Friday, December 29, 2017

My A-Z of 2017...

Authors I ended up reading the most this year (with 5 books each):  Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby series) and Rob Thurman (Cal Leandros series.)  Best of all? These were new authors to me this year.

Borrowed the majority of the books I read this year from the library; it never has all the books I want to read, but I'm very grateful for the ones it does have...especially when there are multiple available copies!

Celebrated my blog's 5th anniversary. I published my first post on Dec. 21, 2012. Can you believe I've been doing this for five years? Because I can't!

Didn't read as many classics this year as I normally do...I'll try and read more than four next year.

Enjoyed doing "buddy reads" with both Bettina and Melody this year and chatting with ALL my blogging friends. You guys are the best!!

Favorite new fictional character:  Magnus "Steps" Craig from Spencer Kope's Collecting the Dead. His second book comes out in April and I can't wait!

Genre hopped between mystery & suspense, non-fiction, fantasy, supernatural, dystopian, survival, romance, and then back to mystery & suspense.

Hoping that The Broken Girls, the new Simone St. James novel coming out in 2018, exceeds expectations (and makes up for the disappointment last April when its publication was delayed for an entire year.)

In desperate need of more bookshelves...mine are double-stacked and starting to spill over.

Just finished reading:  An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd

Keeping too many lists of books that I want to read; I'll never get to them all, but at least I'll never run out.

Longest book read this year:  The Shining by Stephen King with 659 pages.

Managed to read 10 books from my own TBR shelf this year. Only 39 more to go.

Not my cup of tea:  erotica, graphic novels, anything political, and those l-o-n-g multi-generational family sagas.

Only purchased 26 books this year (because I was trying to be good). But it wasn't easy. And I already have a list of books that I'm planning on buying in January.

Popcorn (preferably Smartfood's White Cheddar) along with roasted peanuts are my two favorite bookish snacks.

Quote from a recent read:  "...courage and endurance are useless if they are never tested."  --Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop

Long-Eared Owls
Reached #161 on my birding life list this summer when I spotted some long-eared owls on a birding field trip.

Superpower I wish I had:  Teleportation.  That way I could go wherever I wanted without the hassle of going through airport security, or the discomfort of flying economy class.  (My own private plane would be okay, too.)

Tried to read more books from around the world this year and managed to read books set in Yemen,  South Sudan,  Romania,  India,  Syria,  Egypt,
Zimbabwe, and Hungary.

Undecided on whether or not I'll sign up for any reading challenges next year; they're fun, but they can also be a bookish burden. And I didn't exactly finish the ones I started this year. I think maybe it's time to take a year off.

Solar Eclipse, August 2017

Viewed my very first total eclipse of the sun back in August up in Rigby, Idaho. It was indescribably awesome!! (And totally worth the 10-hour traffic jam we got stuck in going home afterwards.)

Wasted way too much time watching TV this year; I should really work on changing that habit in 2018.

X marks the spot!
marks my favorite reading spot. It's not much, but it's a comfortable place to curl up and get lost in a good book:

Young adult fiction pet peeves:  love triangles, instalove, and alternating POVs written in first person. All three have been done to death. I think it's time we all move on.

Zombie read of the year:  Can You Survive A Zombie Apocalypse by Max Brailler. Why?  Because it's a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book which are always fun. I especially loved the Barnes and Noble ending in this one; although the fan convention detour was also great.

Hope you had a great 2017! 
I'll see you in the new year.
Happy Reading!!
And Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A little bookish randomness...

Never go to the library on an empty stomach. Especially when it's bitterly cold outside. You end up coming home with an armful of cookbooks from off the display shelves like The Southern Slow Cooker and the Grilled Cheese Kitchen-- 
--cookbooks with mouthwatering covers that you'll never actually cook from. They'll just sit on your couch, mocking you, because you have NONE of the necessary ingredients to make ANY of the recipes inside and absolutely no desire to go shopping.  At least that's what happened to me when I ran to the library right before lunch last week to check out Felicia Day's slightly nerdy and very humorous memoir:  You're Never Weird on The Internet (almost).  

Her book is a delightful read with some wonderfully funny insights and advice. I loved it as much as I do Felicia's quirky character, Charlie, on Supernatural. And I related to it, too. Like when she writes in her introduction:
"The heart of my story is that the world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am--unapologetically. My story demonstrates that there's no better time in history to have a dream and be able to reach an audience with your art. Or just be as weird as you want to be and not have to be ashamed."
Don't you love that?
I also love this little bon mot:  Knowing yourself is life's eternal homework.

Day's honest and funny biography made me smile and totally brightened up an otherwise cold and gray winter day. And isn't that the best kind of book of all?

Happy Reading!


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

He came upon that wondrous night
So very long ago--
A tiny baby wrapped in cloth,
Laid in a manger low.

The Christ child who lay quietly
Within that stable poor
Would carry out God's pledge that we
Might live forevermore.

So, Christmas morning when you find
Your gifts beneath the tree,
Remember the best gift is the one
God gave to you and me.

--Jeannie Lancaster, The Gift

Wishing everyone a joyful Christmas season
filled with love and peace!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

From the I Shelf...

There's slim pickings on the I shelf at my library, especially if you're not interested in reading a book by Greg Iles or John Irving. Which I'm kind of not. So when I spotted a thin volume on the bottom shelf, the very last book before the names switched from I to J, I knew I'd found my book.

Title:  Beasts of No Nation
Author:  Uzodinma Iweala

This is the story of a young West African boy named Agu who is forced to become a soldier when his country is torn apart by war. It's a heartbreaking and powerful account of a child soldier who once loved going to school and reading the Bible and who now must kill...and kill again. I couldn't put it down. Here's a taste of this unforgettable novel:
"So we were playing all this game then and thinking that to be a soldier was to be the best thing in the world because gun is looking so powerful and the men in movie are looking so powerful and strong when they are killing people, but I am knowing now that to be a soldier is only to be weak and not strong, and to have no food to eat and not to eat whatever you want, and also to have people making you do thing that you are not wanting to do and not to be doing whatever you are wanting which is what they are doing in movie. But I m only knowing this now because I am soldier now."
"All we are knowing is that, before the war we are children and now we are not."
"Time is passing. Time is not passing. Day is changing to night. Night is changing to day. How can I know what is happening? It is like one day everything is somehow okay even if we are fighting war, but the next day we are killing killing and looting from everybody. How can I know what is happening to me? How  can I know?" 
This is a tough read:  haunting and sad and mesmerizing all at the same time. Iweala does a masterful job of portraying the brutality of war along with the hopes and fears, enthusiasm, confusion, horror  and guilt of those who fight in it. And all I can say is, "Wow." I'm glad I found this one on the I shelf.

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Survive this!

"The missiles, Fin. Something's gone very wrong. We don't know much, but it looks as though regions in the north of Asia have been hit as well as the Gobi Desert. Word is it's a nuclear test gone wrong, but it might have been deliberate..."
By the time we got into town the sky had changed. It was like the sun was being choked with thick orange dust. The sky glowed, throbbing with colour, but it was like it had swallowed up all the sunlight. ... It was beautiful--and wrong.

In one afternoon, Fin's world changes--from warm summer to nuclear winter. Now there's no internet, no phones, and no power. The water supply has been compromised and the food is running out. With their Mom over an hour away in Sydney and their father missing, Fin and his younger brother, Max, must figure out how to survive on their own.

In The Sky So Heavy Claire Zorn has written a post-apocalyptic YA novel of survival set in Australia that's "scarily realistic", fast-paced and entertaining. I really like these kinds of novels, especially when they're well-written and believable. And this novel is both (although there were a few times when I felt things happened a little too conveniently). Fin is resourceful and smart; I liked him and his pesky younger brother. And I liked the friends he teams up with, too. This book made me wonder how I would survive in a similar situation...and what choices I would make. Which is what I like about these kinds of books:  they always make stop and think....and stock up on extra chocolate! This particular survival/disaster book is as good as John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. All three are worth reading if you happen to like post-apocalyptic novels like I do.

Happy Reading!

Another similar read:

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Child Finder

"This is something I know:  no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found."

Her name is Naomi.  She has a gift for finding lost children.  Maybe because she knows what it's like to be lost herself. Her case this time involves a girl named Madison Culver who went missing three years ago in Oregon's Skookum National Forest in the middle of a snowstorm. She'd be eight now...if she's survived. To find her, Naomi must start from scratch.
"Naomi always began by learning to love the world where the child went missing. It was like carefully unraveling a twisted ball of yarn. A bus stop that led to a driver that led to a basement room, carefully carpeted in soundproofing. A ditch in full flood that led to a river, where sadness awaited on the shore ... Each missing place was a portal."
Then there's Madison. Only she's not Madison any more. To stay alive she's had to become something else...someone else.
"The snow girl could remember the day she was born. In brilliant snow she had been created--two tired arms out, like an angel--and her creator was there. His face was a halo of light. ... When she woke it was dark, like the inside of a cave. Snow was falling outside. She couldn't see it, but she could feel it. It's funny how you can hear something as soft as falling snow."
I loved this book. It's a mystery that reads almost like a fairy tale. Naomi is such a luminous character. And I loved the way the author, Rene Denfeld, interweaves Madison's narrative with the Snow Girl tale. In many ways, this book reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, even though they are two very different stories. Each is magical. And Denfeld's writing is amazing. After two disappointing reads in a row, this novel was a breath of snow-fresh air. I hope Denfeld writes many more just like it.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December's bookish art...

Jessie Marion King -- The Magic Grammar
"And she read! ... not because someone advised her to, 
not even for self betterment, 
not so as to acquire more interesting conversation, 
but out of passion."
-- James J. Healey

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A bookish journey to Budapest...

Title: Katalin Street
Author:  Magda Szabo
Summary:  In prewar Budapest, the Elekes, Held and Biro families live side by side on gracious Katalin Street, their lives closely intertwined, their four children inseparable. Then, in 1944, during the German occupation, all their hopes and dreams for the future are shattered. Lives are lost. And those who survive are forever changed. They are haunted, not only by their own guilt and sorrow, but by their longing to return to their former lives on Katalin Street.

Adjectives that describe this novel:  introspective, poignant, and bleak

Favorite quotes from Katalin Street:
There were several ornaments and objects from her former home too, but none of them conjured up the magic he had been hoping for. Iren's new abode had turned out to be nothing like the one in Katalin Street, and even here he was haunted by the sense of being somewhere else. The marriage to Iren had showed him that she yearned and pined for Katalin Street just as much as he did, that she had not found it, and neither had her parents, who were locked in the same hopeless quest to recover it ... This tyranny of somewhere else was a cruel one. It stopped Balint from seeing both the reality that existed and what he would have liked that reality to be.
The people who were with me on that day were imprinted on my memory--some of them permanently, some for many years afterward--exactly as they were at the time...
It was the first time in my life that I had an inkling that the dead are not dead but continue living in this world, in one form or another, indestructibly...
It is not only facts that are irreversible, our past reactions and feelings are too. One can neither relive them not alter them.
This isn't exactly a happy read, but it is an interesting and thoughtful one. (It's also not very long.) I  like reading about Europe, and World War II, and the time period following it during the Soviet occupation; I think it's important for all of us to know and remember what those times were like for the people who had to endure them. So even though this novel is a little depressing and sad...

Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Wrapping up The Backlist Reader Challenge...

So the whole point of this challenge (hosted by Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard) was to finally read some of those older books that have been piling up on your TBR pile and TBR list. Which made it a great challenge for me 'cause I've got a pile of books in my room waiting to be read and an even longer TBR list of book titles I've been meaning to read for years. The best part of this challenge is that I got to set my own goals for it. So last January, I picked ten books from my TBR list that I wanted to read in 2017.

How did I do?

I read 8/10! And six of those were books from off my own TBR shelf. So not too bad. Here are the books I read:

Thanks, Lark, for hosting this challenge! I had a lot of fun...and I read some books this year that I probably wouldn't have read otherwise. 

My favorite of the eight:  The Radleys followed closely by Dance Night and Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand.
My least favorite:  We Hear the Dead

Happy Reading!

P.S. I should probably repeat this challenge again next year because I have a new stack of books piling up in my room and even more books I want to read on my TBR list. It's a neverending bookish mountain that I seem to be climbing. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A little YA fun...

They are the lost causes:  Sandra, Gabby, Justin, Z, and Andrew. Five teens struggling with drug addiction, OCD, anger issues, depression and hypochondria; five teens who everyone has given up on. Which makes them the perfect subjects to assist the FBI in tracking down a killer, all with a little help from a secret serum that unlocks an untapped psychic ability in each of them. Suddenly, Sandra can see ghosts, Gabby has visions of the past, Justin can move objects with his mind, Z can hear the thoughts of others, and Andrew 's brain can process information like some kind of genius. Which only leaves two questions:  Can they trust these newfound gifts?  And what isn't the FBI telling them?

This YA novel requires a little upfront suspension of disbelief in order to truly enjoy it. But if you can get past the absurdness of the FBI having an ESP-inducing serum that only works on teens and that they would recruit a bunch of misfit delinquents to help them solve one of their cases...this ends up being a very entertaining read. In The Lost Causes, authors Jessica Koosed Etting and Alyssa Embree Schwartz have created five quirky characters that are genuinely likeable. Seeing them bond as friends as well as try to solve the FBI's case on their own were some of my favorite parts. I also enjoyed the bits with them trying to figure out their new psychic abilities. I cared less about the whole FBI investigation, especially at the beginning of the book, but even that got more interesting and more suspenseful as the story went along. There was even a good twist at the end that made the initial premise more believable. All in all, I thought this was a fun read. And if the authors ever decide to write a sequel, I will be checking it out.

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad

  • Mandy Wilks, sixteen and missing
  • Frank Rath, current PI and former police detective with a teen-age daughter of his own.
  • Sonja Test, Canaan's "forensics team-of-one", mother & marathoner
  • Harland Grout, detective on the Canaan police force
  • Ned Preacher, the man who murdered Rath's sister and who's up for parole...and out for revenge
Where:  Rural Vermont

What:  Girls are going missing without a trace; beautiful Mandy Wilks is just the latest victim. And no one knows why...or who is taking them. But Rath is determined to find a connection and figure out the truth, while keeping his own daughter, Rachel, safe.
"Wherever there were girls, some would go missing, plucked like errant threads from the fabric of  everyday life and cast into a lurid nightmare of someone else's making. Movies created suspense out of a 'forty-eight-hour window' cops had to find a girl alive, as if kidnapped girls had a 'kill-by" date. The colder reality remained:  A girl gone missing against her will, nine times out of ten, was dead within three hours."
The Verdict:  I didn't love this book, but I did like it enough to want to read the sequel, and not just because of the cliffhanger ending in this one. Rath is a flawed, but dogged detective; I liked him more as the novel went on, but I think Sonja was my favorite character. I like the way she and Rath work together. Too bad she wasn't in this book more. The mystery surrounding Mandy's and the other girls' disappearances was good:  interesting and intense, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I'm hoping the next one, The Name of Dead Girls, is better. That's why I'm off to put it on hold.

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 24, 2017

My non-fiction reads of 2017:

The ones about famous people, past and present:

And the not-so-famous people who have important stories to tell:

Then there's the scary scenarios:

The one I just finished reading:

And the one I'm currently reading:

What non-fiction book do you think I should read next?

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

"If there are few moments in life that come as clear and as pure as ice, when the mountain breathed back at her, Zoe knew she had trapped one such moment and it could never be taken away.  Everywhere was snow and silence. Snow and silence; the complete arrest of life; a rehearsal for and a pre-echo of death."

Zoe and her husband, Jake, are skiing in the French Pyrenees when they are caught in an avalanche. Zoe is buried in snow, struggling to dig herself out. Then, like a miracle, Jake finds her. Together they make their way down the mountain. Only when they get to their hotel no one is there. The nearby town is deserted, too. Zoe and Jake can't figure out where all the other people went, or why. And every time they try to leave to get help, they find themselves right back where they started. Still, it's not too bad having this winter wonderland all to themselves. And they still have each other. But all is not right. Especially when Jake guesses the truth about their situation; something Zoe doesn't want to believe.

This novel by Graham Joyce ended up being a completely different kind of story than I was expecting. (Though I did guess the truth about Zoe's and Jake's situation before they did.) The Silent Land is not quite a supernatural fantasy, mystery or horror story, although it does have elements of all three. And it's that intriguing mix of elements, combined with a more introspective look at death and life and love, that makes this book such an interesting read. I wish I could tell you more, but I don't want to give anything away.  This is the kind of book every reader should discover for herself. I can't guarantee you'll like it, though I did, but I can say that it is one of those thoughtful books that will linger in your mind when you're done.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Last Christmas in Paris...

My dear Tom,
    ...How strange that we have known each other for so many years and know so many little things about each other, and yet only in these past months, since writing to you, do I feel that I've really begun to know you at all. Letters make one uncommonly honest, don't you think? I've told you things in words that I would have been far too shy or distracted to tell you in person. I wonder if I will have anything to say to you at all when we see each other in the flesh again. Will it be soon? ...
With much love,

I love epistolary novels! This one is set during World War! Evie's and Tom's exchange of letters tell the story of the war--both on the front lines and back home in England.  It's also a story of friendship, courage, death and loss, endurance, and love. I wish people still wrote letters like this! It's such a great novel. I loved it as much as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And I was sad when it ended. Everyone needs to read this book! You'll be glad you did.

(Oh, and I have to thank Nadia for recommending this book. It was her rave review that made me put this book on hold at the library in the first place.) 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A bookish update...

Recently finished reading:

(Gotta love Agatha Christie!)

Looking forward to eating all my favorite Thanksgiving dishes next week:
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, shrimp salad, raspberry and lemon cream cheese jello, homemade rolls, and of course, pumpkin pie!

Bought myself an early Christmas gift:

(It's the best calendar; I buy one every year!)

Recently checked out of the library:
Omega Days by John Campbell
The Lost Causes by Jessica Etting
The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad
Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones
The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick
Lamb to the Slaughter by Karen Ann Hopkins

Up next:

(#6 in her Cal Leandros series.)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November's Bookish Art...

Harold Knight -- The Reader
"She had no interest in people who could be summed up in a single sentence."
--Kim Fay, Map of Lost Memories

Thursday, November 9, 2017

From the J Shelf...

Author: Darynda Jones
Title:  Second Grave on the Left

There was a whole row of books by Darynda Jones on the shelf at the library and the titles sounded fun, so I thought I'd give one a try. Of course, my library didn't have a copy of the first one in the series, so I had to start with the second book instead.

Meet Charlotte Davidson, or Charley for short:  private investigator, police consultant, and grim reaper. She sees and talks to ghosts when she's not helping them crossover; she's also a portal into heaven for the demons who are apparently after her. Not that she's ever seen a demon. Unless you count Reyes "Rey'aziel" Farrow who happens to be the Son of Satan. He left hell and was born on earth in order to protect Charley, but that doesn't make him any less dangerous. And now there are demons after him. And if Charley doesn't find him soon he might just let his corporeal body die and become the next Anti-Christ. Oh, and she has another case to solve, too. This one involving a missing woman named Mimi whose case is more complicated than it first appeared and might just include murder.

This wasn't a bad read. The whole thing with Charley being a grim reaper was the best part in my opinion. I liked the connection she has with different ghosts, and the bits of back story of what it was like for her growing up as the grim reaper. The mystery involving Mimi was mildly interesting, but the majority of the book focused on Charley's search for Reyes and their relationship--parts of which I liked, parts of which I didn't. And sometimes I felt like Jones was trying too hard to be funny. (Or to make Charley be funny.) But I'd definitely be willing to read a few more of these books just to see what happens to Charley and Reyes next. 

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 6, 2017

I want this!

Only I want a better cushion on that seat and LOTS more pillows to lean up against. Other than that, it's perfect. Especially with all those great trees out the window. I think I'd hang a birdfeeder there so I could watch the birds in between books. Ahh...that would be the life!

Happy Reading (and Dreaming)!

P.S. Trish over at Desktop Retreat posted this lovely bookish nook a few weeks ago. I wouldn't mind have this one either.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Giving up!

First of all you should know that I'm a huge fan of reading bingo:  I love finding books that fit each category, and filling in each and every square. And for the past couple of years Stacey at Unruly Reader has created a super fun book bingo card. And I've always gone for blackout. Until this year. With six categories left to fill on my card, I'm officially giving up. No book bingo blackout for me in 2017. I know there's still time before the end of the year, and that I could probably push and get it done, but frankly, I'm running out of steam. And there are other books I'd rather read more.

Here's the card I started off with:

And the books I read that fill the 19 categories I did manage to complete:

POP PSYCHOLOGY:  Aim True by Kathryn Budig
OUTLAW:  Surviving Home by A. American
DOOM AND GLOOM:  Lights Out by Ted Koppel
A BOOK I OWN:  Dance Night by Dawn Powell
WHERE I GREW UP:  Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
CREATIVITY: Good Mail Day: A Primer For Making Eye-Popping Postal Art 
by Jennie Hinchcliff and Carolee G. Wheeler
GUILTY PLEASURE: The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper
OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS: The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn
AUTHOR'S NAME BEGINS WITH M: Arrowood by Laura McHugh
BEST IN CLASS: Lost by Michael Robotham
THE OUTDOORS: My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
HOT: The Definition of Wind by Ellen Block

And here are the six categories that will remain unread by me this year:
(Even though I own Russell Mean's autobiography Where White Men Fear To Tread, 
which has been sitting on my shelf for years and years waiting to be read.)
(Even though I found and bought a copy of Marilynne Robinson's Lila at a library 
book sale just for this bingo category; it now sits in my room also waiting to be read.)
(I never had a book in mind for this category.)
(This category should've been an easy one for me seeing how much I love 
Haruki Murakami and other Japanese writers, but...)
(This also sounds deceptively easy...but every book I attempted to read 
that fit the category ended up being too bad to finish. So...)
(Didn't even try!)

There you have it. My 2017 reading bingo journey. I did enjoy the books I read. And I had fun! And that's all that matters, right? Maybe next year I'll try for blackout again. Until then...

Happy Reading!

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!