Saturday, May 29, 2021

A Humorous Classic...

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis was first published in 1955. It's a young man's humorous reminiscence of a very unforgettable, often exasperating character: his Aunt Mame. (Though it's his story as well.) Each chapter reads like a short story. And some of Mame's antics are laugh-out-loud funny. Which is why I'm counting this book as my Humorous or Satirical Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge

Here are a few quotes that capture the character and style of this novel:
"Looking back on Auntie Mame as the razzle-dazzle butterfly she was in 1929, I can see that she must have been just as terrified at the prospect of rearing a totally strange ten-year-old boy as I was when I first stumbled large-eyed and frightened into the Oriental splendor of her Beekman Place apartment. But Auntie Mame was never one to admit defeat. There was a kind of up-and-at-'em spirit of a speak-easy Girl Scout to my aunt." 
"She never revealed her exact age and on a legal document she'd say 'over twenty-one,' which no one ever seemed inclined to question. I suspected she was between thirty-five and forty, and she seemed a lot younger." 

"Every weekend I drove off to New York with a carload of junior Fred Astaire's, who settled comfortably in the bedrooms of Auntie Mame's big house on Washington Square and practiced being suave with their hostess. Auntie Mame loved it all. She liked company, and the younger and gayer the better. ... (And) the boys loved her .... they needed Auntie Mame to supply the beds, the board, the parties, the liquor. But she needed them for something more. She needed them to assure her that she was still young, still beautiful, still desirable."

Happy Reading!




Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Word of advice:  Never stay at an abandoned asylum, not even if it's been renovated into a 5-star hotel called Le Sommet, and especially not if it's located at an isolated spot in the Swiss Alps. Things never end well when it comes to asylums.

The plot:  Detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend, Will, are at Le Sommet for her brother's engagement party. Not that she and Isaac get along; they haven't even seen each other in years. But Elin's on leave from her job so she has the time. And she really wants to confront Isaac about what really happened when their younger brother died all those years ago.

But then Laure, her brother's fiancee, goes missing. And she's not the first. Daniel Lemaitre, an architect working on the hotel renovation, disappeared three years ago while visiting the site. And on the same day Elin and Will arrive at Le Sommet, another employee, Adele Bourgs, gets taken by a sinister figure wearing a gas mask. Only no one's noticed her absence yet.

The snowstorm outside doesn't help matters, keeping the Swiss police from reaching the hotel.

So many mysteries! Elin's not sure she can solve any of them, but she feels compelled to try. If only everyone around her would stop keeping secrets.

My thoughts:  So, I had a few issues with this one. First, it's more regular mystery than Gothic thriller. And while it may be set in an old asylum, that history hardly plays a role in the plot at all, which was a little disappointing. The characters do get snowed in at the hotel before the mystery is solved, so that adds some tension, but it didn't exactly make it feel super atmospheric or eerie. The characters were also hit and miss for me. I liked Elin for the most part, though some of her decisions along the way were a little stupid and frustrating. I found Will to be a bit patronizing and critical towards Elin. And I really didn't like Isaac at all at first. (Though both he and Will redeemed themselves at the end.) As for the mystery itself, I felt the pieces came together too slowly, leaving me with more questions than clues for the majority of the book. And then the reveal at the end came out of nowhere and felt very rushed and unsupported, necessitating a lot of explanatory dialogue between the characters in order to wrap things up. Needless to say, it was less than satisfying. (Oh, and I hated the epilogue!) So I didn't end up loving this one, but I got to read it with Melody which is always fun. Be sure to check out her review to see what she thought of this one.

Happy Reading!

Melody's questions to me:
1. What do you like and dislike of The Sanatorium?
I thought Pearse's writing overall was good, and I liked how well-developed Elin's character was, and the novel reads fast. But I disliked the ending, which kind of ruined the rest of the book for me. 

2. This book has a great setting of an abandoned sanatorium being renovated into a luxury hotel. Do you think you'd ever stay in a hotel or any other buildings with a dark past?
Probably not. I'd take a tour through them. Take some pictures. But to stay overnight? I don't think I'd want to do that. Too creepy.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Three recent reads I loved...

Sometimes I read books that I really love, but that I don't feel like reviewing. Sometimes it's because I can't think of what to say, or how to explain a later book in a series without giving away spoilers. Sometimes it's because another blogger has just reviewed the same book better than I ever could. And sometimes I'm just feeling a little tired and lazy. But here are three books I read, loved and recommend.

Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth is a fascinating look into one of the world's most dangerous sports. Cave diving is something I would NEVER, EVER try myself--it's much too scary for me--but I do love reading about it. Other caving books I loved: Blind Descent and Beyond the Deep.

Null Set by S.L. Huang is the second book about Cas Russell, whose superpower is math, and who can use her genius to do just about anything, including scaling tall buildings and avoiding bullets. I didn't love this one quite as much as the first book, Zero Sum Game, but it still ended up being a 4/5 star read for me. 

Wicked Conceit by Anna Lee Huber is the ninth book in the Lady Darby series. As always, this book is a good combination of historical fiction and mystery, and Kiera and Sebastian Gage continue to be favorite characters of mine. If you haven't read any books in this series yet, I recommend starting with the first one, The Anatomist's Wife.

So, there you go. Three more book recommendations. And a quick thank you to Rachel at Waves of Fiction for this non-review way of recommending books!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Twenty-ninth Day by Alex Messenger

 "...this was the beginning of something life-changing for my fellow paddlers and me--this was Hommes du Nord, forty-two days of canoeing Canada's wild rivers and lakes."

 Alex Messenger was 17 in the summer of 2005 when he set off with five friends on a 600-mile trip across Nunavut in the Canadian sub-artic. And for the first twenty-eight days all went well. They successfully navigated the white water rapids strung along the Dubawnt River and happily camped in the taiga. And Alex tried to appreciate each moment along the way.
"The purpose of a journey is to experience those things that can't be explained and to forge the memories that will never be forgotten, the ones that change you forever."
Then, on the twenty-ninth day, while traversing a ridge alone, he encounters his worst nightmare. A grizzly bear. Somehow, Alex survives the bear's attack. But he and his friends are still miles from nowhere, and with his injuries, getting home just got a lot harder.
"One of the ways an expedition tests your mettle is that it's up to you and the group to solve any problems. If you wait for help to suddenly appear, your odds are not good." 
This is such a compelling biography! I loved Alex's lyrical descriptions of their canoe trip, and the river, the islands where they camped and the Inuit ruins they find along the way. And his recount of the bear attack itself is pretty chilling. He's so honest. About everything. I could not put this book down. If you love memoirs about outdoor adventure and survival, I highly recommend this one.

Happy Reading!


Monday, May 17, 2021

Haiku reviews...


The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

Strange things are afoot
in Turner Falls; teens are morphing
into murderers.

Science Fiction/Horror .... 303 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(A crazy ride with suspense, violence, gore and three amazing characters; I couldn't put it down.)

The Shadows Between us by Tricia Levenseller

She plans to marry
the king, then kill him; she 
falls in love instead.

Fantasy .... 324 pages .... 4.5/5 stars.
(Alessandra is one independent, unapologetically calculating, and feisty heroine. I couldn't help but like her.)

Poisonous (Max Revere #3) by Allison Brennan

Cyberbully Ivy
is dead and no one cares but
her brothers. And Max.

Mystery/Suspense .... 354 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Another compelling mystery!)

Happy Reading!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Another good K-9 mystery...


The Hiding Place
 by Paula Munier is the third book about Mercy Carr and her Belgian Malinois, Elvis. And there's a lot on Mercy's plate in this one. She just got handed one of her grandfather's cold cases involving a young woman named Beth Kilgore who went missing twenty years ago. George Rucker, the man who killed her grandfather twenty years ago, just escaped from prison. Mercy still hasn't repaired her relationship with Game Warden Troy Warner. And an army vet just showed up at her front door claiming Elvis is really his dog. Things go from bad to worse when someone delivers a pipe bomb to her grandmother's front door.

Even though there's a lot going on in this book, the focus remains on Mercy and Elvis ... and Troy and his Newfie Susie Bear. I really love these characters! I enjoyed their investigation, and that unexpected twist at the end. And I love the snowy Vermont setting. As always, Munier's writing is good. And Mercy isn't quite so stubborn and hard-headed this time around; she only makes one really stupid decision. Luckily, Elvis rectifies it fairly quickly. Because he's awesome. All the dogs in this book are awesome. It's one of the reasons I love this series so much. 

Happy Reading!

Other books in this series:

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

May's Bookish Art...

Fritz Zuber-Buhler -- Little Girl Reading

"...there is no enjoyment like reading."
--Jane Austen

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Not just a summer romance...


Ben and Anna had a plan to sail the Caribbean together. But then Ben took his own life and Anna now has to figure out how to live without him. Only it's not working. So on the day they were supposed to set sail, Anna decides to take Ben's boat and make the trip alone. But Anna's never sailed without Ben, so she hires a professional sailor to show her the ropes.

Keane is grieving, too. He lost his lower right leg in a car accident a year ago and now no one will hire him to race with their crew, even though he has a prosthetic leg that makes it possible and sailboat racing is the thing he loves most in the world. Until he meets Anna.

My thoughts:  Float Plan by Trish Doller is one of those poignant and charming reads that had me hooked from the first page. I really felt for Anna as she grieved Ben's death and the loss of all their dreams. I also admired her resilience as she found new hopes and dreams for herself.
"I'm starting to understand how sadness and happiness can live side by side within a heart. And how that heart can keep on beating."

Her relationship with Keane as they went from polite strangers to caring friends to more was a touching journey. There's a lot of humor and heart in this book. I also really enjoyed reading about all the different islands they visited; it made me want to set sail around the Caribbean myself. All in all, Trish Doller has written an amazing story that I loved a lot.  

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Girl With No Name by Lisa Regan


The plot:  Josie Quinn's life just got more complicated. Not only is she now the chief of police in Denton, Pennsylvania, but she's getting married soon. Only Luke, her fiance, has been cold and distant lately, and she's just been called out on a case involving her ex-husband's girlfriend. The former stripper was attacked at home, her newborn baby taken. Only she's too hurt to identify who attacked her. Then Josie discovers that Luke is also missing, and the mysterious young woman who was discovered at his house claims not to remember her name. What is going on? Josie thinks the two cases might be connected, but she isn't sure how. And she's worried that Luke might be in real trouble.

My thoughts:  This is the second Josie Quinn novel that I've read, and I liked it as much as Vanishing Girls, the first book in this series. It's fast-paced, with the suspense constantly building, and the mystery is compelling, with some good twists and turns along the way. Another plus is that the main characters are very likable, especially Josie Quinn. She's got some secrets in her past that I'd really like to read more about! Police procedurals sometimes bog down for me, but this one never did. It's an entertaining thriller. And I'm looking forward to reading the remaining books in this well-written series.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

A French Classic...

Published in 1883, Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight) by Emile Zola centers around Octave Mouret's dazzling new department store in Paris, and all the lives it effects, both for good and bad. No one has seen anything like Mouret's seductive store which draws in scores of women and convinces them to buy more than they need because the prices are so low, while at the same time driving all the smaller competitors nearby out of business.

Mouret is a brash and energetic man who takes big risks for big rewards, and who loves to charm and 'conquer' his customers...and the other women he meets. And he's not shy about it. "I'm a passionate man, I don't just sit back and let life go by. ... It's wanting something and acting on it, you see, creating something, in short. You get an idea and you fight for it, you hammer it into people's heads, you see it grow and triumph."

Then there's Denise Baudu, a provincial young lady who comes to Paris with her two younger brothers. Needing work, she gets a job at Au Bonheur des Dames as a salesgirl. But life there isn't easy; her first day ends in tears. "From that day on, Denise showed great courage. Beneath her emotional crises, there was an intellect always at work and the bravery of someone weak and alone who was cheerfully determined in pursuit of the tasks she had set herself. She made little fuss, but went directly ahead towards her goal, taking any obstacles in her stride--and she did all this simply and naturally, because her whole nature was in this invincible gentleness. ....Her willingness to endure pain and her dogged determination kept her upright and smiling even when she was on the point of collapse, entirely exhausted by work that would have finished many men."

It is her modesty and gentle sweetness that draws Mouret's interest. His attraction deepens to love. (And almost obsession.) But no matter what he offers her, Denise refuses to become his mistress. Even though deep down, she loves him, too. Their lives revolve around Au Bonheur des Dames and its triumphal success.

Zola had a lot to say about consumerism and instant gratification in this novel, and how one man and one store can manipulate society so easily. But I enjoyed it mostly for his characters and the personal journeys each one takes. In many ways, Denise reminded me of Jane Austen's Fanny Price, quietly determined to do what she believes is right no matter what. Mouret's morals, on the other hand, weren't so admirable, but his business acumen was impressive. No one else believed his department store would be so successful. Except for Denise. These two make quite a pair. And while I found the ending a bit anti-climatic, I ended up liking this French classic (which counts as my Classic in Translation for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.)

Happy Reading!

P.S. The Penguin version I read was ably translated by Robin Buss.