Friday, March 30, 2018

Hooray for spring break!

I have next week off from work and I'm headed to Egypt! That's right, I'm off to the land of pyramids, tombs and temples. I'm dreading the long flight, but really looking forward to all the cool sights I'll get to see from the Sphinx at Giza to the temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel to Tutankhamen's tomb. I only wish I had more time to spend there. One week is not nearly long enough to see all of Egypt, but that's all the time I've got. I'm not complaining. After all, it's a trip ... and another stamp in my passport. And I finally get to go to Africa where I've never been -- it'll be the fifth continent I've visited; only Australia and Antarctica to go! I hope all of you have fun spring break plans, too!

Now for the most important question of all:  What book am I taking with me?

(Christie's classic seemed like the obvious choice, 
especially since I'll also be cruising the Nile!)

Have a great week!
And happy reading.

P.S  Even though I won't be around next week, I have two posts already scheduled, each with an Egyptian theme, just so you won't miss me too much.  😉

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Top 10 Books Set in Another Country

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is "Books That Take Place in Another Country." I LOVE reading novels that are set in other countries, the farther away the better. It's my way of traveling when I can't afford an actual trip. So take a bookish journey from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe with my top 10 favorite faraway reads:

The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari

This book is so good it actually made me care about a cricket game!

The Tattooed Map by Barbara Hodgson

What I love most about this story is all of the mixed-media collage-like illustrations on every page. It's like reading someone's personal travel journal!

Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

This novel gives you a taste for what it's like to live and love in Karachi, as does Shamsie's other excellent novels, Broken Verse and Salt & Saffron. 

Partitions by Amit Majmudar

I loved this story that tells about the separation of India and Pakistan through the eyes of the characters caught in the middle.

Death in Cyprus by M.M. Kaye

Kaye writes great romantic suspense novels. But if you're not intrigued by the Cyprus setting, you can always read Death in Kashmir or Death in Zanzibar instead. They're just as good.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This is still my favorite read of 2018. And it's all because of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, one of the most memorable characters I've ever met!

The Quiet Girl by Peter Hoeg

This is an impossible story to sum up in one sentence. So check out my previous post on this remarkable book, and then check out this book! It's a 5-star read.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

This bookish gem is poignant and sweet and beautifully written. I loved everything about it!

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

This literary mystery has all the right ingredients:  an antiquarian bookdealer, a sinister secret society, a rare and arcane manuscript, intrigue and death. (The Flanders Panel and The Nautical Chart by Perez-Reverte are also favorites.)

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

Interesting and poignant read set in a country I'm not sure I'd want to visit in real life, but that I loved getting to know more about through the pages of this short but powerful novel.

Where should I travel next?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Two books in brief...

Cold Shadows:  An Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper novel by J.L. Bryan

Ellie and her ghost-trapping partner, Stacey, have a new case:  a family of four living in an old mansion is being haunted by multiple ghosts. Their teen-age daughter is being plagued by a poltergeist, but even more worryingly, their seven-year-old son suddenly has two imaginary friends who aren't exactly imaginary, and who don't want Ellie and Stacey interfering.

I liked this novel as much as I did the first one in this series:  the ghosts are scary, the characters are personable and funny, and the ending is suspenseful. It had an added twist to it with the poltergeist that I kind of liked. This novel's only fault? It's too short. Just 176 pages. It's main focus is on the haunting and trapping of these malevolent ghosts, which might not be enough story for everyone. But I thought it was a fun ghostly read!

Hunting Hour: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery by Margaret Mizushima

Detective Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner, Robo, are back. This time they're searching for Cole Walker's youngest daughter, Sophie, who's gone missing. The police are afraid she's been abducted. Compounding their fear is the recent death of another young girl who looks a lot like Sophie. Mattie, along with Robo, are determined to find her in time.

I liked this particular mystery even more than the first two in this series. Mattie is struggling with some personal demons in this one, but she and Robo are still an amazing team. And the last half is a real page-turner. I read it in a day.

Happy Reading!

Other books in these series:
Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper
Killing Trail (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #1)
Stalking Ground (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #2)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir

"I'm always going to sing. That's the end of it.
I'm going to sing until I die."

Cyndi Lauper chronicles her life and career in this candid memoir; she holds nothing back. And her journey has not been an easy one. She left home at seventeen. Failed out of school. Got and lost a myriad of low-paying jobs. And struggled to find her voice in a male-dominated music world. Dealing with her success and fame has not always been easy either. Her narrative does tend to go off on tangents at times--MANY tangents--but overall this is a fascinating look at her life. Lauper is VERY outspoken, sometimes to her detriment. (She swears a lot, too.) She's also uncompromising when it comes to her music, and always, unapologetically herself. 
"If life is for learning, then we all better get to know our book...And remember this: It's not what others think about you that will allow you to succeed. It's what you think about you that allows you to succeed. Because if you can picture yourself doing something, don't listen to anybody who tells you that you can't. You have to just try. Otherwise you're gonna be saying should've, could've, would've, and you don't want to be saying that in your life."
Happy Reading!

(I listened to several of Lauper's albums while I read this book:  She's So Unusual, Bring Ya To the Brink, and Memphis Blues, which added to my reading experience and made it more fun. Though I can't really recommend Memphis Blues; Cyndi Lauper can sing a lot of things really well, but her voice isn't really suited for the blues. So stick with her other albums!)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bookish Art for March...

Pablo Picasso -- Young Girl Reading a Book on the Beach, 1937 
"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong."
--Joseph Chilton Pearce

"Be true to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done something 
strange and extravagant and broken the monotony of a decorous age."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A bookish game...

Creating your own magical library by collecting and shelving a variety of rare books is the object of Ex Libris. Each round opens with several new shops being randomly chosen and laid out that you can then visit on your turn to trade, donate, and acquire more books for your library--from Monster Manuals and Fantastical Fiction to Corrupted Codices. All you have to do is shelve the most books, earn the most points, and you win the title of Grand Librarian!

This game isn't difficult, though there is a bit of a learning curve the first time you play as you try to figure out the best way to shelve your books in order to earn the most points, as well as how to utilize the special skills of your particular library (which changes each time you play). This game is for 1-5 players and it plays in just 30-60 minutes. I thought it was a lot of fun! I especially loved reading all the clever book titles on each of the cards from Nancy Druid and The Hardly Boys to Dungeon Decorating for DummiesEach new title made me smile. And I had a lot of fun collecting all these crazy books for my own gnomish library. (I even came in second!) So if you're looking for an imaginative and entertaining bookish game that's got fantastic illustrations, check this one out!

Can you tell I liked this one?
Happy playing!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

"Which came first. The chalk men or the killing?"

Summer, 1986.  That's when it begins. With the arrival of Mr. Halloran, the new teacher in town, and 5 friends.
Eddie Munster was my nickname...Eddie Munster, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey (on account of the huge braces on his teeth), Hoppo (David Hopkins) and Nicky. That was our gang. Nicky didn't have a nickname because she was a girl...
Leaving coded chalk symbols for each other was just a game between Eddie and his friends. Until someone else started leaving drawings of white chalk men, drawings that eventually lead to the body of a murdered girl.
We all had our own colors of chalk. Fat Gav was red, Metal Mickey blue, Hoppo green, Nicky yellow and I was orange. None of our gang used white.
Alternating between 1986 and 2016, this novel feels more like a coming-of-age novel than a murder mystery, but it's the mystery that ties it all together. Eddie and his friends are only 12 when the secrets and deaths begin; 30 years later those secrets still haven't come to light. But someone knows the truth about what happened all those years ago, and Eddie is finally ready to figure out who's behind it all... and why.
Maybe it's time to take a ride all the way back down good old memory lane. Except, this is not a sun-dappled stroll along a path of fond recollections. This particular route is dark, overgrown with tangled knots of lies and secrets...And along the way, there are chalk men.
I wouldn't necessarily classify this book as a scary, suspenseful thriller, but it is a very compelling read. Once I started, I did not want to put it down. I really like the way Tudor writes, and the mystery part of this book kept me guessing right up to the very end. There are a few parts that are kind of hard to read, like when young Eddie is getting bullied at the playground. There are also a lot of hard-to-like characters in this book; even Eddie has his issues at times. (I have to admit, I liked him and his friends best as kids.) But then, nothing about this book is easy and/or straightforward. I think that's what makes it such an interesting and memorable read.

Melody and I read this book together--another one of our buddy reads--and chatting with her about all of the twists and turns at the end of this book made it even better. So be sure to check out her review, as well as the two questions she asked me about this book when we were done.

Happy Reading!

Melody's questions and my answers:

Q. Chalk drawings seem to be the core subject in this story Do you think the story will have the same impact if it is set in the current times whereby the usage of whiteboard markers is more commonly used than chalk?
A.  Ooh...good question. Most kids today don't use chalk, do they? In fact, most kids don't spend hours everyday playing outside like Eddie and his friends did. Today they'd be posting emojis online for their friends to find, which would be a very different story...and would not have the same impact as the chalk men symbols these characters found everywhere.

Q. What do you think is the main draw of this book? C.J. Tudor's, writing, the characterizations, or the ending? And which character stands out the most for you?
A. For me, I think the main draw is Tudor's writing. She really knows how to tell a story and capture a reader's interest. I never got bored reading this book, and I really wanted to find out what happened next. I think the character that stood out the most to me is Eddie, probably because he narrates the story and we know the most about him, but a close second would be Eddie's lodger, Chloe, who has her own unexpected twist at the end that really caught me by surprise.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Bookish suspense...

Title & Author:  The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen

The Characters:
ELLERY HATHAWAY-- Fourteen years ago she was abducted by a serial killer. She was his seventeenth victim.  She survived. Now she's a police officer in the small town of Woodbury, Massachusetts, where three people have gone missing in three years, all disappearing in the same week of July. She thinks there's a serial killer in town, only her boss doesn't believe her. Neither does anyone else.  Except Agent Reed Markham.

REED MARKHAM--Fourteen years ago he was the FBI agent who found Ellery and saved her life. Now he's in the middle of a divorce and on a temporary "stress leave" from the BAU. He's also drinking too much. But when Ellery calls asking for his help, he heads to Woodbury to help track down this mysterious killer that seems to know more about Ellery's past than anyone else in town. 

My thoughts:
Both of these characters are flawed and imperfect. In fact, when I first started reading this book I wasn't sure I was going to like either one of them. But while each has their own faults, neither is stupid or frustratingly stubborn, and I ended up liking them both. (I really liked Ellie's basset hound, Bump, too!)

As for the mystery, it's interesting without being predictable; the author had me suspecting a couple of different characters along the way. And while this book won't change anyone's life, it is a compelling and enjoyable mystery of psychological suspense. I'm looking forward to reading the next book that Schaffhausen writes....especially if it's as a good as this one. (And it has Ellie and Reed in it again.)

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Top 10 Favorite Book Quotes

This is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is favorite book quotes, which is right up my alley! I have been collecting my favorite bookish quotes for years now, writing them down in a black leather notebook, and referring back to them year after year. I love me a good quote.  The hardest part with this post was deciding which ones to post...and limiting myself to only ten. But I did my best, choosing quotes from 5 recent reads, and 5 classics. Here they are:

"If the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books and only the same books as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA."
--Susan Hill, Howards End is on the Landing  

"By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream."
--Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own  

Look out the window.
See a bird.
Enjoy it.
Congratulations.  You are a bad birdwatcher.

--Simon Barnes, How to Be a (Bad) Birdwatcher

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost, that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden   

"Live all you can; it's a mistake not to. It doesn't so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven't had that what have you had?"
--Henry James, The Ambassadors 

"You can't find love if you're not willing to lose it. You can't find happiness if you're not willing to risk being sad. And you can't find the love of your life without risking breaking your heart."
--Kunal Nayyar, Yes, My Accent is Real

"Sometimes we know in our bones what we really need to do, but we're afraid to do it. Taking a chance and stepping beyond the safety of the world we've known is the only way to grow, though and without risk there is no reward."
--Wil Wheaton, Just A Geek   

"Perhaps all dragons in our lives are really princesses just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and courageous."
--Rainer Maria Rilke,  Letters to a Young Poet

"Every time I overcome my personal fears and prove something to myself, I want to set the bar a little higher. In my life, and in all our lives, there should be no limitations, only possibilities."
--Rachael Scordis, No End in Sight 

"He made a picture of his life and I was fit in it. He wanted, too, to imprison me in his dream. But I am I. I don't want to dream anyone else's dream. I want to dream my own."
--W. Somerset Maugham, The Narrow Corner

Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

What do you love?

I have many bookish loves:  psychological thrillers, supernatural stories, urban fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, certain classics, and even some romance. But one of my absolute favorite kinds of books is disaster/survival novels. I just can't resist them. In Outage by Ellisa Barr, the disaster is an EMP that wipes out all power and technology and leaves fifteen-year-old Dee stranded with her grandfather at his farm in rural Washington. (Her parents are on an Alaskan cruise when the EMP hits.)

With her grandfather dependent on a pacemaker that no longer works, it's up to Dee to handle the majority of the farm chores. Then there's the problem of not having any clean water. Or enough food. It gets even worse when their truck gets stolen. Luckily they have good neighbors (who just happen to be Mormon), who will trade bread for eggs and help with the farm work for a few chickens of their own. And Dee and her grandfather will need all the help they can get if they hope to fend off those men in town determined to take what they want no matter who gets hurt in the process. (Because every dystopian novel needs its requisite bad guys!)

I liked this one! It's not a perfect read, but I thought it was fun. Dee's a bit spoiled and naive in the beginning, but she grows up fast. And she never gives up. I liked that about her; I also liked her two friends, Hyrum and Mason. There's a little bit of faith and prayer in this book, and lots of focus on preparedness and figuring out how to survive in a scary and uncertain world, all of which I enjoyed.

I'm a bit of a prepper at heart, so books like this always make me wonder what I can do to be better prepared for whatever the future may hold--whether it's stocking up on batteries and candles for the next power outage, investing in a good first-aid kit, or buying a few extra cans of food and bottles of water the next time I'm at the store. 'Cause a little preparedness goes a long way.

Happy Reading!

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