Friday, July 29, 2016

Classic Reads, the ABCs, and Me...

Here, in semi-alphabetical order, are the twenty-four classics I want to read next, with every letter of the alphabet represented, including X. It's probably going to take me a couple of years to read them all, but I'm not in a hurry.  After all, they're classics; they're going to be around for quite awhile.

Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Godfrey Morgan by Jules Verne
The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless by Eliza Haywood
The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino
Roderick Hudson by Henry James
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
Ovid's Metamorphosis
Dance Night by Dawn Powell
Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Gray
Tortilla Flats by John Steinbeck
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Virginian by Owen Wister
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Murder on the Orient EXpress by Agatha Christie
Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
The Ladies Paradise by Emile Zola

Wish me luck.
And Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A quick read:

Dead River by Cyn Balog is part mystery, part ghost story, and part fairy tale. When Kiandra Levesque was seven, her mother walked into the Delaware River and drowned.  That's when Ki started hearing the river's voice whispering to her and seeing visions of the dead. Fearing that she might share her mother's fate, Ki's father packs them up and moves to Wayview, Maine, far away from any water.

Now Ki is a high school senior, and instead of going to prom, she and her boyfriend, Justin, are going white water rafting on the Dead River. She's sure everything will be fine. But once she's near the river, the voices and the visions return. Along with a handsome ghost named Jack, who wants something from her, and another ghost named Trey, who claims he's there to protect her. And when they both tell her that her mother is Mistress of the Waters and is just on the other side of the river, she doesn't know what or who to believe.

This is a very readable, if slightly superficial Ya novel. I liked the fairy tale aspect of Ki becoming Mistress of the Waters like her mother, but I kept wishing that particular part of the story had been a little more well-developed. I had questions about their respective roles and responsibilities that never quite got answered. And the way everything got wrapped up at the end, especially with the ghosts, felt just a little too convenient. But it's still a fun read. And a quick one, too. I just wish it was a book with a little more depth.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some bookish advice:

If your mom hands you a book this week and tells you to read it because "It's such a good book; you'll love it!" -- Read it. Especially if the book happens to be Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Because she's right. It's not only a really good read, it's also touching, well-written, and the perfect summer road-trip book.

Here's what I loved about it:

  1. August Shroeder, the lonely high school science teacher who's headed to Yellowstone National Park with his dog, Woody, in order to sprinkle some of his son's ashes there.
  2. Seth and Henry, the two young boys who end up traveling with August while their Dad spends ninety days in jail. (Especially Henry.)
  3. The fact that on their way to Yellowstone they also visit Zions and Bryce Canyon...two national parks that I love because they're right here in Utah and they're amazing!
  4. The poignant relationship that develops between August and the two boys over the course of the summer and where it eventually leads these three unique and extremely likeable characters.
You know what? My mom was right. I did love this book. Makes me think I should've read those other books she was always telling me to read when I was growing up. Oh, well. Live and learn!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Charmed by Charming...

"I come from a long line of dragon slayers ... I used to be one of the modern-day knights who patrol the borders between the world of man and the supernatural abyss that is its shadow. I wore non-reflective Kevlar instead of shining armor and carried a sawed-off shotgun as well as a sword ... until the day I discovered that I had been cursed by one of the monsters I used to hunt. My name is Charming by the way. John Charming. And I am not living happily ever after."

John Charming may be hunted and alone, but he's also super-fast, strong, handsome, dangerous, irreverent, wolfish and funny. If it sounds like I'm gushing, I am. I have a bit of a bookish crush on John Charming.  I also really like Sig, the blond Valkyrie he meets in Charming, Elliott James' excellent urban fantasy adventure. Sig is beautiful and tough, with supernatural powers of her own; she's as good in a fight as John, if not better, which comes in handy when they have to hunt down a dangerous vampire hive. Can you tell that I loved this novel? It's fast-paced humorous magical fun. And there's at least three more books in the series! (Which I can't wait to check out of the library because I'm already itching for another dose of the very charming John Charming.)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A bookish update...

Just finished reading:

Quote of the week:
"You sin against yourself if you don't struggle to be everything you can be
and follow your own road regardless of where it leads you."
--Victoria Woodhull

Listening to:

Recently checked out of the library:
Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson
Office Girl by Joe Meno
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt
Dead River by Cyn Balog

Up Next:

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

The Where & When:  England, 1848

The Who:  Amy Snow, who is abandoned as an infant, and Aurelia Vennaway, the young heiress who saves her from freezing to death.

The What:  Despite the difference in their ages and social standings (and the objections of Aurelia's parents), Amy grows up with Aurelia at Hatville Court and becomes her friend and companion. But then Aurelia gets sick and dies. Her parents, Lord and Lady Vennaway, unceremoniously dismiss Amy from Hatville Court, ordering her never to return. But Aurelia planned for this eventuality and left Amy a very different legacy:
"...this is the start of my last treasure hunt for you. Think of my letters as the clues--each will lead on to the next. I have planned for my story to unfold just a little at a time, with every letter taking you farther from Hatville, farther from the ignominy of your treatment there:  safer and stronger and freer....Our friendship is precious and I hope that you will never regret it, but it kept you a prisoner also, tied to this house and dependent on me. Now you  can fly free, little bird! And I will help you, for you have helped me, more than you will ever know."
 So begins Amy Snow's journey. Aurelia's treasure hunt will take her across England, leading her to new friends, hidden secrets, and unexpected truths. I liked the people she met more than I did her search to uncover the secrets of Aurelia's past; I wish she could have spent more time with each of them, but she always had to move on to the next clue. Still, there are great characters in this book. Amy herself is very naive and young when she leaves Hatville Court, and I have to confess that it took me several chapters to warm up to her. But both she and the story get better as they go along. The only problem I had with this novel was the uneven pacing:  sometimes I got really caught up in the narrative and the pages just flew by, but there were other moments when I felt like the story dragged. Overall, though, it's an excellent read with a fun premise. I mean, who doesn't love a well-plotted treasure hunt?

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Art of Reading...

William Orpen-- the Window Seat, 1901

"It's never too late to be what you might have been."
--George Eliot

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Create your own Jane Austen adventure...

Title:  Lost in Austen
Author:  Emma Campbell Webster

Your mission:  You get to be Elizabeth Bennet in this choose-your-own-adventure novel.  "Equipped with only your wit and natural good sense, your mission is to marry both prudently and for love, eluding undesirable suitors and avoiding family scandals..."

My thoughts:  This book is fabulously frivolous and fun. It's a basic retelling of Pride and Prejudice, with direct passages taken from the original text, but with a few additions and subtractions. As you read you earn points in five areas: intelligence, confidence, accomplishments,connections, and fortune. They ebb and flow along with the story. As Lizzie, my fortunes quickly fell into negative numbers...and my list of failings and inferior connections grew and grew. (How did she and Darcy ever get together with all that going against her?) But it's the little asides the author throws in as she tells you to add or deduct from your points that make this book so incredibly funny. I laughed all the way through. It's not hard to make the "right" choices as you go, but I sometimes deliberately opted for the "wrong" choice just to see what would happen. (That's when the story really takes some strange and humorous turns.) If you love Pride and Prejudice, you'll like this book. I know I did. It's almost as fun to read as the Pride and Prejudice board game is to play. I even managed to get Lizzie her happy ending, which is all that really matters.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

An A+ Read...

"Apparently, even after the end of the world, friendship still counts for something."

David Wellington writes quite the story in Positive. His main character, Finn, wasn't even born when the zombie plague killed 99% of the population. He's part of the second generation, growing up in a safe Manhattan where there are no zombies. He goes crabbing in the flooded subway tunnels with his friend, Ike, and takes his turn working in the rooftop gardens. But then his mother goes zombie, and nineteen-year-old Finn is presumed to be infected, too. Marked as a "positive", Finn is banished from the city. He's supposed to be taken to a safe medical center in Ohio to wait out the incubation period, but his ride never shows up. Instead, he's on his own in a post-apocalpytic America with the looters, the crazy road pirates, death cultists and murderous marauders. Oh, and the zombies.

There are a lot of firsts for Finn in this novel:  the first time he's forced to survive on his own; the first time he drives a car; the first time he shoots a gun; and the first time he falls in love with a girl. Positive really is a coming-of-age story set in a zombie world. It's fast-paced, compelling, and very character-driven. I liked Finn and all the other quirky characters he meets along the way, both good and bad. Finn has to grow up fast, but he does it well; I admired him more with each hard decision he had to make. Other good things about this book:  the writing, Wellington's well-developed dystopian future, Kylie, Finn's scarred and traumatized girlfriend who is also a survivor like him, and Finn's unwavering optimism. He believes things can get better. And I liked that. This novel has humor. And action. And suspense. And hope. It's a good read; all 437 pages of it.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

First Impressions from my TBR Shelf...

Here are the first lines from a few of the 26 books sitting on my TBR shelf:

First Line: If there had ever been such a thing as a Miss Muslim contest, all but one of the women in my family would have won it.
Title: Salaam, Paris by Kavita Daswanit
Genre:  Chic Lit/Women's Fiction

First Line: She was a young woman in a plaid coat and cap, neither tall nor short, dark nor fair, not quite pretty enough to turn a head:  the sort of woman who could, if necessary, lose herself in a crowd.
Title:  Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman
Genre: Non-fiction biography about Nelly Bly's race around the world.

First Line:  It is always my opinion, that fewer women were undone by love than vanity; and that those mistakes the sex are sometimes guilty of, proceed, for the most part, rather from inadvertency, than a vicious inclination. 
Title:  The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless by Eliza Haywood
Genre:  Classic Fiction

First Line:  Purity Drake tried to struggle as the long needle of the syringe sank towards her arm, but the leather straps on the restraining table were binding her down too tight.
Title:  The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt
Genre:  Steampunk Science Fiction

First Line:  That year at Christmas time, every morning dawned laced with frost under leaden skies.
Title:  The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Genre:  Literary Fiction

Which would you read first?

I hope everyone has a happy Fourth of July!
And Happy Reading!