Friday, July 30, 2021

Pride and Prejudice with magic!

Title & Author:  Disenchanted by Kara Pleasants

First lines of first chapter:  Hertfordshire was not known for its magic. At least, not the kind of magic that was considered modern, effective, or quality.

My thoughts:  There have been numerous retellings of Pride and Prejudice, some better than others. In this one, Mr. Darcy is a talented wizard; Elizabeth, who is thought to have no magic, can secretly break enchantments; and there is a dangerous Necromancer Thief roaming the countryside stealing other people's magic. All the other characters from Austen's novel are also there. I laughed when Caroline Bingley's enchanted tea accidentally ended up cursing Jane. I also liked how in this one, Mr. Bennet is more astute and present and plays a larger role, having once been a talented wizard himself. And there's a very fun twist at the end with Mrs. Bennet that totally made me smile.

There were a few things that didn't work as well. I felt the whole Wickham storyline was completely unnecessary to Pleasants' plot. And I'm already very familiar with all of Austen's famous lines; I really don't need to have them repeated yet again here. In fact, I wish Pleasant had worried more about developing her own version of these well-known characters, and telling her own story, rather than trying so hard to adhere to Austen's original plot. Because I liked all the magic, and the idea of a secret Wizarding court with fun code names for each member, and how Darcy's magic needed Elizabeth's in order to catch the Necromancer. I wanted more of that!  

So while I loved the idea of this one, it ended up being just a 3-star read for me. Not awful, but not wonderful either. Though parts of it are very fun. And I'm not sorry I read it.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday


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

This week's topic: Books I'd Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island.

My first book felt like an obvious choice:

1. How to Build a Boat by Jonathan Gornall

 And when that doesn't work, here's my next choice:

2. How To Survive on a Deserted Island

Then, while I wait to be rescued, I'd want some favorite books along that I know I love and can read over and over again. Like these:

3. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. All seven of them!

But, being stranded alone on a deserted island, I'd also want something to read that's frivolous and fun and romantic. I thought this short story collection was particularly appropriate:

4. Beach Brides--Message in a Bottle

Then, while I have so much time to read, I might as well tackle some of those pesky TBR books I've been meaning to read for several years now:

5. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

6. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

7. Whiteout by Adriana Anders 

8. Locked In by Kerry Wilkinson

9. This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas

And when I'm tired of reading, I'd take a crossword puzzle book like this one to help kill the time:

With all of these great books to read, suddenly being stranded on a deserted island doesn't sound so bad! Where do I sign up?

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Another classic...

I remember my dad reading all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books when I was a kid, mostly because I thought the covers were cool, but also because I loved watching the animated TV series of Tarzan back in the day. I've seen several movie versions of Tarzan since, my favorite being The Legend of Tarzan with Alexander Skarsgard. 

So while I'd long been familiar with the general story of Tarzan, I'd never read any of Burroughs' original books. Then I saw there was a category for "A Classic About an Animal, or With an Animal in the Title" on Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge this year, and I immediately knew I wanted to read Tarzan of the Apes for it. And I'm so glad I did. 

It was written in 1914, so it has that distinctly old-fashioned narrative style, but it's still a very fun read. It chronicles how John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, and his wife, Alice, are marooned in Africa, how they lived, gave birth to a son, and then died, and how Kala, an anthropoid ape, raised Tarzan as her own. He grows up among the apes, but is never fully one of them. He knows and understands that animal instinct and savagery, but his higher intellect allows him to learn and think things the apes cannot--like how to use a rope and knife, and even how to read and write. And he struggles to find his place in the world--he may be Tarzan, King of the Apes, but he's very conscious that he's also a man. And he longs to develop that side of him.

The young Lord Greystoke was indeed a strange and warlike figure, his mass of black hair falling to his shoulders...the fire of life and intelligence in those fine, clear eyes... His straight and perfect figure told at a glance the wondrous combination of enormous strength with suppleness and speed. A personification, was Tarzan of the Apes, of the primitive man, the hunter, the warrior... But there was that which had raised him far above his fellows of the jungle--that little spark which spells the whole vast difference between man and brute--Reason. 

"Tarzan is not an ape."

I have to admit, my favorite parts of this book were in the second half when Tarzan first sees Jane, and when he saves her, and falls in love with her. I didn't love it quite as much when he loses her and has to follow her to America, only to lose her again for dumb but noble reasons on both his and Jane's part. (Which means he doesn't get together with Jane until the next book, The Return of Tarzan and, of course, my library doesn't have a copy of that one!) Despite that small annoyance, I did really enjoy reading this book. And I like Tarzan even more than I did before. Especially when he's with Jane.
From the trees Tarzan of the Apes watched the sweet face and graceful figure of Jane Porter. In his savage, untutored breast new emotions were stirring. ... But the girl, ah... He knew that she was created to be protected, and that he was created to protect her.

 Happy Reading!



Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Haiku reviews...

Prepped by Bethany Mangle

Becca's parents want
to survive any future doomsday;
she just wants to escape them!

YA fiction .... 307 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Fun take on several crazy doomsday preppers and the two teens among them who are determined to live normal lives.)

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Two foes: Red and Blue.
Two different futures at stake.
One Time War to win.

Science fiction .... 198 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(This novel is poetic, partly epistolary, uniquely strange, and oddly compelling.)

Live Free by DeVon Franklin

Let go of the past.
Reset your expectations.
Find more joy in life.

Nonfiction .... 267 pages .... 4.5/5 stars.
(This book offers some insightful advice on how to change your perspective and live a more free and happy life.)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

July's Bookish Art...

Frederick Hassam -- Couch on the Porch

"The habit of reading is the only one I know in which there is no alloy. 
It lasts when all other pleasures fade."
--Anthony Trollope

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The plot:  Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has heard stories about the small Swedish mining town of Silvertjarn her whole life. It's where her grandmother grew up. It's also the town from which 900 people disappeared in 1959, including her grandmother's parents and younger sister, Aina. No one's ever solved the mystery of Silvertjarn. But Alice is determined to try. She's got some help in her film crew Emmy, Robert, Max and Tone, who has her own connection to Silvertjarn. Alice also has all of her grandmother's sister's letters from that time period. She hopes to find more clues to what happened in the abandoned village. But she is not prepared for what awaits her and her crew in Silvertjarn. None of them are.

My thoughts:  There's a lot to like about this novel. The mystery surrounding the inhabitants of Silvertjarn is both eerie and interesting, as is the remote setting itself. And Sten ably intersperses Alice's narrative in the present with short scenes from her great-grandmother's POV in the past. I liked the way the two narratives added layers and suspense to the mystery. But I felt like it took forever for Alice and the others to explore the more interesting parts of the abandoned village, and Alice's drama with Emmy, her former college friend, got old fast. But when things start to go wrong for the crew, the pacing does pick up. Overall, this one reads well, and I appreciated how the mystery gets wrapped up at the end. Is it all believable? No. but I thought it was entertaining. 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday

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

This week's theme: Book Titles That Are Questions. Which I thought sounded like fun.

So, I had to start with Leo Lionni's classic picture books: Who? What? Where? Because what bookish titles are more perfect for this week's theme than these?

I decided to finish my list up with these seven books whose titles and covers made me smile when I saw them:

Book or Bell? (Book obviously!)

What Would Buffy Do? Always a good question to ask yourself.

Are We There Yet? That classic question of EVERY road trip ever!

Your Coffin or Mine? 

They Wear What Under Their Kilts? (Because we all want to know.)

What's a Ghoul to Do? 

Any Questions?

Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Three recent reads...

that I loved and recommend. (But that I don't feel like reviewing.)

Drown Her Sorrows by Melinda Leigh.  Another excellent mystery centered around Sheriff Bree Taggert and Matt Flynn, two characters I like more and more with each book I read. This is the third book in this series, and it's every bit as good as Leigh's previous book, See Her Die. I liked the twists and turns in it. I just wish I didn't have to wait until September to read the next one in this entertaining series.

Her Mother's Grave by Lisa Regan.  This third Josie Quinn mystery is another good one. It centers around Josie's less than stellar mother, who she hasn't seen since she was 14, and her own traumatic past. I liked it as much as I did Regan's first two books:  Vanishing Girls and The Girl With No Name. I'm really loving this series.

The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell.  Sam over at Book Chase recommended this book. It's the 22nd book in Rendell's Inspector Wexford series, but the first one I've read. And I loved it. It's a great introduction to Chief Inspector Wexford, and as good as Sam said it was! Be sure to check out his review here ... and then go check out this book.

So, there you have it, three awesome books, especially if you love interesting mysteries with well-written and very likable characters.

Happy Reading! 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Gray Man by Mark Greaney


The Plot: 
Court Gentry is an assassin known as the Gray Man and he's very good at what he does. But his last job upset a lot of people, including the very powerful LaurentGroup. In order to save a billion dollar deal, they need Gentry's head. But they also know that to catch the Gray Man, they'll need all the help they can get. So they call in reinforcements and soon have ten strike force teams from all around the world hot on Gentry's tail. On the run, alone and injured, Gentry can't even trust his own handler to help him. In fact, everyone seems out to double cross him. But he's not the Gray Man for nothing. 

My thoughts:  This book reminded me of the Jason Bourne movies: lots of action and a high body count. It also has a main character I found easy to root for. Because despite his job, Court Gentry is a man with his own code of honor, who only hunts down the bad guys others can't touch, and who tries to do the right thing even when it puts his own life at risk. He also doesn't apologize for being good at his job. And he doesn't lose sleep over it either. He's the Gray Man. And I couldn't help but like him. There's also a cute eight-year-old girl named Claire in this one that I loved. All in all, this is a fun roller-coaster ride of a read that starts off fast and never loses speed; and I can't wait to check out the next one. 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday

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

This week's theme: Reasons Why I Love Reading!

I didn't try to rank my reasons in any kind of order. And I didn't count them up either. But here they are....some of the reasons why I love to read:

Reading is Magic! 
I can experience love, loss, laughter, mystery, suspense, and adventure all in the pages of a book.
Reading lets me escape reality for awhile, and makes having to wait in long lines, or at the doctor's office, or in airports more bearable.
Reading allows me to travel around the world, back in time, to the future, and to imaginary and magical worlds like Narnia and Oz.
Reading expands my vocabulary, introduces me to new thoughts and ideas, and makes me smarter.
I meet the most interesting people in books.
Reading enriches my life.
I love the connections I make with other people who also love to read, especially when we love the same books.
As C.S. Lewis once said, "I read to know that I'm not alone."
Aren't books the best?

Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Lost Among the Birds by Neil Hayward

 "Nutting's Flycatchers can be elusive, hiding in dense foliage and waiting for insects to fly by before darting out in pursuit. I waited patiently as the calls got louder and closer. Wheep! Wheep! I was using my ears to triangulate the call, while my eyes were poised for any movement...And that's when it popped out, a brown missile flying to the edge of the road. It sat there on a bare mesquite branch, tilting its head, surveying me as if it had never seen a Neil Hayward before and needed one for its life list."

When 2013 begins, Neil Hayward finds himself at a crossroads in his life. Having quit his job in 2012, he still has no idea what he wants to do next. He's turning 40 at the end of the year. He's in a new relationship that's going a little too fast, but that he doesn't want to end. He's struggling with depression. And he fears that the best parts of his life are in the past.

To escape, he goes birding. Because birding is the one thing that always brings him peace and makes him feel better. At first, it's just for one trip to Arizona. Then he goes to Texas. And Florida. And Alaska. Then, without really planning it, he finds himself in the middle of doing a Big Year...and on track to join that elusive club of birders who manage to see over 700 different species of birds in just one year. In the end, he sets a new birding record: 749.
"It's difficult for non-birders to understand the rush of adrenaline and love that you feel when you see a bird you've dreamed about. It's like planning a trip to India. No amount of poring over the guidebooks can quite prepare you for the moment when you walk through the large brass doors in the Southern gateway and behold the bone-white marble of the Taj Mahal...That serenity and sense of timelessness is what seeing a Connecticut Warbler feels like to me."
 I loved this book! Probably because I love birding, too. I am nowhere on the same level as Neil Hayward, but I do know the wonder and joy of seeing a new bird for the first time. This book was such an enjoyable read. Hayward's well-written narrative is conversational, insightful, and humorous. And it's not just about the birds and his travels across America; he also deals with his depression and his relationship with his girlfriend. I found it to be both honest and heartwarming. For me, this was a 5-star read.

Happy Reading!

Other excellent birding books:
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik
Red Tails in Love by Marie Winn