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!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Girl Underwater

"Oxygen masks bounce on seats like coiled springs. Someone's leopard-print luggage lands in the doorway between first class and coach. Lights are flickering. Alarms blaring. ... It occurs to me then, finally, that we're going down. There are other people sharing this nightmare, two hundred of them, seeing the same horrors and experiencing the same despair and hearing the same staccato beat of air and engines. Our paths were supposed to diverge again in Boston, but they didn't. We're here. We're ending. Together."


Sophomore Avery Delacorte is flying home for Thanksgiving when her flight crashes in the Colorado Rockies. The plane lands in a remote mountain lake. There are only five survivors: Avery, three little boys, and Colin Shea, a fellow swimmer on Avery's college swim team. Together they must face the cold, the snow, the fears of three small boys, and the uncertainty that all of them will be rescued in time.

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells is more than a story of wilderness survival; it's also the story of the aftermath of that plane crash and how Avery is affected by everything that happened before, during, and after. Not only does she have to deal with the psychological and physical trauma, she has to deal with her feelings for Colin, and her hopes and fears for the future. This novel is nicely complicated, well developed and very absorbing. I read it in two days. But then I'm a sucker for survival stories, especially when they end well. And this book's ending made me smile.

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A bookish update...

Recently finished: Deadlight Hall by Sarah Rayne

Still reading: Red--A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey

Recently checked out from the library:
Feed by Mira Grant
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Love Finds You in Calico. California by Elizabeth Ludwig
The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault

Really looking forward to: Thanksgiving day turkey, stuffing, and homemade pumpkin pie (with lots of left-overs for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) as well as staying home and NOT shopping this weekend.

Am very grateful for:  family, friends, the gospel of Jesus Christ, employment, a car that runs, vacations, good books, hoodies, chocolate, and bubble baths.

Up next: Not a book, but my favorite holiday movie, the one I watch every Thanksgiving: Miracle on 34th Street (the classic version starring Maureen O'Hara, John Payne and Natalie Wood)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Historical fiction fun...

It is 1871 and the Ladies' Emigration Society has promised Caroline Jamison, a young Civil War widow, and several other single women homestead claims in Cayote, Nebraska. But when they arrive, the women discover that Mr. Drake, the man in charge of the Emigration Society, has actually lined up marriages for them instead. Only Caroline isn't interested in marrying again. She and five of the other women insist on filing homestead claims in Plum Grove, Nebraska instead.

Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson is an entertaining historical fiction novel with a lot of humor and a lot of heart. The five women who are the main characters each have their own story to tell: Caroline, a southern belle who married a yankee; tall and plain Ella, who came out with her mother, Zita; Ruth, also a widow, and her fourteen-year-old son, Jackson; rough-around-the-edges Sallie, who divorced her abusive husband; and Hettie, who secretly ran away from hers. I liked them all. There's romance in this novel, too, some of it predictable, some of it unexpected, all of it enjoyable. Plus, I've been drawn to homesteading stories and this time period in American history ever since I was a kid and first read all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books...so for me, this novel checked all the boxes.

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 16, 2015

November's Bookish Art...

Mary Cassatt
"I like best to have one book in my hand,
and a stack of others beside me."
--Dorothy Parker

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bookish thoughts...

To review or not to review.  What do you say about books that aren't bad, but that aren't great either? Like all those books you give three stars to on Goodreads. They aren't bad enough to trash, but are they good enough to recommend when there are so many other, possibly better, books out there to read? I prefer to write about the books I really like, not the ones that are merely okay. The only bad thing about that is when I hit a stretch of mediocre reads and end up having nothing to write about at all.

On books vs. movies.  In the past, whenever they turned a book into a movie that I wanted to see, I always tried to read the book before I saw the movie. Because the book came first. But lately, whenever there's a movie coming out of a book I haven't read yet, I find myself thinking, "Oh good. Now I don't have to read the book; I can just go see the movie." It's sad but true. Especially with books that are probably really good. Like The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials and Room. All are books I had on my To Read list once, but now I no longer feel like I have to read them...I can just go to the movie instead. And I don't even feel guilty about it. There are just too many other books that I want to read...and never enough time to read them all.

Happy Reading!
(or movie watching)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Got books?

Wendy Welch and her husband, Jack, purchase an old Edwardian house in Big Stone Gap--a tiny Appalachian coal town in southwest Virginia--and almost on a whim, decide to turn the downstairs into a used bookstore. Opening a bookstore had always been one of their dreams, but they weren't exactly prepared for their dream to arrive so soon.
"We bought the house in July and planned to open shop in October; a quick turn-around meant the place could start paying us back for its purchase. Since we didn't have any investment capital, without remorse or pity, we culled our personal library for inventory...The books from our personal cull barely filled half of one room's shelves, yet three rooms waited. It didn't feel cozy or full of promise, more barren and tomblike...The book morgue that wanted to be a shop was our problem, waiting for our solution. But hook, crook, or sheer force of will, we would find more books--without going into debt for them."
5 things I loved about The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: a memoir of friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book by Wendy Welch:

  • It's a book about books...and a one-of-a-kind bookstore! Two of my favorite things. 
  • Welch's writing is humorous, honest and heartfelt. making this memoir a delightfully funny read.
  • Big Stone Gap itself and the sometimes quirky, always interesting, book-loving characters who live there.
  • Every chapter is headed by an awesome bookish quote. (And I love bookish quotes!)
  • At its heart, this story is about making your 'someday dreams' come true. Because...
"What if someday is today?"

Happy Reading!

Similar read: 
Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica A. Fox (Which is about a girl and a dream, a bookstore in Scotland, and a fairy tale romance.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Another bookish gem ...

Title: The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis
First line: Before Batsheva moved to Memphis, our community was the safest place on earth, close, small, held together like a carefully crocheted sweater.

The arrival of free-spirited Batsheva and her young daughter quickly disrupts life in this tight-knit Orthodox community: she sings too loud at shul, dresses wrong, and doesn't wait to see how others do things; she just acts. She doesn't try to fit in. Instead, she begins studying with the Rabbi's handsome son, Yosef, in the mornings, and teaching art classes at the Jewish school in the afternoons. She asks questions, and soon has the other women questioning things, too, even if only within themselves. It's not her intent, but Batsheva's influence soon ripples through this traditional community...unraveling everything.
"Mark my words, Helen. This is going to be a situation to watch out for."
This book is a charming blend of Jewish culture and Southern hospitality. It's a book about women: young and old, widows and wives, mothers and daughters. I liked all of them. Especially Batsheva. I admired her view of religion and how, by keeping kosher and celebrating Shabbos, she seeks to draw closer to God; I also found it interesting how it's this aspect of her character that seems to make the other women most uncomfortable. How they react to Batsheva's presence, and the effect she has on their lives, made me laugh, wince, and at times, even want to cry. It's a thought-provoking read. I loved the humor and the honesty of Mirvis' writing. Most of all, I loved the way this book made me stop and ponder my own life.

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 2, 2015


I had 12 categories left on my reading bingo card and I just finished reading the last one. (Hooray!) Here are the books I read and the categories they filled for the last 12 squares:

20th Century Dead Author: The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie (Because you can never go wrong with Christie.)
ART: The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
Banned: The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (For some reason this was the hardest category for me to complete.)
A Book Abandoned: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (I got to page 280--more than halfway through this 529-page book--and while I thought it was interesting, I just didn't want to read the rest. So I quit.)
Book of Essays: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (Such amazing writing!)
Celebrity: Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison
Cult Classic: I actually ended up reading two books for this category: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, a novel about a carnival cult, and V For Vendetta by Alan Moore, a graphic novel that has a cult following.
Passion: Blind Descent by James M. Tabor
Pulitzer Prize: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Revisited: The Alliance by Gerald N. Lund (My all-time favorite dystopian novel!)
Trash: Captive Heart by Michele Paige Holmes (Not so much trash as pure fluff.)
UFO: Raven's Exile: A Season on the Green River by Ellen Meloy

One of the reasons I love doing reading bingo is that it pushes me out of my bookish comfort zone and makes me try books I wouldn't otherwise read. Which is a good thing. So here's a big THANKS to the Unruly Reader for coming up with this awesome bing card. I had a lot of fun completing it!

Happy Reading!

(To see what I read for the other 13 bingo categories click here.)

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!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tackling the TBR Pile...

I have 25 unread books on my shelves, and I can't seem to make myself read any of them. And I'm so close to reaching my goal! See, this year I wanted to read 15 books from off my TBR pile, and so far I've managed to read 13. But now I seem to be stuck. So even though there are three more months left in the year, its starting to look like I'm not going to reach my goal.

There are some good authors in my TBR pile, too. Anthony Trollope, Elizabeth Gaskell, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Fred Vargas, Stephen Hunt, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Ann Radcliffe, and Louisa May Alcott to name a few. I just wish I was still in the mood to read them. Any of them. I mean, the reason I bought them in the first place was because they sounded so good. But now they make me feel tired. I think I'm experiencing TBR apathy.

It almost makes me want to go to the bookstore and buy a couple of new books that I do want to read.

Just kidding!
So ... how many TBRs are waiting for you?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A bookish trifle...

Sometimes I need a break from thoughtful, literary reads; I mean, books that are serious or dark or thought-provoking are great, but there are days when I just want a bit of fluff instead. That's the kind of mood I've been in this week, and why I ended up reading The Widower's Wife by Prudence Bice.

It's set on the "Wisconsin frontier" (who knew Wisconsin even had a frontier?). Jillian Grey answers a newspaper ad for a mail-order bride placed by newly widowed Dalton McCullough who needs a mother for his three young children. It's strictly a marriage of convenience for both of them, until they start to fall in love. But it's never that simple or straight-forward in these kinds of romances. There are misunderstandings and things from both their pasts that need to be resolved. Still, we all know how it ends.

Was the plot completely predictable? Yes.
Did it lessen my enjoyment of this novel? Not really.

I was in the mood for something light and fun, and this book fit the bill. It doesn't have a lot of substance, but it was still satisfyingly sweet--kind of like eating a box of divinity. (Or Turkish Delight.) And while I wouldn't want a steady diet of it, once in awhile it really hits the spot. Don't you think?

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A bookish update...

Recent read that I loved: I Love I hate I Miss My Sister by Amelie Sarn

Recent read that I didn't love: Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
(The ending ruined it for me.)

Bookish thoughts from Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
* Unread books accumulate
*For books, timing is everything. 
The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. 

Good News: My library is open again!!! 
(And it still has all its books.)

Recently checked out from my library:
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson
The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters
Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford
The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey

Up next: Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Seven books everyone's read ... except me

1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
(Although I've seen so many film/TV versions of this story I feel like I have read it.)

3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

4. The Boys on the Boat by Daniel J. Brown
(Every book club I know is reading this book...except mine, of course.)

5.Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

7. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

There are others, of course, but these are the books people seem to keep talking about. And I smile and nod like I know what they're referring to, even when I don't. Will I ever get around to reading them? Maybe. Maybe not. I can get stubborn when it comes to certain books and authors...especially when they've been hyped a little too much. What about you? Are there books out there that everyone's read except you?

Happy Reading (Or not)!

Monday, September 14, 2015

From the U Shelf...

"I am not ascare to die. I am only ascare that after death I be alone. Maybe because of suicide, I go to the hell? If hell all hot and crowded and noiseful, like Christian minister on TV say, then I not care because it will be just like India. But if hell cold and quiet, with lot of snow and leaf-empty trees, and people who smile with string-thin lips, then I ascare. Because it seem so much like my life in America."

 In The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar, a failed suicide attempt brings two women together: Lakshmi Patil, a desperately lonely Indian woman trapped in a loveless marriage, and Dr. Maggie Bose, a successful psychologist who agrees to treat Lakshmi for free. A friendship slowly develops between them as Lakshmi shares the stories of her past. For women who come from two completely different worlds, it's interesting how much they have in common. They each have secrets, and they each make big mistakes, but that's what makes them so endearing and likeable. And so human.

This is a beautifully told story of friendship and forgiveness. I especially liked the parts that take place in India; it's such a fascinating country and culture, and so foreign to my own. I've never read Thrity Umrigar before, but I'll definitely read her again. She's an amazing writer. It makes me glad that the U shelf at my library had so few options to choose from, otherwise I might have overlooked this book. And that would have been sad. So, here's to the serendipity of reading the alphabet and to an unexpected find from the U shelf.

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 11, 2015

September's bookish art...

William Mulready - Fireside Read
"Words, I've come to learn, are pulleys through time. Portals into other minds. 
Without words, what remains? Indecipherable customs. Strange rites. Blighted hearts. 
Without words, we are history's orphans."
--Alena Graedon, The Word Exchange

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Read this!

Title: Five by Ursula Archer
First Line: The place where his left ear used to be was throbbing to the rhythm of his heartbeat.
Genre: Psychological thriller
Setting: Salzburg, Austria

My thoughts: It's the murderer who drives this mystery, geocaching tantalizing clues to direct the police, especially detective Beatrice Kaspary, to the next victim. An incident from her past connects Beatrice to the killer, at least in his mind; now she must find a connection between the victims before more people die. But the clues the killer leaves are not easy to figure out, and Beatrice feels like she's always one step behind.

Reading this book is like watching a suspenseful game of chess between the detectives and the killer, where the uncertainty and importance of each of their next moves keeps you turning the pages far into the night. But Archer also develops her main characters so well that I was completely caught up in their personal lives and interested in their past histories. It's a good mix. And the killer was very unexpected. I love it when I find an author I haven't read before who ends up delivering such a riveting read; this book is an original and suspenseful mystery, and one that I liked a lot.

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bookish Thoughts...

On reading from the U shelf.  There aren't a lot of options when looking for an author whose last name starts with the letter U. Especially since I'm not really interested in reading Updike or Uris.  I even checked the young adult, mystery, and science fiction shelves hoping for something serendipitous and fun, but they didn't have any U books at all. So it looks like I'll be choosing something from either Lisa Unger, Thrity Umrigar, or Rachel Urquhart.  Any thoughts?

On An Invisible Sign. After seeing this book by Aimee Bender on Goodreads, I really wanted to read it, only my library didn't have a copy. (So typical!) They did, however, have the film version of it; so, I ended up watching the movie instead. It stars Jessica Alba and is charming and quirky, original and fun. And while I usually prefer to read the book first, I'm just glad I got to enjoy this story at all.

On e-books.  I don't have an e-book reader, mostly because I prefer reading real books, but with the way things are going, I'm beginning to think I might have to give in and buy one. Just the other day I was looking up several titles on my library's website and over half of them were only available as e-books. What's a girl to do? So, what do you think? Should I buy a Kindle or a Nook?

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A bookish gem...

"Can you experience nostalgia for something that hasn't happened? We talk of 'regrets' about the course of our lives, when we are almost certain we have taken the wrong decision; but one can also be enveloped in a sweet and mysterious euphoria, a sort of nostalgia for what might have been."

Laurent is a divorced bookseller in his forties who finds a discarded purse in the garbage on his way to work. The money and identity card have been stolen, but all the other contents remain. As Laurent goes through the items in the purse one by one, he begins to fall in love with the mysterious owner. But can the clues he finds in the purse lead him to the woman in real life?

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain is a delight. I loved the characters. And the way Laurain writes. And how Laurent falls in love with a woman he knows only through the contents of her purse. This book is thoughtful, charming, funny, and wonderfully told. Definitely a bookish gem! I am looking forward to reading Antoine Laurain (and this book) again.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

5 Bookish Frustrations...

1. A disappointing ending that ruins an otherwise perfectly good book.
(Why do authors do this?)

2. Over 100 holds on a book I want to read RIGHT NOW.
(Patience isn't my strong suit.)

3. Impossibly hard-to-get, out-of-print books that are too expensive to buy just to read once.

4. Not enough shelves!
(Because owning too many books couldn't possibly be the problem.)

5. My library still closed for renovations!
(It's been four months, people. Finish already!)

What frustrates you?
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Bookish Thriller...

Title: What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton
First Line: The last time she would ever go swimming, all of Seattle was baking beneath a sky of blameless blue.
My Thoughts:  This is Carla Norton's second novel about Reeve LeClaire, who is fast becoming one of my all-time favorite characters. She's a survivor; seven years ago she escaped from Daryl Wayne Flint, the man who kidnapped her and then kept and tortured her for over four years. Now, Flint is the one who's escaped from the psychiatric hospital where he's been locked up since his trial, and Reeve realizes that if she doesn't do everything she can to help the FBI find Flint, she will never be free of him or her past.

I like how Reeve never gives up; she's such a gutsy character, even when she's scared to death. And I admire how determined she is to overcome the nightmares of her past. There are some other great characters in this book as well, like Milo Bender, the retired FBI agent who was on the scene when Reeve was found all those years ago, and J.D., his handsome son. All in all, this is a fast-paced and fun thrill ride. I hope Norton writes many more novels about Reeve LeClaire.

Happy Reading!

Be sure to check out Clara Norton's first novel:  The Edge of Normal

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Reading Promise

The 3,128-night reading marathon that my father and I call The Streak started on a train to Boston, when I was in third grade.

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma is a charming memoir about a daughter and her father, the books they shared together over a nine year period, and the transformative power of reading. I love books--especially ones about books and reading--and I absolutely loved this one. At the end, there's a "Reading Promise" that the author hopes everyone will choose to make. Here's an excerpt from it:
I promise to read. I promise to read on my own, in print or on a screen, wherever books appear. I promise to visit fictional worlds and gain new perspectives--to keep an open mind about books, even when the cover is unappealing and the author is unfamiliar. I promise to laugh out loud (especially in public) when the chapter amuses me, and to sob uncontrollably on my bed for hours at a time when my favorite character dies. ... I promise to tell everyone I know how reading calms me down, riles me up, makes me think, or helps me get to sleep at night. I promise to read, and read to someone, as long as human thought is still valued and there are still words to be shared. I promise to be there for books, because I know they will always be there for me.
Isn't that a great promise to make?
Happy Reading!

Monday, August 17, 2015

A bookish update...

 Recent acquisition:  How Nancy Drew Saved My Life by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Used book stores are dangerous.  When I saw this book sitting on the shelf, I couldn't resist the title or the premise:  Charlotte Bell is determined to be intrepid and brave as she heads to her new nanny assignment in Iceland. There she runs into mystery and romance. But she has a new motto to help her through:  What Would Nancy Drew Do? I hope this book turns out to be as funny as it sounds, or I just wasted $3.00.

Recently checked out from the library:
What Doesn't Kill Her by Carla Norton
So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore
Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson
The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Recent disappointing read:  Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor. The Antarctic setting was great, the plot not so much.

Recent read that didn't disappoint: The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg. Sookie drove me a little crazy, but I loved Fritzi.

Up next: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  (Which counts as my Pulitzer Prize-winning book for Reading Bingo!)

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Art of Reading...

C. Cole Phillips

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines
what you will be when you can't help it."
--Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another Pym...

"...everyone knew that people in villages were different."

Barbara Pym's last novel, A Few Green Leaves, is about life in a West Oxfordshire village. Emma Howick, a single anthropologist in her thirties, has come to this village to do some research for her next paper and observe the customs and characters living in this village. And there are plenty of characters:  Tom, the widowed rector, "who might sill marry again"; Daphne, the rector's single sister, who dreams of living in a white-washed Greek cottage somewhere on the Aegean; old Dr. G. who prefers his patients to be young, and young Dr. Shrubsole, who has an interest in geriatrics; Graham Pettifer, Emma's ex-lover, who unexpectedly turns up at the village to work on his next book; and Miss Lee, Miss Grundy, and Miss Lickerish, the bevy of spinsters that seem to be a given in any Barbara Pym novel. As Emma observed, "There was obviously material for note here." And the possibility of romance as well.

While there's no mystery or psychological suspense in a Pym novel, there is humor and characters to which you quickly become attached. A Few Green Leaves follows life in a small English village over a summer. It's charming, well-written, and thoroughly enjoyable. Pym does it again! I've read four other Pym novels: Excellent Women, Some Tame GazelleJane and Prudence, and Quartet in Autumn.  They are all worth checking out.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Around the World in 8 Books...

When taking a bookish trip around the world you have basically two options: fiction or non-fiction. Each itinerary offers a wide range of possible destinations; what books you choose all depends on where you want to go. Imagine, in just 8 books you can circumnavigate the globe!

Here's the fictional around-the-world trip I wouldn't mind taking:

  1. London Falling by Paul Cornell
  2. Salaam, Paris by Kavita Daswani
  3. The Storyteller of Marrakesh by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
  4. Appointment in Venice by Sally Stewart
  5. Treasure of Egypt by Barbara Ivie Green
  6. The Painter From Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  7. The Bali Mystery by Linda Clarke
  8. Galapagos Regained by James Morrow
My non-fiction trip looks a little different, but it still includes 8 amazing bookish destinations:
  1. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart
  2. A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa by Steve Kemper
  3. Visit Sunny Chernobyl by Andrew Blackwell
  4. I'll Call you in Kathmandu: the Elizabeth Hawley Story by Bernadette McDonald
  5. Hitchhiking Vietnam by Karin Muller
  6. Alone in Antarctica by Felicity Aston
  7. Lost in the Amazon by Stephen Kirkpatrick
  8. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
I'd rather have real stamps in my passport, but until I can afford an actual trip around the world, bookish travel will have to do.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Coolest Race on Earth

"...the emergence of exotic marathons, from Antarctica to the Sahara desert, reflects a restless energy and a desire on the part of many runners to keep pushing boundaries further and further. But it's also simply an interesting way to see interesting places."

The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers, and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon by John Hanc tells the story of this crazy marathon, the guy who started it, and the people who come to race it. Hanc also gives you a bit of marathon history and Antarctica exploration trivia. I've never wanted to run a marathon myself, but I admire those who commit to, and complete, such an arduous task. And the runners who travel to the farthest end of the earth to run 26.2 miles? Well, they are their own interesting breed. This book was an entertaining read that almost made me want to go to Antarctica, too. Here's a snippet from the author about why he chose to run the "Last Marathon":
It was time to get out of this funk and into a new frame of mind. A trip to Antarctica is a great remedy for this, provided you're not planning to spend the dark winter there, which, as numerous studies and several gory murders on remote scientific stations have proven, can drive you insane. Many compare the whiteness of the place to the blank page on a new chapter in one's life. 

Happy Reading!

Another great read:
     Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Twelfth TBR...

Disclaimer:  I love Henry James. Ever since I first read The Portrait of a Lady I have been an unapologetic fan of his writing. So, I am not objective when it comes to his books; in fact, you might say I am predisposed to like whatever he writes. Including this novel:

The Princess Casamassima by Henry James is about a boy named Hyacinth Robinson. His mother, an unmarried French dressmaker, murders his father, an English nobleman, when he is just a baby. Hyacinth  is raised in poverty by a kind-hearted but humble dressmaker; he grows up hating the sordity of his surroundings, and the ugliness and ignorance of those around him, and longs for a better, finer existence.
"By the nature of his mind he was perpetually conscious that the circle in which he lived was an infinitesimally small, shallow eddy in the roaring vortex of London, and his imagination plunged again and again into the waves that whirled past it and round it, in the hope of being carried to some brighter, happier vision -- the vision of societies in which, in splendid rooms, with smiles and soft voices, distinguished men, with women who were both proud and gentle, talked about art, literature, and history."
As a young man he befriends some revolutionary idealists consumed with injustice, class warfare, socialism, and fighting for the downtrodden masses against those in power. (Although for most of the book they're more talk than action.) Hyacinth gets drawn into their radical politics and, in a rash moment of youthful fervor, makes a "sacred vow" to assassinate a major political figure when called upon. But it's the dazzling Princess Casamassima, also caught up in the "Great Social Cause", who really impacts Hyacinth's life. In her brilliance and beauty he finally finds the world he's been searching for (although it seemed to me that she was using him as a stepping stone to something, or someone, greater; I had a hard time liking her as much as Hyacinth did). Things go wrong for Hyacinth when his radical leanings start to conflict more and more with his own vision of the world and all the good that he sees in it, and he soon comes to regret the vow he made.

Honor, integrity, and nobility of character always play an important role in James' novels; his characters are often tormented by their own internal struggles and the choices they are forced to make, which means his endings are rarely happy. The Princess Casamassima is no exception. This novel is a tragedy. And while it will never be my favorite Henry James novel, I think Hyacinth Robinson will linger in my mind for awhile. The biggest plus of finishing this book is that, at 590 pages, it qualifies as my "Very Long Classic Novel" in Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.

Happy Reading!

My four favorite Henry James novels: 
  1. The Portrait of a Lady
  2. The Wings of the Dove
  3. The Awkward Age
  4. The American

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Bookish Quiz...

Here are my answers to five random questions that are unapologetically bookish; what would your bookish answers be?

1. If you could have lunch with any dead author (miraculously brought back to life for the occasion) who would it be?
Bram Stoker...because I'm not scathingly witty enough 
to lunch with Dorothy Parker.

2. Which fictional character would you love to hang out with?
Nancy Drew

3. If you could jump into any book and temporarily trade lives with one of its characters, who would you choose?
Elizabeth Bennett

4. If you could visit any fictional setting, where would you go?
I'd love to spend the day shopping in Diagon Alley...maybe buy
some chocolate frogs, or a wand, or my very own owl... and then
I'd like to visit Honeydukes and Hogwarts.

5. Which fictional leading man (or lady) would you like to sped a romantic evening with?
Francisco d'Anconia

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Two Fun Reads

The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
"Alice pulled back the covers, easing herself into bed... The most important day of her life was almost over, and she wanted now only to rest. She had done it, she had made the leap. No more cleaning up cow dung, no more twisting the neck of squawking chickens. She was a factory girl now; she'd soon be working the looms and making money. Tomorrow it would begin."
Things I loved about this book:  Alice Barrows, Lovey Cornell and the other spunky mill girls; the 1832 Lowell, Massachusetts setting; Samuel Fiske, the mill owner's responsible oldest son; and the scandalous mystery and historical trial surrounding the murder of one of the mill girls. From start to finish, this novel was a pleasure to read. (And the ending will make you smile.)

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro

Claire Roth is an artist who has just been offered an amazing chance to exhibit her own pieces in a high-end Boston gallery, but there's a price...one she isn't sure she wants to pay.
"My own show. The sweet possibility of reclaiming all that's been lost, everything I've ever wanted. But a forger? A pretender? The absolute last thing I want to be."
Things I loved about this book:  delving into the world of art and oil painting, forgeries, Degas and the still unsolved mystery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art heist. Shapiro does an excellent job of mixing fact with fiction in this clever mystery. The Art Forger is captivating fun.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Miss Marjoribanks

I was a bit apprehensive about reading this particular classic. There seemed to be more unfavorable reviews of it than favorable, and I was worried I might not like it. Happily for me, however, it turned out to be not only an enjoyable read, but a surprisingly funny one, too. Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant is like a cross between Jane Austen's Emma and Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. It's heroine, 19-year-old Lucilla Marjoribanks, has been away at school, but now she's returned home to Carlingford with decided views about society and her father and her own duty to both.
"...the Doctor's daughter was not a mild young lady, easy to be controlled; but, on the contrary, had all the energy and determination to have her own way ... Lucilla felt more and more that she who held the reorganisation of society in Carlingford in her hands was a woman with a mission."
 She takes charge of her father's household, redecorates the drawing room in colors that complement her complexion so that she'll look especially well when she hosts her Thursday Evenings, and she quickly begins her successful "reign" over Grange Lane. But it's Lucilla's views on men, religion, marriage, and her own importance in society that really made me smile.  Here are four examples:

In such work as hers, a skillful leader is always on the outlook for auxiliaries; and there are circumstances in which a nice clergyman is almost as useful to the lady of the house as a man who can flirt.
For everybody knows that it requires very little to satisfy the gentlemen, if a woman will only give her mind to it." 
...(she) had been brought up in the old-fashioned orthodox way of having a great respect for religion, and as little to do with it as possible...  
 "I don't see the good of single women," said Lucilla, "unless they are awfully rich..."
I ended up really liking Miss Marjoribanks.  There's one sad thing that occurs in the second half of this book, but overall this classic novel not only made me smile, but on several occasions, it actually made me laugh out loud. I got the definite feeling that Oliphant was poking fun of Victorian society with Lucilla's egocentric yet "magnanimous" views of society and Carlingford's submission to this determined heroine, which is why I'm counting this book as my Humorous or Satirical Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.

Happy Reading!