Sunday, May 29, 2022

A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova

Karolina Pavlova

Karolina Pavlova, a Russian poet, was born in 1807. She moved to Dresden in 1858, abandoning her native country "not because of tsarist oppression but because of hostile criticism of her poetry and her personal life." Her art was everything to her. A Double Life was her first and only novel; it was published in 1848 when she was at the height of her fame as a poet and translator.

At 120 pages, A Double Life is not a long novel. Each of the ten chapters follows the same pattern: the first part is written in prose, the last few pages in verse. It centers around Cecily von Lindenborn, just eighteen, and her mother who desires to see her safely married. They live in the aristocratic world of  Moscow that Pavlova describes as decorous, indolent and prescribed. 

Cecily doesn't have much personality herself. She's young and beautiful, but "she didn't know how to attain the fulfillment of her wishes ... if she had been taught to look a truth in the face, if she could have guessed what it means to love ...But how was this possible when not only feeling itself, but the very word had always been kept remote from her... Everything strove to suppress all spiritual strength in her, to kill all inner life." Only at night, in her dreams, does the poetry of her soul come out.

She has two suitors: Dmitry Ivachinsky and Prince Victor. But the mother of her best friend, Olga, wants Prince Victor for her own daughter, so she manipulates Cecily into believing herself in love with Dmitry, then schemes to get the  two of them engaged and married. Dmitry, while good looking, is not wealthy, and not entirely sincere in his proclamations of love, but then he, too, is a product of his society. The book ends with their wedding. 

A Double Life is a quiet novel of morning visits, evening gatherings, and conversations. It also shows Pavlova's disdain for the aristocratic world in which she lived and their suppression of women, especially young, marriageable ones. I thought it was an interesting read, even though it wasn't very exciting and I never felt a real connection to any of the characters. Pavlova's poetry at the end of each chapter is lyrical, though at times the use of it to show Cecily's inner feelings felt a bit contrived. I didn't dislike this one, but I can't say I liked it either. But I am glad I read it. And it counts for my Classic by a Woman Author for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, May 28, 2022

A great bookish question...

 on a fun bookish tote:

The world would be a much better place if we did!

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Fallen Creed by Alex Kava

The plot:  Ryder Creed is a former marine and a K-9 handler. His best scent dog is a small Jack Russell terrier named Grace; she can find everything from drugs to missing persons to electronic devices. Ryder and Grace are in Nebraska helping the FBI on a human trafficking case. FBI agent Maggie O'Dell is there, too. Ryder is glad to see her even though they haven't exactly defined their relationship. Then Ryder is asked to help find a missing woman named Libby Homes. Only an early October snowstorm blows in, and when Ryder and Grace don't return from their search, Maggie doesn't know if it's because of the snow, or because of the young woman he was searching for. She just knows she has to find him.

My thoughts:  Ryder Creed is a favorite character of mine, as is his dog, Grace. I love how he works with her and all his other dogs; and that K-9 component adds a fun layer to these mysteries that I really like. The secondary characters, Maggie, Ryder's sister, Brodie, and Jason, another K-9 handler, are also great. I did think the mystery in this one was not quite as tightly plotted as in Alex Kava's other books, and the ending felt rushed, but I still enjoyed it. So this one isn't my favorite Ryder Creed novel, but it is a good one!

Happy Reading!

Other Ryder Creed books I've reviewed (and loved!):

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.