Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday

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

This week's theme:  Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud.

Here are my Top 10:


1. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson



2. The Adventures of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse



3. Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella



4. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons



5. Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen



6. Abridged Classics by John Atkinson



7. Soulless by Gail Carriger



8. The Vampire's Fake Fiancee by Kristen Painter



9. Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum



10. Helen and Troy's Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez


Happy Reading!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Housing Lark by Sam Selvon

 
The beginning: "But is no use dreaming. Is no use lying down there on your backside and watching the wallpaper, as if you expect the wall to crack open and money come pouring out, a nice woman, a house to live in, food, cigarettes, rum. ...The irony of it was that the wallpaper really had a design with lamps on it, Aladdin lamps all over the room. ....Battersby thought maybe he wasn't rubbing the right one."

The setting: London in the 1960s. 

The players:  A group of West Indian immigrants. There's Battersby and his sister, Jean, from Trinidad, and their friends, Nobby, Alfy, Fitz, Sylvester and Gallows. And then there's Harry Banjo, a calypso singer from Jamaica and Battersby's new roommate, who is the first to suggest they pool their money together to buy their very own house.

The dream:  "Yes, yes, is time to get serious," Bat say. "Now listen. I ain't want to make no big speeches. Everybody know what hell it is to get a place to live, and the idea is to start saving up some money, and we put it together and buy a house."

The problem:  "Ain't we going to buy a house?"
                           "That is only a lark," Jean say, "you think them fellars really serious? I know Battersby, he is my own brother, and I could tell you that up to now he ain't give me a ha'penny he save up. If I was you I think twice about that scheme."

The author:  Of East Indian descent, Sam Selvon was born in Trinidad in 1923. He came to public attention during the 1950s with a number of other Caribbean writers. The Housing Lark was published in 1965.

My reaction:  I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this novel, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it. Selvon does an excellent job of portraying life in London for these West Indian immigrants, and the unfair prejudices they face. But he also doesn't flinch from showing each character's flaws and weaknesses; and he does it all with a lyrical lilt to his prose that calls to mind the Caribbean islands. It's not a long novel, only 125 pages, and every page is a delight. Selvon is a new-to-me author, and one I would definitely read again. This book also counts as my Classic by a BIPOC author for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Haiku Reviews...

 

Nothing Short of Wondrous by Regina Scott


Protecting Yellowstone
is his job, and her passion.
Teamwork leads to love.


Historical fiction .... 309 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(I also really enjoyed Scott's A Distance Too Grand.)





Hyenas by Michael Sellars


World gone mad. Humans
turned savage. Language lost. Can
Jay and friends survive?


Science Fiction/Dystopian .... 272 pages .... 3/5 stars.
(Not quite zombie apocalypse, but close!)





You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero


You can change your life.
Just believe in you. Then act.
Most of all: Love Yourself.


Self-Help/Nonfiction .... 244 pages ....4.5/5 stars.
(Lots of language, but some excellent advice.)




The Flip Side by James Bailey


Go. Stay. Right. Left.
For one year Josh decides it all
with the flip of a coin.


Contemporary romance .... 371 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Humorous and fun...and set in England!)



Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi

 
I've been a fan of Meb Keflezighi ever since I watched him win a silver medal in the marathon at the Athens Olympics in 2004 for Team USA. In his long career as a distance runner, he ran 26 marathons altogether, winning both the New York City Marathon in 2009 and the Boston Marathon in 2014. With every marathon he ran he learned something....a key takeaway from every challenge, triumph, struggle and defeat he faced; he shares those life lessons in this book. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Consistency is key!
  • What matters is what you do, not what you say you're going to do.
  • You'll never know if your time has come if you don't try.
  • Celebrate every personal best.
  • Never give up on your dreams.
  • Giving your best over the whole course is what life is about.
  • In whatever we do in life, it's important to finish strong. You can always rest when you're done.
This is such a great book! Even if you've never run a day in your life and you have no desire to ever run a marathon, this book is still an accessible, interesting, honest and heartfelt read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Happy Reading!
 

Friday, February 12, 2021

February's Bookish Art...

Henry John Hudson -- The Letter

"There was nothing like that feeling of holding a book in your hands and traveling to another place, another time...another life."
--Vivien Chien, Death by Dumpling

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain

 A little girl taken from a park in northern Italy.
A boy taken from a playground in Slovenia.
And now a girl from Budapest.
No one had put it together except Rurik. No one realized that each child had vanished on the day of the final performance of the Zorka Cyrka.



Rurik is chief of security at the Zorka circus. With his lightning-scarred face and body he's often mistaken for a monster himself, but he knows the real monster is hiding among the circus performers. And he's determined to stop them before another child is taken. But he doesn't know who he can trust. And other things at the circus keep going wrong.

Then there's Sylvie Dinescu. She's one of the bloodwalking women of the Skomori Clan. She knows there's death and danger at the circus, but she has no idea how she can help find the killer, not when she's just been married off to a stranger. Besides, she knows no one is going to want the help of a Bloodwalker, especially not one who's been cursed.

There's a lot to like about this one! The writing. The circus setting. The characters. The suspense. The strange traditions of the Bloodwalkers. The mystery itself and the horror at the end. I thought it was an entertaining read. And Rurik and Sylvie? I liked them both. All in all, I'd give this one 4 stars.

Happy Reading!

P.S. And no, there aren't any vampires in this one.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

A Children's Classic

 
I don't remember when I bought Queen Zixi of Ix; or, the Story of the Magic Cloak by L. Frank Baum, but I do remember why. It was because of how much I love Baum's Oz books. Growing up, I read them over and over: Ozma of Oz, Tik-tok of Oz, Glinda of Oz. All fourteen of them. So when I saw a copy of this book, I couldn't resist buying it. Why it's taken me so long to get around to reading it is another story.

Queen Zixi of Ix was published in 1905. Baum called it one of his best efforts and "nearer to the old-fashioned fairy tale than anything I have yet accomplished." It begins with a bored fairy queen who weaves a magic cloak capable of granting one wish to its wearer, but only if it's given to that person, NOT stolen. It's also about two orphans, Bud and Fluff, who have just lost their father. In a strange twist of fate, Bud ends up as the new King of Noland, and his sister, now the Princess Fluff, ends of with the magic cloak. When Queen Zixi of the neighboring Kingdom of Ix hears about the cloak, she determines to steal it, even though she's a powerful witch in her own right. Along the way, the cloak grants many wishes to many different people, most of them foolish and silly, and Bud and Fluff have quite the adventure until the fairy queen comes to take the cloak away. It's classic Baum: delightful and charming, with several unique magical creatures, fun plays on words, and an old-fashioned moral at the end. I still love the Oz books best, but I enjoyed reading this one. And it counts as my Children's Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Randomness...

 One month into 2021 and I'm not sure it's any better than 2020. But I'm surviving. And hey, at least there's toilet paper! Because they prioritized school personnel here in Utah, I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine last month, and should get my second dose next week. No side effects other than a sore arm. I just hope it works, especially with all these scary variants popping up. I'd love to see a light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel!



On the upside, I watched a fun movie the other day: Anna and the Apocalypse. It's a musical .... with zombies! Who can resist that? The songs in it are amazing. And Anna is a great character. It is rated R for some language and some zombie violence...though it's way less graphic and intense than a single episode of The Walking Dead. I thought it was a very entertaining film.






Something that made me laugh:






I recently finished reading an excellent biography: Revolver--Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter that Changed America by Jim Rasenberger. I thought it was fascinating, and I learned a lot. It's very well-researched and it's clear that Rasenberger really knows his history. There were times however when I felt the writing got a bit too detailed, which made the narrative drag. Overall, though, I liked this one. And who knew one man could influence so much of history with one little gun?





Favorite Quotes of the Week:

"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. 
If you are anxious, you are living in the future. 
If you are at peace, you are living in the present."
--Lao Tzu.


"Life is but a dream. Don't turn it into a nightmare."
--Jen Sincero


Have a good weekend...and Happy Reading!

Monday, February 1, 2021

Back to the Classics Challenge 2021...

 I wasn't sure I wanted to sign up for any reading challenges this year, but then I noticed that six books from my TBR list lined up perfectly with six of the categories from Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge and it felt like a little bookish serendipity. Besides, I really like this challenge. I've done it twice before. And even though I never managed to complete all twelve categories either time, maybe this will be the year I actually do it. 



Here are the 12 categories for this year's challenge...and the six books from my TBR list I'm hoping to read for them. (The remaining six categories I'll have to figure out later.)

A 19th Century Classic:  Can You Forgive Her by Anthony Trollope (I've owned this book for years, but have been too intimidated by it's length to ever try it...until now. Maybe.)
A 20th Century Classic: 
A Classic by a Woman Author:  The Misses Mallett by E. H. Young (This book I only recently acquired.)
A Classic in Translation:
A Classic by a BIPOC Author:
A Classic by a New-to-you Author:
New-to-you Classic by a Favorite Author:
A Classic about an Animal, or with an Animal in the Title: Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Children's Classic: Queen Zixi of Ix by L. Frank Baum (I already own this one, too.)
A Humorous or Satirical Classic:
A Travel or Adventure Classic: In Morocco by Edith Wharton (Another book I've owned for years but have never read.)
A Classic Play: Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (Because Sam at Book Chase made it sound so good.)

Wish me luck...
and Happy Reading!

Friday, January 29, 2021

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

 
This is a historical fiction novel set in the American West in the 1870s. It is the story of May Dodd, a well-bred young lady who agrees to become one of a thousand Cheyenne brides in order to escape the asylum where her father placed her when she fell in love with an unsuitable man. 
"But now that we have actually embarked upon this journey, our future is so uncertain, and so unknown, it is impossible not to have misgivings. How ironic that in order to escape the lunatic asylum I have had to embark upon the most insane undertaking of my life."
"I am rather accustomed to doing the unconventional, the unpopular... Frankly, from the way I have been treated by the so-called 'civilized' people in my life, I rather look forward to residency among the savages."
"As I look around the circle of this tipi, even the chokingly close walls of my old room at the asylum suddenly seem in memory to be somehow comforting, familiar...a square, solid room with four walls... but, no, these thoughts I banish. I live in a new world, on a new earth, among new people. Courage!"
Jim Fergus does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the past, detailing that time period, and the Cheyenne people and their way of life, and their continuing conflict with the American government despite their white wives. But it's the women who are at the heart of this novel. It's told through the journals and letters of May Dodd, a very independent and memorable character. My one complaint is that sometimes her letters overlap with her journal entries and end up repeating the same information. But that's a small thing. Overall, this book is both a compelling and very heartbreaking read. I'm grateful to Sam at Book Chase who first introduced me to Fergus's trilogy. 

Happy Reading!

Similar read:
Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson (which is based on the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker and her life with the Comanche)








 
 



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday

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

This week's theme:  New-to-me Authors I read in 2020.

But I wasn't really feeling that one because I read a lot of new authors last year, and how do you pick just ten? So, I tweaked it a bit. 

Here are 7 New-to-me Authors that I really want to read in 2021:


John Connolly



Michael Connolly




Louise Penny




Kerry Wilkinson




Martha Wells




Allison Brennan




Jim Fergus




What new authors are you looking forward to reading this year?

Happy Reading!


Saturday, January 23, 2021

In the Waning Light by Loreth Anne White

 
The story: Twenty years ago, Meg Brogan's older sister, Sherry, was raped and murdered. Meg herself nearly died that same night. When she woke from her coma she couldn't remember what she'd seen or what really happened to Sherry. Now, a successful true crime writer, Meg's returned to Shelter Bay, Oregon, to investigate her sister's murder. But no one in town wants her to rake up the past. And as Meg digs deeper, she begins to realize everyone around her is keeping secrets or telling lies about what happened that night. But she refuses to give up. Even when it puts her own life in danger. 

My thoughts:  Loreth Anne White knows how to write a compelling and suspenseful mystery. And Meg makes for a memorable character; she's stubborn, and feisty, and a little fragile at times as she struggles to retrieve her own uncertain memories of that awful day. My other two favorite characters were Blake Sutton, Meg's high school sweetheart whom she hasn't seen since she was eighteen, and his young son, Noah. Blake's keeping his own secrets about that day, which only added to the tension between them. The one thing I didn't love was reading all the snippets and excerpts from The Stranger Among Us, the book Meg is writing about her sister. I didn't feel like it added anything to the story. But the rest of the book is really good. So even though this is not my favorite Loreth Anne White novel, I still liked it a lot. 

Happy Reading!


Other books by Loreth Anne White that I've read:

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Haiku reviews...

 

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton


Eight days. Eight lives to
inhabit. Eight chances to 
find a murderer.


Mystery .... 430 pages .... 5/5 stars.
(Compelling and unique way to tell a story!)





The Match by Sarah Adams


Evie and her service
dog are just what single dad
Jake and his daughter need.


Romantic comedy .... 268 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Loved the humor and heart in this one!)





Have Brides, Will Travel by William W. Johnstone 


It's an easy job: escort
five mail-order brides to Silverhill.
But what's there will surprise them all.


Western .... 299 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(Bo and Scratch, the two lead cowboys, totally made me laugh.)




Happy Reading!


Sunday, January 17, 2021

January's bookish art...

Pablo Picasso -- Woman With a Book, 1932

"Books are the great loves of my life.
They make me laugh and weep and question and reflect on things.
They allow me to escape from myself.
They've changed me."
--Gael Faye

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

 Suspense. Murder. Science fiction. Mystery.



There's a lot to like about this interstellar mystery. It's unique. It's well-written and it reads fast. It has six interesting characters and an intriguing premise. And it's set in space. But I have to admit, I'm finding it a little hard to summarize. So I'm going to cheat and quote from the blurb on Goodreads instead.

"A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer -- before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood. At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria's vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire... And Maria wasn't the only one to die recently."

Because the ship's AI memory logs have been wiped, and none of the six cloned crew members have retained any recent memories, you don't know who to trust. Any one of them could have committed the murders and sabotaged the ship's computer. There's the captain, the pilot, the doctor, the tech guy, the security guy, and Maria, jill-of-all-trades. Each has a criminal past and each knows their own piece of the puzzle. But none feel they can trust any of the others. 

I always enjoy reading these kinds of locked-room mysteries (or locked-ship mystery in this case), and I found Six Wakes to be both compelling and entertaining. I especially liked all the clone technology, with its complicated moral and ethical issues, and the six clones with their past lives, their memories, secrets and altered mindmaps. If you like character-driven mysteries, especially ones set in space, this is a really good one. 

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Some bookish fun in 2021...

 The Unruly Reader has once again put out a fun Book Bingo card. I always love bookish bingo because I love finding books to fill the different categories, reading them, and then crossing off the matching square. Here are her categories for this year:


There's also an explanation of each book bingo category on the Unruly Reader's blog here if you want to know more about any of the categories. I think I'm most excited about the Quest, Survival and Unconventional squares myself. The Explorer and Edwardian categories could be a lot of fun, too. And what's nice about bookish bingo is that you don't have to post about the books you read if you don't want to, or link up your reviews; it's mostly just for fun. And you can go for a bingo, or for blackout, or for the four corner squares--whatever you want. So if you want to join in, just head over to Unruly Reader's blog and leave a comment on her bingo post. I don't know if I'll manage to read a book for every category this year, or if I'll even try, but just thinking about Book Bingo always makes me smile.

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung

 
"When I was a child, first discovering numbers, the secrets they yielded, the power they held, I imagined I would live my life unchecked, knocking down problem after problem that was set before me. And in the beginning, because I outstripped my classmates, my parents, and even my teachers it seemed possible that it would be so. That was pure hubris. ... Still, I never tried to hide or suppress my mind as some girls do, and thank God, because that would have been the beginning of the end."


Katherine is a math genius at a time when math is still very much a man's world. She's also half-Chinese with questions about her parentage that her father refuses to answer. And she thinks she might have found the mathematical key to solving the Reimann hypothesis. But will people believe the solution is really hers, or will they think some man helped her with it? Love, math and ambition are complicated problems for Katherine as she navigates and narrates her journey through life.

This novel is thoughtful, poignant, intelligent and beautifully written. And Katherine is a quietly compelling narrator. I admired her courage and her stubborn refusal to be viewed as less than just because she's a woman. From her third grade teacher to the college professor who claims to love her, Katherine has to battle just to have her own voice heard. It made me angry for her. (I found it a little heartbreaking, too.) Katherine's story drew me in from the very first page of this novel. (I even liked the math bits.) And though the ending left me feeling a little sad, I'm glad to count this as my first read of 2021. It's a good one.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday...

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

This week's theme:  Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021.

Here are five of mine:



1. Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz
(January 26th)




2. The Breaker by Nick Petrie
(January 12th)




3. A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong
(February 2nd)




4. What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris
(April 6th)




5. A Wicked Conceit by Anna Lee Huber
(April 6th)



If you know of any other good books coming out soon that I'm missing, 
please let me know!

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Random reading fun...

When I saw this fun reading meme on Cath's blog Read-warbler last December, I knew I wanted to do it, too. It just took me a couple of weeks to get to it. The idea is to answer the following questions with titles of books you read in 2020. And it was fun to do, although a few categories were surprisingly tricky to find an appropriate book title to pair with them. 

  • Describe yourself:  The Girl Who Reads on the Metro
  • How do you feel:  Spun Out
  • Describe where you currently live:  Holding the Fort
  • If you could go any where, where would you go:  A Distance Too Grand
  • Your favorite form of transportation:  Happy Trail  (because I love to hike)
  • Your best friend is:  The Real Deal
  • You and your friends are:  Well Met (and Well Played...because we love game nights)
  • What's the weather like:  Storm Rising
  • You fear:  Thin Ice
  • What is the best advice you have to give:  Light It Up
  • Thought for the day:  All's Well That Ends Well
  • My soul's present condition:  Burning Bright
Thanks, Cath, for posting this on your blog. It was a lot of fun coming up with my own list of titles. 

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy 2021!

 I have to say, I'm really glad 2020 is finally over with. Too bad changing the calendar doesn't change the fact that we're still in the middle of a pandemic. But at least now, with the vaccines, there's hope that the pandemic will come to an end this year. Maybe even by the summer. Wouldn't that be nice? I'd love to go on a road trip without worrying about contracting Covid. 

At the moment though I still feel like I'm living in a strange limbo of waiting. It makes it hard to set any goals, or make any plans. Usually at this time of year I have a short list of things I hope to accomplish over the next 12 months as well as a list of new things I want to try, and life feels full of possibility. But not this year. So far I haven't made any resolutions, or set any goals, and I'm not sure what I want to shoot for this year. Like I said, I think I'm mostly waiting to see how things go.

Even my reading plans feel undefined and amorphous. I have a huge TBR list of books that I want to read, but I haven't joined any reading challenges, or set any specific reading goals for 2021. I have some vague ideas about reading more nonfiction books this year, and reading (or rereading) more books from my own shelves, but nothing concrete. And I think I'm okay with that. Whatever I'm in the mood for is what I'll read next.

What about you? Got any big plans for 2021? Set any reading goals?

Whatever your hopes and dreams may be this year, 
I hope they all come true!
And I hope your year is full of good books, too.