Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A bookish treat...

Title:  The Bookshop on the Corner
Author:  Jenny Colgan
First line:  The problem with good things that happen is that very often they disguise themselves as awful things.
The protagonist:  Nina Redmond, a shy 29-year-old single librarian who describes herself as "the quiet one, on the sidelines, observing things through the medium of the novels she loved to read." Her world consists of books, and more books. But then they close her library and Nina has no idea what she's going to do next. Unless she opens up her own small bookshop in an old converted van...

My thoughts:  This is a novel about books and reading, and daring to follow your dreams, AND it's set in Scotland where the men are 'boys' and the women are 'lasses'. What's not to love? I've never read Jenny Colgan before, but I'd definitely read her again. This book is a delight, from Nina's early mishaps driving the van, to the slightly motley yet oddly engaging assortment of characters she meets along the way, to her own unexpected romance. There's even a dog named Parsley. The whole thing is a lot of fun. In fact, I think I'd happily live in this book if I could. I didn't even mind the predictable bits. I just lost myself in the Scottish landscape and enjoyed each and every page. So, if you like bookshops and happy endings, give this one a try.

Happy Reading!

Similar read:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

In Order to Live

"I wasn't dreaming of freedom when I escaped from North Korea. I didn't even know what it meant to be free. All I knew was that if my family stayed behind, we would probably die--from starvation, from disease, from the inhuman conditions of a prison labor camp. The hunger had become unbearable; I was willing to risk my life for the promise of a bowl of rice."

Yeonmi Park's story of growing up in North Korea is one of deprivation, oppression, hardship, and struggle. Her escape into China when she was only thirteen is an even more harrowing tale of suffering and survival. I doubt I could have endured even half of what she went through. Reading her story made me appreciate even more the country I live in, and the freedoms I enjoy...and often take for granted. It breaks my heart to think that such terrible atrocities are still happening in the world today, and that oppressive societies like North Korea still exist. How is that even possible?

Park's unflinching memoir is both eye-opening and heart-breaking. It's also a story that everyone should read! I think what I admire most about Yeonmi Park is her courage, resilience, and inner strength; and her hope and optimism through it all. (And the fact that she loves books and reading as much as I do.) In writing this book, she says, "I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea. Both of these events shaped me, and I would not trade them for an ordinary and peaceful life ... I have seen the horrors that humans can inflict on one another, but I've also witnessed acts of tenderness and kindness and sacrifice in the worst imaginable circumstances. I know that it is possible to lose part of your humanity in order to survive. But I also know that the spark of human dignity is never completely extinguished, and that given the oxygen of freedom and the power of love, it can grow again."

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks...

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.
--William Shakespeare

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings."
--William Arthur Ward  

"O give thanks unto the Lord;for he is good: 
for his mercy endureth forever."
Psalms 136:1

"At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I've never emerged."
--Patch Adams     

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
--Thomas S. Monson

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Some people grumble that roses have thorns;
   I am grateful that thorns have roses."
                                               --Alphonse Karr

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.
Have you used one to say "Thank You?"
--William A. Ward

Monday, November 21, 2016

A bookish update...

Just finished reading:
(Gotta love Flavia de Luce!)

Quote of the day:
"We make zero percent of the shots we don't take."
--Michael Jordan

Don't miss this fantastic movie:

Recently checked out from the library:
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham
Head in the Clouds by Karen Witemeyer
The Woman in the Photograph by Dana Gynther
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Up Next:

  Happy Reading! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Among the Wicked...

"My name is Kate Burkholder and I'm the chief of police of Painters Mill, Ohio, a township of just over 5,300 souls, half of whom are Amish, including my own family. I left the fold when I was eighteen, not an easy feat when all I'd ever known was the plain life..."

In this latest Linda Castillo mystery, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder has been asked to help out on a case in upstate New York investigating the suspicious death of Rachel Esh, a 15-year-old Amish girl. But in order to do so, Kate must go undercover and join this isolated Amish community as a newly widowed Amish woman. Roaring Springs is a community that's led by Bishop Eli Schrock, a strict believer in rules and order and in keeping separate from the outside world. He also likes to keep a tight rein on the members of his community, which makes it that much more challenging for Kate to fit in there, not to mention being able to sort out the truth from all the rumors and secrets swirling about Rachel's death...and around Eli Schrock himself. It makes it a lot more dangerous for her, too.

Part of the appeal of this series for me is that it's set in Amish country, and every mystery revolves around the Amish in some way. They have such an interesting culture; I like novels that explore their way of life. I also like Kate Burkholder. She's a strong female character, with intelligence and heart, who tends to get a bit headstrong and stubborn when it comes to solving a case. And the mystery in Among the Wicked, which goes deeper than anyone suspects, pushes Kate to her limits. And it has an ending that I never came close to guessing. I found it unputdownable. It's nice to read a book as well-written and good as this one. I guess that's why this mystery series is one of my favorites.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November's Bookish Art...

Charles Louis Baugniet -- The Reader
"If there's one thing that never happens enough,
it's reading for the plain fun of it."
--Gordon Korman

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Cold Comfort Farm

"The education bestowed on Flora Poste by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged; and when they died within a few weeks of one another during the annual epidemic of the influenza or Spanish Plague which occurred in her twentieth year, she was discovered  to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living."

With only one hundred pounds a year to her name, Flora Poste decides to see how long she can live off of her relatives. That's how she ends up in Howling, Sussex at Cold Comfort Farm at the home of her Starkadder cousins. Their farm is well-named and apparently carries a curse. The Starkadders themselves are an eccentric, dismal bunch, from old Aunt Ada Doom who never leaves her room upstairs, to young unschooled Elfine who runs wild across the Downs. Then there's Flora's cousin, Judith, who hints at a wrong done to Flora's father sometime in the past, but who won't say what it was or when it happened. Despite all of this, Flora is determined to "tidy up life at Cold Comfort" and make it better for everyone.

Her campaign meets with some resistance at first, but Flora is nothing if not persistent. She's also spirited, self-assured, and thinks she knows what's best for the Starkadders. ALL the Starkadders! I liked her confidence and pluck. I also ended up liking Cold Comfort Farm quite a lot. It's such a fun and witty novel. I enjoyed watching Flora's well-meaning schemes and machinations play out. Plus, the ending is great. It makes me wonder why more people don't read Stella Gibbons. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say, "Cold Comfort Farm is one of my favorite novels." Which is sad. Because it should be. It's definitely become one of mine.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A bookish memory...

One of the first books I remember being able to read all on my own is Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop. I especially liked the feeling I got when I mastered the two long words at the end:  Timbuktu and Constantinople.  My Dad even helped me find them on a map. I think that's when my desire to travel to exotic places first began. With those two words. Timbuktu and Constantinople. All because of Dr. Seuss.

Then, in the first grade, I fell in love with Hugo the Hippo by Thomas Baum. Don't ask me why. But I got it from a Scholastic book order and I read it incessantly that entire year. (Apparently, it was an animated film first...which I never knew until now.) I think I still have it in a box somewhere, a bit ratty and torn and yellow with age, but very well-loved. It's a story that takes place in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Two more words that are fun to say, and two more exotic places I've always longed to visit. All because of a children's picture book.

It was Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Frasier that led me to Edinburgh, and House of Rain by Craig Childs that sent me on a road trip to Hovenweep, Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. And while I haven't been to Zanzibar or Timbuktu yet, I still dream of traveling to both of those places, just as I still remember those two books that started me dreaming in the first place.

Aren't books wonderful?
Happy Reading!

Monday, November 7, 2016

From the N Shelf...

Author:  William Norwich
Title:  My Mrs. Brown
First line:  Early one September not long ago, a rural woman with a secret grief traveled to New York City in pursuit of a dream, to buy the most beautiful and correct dress she'd ever seen.

It's a great opening line, isn't it? I was hooked with just that. But then, on the next page, I found out it gets even better:
This daring voyager was Emilia Brown, or Mrs. Brown as she was generally known in her hometown, Ashville Rhode Island. She was sixty-six years old, a widow; if she was a scent, she was tea with honey, but if she was a color, she was a study in gray. Whether from the friction of living without life's buffering luxuries and engaging ambitions, or by the reduction of dreams and expectations that comes with age:  gray. Mrs. Brown was drained of color. Except for her green-brown eyes. If and when she smiled, well, it was like watching a rose open in one of those time-lapse films, and her eyes, spring flowers at twilight, lit up her face.
 Ordinary, dignified, humble and quiet, Mrs. Brown makes an impression on all those she meets. And so does her dream of owning this one perfect designer dress that will finally answer some secret need deep inside her heart. Because "sometimes a dress is not just a dress. It's a symbol" of something more. Reminiscent of Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, which Norwich references several times, My Mrs. Brown is a beautifully written, character-driven story. It's both poignant and charming. I loved all the women in this book, and there are several:  Florida Noble, the fashion model who comes to stay for a few months, Rachel, director of Public Relations for Oscar de la Renta and a new friend, and Alice, Mrs. Brown's next-door neighbor's granddaughter who comes over for tea after work. But I especially loved Emilia Brown. I loved her quiet dignity and her wisdom and her grace. She's unforgettable!

I'm so glad I found this delightful gem hiding among the novels of Neggers, Nesbo and Nunes. It's such a good read! In fact, it was in the hopes of finding books just like this one that I started Reading the Alphabet in the first place. My Mrs. Brown is definitely one of my favorite books of 2016. Here's to bookish serendipity from the N shelf.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, November 3, 2016


I finally finished Reading Bingo 2016! Courtesy of  Unruly Reader, this year's bingo card was a lot of fun; some categories were really easy to fill, others a little more challenging. Here are the books I read:

The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

My Story by Elizabeth Smart

Beach Read:
Charming by Elliott James

Children's Classic:
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Compelling Review:
Find Her by Lisa Gardner
(Thanks Nadia!)

Stranded by Melinda Braun

Embarrassed to Admit... that I actually finished this crass, stupid book:
Office Girl by Joe Meno

Endorsed by an Author:
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Everyone's Reading It:
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Positive by David Wellington

 In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vadday Ratner
Bound by Sally Gunning

Improve Your Life:
Achieve Anything in Just One Year by Jason Harvey

And the Good News Is... by Dana Perino

Law and Order:
Gone Missing by Linda Castillo
Fear the Dark by Kay Hooper
Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson

Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster

Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard, and Beyond by Phil Collen

National Book Award:
The Court of the Stone Children by Eleanor Cameron

Older Than My Mom:
Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy

Red Girl, Blue Boy by Lauren Boratz-Logsted

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Suburban Ennui:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

Title Attraction:
Choose Your Own Love Story by Ilyse Mimoun

The Silence of Ghosts by Jonathan Aycliffe
Girl 4 by Will Carver

Ugly Cover:
The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley

(Can you guess my favorite bingo reads?)
Happy Reading!