves worn raw by the events of the last sixteen hours. The familiar roughness of the charcoal in my hand as I sketched the outline of a new portrait comforted me. Its musk of earth and ashes permeated the air, clearing away the lingering memory of blood and death. I lost myself in the sweep of lines, forgetting time and place.

I had always known that I was a solitary person. Even when wed to Sir Anthony, even while living with my sister and her family, I knew the truth. I was alone. And likely would always be. That normally did not trouble me, but lately I had begun to feel the weight of such a truth, the isolation of such a life, and it upset me more than I would have liked to admit. But I didn't know how to change that. My temperament, my talent, seemed to naturally hold me apart from others. The scandal had only exacerbated the problem.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April's Bookish Art...

Peter Ilsted -- Interior With Girl Reading, 1908

"A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted
to a world we cannot enter in any other way."
--Caroline Gordon

Sunday, April 16, 2017

From the L Shelf...

Author:  Con Lehane
Title:  Murder at the 42nd Street Library

I checked this book out because of the title. I just couldn't resist a murder mystery set at the 42nd Street library in New York City. (Which is a research library, not a circulating one.) The main character, Raymond Ambler, curates the library's crime fiction collection; he's also a "doggedly curious fellow" and an amateur sleuth. So when a writer is murdered at the library, Ambler can't resist poking his nose into the matter. What he uncovers is past scandals and old rivalries, professional jealousy, greed, unexpected connections, murderous secrets and a growing list of suspects. Who knew the bookish world could be so dangerous?

What can I say? With a plot that includes two murdered writers, some clever librarians, one dedicated homicide detective, a couple of runaways, an all-knowing Irish bartender and a few surprises along the way, this is a winning mystery. I really liked Ambler and his fellow librarian and friend, Adele; they're both fun, engaging characters. The dialogue is great. And I loved the setting. This was a very entertaining find from the L shelf. I can't wait to read Lehane's next Raymond Ambler mystery.

Happy Reading!

P.S. If you do read this book, ignore the sentences that didn't make sense because they were missing a word, or had an extra word that didn't belong, or even had the wrong verb tense. Unfortunately, I noticed several mistakes like that as I read this book. Makes you really miss the days of editors.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Baby Doll

"I hadn't been ruined by the world yet. I was pure. Untouched....And I was all his. A girl who would never say no. I was the girl who obeyed his every request. I was his perfect, obedient baby doll."

Lily Riser and her identical twin sister, Abby, are inseparable. Even when they argue, which is quite often, they always make up. Until the day Lily doesn't come home from school. Abducted and held captive for eight years, Lily finally manages to escape her kidnapper and return home. Only she's not the same. She has a six-year-old daughter named Sky now; she also has scars and memories no young woman should have. But she's home with her mother. And with Abby.... Only they're not the same either.

Hollie Overton's Baby Doll has a lot of similarities to Emma Donoghue's Room, but the twin connection between Lily and Abby puts a unique spin on an otherwise familiar premise. The narration alternates between Lily, Abby, their mother, and Lily's abductor, but I actually didn't mind the alternating view points. In fact, the shorter chapters help keep the story moving at a pretty fast pace. Lily was my favorite character, and the majority of this book is her story. But how her abduction affected her twin sister adds an interesting layer. Some of Overton's choices at the end bugged me a little bit, but not enough to ruin the rest of the book. Overall, I enjoyed this psychological suspense novel; it's compelling without being dark or graphic, and it focuses on the characters and their efforts to keep moving forward with their lives rather than on what Lily endured at the hands of her captor, which I appreciated. I hope Overton writes many more.

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Loving Arches...

"Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit,
and as vital to our lives as water and good bread."
--Edward Abbey

Pine Tree Arch

I was only about six years old the first time I visited Arches National Park in southeastern Utah.  After far too many years away I finally went back last week with my sisters. And despite the cool temperatures and even colder wind, this place was even more amazing than I remembered.  Here are some of my favorite sights from my short spring break trip to one of the prettiest national parks in the United States.

Double Arch

These sandstone cliffs
burnished red by wind and time--
fragile bridges to the sky.

Delicate Arch

"Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear (but) the earth remains ... and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break. I sometimes choose to think that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun."
                                --Edward Abbey

And while I didn't see any new birds on my trip to add to my
life list, I did see quite a lot of ravens. They criss cross the skies
above the crowds and through the arches like we are merely
trespassers in their world of sun and rock and sky. I loved them.

Happy Dreaming!

Related reads:
     Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
     Arches National Park by Day & Night (photographs) by Grant Collier

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lovett's Latest:

10 Reasons to read The Lost Book of the Grail:
      *  A literary quest
      *  A lost manuscript
      *  An ancient secret
      *  A hidden treasure
      *  A mysterious saint
      *  Crypts and codes
      *  Humor
      *  Mystery
      *  Friendship
      *  And Romance!

Arthur Prescott, who loves books and all things King Arthur, teaches English at the University of Barchester, but he is happiest in the Barchester Cathedral Library with its ancient books and manuscripts. He hopes to solve the mystery of Saint Ewolda, and maybe find the Holy Grail, too, which he believes is hidden somewhere in the Barchester Cathedral. Then Bethany Davis, a younger American woman, shows up at Barchester in order to digitize the library's manuscripts and turns Arthur's world upside down. Together they embark on a quest to find the lost Book of Ewolda, decipher the secrets it contains, and hopefully follow it to the Grail.

Charlie Lovett skillfully weaves together the present and the past in this engaging literary mystery. And he sets it all in Anthony Trollope's Barchester, which makes it even better. I love the way Lovett writes. And I really liked Arthur and Bethany--the sparks between them, their disagreements and witty banter, and the way they worked together to unlock the secrets of Barchester Cathedral. And though it never upstages the mystery, I liked their romance, too. The Lost Book of the Grail is a very enjoyable read....though I think I still like Lovett's previous books just a little bit better. But that's only because they are ALL so good.

Happy Reading!

Previous novels by Charlie Lovett:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Piece of the World

I love when fiction and art combine. Andrew Wyeth is one of my favorite American artists, and Christina's World is one of his most recognizable paintings. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline is the fictionalized story of Christina Olson, the woman who inspired the painting. She and Andy Wyeth met one summer in Maine. He was a young man soon to be married; she was a middle-aged spinster. And yet, as Wyeth himself said, when they met "there was a very strange connection. One of those odd collisions that happen." Their quiet friendship deepened over the years as Wyeth studied and sketched her house and the fields around it; he even took over one of her upstairs rooms from which he worked and painted every summer for twenty years. But this book is not about Wyeth. It's about Christina:  her childhood, her physical infirmity, her family, and her hopes and disappointments. It's a lyrical and fascinating portrait of the unassuming woman who inspired a masterpiece. This is an amazing read, so beautifully written, and interesting, and quietly compelling. I loved it. A Piece of the World is historical fiction at its best.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Short Poems I Love...

      Between the moon coming out
      And the sun going in, --
      the red dragonflies.

The Coyote in the Zoo
by William Stafford

A yellow eye meets mine;
I suddenly know, too late,
the land outside belongs
to the one that looks away.

     I felt like kissing swords                                   
     because their glimmer                            
     reminded me of your smile.           
 --Antara  (Pre-Islamic Knight Poet)

by William Stafford

They operate from elsewhere,
Some hall in the mountains--
quick visit, gone.
Specialists on branch ends,
Craft union. I like their
clean little coveralls.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Girl Without a Name

We call her Jane, because she can't tell us her name. Can't or won't, I'm not sure. She lies in a hospital bed, a strangely old expression upon her teenaged face. We don't know her age either .... Jane Doe is our mystery.

Doing her rotation in the children's psych ward, Dr. Zoe Goldman does everything she can think of to bring Jane Doe out of her catatonia and help her regain her memory. But Jane's progress seems to be one step forward, two steps back. Then there are Zoe's own problems:  the recent death of her mother, her ADHD, and her current probationary status with the hospital. And while Dr. Berringer, her attending, seems supportive, Zoe suspects that he's hiding a serious problem of his own. Plus, the detective on the case keeps telling Zoe to stay out of his investigation, but she just can't help looking for the truth about Jane Doe on her own.

This character-driven mystery by Sandra Block is her second with protagonist Zoe Goldman, her flawed and imperfect yet ultimately appealing and likeable heroine. (And you don't need to read the first one in order to enjoy this one; I didn't. Though reading any mystery series in order is probably best.) I liked that this story took place in the psych ward of a county hospital, and I thought Jane Doe's case was interesting. And while this book reads fast, I didn't find it super suspenseful. Still, I have to admit that I didn't see the ending coming. All in all, The Girl Without a Name is a fun read. I'll definitely be going back to read Little Black Lies, Block's first Zoe Goldman novel.

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 27, 2017

A fun fantasy...

Title & Author:  Nightlife by Rob Thurman
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Setting:  New York City
First lines:  Most kids don't believe in fairy tales very long. Once they hit six or seven they put away "Cinderella" and her shoe fetish, "The Three Little Pigs" with their violation of building codes, "Miss Muffet" and her well-shaped tuffet--all forgotten or discounted. And maybe that's the way it has to be. To survive in the world, you have to give up the fantasies, the make-believe. The only trouble is that it's not all make-believe. Some parts of the fairy tales are all too real, all too true. There might not be a Red Riding Hood, but there is a Big Bad Wolf. No Snow White, but definitely an Evil Queen. No obnoxiously cute blond tots, but a child-eating witch...yeah. Oh yeah.  There are monsters among us. There always have been and there always will be. I've known that ever since I can remember, just like I've always know I was one. Well, half of one anyway.

My thoughts:  Meet Caliban Leandros and his older, very protective, half-brother, Niko. For years they've stayed one step ahead of Cal's monstrous father and the other supernatural beings like him. But now the Grendels have caught up with Cal, setting a trap for him that he might not be able to escape. And suddenly the fate of the human world depends on whether or not Niko can win the fight of Cal's life.

Talk about a roller coaster ride of magic and mayhem! This book is a lot of fun. Mostly because of the relationship between Cal and his brother, Niko, and also because of Cal's smart-ass attitude. They're quite a pair; they reminded me a little of Sam and Dean Winchester from Supernatural. But they're not all Nightlife has to offer. There's also a seventeen-year-old psychic, a puckish fellow named Robin, and a grundle of Grendels. Thurman's created a memorable cast of characters in this very entertaining and fast-paced fantasy. I can't wait to check out the sequel.

Happy Reading!

Similar books:
    Charming by Elliott James
    Something From the Nightside by Simon R. Green
    Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Friday, March 24, 2017

A bookish update...

Just finished reading:

(I loved this book! Set in Salem, Massachusetts, this mystery dealing with witches and three murders in the more recent past is every bit as good as Barry's The Lace Reader.)

Just checked out of the library:
The Girl Without a Name by Sandra Block
Moonshine by Rob Thurman
Indiscretion by Jude Morgan
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
Where Angels Rest by Kate Brady

Love this quote:
"It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents."

Love this bookish tee:

And also this one:

Am looking forward to:  
My upcoming spring break and being able to spend a few days
 in Arches National Park with my sisters. Gotta love those red rocks, blue sky and sunshine!

Up next:

Happy Reading!

P.S. You can find the above tees at this website along with several other fun bookish gift ideas.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Language of Sand

"We was a term she hadn't uttered in a while. For Abigail, there was no more we. To her, we meant her family, her husband and son. Her main frame of reference was as we:  We bought a new house. We're having a baby. We're going out to eat. Now all that remained was I. It was the second of only two one-letter words in the entire dictionary, the first being A. Each was defiantly singular. The language would be nothing without them. Abigail felt she was nothing without we. She missed we." 

When life as she knows it ends one night in heartbreaking tragedy, Abigail Harker seeks refuge at the lighthouse on Chapel Isle, a secluded island in North Carolina's Outer Banks. It was where her husband loved to go as a boy. Where she hopes to be able to grieve in peace. But the caretaker's cottage isn't exactly the haven she thought it would be:  it's isolated and rundown, very rundown, and it's also apparently haunted by Wesley Jasper, the former lighthouse keeper who experienced his own tragedy in 1902. And while many of the islanders are friendly and welcoming, some are not. And the words that Abby once loved as a lexicographer seem to have failed her. For there are no words to deal with her loss. Still, she's doing her best to keep moving forward. But then there's a rash of robberies on the island. And an approaching hurricane. And Abby begins to think coming to Chapel Isle might not have been such a good idea after all.
"Whether you stay here in Chapel Isle or take the next ferry home, it won't make a bit of difference. It's like trying to serve two masters. You've got the grief and you've got your life. The one you choose to serve is up to you."
 I loved this book:  the lyrical writing, the exploration of words and language, the quirky cast of island characters, and Abby's own reinvention of her life. Ellen Block is an amazing writer, and The Language of Sand is a magical story full of hope and heart. There's nothing I would change about it. Best of all, there's a sequel:  The Definition of Wind. 

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bookish Art for March...

Lovis Corinth -- Girl Reading, 1888
I love books. I love that moment when you open one and sink into it;
you can escape from the world into a story that's way more 
interesting than yours will ever be.
--Elizabeth Scott

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A bookish confession...

I love disaster/survival books, both fiction and non-fiction. Reading about how ordinary people manage to survive in impossible situations from plane crashes to blizzards to massive power outtages has always fascinated me. Each story makes me wonder if I'd be able to survive something similar, and how I would go about doing it. So when I saw Jim Cobb's book Prepper's Survival Hacks:  50 DIY Projects for Lifesaving Gear, Gadgets and Kits at the library, I couldn't resist checking it out. And it's awesome!

Did you know a child's crayon can be used as a candle? Or that with a little Vaseline and some cotton balls you can make your own firestarters? Or did you know you can build a buddy burner out of some corrugated cardboard, melted wax and an empty tuna fish can? There are SO many cool DIY projects in this book; I want to try them all! I've been working on my own personal Bug Out Bag all week (which is just your basic 72-hour emergency kit packed in a backpack), and I think this weekend I might  try turning an empty Altoids tin into a candle. Or maybe my own small survival kit. So if you're secretly a prepper at heart like me, give this little book a read.

"Fair warning, though:  Not only can this stuff be fun, 
it can be downright addicting."

Happy Prepping!

Some of my favorite survival stories:
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
One Second After by William Forstchen
Stranded by Melinda Braun
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Trapped by Michael Northrup
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mist of Midnight

"All the while, someone here in England had also
claimed to be Rebecca Ravenshaw."

I love a good Gothic mystery,  especially when it has a touch of romance in it.  The plot of this one revolves around Rebecca Ravenshaw, a daughter of missionaries who was raised in India. Newly orphaned, she's just returned to her family's estate in England only to discover that there was another young woman claiming to be Rebecca Ravenshaw who arrived there before her. A young woman who subsequently died at Headbourne House and was hastily buried at midnight. Now everyone at Headbourne suspects that the real Rebecca is an imposter. And there's no one to verify her claim. Only a distant relative, Captain Luke Whitfield, who's handsome and charming, but not necessarily trustworthy; after all, he stands to inherit her estate if she can't prove she is the real Rebecca Ravenshaw. And if she does, will her fate be the same as the imposter's?

My thoughts:  I had a lot of sympathy for Rebecca's plight. Aside from Mrs. Ross, Rebecca's elderly chaperone (and Rebecca herself, of course), I didn't feel like I could trust any of the other characters in this book. Not even Capt. Whitfield. Which definitely added to the tension surrounding Rebecca's situation. I especially didn't like her French maid. And no one in the household ever seemed willing to tell her the whole truth about the imposter and what happened to her. Rebecca herself had a lot of pluck; I liked that she never lost her head even while she was losing her heart.  My only complaint is that this story didn't read as fast as I think a Gothic mystery should; in fact, there were times that it dragged a bit, but maybe that's just because I was so impatient for everything to be resolved one way or another. Towards the end, this book felt more like a Gothic romance than a suspenseful Gothic mystery, but overall, I ended up really enjoying Sandra Byrd's Mist of Midnight. 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bookish Gold...

Looking for some bookish gold? 
Try one (or more!) of these eight "gilded" reads:

1. The Gilded Lily by Helen Argers
(Think Edith Wharton but with a happier ending!)

2. A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont
(This is a very fun mystery set among the moneyed elite of Newport, Rhode Island.)

3. The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray
(Set in 1871, this YA gothic revolves around two American siblings 
and the grand estate they unexpectedly inherit in England.)

4.  The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
(Anita Hemmings must pass as white in order to attend Vassar College
in this well-researched historical fiction novel.)

5.  The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey
(This is the first book in Bailey's 'Lady Fan' mystery series.)

6.  In a Gilded Cage by Rhys Bowen
(Spunky Molly Murphy is back to solve another mystery.)

7.  Gilded by Christina Farley
(This YA fantasy is set in modern-day South Korea and has 
an engaging heroine named Jae Hwa Lee.)

8.  The Gilded Age by Mark Twain
(No one makes fun of America and Americans like Twain!)

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Reading Barbara Pym

Whenever I try to describe the plot of a Barbara Pym novel it never sounds like much. For example, Less Than Angels is about a group of anthropologists living and studying in London. There's Deirdre Swan, a first year student, Mark and Digby, two grad students hoping to get field grants, and Tom Mallow, the handsome one who's just returned from a two-year stint in Africa. And I mustn't forget Alaric Lydgate, also back from Africa, recently retired from the Colonial Service because of ill-health, and living next door to Deidre.  Tom lives with Catherine Oliphant, a writer, and is working on his thesis. Then he meets Deirdre. Who meets Catherine. Who meets Alaric. And none of them are ever the same again.

See? It doesn't sound like much, does it? But somehow, with her wit, charm, and keen insight into human nature, Pym can take the simplest of plots and turn it into a delightful story that sings. Less Than Angels is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed this "simple" novel. But the best way to appreciate Pym's genius is to experience her writing and wit for yourself. So here are a few of my favorite Pym-isms:
"She sometimes felt, as she climbed the worn linoleum-covered stairs, that she was worthy of a more gracious setting, but then there are few of us who do not occasionally set a higher value on ourselves than Fate has done." 
"There are few experiences more boring and painful for a woman than an evening spent in the company of one man when she is longing to be with another."
"Deirdre, like Tom, was tired after the long walk and was glad when the time came to go to bed and dream about him. But dreams can seldom be arranged as we wish them, and Deirdre's were of Digby Fox, of all people." 
"The day was coming to its end, and although it had been tiring and upsetting it had at least been full and that, she supposed, was all to the good. Pain, amusement, surprise, resignation, were all woven together into a kind of fabric whose colour and texture she could hardly visualize as yet."
 Happy Reading!

Bookish bonus:  Since I pulled this book off my TBR shelf I get to count it as one of the ten books I'm reading for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge.
Books read so far:  3.  Still to go:  7.

Other Pym posts:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

A bookish journey to Zimbabwe...

Title & Author:  The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
First line:  I knew there was something not quite right about Dumi the very first time I ever laid eyes on him.

Summary:  Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Harare and all her customers know it. Then handsome, smooth-talking Dumisani comes along and dethrones her. "To be dispensable is a woman's worst nightmare and I was beginning to live it."  Despite her jealousy, Vimbai can't help liking Dumi. She even offers to rent him a room in her house. And for awhile, she thinks their friendship might become something more, until she discovers the secret he's been keeping. "I shall regret the next thing I did for as long as I live."

My thoughts:  What I loved about this novel is how Huchu so deftly intertwines Vimbai's story with that of Zimbabwe's. Not only do you get to know these unique characters, but you get a taste of Zimbabwe, too--its language, customs, culture, problems and political woes. I thought it was interesting how so many of the characters in this novel were still influenced by the English even though they'd won their independence from Britain years earlier. Huchu doesn't dwell on the past, but the past influences these characters' lives in many ways.  There isn't a happy ending for anyone in this book, but it is so worth reading. Vimbai and Dumisani are two characters who will stay with me for quite some time.

Title & Author:  The Last Resort: A Memoir of Zimbabwe by Douglas Rogers
First line:  I was five thousand miles away, drunk and happily unaware at a friend's birthday party in Berlin, when I learned that the first white farmer had been murdered.

Summary & thoughts:  This well-written memoir explores the other side of Zimbabwe's complicated history--that of the white farmers. Rogers focuses on two of them: his stubbornly independent and resilient parents. Born in Africa, they weathered Zimbabwe's War of Independence, raised their children, built up a successful tourist lodge in the hills above Mutare, only to see it all threatened by Robert Mugabe's second land grab in the early 2000s.  Rogers meets former soldiers and young guerillas, black farmers, members of the MDC party campaigning against Mugabe, old friends, and of course, other white farmers who have lost their homes and farms and are just struggling to survive.  What comes through most of all in this humorous yet poignant memoir is how much all of these people love their homeland.
" first love is Zimbabwe. This is where my heart is, this is where my blood is, this is where my roots are, this is where my children were born. My Zimbabwe..."
 This is an incredible story, and reading it right after reading The Hairdresser of Harare made it even more meaningful. Both of these books are amazing, and read together offer quite a picture of this complicated land.

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Coming Attractions...

Some of my favorite authors have new books coming out this year and I'm very excited!
 It all starts tomorrow with Charlie Lovett's newest:

Then, on March 7th, comes the next Mercy Thompson novel by Patricia Briggs:

And in April there are new releases coming from both C.S. Harris and Elliott James:

Sadly, I have to wait until September before the newest suspense/thriller from Sharon Bolton hits bookstores here in the U.S.A., but I'm definitely looking forward to reading this one, too:

Now if only they would set a release date for Simone St. James' next novel life would be perfect! So, what coming bookish attractions are you looking forward to in 2017?

Happy Reading!