Wednesday, July 31, 2013

3 YA novels for readers of ANY age...

Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed and Larkin Reed
First Line:  I was almost sixteen the first time my grandmother died.
My thoughts: Echoes of the past haunt Amber House like ghosts, and soon-to-be-sixteen Sarah Parsons is the only one in this time who can see them. Although sometimes it seems as if the past can see her, too. And if she can interact with the past, can she change it? And what will that do to her own future?
There are so many things that I love about this book: the secret doorways and tunnels of Amber House; Sarah's relationship with her younger autistic brother, Sam; and Jackson, the neighbor boy, who had visions of Sarah long before he ever met her. Sarah herself, smart and stubborn, is refreshingly real and easy to root for. Amber House is never dull. In fact, it is so well-written that even though I prefer stand-alone novels, I actually can't wait for its sequel, Neverwas, to come out.

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins
First Line:  Killing a vampire is actually a lot easier than you'd think.
My thoughts:  At last, a teen book where the girl doesn't fall in love with the vampire.  What a refreshing change! This book is kind of a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural--only instead of the Winchester brothers, you have the Brannick women: Isolde and her mother, Aislinn. And the only thing that scares 16-year-old Izzy? Attending high school for the very first time.  (Ghosts and vampires are so much easier to deal with than teen-age boys!) So many things about this book made me laugh. It's definitely a fun (and fast) read. Izzy Brannick is such a great character; I hope Hawkins writes many more books about her and her otherworldly adventures.

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
First Line: I was born invisible.
My thoughts: I love the premise of this book: cursed by his own grandfather before he was born, Stephen has never been visible to another human being. Not even himself. He lives an invisible life, never interacting or connecting with anyone. But that all changes when Elizabeth moves in down the hall. Because Elizabeth can see him. And maybe she can break his curse. It's the bond that develops between Stephen and Elizabeth that I liked most about this book. What I didn't love is how the chapters alternate between Stephen's and Elizabeth's points of view. (And does every YA novel have to be written in first person?) Despite this, Invisibility gets points for creativity and is definitely a novel worth checking out.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Bookish Kiss...

     "From (Lucy's) feet the ground sloped sharply into view, and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems, collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam. But never again were they in such profusion; this terrace was the well-head, the primal source whence beauty gushed out to water the earth.
      "Standing at its brink, like a swimmer who prepares, was the good man. But he was not the good man that she had expected, and he was alone.
      "George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her."

This is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite books: A Room With A View by E.M. Forster. This classic novel has everything any one could want: a trip to Italy, a stolen kiss, one of the most humorous skinnydipping scenes ever written, a broken engagement, and true love. Plus, it's funny. (Even the chapter headings make me smile.)

Lucy Honeychurch is an appealing heroine; and she and George Emerson are one of my favorite literary couples. Will they get together in the end, or won't they? It all depends on whether Lucy follows her head, or her heart. If you haven't read this book yet, start it today. You're in for a treat.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Unforgettable Firsts...

Before I buy a book, or even check one out of the library, I always flip it open first and read the opening sentence. I have to see if the author's words grab me and make me want to read more, or if, like a bad pick-up line, I am left less than impressed. So much hangs on the first line of a book, don't you think? the best ones hook you with the first word and quickly reel you into the story. The best of the best are unforgettable. Here are 10 memorable first lines. Some are obvious, some a little more obscure; can you guess which book they're from? (Answers are below.)

1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

2. I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.

3. The Ghost in the Paris opera existed.

4. To kill a man, my dear, is not always to make an end of him.

5. Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.

6. Who is John Galt?

7. No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine.

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

9. I am dead, but it's not so bad.

10. This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.

Have you read an unforgettable first line lately?

Answers: 1-Pride and Prejudice; 2- The Shadow of the Wind; 3- The Phantom of the Opera; 4- Treasure Mountain; 5- Their Eyes Were Watching God; 6- Atlas Shrugged; 7- Northanger Abbey; 8- 1984; 9- Warm Bodies; 10- The Woman in White.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy Birthday, Edward Hopper!

Edward Hopper - Compartment C, Car 193 (1938)
"If you read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." -Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lost by S.J. Bolton

          "Someone was watching.
          "...and with that certain knowledge came a knocking in his chest as if his heart had suddenly moved up a gear. Here he was, in the city where five boys his age had disappeared in as many weeks, on his own in the exact part of London where they had all lived, and someone he couldn't see was watching him."

Five boys have been murdered, their bodies drained of blood, and the police have no suspects.  Still recovering from her previous case, D.I. Lacey Flint is not only avoiding fellow detective, Mark Joesbury, she's determined to avoid this latest investigation, too. Not so for her eleven-year-old neighbor, Barney Roberts; he and his friends are convinced they can solve the case before the police. Too bad Barney never considers that he just might be the killer's next victim. Or that the killer might be someone he knows. His involvement in the case ends up involving Lacey Flint...whether she's ready to return to work or not.

S.J. Bolton has written another compelling psychological thriller--one of those books that keeps you guessing. And when you do reach the end and discover the truth, it only makes you want to reread the entire book from the beginning. Bolton is an amazing writer. I love the way she creates tension in her novels, and her characters live and breathe on the page, making them unforgettable. Especially Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury! If you haven't read their previous books, Now You See Me and Dead Scared, definitely read them first. You won't be sorry!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Bookman's Tale

"I'll bet you never thought the book world was so dangerous."

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett is the kind of smart literary mystery that I love.  Peter Byerly is an antiquarian bookseller whose wife, Amanda, has recently died.  Grieving, he leaves his home in North Carolina and moves to the English countryside.  In a bookshop in Hay-on-Wye he discovers a Victorian watercolor portrait that looks exactly like his wife.

 "The mystery of the watercolor's origins felt deeply personal and Peter could already feel curiosity and grief melding into obsession.  He had to know where this painting came from - how a hundred-year-old portrait of his wife, who had been born only twenty-nine years ago, had come to be tucked into an eighteenth-century book on Shakespeare forgeries."

Seeking the truth about the painting, Peter stumbles upon "the Holy Grail" of literary treasures--a book that offers proof of Wm. Shakespeare's real identity. But is the book real, or a clever forgery? Peter is determined to uncover the book's long-buried secrets. There's just one problem--he's not the only one hunting for the truth.

This book weaves together the present and the past in a tantalizing mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.  It completely exceeded my expectations. (Not to mention making me want to read Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.) If you love literary thrillers, this is a must-own book!  It's that good.

Similar Reads:  Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell
                          What Time Devours by A.J. Hartley

Friday, July 12, 2013

Thinking of Thoreau

I have been a fan of Henry David Thoreau and his writing for a long time.  Walden is one of those books I pull out and dip into often.  So, to honor Thoreau on his 196th birthday, I picked a few of my favorite Thoreau quotes to post here.  (Although it was hard to limit myself to three!)
"In the long run, men hit only what they aim at.  Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high."

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them."

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bookish Travel

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road.  They are the destination and the journey."                 --Anna Quindlen

Want to hike the Appalachian Trail without breaking a sweat?  Pick up A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson or Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis. Either one will make you laugh. Or maybe you'd rather trek through the rain forest without getting wet.  Lost in the Amazon by Stephen Kirkpatrick will take you there.  So will The Lost City of Z by David Grann.

With books you can even Visit Sunny Chernobyl or build Castles in the Air in Wales. (I haven't read either of these yet, but one's sitting in my TBR pile and the other is on my reserve list at the library.) There are so many amazing places in the world!  Luckily, there are an equal number of amazing books to transport you any where you want to go.

And if you, like me, can't afford an actual airline ticket to somewhere amazing this summer, you can still sail singlehandedly around the world with Tania Aebi in Maiden Voyage; journey across the most forbidding desert on earth in Sahara Unveiled by William Langewiesche; or go spelunking in one of the world's deepest and most treacherous caves in William Stone's Beyond the Deep.  They are all amazing journeys!

"Reading is the key to enriching one's life.  It opens doors and leads you places you never knew existed."                             --Jonas Kage

Where will you travel next?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami

Isn't that a great title? For Lalami's four main characters it's the hope of a new and better life that compels them to leave their old lives in Morocco and risk illegally crossing the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain. Halima is escaping an abusive husband.  Aziz wants to earn enough money to provide for his wife, Zohra.  Murad just wants a job.  And Faten has been expelled from college and marked by the authorities for her militant views; now she needs to leave Morocco for her own protection.  For these four, hope and danger go hand in hand.

"The six-meter Zodiac inflatable is meant to accommodate eight people.  Thirty huddle in it now, men, women, and children, all with the anxious look of those whose destinies are in the hands of others--the captain, the coastguards, God. ... (Murad) looks at the Spanish coastline, closer with every breath.  The waves are inky black, except for hints of foam here and there, glistening white under the moon, like tombstones in a dark cemetery."

My library didn't have a copy of this book, but I found a used copy online at Powells and bought it for $5.50.  And I'm so glad I did! It's not a long novel, just 195 pages, but Lalami packs her pages with the flavors and melodies of Morocco, and each character's journey is so well-told I found myself wishing that this novel was twice as long.  This is one book I will definitely read again!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."     

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2 Recent Reads:

There are no vampires in Rhiannon Held's Silver, just her own spin on werewolves.  The packs in America are divided, and territorial.  Silver's pack has just been tortured and destroyed, and she is hurt and on the run.  Andrew Dare, the Enforcer of the Roanoke Pack, is sent to find her and escort her from his pack's territory.  But Andrew finds himself drawn to Silver, and drawn into finding out who or what killed her pack...before they strike again.

Rhiannon Held has written a compelling urban fantasy. I have to admit, while I immediately liked Andrew, it took me a little longer to warm up to Silver, but her strangeness eventually grew on me. (Although Andrew is still my favorite.) Overall, Held's novel is a surprisingly fun read.  If you're a fan of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books and are looking for a similar read, give this one a try.

As a fan of The Gilmore Girls, I've admired Lauren Graham as an actress for years. Now I can admire her as an author, as well. Her novel Someday, Someday, Maybe tells the story of a twenty-something girl trying to make it as an actress in New York City. Franny Banks gave herself 3 years to accomplish her dream; now she only has 6 months left...and the clock is ticking.

Graham aptly captures the struggle of what it is like to be in New York trying, hoping, failing, doubting, and trying again to make a dream come true.  Franny is an engaging character who talks a little too much, is a bit of a klutz, but who never gives up. I did sometimes get impatient with how often Franny gets lost in her own thoughts and doubts, but I liked her vulnerability and I never stopped rooting for her to succeed. And I really enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look into the life of an aspiring actress.  This was a great summer read.