Sunday, May 22, 2022

Haiku Reviews...


The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams

Bree is his best friend
but Nathan wants more. Can he
make Bree love him back?

Romantic comedy .... 292 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(I loved how Nathan's football friends tried to help him get out of the friend zone!)

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Two ex-cons, one black,
one white, team up to avenge
their murdered sons.

Crime fiction .... 319 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(If this book was a movie, it would definitely be Rated R for language and violence.)

An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen

Leah's found her way
back to God, but will the ultraorthodox
of Boro Park welcome her in?

Contemporary fiction (with a touch of romance).... 322 pages .... 4.5/5 stars.
(A lovely and informative immersion into Jewish culture.)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 19, 2022

A 5-star nonfiction read!

 Question:  How do you dig a tunnel into the most heavily guarded country in the world?  

I remember watching on TV as the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, but I wasn't even born when it went up in 1961. Still, I've always found accounts of it fascinating. And I have to say, this is the best book I've ever read about the lives of East Berliners and their desperate determination to be free. 

In Tunnel 29, Helena Merriman tells the story of Joachim Rudolph, whose family unsuccessfully tried to escape the Red Army in 1945. He grew up in East Berlin, but managed to escape East Germany in 1961, crossing a dark field on a moonless night with his friend. Then he got his mom and sister out. But his story doesn't end there. In May 1962, he and several other university students living in West Berlin began digging a tunnel under Bernauer Strasse that would end up being 135 meters long. They dug night and day for over four months. They dug through thick clay. They evaded Stasi spies and risked their lives. And on Sept. 14, 1962, they broke through the floor of a cellar in East Berlin and helped 29 people escape to freedom. 

I absolutely loved this book! It's eye-opening, informative, heartbreaking, compelling, extraordinary and life-affirming. And it will definitely be on my favorites list at the end of the year. 

Happy Reading!

Similar fiction read:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Something funny...

These novel crossovers by John Atkinson at Wrong Hands totally made me laugh. I hope they make you smile, too. 

Have a great day...
and happy reading! 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

I loved Float Plan by Trish Doller, so when I saw she had a new book out I was very excited to read it. And The Suite Spot does not disappoint.

The plot:  Rachel Beck is a single mom--her daughter, Maisie, is almost four. She works as the night manager at a luxury hotel in Miami and it's a job she really loves. Until the night she gets fired. And when she realizes that Maisie's father is never going to step up and be the man she wants him to be, she decides to accept a job at a new brewery/hotel on Kelley's Island in Ohio. Only the lodgings there haven't even been built! And her new boss, Mason Brown, isn't the most outgoing or friendly guy. (Although he's very handsome when he does smile.) Somehow he convinces Rachel to stay and help him get The Limestone up and running. And things slowly start to fall into place for all of them. 

My thoughts:  I really liked how Rachel takes a chance and creates a new life for herself and her daughter. And Mason's own journey, as he deals with his grief over the death of his daughter a year ago, felt very real; his interactions with Maisie were especially poignant and sweet. These two characters are both so easy to like and root for. I loved watching their relationship deepen first into friendship, then into love. This book is a charming and fun romance. And I liked it a lot. 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

May's Bookish Art...

Henri Lebasque -- Le Cannet Madame Lebasque Reading in the Garden

"It's a great blessing if one can lose all sense of time, all worries, if only for a short time, in a book." 

--Nell Last

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

 The beginning:
"Having been born a freeman, and for more than thirty years enjoyed the blessings of liberty in a free State--and having at the end of that time been kidnapped and sold into Slavery, where I remained, until happily rescued in the month of January, 1853, after a bondage of twelve years--it has been suggested that an account of my life and fortunes would not be uninteresting to the public."

 The middle:
"Oh, how heavily the weight of slavery pressed upon me then. I must toil day after day, endure abuse and taunts and scoffs, sleep on the hard ground, live on the coarsest fare, and not only this, but live the slave of a blood-seeking wretch, of whom I must stand henceforth in continued fear and dread....I sighed for liberty; but the bondsman's chain was round me, and could not be shaken off. I could only gaze wistfully towards the North, and think of the thousands of miles that stretched between me and the soil of freedom, over which a black freeman may not pass."
The end:
"I looked in the direction indicated, and as my eyes rested on his countenance, a world of images thronged my brain .... all the friends of other and happier days, appeared and disappeared .... until at last the perfect memory of the man recurred to me, and throwing up my hands toward Heaven, I exclaimed, "Henry B. Northup! Thank God--thank God!" In an instant I comprehended the nature of his business, and felt that the hour of my deliverance was at hand."
Solomon Northup's eloquent and moving narrative of his life speaks for itself. His story is powerful, haunting, and unforgettable. I've never see the movie version of his life, but I'm so glad I read this book. It counts as my Nonfiction Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Reading Challenge.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

 "Since the dogs began going missing, wandering the fields after dusk was frowned upon. Even before then, we had stayed away from the woods. There were stories."

Rituals, secrets and superstitions. Rowan's Glen is full of them. And sixteen-year-old Ivy Templeton knows them all, from the whispered stories of the murderous Birch Markle, who supposedly still haunts the woods, to knowing how to protect against the evil eye with a bit of red thread. Her cousin, beautiful and free-spirited Heather, on the other hand, scoffs at all the old ways. But she has secrets of her own, things she won't even tell Ivy. Then, on May Day, Heather goes missing. Ivy feels guilty for not doing something more to keep Heather safe; she's also determined to find out what really happened to Heather, though she fears that it was Birch Markle, and that he will be coming for her next.

"The worst predators of all were humans."

Have you ever read a novel where the main character freezes up when she needs to run, even when someone's tugging at her hand? Or who's a bit too passive when she needs to speak up and be more proactive? Or whose mind is always drifting off? Ivy does all of those things. Fortunately, not all of the time. I liked her, but I also found her frustrating. But then, this YA mystery was an uneven read all around. It has several good moments of suspense, Ivy's friend Rook is very likable, and I loved the atmospheric setting and all the Ozark superstitions; but the mystery itself got muddied and overly complicated at the end. And there were too many characters with big secrets that I felt were revealed all at once. So despite the intriguing premise, this one wasn't as compelling or as good as it could have been. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. 

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday...

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

This week's theme: One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I read. (It was suggested by Susan over at Bloggin' 'bout Books.) For my list, I didn't go with my ten most recent reads; instead I went with ten books that I recently read but didn't review. And I'm not nearly as good at finding just the right adjective for my one-word reviews as Susan is, but I did my best. 

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis


 The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan


 Dead Silent by Mark Roberts


 The Rule of Three by Eric Walters



 Love Me to Death by Allison Brennan


 Under Pressure by Sara Driscoll

(And I mean that as a compliment. This book is well-written, well-plotted and the characters are all very well-developed. It's a solid mystery read.)

 U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton


 Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen


Jacob the Liar by Jurek Becker


Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson


Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

May randomness...

Just started reading The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude. It seemed like an appropriate book to start the month off with.

And I love this poem about May:

May Day
by Sara Teasdale (1844-1933)

A delicate fabric of bird song
Floats in the air,
The smell of wet wild earth
Is everywhere.

Red small leaves of the maple
Are clenched like a hand,
Like girls at their first communion
The pear trees stand.

Oh I must pass nothing by
Without loving it much,
The raindrop try with my lips,
The grass with my touch.

For how can I be sure
I shall see again
The world on the first of May
Shining after the rain?

Then there's this painting by John Collier titled "Queen Guinevere's Maying" which also seemed particularly appropriate:

As for my reading in May? I'm hoping to get two more classics finished this month, along with another nonfiction book. Here's what I just checked out of the library:

Twelve Years a Slave
The Suite Spot
Razorblade Tears
The Slow March of Light
Tunnel 29
Pride, Prejudice and Peril
Fallen Creed
Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye
A Double Life

A quick bookish apology to all those bloggers with Disqus who have commented on my blog recently (like Anne and Mia and Deb, etc.); the reason I haven't commented back is because Disqus no longer allows guests to comment on its platform like it once did, and I really don't want to have to create yet another account with yet another password and sign into yet another thing in order to comment back; and I don't like that Disqus makes you do that. But I still visit your blogs and read your posts! I just didn't want you to think I'm ignoring you, because I'm not. 

One last thought for this first day of May:

And May the Force be with you...
Happy May Day!

On the new comment box below:  You don't have to comment as Anonymous if you don't want to, even though that's the first option that comes up. There is a small down arrow next to Anonymous when you go to comment that if you click on will bring down other options, like comment with a Google account, or use your name and a URL. I know it's obnoxious, and I'm sorry. I don't like that that's the new thing now either. 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

From my TBR shelf...

Title & Author:  Locked In by Kerry Wilkinson
Genre: Mystery/Police Procedural
Setting: Manchester, England

Why I bought it:  I first heard about Kerry Wilkinson's books on Jenclair's blog, A Garden Carried in the Pocket. And they sounded really good to me, only my library didn't own any of them. So, I decided to buy this first one to try. (I won't tell you how long it's been sitting on my shelf since then, but it's been longer than a year!)

A brief summary:  DS Jessica Daniel has just been assigned her first murder case. A woman was found strangled in her bedroom, only all the windows and doors in her house were locked. So how did the killer get in and back out? The police have no clues to follow. And then they're called to another murder. This victim was also strangled, with all their doors and windows locked, too. And Jessica and the other detectives on the case fear they just may have a serial killer on their hands. 

My thoughts:  I like these kinds of British mysteries. Jessica Daniel and the other detectives she works with are interesting characters; I especially liked her irritated interactions with persistent reporter Garry Ashford. And the mystery itself is well-plotted. I enjoyed seeing how the investigation unfolded, although there was one twist at the end that I'm still trying to decide whether or not I liked. But I'd definitely read this author and this series again.

Happy Reading!

P.S. This book also counts towards the Backlist Reader Challenge hosted by the Bookwyrm's Hoard.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin...

The 3 main characters:

Jake Stevenson
sports the tallest mohawk in Hood River County. He's also a talented trumpet player. And he's a paraplegic. One year ago, just before he graduated from high school, he cracked his back in a stupid accident and now he's confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Now everything is messed up and he feels like he's "just killing time in the jail that was his life. This life (that) had replaced the life he was supposed to have--one of music and promise, the other life that now felt like something he had imagined."

Alice Holtzman is forty-four years old. She's a beekeeper, and still grieving the death of her husband. And recently she's been struggling with panic attacks. She tries not to let anyone see that she "was made of a million tiny broken pieces held together by cookies, solitary driving, and the sheer determination not to go crazy in public."

Then there's Harry Stokes, twenty-four, balding, and riddled with a paralyzing social anxiety. He struggles to talk to people, to find a job, to make decisions. He's good at writing lists, but his lists never seem to help him figure out life.

The rest of it:

These three characters are an unlikely trio of misfits that somehow form a family, first as Alice teaches Jake all about her bees, and then when they draw Harry out of his shell. They work together, and help each other; and when Alice's bees are threatened, they join with the community to try and save them. In the process, they find friendship, hope, newfound peace, and joy. 

What can I say? I loved this book. I loved all the quirky characters, and the bees, and the happy ending. The Music of Bees is poignant, touching, uplifting, and heartwarming. And I definitely recommend it. 

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Haiku Reviews...

Find Her Alive by Lisa Regan
(Detective Josie Quinn #8)

Josie's twin thinks she
can track down a serial killer;
But he finds her first.

Mystery .... 327 pages .... 4/5 stars.
(Another good one in this series!)

Lucky Leap Day by Ann Marie Walker

Married on Leap Day
in Ireland -- Can these two strangers
 find love in L.A.?

Contemporary romance .... 287 pages ....4/5 stars.
(I loved Finn Maguire!)

Last Seen Alive by Joanna Schaffhausen
(Ellery Hathaway #5)

To solve a murder,
Ellery must confront the man
who tried to kill her.

Thriller/suspense .... 305 pages .... 5/5 stars.
(Ellery Hathaway and Reed Markham are back in another twisty page-turner.)

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

From my TBR shelf...

Home With the Dead by PJ Dziekan

I like zombie apocalypse books, and I bought this one after reading Dziekan's first book, Walking With the Dead. It continues the story of Sarah and Mick, Ryan and Becca and the others. Zombies are still a threat, but so are other humans. And finding enough food and other needed supplies in order to stay alive is becoming a problem. To add to their worries, Sarah just found out she's pregnant.

This novel is action-packed and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. Sarah, as the leader of their group, is strong, independent, stubborn, and tough. I like her a lot; and I love her relationship with Mick. There's a lot of language and zombie gore in this one, but there's also friendship, family, loyalty, survival, and hope. If you like a good zombie read, this is an entertaining one. (Though you should probably read Walking With the Dead first.)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

April's Bookish Art...

Adolphe Alexandre Lesrel -- Captivated

"A book is like a trapdoor that leads to a secret attic:
You can open it and go inside. And your world is different."
--Antonio Iturbe, The Library of Auschwitz

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas

 "Behind a vandweller's decision to move into what is often a cramped, smelly, heatless, air-conditioning less vehicle--there is always a story....a vandweller doesn't become a vandweller simply by purchasing a van. Rather, some personal change or transformation must first occur. The answer to the question about why I lived in a van is this book, which means that the following story isn't so much about a van but about student debt, and wilderness, and all the people and places and journeys that have made me the person I am today...."

How would I describe this memoir? It's honest, humorous, enlightening and entertaining. And it's about more than Ken Ilgunas trying to get out of debt or live in a van; it's a chronicle of his own journey to personal freedom and a better, more satisfying life. And I enjoyed every page of it. He meets a lot of interesting people and has many memorable moments in his quest to become debt free. I loved his Alaskan adventures and his experiences hitchhiking across America on his way back home. And all the living-in-a-van parts are especially funny. This is a great book. Here's just one of the quotes from it that I loved:
"Sometimes it's not until you see your shackles that you see your dreams. The soul must first be caged before it can be set free. For all the trouble it had put me through, I had the debt to thank for that. Still though, now that I was out of debt, I couldn't stop dreaming about what I could finally do. This sense of hope and anticipation that I felt made living a delight. This was freedom, I thought. Freedom didn't have to be about tramping around or having adventures:  freedom was simply being able to entertain the prospect of changing your circumstances."

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday...

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

This week's theme? Authors I Haven't Read, But Want To.

Only instead of doing ten, I decided to go with just my top five. Here they are:

1. Ann Cleeves

2. Thomas Perry

3. Craig Johnson 

4. Robert Dugoni

5. Ragnar Jonasson

Then there are the new-to-me authors that I said I wanted to read last year, that I still haven't read, but hope to someday soon. Authors like: Louise Penny, Martha Wells, Marc Cameron and Christina Lauren. So many new authors to try! It's a nice problem to have.  😎

Happy Reading!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

From my TBR shelf...


Title & Author: 
Dark Magic by Adam Wright
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Setting:  Dearmont, Maine

Plot Summary:  Alec Harbinger is a preternatural investigator; he looks into cases with a supernatural twist, like when the dead start rising from their graves. He's new to Maine, so when Sheriff Cantrell requests his help on a three-year-old case of a missing woman, he doesn't feel he can refuse. Even though he's already working for the sheriff's daughter.
"This was going to be a nightmare. I would be working with Cantrell on the Deirdre Summers case while also investigating the death of his wife without his knowledge. I wanted to say no and send him on his way but what choice did I have? If I declined the case, he was going to start getting pissy about last night's zombie attack and I'd probably end up in jail."
Why I bought it:  I read and enjoyed the first two books in this series, Lost Soul and Buried Memory, and wanted to know what happened to Alec next.

My thoughts:  This series may not be as well-crafted or as deeply layered as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus series, but it's still a lot of fun! I really like Alec and his British assistant, Felicity. And there's always lots of crazy magic and fast-paced suspense in these books, too. I'm sure I'll be buying several more books in this entertaining series in the future. 

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless by Eliza Haywood


What can I say about Betsy Thoughtless? She is a gentleman's daughter with two older brothers; she's also an orphan living with one of her trustees, Mr. Goodman, and his wife, Lady Mellasin, and her daughter, Flora. Betsy is pretty and vivacious and comfortably well-off. She's also proud and disdains being told what to do. By anyone. Many handsome young men vie for her attention, both honorable gentlemen and entitled scoundrels. And she enjoys the power her youth and beauty gives her over all of them, playing them off one another for her own amusement. 
"She played with her lovers, as she did with her monkey; but expected more obedience from them."
While not deliberately cruel, she is young, impulsive, self-absorbed and thoughtless. And very definitely NOT ready to marry. This book is a chronicle of her innocent indiscretions and frivolous follies. It's full of little dramas and small tragedies, from duels and assignations, to jealous friends, secrets and lies, and even several attempts at sexual assault. And Miss Betsy Thoughtless is at the center of them all. 
"She had a great deal of wit, but was too volative for reflection; and as a ship without sufficient ballast is tossed about at the pleasure of every wind that blows, so was she hurried through the ocean of life, just as each predominant passion directed."
This book is 600 pages long, which means I'm not even going to attempt to describe all that happens in it to Betsy. I will say that I found it very readable despite its length. Although I thought the plot, what there was of it, did get a little tedious after awhile. I probably would have liked it more if it had been edited down by 300 pages. And I wish I could say I liked Betsy for her spunk and independent spirit, but mostly I found her constant need to be amused at the expense of her gentleman callers, her thoughtless imprudence, and stubborn refusal to listen to the advice of Mr. Goodman or either of her two brothers when it came to her behavior, both tiresome and frustrating.  One thing I did love was all the crazy words like eclaircissement and raillery used throughout. But best of all? This is a book that has been sitting on my shelf gathering dust for years, and I finally get to check it off my TBR list! And since it was first published in 1751, this book also counts as my Pre-1800 Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Reading Challenge. So, that's a double win! 

Happy Reading!

Similar, but better, reads:

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday...

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

This week's theme is a Freebie--which is always fun, but can be a bit challenging, too, at least for me, because I always seem to have a hard time deciding what to do. So what did I finally come up with?

Here's my top ten list of Pride & Prejudice Retellings.  I read and really enjoyed the first five books, and the last five books are ones I hope to read soon. 

1. Chaos Comes to Longbourn by Victoria Kincaid

2. Disenchanted by Kara Pleasants

3. Heartstone by Elle Katherine White

4. Speechless by Jessie Lewis

5. Dangerous Magic by Monica Fairview

6. Pirates and Prejudice by Kara Louise

7. Blinded by Prejudice by KaraLynne Mackrory

8. Haunting Mr. Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory

9. Unwilling by Elizabeth Adams

10. So Material a Change by Amy D'Orazio

Honorable Mention:  Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
(The movie version; I've never read the book.)

What's your favorite Pride and Prejudice retelling or variation?
If you have one, please let me know!

Happy Reading!