Thursday, December 29, 2016

A few bookish stats...

Five fiction favs that I read this year and loved, but didn't blog about:

  • Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden
  • When Falcons Fall by C. S. Harris
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • Dead Iron by Devon Monk
Biggest disappointment (but only because my expectations were so high!):

  • Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Favorite non-fiction read:  Leonard by William Shatner

Favorite new series: The Pax Arcana series by Elliott James starring a very charming John Charming

2016 Reading Challenges finished:
Reading New England
Reading England
Reading Bingo

2016 By the Numbers:
# of books read from my TBR shelf:  5
# of new books added to my TBR shelf: 6
(That's a net loss; I really need to do better next year!)
# of Classics read:  14
# of Rereads:  11
# of Non-fiction reads:  16
# of Fiction books read:  131

From newly published books to the classics, mysteries and romance, science fiction, young adult, fantasy and suspense, I'd say 2016 was a good reading year for me. I had a lot of fun discovering new authors and revisiting favorite ones. And I already have a long list of books I can't wait to read next year.

Happy 2016!
(And Happy Reading.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

My Top 10 Fiction Reads of 2016:

1.  Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
2.  Positive by David Wellington
3.  Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham
4.  Alice by Christina Henry
5.  Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson
6.  'Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick
7.  Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen   
8.  Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson  
9.  Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
10.  The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Seasons Greetings!

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given...

...and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shades of Milk and Honey...

9 similarities between this novel and the novels of Jane Austen:
  • One plain and level-headed older sister
  • One more impulsive and reckless younger sister
  • An entailed estate
  • A recently returned Navy captain
  • A secret engagement
  • The mention of Gothic novels, especially those written by Ann Radcliffe, and their deleterious effect on impressionable young ladies
  • A mother who's a hypochondriac
  • A dark and brooding gentleman
  • Several romantic entanglements and misunderstandings

And 1 notable difference:
  • Mary Robinette Kowal's characters can do magic, weaving artistic glamours with the ether to hide certain flaws, and to make their homes seem wealthier and their environments more beautiful.

This Regency romance revolves around Jane Ellsworth and her younger sister, Melody, and their quest to find husbands (although Jane, at 28, has pretty much resigned herself to remaining a spinster). Pretty Melody turns heads while plain Jane spins and folds the ether into skilled glamours. Enter the men:  the young and dashing Captain Henry Livingstone, their eligible neighbor, Mr. Dunkirk, and the artistic and mysterious Mr. Vincent. One of them is a scoundrel of the worst kind, but which one? What ensues is a light comedy of errors with romantic machinations and misadventures, magic and true love. I really liked Jane; Melody, on the other hand, was so selfish and contemptuous of her older sister that I mostly just wanted to slap her. (Jane is much more forgiving than I am.) There are a few twists in this book, but pretty predictable ones. I saw most of them coming. And while the antagonistic relationship between Jane and Mr. Vincent hardly rivals that of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, it does have its moments. So even with its flaws, Shades of Milk and Honey is a fun, light-hearted novel. In fact, I'd read Mary Robinette Kowal again, especially if she's writing about these characters.

Happy Reading!

Similar Reads:
   Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
   The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Sunday, December 18, 2016


5 things you need to know about Jae Hwa Lee:
She's Korean-American.
She's 16.
She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
She's an expert archer with a Korean horn bow.
And the Korean demigod, Haemosu, wants her for his bride.

Gilded, by Christina Farley, is a fun YA magical adventure. After Jae's mother dies of cancer, her father decides to move back to Seoul, Korea. There, he enrolls Jae at the International School where she meets a boy named Marc who makes her feel awkward and tongue-tied every time they talk, and whose smile makes her blush a bright fiery red. Jae has one other problem, a much more serious one. She's the oldest daughter in her family and a direct descendant of Princess Yuhwa, the very first girl stolen away by Haemosu generations ago. And now Haemosu has come for Jae. Somehow Jae must find a way to fight him off, free the souls of her dead ancestors, and break their family curse forever. All while keeping up with her schoolwork. Luckily, she has her grandfather's help. The Blue Dragon's magical bow. And Marc.

I think what I enjoyed most about this novel is how Farley is able to mix together modern-day life in Seoul with so many ancient Korean folktales and myths; it makes for a fascinating setting. But I also liked Jae. She's impulsive and makes some dumb mistakes, but she's also a spunky 16-year-old girl dealing with some pretty fantastic stuff. And her hesitant relationship with Marc made me smile. After all, it's hard enough being a teenage girl without also having to deal with destiny and a bunch of mythological monsters come to life. I probably won't read the sequel, but I did enjoy Gilded.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December's Bookish Art...

Vanessa Bell -- Amaryllis and Henrietta, 1912
Reading is Bliss!
--Nora Ephron

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons

 "No one would come to live at The Eagles for fun."

The only reason Viola Withers has come to stay with her in-laws at The Eagles just outside Chesterbourne in Essex, England, is because she's recently widowed, she's penniless, and she has nowhere else to go. If only her Shakespeare-loving father were still alive, or her father-in-law weren't such a gloomy miser, or her two sisters-in-law, Madge and Tina, were closer to her own age and more lively. But everyone at The Eagles seems so old (except for Saxon, the handsome chauffeur), and nothing exciting ever happens there. Still young, and not exactly grieving for her dead husband, Viola can't stop daydreaming about someday meeting Victor Spring, their rich, attractive neighbor. But she's not in his league. She's also not the kind of girl that boys ever seem to notice. Still, a girl can dream. After all, every Cinderella should get her chance at a happy ending.
"The room seemed full of brilliant sunlight and the song of the blackbirds in the garden sounded so loud and sweet that she wanted to sing too. She was going to the Ball! and He would be there! She would wear her silver dancing shoes again and have her hair waved, and get some new pearl earrings from Woolworth's (no one would know they came from Woolworth's. Of course, you always knew when other people's ear-rings came from Woolworth's but they never guessed about yours). Perhaps he would dance with her; a waltz, slow and dreamy, or quick and exciting."
Stella Gibbons not only excels at creating endearingly eccentric characters, but at weaving together their rather unremarkable and ordinary lives into a story that is charming, witty, poignant, satiric and never dull. She referred to Nightingale Wood, which was written in 1938, as a "Romantic Comedy" and it is, with some great slang-y dialogue and a few unexpected twists along the way. I enjoyed it almost as much as I did Cold Comfort Farm. Gibbons doesn't take herself or her stories too seriously, which is refreshing. They're simple, fun reads from start to finish. So if you like the novels of Barbara Pym or Elizabeth Gaskell with just a hint of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I think you'll like this one, too.

Happy Reading!  

Friday, December 9, 2016

I want a snow day!

A day all to myself.  A day to stay home from work.  A day free from waking up in the dark, scraping the snow and ice off my car windows, fighting the traffic on my way to work, and the impatient holiday crowds on my way home. One whole day with no errands to run, no work to complete, and no items to cross off my To Do list. Wouldn't that be nice?

What I could do with a day like that!  I'd sleep in.  Take a walk in the snow.  Watch a Christmas-y movie.  Bake a yummy treat.  Wrap some presents.  Then curl up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book or two and I'd read.  And read.  And read.  How I would love a day like that!  (Only I wish it would come without the snow!)

Here's to dreaming!
(And happy reading.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Murder and Mystery...

What do you get when you combine one snowbound train, one rich American found stabbed to death in his own locked sleeping compartment, one world-renown mustachioed detective, and twelve unrelated passengers who are all now murder suspects? Agatha Christie's classic mystery Murder on the Orient Express. After studying the dead man's compartment and interviewing the other passengers one by one, it's up to Hercule Poirot to solve the murder and apprehend the killer before the snow is cleared from the tracks, or the murderer strikes again.
"We know now all that we can know," said Poirot. "We have the evidence of the passengers, the evidence of their baggage, the evidence of our eyes. We can expect no further help. It must be our part now to use our brains."

I'm so glad that Agatha Christie's novels are still in print because I love reading them. I love her crisp prose, her well-drawn characters, and her ever-puzzling mysteries. I also love her sense of humor. Like when Mary Debenham, an English governess, first sees Poirot with his "enormous moustaches" and "egg-shaped head" and thinks to herself that he's "a ridiculous-looking little man. The sort of little man one could never take seriously." Christie can be unexpectedly funny. And Murder on the Orient Express is one of her best. I thoroughly enjoyed going on this bookish ride as Hercule Poirot figured out the who, what and why. I haven't read all of Christie's novels (yet), but here are three of my favorites if you want to give her books a try: The Seven Dials Mystery, Cat Among the Pigeons, and Sparkling Cyanide. 

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Reading England Challenge...

The Goal:  To travel England by reading, and read at least one book per however many counties of England you decide to read.

This was a fun reading challenge hosted by Behold the Stars, and a great literary pilgrimage across England as well. I ended up reading 11 books set in 9 different counties, which means I reached Level 3 -- Reading 7-12 counties. Yay! Here are the books I read for the Reading England 2016 Challenge and the counties where they are set:

Jacob's Room  by Virginia Woolf

Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden

When Falcons Fall by C.S. Harris

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

As You Like It by William Shakespeare

Happy Reading!