Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bookish Link #2:

Drawn to the drama of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser?
Then check out A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, who drew from the
same true-life incident as Dreiser when she wrote her novel.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bookish Links...

Sometimes I want to read a book that's similar to other books I've read, whether similar in mood or feel, time period, subject matter, or narrative style. But books that link together aren't always easy to find. At least, not for me. That's why, this week, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite similar reads...one each day. (Drumroll, please!) So, here's my first bookish link:

Like the time period and charm of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott?
Then check out Kelly O'Connor McNees' The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott,
which gives you a delicious taste of what life was like for the real Alcott sisters.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Back to the Classics...

Do you know what I liked best about Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford?

"In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women ... the ladies of Cranford are quite sufficient ... (And) although the ladies of Cranford know all each other's proceedings, they are exceedingly indifferent to each other's opinions. Indeed, as each has her own individuality, not to say eccentricity, pretty strongly developed, nothing is so easy as verbal retaliation; but, somehow good-will reigns among them."
 I read that Mrs. Gaskell preferred Cranford to all her other books, and I can see why. It's a subtle comedy of manners set in a quaint English village with a delightful cast of characters. There's Captain Brown, who proclaims his poverty in a too-loud voice, and his two spinster daughters: Mary, who's ailing, and Jessie, who has a dimpled smile.  Then there's the sedate and proper Miss Deborah Jenkyns, the former rector's eldest daughter, and her gentle and kind-hearted sister, Matty. They live alone with one household serving maid who isn't allowed "followers". Miss Jenkyns helps set the tone for the town.

Cranford is a town of card games and caps, with rules for visiting and plenty of praise for "elegant economy" over vulgar displays of money. Along with the humdrum and ordinary, it has its share of tragedy and thwarted love affairs. There is also the return of a long lost brother, truer than true friends, and more than one happy ending. Cranford is a charming place to while away the afternoon (and an even more charming book). And since it was published in 1853, it counts as my 19th century classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge. (It's also the tenth book from my TBR shelf.)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bookish First Impressions...

Here are a few first lines from some books that I recently read and enjoyed, but didn't review; see if any of them make you want to read more.

First line: Billions died in less than twenty-four hours.
Title: Autumn by David Moody
(One of the best zombie apocalypse books I've ever read!)

First line:  In life you never get what you deserve: you get what you negotiate. That was the first lesson he taught me. 
Title: The Accidental Apprentice by Vikas Swarup
(A brilliant novel by the author of Slumdog Millionaire.)

First line: The strangeness of a minotaur working at a burger joint wasn't lost on Helen, but she'd needed a summer job.
Title: Helen & Troy's Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez
(This fantasy has a minotaur girl, an All-American boy, and a three-legged dog on a mythic quest across an enchanted America. It's awesome!)

First line: Moonlight filled our bedroom with windblown tree shadows and uncertain light that gathered in pools on the carpet.
Title: A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer
(This is the sequel to Delia's Shadow, which was one of my favorite reads of 2014.)

First line: In the summer of 2005, I was having coffee at Burger King with Harper Lee.
Title: The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
(This is the story of Mill's friendship with the reclusive author and her sister, and a must-read for any and all lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Talk-Funny Girl

There are some books that you practically have to force yourself to pick up and keep reading, and other books that once you start, you don't want to put down. The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo is one of the latter. It has a very compelling narrative voice and I quickly found myself emotionally invested in the main character and in her life and destiny.

The odds are stacked against 17-year-old Marjorie Richards. She lives in the back woods of New Hampshire in isolated poverty. Her parents are not only unstable, but emotionally and physically abusive, forcing "penances" on her like "boying, hungering, facing, and dousing" as dictated by the cult-like church they attend.
"My parents were like gasoline spread around a room--there was the sharp smell of danger, the threat that something might erupt, but it could just as easily evaporate as explode."
Marjorie further isolates herself from others with the way she talks, using an ungrammatical dialect that only she and her parents speak. The only sources of kindness and hope in her life are her Aunt Elaine, and the young stonemason who hires her to help him build a stone "cathedral" in town.

Marjorie's journey out of a life of abuse and neglect is a painful one, but it is also a remarkable journey of courage and hope and love. She endures so much, and yet she never gives up.
"I had my protective shell of funny talk and shyness, but underneath that lived a wilder me, a girl who would take punishment, and take it, and take it, but who would never let go of herself all the way, never completely surrender."
I was blown away by this story. Despite its dark subject matter, it's not a sad or depressing book. It's just really, really good. And once you pick it up, you won't want to put it down.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
     Words by Ginny L. Yttrup

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June's Bookish Art...

Charles Edward Perugini -- Girl Reading

"The world was hers for the reading."
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A book by definition...

book -- n. a printed work of some length on consecutive
sheets of paper bound together in a volume.

But the dictionary definition misses the point; I mean, books are so much more than print on paper. For one thing, books transport you to faraway places and long ago times. They offer a welcome, if temporary, escape from the vicissitudes of life. Plus, they're full of extraordinary and memorable characters. And in the stories they tell, books can evoke everyone emotion under the sun. That's why I love them.

Here are a few more things about books that the dictionary forgot to mention:
  1. Portability! You can slip a book into your backpack or purse, even into a coat pocket, and take it with you everywhere (even through airport security).
  2. Books don't require batteries, and they never run down or need to be recharged.
  3. They don't expire. (And they never need upgrading.)
  4. Unlike computers, books are virus-free, no matter how many new pages you open up.
  5. Books are food for your brain.
The only downside to owning a lot of books? They're a pain to pack up and move. 

Happy Reading!

Friday, June 5, 2015

The best of the beach reads...

"However you painted the picture, I was still forty-one and single and, though I'd managed a life full of adventure, I hadn't quite found myself yet. ... My new plan was to transition to the more fulfilling life of an artist. At the moment I made sea glass earrings..."

But Ginger's sea glass earrings don't pay the rent yet, which is why she's living in her parents' FROG (Finished Room Over Garage), back in Marshbury, Massachusetts. She has a cat named Boyfriend, and a sort-of boyfriend named Noah. And she has no idea what she wants out of life. But everyone in her family seems to think it's time she grew up.

Life's A Beach by Claire Cook is funny, engaging, and by far my favorite beach read of the summer. Ginger's relationship with her bossy older sister made me laugh, and I loved her precocious 8-year-old nephew, Riley, who loves to tell dumb shark jokes, and who's just landed a part in Shark Sense, a movie being filmed right there in Marshbury. And guess who lands the part of his guardian-on-set. Ginger!

Compared to all those other beach reads, this light-hearted 250-page book was a breath of fresh air, full of humor and hope. It proves that, even over forty, one's dreams can still come true; and that "Passion is the key to everyone's gifts."

Happy Reading!

The beach read runners-up:
     Beach Colors by Shelley Noble
     Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax

Monday, June 1, 2015

Life's a Beach...

June always signals the start of summer for me; the time of year when visions of white sand beaches and turquoise ocean waves begin dancing in my head. But while we have plenty of sunshine here in Utah (if you don't count all those days in May when it rained...and rained), there is not a beach or ocean any where in sight. So I guess I'll kick off my summer with a week of beach reads instead. Here are my bookish beach options:

 Life's a Beach by Claire Cook
Beach Trip by Cathy Holton
The Beach House by Sally John
Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax
Beach Colors by Shelley Noble

What's your favorite beach read?
Happy Summer Reading!!!