Monday, March 31, 2014

Bookish Renoir

Pierre Auguste Renoir - Girl Reading a Book

"A girl should be two things: who and what she wants."
--Coco Chanel

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Another bookish thriller...

Anomalies: that was what they always looked for. Tiny tears in the thread of normality. Little departures from the logical sequence of a straightforward criminal investigation. It was in those insignificant details that something else often lay concealed, something that pointed to a different, unimaginable truth.
 There are a lot of story lines to keep track of in Donato Carrisi's The Lost Girls of Rome; these seemingly unconnected threads do eventually weave together into one intense psychological thriller, but it was a bit of a challenge at first keeping them all straight. I'm glad I persisted, though.

First, there's Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst who photographs crime scenes. Her photojournalist husband, David, recently died. His last message to her? It's freezing cold here in Oslo. The problem with that? He died in Rome. So, what story was he researching and who killed him? His last 5 photographs hold the clues and Sandra is determined to follow them and find the truth.

There's also a serial killer, Jeremiah Smith, and his most recent victim, a young woman named Lara who is still missing.

And an Interpol agent who claims that he knew David and who is searching for David's photographs...and for something else.

Then there's Marcus, part of an old secret society, who's looking into these seemingly random crimes, but who's own past is an ever bigger mystery. He may be suffering from amnesia, but he's the master of anomalies.

To say this book is complicated is an understatement. What holds it together are the characters, especially Marcus and Sandra. I liked them both. And Carrisi's deft writing kept me reading through all the strange twists and turns to the very end. And what an ending! Carrisi draws from real life criminal cases which adds authenticity to his novel. (Be sure to read his Author's Note at the end.) Plus, it's set in Rome. What more could you want? This is a fast-paced and intense mystery that'll leave you gasping.

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi

Death is highly seductive.
Corpses always arouse our curiosity.
Death, especially violent death, 
exerts a strange fascination on the living.

Five missing girls. Six severed left arms. One criminal mastermind. Dr. Goran Gavila, a noted criminologist, is searching for the monster behind these crimes. Helping him, is Mila Vasquez, a young detective who's solved 89 missing-person cases. This case leads them and the other members of their team into a labyrinth of darkness, where each new clue that they find adds another twist to the mystery and seems to take them even further from the truth. 

I love a good mystery and The Whisperer is a chilling psychological thriller that is hard to put down. Not only is it literary and intelligent, it's also haunting. Carrisi's characters are complex and multifaceted, and each one has a secret, including Goran and Mila. And you won't believe the ending! I never saw it coming. This is definitely one of the best books I've read this year. In a lot of ways this book reminded me of two other books I really loved: In the Woods by Tana French and Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton. If you're a fan of either of these authors, I think you'd really like Donato Carrisi, too.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Becoming a Bibliophile...

bibliophile - n. a person who loves books

I was watching a 4th grade girl as she was trying to choose a book to read the other day at school; she picked up Charlotte's Web, flipped it open, then quickly put it back down.
     "Charlotte's Web is a good book," I said.
      She shook her head. "It's too hard; there are too many words."
She then proceeded to pick up and put down several more books in a row. It seems her sole criteria for choosing what book to read was not what it was about, but whether or not it looked easy. If it had too many words in it, or looked "too hard", she refused to even give it a try. She eventually ended up with one of those easy-reader books that a 1st grader could read. It was amusing at first, but then it made me sad. How is she ever going to learn to love books if she only reads those she finds "easy"? Think of all the great books she's missing out on!

I'm glad that when I was growing up my parents filled our house with books both easy and hard. They bought boxes of books from library sales and let me choose books from school book-orders. And if there was ever a book I wanted to read that seemed too hard, my mom or dad would read it with me. I was lucky. My parents taught me to love books and reading. They made me the bibliophile I am today. I just wish all kids were as lucky.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Don't Judge a Book by Its Zombies...

"My father was right. Monsters walk among us."

In Alice in Zombieland, Gena Showalter has written a fast-paced and fun teen read where everything is heightened and intense--the fight scenes, high school, the romance between Alice and tall, dark and dangerous Cole Holland, and, of course, the zombies. Showalter's zombies are not your typical zombies; her zombies are infected evil spirits that have risen from the grave rather than mere flesh and blood, and only a few humans can see them. As for fighting them? Well, that's where it gets challenging. Luckily, Alice has Cole and his gang of  friends to help her figure it out.

It was the title that made me reach for this book, I admit; I just couldn't resist a book called Alice in Zombieland. (Although there's not a lot of Wonderland in this book.) I did like that Showalter brought a new and unique take on the usually formulaic zombie genre. I also thought she captured the angst and drama and language of high school. (Although some of her choices made me wince.) As for her Alice? I'll let you decide that for yourself:

     Had anyone told me that my entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, I would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please.
     But that's all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything I knew and loved was gone. 
     My name is Alice Bell, and on the night of my sixteenth birthday I lost the mother I loved, the sister I adored and the father I never understood until it was too late. Until that heartbeat when my entire world collapsed and a new one took shape around me.

The BEST zombie book I've read:
     World War Z by Max Brooks

Monday, March 17, 2014

Third Classic of 2014...

It's not plot that drives a Barbara Pym novel, it's the characters. And in Jane and Prudence, Pym has created some delightful ones. Prudence Bates is 29, "an age that is often rather desperate for a woman who has not yet married." She works in London, is in love with her employer, and specializes in unsatisfactory love affairs. Jane Cleveland, on the other hand, is 41, and a clergyman's wife trying to adjust to a new parish, who "reads too many novels." She's a bit scattered and not very domestic, has one daughter, Flora, and is determined to find Prudence a suitable widower to marry. These two friends from Oxford are the heart and soul of this charming novel.

I happily immersed myself in their lives, enjoying their various encounters, sympathizing with their defeats and disappointments, and laughing at their astute observations of life. Take this bit of dialogue between Prudence and Jane's "suitable widower":
     "I always think women who write books sound rather formidable."
     "You'd prefer them to be stupid and feminine? To think men are wonderful?" (Prudence)
     "Well, every man likes to be though wonderful. A woman need not necessarily be stupid to admire a man."  
See what I mean? Pym's writing (like Jane Austen's) is witty and insightful and her novels are delightful and funny. My favorite is still Excellent Women, but I enjoyed this one almost as much. Plus, it filled another category for me in the What's In A Name Reading Challenge that I'm participating in this year. (Not that I needed another reason to read this Barbara Pym novel; her novels are reason enough.)

Happy Reading!

What's in a Name 2014 Reading Challenge Update: 2 books read; 3 more to go.
Category completed with this read: Read a book that has a forename (or names) in the title.


Saturday, March 15, 2014


  • Did you know there are 365 beaches on the island of Aruba? That's a beach a day for an entire year! I think I need to go there.
  • I have 12 squares filled in on my bookish Bingo card (and 7 squares on my YA card). So close to Bingo; still a ways to go for blackout. But definitely having fun.
  • Memorable quote from The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari: "To read a language, any language, is a wonderful gift ... I remember my own excitement at discovering the alphabet -- first the letters formed words and then sentences, paragraphs, and pages, and ultimately they provided the pleasure of reading a whole book ... " I couldn't have said it any better.
  • An overheard snatch of conversation that could be the title of a book: All the Ruths Are Dying. Isn't that great? I have no idea what kind of book it would be, but I know I would definitely pick it up to find out.
  • I like to go birdwatching, and this week I was finally able to add my 100th bird to my birding life list: the common goldeneye. (I saw about 6 females at the Jordan River Parkway--brown-headed ducks with a white band around their necks and bright yellow eyes.) Yay. My 100th bird!!
  • And lastly, here's some good advice from Matt Haig's delightful (and funny) novel The Humans:  Your life will have 30,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March Art...

Sir John Everett Millais - The Northwest Passage, 1874

"Books and words were the saving grace in her life."
--Whitney Otto

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

Julia Bishop - a young, beautiful, and vulnerable widow in need of a safe haven.
Amaris Sinclair - a "famous and rather eccentric horror novelist" with a deep interest in the occult who dropped out of public view ten years ago, and who currently resides at Havenwood.
Adrian Sinclair - Amaris' grown-up son who purportedly hires Julia to be a companion to his aging mother, but who has another reason for wanting Julia at Havenwood.
Drew McCullough - the sexy Scotsman who takes care of the horses; he's also Havenwood's real owner and heir.
Tundra, Tika and Molly - the three Alaskan Malamutes who protect Havenwood from ALL trespassers, both ghostly and real.

While not a perfect book, The Vanishing is an entertaining mix of mystery, psychological thriller and supernatural ghost story. And it takes place in one of those atmospheric gothic mansions, complete with library, that I've always wanted to visit. But Havenwood seems to be haunted by more than just the spirits of the dead. Are Julia's ghostly visions real, or mere hallucinations? And what secrets are Amaris and her son hiding? The fun part of this book is in trying to figure out just where the truth lies. The setting is great and the characters are sympathetic and likeable. So ignore the few minor flaws here and there and enjoy the ride.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Buying happiness...

"You can't buy happiness, but you can buy books
and that's kind of the same thing."

So, I splurged and bought a little happiness today in the shape of four new books. Two favorites:

And two books that I've never read:

It didn't cost me a lot of money because I found them used (thank you, Powells!), which makes me even happier. The best part? I now get to curl up in my favorite comfy chair and read them! Any day with a good book in it is a good day. What about you? Bought any happiness lately?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Another round of bookish fun...

Last year I did a post on how books are the answer to everything, and I thought it would be fun to revisit it with some new categories. Want to play, too? Just answer the following with titles of books that you've recently read and see what your books say about you.

Here are mine:
     Who you are: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  (by Alan Bradley)
     Who you wanted to be when you were younger: Guitar Girl  (by Sarra Manning
     A Typical Day: Much Ado About Nothing  (Shakespeare)
     Where you want to be in a year: East of the Sun  (by Julia Gregson)
     Something you love: Castles in the Air  (by Judy Corbett)
     Something that scares you: The Uncertain Places (by Lisa Goldstein)
     Something you'd like to change: The Never List  (by Koethi Zan)
     Your hopes for the future: Belle Epoque  (by Elizabeth Ross) OR A Rather Lovely Inheritance  (by C.A. Belmond)

Play along. It's fun.
(And let me know what answers you come up with.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson

10 cents at a library book sale. That's how much I paid for this book. (Don't you just love a bookish bargain?) And after reading it, I have to say it's worth a lot more than that. This novel is a perfect combination of love, survival, adventure, and Shakespeare.

It's 1609. The Sea Venture is sailing for Jamestown when it encounters a storm which causes it to wreck off the coast of Bermuda, the "dreaded Devil's Isles". Among the ship's stranded passengers are Elizabeth Miranda Persons, a young servant girl, and William Strachey, the ship's historian who is really William Shakespeare in disguise. Then there's Thomas Powell, the ship's cook, who hopes to win Elizabeth Miranda's heart.

This novel is a skillful weaving of truth and fiction, history and fantasy, with a little of Shakespeare's The Tempest thrown in for good measure. Johnson ably captures the feel of the 1600s without slowing down the plot. It's mostly Elizabeth Miranda's story, but also the story of the crew and passengers who survived the very real "storm and wreck" of the Sea Venture. Be warned, though, the ending is a bit abrupt. I enjoyed this read. And Bermuda sounds beautiful...I wouldn't mind spending a month, or two, there (without the shipwreck, of course). But I think it's the Shakespearean quotes that Johnson puts at the beginning of each chapter that I liked most of all.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Life Lesson...

Here's some of my favorite bits of wisdom from Mother Teresa:

Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is life, fight for it.

I can relate to each and every one of these. Sometimes I wish there was a little less sorrow and struggle, and a little more luck, beauty and adventure, but that's what makes life LIFE. And it's up to each of us to realize, overcome, accept and meet it.