Monday, September 30, 2013

20 Random Bookish Things About Me... (Part I)

1. When people ask me what I'm reading I'm never sure whether I should tell them about the book I just finished, the one I'm in the middle of, or the book I'm planning on reading next, because ... 

2. I don't like being defined by just one book.

3. I like to read a book first, before I see Hollywood's version of it.

4. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to judge people by the books they read.

5. I still reread my favorite books from childhood.

6. Someone saying, "You have to read this book!" sometimes makes me not want to read it. (Redheads can be stubborn.)

7. I keep checking out zombie books from the library, even though most of them end up being disappointingly unreadable. (Exceptions: Warm Bodies and World War Z)

8. I'm a sucker for romantic endings ...

9. ...but I don't like written-to-an-outline, been-there, read-that formulaic romance novels.

10. I miss stand-alone novels. (Trilogies are overrated!)

To be continued in my next post...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

And Then There Were None...

What I love about Agatha Christie is the unexpectedness of her mysteries. The first time I read this one it had me completely stumped. And Then There Were None is a fast and fun read--even the second time around.

The novel begins with eight strangers receiving invitations to holiday on Indian Island, a secluded island off the coast of Devon in England. But the invitations have been sent under false pretenses. When they arrive at the house there's no host to greet them, just two servants and an anonymous recording that accuses each guest of murder. It all seems like a bad joke until one of them turns up dead. With no way back to the mainland, the remaining guests are trapped on Indian Island with a murderer, wondering who will die next.

It's the twists and turns of this novel I like best. If you've never read this particular Christie mystery before, I dare you to read it and try to guess who the murderer is. But I bet you'll be as surprised as I was the first time around.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie novel? If so, which one?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Once Upon A Crime...

I love mysteries. Not cozies so much; I prefer psychological thrillers--novels with a bit of an edge, a hint of darkness, an unexpected twist at the end. Books that keep you up late at night and thinking about them the next day. Those are the mysteries I like best. So, here's a list of my of my top 10:

  1. Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton
  2. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
  3. Where Serpents Sleep by C.S. Harris
  4. Sister by Rosamund Lupton
  5. Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
  6. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  7. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
  8. Bones by Jan Burke
  9. Into the Darkness by Barbara Michaels
  10. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Original title: Ten Little Indians)
Happy Reading!

Other Book Lists:
      Got Romance?

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

Would the hopes and dreams you had at 14 still be relevant twenty years later? That's what Brett Bohlinger is about to find out in Lori Nelson Spielman's latest novel, The Life List. As a condition of her mother's will, Brett has to complete the "life list" she started when she was 14 before she can get her inheritance; and she only has one year to do it. Some of the things on her list? Get a dog, help poor people, have a baby, and fall in love.

This was a fun novel to read. (And I actually made it to the end!) I liked Brett, and while I thought it was a little bit too convenient the way she was able to accomplish all the items on her list, it didn't make me like the novel any less. (Although it did make me wish that dreams came true that easily in real life.) The funnest part for me in reading this book was remembering the hopes and dreams I once had as a child, and wondering what would have gone on my own life list at the age of 14. Probably something about horses and the circus. And Space Camp. And living near the beach. Who knows, maybe it's not too late to make some of those childish dreams come true.  It's fun to think about anyway.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bookish Woe...

I've been starting a lot of books lately, and then discarding them just as quickly. Do you ever have weeks like that? Each book sounds good when I pick it up, but after a few pages...well, let's just say they're not holding my interest. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm just not in the mood for those particular books. But then again, maybe it's the fault of the books:  bad writing, too-predictable plot, cardboard characters, etc. That can happen. It's just unusual for it to happen with so many books in a row. However I ended up in this bookish blackhole, I'm left with a growing stack of discards and without a good book to review or recommend.

It all started with The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay. I loved the exotic setting, but 100 pages in, when I still didn't love any of the characters, I stopped reading and moved on.

Then there was Kjerstin Gruys' non-fiction memoir, Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall, where she goes for an entire year without looking in a mirror. I was hoping for a funnier book when I picked it up--but it never once made me laugh. (Or at least the first three chapters didn't; I quit after that.)

I also tried reading In the After, a post-apocalyptic YA novel by Demetria Lunetta, mostly because I can never resist picking up post-apocalyptic/survival novels. And this one started off okay. But then I made the mistake of flipping to the end...and when I saw where it was headed I decided I just didn't want to go there.

So, that's my sad tale of woe. Three books that should have been good (and maybe are), but that I couldn't get through. Luckily for me, I still have a few library books left to try. Wish me luck. (And a good book!)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Got Books?

Charles Dana Gibson

"The odd thing about people who had many books was how
they always wanted more."  --Patricia A. McKillip  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Asylum by John Harwood

"... I have been robbed of everything, even my name..."
The year is 1882. The place England. Georgina Ferrars wakes at Tregannon House, a private asylum for the insane, with no memory of how she got there. And her doctor keeps insisting that she is someone else. When she tries to prove her identity to him, she finds out that there's already a Georgina Ferrars living in London. So, who's the imposter, and who's telling the truth? It's enough to make her start doubting her own sanity. I can't imagine a worse nightmare. Or a better mystery.

Somehow, Georgina must discover how she ended up at the asylum, and why she's being kept there...before it's too late. The past tangles with the present in this Gothic thriller, and while it starts out a little slowly, it picks up speed at the end. I enjoyed this book. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. I think Harwood's first book, The Seance, is still my favorite, but this is definitely a good runner-up.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Here's to Hitchcock!

A few summers ago I decided I was going to watch at least one Hitchcock movie each week--some were definitely better than others. Some I didn't like at all. But by the end of that summer I'd gained an appreciation, and admiration, for Hitchcock and his films that has never gone away. (And I love the movie, Hitchcock, too! Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are amazing!)

What I admire most about Hitchcock is that he invested so much of himself in his films: when the studios didn't want to finance Psycho, Hitchcock mortgaged his own home to raise the money himself. He even bought up every copy of the book so that no one could reveal the surprise ending before the movie came out. And long before there was Facebook or Twitter, Hitchcock knew how to create a buzz about his films. Eccentric? YES. But also a genius when it came to making unforgettable films. If you've never watched any of his movies, check some out. They just might surprise you. Here are 5 of my favorites:

  1. Strangers on a Train
  2. The Birds
  3. Shadow of a Doubt
  4. Rear Window
  5. Dial M for Murder
You can also check out Stephen Rebello's fascinating book:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Of Books and Birds...

According to Mark Obmascik's The Big Year, there are 675 bird species common to North America. (Not counting vagrants or varities--those birds that get lost in migration and show up in places they don't belong.)

In 1998, Sandy Komito found and identified 745 species of birds, setting a new North American birding record that will never be broken. Talk about a big year! His two closest competitors, Greg Miller and Al Levantin, counted 715 and 711 birds respectively. The Big Year chronicles this amazing accomplishment. (Or you can watch the hilarious and heartwarming movie version starring Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson. I love this movie! It's what got me into birdwatching in the first place.)

While I'll never attempt a "Big Year" myself, I do have my own life list: 99 birds that I have seen and identified so far. (I'm hoping to hit 100 by the end of the year.) My favorite bird? Hmm. It's hard to choose. I love the Canyon Wrens I spotted last year on my birthday (talk about a great present!); and I'm especially fond of the small but charming Black-Capped Chickadees that swoop to my feeder every morning, steal a seed or two, and swoop away again to go eat them in a tree. Then there are American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, and Snowy Egrets; Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, and Belted Kingfishers. And what about Hummingbirds, Warblers, and Kestrels? Sigh. I can't choose. The truth is, I haven't yet seen a bird I didn't love. And that's what makes birdwatching so great!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My TBR Pile...

I had plans when summer began to tackle the growing stack of books that I own and haven't yet read. In June, that number stood at 29. Through the summer, I actually made some progress--reading 4 and discarding 2 others--which dropped my TBR number to 23. Not bad, huh? But then there was a library book sale, and a trip to Barnes and Noble...and now the pile of unread books sitting in my bedroom is once more above 30! (And I'm itching to order a few new titles from Powells.) Talk about one step forward, ten steps back.

Luckily for me, Alex in Leeds came up with a clever solution that I think I'm going to try: The Book Jar. All you need is an empty jar and some strips of paper. Write the titles of the books from your TBR pile (or any other books that you want to read) on separate strips of paper, fold them up, and put them in your Book Jar. Then, once a week, or once a month, pull a a title out and that's the book you read. I like the serendipity of it. And that it's so easy! I've already found and filled my Book Jar with my 34 titles. And the first book from my TBR pile that I'm going to read? (Drumroll, please...)  Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett.

Happy Reading!

(P.S. A special thanks to Melwyk from The Indextrious Reader; it was her post on the Book Jar that led me to Alex's original post in the first place.)