Friday, August 18, 2017

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

How it begins:
"In the sun-warmed quiet of her uncle's library, Lady Helen Wrexhall spread the skirt of her muslin morning gown and sank into the deep curtsy required for Royal presentation:  back held straight, head slightly bowed, left knee bent so low, it nearly touched the floor. And, of course, face set into a serene Court smile."
But 18-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is not your typical debutante. She has hidden gifts and intuitive powers that other young ladies don't have.  Gifts she inherited from her mother...who died in disgrace ten years ago. 
"...reading expressions was her one true accomplishment. When she concentrated properly on a face, her accuracy was startling and a little disturbing. It certainly made her aunt and uncle uneasy, and they had forbidden her to voice her observations about anyone...Girls were meant to paint screens and play pianoforte, not see through the masks of polite society."
Then there's Lord Carlston, who knew her mother and who seems to know more about Helen than he should. And Helen doesn't know if she can trust him.  Her brother certainly doesn't.
"Lord Carlston was handsome, Helen conceded...and the brown of his eyes was so dark that it merged with the black pupil, making their expression impenetrable. It was very disconcerting and gave him a flat look of soullessness .... Helen dipped into her curtsy but did not lower her eyes as modesty decreed, instead, studying Lord Carlston as he bowed. He was studying her just as closely, his gaze far too penetrating for politeness."
Lord Carlston shows Helen abilities she never knew she possessed. And he tells her why she has them. That it has to do with demons and darkness and saving the world.  That Helen is a Reclaimer. It's an inheritance Helen isn't sure she wants. And the story continues from there--an entertaining and fun (although rather long) supernatural adventure set in the Regency era. (And this story is followed by two more books; The Dark Days Club is book one of a trilogy!)

 Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bookish Suspense...

Julie is only 13 years old when she is abducted from her bedroom in the middle of the night in Amy Gentry's Good As Gone.  Eight long years later, she comes home. Anna, her mother, can't believe it. Having Julie back is the happy ending she never let herself hope for, or even imagine. Finally, their family is whole again.  But then Anna catches Julie in a lie. And a former detective investigating the case questions Julie's story and her identity.  Bones of a young girl are found that fit the timeline of when Julie first disappeared.  And Anna begins to wonder if the young woman claiming to be Julie is her daughter after all.

Sounds like the plot of a typical psychological suspense novel, with all the obligatory twists and turns, doesn't it?  But wow, is Good As Gone so much more than that. I started reading it after dinner one night and I could not put it down. The unique way Amy Gentry chose to tell this story is so compelling and intriguing it completely sucked me in...and it made me want to go back and read it all over again from the start when I was done. And I was not expecting that from this book! I love it when a book exceeds your expectations. And this one definitely exceeded mine. I wish I could be more specific as to why, but I don't want to risk giving anything away. It's too good to spoil. So I'll just say...
BBC series: Thirteen

Happy Reading!

But if you like the sound of this one, then you might also like these:

Baby Doll

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August's Bookish Art...

Walter Launt Palmer -- Afternoon in the Hammock, 1882
"A book is a dream that you hold in your hand."
--Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Lying Game

"It's not a game," she said. "It's the game. It's the Lying Game."

It began seventeen years ago at Salten House, a boarding school in Southern England.
It began with four teen-age friends:  Kate, Thea, Fatima, and Isa.
There were four basic rules:  Tell a lie, Stick to your story, Never get caught, and Never lie to each other.
It didn't end well.

With a career and a new baby, Isa Wilde hasn't thought about the Game or those days at Salten House in years. Then she gets a text from Kate saying:  I need you. And she has to go back. They all do. And while Isa is glad to see her old friends, it's not exactly a happy reunion for any of them. Because the past they thought they'd buried, and all their old secrets and lies, are starting to come to light.
They are here: Luc, Ambrose, and not just them, but ourselves, the ghosts of our past, the slim laughing girls we used to be before that summer ended with a cataclysmic crash, leaving us all scarred in our own ways, trying to move on, lying not for fun, but to survive.
This is not exactly a fast-paced page turner, but I didn't mind the unhurried way this mystery unfolds. It takes its time, but I never felt that it dragged. I was too caught up in the story of these four girls. Isa's narrative flows effortlessly between her memories of her year at Salten House with Fatima, Thea and Kate, and what's happening now with Kate and what's been uncovered. And since I'm a sucker for boarding school novels, I have to admit I liked all those bits set in the past with this quartet of imperfect girls and their unbroken bond of friendship. The rest of the plot kept me guessing as to who was behind what and where the truth actually lay. And I did not see that ending coming! Not having read either of Ware's other novels, I don't know how this one compares, I just know that I liked it. What made it even more fun was reading it with Melody. Make sure you go to her blog and check out her awesome review of this book.

Happy Reading!

Similar read:         
The Lake of Dead Languages
by Carol Goodman
P.S.  Melody had a few questions for me after we finished reading this book; here they are along with my answers:

Q. How do you feel about our four characters--Kate, Isa, Thea and Fatima?
A.  I liked all four of the girls, though I didn't agree with the choices and decisions they made. I had the most sympathy for Kate, even when I found her close-mouthed and frustrating; Fatima and Isa were the most likeable and the two I'd probably get along with the best; and beautiful, prickly Thea was the biggest mystery. I found myself really wanting to know more about her.

Q.  Since this is your first Ruth Ware book, how do you find it and do you like the story?
A. This book is good, although not nearly as suspenseful as I thought it would be. Still, I really like the way Ware writes and I can't wait to try her other books.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A little bookish serendipity....

Inspired by an episode of Friends, Amal, an Australian-Palestinian-Muslim teen-age girl, makes the hard decision to start wearing her hijab full-time. She views the headscarf as a visible badge of her faith. But she's also worried about how everyone else is going to react. Her parents are naturally concerned, but very supportive; the principal of her high school is much less so. At least she can count on her closest friends. But what will Adam think of her new look? Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah is an honest and humorous account of one Muslim girl's journey through life as she navigates school, friendship, love, family and faith.
"All this time I've been walking around thinking I've become pious because I've made the difficult decision to wear the hijab. I've been assuming that now that I'm wearing it full-time, I've earned all my brownie points. But what's the good of being true to your religion on the outside, if you don't change what's on the inside, where it really counts? ... I've been kidding myself. Putting on the hijab isn't the end of the journey. It's just the beginning of it."
Amal is a charming character. She has all the normal teen worries, along with a few extra hijab-inspired ones. And this book gives you a view of Islam from the inside out. It's insightful and entertaining and I liked it a lot. Best of all, I got my copy for a quarter from my library's discarded books sale. Don't you just love  bookish bargains? So, here's to serendipitous library finds that lead to such interesting and enjoyable reads.  I bought another discarded library book the same day I got this one; I hope it's just as good. The cover and title certainly sound like fun:

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A bit of randomness

So, I didn't feel like reviewing The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari, not because it wasn't good...because it was...but because I didn't feel like trying to sum up such a complicated suspense novel in two paragraphs. So I'll just say that I ended up liking it a lot, and plan on reading more of his books. And I highly recommend checking him out.

But that left me without a post for today.

So, I decided to throw together a few random bits that will hopefully make you smile like they did me.  Enjoy!

I feel like this sometimes!
Don't you?

Besides, who wouldn't trade a bunch of boring adult responsibilities for a beach like that!

I also like this "adulting" quote:

This one made me laugh.
Because haven't we all been there?

Or felt this way, too:

Hmm.  Seems I have a theme going here.

But just to keep this post as random as its title suggests, I'll end with something completely different, something even more random. It's a magnet I have on my refrigerator. And I really love it:

Isn't that great?

I'll get back to reviewing books in my next post.  Until then...
Happy Reading!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Another magical read from the K shelf...

Title:  The Mark of the Tala
Author:  Jeffe Kennedy
Genre:  Fantasy

First line:  My version of the story goes all the way back to the once upon a time with the three princesses, each more beautiful than the last. That's me, there, in the middle.

Summary:  Born the middle sister, Princess Andromeda is neither her father's favorite, nor the most beautiful. For the most part, she is invisible. And she likes it that way. But then one day, while out riding, she meets Rayfe, leader of the shape-shifting Tala, who claims she is destined to be his queen. He believes she is the key to saving his homeland of Annfwn. It seems her mother, who died when she was five, was one of the Tala, too. Not that Andi knows anything about them, or their magic. To make matters worse, her father, High King Uorsin, has declared the Tala his enemy and is determined to prevent Andi from fulfilling her destiny. In reality, he wants the fabled Annfwn for himself. Which leaves Princess Andromeda caught in the middle once more.

My thoughts:  This is a fun read. It's not too long or overly complicated. And the three sisters are an interesting study in contrasts, although this is mostly Andi's story. I ended up liking Rayfe a lot, with his dark intensity and ability to shift into the shape of a wolf or raven. He and Andromeda make a great pair. And the Tala magic is cool, though I wish there were more of it in the book. There are a couple of fairly graphic sex scenes, so be warned if that's not your thing. All in all, I'm glad I found this fantasy on the K shelf; and even though I probably won't be reading the next two books that follow it (which are about Amelia and Ursula, Andi's sisters), I enjoyed reading this one.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     Uprooted by Naomi Novik
     The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
     On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Widow's House

"The reason you can't live in Riven House is because it's haunted. Why do you think I moved out? It was sucking the life force out of me. It's an unhappy place. There's a spirit there that begrudges the living their happiness. It will tear you and Jess apart. It will tear you apart."

The Hudson River Valley is where Clare Martin grew up, where she went to college, and where she met her husband, Jess. After years away, she and Jess have returned hoping that Jess will finally be able to finish his second novel here. And maybe that Clare will be inspired to start writing again, too. They move into the caretaker's cottage at Riven House, the crumbling estate of their old writing professor. But the history and haunting atmosphere of Riven House soon has Clare questioning the past, her marriage to Jess, and even her own sanity.

I loved all the Gothic elements of this Carol Goodman novel. It's part ghost story, part psychological suspense, and a very entertaining read. From the strange figure Clare keeps glimpsing in the fog, to the unexplained cries of a baby she hears late at night, Goodman really knows how to build tension. And then there's those unexpected twists at the end! I couldn't read this book fast enough. So, if you love an intense Gothic mystery, give this one a try.

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 24, 2017

A bookish update...

Indian paintbrush at Albion Basin:

(These are some of my favorite wildflowers!)

My next stack of library books:
The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths
Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies
Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
The Dragon's Price by Bethany Wiggins
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

Two Views of Cecret of my summer hikes:

(Yep, that white stuff is snow in July!)

Words for thought:
"Life is what you choose to emphasize."
--Elliott James, Legend Has It

Looking forward to:

Melody and I will be reading this one together the first week in August...
watch for our reviews!

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 21, 2017

A fun summer read...

Things to know:

  • The Mermaid Collector takes place in Cradle Harbor, Maine, where there's a famous lighthouse, a coveted lighthouse keeper's house, and an annual summer Mermaid Festival.
  • Part of the story takes place in the past, back in 1887 when the Mermaid legend first begins.
  • It's a story about relationships:  those between a mother and daughter (Ruby and Tess), between two brothers (Tom and Dean Grace), between a lighthouse keeper and his young wife (Linus and Lydia), between Tom Grace and the man who accidentally caused the death of his parents years ago, between Tess and her stepfather, Buzz, and between Tom and Tess, who meet for the first time at the beginning of this novel and unexpectedly fall in love.
  • With lighthouses and mermaids (though not as much about the mermaids as I was expecting or hoping for), past regrets, second chances, a few secrets, a bit of mystery, family, friendship, and romance, The Mermaid Collector is an enjoyable summer read, but without a lot of depth. Don't get me wrong... I liked this one; I just don't know that I'll remember it a few months from now.
  • It's written by Erika Marks and is just 366 pages long.

Happy Summer Reading!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

From my TBR shelf...

I bought Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas for two reasons:  I really like her Commissaire Adamsberg mysteries, and my library didn't own a copy. Plus, I found a really cheap used copy from Powells. But I don't know why I then let it languish on my shelf for years, without once picking it up to read. And I mostly picked it up now because it fulfills one of my Backlist Reader Challenge reads. But also because I really do like the way Fred Vargas writes. Especially when she's writing about Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg.

Adamsberg is the head of the Serious Crime Squad in Paris. But he's not your typical police officer. He gives off a "dreamy indifference" when he's solving a case that sometimes drives the other members of his squad crazy. At the same time, he makes these intuitive leaps and notices these unexpected connections that no one else ever sees. His unique talent means he solves a lot of cases...and it also makes for some very offbeat and imaginative mysteries. I like them a lot.

In this one, Adamsberg is chasing a murderer he once dubbed The Trident.  "The murderer who always escaped, and who, thirty years earlier, had thrown his life off course ... no other living being had caused him more pain and dread, distress and fury than this man." Now there's a new murder and Adamsberg is convinced that The Trident is back. There's just one problem. The man Adamsberg knew as The Trident died sixteen years ago.  Adamsberg even went to his funeral. It's a definite complication...and not the only complication Commissaire Adamsberg encounters in this compelling mystery. I shouldn't have waited so long to read this one.  Then again, it was definitely worth the wait.

Happy Reading!

My other favorite Commissaire Adamsberg mysteries:
     An Uncertain Place
     The Chalk Circle Man
     Seeking Whom He May Devour

Saturday, July 15, 2017

July's Bookish Art...

James Tissot -- Stillness
"...the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do."
--Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Still loving these series...

A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber

Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage have another puzzling mystery to solve in this third installment in Huber's Lady Darby series. This particular mystery involves three disturbed graves, different sets of stolen bones being held for ransom, and murder. And once again Kiera and Sebastian are partners in solving crime. I really enjoy these books; they're always interesting and entertaining. And they're set in Scotland. But what I like best is the romantic relationship between Kiera and Gage (which progresses nicely in this book). The two of them together make me smile. I can't wait to read the fourth book in this fun series.

Deathwish by Rob Thurman

This is the fourth book in Thurman's Cal Leandros series, and once again Cal and his brother, Niko, are in over their heads:  the monstrous Auphe are back, determined to kill Niko and claim Cal as one of their own, the vampire they were hired to help ends up dead, and there's a new bad guy in town. Cal's not sure they're going to survive this time. Luckily, "the Leandros brothers had turned survival into an art form like nobody else ever had."
What I like about this urban fantasy series is all the magic and supernatural suspense, but what I love about these books is the relationship between Cal and Nik. These two brothers--their friendship, loyalty and love for one another--is the heart and soul of these books. And why I keep reading them.

Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson

Wow. I just counted them all up and this is the 20th book in Thompson's Gaslight Mystery series. And the fact that I've read all twenty should tell you how much I like them. And it's not just because Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy are such appealing characters, it's also because, with every mystery that she writes, Thompson gives me another interesting glimpse into New York City's gilded past. This one's all about the newsies, who are on strike, orphan trains, and a missing society girl who went slumming in the Bowery. And I enjoyed it as much as the 19 books that came before it.

So, there you have it. Three great books from three great series, each worth reading. But, as in all series, it's best to start with the first ones:  The Anatomist's WifeNightlife, and Murder on Astor Place.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

From the K Shelf...

Author:  A. R. Kahler
Title:  The Immortal Circus

The Cirque des Immortels is not like other circuses. Not only do the performers in this circus have some strange and unusual talents, they've also all signed binding contracts that guarantee them immortality. But then their ring master is Mab, Queen of the Winter Court. Only being Mab, she has her own deep and dark reasons for every contract she signs; and she's not giving away any of her secrets. Especially when it comes to Vivienne Warfield, the newest member of the troupe. Vivienne can't quite remember what she was trying to escape from when she joined the Cirque des Immortels, nor does she seem to have any magical talent of her own. So what does Mab see in her? And more worrying, what does Mab want from her?  Oddly, Vivienne doesn't seem too concerned about it. Until one of the other circus performers ends up dead--murdered by an unknown hand. But how is that even possible? Mab's contract is supposed to protect them. So, was this an inside job? Or is there some outside enemy threatening them all?

Twisted, dark, mysterious and magical all aptly describe The Immortal Circus.  In a way, this book reminds me of Christina Henry's Alice. And despite it's darker moments, I ended up really liking it. Vivienne is one of those fiesty heroines that you find yourself rooting for; I also really liked Kingston, the magician she has a crush on.  The rest of her new circus family are all pretty unique and memorable, especially the scary ones like Mab...and Lilith. Talk about an intense roller coaster ride. This one's a fun one! I can't wait to find out what happens to Vivienne and Mab's immortal circus in the next book in this fantastic trilogy.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

10 Books I Wish my Library had...

Because I saw them on blog posts and on Goodreads and they look good. And I really want to read them.

The suspenseful ones:

The ghostly ones:

                 The (f)undead ones:
The apocalyptic "try to survive this" dsytopian future ones:

And one unique roadtrip read:

Now if only my library would pony up and purchase them first. Because
 I don't want to have to buy all these books; I just want to read them!

Happy Reading!

The wishlist of titles (if the images in this post don't appear for some reason):
Broken Dolls by James Carol
Number Seventy-Five by Ashley Fontainne
Black In White by J.C. Andrijeski
The Ghost Hunter by Neil Spring
The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor
The Undead World of Oz by Ryan C. Thomas
The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn
Outage by Ellissa Barr
Kumquat by Jeff Strand

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Great July Read...

The Declaration of Independence was the promise;
The Constitution was the fulfillment.

The Constitutional Convention took place in Philadelphia in 1787. Over the course of that summer, 55 men from 12 states worked to create the Constitution of the United States of America. (Rhode Island did not participate.) The rooms where they met were hot and stifling, secrecy was paramount, and they didn't always agree.
"When a broad table is to be made, and the edges of the planks do not fit, the artist takes a little from both, and makes a good joint. In like manner here both sides must part with some of their demands in order that they may join in some accommodating  proportion."                      --Benjamin Franklin
George Washington acted as President of the Convention and oversaw the process; Benjamin Franklin and James Madison were two of the delegates. Who were the rest? Plain, Honest Men. And Richard Beeman tells their story in this amazing account of the birth of our constitution. I loved this book. And I have great respect for all of these men. This is a moment in our country's history that should not be forgotten.

At the conclusion of the Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked,
"What have you wrought?" He answered, "...a Republic, if you can keep it."

Other great July reads:

Happy Reading!
And Happy 4th of July!!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

More bookish suspense...

Title:  The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea
First line:  Darkness had forever been part of her life.
Similar read:  The Never List by Koethi Zan

The Plot:  Two girls go missing, both abducted in the summer of 2016:  Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald. Only Megan comes back.  One year later, they still don't know where Nicole is. Nicole's older sister, Livia, is studying forensic pathology in the hopes of one day figuring out what happened to her sister. But then the body of the man her sister had been dating that last summer shows up in Livia's morgue. It appears he was murdered around the same time her sister went missing. So what happened to him? And what does Megan know that she's not telling? And, most importantly, where is Nicole? Livia can't help digging for  the truth.

The Verdict:  This mystery unfolds in two ways:  through Livia's and Megan's POVs and their actions in the present, and through Nicole's own story in the weeks leading up to her abduction. I don't always love narratives that alternate between the past and the present, but it works here. Each piece of Nicole's story added to the mystery of her disappearance and kept the suspense building which was a nice contrast to Livia's more methodical forensic side of the investigation. And the more I read, the more intense the mystery got. These two sisters could not be more different. Then there's Megan who keeps trying to remember details from her abduction; as she gets closer and closer to the truth the tension really begins to mount. Kudos to Charlie Donlea. The Girl Who Was Taken is an engrossing mystery with several good twists and turns that really kept me guessing. I liked it a lot.

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 26, 2017

A bookish melody...

The book:  The Ballroom by Anna Hope
The setting:  Sharston Asylum, England, 1911
The main characters: 

     1. Ella Fay, a mill girl, newly arrived
"Was she mad, then, for breaking a window? Mad for kicking and biting those men? Was that all it took? ... She felt a power in her then. The same feeling she'd had in the mill, but now it took root, lifting her spine. It was dark, she was alone, but her blood was beating; she was alive. She would study it, this place, this asylum. Hide inside herself. She would seem to be good. And then she would escape. Properly, this time. A way they wouldn't expect. And she would never go back."
     2. John Mulligan, Irish, one of Sharston's "chronic" patients
"(John) did not want to sleep. Knew what was waiting for him there:  a woman and a child. Dan's stories did not frighten him; neither did Brandt and his threats. It was what was inside him that did .... he thought of where he was. And how long he had been there. And what was simple broke apart and became a shattered, sharded thing."
     3. Dr. Charles Fuller, a young doctor and musician
"Charles was content. He had escaped his family. Wrested the rudder of his life from his father's hands. And now here he was, five years later, first assistant medical officer, with a salary of five pounds a week, and a newly appointed bandmaster and head of music. It had been his first action in his new post to institute a program of pianism in the day rooms:  an hour a week in each, carried out by himself. He believed he was already seeing a positive effect among the patients. He had great plans for the orchestra, too; under his care he was determined to see the ballroom thrill and live as never before."
The verdict:  This is a book that should be savored, not merely read. Anna Hope's writing is magical, and I love the way she lets Ella's and John's story slowly unfold over the course of this novel. Their relationship is sweet and poignant, especially considering they're locked up in an asylum for lunatics, (although they both seemed sane to me). Besides examining human nature at close range, this book also delves into the disturbing idea of eugenics which seemed to be a popular scientific theory in 1911. The Ballroom also chronicles how those deemed mad were treated a hundred years ago. I found all the various aspects of this well-written novel entirely absorbing:  I rooted for the characters, took umbrage at their treatment, and hoped for a happy ending for all. If I were rating this book on Goodreads, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars. It's not exactly a light-hearted happy-go-lucky novel, but it is a compelling and moving one. And I'm very glad that I read it...and that I got to read it with Bettina.. Be sure to visit her blog and check out her awesome review. Then go check out this book.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Loving Summer...

While I love the splendors of spring and autumn, summer has always been my favorite time of year. When I was growing up, summer conjured up magical days of Popsicles (preferably banana), time with friends, sprinklers to run through on hot August days, swim lessons, bike rides, and playing games outside at night, with plenty of hours left over in which to daydream and read. Sometimes I miss those days. But summer still has a lot to love about it:
Bells Canyon

  • Finally packing away my winter coat and pulling out my flip-flops
  • Time off from work
  • Falling asleep to the sound of crickets chirping
  • The smell of rain on hot pavement
  • Hiking my favorite mountain trails
  • Photographing the wildflowers
  • Picking that first bowl of ripe strawberries from my garden
  • Black-chinned hummingbirds at my feeder
  • Tiger swallowtail butterflies in my lavender
    Tiger Swallowtail
  • Endless skies of blue
  • Celebrating Pioneer Day
  • Birdwatching along the river
  • Campfire S'mores
  • Sparklers on the 4th of July
  • Grilling burgers in the backyard
  • Reading outside in my favorite chair
  • Watching the sunset
  • Longer days and starry nights

What do you love about summer?
Hope you all have a great one!

Monday, June 19, 2017

A bookish journey to Egypt...

Chronicle of a Last Summer by Yasmine El Rashidi is the coming of age story of a young girl growing up in Cairo, Egypt, and also that of her family. Told over the course of three pivotal summers, it is also the story of Egypt's recent political turmoil and of this girl's and her family's struggle to survive all these changes. I found it to be a compelling story of love and loss--full of memories of the past and idealistic hopes for the future--and an unflinching look at the very real cost of freedom. El Rashidi's prose is spare, but so effective. I couldn't put this book down. It's a fascinating novel, and I learned a lot about life in Cairo and how Egypt's many revolutions have affected its citizens. It's a place I've always wanted to visit, and after reading this book, I almost feel like I have. Here are a few snippets to give you a taste of El Rashidi's writing:

"Grandmama said that to have a sip of the Nile is like drinking ancient magic. If you make a wish it comes true."
"The police would come sometimes and take things. They took the cart of the peanut seller on our street. They took the kiosk by the school that sold chocolates and Cleopatra cigarettes by the one. They took the man who worked for Uncle Mohsen. They also took the boy who cleaned cars at the garage next door. In the cartoon Abla Fatiha they told us that if we were naughty they would take us too." 
"Over lunch Dido says the only way our lives will change is if we demand it. People like our cousin in America are the reason we're in stagnation. Leaving is the greatest evil. Then silence."
"I think of Uncle, warning Dido and me that in life we have to assess things and always take a position. I wonder if my position is too often ambiguous...I think a lot about what it means to be a witness, the responsibility of it. I wonder about my writing, if fiction is a political statement or simply no position. Is the silence of objectivity and being an observer, witness, the same as complicity? This question occupies me...(Uncle) would tell me that to be a witness to history is a burden for the chosen."
Happy Reading!

Friday, June 16, 2017

June's Bookish Art...

Anselm Feuerbach -- Palo e Francesca

"...there's all heaven and earth in a book..."
--Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bookish suspense...

"I'm tired of collecting the dead."

Known as The Human Bloodhound, Magnus "Steps" Craig is part of the FBI's elite three-man Special Tracking Unit. He can find the lost and abducted. He can even find the dead. And he doesn't need physical clues or footprints in order to track them down; he can follow the essence they leave behind.
" special gift. I see the hidden; I see the shine, every touch, every footfall, every hand on a wall. Some might call it an aura, I just call it life energy; either way it leaves its soft glowing trace on everything we come in contact with... sometimes it's chartreuse, or muddy mauve, or flaming coral, or crimson baked-earth. Every shine is different and specific to a person..."
So when Steps stumbles across a distinctive black shine at his local mall, he quickly recognizes it as belonging to a killer he's seen before; a killer he's been trying to catch for ten years. Now he and his partner are not only on the trail of this elusive murderer from Step's past, the one they've dubbed "Leonardo", but they've got another serial killer to hunt down in the Pacific Northwest. This one has been abducting and killing young women with brunette hair and leaving a sad face behind at each scene as his calling card. And they've got to hurry before the Sad Face killer murders his latest victim, a young woman named Lauren whose shine is pure gold.  No wonder Steps can't sleep at night.

Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope is a crazy good mystery/thriller. I love Magnus "Steps" Craig; he's such an appealing character:  complicated, a bit haunted, smart, and funny. His secret tracking ability is pretty cool, too. And I really like his friendship with his partner, Special Agent Jimmy Donovan. They make a great team! Besides having great characters, this novel is also suspenseful, fast-paced, smart, well-written, and very entertaining. I was hooked from the first page to the last. I hope Kope hurries up and writes his next book about this unforgettable and completely awesome character because I already can't wait to read it.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna

The Main Ingredients:
        * Summertime, 1944, in Door County, Wisconsin
        * a cherry orchard in need of laborers
        * German prisoners of war
        the Christiansen family:  parents Thomas and Charlotte, their teen-age daughter, Kate, who wants to be a writer, and Ben, their son, who's fighting overseas in Italy
        * a lighthouse
        * a murder
        * lies and secrets
        * love and romance

My thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was the historical setting that first drew me to this novel, and spunky Kate--with her love of books and her desire to go to college--that kept me reading. (I liked her dad, too.) I had a much harder time sympathizing with, or even liking, her mother, Charlotte. What I enjoyed most was reading about Kate's adventures and newfound romance, but the book focused more on Charlotte and the family's struggles to keep their cherry orchard going and somehow survive the hard times at home caused by the War. Then, towards the end, the story takes a much darker turn than I was expecting. So I didn't end up loving this one, though I do think it's a pretty good historical fiction read, and certainly a memorable one.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Another bookish list...

I love books. And bookstores. I also love books about bookstores. And, as an unapologetic bookworm, I have to admit I even love reading books about books and reading. (Almost as much as I love bookish lists.) So in the interest of combining all these loves in one post, here's my list of 10 bookishly bookish reads:

The "bookstore" books:

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch
Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica Fox.
     (Which is not at all about rockets, but about love and romance and a bookstore in Scotland.)
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
     (This one takes place in Hay-on-Wye in Wales!)
The Yellow-Lighted Bookstore by Lewis Buzbee
Shelf Life by Suzanne Strempek Shea

All of the above titles are memoirs about books and bookstores...if you like that kind of thing. Which I do.

"I am the unique sum of
the books I have read.
I am my literary DNA."
--Susan Hill  
          The "Reading" Reads:

Howard's End is on the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home by Susan Hill
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Reading the OED by Ammon Shea
    (This crazy guy actually read the entire Oxford English Dictionary!)
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma
The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

"Is it wrong to prefer books to people? A book is
like a guest you have invited into your home, except
you don't have to play pictionary with it."     
--Andy Miller        

A bonus eleventh recommendation:

Happy Reading!