Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie!

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme was a freebie. So, after much thought and deliberation, I finally came up with my own top ten theme:  Books Set In Countries That I've Actually Visited. (And I have the stamps in my passport to prove it!)

1. The Netherlands:  
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

2. Scotland:
The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
The End of Summer by Rosamunde Pilcher

3. Thailand:
The Thai Amulet by Lyn Hamilton

4. Cambodia:

5. Bali:
Balilicious by Becky Wicks

6. France (specifically Paris):

7. Mexico:
The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton

8. The Galapagos:

9. Egypt:
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

10. Morocco:
 (which technically I've never been to but where I hope to go someday.)
The Tattooed Map by Barbara Hodgson

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

Red was not some movie superhero any more than the man was a movie villain. She was just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that didn't look anything like the one she'd grown up in, the one that had been perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago....Red didn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she wasn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she was a woman alone in the woods....She had to get to her grandmother, and she still had a very long way to go.

I love this apocalyptic version of Little Red Riding Hood! Henry's writing is amazing, and I especially love Red (whose real name is Cordelia). And because so many people have already reviewed this book, I'm not going to try and summarize the plot; I'm just going to tell you a few of my favorite things about Red:

  • She hates black licorice and wet socks (as do I!)
  • When she was packing her evacuation bag, she included two books because "the apocalypse would be a lot more pleasant with Robin McKinley along." (I so agree!)
  • She has her own set of Apocalypse Rules gleaned from a lifetime of watching and reading apocalyptic movies and books.
  • She's cynical, practical, stubborn and tough. (And if she were a character in a horror movie, she'd be the girl who survives at the end.)
  • She doesn't let the fact she has a prosthetic left leg stop her from doing anything.
  • She always has a plan.
  • She has an ax, and she's not afraid to use it.
Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A bookish gem...

The wager:
"It has been agreed by the two members now before us, Mr. Malik and Mr. Khan, that they will make a Wager. The winner of that Wager will have the privilege of asking Mrs. Rose Mbikwa to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball of November the twenty-fifth coming."
"The substance of the Wager is as follows: That starting at noon tomorrow, Saturday October fourteenth, and finishing at noon on Saturday October twenty-first, each protagonist will make a list of all bird species he is able to identify at first hand. The protagonist able to identify the highest number of species during these seven  days will be judged to have won the Wager." 

My thoughts:

Finally! A book set in Africa that isn't sad and doesn't involve war or genocide. In fact, this book is the complete opposite. It's charming, and witty, and has an old-fashioned feel that made me smile. I was rooting for "brown, short, round, and balding" Mr. Malik throughout. I also liked Rose. And Khan makes for the perfect antagonist. (He's Malik's childhood nemesis.) And as a birder myself, I really enjoyed the whole birdwatching aspect. While the pacing of this novel is slow like a lazy summer afternoon, the quirky characters and the captivating glimpses of Kenyan life that it offers definitely makes it worth your time.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's theme?

Ten favorite settings that I'd like to see more of in books.

1. Unexplored caves and/or Abandoned mines

2. The Cretaceous

3. Remote outpost (in outer space or somewhere on Earth like Antarctica)

4. Traveling circus or carnival

5. Summer camp! (Ballet camp would be good, too.)

6. Amazon rainforest .... or any primeval jungle, especially if it also has
some hidden Mayan or Incan ruins in it.

7. Hogwarts! (Because seven books weren't enough.)

8. Cairo's Necropolis ... or The Valley of the Kings

9. The Paris Catacombs (or any where in Paris really)

10. Scotland, Wales, or Cornwall

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Small Country by Gael Faye

It's 1992. Gabriel is ten years old. He lives in Bujumbura, Burundi with his French father, his Rwandan mother, and his little sister, Ana. He goes to school in the morning and roams the neighborhood with his friends in the afternoon stealing mangoes to sell. He swims in the river and takes trips to Lake Kivu with his family. And he has no idea that his idyllic childhood is about to end. First with his parents' separation. Then when his friends get caught up in the growing tensions between the Hutus and the Tutsis. But everything really falls apart when the Rwandan genocide begins, and the violence from it starts to spill over into Burundi, too.

"The earth had moved imperceptibly beneath our feet. It did so every day in this country, in this corner of the world. We were living on the axis of the Great Rift, at the precise spot where Africa fractures. The people of this region mirrored the land. Beneath the calm appearance, behind the facade of smiles and optimistic speeches, dark underground forces were continuously at work, fomenting violence and destruction that returned for successive periods like bad winds: 1965, 1972, 1988. A glowering uninvited ghost showing up at regular intervals to remind us that peace is merely a brief interlude between two wars. We didn't know it yet, but the hour of the inferno had come, and the night was about to unleash its cackle of hyenas and wild dogs."
At its heart, Small Country is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of genocide and war. Gabriel's loss of innocence is especially touching when he confronts his friends about their growing hatred for the Hutus and tells them he doesn't want to have to pick a side, or go to war. He just wants life to go back to the way it was. But deep down he knows that can never happen. This story is so poignant and touching. I loved the poetry of Faye's writing, and his vibrant portrayal of life in Africa. Gabriel's voice is so clear and authentic--I loved him, too. At only 183 pages, Small Country is a small novel that packs quite a punch. And I'm so glad that I read it.

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Ishmael Beah's memoir is compelling, traumatic, heartbreaking, and unforgettable. The atrocities of war, and the losses he experienced in Sierra Leone, should never happen to anyone, let alone a 12-year-old boy. The fact that he survived to tell his story is a testament to the kind strangers who helped him along the way and to his own courage and indomitable spirit. But instead of telling you my opinion of his remarkable journey, I'd rather let his own words speak for themselves.

The first time that I was touched by war I was twelve. It was in January of 1993. I left home with Junior, my older brother, and our friend Talloi to participate in our friend's talent show. ... We didn't know that we were leaving home, never to return.

I had heard from adults that this was a revolutionary war, a liberation of the people from corrupt government. But what kind of liberation movement shoots innocent civilians, children?

During the day we searched for food and take turns sleeping. At night it felt as if we were walking with the moon. It followed us under thick clouds and waited for us at the other end of dark forest paths....Some nights the sky wept stars that quickly floated and disappeared into the darkness before our wishes could meet them. ... (And) the moon hid behind clouds to avoid seeing what was happening.

We tied our heads with the green cloths that distinguished us from the rebels, and we boys led the way....We walked for long hours and stopped only to eat sardines and corned beef with gari, sniff cocaine, brown brown, and take some white capsules. The combination of these drugs gave us a lot of energy and made us fierce. The idea of death didn't cross my mind and killing had become as easy as drinking water....Whenever I looked at rebels during raids, I got angrier, because they looked like the rebels who played cards in  the ruins of the village where I had lost my family. So when the lieutenant gave orders, I shot as many as I could, but I didn't feel better.  

We had been fighting for over two years, and killing had become a daily activity. I felt no pity for anyone. My childhood had gone by without my knowing, and it seemed as if my heart had frozen....In my head my life was normal. But everything began to change in the last weeks of January 1996. I was fifteen.

"None of what happened was your fault. You were just a little boy."  Even though I had heard that phrase from every staff member--and frankly I had always hated it--I began that day to believe. That didn't make me immune from my guilt that I felt for what I had done. Nonetheless, it lightened my burdensome memories and gave me strength to think about things.

Ishmael Beah is an amazing person. I'm so glad he decided to share his story with the world. My only complaint about this book was the abrupt ending. It felt like the last chapter of Beah's life was missing from the story. Even a brief epilogue of how he ended up in New York would have helped. But that's my only complaint. All in all, this is a powerful and gripping book that I think everyone should read.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Traveling to Africa ... by book!

Since I can't afford to take a real African safari this summer, I thought I'd do a bookish one and read my way through several African countries. Here are some of the books I thought I'd start with and the countries where they take place:

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solder by Ishmael Beah
(Sierra Leone)

Small Country by Gael Faye

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

Are there any other good books set in Africa that you would recommend? I'd really like to read There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene, which is set in Ethiopia, some time in the near future, but I haven't checked it out of the library yet. I thought I'd see if I can get these other books read first. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Urban Fantasy Fun...

Lionel Page is a reporter who delights in debunking supernatural hoaxes and frauds. He also has a secret from his past he'd like to keep hidden. But that's getting harder to do. Then Regina Dunkle, a wealthy heiress, comes along and makes him an offer he can't resist. And that's when the story really gets complicated and interesting, with a trip to New York City, a lost manuscript by Edgar Allan Poe, a secret society known as the Thoth Club, an even more secretive woman named Madison, as well as witchcraft, Tarot, mystery and murder.
"He was a long way from home. There were no maps for this part of New York City. Only a guide. He wasn't sure if he could trust her. He wasn't sure if he cared.... Lionel was a storm chaser. Maddie was a storm."
Ghosts of Gotham by Craig Shaefer is supernatural suspense at its best. I loved both Lionel and Maddie, and the magical world they're forced to navigate. I also loved all the crazy stuff that happens to them along the way, from meeting a powerful Greek Muse to running into a hoard of ravenous ghouls. It's a fast-paced and compelling read. And Schaefer's writing is amazing. I thought this novel was VERY entertaining. If you need more convincing, check out Verushka's review. After all, it's the reason I checked this one out in the first place.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July's Bookish Art...

Carl Larsson -- Lady Reading a Newspaper

"There is no enjoyment like reading!"
--Jane Austen

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

From the Blurb:
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine. She reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

My thoughts:  
This book is a unique mix of apocalyptic fiction, urban fantasy, and Navajo myth and legend. And it totally works! Maggie's clan powers make her a fast and efficient killer--the perfect monster slayer. (Although there's a darkness inside her that sometimes makes her wonder if she might just be a monster herself.) Kai's clan powers run to healing and controlling the elements, making them a formidable team. Not that Maggie wants Kai as her partner. She's still hung up on her former mentor, a Monsterslayer who also happens to be an immortal legend. As characters, Kai and Maggie are complete opposites. I liked them both!

I also really liked how this novel is steeped in the Navajo culture and language. It adds another fascinating layer to the magic and mystery. And there's some great magic in this book! There's also a twist at the end that means I now have to read the second book in this series as soon as possible. About the only thing I didn't love about this novel is that it's written in first person present tense, which isn't my favorite; but the story and the characters are so compelling, I got over it. For me, this was a 4½-star read.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Just for laughs...

Because while a John Atkinson cartoon always makes me smile....

....these made me laugh!!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Fourth of July!

"When is the time for brave men to exert themselves 
in the cause of liberty and their country, if this is not?" 
--George Washington

"Never was a cause more important or glorious than that which you are engaged in ... for if tyranny should prevail in this great country, we may expect liberty will expire throughout the world. Therefore, more human glory and happiness may depend upon your exertions than ever yet depended upon any of the sons of men."   
 --A Freeman

1776 seems like the perfect July read, doesn't it?  In its well-written pages, David McCullough brings to life the events leading up to, and the months just after, the signing of the Declaration of Independence; it also tells the story of the men who helped bring it all about. Those self-educated and self-made men like George Washington, who had never led an army into battle, but who took on the role of Commander in Chief; and Nathaniel Green, a Quaker from Rhode Island who learned everything he knew about war from reading books and who became a general at thirty-three; and Henry Knox, a bookseller from Boston who had the audacious idea to haul the heavy cannons abandoned at Fort Ticonderoga all the way to Boston in the middle of winter. He was just twenty-five. But it's not just about these heroes. "It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned into soldiers." Well-researched and well-told, 1776 is the powerful human story of mistakes and defeat, patriotism, courage, struggle, loss, faith, perseverance, and victory. It is the story of America herself. And I'm so glad I read it; I really learned a lot.

"From the last week of August to the last week of December, the year 1776 had been as dark a time as those devoted to the American cause had ever known--indeed, as dark a time as any in the history of the country. And suddenly, miraculously it seemed, that had changed because of a small band of determined men and their leader."
--David McCullough

"The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth."
--Thomas Paine

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Childhood Favorites...

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is childhood favorites. And I had a lot of favorite books as a child. Here are some of the ones that I read again and again and again:

The Horse Stories:

Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty

4-H Filly by Patsey Gray

A Horse for XYZ by Louise Moeri

(Plus a lot of other horse & girl books like Gypsy From Nowhere, The Pony Problem, and The Secret Horse to name a few.)

The Magical Reads:

No Such Thing as a Witch by Ruth Chew
(And all the other Ruth Chew books!)

The Rebel Witch by Jack Lovejoy

The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum

Summer Camp Reads:

Laura's Luck by Marilyn Sachs

Just Plain Maggie by Lorraine Beim

The books with mischievous kids:

Me and My Little Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

The Egypt Game by Zipha Keatley Snyder

Survival reads:

Two on an Island by Bianca Bradbury

Mind Call by Wilanne Schneider Belden

Science Fiction Reads:

The Rains of Eridan by H.M. Hoover

The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key

The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
(Plus a lot of other Heinlein novels!)

The orphan stories:

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Adopted Jane by H.F. Daringer

Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler Warner
(And The Boxcar Children, too!)

And, of course, the suspenseful, scary reads:

Which include all of Lois Duncan's books!

I could go on and add the Prydain Chronicles, all the Narnia books, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Ellen Tebbits, the Little House and the Little Maid series and many more...but this post is already too long. If I'd been a child when the Harry Potter series came out, I'd include those, too. Because I really love those books, but I first read them as an adult, so technically they don't count as childhood favorites. But as you can see, I've loved books and reading my whole life. And these childhood favorites are some of the reasons why!

Happy Reading!