Friday, September 21, 2018

Bookish suspense...

 "For us, there was no such thing as fate. Fate was a word you used when you had not prepared, when you were slack, when you stopped paying attention. Fate was a weak man's crutch."

Sarah and Jennifer created the Never List to protect themselves from any and every accident or mishap, sure that if they adhered to the rules of their list they would be safe. And for years it worked. Until they went away to college. Then one night, coming home from a party, they're taken by a man named Jack Derber, who locks them away in his cellar and holds them captive with two other girls for the next three years. Sarah survives, but she's not the same girl she once was. As for Jennifer? Sarah doesn't know what happened to her.

"We'd been naive. We hadn't believed other minds could be as calculating as ours. We hadn't counted on actual evil as our enemy rather than blind statistical possibility."

Thirteen years later, Jack Derber is up for parole. He's been taunting Sarah from prison with strange letters and clues. And Sarah knows she's going to have to face up to the nightmares of her past so she can finally find out what happened to her friend all those years ago.

I could not put this suspenseful mystery down! I'd tell myself I was only going to read one more chapter, but one chapter would turn into two, then three, then four... Sarah's story is so compelling, and Zan's writing so amazing, I was completely drawn in. Sarah's search for the truth takes her back into the darkness of her past. (And it is a very dark place.) And the other girls who survived seem to have good reasons to hate her. This is an intense thriller, but not an overly graphic or explicit one, for which I was grateful. And that twist at the end! It's a good one. I'd give this book 4/5 stars. 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Virulent: The Release


The dogs died first. Then humans started getting sick. The manmade virus, an act of planned bioterrorism, spread quickly and acted fast. By day two, tens of millions were dead. (Sorry folks, no zombies in this one.) Trapped in the high school, Lucy King and her best friend, Salem, are two of the few survivors. There's also a boy named Grant with them. And the principal who's gone a bit mad. The school offers them food and water and some safety, but there's a chance Lucy's family is still alive. Outside. In a changed world where Lucy's real fight for survival is about to begin.

This is the first book in Shelbi Wescott's end-of-the-world apocalyptic series, and I liked it. It's not a perfect read. Some of the set up, like how Lucy got stuck at the high school in the first place, felt a little contrived. And both Lucy and Salem have a few annoying moments of teen angst, but overall, I liked Lucy and the other characters. Virulent: The Release is an entertaining, fast-paced and enjoyable read. And I'm looking forward to seeing how Lucy's journey continues in the next book.


Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

September's Bookish Art...

James Jebusa Shannon--Jungle Tales

"Can you smell it? The scent of new books. Unread adventures
Friends you haven't met yet, hours of magical escapism awaiting you."
--Katarina Bivald, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Haiku Reviews...


I See You by Clare Mackintosh



On the train, at work,
coming home --- be on your guard.
Someone is watching.


(Psychological thriller .... 375 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.)





Murder on Union Square (Gaslight Myster #21) by Victoria Thompson


Accused of murder, 
Frank needs everyone's help to
prove his innocence.


(Historical fiction/mystery .... 323 pages .... 3/5 stars.)





Beauty and the Clockwork Beast by Nancy Campbell Allen


Gothic steampunk fun:
a cursed lord, murder, ghosts, vamps,
mystery & romance.


(Steampunk romance/mystery .... 313 pages .... 4/5 stars)
This is a crazy, entertaining take on Beauty and the Beast.




Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke

"I was only a girl, alone among the enemy.
What could I do?"


Irene Gut was only seventeen when Poland was invaded by Germany on the West and Russia on the East. Separated from her family, raped by Russian soldiers, and then forced to work for the German army, she found a way not only to survive, but to fight back. She snuck food into the Jewish ghetto, passed on information she overheard from the German officers she served, and managed to hide twelve Jews from the SS in the basement of the house where she worked. She even fought with the Polish Resistance. Her memoir is an amazing story of survival, courage, and sheer grit, and shows what World War II was like through the eyes and heart of a young Polish girl caught between countless enemies who refused to give up. It's honest and moving and several parts made me cry; I read it all in just one day and loved every single word. Irene Gut is such an inspiring person and her story is a truly memorable one. This is one book that's definitely going on my list of favorite reads in 2018!

"The war was a series of choices made by many people. Some of those choices were as wicked and shameful to humanity as anything in history. But some of us made other choices. I made mine. ... I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But, How will I do this? Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself. You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis, all at once. One's first steps are always small:  I had begun by hiding food under a fence."

 Happy Reading!

 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A bookish gem...



Kristen at We Be Reading blogged about this book a few weeks ago and I'm so glad she did because this book is awesome. The way John Atkinson can take a classic and capture its essence with a witty and pithy one or two-panel cartoon is amazing. I loved each and every one. It's a book you can read in under an hour, and savor for days. Here are a few of my favorites:







Isn't this a perfect summary of Proust? I know it made me laugh.














I also love this caption for Ulysses. (Although the cartoon panel in the book is slightly different.)














And then there are these:

Aren't they great?








So, if you get a chance to check out this delightfully funny book of abridged classics don't pass it up! It's one of my favorite books of 2018!

Happy Reading!



P.S. This cartoon isn't

Monday, September 3, 2018

Recipe for a fun read:

Combine one streetwise pick-pocket, two curators from the British Museum, and the fiesty daughter of an English clergyman.

Mix in the secretive Department of Unclassified Artifacts, some graverobbers, a walking dead man, a lost diary, murder at the museum, and some mechanical monsters.

Add a dash of humor and a teaspoon of suspense.
Set in all in Victorian London and stir.


What do you get?


An entertaining mystery that reminded me of a Holmes and Watson adventure. I liked the characters, especially Eddie the pick-pocket and Liz. And George Archer, one of the museum curators, had some mad mechanical skills. And I thought those mechanical monsters were both creepy and cool. There were a few chapters in the middle that read a little slow, but overall I liked this one. And even though it's labeled as a YA, it didn't feel like a YA to me. The Death Collector by Justin Richards is a fun mystery that readers of all ages can enjoy.

Happy Reading!


Friday, August 31, 2018

The Grand Sophy

Meet Sophia Stanton-Lacy.  Headstrong. Outrageous. And above all else, unforgettable. I wasn't sure I liked her at first, but she grew on me. And while I'd never want her "organizing" my own life, I thoroughly enjoyed watching her meddle in her cousins' lives. Especially the Honorable Charles Rivenhall's. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from this fun Georgette Heyer Regency romance, all about the redoubtable Sophy:


"Sophy would never be a beauty. She was by far too tall; nose and mouth were both too large, and a pair of excessive gray eyes could scarcely be held to atone entirely for these defects. Only you could not forget Sophy."

"We are all very fond of my dear niece...but she is too fatiguing. One does not know what next she will do, or, which is worse by far, what she will make one do that one does not wish at all."

"Sir Horace himself couldn't stop her, not when she's got the bit between her teeth."

"I have a great many faults, but I am not lazy, and I am not timorous--though that, I know, is not a virtue, for I was born without any nerves at all, my father tells me, and almost no sensibility.... I have not yet made up my mind just what I should do, but I may need your assistance in breaking this foolish engagement."

"...her determination once taken, no consideration of propriety would deter her from embarking on schemes which might well prove to be as outrageous as they were original."





Happy Reading!


P. S.  If you want to know more about Georgette Heyer and her many entertaining Regency romances, Helen over at She Reads Novels recently wrote an excellent post about her with links to all of her own Georgette Heyer novel reviews, so be sure to check it out!


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bookish Trivia...

A Celebration of Reading!
March 7th in the UK;
April 23 everywhere else.

Lesesuct:  n. (German) An addiction to reading.



Richest authors in the world (according to 2017 Forbes List):

               ◉ J. K. Rowling   ($95 million)
 
               ◉ James Patterson   ($87 million)





Librocubicularist: n. A person who reads in bed.
(A term coined by Christopher Morley in his novel The Haunted Bookshop)


◉ Bibliolatry:  an excessive devotion to books.

◉ Bibliobibuli:  people who read to much. (Is there such a thing as reading too much?!) 

◉ Bibliomania:  excessive book collecting.

◉  Bibliophobia:  a fear of books






Most prolific author:  Barbara Cartland who wrote and published 720 novels in her lifetime. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she is also the author who's written the most novels in one year:  23.

Runners up:
      R.L. Stine -- 400+ books 
      Danielle Steel -- 167 books
      James Patterson -- 147 books



Of note:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is considered to be one of the earliest mystery/detective novels and the first "sensation" novel. Since it was first published in 1859, it has never been out of print.


Longest book ever written (according to Guinness):  Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust 

Lipogrammatic novel:  The Void by Georges Perec (A novel written entirely without ever using the letter E. So how did he sign his name on it?)


Book-bosomed: adj. someone who carries a book with them at all times.
 (This term was coined by Sir Walter Scott.)




Saturday, August 25, 2018

A haunting tale...


Title & Author:  The House Next Door by Darcy Coates
Genre:  Paranormal
First line:  I live next to a haunted house.

Summary:  Jo has never been inside Marwick House; her cats won't even enter its yard. And she's never met any of its occupants either, mostly because none of them stay for very long. Until Anna moves in. She seems nice, and a little fragile, and Jo tries to warn her that sometimes strange things happen in Marwick House, but Anna doesn't seem to mind. Not even when she sees the ghost of Helen Marwick who died a very unhappy death there years ago. But things change when Helen starts to make her presence known.

My thoughts:  I love novels about haunted houses and Darcy Coates writes some good ones. At first, Marwick House seems fairly benign. There's a little ghostly activity here and there--flickering lights, doors that open and close, haunting piano music in the hall--but it's not until the second half of the book that things ramp up and start to get really suspenseful and scary. I was intrigued by Marwick House itself, and I liked the quiet build up at the first, and how I almost felt sorry for Helen. Jo and Anna were a little too passive at times for me to really like them, but Jo made up for it at the end. And what an ending! Although I thought the The Carrow Haunt was better, I liked this ghostly tale enough to give it 3.5/5 stars.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

August's Bookish Art...

Alexander Averin -- Saying Good-bye to the Day

"Books are a uniquely portable magic."
--Stephen King


Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Winter Over

"Wintering over means when the final flight leaves today, it'll be the last plane the crew will see until mid-November, two hundred and seventy days from now. For most of that time, the South Pole is in complete darkness, outside temperatures can drop to as low as one hundred degrees below zero, and the base is, in effect, completely cut off from the rest of the planet."

Why I wanted to read this one:
The Antarctica setting! I've always been fascinated by extreme environments --those exotic and strange places that I will NEVER actually ever go see for myself-- and this book takes place in one of the most extreme spots on the planet. Matthew Iden really gives you a feel for the dark and the cold and the danger of winter in Antarctica. I loved every description and interesting detail. Especially the ice tunnels! That, along with his cast of slightly crazy characters, from the Polies to the Fingies, who are wintering over at the Shackleton South Pole Research Station make this a fascinating read.

What else I loved about this book:
The mystery and the menace! The death of a colleague two days before the last flight out puts mechanical engineer, Cass Jennings, on edge. Was her death an accident? Or something else? Then, when other things start to go wrong at the station, Cass begins to suspect there might be something more sinister going on. But is she right? Or is she just being paranoid? Because winter in Antarctica can play games with your mind. I loved the build up of tension and suspense in this novel. And the way it kept me guessing to the end. For me, this was a 4-star read.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor
Subterranean by James Rollins
My Last Continent by Midge Raymond


Thursday, August 16, 2018

IT Book Tag

This tag is based on Stephen King's IT and was created by ChucklestheScot. I thought it looked like a lot of fun, so I decided to play along. You post a book for every character from the novel. Don't worry if you haven't read the book--I've only seen the movies myself--Chuckles gives key words for each character to help you choose a matching title. Something I found very helpful in choosing my ten books. So, here's the list of characters from IT and my corresponding reads:





1. Bill (stutters, family death, bike, silver, UK, flu)

I picked Paperboy by Vince Vawter for this character, because he, too, stutters, just like Bill.





2. Georgie (dead or missing child, boat, rain, flood, balloon fairground)

I went with The Child Finder by Rene Denfield for this one, because there's a missing child in it, and half the chapters are told from her perspective.






3. Ben (young love, library, troll, poem, dead parent, books, dam, exams)

When I saw the words dead parent, troll, library and exams, I immediately thought of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Because it has ALL that in it and more.







4. Bev (female author or MC, domestic violence, abuse, love triangle, fashion)

Since I avoid books with love triangles or about domestic violence I had to go with a female MC...and one of my all-time favorites is Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. And the fact that she's a girl who could care less about fashion seemed like an added bonus.





5. Mike (racism, farm, dog, photographs, rocks, crime investigation, fire)

The combination of racism and dogs instantly brought Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward to mind. Plus, they kind of live on a farm. 








6. Richie (loudmouth, werewolf, glasses, voices, radio, TV, cinema)

So, for this one, I went with a book where glasses play a large role:  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. It was one of my favorite books growing up, ever since my 5th grade teacher read it to our class.








7. Eddie (illness, protective parent, physical injury, driving, hospital)

I chose Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown because the main character is diagnosed with a brain tumor and ends up in the hospital, which seemed like a good fit for this one.






8. Stan (Jewish, suicide, birds, bath religion, park, notebook, boy scout)

The Troop by Nick Cutter is the only book I haven't read, but it is on my TBR list and it happens to be about a boy scout troop who runs into something creepy and deadly in the woods....sounds good, doesn't it?
 






9. Henry (bully, mental illness, tunnel, asylum, junkyard, knife, escape, assassin)

So it was the junkyard connection which made me choose The Winter of the Robots by Kurtis Scaletta for this character's matching book, because the kids in this middle grade novel discover something unusual hiding in the neighborhood junkyard. 






10. Pennywise (shapeshifter, clown, serial killer, monster, fear, carnival)

Whenever I think of fear and carnivals, I always think of Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Which is why I chose this as my last book for this list. (Although I'm not a huge fan of this particular cover.)







Thanks, Chuckles, this was fun!
Everyone else...feel free to play along. 

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 13, 2018

A little ghostly fun...

        "My name is Rose Marshall. ... I was born in 1936. .... I made it all the way to 1953, sixteen short years of chances and choices and opportunities. And then it was over. I died on a hot summer night in my junior year of high school, driven off the road by a man who should never have been there. My body was battered almost past recognition by the accident. My spirit fared a little better, sweet sixteen for the rest of time...
       "I'm the phantom prom date, the woman at the diner, the girl in the green silk gown, and the walking girl of Route 42. But most of all, I'm the ghost of Sparrow Hill Road."


Seanan McGuire's Sparrow Hill Road reads like a collection of short stories, each chapter another ghostly tale with Rose Marshall the thread that connects them all. Rose travels the ghost roads, saving the people she can, escorting the others on their way to their next life, and avoiding Bobby Cross, the man responsible for taking her life. Her encounters with the living and dead, while not scary, are entertaining. And I liked the world McGuire has created with its strict ghostly rules and strange assortment of spirits and specters. (Although I really wish she'd given the routewitches a bigger role to play! They intrigued me.) I thought this was a fun read, although the non-linear jumps from past to present and back again throughout the entire novel really slowed the narrative for me. But that's my only complaint.

Happy Reading!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Favorite Authors...

It's not always easy for me to narrow down the list of books that I love to just a few favorites, but oddly enough, I find it a lot easier to choose my favorite authors. Although even that list always ends up being a lot longer than ten. So, here's my "short list" of favorite authors--those authors who I love enough to want to read every single book they've ever written, and still wish for more:




Jane Austen
I know, this seems like the too-obvious first choice,
but I can't help it. I've read her books many times
and I love them all.






Patricia A. McKillip
I love this author for her lyrical prose
and her magical stories. 






Henry James
I know he's not for everyone, but I have been an unabashed
Henry James fan ever since I first read Portrait of a Lady.








Mary Stewart
...who first introduced me to romantic suspense 
the way it should be done.








Barbara Michaels
...who added a thread of the supernatural to her suspense novels,
which I completely love.







Rosamunde Pilcher
The opposite of dark and eerie, I love Pilcher's
quietly romantic novels. Especially when they're set
in Cornwall or Scotland.









James Rollins
...whose every book is a fun and exciting adventure!









Simone St. James
...who writes the kind of Gothic ghost stories I love.











Agatha Christie
...who never disappoints.












Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
...who always keep me reading late into the night!








And the other authors who I couldn't bear to leave off my list:

Susanna Kearsley
Sharon Bolton
Edith Wharton
Kay Hooper
Katie Fforde
Ray Bradbury
Barbara Pym
Dawn Powell
Simon R. Green
Benedict Jacka
C.S.Harris
Patricia Briggs
Victoria Thompson
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Daniel Silva
Lois Duncan
And many, many more!

Happy Reading!






Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Wolves of Winter

Lynn and her family moved from Chicago to Alaska when she was twelve, before the nuclear bombs fell. They thought they'd be safe there. Until the flu pandemic began. When her father succumbed to the deadly outbreak, Lynn and her mother, older brother, and her Uncle Jeryl, headed for the Yukon.

I was sixteen when we left Eagle, Alaska. When things got bad, when everyone seemed to be leaving, we up and left too. We headed into the Yukon Territory. To the trees, hills, mountains, valleys, rivers, snow, snow, snow, snow, snow. The vast wilderness of nothing.....It really was a beautiful place. You just had to get over the freezing weather, the darkness, the loneliness, the cabin fever, the boredom--oh God, the boredom--the shitty food, and the repetitive routine.

Now Lynn is 23, and her boring routine is unexpectedly interrupted when she meets an enigmatic stranger in the woods while she's out hunting. His name is Jax and he's got a dog with him he calls Wolf. And he's hiding a dark past.
Something was off about this man. I knew the potential danger I was in. Alone with a strange man, in the middle of nowhere, too far away to call for help. What a stupid idea it was to invite him back to the cabins. Why had I done that? God, it was so exciting.
Jax is not the only stranger who's come to the Yukon. Immunity, the government group from before the war, is searching for Jax. But he's not the only one they're interested in. Soon, Lynn and her entire family find themselves fighting for their lives.
What had happened to the world had made animals or monsters of us all. Survivors or murderers. Sometimes the line between the two was blurry....
MY THOUGHTS:  Compelling characters, lyrical prose, and Lynn's poignant relationship with her dad are three of the reasons why I liked this postapocalyptic novel by Tyrell Johnson so much. The two twists at the end weren't completely unexpected, but they worked. And I liked how Johnson wove pieces of Lynn's past throughout the entire novel, including her grief for her dad and snippets of the Walt Whitman poems he loved so much.  It made her feel like a real person. I also really liked Jax and Wolf. For me, The Wolves of Winter, is a 4-star read. The fact that I got to read it along with Melody made it even better. Be sure to check out Melody's review of this awesome book, too.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Whenever Melody and I do a "buddy read" she always asks me some questions at the end. Here they are, along with my answers:

Q. With the war and the flu pandemic, do you think Lynn and her family, as well as Jax, would be happier living on their own even if it means they have to hide forever?
A.  They might be safer hiding and living on their own, but even before they met Jax they didn't seem very happy in their isolation. I mean, look how excited Lynn got when she saw Jax just because he was someone new. And Jax didn't come across as a super happy person out there on his own. I think people need love and friendship and other people to laugh with in order to be truly happy.

Q. The author has painted a scary world in The Wolves of Winter. What do you think is the scariest in this story?
A. For me, the scariest part is the fact that almost everything bad that happened in this story--the nuclear bombs, the flu virus, the fires--were all engineered by humans. It's scary to think about how good people are at destroying one another.


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Crampton Hodnet

While Barbara Pym wrote this novel in 1939, it wasn't published until after her death in 1985. But it's not because this novel is lacking in anyway. It's as funny and delightful as all her others. Even the title, Crampton Hodnet, is an inside joke between two of her main characters.

This novel takes place in North Oxford and revolves around Miss Doggett, "a formidable woman of seventy (whose) chief work in life was interfering in other people's business", her meek yet sensible companion, Jessie Morrow, and Mr. Latimer, the young and handsome curate who comes to board with them. (Because all of Pym's novels need a curate!) Then there's the Clevelands:  Francis, an established professor who's writing a book he'll never finish and who is also Miss Doggett's nephew, his placid wife, Margaret, and their daughter, Anthea, "a tall, slender girl with golden hair curling onto her shoulders and a gentle, pretty face, not too intelligent but just right for one whose only occupation in life so far had been to fall in love and be fallen in love with." And then there's Barbara Bird, one of Francis Cleveland's students at Oxford who happens to be falling in love with him.

At its heart, Crampton Hodnet is a novel of "unsuitable romantic entanglements" written in that perceptively witty and uniquely satirical Barbara Pym way. It's charming. And humorous. And I liked it a lot.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Haiku Reviews...

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller




The journey, prairie,
log home, Pa, Mary and Laura--
all through Caroline's eyes.


(Historical Fiction .... 363 pages .... 4.5/5 stars. 
Check out Nadia's review for more.)




Slashback (Cal Leandros #8) by Rob Thurman



An Ancient evil
has come hunting; Nik and Cal
must stop it....or die trying.



(An urban fantasy novel with my two favorite brothers and lots of mayhem and monsters .... 337 pages .... 4/5 stars)




Hidden (Alex Verus #5) by Benedict Jacka


When a fellow mage
goes missing, it's Alex & Co.
to the rescue. Again.



(Urban fantasy .... 298 pages .... 4.5/5 stars .... I love this series!)



Happy Reading!


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Odd Pairings...

Cinderella Girl vs. The Cinderella Governess

Why these two books? Well, when I looked Cinderella Girl by Carin Gerhardsen up in the library catalog to see if my library had a copy, The Cinderella Governess by Georgie Lee was the very next book title on the list. And it was such a strange juxtaposition I couldn't resist checking them both out to see how they measured up against each other.  Here are the results:
















◉ Swedish Crime Fiction                                               ◉ Regency Romance

◉ Lots of pieces and plot lines that keep                    ◉  Fun, if completely predictable
you guessing and only come together to                           plot. Comes with requisite 
form a complete picture at the very end.                           happily ever after ending.

◉  Between the many victims' POVs                           ◉  Spunky governess, Joanna 
and the various police detectives POVs,                           Radcliffe, and the honorable
I found it hard to connect with any of                               Major Luke Preston, her love
Gerhardsen's main characters.                                           interest, are both likeable and
                                                                                                  easy-to-root-for characters.

◉  Interesting and compelling mystery                        ◉ Light-hearted and humorous
that's a bit dark, but not too graphic.                                 romance.  And did I mention,
                                                                                                    completely predictable?

So, which book is better? Depends on what you're in the mood for. The Cinderella Governess would probably win on characters, but Cinderella Girl has the definite edge when it comes to plot. And while neither is a perfect read, I liked both books enough to give them each a 3.5/5 stars. Though I don't think I'll be rushing out to read either author again any time soon.

Happy Reading!