Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James

3 Reasons to Read This Book:
The Time Period: The 1920s
The Setting:  The secretive coastal village of Rothewell in Devonshire, England
The Characters:

  • Jillian Leigh -- a smart and unconventional heroine who "did not believe in ghosts.  Of course I didn't - no sane person believed in ghosts.  I believed in Oxford, and cobblestoned squares, and old bricks thick with ivy, and rainy days curled up reading books."
  • Drew Merriken -- the tall, dark and handsome Scotland Yard Inspector and former RAF pilot who is in Rothewell to investigate the death of Jillian's murdered ghost-hunter uncle.
  • Walking John -- the ghost of John Barrow who has haunted the woods and residents of Rothewell for years.
This book is full of secrets, mystery and supernatural suspense, with just the right amount of romance; one of my definite must-reads for 2013!

(Simone St. James' first novel, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, is also a great read.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

This book is TOO stupid!

What makes you stop reading a book?  Language?  Sex?  Violence?
For me, it's stupidity.

I hate stupid plots.  Even worse are stupid characters.  Especially stupid girls!  When I find myself inwardly screaming at the main character in frustration because she can't see what's right in front of her face, it's time for me to put that book down. Or, when the dialogue between characters is so inane and poorly written that I find myself gritting my teeth, I know I won't be finishing that particular book.

I also hate bad writing.  If an author's voice isn't authentic and doesn't ring true, or if they try to be too clever in replicating some imaginary dialect...forget it.  I can't go there.

Everyone has a breaking point and stupidity in a book is definitely mine.  The last Mary Higgins Clark book I ever read was the one where the main character went to an abandoned warehouse in the middle of the night, in search of a killer, without telling anyone where she was going; I thought she deserved to get buried alive.  I haven't read Clark since.  I guess I have a low tolerance for dumb.

What about you?  What makes you stop reading a book?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reading & Art & Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt - The Reader, 1877

"There is no shortage of good days.  It is good lives that are hard to come by.  A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough.  The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more.  The life of the Spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.  Who would call a day spent reading a good day?  But a life spent reading -- that is a good life."                             --Annie Dillard

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Revisiting Girl Reading

   Girl Reading by Katie Ward and when I got it home I couldn't resist opening it up and reading a few pages.  Only, once I started, I couldn't stop.  This book combines two of my favorite things:  Art and Reading.  Each chapter tells the story of the woman behind 7 different works of art.  It is also a journey through time, the first woman's story taking place in 1333, the last in 2060.  At first, none of these stories appear to be connected...until you get to the last chapter.  Then it all comes together in an unexpected way.
  I recently purchased my own copy of

Katie Ward is an amazing author.  Her writing will definitely keep you reading.  It's hard to choose a favorite story line, but one of my favorites is the second one that revolves around the painting Woman Reading by Dutch artist Pieter Janssens Elinga; it's really the story of his deaf maid, Esther, and her place in the artist's household.  But all of the women in this book, and their stories, are equally memorable.  I really like that Girl Reading isn't formulaic or predictable.  In fact, I think it's this book's uniqueness that I love most of all.

Pieter Janssens Elinga -- Woman Reading, 1668

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Got Mail?

epistolary - adj.  contained in, or carried on by letters

I don't know why I love epistolary novels so much.  Maybe it's because I've always loved getting letters in the mail.  I think it's sad that letter writing has become such an antiquated and obsolete past-time.  Nick Bantock once said, "One of the key pleasures of receiving a letter is the act of holding and entering an envelope--a sort of cross between Christmas and sex."  There are a lot of great epistolary novels out there.  Here are three of my all-time favorites:

1.  Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn is an epistolary gem.  Find out what happens on the Island of Nollop when the use of alphabet letters--written, spoken, or read--are outlawed one by one.  No one misses Q or Z.  Even losing J, K, and D isn't too bad.  But the leaders of Nollop don't stop there.  This book is so cleverly written I absolutely love it!

2.  More than a story, Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock is a visual treat.  I love Bantock's collaged postcards.  Even better, the letters in his book are real.  You get to pull each one out of its envelope, open it up and read it.  Could anything be better than that?

3.  Last, but certainly not least, is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  Set on the Isle of Guernsey during and just after World War II, this is an unforgettable story of love and survival delightfully told in letters.  I recently reread this book and it was even better the second time around!

Each of these epistolary novels is like opening a letter from a friend.
Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Prisoner B-3087

The Jewish ghetto, the Wieliczka salt mine, concentration camps, death camps, the gas chamber, a death march ... Birkenau, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau ... No one could survive them all.  Yet somehow Yanek Gruener did.

Sound unrealistic and unbelievable?  It's not.  Although Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz is a fictionalized YA novel, it is based on the true life story of Jack Gruener, who at the age of 13 decided that he was not going to die at the hand of the Nazis.

"In the place of my pain, I felt the stirring of determination.
I would not give up.  I would not turn myself in.  No matter
what the Nazis did to me, no matter what they took from me,
I would survive."

And he did.
I loved this book.  Like The Hiding Place and The Diary of Anne Frank, this is a book everyone should read.  It's that good.

Other, similar books you might want to check out:  Destined to Live by Ruth Gruener and The Girl in the Green Sweater by Krystyna Chiger.  Both are amazing stories of hope and survival.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Books and Baby Showers

I just got invited to another baby shower; I swear this is like the third one this year.  Luckily, when baby Grace came along (the catalyst for baby shower #1), I decided to make it easy on myself and go with my favorite thing to buy:  books.  Two pop-up books and one plush monkey later, I had my gift.  And the precedent was set.  For baby Jacob, it was two board books and a toy caboose.  And now, for baby Kayden, I'm heading to the children's section of my local bookstore to buy him his very first book.  Because the gift of reading is something I know he'll never outgrow.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Kidnapped at age 5 by her own drug-addicted mother, Carey has spent the last 10 years living in a camper in the Tennessee woods with her younger sister, Jenessa.  But now Carey and her sister have been found and taken back home.  Only Carey isn't sure any place will ever feel like home again.

"Inside, I hurt in that empty-puzzle-piece way ... The tears flow, hot as the creek in the summer time ... I'm alone in a foreign land, this kingdom called New Bedroom, so clean, it makes my brain hurt ... I've been a world of tired, clear down in my dusty bones."

Not only does Carey have to reconnect with the real world, but with her father and new stepmother and stepsister, too.  And she has to learn how to accept and deal with everything that happened to her in the woods.  This is a moving and powerful story, one that will break your heart more than once, and make you smile through your tears.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Magic of Books...

     "I believe in the magic of books.  I believe that during certain periods in our lives we are drawn to particular books--whether it's strolling down the aisles of a bookshop ... and suddenly finding the most perfect, most wonderfully suitable book staring us right in the face.  Or a chance meeting with a stranger or friend who recommends a book we would never ordinarily reach for.  Books have the ability to find their own way into our lives."
--Cecilia Ahern