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!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A little bookish escapism...

Title:  Thirteen Days to Midnight 
Author:  Patrick Carman

First line (and a little bit more):  If you could have only one superpower, what would it be? People get that question all the time, but hardly anyone I've asked has a logical answer...The truth is that every power, no matter how amazing, is loaded with trouble of the worst kind.

Short Summary:  Indestructibility. That's the gift 15-year-old Jacob is given when he and his guardian are involved in a terrible car accident. Mr. Fielding dies, but Jacob escapes unscathed. Just like Houdini. And now Jacob can make others indestructible, least temporarily. But there are consequences. Not that Jacob, or his best friend, Milo, or Ophelia James, the beautiful new girl in school, can see those consequences when they first start experimenting with this new power. It's not until it's too late that they discover the ominous truth.

My thoughts:  I needed a little bookish escapism this week and Thirteen Days to Midnight provided a fun and entertaining break from reality. It's fast-paced and well-written, Jacob's a great narrator, and I thought the teens' predicament was unexpected and inventive. Best of all, this diverting YA find required nothing from me but to sit back and enjoy the ride, which made it the perfect summer read for me.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
     13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt
     Superpowers by David Schwartz

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

"I wasn't well and I felt fine. I breathed easily but far too quickly, my eyes were bright--too bright; I'd dispensed with the pills that slowed down my thoughts, but now they raced away out of control. I was living in strange days."
 Margot Lewis lives in Cambridge, England, and teaches the Classics at a posh high school; she also writes an advice column for the local newspaper. And despite a few breakdowns in the past and her upcoming divorce, life seems to be going well. Until Katie Browne, one of her students, disappears. Then Margot gets a letter addressed to her advice column from a girl named Bethan Avery who claims she's being held captive in a cellar and needs Margot to save her. But the real Bethan was abducted over twenty years ago. So is the letter real? Or a hoax? And is this letter somehow connected to Katie Browne? Margot feels driven to find out. (And so does charismatic criminologist Martin Forrester.) But the truth may be more than Margot can handle.

I really liked this book. In fact, I think it's the best psychological thriller I've read all year. It's gripping and unexpected and it has some great characters. Not only did I find it hard to put down, I was sorry when it came to an end. Dear Amy reminds me a lot of two other favorite reads:  Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton and The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. So if you like either of those, I think you'll really like this one, too. I know I did.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 29, 2017

A bookish update...

Recently finished reading:

(This second Lady Darby mystery is even better than the first.)

Quote of the week:
"The only person standing in your way is the scared storyteller who fears
a plot twist. Letting go of the story that holds us back frees us up to
aim true. (So) let go of your fears and take a leap of faith."
--Kathryn Budig, Aim True

Recently spotted on a birding field trip to Farmington Bay:

This peregrine falcon (#160 on my birdlist!) is not the only bird we saw;  we also spotted avocets, ibises, and stilts, a sandhill crane, egrets and grebes, gulls of every kind and lots of black-crowned night herons!

Recently checked out of the library:
Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber
The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna
An Unsuitable Job For a Woman by P.D. James
Collecting the Dead by Spencer Kope
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Looking forward to reading:

Bettina and I will be reading this together in June, 
so watch for our reviews. (And feel free to join in!)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A bookish journey to Syria...

"The second time Doaa nearly drowned, she was adrift in the center of a hostile sea that had just swallowed the man she loved. She was so cold she couldn't feel her feet, so thirsty her tongue had swollen in her mouth. She was so overcome with grief that if not for the two tiny baby girls in her arms, barely alive, she would have let the sea consume her. No land was in sight. Just debris from the shipwreck, a few other survivors praying for rescue, and dozens of bloated, floating corpses."

A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea by Melissa Fleming is the story of Doaa Al Zamel and her family--Syrian refugees who never wanted to leave their beloved home of Daraa, Syria, but felt they had to in order to stay alive. It is also the story of the Syrian people who longed for equality and freedom but were handed war and devastation instead. This powerful portrait of the refugee crisis there is even more heartbreaking because it is still going on while the rest of the world...does what? Doaa asks that question as well. Her story is one of courage and loss, love, hope, and stubborn survival. And I'm very glad that I read it! (Even if it made me cry.)

Some facts from the book:

  • Syria has been at war now for six years.
  • 5 million refugees have been forced to flee their country.
  • 6.5 million more are internally displaced.
  • 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • For most, there is nothing left to return home to; their homes, businesses and sometimes even their cities have been utterly destroyed.
  • Very few countries in the world welcome them in, or offer them any kind of help.
It's so sad! The plight of all Syrian refugees everywhere breaks my heart. A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea is one of those unforgettable, must-read books, and I want to especially thank Lindsey for recommending it.

Happy Reading!

Similar Read:
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami

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.