Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Fairy Tale

I'm not a huge fan of fantasy stories involving the Fae, so I don't often check out books where they play a large role. But when my niece recommended A Fairy Tale by Shanna Swendson I couldn't resist giving it a try. And I'm glad I did. It's very entertaining. The two main characters, Sophie and Emily, are both spunky and smart. It reads fast. And it's fun. I actually ended up liking it a lot. It begins with Emily getting abducted by the Fae; her sister, Sophie, knows she must once again enter their Realm in order to rescue her. But Sophie has another role to play in she doesn't even know about. Yet.

Here are a few snippets to give you a taste of this fairy tale:

"According to Sophie's fairy indoctrination, time did funny things in fairyland. Emily could spend what felt like months here and return to the real world at the moment she left it, or she could spend what felt like minutes, only to return to the real world and find that a century had passed. Needless to say, she preferred the former option. It would be less detrimental to her career."
"If they'd told her they'd make her the greatest dancer ever in exchange for her sister, Sophie would never have agreed to the bargain. But she'd assumed she'd be the one to pay the price. ...She should have known. In all the stories, it was someone else who was taken as payment for a favor--a first-born child, a beloved daughter, a lover, a sister. ...Then again, there was always a loophole, a way to redeem the one who'd been taken or to sidestep the bargain entirely. She just had to find the loophole."

And then there's my favorite Fae, Eamon, who likes books and chocolate chip cookies:
"His silver hair gave him a shimmering halo. Although his face looked young, his eyes were ancient. They were the color of the mercury in old thermometers, a quicksilver color that shifted with light and motion. They were the most bewitching eyes she'd ever seen, and she felt as if she could have stared into them for hours--until she reminded herself that mercury was poisonous."

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Wrapping up Nonfiction November...

Yesterday, I returned all the nonfiction books I checked out this month to the library; all except for The Wright Brothers by David McCullough which I'm currently halfway through. That one I renewed. As for the other books I checked out, I managed to read all but one:  The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya will just have to wait until next year. The seven books I did read this month were all very interesting, and I'm glad I read them, but I have to admit, towards the end I found myself developing a bit of nonfiction fatigue, and I'm really looking forward to diving into the stack of fiction and fantasy books sitting next to my bed.  But before I do that, here are a few brief thoughts on the last two nonfiction books I read...and on the one I'm still reading:

"Safe now, the crushing strain of the preceding days lifted from my shoulders, I cried for my lost companions, I cried because I was grateful to be alive, I cried because I felt terrible for having survived while others had died."

After reading this book, I found myself wondering why anyone would ever want to try climbing to the top of Mt. Everest. I mean, they call the last 4,000 feet of the climb "The Death Zone".  But people do. And sometimes they die. Like the twelve climbers who died in that fateful storm in May 1996. And even though I already knew the story, I still found Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air a vividly compelling and harrowing read. And one I won't soon forget. 4 stars.

Five facts you may or may not know about the Spanish Flu:
  1.  It came in three waves with the second wave in the fall of 1918 being the deadliest.
  2.  It didn't originate in Spain.
  3.  It infected one in three people on earth.
  4.  It was a global pandemic, affecting almost every country and continent. (The one big exception:  Antarctica.)
  5.  Scientists figure it killed upwards of 50-100 million people; in contrast, 17 million died in World War I.
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney is both interesting and informative. I liked the mix of science and history throughout this book, as well as Spinney's conversational narrative style. Plus, the chapters are short, which is always a bonus.  3.5 stars.

"Gentlemen, I'm going to fly."
--Wilbur Wright

While I haven't quite finished this one--I'm on page 178 and have about 100 pages still to go--I'm quite liking it. Wilbur and Orville Wright, two of "the workingest boys" ever, are such fascinating figures; I love how David McCullough has made them come alive in this biography. What they accomplished through their own hard work and determination is truly amazing.  4.5 stars.

Happy Reading!

The other nonfiction books I read this month:
Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford
Live Long And... by William Shatner
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot by Joseph Cummins
Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

Friday, November 23, 2018

Giving thanks...

My Gratitude List...

  • family
  • friends
  • laughter
  • good books
  • bubble baths
  • sunsets
  • mountain trails
  • freedom
  • dark chocolate
  • new boots
  • leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy (I love Thanksgiving!)
  • the sharp-shinned hawk who visits my backyard occasionally
  • book blogging friends from all around the world who love to read and talk books as much as I do!


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Valley Forge

"Over Washington's own long bullet of a winter, his army had overcome a season of logistical nightmares that would have brought a European force to its knees. Like pig iron stripped of its impurities and annealed into steel, his remaining regiments were emerging stronger for their ordeals. ... Valley Forge had been the crucible they had all come through together, the very reason the forces of the nascent United States were now poised to alter the course of the revolution."

 Valley Forge by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin chronicles the winter of 1777-1778. It was a time of desperate starvation and deprivation for George Washington and his troops. And if General Howe (the British general in charge of the soldiers occupying Philadelphia that same winter) had attacked the Continental Army at Valley Forge, the British might well have won the war. But he didn't. And the men who survived the extremities of Valley Forge went on to help win the revolution.

This book is a fascinating account of what took place that important year. It's very well-researched and describes the battles as well as the backgrounds of all the main players from Washington himself to his three favorite aides de camp:  Alexander Hamilton, John Laurens, and the Marquis de Lafayette. And it definitely deepened my respect and admiration for George Washington and the men who fought and served with him. But all that rich historic detail means it doesn't always read fast. (A few chapters were a bit of a slog.) Still, I learned a lot. And I'm very glad I read it.

Happy Reading!

Two excellent companion reads:

A much faster and
equally interesting read.
Check out my review here.

And if fiction's more your style:

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A bookish gem...

How good it is to be among people who love reading!

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel is a love letter to reading. And I loved every word of it, from her thoughts on finding the right book (or letting the right book find you) to how to organize your bookshelves. ("You're a reader; your hobby is organizing your bookshelves.") But I have to say, her chapter on Bookworm Problems made me laugh out loud. Here are three of my favorite ones:

  • You have reached your limit on library checkouts, but nine books are waiting for you on hold.
  • Your To Be Read list holds 8,972 titles, and you want to read every one.
  • Someone asks you to name your three favorite books, and you can narrow your list to only five. Or seven. Or seventeen.

I don't know about you, but I've experienced all of these bookish problems to one extent or another. (Thankfully, my To Read list is NOT in the thousands of titles...yet.) My current bookworm problem? Lack of sufficient bookshelf space!
Anyway, I'd Rather Be Reading is a delightful's short, and humorous, and very relatable, and it'd make the perfect Christmas gift for any bookworm or bibliophile.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November's Bookish Art...

Frederick Carl Frieseke -- Girl Reading

"We don't need a list of rights and wrongs,  tables of dos and don'ts:
we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten,
but Once upon a time lasts forever."
--Philip Pullman

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Live Long and...What I Learned Along the Way!

"Success always begins with showing up. ... Any success I have had began by showing up on time, being prepared, and doing the best possible job. ... A good work ethic is the foundation of success. ...Show up and do your job and good things are going to happen."

"We have to yearn for things, we have to pursue them, and if we are fortunate enough to obtain them we have to savor them--and then set off on the next pursuit. ... The pursuit and enjoyment of passion, however the hell you want to define it, is what life should be about. I have great news for you:  I can report to you from eighty-seven years old that no matter how passionate you are, you will never run out of it. There is no limited reservoir of passion."

"There are people who lead a cautious life, but to me, that's like going through life with the emergency brake on. ... Comfort and predictability have never been sufficient for me. ... My regrets are for those things I didn't do, rather than the risks I took."

William Shatner's self-deprecating wit and unpretentious honesty make this book a quick and easy read. It's not as funny or as full of humorous quips as I thought it would be, and it's not quite as good as the book he wrote about Leonard Nimoy, but it's still a book worth reading.

Happy Reading!

And if you're a fan of Mr. Spock, be sure to check out this amazing book:

It's awesome!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Walking the Amazon

"I had never been to the Amazon ... but it had a mystique all of its own. Surely the trees would be much bigger, the wildlife had to be much richer and more diverse and the people would be that bit wilder and cut off from the outside world. It gave me butterflies to think of spending time in the Amazon."

On a lark, Ed Stafford and his friend, Luke Collyer, decided to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, all 4,345 miles of it. It'd be a first. No one had ever done it before. They thought it might take them a year. Instead, it took Ed 860 days. (Luke quit after 3 months.) Ed experienced mosquitoes, wasps, and snakes, heat and humidity, blistered and infected feet, flooded forests, hospitality and hostility, hunger, exhilaration, depression, boredom and fear. But through it all, he never considered giving up.

There's something about the Amazon that I find fascinating. I like to read about it and imagine going there someday, but I'd never want to walk it like Stafford did. (I'm not a fan of mud or bugs or snakes or 100% humidiy.) Walking the Amazon is both an interesting and readable memoir; Stafford does a good job of chronicling his long journey, but he focuses more on the day to day logistics--the guides, and tribes, money, gear and food, miles trekked, and the problems encountered along the way--than on the Amazon River itself and the surrounding rain forest. I would have liked a little more description, for him to paint a better picture of where he was walking, and what he saw. There's some. Just not enough for me. It's still a really good read. But I'd have to give it a B+ rather than an A for that reason.

Happy Reading!

Two other books about the Amazon that I enjoyed even more than this one:

Monday, November 5, 2018

A bookish update...

Just finished reading:

This book is a very intense and dark psychological thriller 
that reminded me of Pessl's Night Film.

So this year I decided to fully embrace Nonfiction November.
Here are the eight nonfiction books that I checked out of the library last Friday and plan on reading throughout the month of November: 

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Live Long And -- What I Learned Along the Way by William Shatner
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Vogel
Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot by Joseph Cummins
Valley Forge by Bob Drury
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 by Laura Spinney
Walking the Amazon by Ed Stafford

(Don't know if I'll manage to read them all, but I'm going to give it a try.)

Two stupid things that made me laugh:

The title of this  book:

And this misspelled word:


(I saw it on some website recently; and while I know they meant 
to write bookmark instead, I think I like this word better.)

Another favorite John Atkinson cartoon:

Happy Reading!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Still lovin' this series...

Veiled by Benedict Jacka is the sixth book in his Alex Verus series; and it's just as good as the first. In this one, Alex's former teacher, a notorious Dark mage named Richard Drakh, has returned to England. And he wants Alex back on his team, which is the last thing Alex wants. So, to protect himself and his friends, Alex joins the Keepers, the enforcement arm of the Mage Council instead. Of course, it would help if the other Keepers didn't view him as the enemy, but according to many of them, "Once a Dark mage, always a Dark mage." So Alex will have to prove himself once again.

Of course, his first case, which should have been a simple and straightforward investigation, gets a lot more complicated when Alex encounters an Air mage assassin, a scared young runaway, an ice cat, and a deadly conspiracy. Luckily, Alex has another sense--"my diviner's sight--and it multiplied what I could see a million times over...a diviner can actually be quite an effective fighter, in an unconventional sort of way. We aren't any stronger or faster than regular folk, but all that information gives us an awful lot of leverage...(Because) when you can see the future, it changes things a lot."

This is one of my new favorite urban fantasy series. And Alex Verus is one of my all-time favorite characters. I've enjoyed every book I've read so far about him and his friends. But just so you know, this is a series that's best read in order.

Happy Reading!