Tuesday, October 31, 2017

One from my TBR shelf...

Title:  The Prisoner of Heaven
Author:  Carlos Ruiz Zafon
First line:  This year at Christmas time, every morning dawned laced with frost under leaden skies ... Very few stopped to gaze at the shop windows of Sempere & Sons; fewer still ventured inside to ask for that lost book that had been waiting for them all their lives...
Setting:  Barcelona in the 1940s and 1950s.

Why I purchased this book in the first place:  Because I loved The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, Zafon's two previous novels.

Why I've put off reading it for four long years:  I think part of me was afraid it wouldn't live up to expectations, but mostly I didn't read it because I really wanted to reread his other books in this "trilogy" first. Only I never managed to, even though I do own both. But, thanks to Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard and her awesome Backlist Reader Challenge, I finally managed to read The Prisoner of Heaven and check it off my TBR list.

Thoughts:  Zafon's writing is amazing. He always manages to craft memorable and unique characters that you can't help but care about as he takes you on a journey back in time to a more dangerous and uncertain Barcelona under Franco's dictatorship. I wish I could give you a succinct and thoughtful summary of this novel, but I tried...and failed. Nothing I wrote did it justice. So all I'm going to say is that The Prisoner of Heaven did not disappoint and I'm very glad I finally read it. Though I do kind of wish I'd reread his other two books first. But maybe I'll reread them next. Because all of Zafon's books are worth revisiting. This one included...even though of the three I think it's the weakest.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

It's a Wonder!

Wonder Woman was a big part of my childhood:  from Saturday morning cartoons every week where I got to see her battle the bad guys on Super Friends and fly her invisible plane, to reruns of Linda Carter as Diana Prince with her bullet-stopping bracelets and golden lasso. I also really liked Gal Gadot's interpretation of this iconic figure in the movie that came out this past summer. So, when Melody suggested that we read Wonder Woman: Warbringer together as our next buddy read, I thought it was a great idea. (Be sure to check out Melody's review, too.)
In this YA novel by Leigh Bardugo, Diana is young and untested and can't help questioning whether she even deserves to be called an Amazon. When she spots a wrecked ship just beyond the boundary of Themyscira, she feels driven to rescue the only survivor, a modern-day teenager from New York City. But in bringing Alia Keralis to shore, Diana brings the taint of the mortal world to Themyscira. One by one, her friends start to fall sick and earthquakes begin to shake the island. To complicate matters, Diana discovers that Alia is a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy and an unwitting catalyst for war and destruction. If Diana saves her, she risks the fate of the world. But she just can't stand by and watch Alia die either.
"Hippolyta could claim that Diana was an Amazon, but before everything else, Diana was her daughter, too precious, too breakable to risk. And that was how the other Amazons would always see her:  not as a true sister, but as their queen's child. She would forever be an outsider...But if she made things right, if she got Alia to the spring it wouldn't just be a mission; it would be a quest, a hero's journey, like those set before champions in times of old. The line of Warbringers would be broken. Alia would live, war would be prevented, and Diana would have proven herself....To stop the cycle of Warbringers? To prevent not just one war but countless future wars? That was a deed worthy of an Amazon."
So, after devouring this book, I'm an even bigger fan of Diana Prince. I love that she's courageous and undaunted even when the odds are stacked against her. I love that she believes in truth and justice. That she tries. That she never gives up. And that she stands up for what she believes is right. I love her hope and her spirit. To me, that's the essence of Wonder Woman. And Bardugo captures it perfectly in this book.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer is an exciting and entertaining adventure. There's cool Greek mythology, suspense and action, great fight scenes, and lots of humorous moments, too. I loved Diana's experiences in NYC and her interactions with Alia. (And with Alia's older, bossy brother, Jason!) In fact, I can't think of anything I didn't like about this book. (Thanks again, Melody!) It's a fun and exciting read...especially if you've always been a fan of Wonder Woman, like me.

Happy Reading!

Melody's questions to me after finishing this book:
     Q.  Which story setting and/or adventures do you prefer? Is it Themyscira or New York City?
     A.  I'm a little torn because I love the idea of Themyscira (and wouldn't mind visiting such an awesome island!), but Diana's introduction to the modern world and her subsequent adventures in NYC were so fun they're by far my favorite.

     Q. Among all the supporting characters, who do you like best? Why?
     A. Alia's best friend, Nim, is probably my favorite supporting character because of her style and cool fashion sense, but even  more importantly because of her loyalty to Alia and her courage when everything starts to go wrong.

     Q. Finally, what do you think of our young Diana before and after she was "battle-tested"?
     A. I loved Diana and the way she faced each and every trial in this book. She willingly risked her life to save others, and even risked ever returning to Themyscira. And I admire that about her. And while she's definitely wiser at the end of this novel, with new self-confidence in her own strengths and abilities and a better understanding of her own destiny, I think at her core she's still very much the same person she always was:  Wonder Woman.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"In dreamful Autumn..."

The colorful view from my library just two weeks ago.
Have I got a room with a view, or what?
by Ernest Dowson

Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees,
That hardly sway before a breeze
As soft as summer:  summer's loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these. 

Let misty autumn be our part!
The twilight of the year is sweet:
Where shadow and the darkness meet
Our love, a twilight of the heart
Eludes a little time's deceit.

Are we not better and at home
In dreamful Autumn, we who deem
No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
A little while, then, let us dream.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
Winter and night:  awaiting these
We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
Beneath the drear November trees.

Bells Canyon
"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
--L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Aren't these mountains in autumn simply amazing?
I love all the colors of autumn, especially on the mountains where I live, 
and like Anne, I'm very glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A haunting tale...

"I was the daughter of a Spiritualist medium lately from Cheapside. I was used to simple rules:  Don't get caught."
 Violet Willoughby has helped her mother perform too many fake seances to believe in ghosts. So when she catches a glimpse of a drowned girl at Lord Jasper's country estate, she doesn't know what to think. She only knows she can't tell her mother. But she has to tell someone. Because the ghost girl didn't just drown--she was murdered. And she's not the only ghost Violet's seeing. There's one other small matter haunting Violet:  one of Lord Jasper's guests just might be the ghost girl's murderer. And it's up to Violet to figure out who and why. That's if she can ever get this particular ghost to talk to her...and all the others to leave her alone!
"I felt as if I'd dipped a toe in a narrow river only to find myself swept out to sea. Something else was happening here, but I didn't know what it was. Only that the undercurrents were strong, dangerous. A person could drown in this particular sea."
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey is an entertaining YA Victorian Gothic that leans more towards interesting mystery than suspenseful ghost story, although Violet's encounters with the ghost of the drowned girl do get a little tense and scary at times. I liked Violet's spunk, especially when she and her society friend, Elizabeth, decide to do some sleuthing on their own. I also liked Violet's childhood friend, Colin, who's always there when she needs him most. The two of them are great characters. And Haunting Violet is a well-written and engaging ghostly mystery. I liked it a lot.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

October's bookish art...

Gustav Adolph Hennig -- Girl Reading, 1828

Anyone who says they have only one life to live
must not know how to read a book.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Agnes Grey

"How delightful it would be to be a governess! To go out into the world; to enter upon a new life; to act for myself; to exercise my unused faculties; to try my unknown powers; to earn my own maintenance, and something to comfort and help my father, mother and sister, besides exonerating them from the provision of my food and clothing; to show papa what his little Agnes could do; to convince mamma and Mary that I was not quite the helpless, thoughtless being they supposed. And then, how charming to be intrusted with the care and education of children!"
But the realities of being a governess soon dispel all of Agnes's hopes and bright optimism. Because the children don't mind, and their parents aren't supportive or welcoming, and she doesn't fit with the family and their friends, or with the servants.
"My task of instruction and surveillance, instead of becoming easier as my charges and I got better accustomed to each other, became more arduous as their characters unfolded. The name of governess, I soon found, was a mere mockery as applied to me..."
And that's just the beginning! After her first disastrous position, Agnes goes to work for the Murray family as their governess and her story really begins. Not that her job there is a shining success. (She's a little too passive to ever be that.) But she bravely endures the trials of genteel poverty and the struggles and frustrations of governessing and finds her own happiness in the end.

Agnes Grey reads like a first novel:  it doesn't have the depth of Jane Eyre; it's not as well-crafted as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; and it's a little lacking in plot. But for all its weaknesses, it has its own merits. And I liked it. Anne Bronte shows from personal experience what it's like to be a governess in less than ideal circumstances. (And her language and vocabulary--wow!) Agnes's real struggles with her "little tormentors" and "the vexatious propensities of my pupils" made me laugh in sympathy. Although at times I found myself wishing she'd grow a spine and be just a little more assertive and confident. But Bronte had other designs for her character. This will never be my favorite Bronte novel, but I'm very glad I read it. It made me wish that Anne hadn't died so young. Think of what she could have written if she'd lived longer!

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fourth book in a favorite series...

Title & Author:  The Dire King by William Ritter
First lines:  To say that the house at 926 Augur Lane was not yet back to normal would be to grossly misrepresent the nature of the house at 926 Augur Lane. At its best, the peculiar property was an abode of the abnormal and a sanctuary for the strange.

My thoughts:  This latest book in the Jackaby series picks up where Ghostly Echoes leaves off. Jackaby and Abigail Rook are once again facing off against the forces of evil in order to prevent an all-out war between the fae and mankind; as always, Jenny the Ghost and Charlie Cane, police detective and shapeshifter extraordinaire are there fighting alongside them. They are ALL such great characters; I really love them. And this book? The Dire King is another fun supernatural adventure full of magical creatures of every kind--I especially liked the one known as the twain. And there's a twist at the end I wasn't expecting! Just be sure to read the other books in this series first, or nothing is going to make sense. And the others are definitely worth reading!

The other books in the series:
     #1 - Jackaby
     #2 - Beastly Bones
     #3 - Ghostly Echoes

So check them out!
And....happy reading!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Picture this!

"If someone asked you to paint a snowman. you would probably start with three white circles stacked one upon another. Then you would add black dots for eyes, an orange triangle for a nose, and a black dotted smile. But if Picasso painted a snowman...."

This is my new favorite picture book! (And not just because it's written by my sister and illustrated by my brother-in-law.) I love it because it's all about art and some of my favorite artists and the snowmen they might have drawn from Monet to Seurat, Dali and Klimt, Grant Wood, Van Gogh and O'Keefe. It's clever and whimsical and fun. And the illustrations are amazing! Plus, I was there at the Picasso Museum in Paris with my sister, Amy, when she first came up with the idea. You can check out some of the paintings for it at Greg's blog. Or, even better,  just buy a copy for yourself!

Lichtenstein's Snowman by Greg Newbold

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne

Despite its title, this novel is more historical mystery than haunting ghost story. I was hoping for an eerie haunted house full of ghostly secrets; what I got was an intriguing mystery centered around the Tarleton Theatre, an old music hall in London that has been closed up and off-limits since 1914. Asked to provide a survey of the old theatre, Robert Fallon discovers a bricked-up sealed vault beneath the stage; fellow researcher, Hilary Bryant, who is very interested in Tarleton's past, unearths stories of the Tarleton ghost and of Toby Chance, a legendary performer and songwriter at the Tarleton who vanished without a trace also in 1914.
Hilary said, "You know, Robert, anyone listening to some of the things we've said tonight might almost believe we really do think the Tarleton's haunted. I don't mean just enjoying the atmosphere and the echoes--I mean really haunted."
"I do think it's haunted," said Robert. "So do you. All old buildings are haunted, to some extent anyway. I don't know what we encountered tonight, but whatever it was, I don't think that what's sealed beneath that stage is a ghost."
There are multiple story lines in this novel:  Toby's and his mother's, both performers at the Tarleton back in the day, Robert's and Hilary's own modern-day encounters, along with some long-buried secrets, unexpected political intrigue, murder and revenge, and, of course, the mystery surrounding the Tarleton ghost. I got caught up in each part of this mystery, eager to see how they all came together in the final chapters. There was only one story line, Shona's, that seemed completely superfluous and unnecessary. Luckily, Rayne is such a talented writer I never felt my interest or attention wane. So even though this wasn't the ghost story I was hoping for, I ended up really enjoying this well-written and intriguing mystery. (It also counts as another TBR book checked off my list for Lark's Backlist Reader Challenge.)

Happy Reading!

One of Rayne's more ghostly mysteries:
       The Silence

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How to Find Love in a Bookshop...

What this book offers:  heartwarming, memorable, and sometimes quirky characters, a quaint English town full of charm, friendship and romance, and the best bookshop in the world. I wish Nightingale Books really existed; I'd go every week! Needless to say, I loved this book. Veronica Henry's story is  enchanting, her prose poetic. And her characters, especially Julius and Emilia Nightingale, will forever be favorites. This book reminded me in many ways of my favorite Rosamunde Pilcher reads. But if that's not enough to make you want to read this book, check out these three quotes:

  • Her father was still here, thought Emilia, in the thousands of pages. Millions--there must be so many millions--of words. All those words, and the pleasure they had provided for people over the years:  escape, entertainment, education...He had changed minds. He had changed lives. It was up to her to carry on his work, so he could live on, she swore to herself.
  • Books, after all, were her escape from the horror she had been through. At night she could curl up with Ruth Rendell or Nancy Mitford, and the stress melted away, and for a couple of hours she could be somewhere else.  Reading gave her comfort.
  • She knew, from all the books she had ever read, that life was complicated, that love sprang from nowhere sometimes, and that forbidden love wasn't always something to be ashamed of.
Happy Reading!

Similar reads:

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Bookish randomness...

Richard Montanari's second novel, The Skin Gods, does not disappoint. This page-turning thriller is as layered and suspenseful as The Rosary Girls. I really like Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, his two main homicide detectives, and I can't wait to read the rest of this series. (Luckily for me, there are at least six more books to go!)

Check out these clever and fun grammatical tees. The autocorrect one totally made me laugh. You can find them all at Cents of Style.

Recently checked out of the library:
The Shining by Stephen King ('cause it's that time of year!)
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
They Came To Baghdad by Agatha Christie
A Kiss Before Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey ('cause ghost stories also go with October!)
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Am also in the mood for:

Because I like these classic monster movies, especially the black-and-white ones starring Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff.  What about you? Got any favorite monster movies that I should add to my October monster movie viewing? 

Happy Reading...and Viewing...in October!