Monday, August 29, 2016

Bookish Envy...

It's a door!
It's a bookcase!
It's a hidden door with a bookcase!

How cool is that?
I totally want one of these.
Especially one that opens into a library lined with bookshelves...
... but then, who wouldn't?

Happy Reading!
(And bookshelf dreaming.)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Another read from the O shelf...

The O shelf is crowded with books by Oates and O'Brien, Oke and Orwell. But hiding in their midst is a slender, unassuming novel by Matthew Olshan called Marshlands. It's a quiet novel "of occupation and empire, loyalty and treason", with spare prose that is surprisingly powerful, and a narrative that's written in reverse.

Part one of Marshlands begins with the release of an aging political prisoner, a former doctor and officer who was part of the occupation of the Marshlands. Gus's crime of treason is only hinted at as he is returned to the Capital where he no longer has a home, family, or any friends. And where he hopes no one will recognize him. But then he runs into someone and something familiar at the National Museum:  a controversial exhibit that is about to open on the Marshlands and the conquered people who once lived there. A people he came to know and admire.

Part two continues the story, but jumps back twenty-one years to do it, back to when Gus is serving as an Administrator in the Marshlands, and to the choices he makes that earn him the label of traitor.

Part three takes another narrative leap back eleven years to the beginning of the end; it's here where you finally start to understand what makes Gus the man he becomes.

I'm not explaining it well, but this style of reverse narration is definitely an interesting way to tell a story. It makes Olshan's writing feel very literary. And while I wouldn't want to read a lot of books written this way, I did end up liking this one. Even though at times I wanted a little more detail about the Marshmen and their history, and a little more of Gus's story, too; because I found them both interesting and intriguing. Marshlands is different:  a little sad, but uniquely memorable.  I'd call it another serendipitous find from the O shelf.

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Alice by Christina Henry

"Alice knew she wasn't mad."

But there's a scar on her face she can't remember getting. And she has nightmares of having tea in Old City with "The Rabbit", a stranger with blue-green eyes and long ears who really scares her. Not only that, but she's been locked up in an asylum for the last ten years. It's enough to make her think she might be mad after all. But then there's a fire and Alice escapes the asylum with the help of Hatcher, a fellow inmate. Hiding out in Old City, Alice's mind starts to clear and she realizes her strange thoughts aren't madness, but memories. Only she and Hatcher aren't safe yet. Because something else escaped the asylum the night of the fire, something monstrous and dark. Something called the Jabberwock. And she and Hatcher are the only ones that can put it back in its box.

Christina Henry's adventure "down the rabbit hole" is a much darker, more macabre tale than the one Lewis Carroll ever imagined. And I think that's why I liked it. Hatcher is a slightly terrifying character capable of murder, but he'd never do anything to hurt Alice. And she supposedly has what they need to defeat the Jabberwock if she can ever figure out the truth, or learn to believe in herself. Their journey is filled with danger, strangeness, mystery and magic, and a lot of crazy characters including Cheshire and Caterpillar, the very scary Walrus, and, of course, the even scarier Jabberwocky. This is one of those unique and delightfully compelling reads that I didn't want to put down. And I think there's a sequel which makes me happy, because....

"There's nothing ordinary about Alice."

Happy Reading!

Friday, August 19, 2016


In honor of last night's full moon, here are some moon-inspired titles that will suit any mood:

Urban Fantasy:
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Science Fiction/Horror:
172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Newbery Award Winner:
Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool

The Moon Sisters

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Magical Realism:
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Historical Fiction (Set in WWII):
The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck if you're feeling a little moonstruck...
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bookish fun and games...

My top 11 reasons for reading Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick:
     *  Mystery & Murder
     *  Victorian London
     *  Humor
     *  Suspense
     *  Heroic Gentlemen
     *  Engaging Heroines
     *  Witty Banter
     *  Kissing
     *  Obsession
     *  Unexpected Twists
     *  Romance

At 26, Calista Langley is a spinster who hosts salons and arranges discreet introductions for other respectable single ladies and gentlemen in London. It's not a dangerous business. Until someone starts leaving eerie memento mori objects for Calista in her own house. She enlists the aid of Trent Hastings, an author of popular detective novels, for help in figuring out the identity of her tormentor before his obsession with her leads to murder.

I loved this book. Calista and Trent have great chemistry, both as amateur detectives working together to solve this mystery, and in their growing attraction to each other. This mystery never gets overshadowed by their romance, however, and Quick does an excellent job of building suspense and keeping everyone guessing right up to the end. I also loved how much humor there is in this book. It's a very fun read. I wish Quick would write more books about these two entertaining characters; I would read them all.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

August's Bookish Art...

Alfred Emile Stevens -- Girl Reading
"Take no heed of her ... she reads a lot of books."
--Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair

Thursday, August 11, 2016

From the O Shelf...

Author:  Karen E. Olson
Title:  Hidden
First line:  I went missing fifteen years ago.

I've never read this author before, but the premise of this book intrigued me. Nicole Jones (not her real name) has been off the grid and hiding out on Block Island for the past 15 years. She earns a living by giving bike tours around the island and selling her artwork. She's left her former crimes, her computer, and her hacking skills far behind her. But then the last man on earth she wants to see shows up on the island demanding her help. And her past starts to catch up with her.

While not stellar, this is a pretty good read. I liked Nicole and how the mystery of her secret past is like a puzzle that's revealed bit by bit, piece by piece (although she's much more believable as a bike guide than as a hacker who's wanted by the FBI). She's smart and resourceful, and manages to hold her own against the bad buys, which I appreciate in any female character. The other islanders, especially Nicole's best friend Steve, make for some great secondary characters. And while not super suspenseful, this book ended up being a pretty quick read. But my favorite part of Hidden is the setting. Block island has everything I like in an island:  remote trails, amazing beaches, steep cliffs. Reading this book totally made me want to spend a summer there, maybe even buy a house and spend a year. For me, it's the best part of the book. 

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bookish Thoughts...

On Kipple.  This great word comes from Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (A novel I wasn't sure I'd like at first, but that ended up being a pleasant surprise.) According to Dick, "Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself...No one can win against kipple except temporarily and maybe in one spot...But eventually the kipple will again take over. It's a universal principle operating throughout the universe, the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total kippleization."  I think my desk is experiencing kippleization. Every time I turn around it has more piles, more papers, and more...kipple.

On distractions.  William R. Bradford once said, "We give our lives to that which we give our time." It made me stop and think. Do I spend my time on meaningful things like friends and family and pursuing my goals and dreams? Or am I wasting too much of it on things that don't really matter? (Like watching hour after hour of the Rio Olympics on TV.) It's good for me to stop and take stock once in awhile, to de-clutter my days and reprioritize my time. Because I am easily distracted. And time is precious. So is life. And I don't want to waste mine.

On zucchini.  I know there are a lot of people who don't like zucchini squash, but I happen to love it. And this summer we've finally grown enough of it that I can make all my favorite zucchini recipes:  zucchini bread (of course), zucchini chocolate chip muffins, lemon zucchini cookies, chocolate zucchini snack cake, zucchini quiche, zucchini pancakes, and zucchini relish. I even love to eat it plain or stir-fried with my dinner. So here's to an awesome zucchini summer!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A classic bookish adventure...

 "Any voyage can begin! But where and how it finishes is the important part."

First published in 1883, Jules Verne's novel Godfrey Morgan: A Californian Mystery was also published under the title School for Crusoes. And I have to admit I had never even heard of this particular Verne novel until my niece told me she'd read it and liked it. So, since I like Jules Verne, and I value my niece's opinion, I decided to read it, too.

At age 25, Godfrey Morgan isn't quite ready to get married. He wants to travel, and have adventures. Be Robinson Crusoe. So, with his fiancee's support, and on his uncle's dime, he boards a steamship intent on traveling around the world. But in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a storm arises, his ship sinks, and Godfrey finds himself shipwrecked on an uninhabited island with only Tartlet, his fiancee's dancing master, for company.
"...he set foot on the land where there probably awaited him, if not early death, at least a miserable life worse than death. Hunger, thirst, cold, and nakedness, and perils of all kinds; without a weapon of defence, without a gun to shoot with, without a change of clothes--such the extremities to which he was reduced. How imprudent he had been! He had been desirous of knowing if he was capable of making his way in the world under difficult circumstances! He had put himself to the proof! He had envied the lot of a Crusoe! Well, he would see if the lot were an enviable one."
What follows is a delightful comedy of errors as Godfrey and Tartlet try to make fire, find food, create a shelter, and survive the elements and the strange animals they discover on the island, all while channeling the spirit of Robinson Crusoe. This is probably one of Verne's more light-hearted novels. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Godfrey is a stalwart, good-hearted character who never gives up, even when things look grim. There isn't a lot of suspense about whether or not he'll survive because the "twist" at the end is apparent right from the beginning, but that only adds to the fun. This novel makes me want to read the rest of Jules Verne's "Voyages Extraordinaires".

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Another bookish gem...

Title: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
First line:  Because the station wagon blew up in the fire, Frank and I took the bus to the hospital.

The Plot:  When reclusive author M. M. Banning runs into financial trouble, she needs to write another book fast. So her New York Editor, Isaac Vargas, sends his young assistant, Alice Whitley, to California to help her out. But what Alice ends up primarily doing is taking care of Banning's nine-year-old son, Frank, and trying to stay out of Mimi's way. Alice soon learns that there are two important rules when it comes to Frank:  Never touch his stuff, and Never touch him. Frank is an exasperating, funny, eccentric, smart, disaster-prone child who does not play well with others. He dresses like an old Hollywood movie star. And while he loves watching old movies, his mother, and their here today, gone tomorrow piano-playing handyman, Xander, he does not love Alice. At least, not at first.

My thoughts:  This is a charming and very entertaining novel. Alice's struggles with both Frank and his mother made me laugh. It was fun to watch her grow up. And I really loved Frank. This bookish gem is essentially a book about families and how sometimes the best ones are made up of people who are completely unrelated to one another. It has both heart and humor, and I liked it a lot.

Happy Reading!