Thursday, January 30, 2014

More Bookish Art...

Sir John Lavery - Girl in a red dress reading by a swimming pool, 1887

"She had never been a girl who depended upon others for pleasure, excitement, or entertainment."
--Louis L'Amour, Guns of the Timberlands

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen...

It was the cover that first caught my attention...and the words inside did not disappoint. This novel is a quiet unfolding of love and loss, of betrayal and madness, and a beautiful intertwining of Ruby Rousseau's present and past.

Ruby is a brilliant student of literature who dropped out of college one semester shy of graduation. The Butterfly Sister begins with a suitcase--a suitcase that belongs to a former college acquaintance of Ruby's, but that is delivered to Ruby's door instead. When she tries to return the suitcase, she discovers its owner, Beth, is missing. Beth's disappearance leads Ruby back to Tarble College--a place she hoped she had left behind forever. A place full of memories she'd rather forget. But the past is not easy to escape. In fact, for Ruby, it's getting closer every day. And this time she might not survive its truth.
"The past is a funny thing, Ruby. It is nature's most underestimated ghost. It is still very much alive. Its heart still beats. It haunts. And it is always impacting, always dictating the future..."
I liked the literary allusions to Virginia Woolf that are sprinkled throughout this novel, as well as the scenes set at Tarble College. Ruby is a very relatable heroine--not perfect by any means, but not stupid, or obtuse and passive, which I hate in a character. And Hansen's pacing, as each secret from the past is revealed, is just right. I also liked that I didn't see the end of this novel coming. It's nice to be surprised once in awhile. (And I didn't peek at the last page once!) I'm glad I picked this novel up; it was exactly the right read for me this week.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

First Classic of 2014

An Edith Wharton novel should be savored, not merely read. But then I'm biased. I've been a fan of Edith Wharton since I first saw The Age of Innocence. Over the years I've read my way through most of her novels, loving each one (except Ethan Frome). That's why I chose The Children as my first classic of 2014.

Once again Wharton has crafted some wonderfully memorable characters. First, there's Martin Boyne, a 46-year-old bachelor who "was doomed to blunder in his dealings with women, even when they were no more than little girls." Then there's the newly widowed Rose Sellars, Martin's longtime friend whom he's promised to meet in Cortina. Last, but not least, there are the seven Wheater children who Martin meets aboard a steamship sailing for Italy: Judith, Terry, Blanca, Bun, Beechy, Zinnie, and Chip. These irrepressible and irresistable children, with their multiple parents and step-parents, quickly draw Martin into the madcap drama of their lives.

When these same children decide to run away from their selfish society parents, they run straight to Martin. As the eldest, 15-year-old Judith explains her decision this way: "I brought the children away so that we wouldn't be separated again. If children don't look after each other, who's going to do it for them? You can't expect parents to, when they don't know how to look after themselves." And not even Rose's sensible objections can prevent Martin from involving himself heart and soul in their plight. Things get even trickier when Rose and Judith meet. It's a Wharton inevitability that Martin finds himself torn between these two women: one his dearest friend, the other a lovely but too-worldly wise young girl. (Don't worry, this is Edith Wharton we're talking about, not Nabakov.)

For me, this novel was bittersweet. I liked Martin and Rose and Judith. I wanted happy endings for all three, but...   I love the elegance of Edith Wharton's writing. And how sympathetic her characters are. (Except for the adult Wheaters and their former and current partners who are easy to despise.) I also admire Wharton's biting wit and her satirical (and often scathing) portrayal of society's meaningless manners and all its opulent inanity. Edith Wharton isn't just a storyteller; she's a truth teller. And in The Children she is at her best.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bookish Anticipation...

I just found out that two of my favorite authors have new books coming out this year. And I'm so excited!

The first is a new Sebastian St. Cyr mystery novel by C.S. Harris called Why Kings Confess. It's due out in March which means I have to wait.....forty-two more days until I read the further adventures of Viscount Devlin and his wife, Hero. (Not that I'm counting or anything.) I love these historical fiction/mystery novels...mostly, I admit, because of Devlin. Read just one and you'll see what I mean.

And then, On June 3rd, the newest Lacey Flint mystery by S.J. Bolton will be released here in America: A Dark and Twisted Tide. I'm so looking forward to this one! I love the unexpected twists and turns in Bolton's novels, and her character, Lacey Flint, is a definite favorite. I just hope that DI Mark Joesbury shows up in this novel, too.

So, there you have it. Two awesome reads (I hope!) from two favorite authors that I am eagerly anticipating. I just wish I didn't have to wait so long to read them.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Way To Be!

This is a gem of a book that can be read in a weekend. Written by Gordon B. Hinckley, it offers up "nine suggestions gleaned from more than nine decades of living, that will help you achieve happiness and success." And who doesn't want more happiness and success in their lives? Here are his nine ways to be:

Be Grateful
Be Smart
Be Involved
Be Clean
Be True
Be Positive
Be Humble
Be Still
Be Prayerful

"It is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence....The better way to Be is the way of these nine Be's."
--Gordon B. Hinckley

I couldn't agree more.
Here's to BE-ing!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Hopeless Romantic's Handbook...

Lighthearted? Yes. Predictable? Yes.
Still worth reading? Definitely.

While her two best friends, Sal and Tom, are pragmatic and cynical, Kate Hetherington is a confirmed hopeless romantic. Even though she's nearing 30 and hasn't met the right guy yet, Kate is still looking for her knight in shining armor, Mr. Perfect, the love of her life. And The Hopeless Romantic's Handbook--which she purchased online for just 7 pounds--is going to help her with her quest.

As a single girl myself, I related to Kate, not only in her struggles to find love, but with her career challenges as well. Kate is funny, optimistic, and someone I wouldn't mind being friends with. I liked her friends, Sal and Tom, too. The advice Kate gets from The Hopeless Romantic's Handbook is peppered throughout the novel. Some of it made me smile; some of it made me wonder if I should give it a try. Here's my favorite:
"Remember that if you only stick to what you know, then what you know now is all that you will ever have. And unless your romantic dreams have already come true, what you know now is unlikely to ever be enough."
Gemma Townley found the right mix of humor and romance with this novel. I liked the London setting, and the happy ending. In fact, this book reminded me of my favorite Katie Fforde novels. I can't wait to read her again. So, if you're looking for a happily-ever-after bookish romance that will make you smile, give The Hopeless Romantic's Handbook a try!

Monday, January 13, 2014

January's Bookish Art...

J.W. Waterhouse -- Destiny, 1900

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
--Anais Nin

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer...

"Being haunted by a ghost who carried secrets she was desperate to share wasn't an easy thing."

Finally, a ghost story that doesn't disappoint! I loved everything about this book: the genuine characters, the compelling mystery, the supernatural occurrences, and the setting. It takes place in San Francisco in the early 1900s at the time of the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Delia Martin has just returned home after a 3 year absence, trailing a ghost behind her, a ghost she calls Shadow.  Shadow was murdered decades earlier in a way that is eerily similar to a rash of recent murders haunting the city. The first murders were investigated by Capt. Matthew Ryan; these latest murders are being investigated by his son, Lieutenant Gabe Ryan. Because of Shadow's ghostly connection to the case, Delia finds herself drawn into the investigation, and drawn to Gabe as well. But even with Shadow's help, finding this serial killer won't be easy. And Delia might be his next victim.

Besides Delia and Gabe, there's an engaging cast of supporting characters in this story. And while I loved the romance between Delia and Gabe, I appreciated the fact that it didn't upstage the mystery. This fast-paced and fun ghostly thriller is a perfect mix of mystery, historical fiction, and romance. And Jaime Lee Moyer is an author I can't wait to read again. I know it's early in the year to be picking favorites, but I'm putting this book on my list of Top 10 Reads for 2014. It's that good!

Another Ghostly Tale: An Inquiry Into Love and Death

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bookish Habits...

We all have bookish habits:  some good, some bad. Some of my bookish habits include trips to the library every third Friday, curling up in the same chair to read everyday, dog-earing a page every now and then to mark my place (which I know isn't great, but at least it's not as bad as my cousin who used to chew off entire corners while she was reading), and flipping to the last page of a book to see how it ends. (Does anyone else ever do this?) I'm not proud of it, and it's this bookish habit that I'm trying to break.

I never used to read the end before the beginning, but lately, whenever my attention starts to flag or the book I'm reading starts to drag, I find myself flipping to the end to see if it's even worth continuing. And once I do that I often end up not finishing the book. Sadly, it's happening more and more often. (But never with really good books--those I read straight through without ever peeking to see how they end.) So, what's the solution? I'm not sure. But admitting there's a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

What about you? Got any bookish habits you want to change this year?

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Bookish Gem...

Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
First Line: It was as black in the closet as old blood.
Favorite Character: Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old chemistry genius who has a "passion for poisons", and a penchant for exacting revenge on her two older sisters whenever they cross her. She has a quick temper, a bright mind, and an unexpected knack for solving mysteries.

My Thoughts:I don't know how I missed this gem by Alan Bradley when it was first published back in 2009, but I won't ever miss any of his Flavia de Luce novels again. I loved this book! It's so well-written. And articulate and funny Flavia is the perfect narrator. At one point she describes herself this way:  "I felt my inner cauldron beginning to boil: that bubbling pot of occult brew that could so quickly transform Flavia the Invisible into Flavia the Holy Terror." How can you resist a character like this?

Bradley's skill as a writer, his descriptive prowess, and his style and use of imagery really elevates this novel above the ordinary. I liked his mystery, too. It involves Flavia's father, two rare stamps that have gone missing, and a murdered man found in the de Luce's garden. This book was so much fun to read. I can't wait to read the rest of the Flavia de Luce mysteries!

One of Flavia's "Rules of Life": When you want something, bite your tongue.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Bookish Resolutions for 2014...

"The difference between the person you are now and the person you will be in five years will be determined by the people you meet and the books you read." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote got me thinking about the books I'd like to read, and the people I'd like to meet this year. I want to expand my horizons, try new things, risk failing, travel to new places, read new authors, participate in new reading challenges, dream bigger dreams, and have more fun. It's a new year, after all. Anything is possible.

I also want to keep blogging about books and least two posts a week. I want to read more classics--I've already chosen 12 classics I hope to read in 2014. As for reading challenges, I signed up to participate in the What's in a Name Reading Challenge hosted by because it sounded like fun. I'm also going to try and read more non-fiction this year. And I hope to get my TBR pile, which currently stands at 28 unread books sitting on  my shelves collecting dust, down below 20. In addition to all of that, I want to make time to reread some of the books I love best. Whew! That's a lot of books! Wish me luck.

What about you? Made any bookish resolutions this year? Whatever your plans, goals, or dreams for 2014, I hope they all come true.

Have a Happy (and Bookish) New Year!