Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bookish stats...

2015 Reading Challenges:
Back to the Classics (Completed 7/12 categories)
Reading Bingo (Got blackout!)

TBR shelf update: 15 books read; 28 still to go.

Total books read this year:
Non-fiction: 26 
Classics: 9
Mystery & Suspense: 37
Historical Fiction: 21
Supernatural/Fantasy: 16
Romance: 17
Other: 23

Like last year, I read twice as many books written by women as by men; and while there were a few disappointments in the mix, and about a dozen that I started and did not finish, overall I enjoyed the majority of the books I read. (There were several I even loved.) In addition to all the books, I also managed to ease my way out of my friend's book club without hurting anyone's feelings as well as survive the four-month closure of my library. Bookishly speaking, I'd have to say this was a pretty good year. Here's hoping you had a fun year of reading, too!


Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Reads from 2015...

The Girls by Lori Lansens (An amazing novel about conjoined twins Ruby and Rose;
I didn't review this book on my blog but now I kind of wish I had
because Ruby and Rose are such memorable characters.)

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (A bookish gem!)

The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James (Ghostly suspense.)

The Ledge by Jim Davidson (A true story of survival and tragedy on Mt. Rainier.)

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn (Adventure and romance.)

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (Set in Paris!)

The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton (Bookish suspense at its best.)

The Kiss of a Stranger by Sarah M. Eden (I should have blogged about this delightfully funny Regency romance, too, but I didn't; instead, I'm recommending it here.)

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Here's a little Christmas wish from me to you,
May your holidays ring with laughter and
be filled with love and friendship, too;
And may the true meaning of the season
bring you joy and peace.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Three years ago...

On December 21, 2012, I published my very first blog post with excitement ... and a little fear and trembling. I posted a Top Ten list (because I love bookish lists!) and a review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, a book I really loved. Then I waited to see if anyone would ever find, read, or comment on my blog. And you did.

Besides wanting to keep track of and better remember the books I was reading, the other reason I started blogging was to connect with people who love books and reading as much as I do. I like talking books with other bookworms. By blogging, I hoped to find my own bookish community. And now I have friends from Ireland, England and the Netherlands, New Hampshire and New Jersey, Texas and Louisiana, Colorado and Canada, and many places in between. Your bookish blogs and articulate and fun posts inspire me to continue blogging ... and to try to do it better.

So thank you!!!
And happy reading.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Another read from the S shelf...

"In Catawissa, sometimes the dead don't stay where you put them."

Author:  Dianne K. Salerni
Title:  The Caged Graves

It's 1867 and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone has just returned home to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, to be married to a young man she's corresponded with but never actually met. Only things aren't going exactly as planned. Verity's father feels like a complete stranger, and her conversations with her future husband, Nate, are stilted and awkward. Worst of all is the secret surrounding her mother's death fifteen years earlier that led to her being buried outside the cemetery's walls in unhallowed ground with a locked iron cage over her grave. Verity's aunt is buried that way, too, and no one will tell her why.

This YA novel is a lovely blend of historical fiction, mystery and romance. Verity is young and a bit naive, but she has some spitfire and spunk in her, too, which I liked. (And I was rooting for her and Nate the whole time.) Salerni's storytelling is captivating and unpredictable and kept me reading late into the night. I also liked the mystery surrounding the two caged graves and how it raised questions of witchcraft, buried treasure and grave robbers ... but then I've always found cemeteries interesting. All in all, this was a fun read and another serendipitous find from the S shelf.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

All I want for Christmas...

...is a box of books. Preferably a big box with a nice mix of books that I've read and want to own, and a bunch more that I haven't read but would like to, with a few surprises thrown in for fun. (Because Christmas isn't Christmas without a few nice surprises.)

For the books that I've already read but would like to own I'd pick a few novels by Sarah Rayne, The Gilded Lily by Helen Argers, The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James (the only book of hers I don't own) as well as some Fred Vargas mysteries, and The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston.

As for the books from my To Read list that I'd like to own, Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy tops the list followed by George Sand's Valentine, a few mysteries by Agatha Christie, and No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym. I'd also like some of those old-fashioned children's books published in the forties and fifties that I love so much, and maybe a few new releases and a non-fiction book or two as well.

Wouldn't that be great? With a box of books like that I could spend every day of my Christmas vacation happily reading. And what could be better than that? (Except maybe a beach vacation.) So, here's hoping Santa decides to visit Powells this year before he comes to my house.

Happy Reading!

(P.S. What are you hoping Santa brings you?)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December's Bookish Art

Charles Dana Gibson
"Be as careful of the books you read as of the company you keep,
for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as by the latter."
--Paxton Hood

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Just finished...

Title:  Feed
Author:  Mira Grant
How it begins:  Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot--in this case, my brother Shaun--deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens. As if we didn't already know what happens when you mess with a zombie: The zombie turns around and bites you, and you become the thing you poked.

The premise:  It's 2039. Everyone has been infected with the Kellis-Amberlee virus which turns the dead into the hungry undead. Dealing with zombies and outbreaks, contaminated zones, and the constant threat of infection has become a way of life. But the point is that life goes on. Three young bloggers, Georgia Mason, her brother, Shaun, and their friend, Buffy, have been chosen to cover Senator Peter Ryman's presidential campaign. They each have different blogging strengths:  Buffy is a techie who writes fiction, Shaun craves danger and adventure and loves to detail his zombie encounters, and Georgia, a "newsie", is interested in facts and telling the truth. Whatever the truth may be. Even if it means revealing a dangerous conspiracy that could change everything.

My thoughts:  I almost didn't read this book--not only does it have 571 pages, it's the first book in a trilogy--but in the end I couldn't resist giving it a try. And I'm glad I did. This novel chronicles a political campaign and the power of social media all against the backdrop of a futuristic dystopian society that happens to include zombies. There's action, and intrigue. And some great characters. I especially liked the banter between Georgia and her brother, and the unbreakable bond they share. Grant even includes some of their blog posts, which I thought was fun. I also liked Grant's science. Overall, this is one of the better zombie books that I've read; I'm looking forward to checking out the second book in this series.

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015...

Well, I didn't manage to complete all 12 categories in this awesome reading challenge, but I did complete 7, which isn't too bad. And all the classics I did read actually came from my own TBR shelf, which, for me, made it even better. So, here are the seven books I finished, and the categories they filled:

A 19th Century Classic: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

A Classic by a Woman Author: The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons

A Very Long Classic Novel: The Princess Casamassima by Henry James

A Classic Novella: Bunner Sisters and Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton

A Classic With a Person's Name in the Title: Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

A Humorous or Satirical Classic: Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant

A Classic Children's Book: The Independence of Nan by Nina Rhoades

I had a lot of fun reading these classic novels; I met some interesting characters and discovered some authors that I definitely want to read again. Best of all, I no longer have to feel guilty whenever I see these seven books sitting on my shelves. So, here's a big thanks to Karen at Books and Chocolate for organizing and hosting this challenge. It was a lot of fun.

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Reading the Alphabet, Part S

There's quite the range of authors on the S shelves at the library, from J.D. Salinger to Mary Shelley, Nicholas Sparks to Danielle Steele. There are serious authors like Saramago and Steinbeck, popular authors like See and Scottoline, and several of my personal favorites like Mary Stewart, Simone St. James and Yrsa Sigurdardottir, not to mention Sackville, Semple, Setterfield, and Silva.

So many choices! It was hard to pick just one, but I finally settled on an author I've never read before.

Author: Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Title: Three Women in a Mirror

This lyrical novel tells the story of three free-spirited women from three different centuries, each separated by hundreds of years, but all seeking the same thing: to be herself. Here are the women:

Anne, 16th century Flanders

     "No one will understand me."
     "Why not?"
     "Because I'm different."
     What did she mean by the word? She could not say exactly; by 'different' she was referring to the abyss she saw between her own joys and those of other people, the solitude she felt when people talked about what fascinated them, her reticence to share her thoughts, which no one ever understood. The currency of languages and ideas that was common among men was not something Anne knew how to use:  the words never had the same meaning for her and for those with whom she spoke.

Hanna, 1900s Vienna

I do not know how to be the woman our era expects me to be. ... I put on my uniform like a good girl, rehearse my role, go back over my lines, double-check my entrances and exits, and prepare for the comedy of my existence. Perhaps I am yearning for a miracle ... what miracle? To stop watching myself act. To be no longer the actress or the spectator of my own life.

Anny, present-day Hollywood

"The real Anny is hiding. ... I act cheerful, yes, but I'm not happy. Other people may think I'm fun to be around, that I'm a partygoer with no hang-ups, but all this running around is hiding my real self. It's makeup."

My thoughts:  I liked this novel. It's poignant and unflinching and beautifully told. Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt deftly weaves together the lives of these three unique women and their journeys to self-discovery. And I like how their stories all intersect at the end. This was definitely a serendipitous find from the S shelf.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

'Tis the Season ...

In the mood for some snowy winter reads? Here are a few books you might enjoy:

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

Trapped by Michael Northrop

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Happy Reading!