Sunday, November 11, 2018

Live Long and...What I Learned Along the Way!

"Success always begins with showing up. ... Any success I have had began by showing up on time, being prepared, and doing the best possible job. ... A good work ethic is the foundation of success. ...Show up and do your job and good things are going to happen."

"We have to yearn for things, we have to pursue them, and if we are fortunate enough to obtain them we have to savor them--and then set off on the next pursuit. ... The pursuit and enjoyment of passion, however the hell you want to define it, is what life should be about. I have great news for you:  I can report to you from eighty-seven years old that no matter how passionate you are, you will never run out of it. There is no limited reservoir of passion."

"There are people who lead a cautious life, but to me, that's like going through life with the emergency brake on. ... Comfort and predictability have never been sufficient for me. ... My regrets are for those things I didn't do, rather than the risks I took."

William Shatner's self-deprecating wit and unpretentious honesty make this book a quick and easy read. It's not as funny or as full of humorous quips as I thought it would be, and it's not quite as good as the book he wrote about Leonard Nimoy, but it's still a book worth reading.

Happy Reading!

And if you're a fan of Mr. Spock, be sure to check out this amazing book:

It's awesome!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Walking the Amazon

"I had never been to the Amazon ... but it had a mystique all of its own. Surely the trees would be much bigger, the wildlife had to be much richer and more diverse and the people would be that bit wilder and cut off from the outside world. It gave me butterflies to think of spending time in the Amazon."

On a lark, Ed Stafford and his friend, Luke Collyer, decided to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, all 4,345 miles of it. It'd be a first. No one had ever done it before. They thought it might take them a year. Instead, it took Ed 860 days. (Luke quit after 3 months.) Ed experienced mosquitoes, wasps, and snakes, heat and humidity, blistered and infected feet, flooded forests, hospitality and hostility, hunger, exhilaration, depression, boredom and fear. But through it all, he never considered giving up.

There's something about the Amazon that I find fascinating. I like to read about it and imagine going there someday, but I'd never want to walk it like Stafford did. (I'm not a fan of mud or bugs or snakes or 100% humidiy.) Walking the Amazon is both an interesting and readable memoir; Stafford does a good job of chronicling his long journey, but he focuses more on the day to day logistics--the guides, and tribes, money, gear and food, miles trekked, and the problems encountered along the way--than on the Amazon River itself and the surrounding rain forest. I would have liked a little more description, for him to paint a better picture of where he was walking, and what he saw. There's some. Just not enough for me. It's still a really good read. But I'd have to give it a B+ rather than an A for that reason.

Happy Reading!

Two other books about the Amazon that I enjoyed even more than this one:

Monday, November 5, 2018

A bookish update...

Just finished reading:

This book is a very intense and dark psychological thriller 
that reminded me of Pessl's Night Film.

So this year I decided to fully embrace Nonfiction November.
Here are the eight nonfiction books that I checked out of the library last Friday and plan on reading throughout the month of November: 

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Live Long And -- What I Learned Along the Way by William Shatner
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Vogel
Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot by Joseph Cummins
Valley Forge by Bob Drury
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 by Laura Spinney
Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford

(Don't know if I'll manage to read them all, but I'm going to give it a try.)

Two stupid things that made me laugh:

The title of this  book:

And this misspelled word:


(I saw it on some website recently; and while I know they meant 
to write bookmark instead, I think I like this word better.)

Another favorite John Atkinson cartoon:

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Still lovin' this series...

Veiled by Benedict Jacka is the sixth book in his Alex Verus series; and it's just as good as the first. In this one, Alex's former teacher, a notorious Dark mage named Richard Drakh, has returned to England. And he wants Alex back on his team, which is the last thing Alex wants. So, to protect himself and his friends, Alex joins the Keepers, the enforcement arm of the Mage Council instead. Of course, it would help if the other Keepers didn't view him as the enemy, but according to many of them, "Once a Dark mage, always a Dark mage." So Alex will have to prove himself once again.

Of course, his first case, which should have been a simple and straightforward investigation, gets a lot more complicated when Alex encounters an Air mage assassin, a scared young runaway, an ice cat, and a deadly conspiracy. Luckily, Alex has another sense--"my diviner's sight--and it multiplied what I could see a million times over...a diviner can actually be quite an effective fighter, in an unconventional sort of way. We aren't any stronger or faster than regular folk, but all that information gives us an awful lot of leverage...(Because) when you can see the future, it changes things a lot."

This is one of my new favorite urban fantasy series. And Alex Verus is one of my all-time favorite characters. I've enjoyed every book I've read so far about him and his friends. But just so you know, this is a series that's best read in order.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


I love visiting cemeteries, the older the better. There's something about them that's both creepy and cool. And I like how they conjure up stories in my head, especially when they're haunted...or look like they could be. Here are some of my favorite photos of hauntingly beautiful, sometimes spooky cemeteries. I haven't seen them all in person, but I'd really like to someday!

Okuno-in cemetery in Japan

Flaybrick Cemetery, Birkenhead

Highgate Cemetery

Le Pere Lachaise Cemetiere
(I've actually visited this cemetery in Paris, and I totally loved it! 
It's such a great place to wander and dream.)

Stull Cemetery

Stull Cemetery 

Stull Cemetery in Kansas is  one of the seven gateways to hell. Supposedly, there are hidden steps that lead to the Netherworld here. These steps are only visible during Halloween. But if you find them, don't go down. Because once you do, it's impossible to come back up.

Aakanksha Wahi, India

South Park Street Cemetery
South Park Street Cemetery

It seems there's more than one haunted cemetery in India. This one is in Kolkata.

It's cool, isn't it?

So where's your favorite haunted place? 

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Haiku Reviews...

Blood of Eden by Tami Dane

Sloan's internship with
the F.B.I.:   A hunt for
the supernatural.

Paranormal Mystery .... 344 pages .... 2.5/5 stars.
(Had some fun moments that I really liked, but overall, this one could have been a lot better!)

Ghost Huntress: The Awakening by Marley Gibson

In her new town, something
strange is going on. Kendall's hearing
voices. Ghostly ones.

YA .... Paranormal ..... 338 pages .... (barely) 3/5 stars.
(A bit uneven in pacing and voice: I wanted this one to be better, too.)

Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey

An artist helps chase down
a serial killer reincarnate
in La Belle Epoque Paris.

Literary Mystery .... 330 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Loved the eerie atmosphere, the writing, the suspense, the two main characters, and the Paris setting!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

The letter was written in vivid red ink in an oddly erratic script, and it read:

          Mr. Holmes,       
You are a clever one. Arent you? No matter that you may be devillish clever you maybe the very devil, but not so clever that Mr. Nobody doesn't see you. Yes, I see you clear enough, and I may also
          See you in Hell
          Sooner than you think, Mr. Holmes.

3 Reasons you might want to read this one:

  • If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and their intricate world of intelligent inquiry.
  • If you're fascinated by the mystery of Jack the Ripper.
  • If you enjoy good writing, engaging secondary characters, and a compelling story set against the historical backdrop of Victorian London.

This book has all of that and more. It's a very readable and enjoyable mystery. I liked it a lot.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 22, 2018

October's Bookish Reverie...

Maria Oakey Dewing
(Wife of artist Thomas Wilmer Dewing)

"I have sought rest everywhere, and only found it in corners and books." 
--Thomas a Kempis

Friday, October 19, 2018

Once upon a time...

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales; and Hunted by Meagan Spooner is a fun retelling of this classic tale. It begins with Tvertko, a rich merchant, and his three daughters: Asenka, Lena and Yeva. Yeva, the youngest, is her father's favorite, the one he calls Beauty. She's also the one he teaches to feel at home in the woods ... and to hunt. When Tvertko loses his fortune, he retreats with his family to his hunting cabin in the woods. Only these woods are haunted by a strange, cursed creature. And when Tvertko goes missing, Yeva goes hunting for him. And for the Beast that killed him. But when she finds him, he's not what she was expecting.

"Yeva scanned the Beast's face for some time before realizing she was searching for some hint of its thoughts in its expression--some human hint. But this was no human. The beast was silent, continuing only to stare at Yeva with that unnerving, unblinking animal gaze. She stood her ground, willing herself not to shiver. ... In every fairy tale there were rules. Even the monsters could not break them. And where, except in fairy tales, did there exist talking beasts?"
 Beauty by Robin McKinley is still my favorite version of this fairy tale, but Hunted is a good runner-up. It's an entertaining read with a happy ending. I liked how Spooner took such a well-known story and made it her own. Yeva's a strong, independent heroine, with courage and fight. And heart. But I was most drawn to the Beast. I really felt for him and his impossible situation. And I loved how he is around Beauty: how she stirs up emotions in him he's long forgotten and makes him question everything.  In fact, he's what I liked best about this book.
"We will not break the terms of our sentence. We cannot explain, or we risk remaining trapped together for the rest of eternity. But the girl's face, when we turn to look at her, carries a thousand questions, and she is clever. We must tread with care. We need her skills. That is all. Only she can free us from this torment. Only ... she moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest--she reminds us of what we used to be. She whispers to us of what we could be."
 Happy Reading!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

This week's theme:  Bookstores & Libraries I've Always Wanted to Visit.

How could I resist a theme like that?

At the top of my list is Powells Books in Portland, Oregon, a place I've long wanted to visit:

Next on my list is Hay-on-Wye ... a town in Wales chock full of bookshops:

But after that, the bookstores and libraries I most want to visit are all fictional.
Like Flourish and Blotts from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:

"a shop ... where the shelves were stacked to the ceiling with books as large as paving stones bound in leather; books the size of postage stamps in covers of silk; books full of peculiar symbols and a few books with nothing in them at all."

Then there's the library in Robin McKinley's Beauty:

"This single room of the library was as large as our whole house in the city had been, and I could see more book-filled rooms through open doors in all directions, including a balcony overhead, all built from floor to high ceiling with bookshelves. ... The rows of books tugged unrepentantly at the edges of my sight. I walked like one bewitched. 'I didn't know there were so many books in the world,' I said, and the Beast's answer was heard only in my ear and did not register in my brain: 'Well, in fact, there aren't.'"

And who wouldn't want to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books from Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind:

       "A labyrinth of passageways and crammed bookshelves rose from base to pinnacle like a beehive woven with tunnels, steps, platforms, and bridges that presaged an immense library of seemingly impossible geometry. I looked at my father, stunned. He smiled and winked at me.
      "'This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. ... When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands.'"

(The Aedificium)

Last on my list is the Aedificium, that labyrinth of a library from Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose:

"Our library is not like others ... The library was laid out on a plan which has remained obscure to all over the centuries, and which none of the monks is called upon to know. Only the librarian has received the secret, from the librarian who preceded him ... Only the librarian has the right to move through the labyrinth of the books .... No one, except for two people, enters the top floor of the Aedificium. No one should. No one can. The library defends itself .... a spiritual labyrinth, it is also a terrestrial labyrinth. You might enter and you might not emerge."

Who wouldn't want to visit all of these fabulous places 
and check out the amazing books that reside inside?

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

"It'll be a summer you'll remember for the rest of your life."

Emma. Vivian. Natalie. Allison. They're the four girls in Dogwood cabin. Emma, who's the youngest at 13, has never been to summer camp before, but Vivian takes her under her wing. Their favorite game? Two truths and a lie. Then one night in July, Vivian, Natalie and Allison sneak out in the middle of the night and never come back. The police search the woods and the lake, but the three girls are never found. 

Fifteen years later, Camp Nightingale is reopening. The owners ask Emma to come back to teach art. She's a famous painter now...a painter who's suffering from a severe case of artist's block. At first, she doesn't want to go. But then she thinks she might be able to figure out what happened to Vivian and the others. Find some closure. Move on with her life. But being back at Camp Nightingale is harder than she expected, bringing back memories she'd rather forget. And when three more girls go missing, Emma becomes the prime suspect.

I really liked this book:  the summer camp setting, the flashbacks of Emma's first summer at Camp Nightingale, her ghostly visions of Vivian, the psychological suspense as everyone else around her begins to doubt her sanity, the mystery behind Vivian's, Natalie's, and Allison's disappearance, and the secret history of Camp Nightingale itself. It's all great!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Ellie Jordan investigates ghost sightings and haunted houses for a living. In Maze of Souls, she and her assistant, Stacey, are looking into the paranormal activity at Pine Hollow Farm. And there is plenty. From a Hessian highwayman on his ghostly horse to the bloody shadow of a young girl who was killed hundreds of years ago, Ellie has her hands full. Then there are all the angry ghosts in the old family cemetery who seem determined to push the living off their land.

This is another entertaining read from J.L. Bryan. There are some good ghostly scares and I enjoyed watching Ellie figure out the farm's history and how to keep all those ghosts from terrorizing the family living there. Here are a few fun highlights:

"This house had presence, history, layers of emotional energy accumulated over the generations. In the stillness and silence of the night, the soul of the house could emerge, along with any spirits that had been dormant during the day, waiting their turn to creep out under cover of darkness."

"I had to wonder how many layers of hauntings we faced. Was the horse-mounted ghost really a Hessian soldier or somebody from later years? Was the horseman connected to the bloody girl ghost at all, or were they separated by generations? Once a place is haunted, it tends to accumulate more ghosts over the years, the energy growing denser and darker like a spiritual black hole. Nothing attracts a ghost like a haunted house."

"The pale woman surged up from the darkness. Her face was a white death mask, but her hand was gleaming blood red, droplets of gore hanging from her long fingernails. I had a good look at those as they swiped at my face ... The air was instantly ice-cold all around me. I screamed and leaped back from the bed..."

Happy Reading!

Other J.L Bryan books I've enjoyed:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Shameless plug!

Check out my new favorite picture book:

My brother-in-law did the fabulous artwork and my sister wrote the fun text. 
It's the second book they've done together. 
Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

Isn't it fun? Don't you want a copy all your own?  If you want to see more,
check out or
Their first picture book, If Picasso Painted a Snowman is also still available.
They'd make great gifts for the budding artists in your life. Or for the kid in you.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Bookish suspense...

Winter in the Catskills.
A charming inn.
Ten guests.
One perfect weekend.
One of the ten is murdered.
And the rest get snowed in.
And their dream weekend turns into a nightmare.

In An Unwanted Guest, Shari Lapena has written a suspenseful mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie. The fact that her characters are all snowed in by an ice storm made me like this book even more. The narrative switches between the twelve main characters, which should have been confusing, but somehow never was. What it did do was keep the story moving at a very fast pace. And I liked most of the characters. There's James, the inn's owner, and his son, Bradley; David, the criminal defense attorney (and my favorite), Gwen and her best friend, Riley, who's suffering from PTSD; Beverly and her cheating husband, Henry (who I didn't like); Matthew, who's rich, and his too-beautiful fiancee, Dana; Candace, the aloof writer; and dating couple Lauren and Ian. 

As for the mystery itself, while I didn't guess the murderer, I did enjoy the various turns and twists along the way. But what really made reading this book fun was sharing the suspense with Melody. This was our most recent 'buddy read'. She did a better job at guessing whodunnit, so be sure to check out her review of this entertaining mystery, as well as the questions she asked me about it when we were done.

Happy Reading!

Melody's questions (and my answers):

Q.  This story fits perfectly as a "locked room" mystery, given the setting and the events that happened. Do you think this 'claustrophobia' feeling will evoke a change in a person's mentality and drive him/her into doing something unbelievable?
A.   Absolutely. And you could see it in the way the characters started to get a little paranoid, and point fingers and accuse each other of these horrible crimes. Some even went farther, acting on thoughts that they never would have acted on if they hadn't been trapped in this stressful situation.

Q. Would you stay in a remote inn like Catskills and Mitchell's for a relaxing getaway during the winter? 
A.  I think it would be fun to be in such a quiet, peaceful setting with all that snow...just as long as no one got murdered.  😉

Q. And finally, who do you think you'd be friends with among the characters in the book?
A.  Truthfully, I'm not sure I'd be friends with any of them--certainly NOT Beverly or Henry, or even Matthew and Dana. I'd probably get along best with David, and maybe with Gwen. But I'm not sure we'd ever really be friends. We're just too different. But out of all the characters, I liked David best. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Craven Manor

Abandoned and practically in ruins, Craven Manor looks and feels haunted. When he's offered the job of groundskeeper, Daniel Kane wants nothing to do with the manor. Especially after he reads the owner's list of unsettling rules for staying there:

  • No strangers are allowed onto the property.
  • Do not enter the tower.
  • Do not leave the groundskeeper's cottage between midnight and dawn. Draw your curtains. Keep the doors locked. If you hear knocking, do not answer it.

But Daniel is desperate. So he reluctantly accepts the job and moves into the groundskeeper's cottage. His first task? To clear the crypt of thorny vegetation. And it's going well. Except for the strange tapping on his door at night. And the mysterious figure he glimpses in the tower window. Then there's the feeling he has of constantly being watched. And the ghost-like black cat haunting the manor's halls. But that's not all. There's a terrible evil inside Craven Manor's tower itching to get out.

This is another good haunted house adventure from Darcy Coates. It's entertaining, fast-paced, and full of ghostly suspense. The strange history of Craven Manor had me questioning everything Daniel was told. And just when I thought I had it figured out, Coates threw in another twist. Daniel makes a few very stupid mistakes along the way, but I still liked him. Overall, this book is a fun mix of supernatural and mystery. It's not super scary, although it does have it's moments. And I liked the ending a lot.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

W. Somerset Maugham

"I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place.  Accident has cast them amid strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood remain but a place of passage.  They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known.  Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in the search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves ... Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs.  Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth.  Here at last he finds rest."  --W. Somerset Maugham,  The Moon and Sixpence

This is the quote that made me pick up my first Maugham novel.  He used Paul Gauguin's life as inspiration for The Moon and Sixpence.  This particular novel is a great look at the passion and genius of an artist, and I liked it so much I went on to read the rest of Maugham's books.

Up at the Villa reads the fastest.  Rosie, from Cakes and Ale, is his most memorable character.  Liza of Lambeth's story is the saddest, while the story of Mrs. Craddock is quiet and bittersweet.  Of Human Bondage is his most serious and literary, but I admit, it's not my favorite.  I prefer Maugham's shorter novels. In fact, The Magician, with the naive and beautiful Margaret Dauncey, the sinister Oliver Haddo, and intrepid Susie Boyd, just might be my favorite of all his novels. It's the one I chose to reread recently ... and I liked it as much the second time around as I did the first.  If you haven't yet read W. Somerset Maugham, give one of his novels a try. He just might surprise you.

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Love this!

Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber
Don't you wish this place was real? It's so intriguing. I'd love to explore every nook and cranny... and read all those books, too.  Even abandoned and in ruins, it's a truly magical library.

I thoroughly enjoyed these two recent reads.  My Sister's Intended by Rachael Anderson is an engaging Regency Romance that didn't make me roll my eyes once. And The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell  is both a treasure hunt and a mystery all in one. Both of these books are light-hearted, humorous reads by authors I look forward to reading again.

Another John Atkinson 'summing up' that totally made me laugh! 
His Stephen King spoilers are equally funny:

(And now you don't have to read the books!)  

Another thing I love? This....

Need I say more?

Happy Reading!

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!