Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fun with Flavia

"It had been at Aunt Felicity's insistence that I was packed up like a bundle of old rags and tossed onto a ship to Canada."

Twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce has been banished from her ancestral home in England and sent away to Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Canada, the same boarding school that her mother once attended. On her first night there, she discovers a charred and mummified corpse stuffed up her bedroom chimney. It's her seventh dead body ... and yet another mystery for her to solve.

I really enjoyed Alan Bradley's latest Flavia de Luce mystery, As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust. Far from home, Flavia is forced to grow up a bit in this book, but that doesn't detract from her charm. She's still precocious, and intrepid, obsessed with poisons and all things chemical, and still able to lie without batting an eye. And while I missed Buckshaw, especially Dogger, I liked the boarding school setting in this book. Flavia's interactions with the other girls and teachers made me laugh. And the mystery kept me guessing, too. All in all, this was a fun book; I smiled all the way through it. Yay for Flavia de Luce.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A ghostly read...

"Some people never leave the asylum."

This time of year always puts me in the mood for a good ghost story, and Susan Vaught's Insanity is that and more. It takes place in Never, Kentucky at the Lincoln Psychiatric Hospital, a place built on an ancient ritual ground, a place where haunts and specters roam.
"Lincoln ain't nothing but a giant thin spot between our world and the other side, and places in this hospital get even thinner due to all the sadness it sees. Time can't help moving funny around thin spots."
Enter Levi, Forest, Darius and Trina. These four teens each have a touch of magic running in their veins, and their special abilities are just what Lincoln needs. But can they survive the darkness that's coming for each of them?

This is such a fun read! Insanity has spirits and shades, hell hounds, creepy witch trees, magic spells and charms, suspense and mystery.  I really liked the four teenagers, especially Levi and Forest. They each have their own story and part to play at Lincoln. In a lot of ways, this book reminds me of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes (which is one of my all-time favorite reads). It's dark and eerie and the right amount of scary. All in all, this YA novel turned out to be the perfect ghostly fantasy for October.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
     Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James
     Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rereading Dracula...

The impulse to reread this classic novel came while I was reading Cat Winters' The Cure For Dreaming. It's a YA novel set in 1900 and her main character, Olivia Mead, loves Dracula and has read it several times; and the more she referred to it, the more I wanted to read it again myself.

Out of all the classics I've read, Dracula is one of my top ten. First of all, I love epistolary novels; and the way Stoker spins out the mystery of Count Dracula through the diaries and letters of Jonathon and Mina Harker, John Seward, Lucy Westenra and others is masterful. When I read this book I feel like I'm watching a movie play out in my head. I also really like the eerie atmosphere and the quiet build-up of suspense...especially where Lucy is concerned. Then there's Mina Harker--Mina is intelligent, beautiful and brave, and one of the most memorable female characters ever created. And let's face it, no one writes vampires better than Bram Stoker:
"As we burst into the room the Count turned his face, and the hellish look that I had heard described seemed to leap into it. His eyes flamed red with devilish passion; the great nostrils of the white aquiline nose opened wide and quivered at the edge; and the white sharp teeth, behind the full lips of the blood-dripping mouth, champed together like those of a wild beast. With a wrench, which threw his victim back upon the bed as though hurled from a height, he turned and sprang at us."
Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October's Bookish Art

Henry Thomas Schafer - Classical Women Reading

"A good book is like a good friend. It will stay with you
for the rest of your life."
--Charlie Lovett

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Some bookish wisdom...

"I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard
this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and 
then men create out of chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they
compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these
the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work 
of art."                         --W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

"It is a good thing to turn your mind upside down now
and then, like an hour-glass, to let the particles run the
 other way."  --Christopher Morley, The Haunted Bookshop

"Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter
what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you
haven't had that, what have you had?"  --Henry James, The Ambassadors

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 12, 2015

A bookish slump...

For some reason I'm not in the mood to read any of my library books. I don't know why. I wanted to read them when I put them on hold. And when I checked them out. But now that I've got them home, none of them seem remotely appealing. In fact, I can't seem to make myself read any book at all. Not even one of my favorite reads. Has this ever happened to you? Maybe it's because I'm running tired. Or feeling stressed. Whatever the reason behind my current bookish slump, here's what I'm doing instead of cracking open a book:

  • going through my closet and discarding all the clothes I no longer wear (or like)
  • organizing my book shelves
  • writing a few future blog posts
  • binge-watching reruns of The Walking Dead and Project Runway
  • eating too much chocolate
So while my library books remain unread, at least my bedroom is cleaner. And I'm feeling a bit more organized. Still, I'm really hoping my bookish slump ends soon and the mood to read returns. I miss having a good book waiting for me when I get home from work. Sigh. Until then, I hope all of you are happily engrossed in your book!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson

Five reasons to read this book:
     1.  It's set in Paris. Think Montmartre. Pere Lachaise. The Jardin du Luxembourge. All during the Belle Epoque. What could be better than that?

     2.  Maud Heighton, a young English lady, is studying to be an artist at the Academie Lafond with several other young women. But Paris is expensive, and she is poor.
"Paris ate money. Paint and canvas ate money. Maud's training ate money. Paris yanked each copper from her hand and gave her back nothing but aching bones and loneliness ... She had thought herself rather wise in the ways of the world until she came to Paris. Every day that passed, she was in danger of thinking a little less of herself"
      3.  The air of Gothic mystery surrounding Christian Morel and his opium-addicted sister, Sylvie, for whom Maud is hired to be a companion. At first everything seems perfect, but then, in an unexpected twist, Maud finds herself caught up in their dark secrets...and in a life she never imagined.

     4.  The art. It's 1909 and Paris is alive with the art of Pisarro, Cezanne, Degas, Matisse and Picasso. Then there's Maud's own paintings and those of the other young artists she meets. I just wish this novel came with full-color illustrations!

     5. Robertson's writing. It's richly detailed, stylish and smart, and her characters have depth and spunk. I found this book a hard one to put down.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 5, 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: Libby Deaton and May Harper invented Princess X in fifth grade, when Libby's leg was in a cast, and May had a doctor's note saying she couldn't run around the track anymore because her asthma would totally kill her. 
Title: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
(Fun YA novel that's part mystery, part comic-book, superhero adventure.)

First Line: "Blast it all!" Crispin Handle, Lord Cavratt, did not generally resort to muttering under his breath, but an exasperating female could push even the most levelheaded gentleman to extremes.
Title: The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah M. Eden
(Delightfully funny Regency romance; I loved it!)

First Line: On the boat we were mostly virgins.
Title: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
(An interesting novel about Japanese "picture brides" told in the collective voice.)

First Line: Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up. 
Title: Lockwood & Co. : The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
(Set in London, this award-winning YA novel has psychics, ghosts, and lots of adventure.)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

From the T Shelf...

Author: Haley Tanner
Title: Vaclav & Lena

Vaclav, a Russian immigrant boy, dreams of becoming a great magician and performing at Coney Island, just like his hero Harry Houdini. His assistant, Lena, is one month younger than Vaclav and also Russian. She is essential to Vaclav's magic act. For him, "There is no show without Lena. Lena is necessary for all the illusions ... Lena is irreplaceable." Together they navigate public school, the English language, and life in America. For Vaclav, Lena "makes everything better just by being there." For Lena, Vaclav "is a place to go instead of nowhere." And then, one day, Lena is taken away. And for seven years they are apart.
The power of saying good night each night to Lena is great. On the first night that Lena was gone, Vaclav said good night to her, put the good night out into the scary, lonely darkness, and meant each word in a very specific way. Good night. Not a dangerous night. Not a cold or lonely or nightmare-filled night. He filled the words with all his love and care and worry for Lena and launched them out to her, and like homing pigeons, he trusted them to find her, and he felt, that night, that his words would keep Lena safe, that if he thought about her and cared about her and showed this to the universe, then bad things would not happen to her...
They are seventeen when they are reunited, but they both question whether they even know each other any more. This is such a great book! Vaclav and Lena share a connection that is both rare and poignant. I was drawn to them immediately. I especially loved Vaclav's penchant for lists and magic tricks and his unquestioning loyalty to Lena. So much so that I didn't want this story to end. Haley Tanner is an incredibly talented storyteller; I'm very glad her novel was sitting on the T shelf when I went to the library last week. It's books like this that make reading the alphabet rewarding and fun.

Happy Reading!