Thursday, October 19, 2017

October's bookish art...

Gustav Adolph Hennig -- Girl Reading, 1828

Anyone who says they have only one life to live
must not know how to read a book.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Agnes Grey

"How delightful it would be to be a governess! To go out into the world; to enter upon a new life; to act for myself; to exercise my unused faculties; to try my unknown powers; to earn my own maintenance, and something to comfort and help my father, mother and sister, besides exonerating them from the provision of my food and clothing; to show papa what his little Agnes could do; to convince mamma and Mary that I was not quite the helpless, thoughtless being they supposed. And then, how charming to be intrusted with the care and education of children!"
But the realities of being a governess soon dispel all of Agnes's hopes and bright optimism. Because the children don't mind, and their parents aren't supportive or welcoming, and she doesn't fit with the family and their friends, or with the servants.
"My task of instruction and surveillance, instead of becoming easier as my charges and I got better accustomed to each other, became more arduous as their characters unfolded. The name of governess, I soon found, was a mere mockery as applied to me..."
And that's just the beginning! After her first disastrous position, Agnes goes to work for the Murray family as their governess and her story really begins. Not that her job there is a shining success. (She's a little too passive to ever be that.) But she bravely endures the trials of genteel poverty and the struggles and frustrations of governessing and finds her own happiness in the end.

Agnes Grey reads like a first novel:  it doesn't have the depth of Jane Eyre; it's not as well-crafted as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; and it's a little lacking in plot. But for all its weaknesses, it has its own merits. And I liked it. Anne Bronte shows from personal experience what it's like to be a governess in less than ideal circumstances. (And her language and vocabulary--wow!) Agnes's real struggles with her "little tormentors" and "the vexatious propensities of my pupils" made me laugh in sympathy. Although at times I found myself wishing she'd grow a spine and be just a little more assertive and confident. But Bronte had other designs for her character. This will never be my favorite Bronte novel, but I'm very glad I read it. It made me wish that Anne hadn't died so young. Think of what she could have written if she'd lived longer!

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fourth book in a favorite series...

Title & Author:  The Dire King by William Ritter
First lines:  To say that the house at 926 Augur Lane was not yet back to normal would be to grossly misrepresent the nature of the house at 926 Augur Lane. At its best, the peculiar property was an abode of the abnormal and a sanctuary for the strange.

My thoughts:  This latest book in the Jackaby series picks up where Ghostly Echoes leaves off. Jackaby and Abigail Rook are once again facing off against the forces of evil in order to prevent an all-out war between the fae and mankind; as always, Jenny the Ghost and Charlie Cane, police detective and shapeshifter extraordinaire are there fighting alongside them. They are ALL such great characters; I really love them. And this book? The Dire King is another fun supernatural adventure full of magical creatures of every kind--I especially liked the one known as the twain. And there's a twist at the end I wasn't expecting! Just be sure to read the other books in this series first, or nothing is going to make sense. And the others are definitely worth reading!

The other books in the series:
     #1 - Jackaby
     #2 - Beastly Bones
     #3 - Ghostly Echoes

So check them out!
And....happy reading!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Picture this!

"If someone asked you to paint a snowman. you would probably start with three white circles stacked one upon another. Then you would add black dots for eyes, an orange triangle for a nose, and a black dotted smile. But if Picasso painted a snowman...."

This is my new favorite picture book! (And not just because it's written by my sister and illustrated by my brother-in-law.) I love it because it's all about art and some of my favorite artists and the snowmen they might have drawn from Monet to Seurat, Dali and Klimt, Grant Wood, Van Gogh and O'Keefe. It's clever and whimsical and fun. And the illustrations are amazing! Plus, I was there at the Picasso Museum in Paris with my sister, Amy, when she first came up with the idea. You can check out some of the paintings for it at Greg's blog. Or, even better,  just buy a copy for yourself!

Lichtenstein's Snowman by Greg Newbold

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne

Despite its title, this novel is more historical mystery than haunting ghost story. I was hoping for an eerie haunted house full of ghostly secrets; what I got was an intriguing mystery centered around the Tarleton Theatre, an old music hall in London that has been closed up and off-limits since 1914. Asked to provide a survey of the old theatre, Robert Fallon discovers a bricked-up sealed vault beneath the stage; fellow researcher, Hilary Bryant, who is very interested in Tarleton's past, unearths stories of the Tarleton ghost and of Toby Chance, a legendary performer and songwriter at the Tarleton who vanished without a trace also in 1914.
Hilary said, "You know, Robert, anyone listening to some of the things we've said tonight might almost believe we really do think the Tarleton's haunted. I don't mean just enjoying the atmosphere and the echoes--I mean really haunted."
"I do think it's haunted," said Robert. "So do you. All old buildings are haunted, to some extent anyway. I don't know what we encountered tonight, but whatever it was, I don't think that what's sealed beneath that stage is a ghost."
There are multiple story lines in this novel:  Toby's and his mother's, both performers at the Tarleton back in the day, Robert's and Hilary's own modern-day encounters, along with some long-buried secrets, unexpected political intrigue, murder and revenge, and, of course, the mystery surrounding the Tarleton ghost. I got caught up in each part of this mystery, eager to see how they all came together in the final chapters. There was only one story line, Shona's, that seemed completely superfluous and unnecessary. Luckily, Rayne is such a talented writer I never felt my interest or attention wane. So even though this wasn't the ghost story I was hoping for, I ended up really enjoying this well-written and intriguing mystery. (It also counts as another TBR book checked off my list for Lark's Backlist Reader Challenge.)

Happy Reading!

One of Rayne's more ghostly mysteries:
       The Silence

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How to Find Love in a Bookshop...

What this book offers:  heartwarming, memorable, and sometimes quirky characters, a quaint English town full of charm, friendship and romance, and the best bookshop in the world. I wish Nightingale Books really existed; I'd go every week! Needless to say, I loved this book. Veronica Henry's story is  enchanting, her prose poetic. And her characters, especially Julius and Emilia Nightingale, will forever be favorites. This book reminded me in many ways of my favorite Rosamunde Pilcher reads. But if that's not enough to make you want to read this book, check out these three quotes:

  • Her father was still here, thought Emilia, in the thousands of pages. Millions--there must be so many millions--of words. All those words, and the pleasure they had provided for people over the years:  escape, entertainment, education...He had changed minds. He had changed lives. It was up to her to carry on his work, so he could live on, she swore to herself.
  • Books, after all, were her escape from the horror she had been through. At night she could curl up with Ruth Rendell or Nancy Mitford, and the stress melted away, and for a couple of hours she could be somewhere else.  Reading gave her comfort.
  • She knew, from all the books she had ever read, that life was complicated, that love sprang from nowhere sometimes, and that forbidden love wasn't always something to be ashamed of.
Happy Reading!

Similar reads:

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Bookish randomness...

Richard Montanari's second novel, The Skin Gods, does not disappoint. This page-turning thriller is as layered and suspenseful as The Rosary Girls. I really like Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano, his two main homicide detectives, and I can't wait to read the rest of this series. (Luckily for me, there are at least six more books to go!)

Check out these clever and fun grammatical tees. The autocorrect one totally made me laugh. You can find them all at Cents of Style.

Recently checked out of the library:
The Shining by Stephen King ('cause it's that time of year!)
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
They Came To Baghdad by Agatha Christie
A Kiss Before Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey ('cause ghost stories also go with October!)
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Am also in the mood for:

Because I like these classic monster movies, especially the black-and-white ones starring Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and Boris Karloff.  What about you? Got any favorite monster movies that I should add to my October monster movie viewing? 

Happy Reading...and October!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

We Hear the Dead...

Maggie:  I began the deception when I was too young to know right from wrong. No one suspected us of any trick, because we were such young children. We were led on by my sister purposely and by my mother unintentionally. Only with the passing of time did I come to understand the consequences of my actions.

Kate:  Maggie has a different understanding of all the events that have happened since that night in Hydesville long ago. To her the spirits were always a game. For my sister Leah they were a means to an end. For my mother, a miracle. And for me they were my life's calling. I have no regrets.

So begins Dianne K. Salerni's fictionalized account of the Fox sisters and the Spiritualist movement they spawned with their spirit rappings and messages from the dead. It was in a small house in Hydesville, New York, where these first ghostly encounters happened, but Maggie's and Kate's notoriety quickly spread. Their older sister Leah soon had them performing to much wider audiences, traveling from New York to Philadelphia and back. It seemed nearly everyone at that time was interested in the afterlife and in communicating with the dead. So much so some were even willing to pay for the privilege.

This is such an interesting time period in American history and Salerni does a good job of portraying the Fox sisters and relating the facts of their stories.  But I have to say, this one was a bit of a slog for me. Maggie is the main narrator, but it's like she's relating things that happened to her in the past. And maybe that's why this novel lost some of its immediacy. I actually preferred Kate's chapters, but they were few and far between.  It's not a bad read. And I did learn a lot about the Fox sisters and their lives that I didn't know before. Another bonus? This is one of the books that I chose to read for Lark's 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge because it's been on my TBR list for years. So, despite it being a a slow read, I managed to finish it! I just wish it had been a little more compelling...or 100 pages shorter.

Happy Reading!

P.S. I did really enjoy Salerni's other novel, The Caged Graves, which is more of a gothic mystery and would be a perfect October read. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Urban Fantasy Fun...

3 Reasons this one's worth reading:

  • Irresistible title:  It happened One Doomsday
  • Fun first line:  Dru Jasper had no idea that the world was prophesied to come to a fiery end in six days.
  • It's got magic, mayhem and some very engaging characters:  Dru uses her magical powers and the crystals she sells to help people with supernatural problems, which is good because Greyson Carter has a big one. He recently purchased a possessed black muscle car at an auction and because of it he's now turning into a demon. And not just any demon; he's turning into one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And unless Dru and her sorceress friend, Rane, can figure out how to reverse the curse it just might mean the end of the world. And the end of Greyson, who's handsome and nice and who can amplify Dru's magic in ways she never expected. (Plus, he kisses great.)

Need more?

With scary demons and some awesome crystal-powered magic, memorable (and likeable!) characters and good writing, Laurence MacNaughton has created a magical roller coaster ride of a fantasy novel; it's humorous, entertaining, and a lot of fun. I can't wait to get to the library and check out the sequel, A Kiss Before Doomsday, to find out what happens to Dru next. This fun urban fantasy certainly cast a bookish spell on me.

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Final Girls...

Only Quincy remained.
All the others were dead.
She was the last one left alive.

Riley Sager's psychological thriller Final Girls is a gripping, unsettling, and intense. It centers on Quincy Carpenter, the sole survivor of a brutal massacre at Pine Cottage ten years ago. By surviving this mass killing, she becomes a reluctant member of an exclusive club:  The Final Girls.  There are only two other members, Lisa and Samantha, who also survived horrific slaughters. Quincy has spent the last ten years proving that she's fine, that she's moved on. But she hasn't. Not really. And then Lisa dies. Murdered by someone who might be after Quincy next. And Samantha shows up on her doorstep, pushing Quincy to remember the past. And suddenly Quincy doesn't know who to trust; she's not even sure she can trust herself.

Well-plotted, full of suspense, and with some unexpected twists along the way, I'd characterize this book as a good read except for one thing. The characters. I wanted to like Quincy, but I found her passiveness in certain situations and her reckless self-destructiveness in others, especially when she's around Sam, completely frustrating. And I thought Sam was a lying bitch through most of the novel. Then the one character I liked from the start turned out to be someone completely different than I thought. Which made me not like this novel quite as much. I'd still classify it as a good read, and compelling one, too; I just prefer novels with characters that I can like and root for all the way through, which is why I didn't love this one.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads (that I liked a little bit better):
     The Never List by Koethi Zan
     The Edge of Normal by Carla Norton

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten Books on my fall TBR list.  And though it was hard to narrow down my list to just ten, I finally did it.  Here they are:

1.  Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne

2.  The Shining by Stephen King

3.  The Dire King by William Ritter (Jackaby #4)

4. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

5.  Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

6.   The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse:  An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue by Piu Marie Eatwell

7.  Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

8.  They Came From Baghdad by Agatha Christie

9.  Hello Again by Brenda Novak

10.  Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A compelling read...

Work harder than anyone.
Be the most talented.
Sacrifice everything.
And if you're lucky, maybe you will go to the Olympics.

Five gymnasts:  Grace, Leigh, Monica, Wilhelmina, and Camille
One shared goal:  to make the Olympic team

Caela Carter's Tumbling tells the story of 5 elite gymnasts over two days as they compete at the Olympic Trials and try to make their Olympic dreams come true.  Each girl has her own struggles and insecurities from weight issues (too much and too little), to pressure from coaches and parents, to her own doubts and fears, to the push and pull of having friends who are also rivals.  And I found it a compelling look into the hearts and minds of incredibly talented and hard-working athletes who give up everything for this one dream.

As for the girls, I liked all five, and I wanted them all to make the team.  It was very hard not to cheat and flip to the end of the novel early to see who made it and who didn't. But I was good and let the suspense build...and it is oddly suspenseful.  There's so much at stake for these young girls. I got caught up in the drama of each of their stories. (I'll never watch gymnasts and gymnastic competitions in the same way again!) This is a fascinating read. So well-written and unexpected. And I totally loved it.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September's Bookish Art...

Pieter Jannsens Elinga--Reading Woman, 1668

"Books make such good friends and quiet neighbors."
--Catriona McPherson

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Only Daughter...

I've always been good at playing a part...

It's the look in their eyes that does it. A mix of pity and disgust. Like I'm worth nothing, just another stray for them to clean up. A memory slowly opens and I realize I know exactly how to get myself out of this. The power of what I'm about to say is huge. It courses through my body like a shot of vodka, removing the tightness in my throat and sending tingles to the tips of my fingers. I don't feel helpless anymore; I know I can pull this off.  "My name is Rebecca Winter. Eleven years ago, I was abducted."
But she's not Rebecca. She's an imposter who only intends to borrow Rebecca's identity until she can get the police off her back. But having a nice home to go to, and a warm bed to sleep in, and loving parents is appealing. Plus, there are things in her own past she's trying to escape. So she continues the charade. And being Rebecca isn't so bad...until she begins to suspect that something's not right in the Winter home. Plus, a black van keeps following her. Bec's parents and twin brothers are acting strangely. And what if whoever caused the real Bec to disappear decides to come after her?

Anna Snoekstra skillfully interweaves Bec's story with that of her imposter in this compelling psychological suspense novel. Trying to figure out what happened to the real Bec kept me guessing all the way to the unsettling ending. And the impending danger to her imposter added another chilling layer. I liked this one. I also liked how Snoekstra played off the name Rebecca Winter, so similar to Daphne du Maurier's own character--and just like in her novel, Rebecca, we never learn the real name of Rebecca's successor in this book either.

Only Daughter is a fun, fast-paced read. What made it even better was reading it along with Melody. So be sure to check out her review and see what she thought of this psychological thriller. She also asked me a couple of questions when we were done. Here they are along with my answers:

Q. What do you think the real Rebecca Winter and the imposter have in common and do you like any of them?
Bec shoplifts and then flaunts her new acquisitions while the imposter pretends to be someone she's not and never flinches as she tells lie and lie, so I think they both have a similar kind of recklessness about them. I also think both of them have the same tendency to run from their problems rather than face the truth. And while I liked both girls, I liked the imposter a little bit more than the real Bec. To me, she just seemed like more of a scrappy fighter/survivor. And I liked that about her. 
Q. Who do you  most sympathize with? The real Bec, the imposter, or both?
I sympathized with both characters, but at the end of the book I was rooting for the imposter while feeling mostly pity (along with a little frustration) for Bec.
Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Another zombie read...

"Twenty-two days. Michael lifted his finger from the Sharpie'd tally in his journal. Wow. Man. Twenty-two days since Halloween. Twenty-two days since Michael followed the Game Master's instructions and carried Patrick through a door into the night and saw their first Bellow. Twenty-two days since that moment, since the world seemed to end, but then instantaneously resurrected to a frightening and beautiful life."

T. Michael Martin's The End Games is a novel about zombies (called Bellows here) and surviving the end of the world. It is also a novel about love and loyalty between two brothers. Because seventeen-year-old Michael Faris will do anything to protect his little brother, Patrick. Even invent a Game involving the Bellows and earning points and following a mysterious Game Master's instructions until they reach the Safe Zone in Charleston, West Virginia, where they hope to find their mom. And five-year-old Patrick, who suffers from extreme anxiety, believes and plays along. Because Michael is his hero. But it's not just the undead that they have to worry about. There's the crazy cult of religious fanatics in Coaltown, and the army soldier in Charleston who promises to protect them. The one thing Michael knows for sure is that he has to keep his little brother safe.
"Because Patrick ... looked so small, so sweet, that Michael thought, not for the first or final time, that he would shoot all the monsters in the world he had to, he would do anything to reach the Safe Zone in the capital city of Charleston, to win the Game for Patrick."
There are a lot of mediocre and disappointing zombie reads out there, but this is one of the good ones. I liked Martin's style of writing and his take on the undead is different and fun. But his main focus is on his characters. I may not have liked all of them, but I did really like Michael. And as I learned more about his and Patrick's back story, I liked him even more. This entertaining apocalyptic novel ended up being a perfect end-of-summer read for me.

Happy Reading!

Other good zombie reads:
Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End
World War Z

Monday, September 4, 2017

Two Fun Reads...

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith

This entertaining YA dystopian novel is set in an Australia where an unknown virus has wiped out most of the population. For the last two years, Finn and his dog, Rowdy, have been on their own. Finn traps rabbits and harvests abalone for food, trades for veggies with an old man who lives nearby, and tries to avoid the gang of raiders known as the Wilders. Oh, and he surfs to stay sane. Then a girl named Rose enters his life. She's on the run from the Wilders and Finn knows he will have to risk his own life in order to save hers.

Not all dystopian novels are worth your time, but if I were grading this one I'd give it a solid B. It's well-paced. It wasn't too long, which means it never dragged. I really liked the survival aspects of it; I liked the characters, too, especially Finn. And I'm actually looking forward to reading the sequel.

To Suit a Suitor by Paula Kremser

Insipid characters, stilted dialogue, conflicts that could be resolved in two seconds, and/or an overly contrived plot will make me DNF a Regency romance every time. Luckily, this particular Regency romance by Paula Kremser has none of these deficiencies. Instead, Kremser has created two main characters who are believable and very likeable. I enjoyed their witty bantering and their tentative friendship.

Julia North, who is in her third London season, has just been abandoned by her latest suitor, much to her mother's chagrin. Julia knows there must be something wrong with her, she just doesn't know what. So she retreats to her cousin's house in the country where she meets Mr. Henry Chamberlin, who is still mourning the death of his fiancee three years ago. He's handsome, but truly believes he'll never fall in love again. Then he meets Julia. This charming romance, while not on the level of Austen or Heyer, is a light-hearted, well-written and fun read. And I liked it a lot.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bookish frustrations...

  • Reading all the way to the end of the book only to find out that it's book one of a trilogy... and the other books haven't been written yet.
  • When a book is over 400 pages long, but only has enough story and plot for 300 pages at most. (Learn to edit, people!)
  • Looking up book after book from my Goodreads "want to read" list only to discover that none of them are available from my library.
  • Or when ALL the books I want to read are already checked out of the library. (Who are these people checking out the books I want to read?  More importantly, tell them to stop it!)
  • I also hate when the wrong character dies.
  • And when the girl falls in love with the wrong guy. Or worse, falls in love with two guys at once.
  • Getting constantly interrupted right at the best part of my book. (Leave me alone!  Can't you see I'm reading?)
  • But maybe the biggest frustration of all is when I can't keep up with all the books I want to read because there's just never enough hours in the day!
What frustrates you?
Happy reading anyway!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Good & Scary!

I like a good scary story---those imaginary nightmare scenarios that a good author brings to life in the pages of a suspense or horror novel. But what makes The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston truly scary is that everything in it really happened. (And it could happen again.) It's a very compelling....and frightening read. I couldn't put it down.

Here are some of the scary facts from The Hot Zone that just might keep you up at night:

  • The Marburg virus and the three identified strains of Ebola are Level 4 agents.  "A Level 4 hot agent is a lethal virus for which there is no vaccine and no cure."  
  • "No one knew where any of (these) filoviruses came from; no one knew where they lived in nature...And they didn't know exactly how the virus spread, or how it jumped from host to host."
  • "The worst of them was Ebola Zaire. The kill rate in humans infected with Ebola Zaire is nine out of ten. Ebola Zaire is a slate wiper in humans."
  • "From the moment Ebola enters your bloodstream, the war is already can't fight off Ebola the way you fight off a cold."  (Although some people do recover from it.)
  • "We don't really know what Ebola has done in the past, and we don't know what it might do in the future."
  • "....viruses never go away; they only hide..."
Happy Reading!

Other "scary" reads to check out:
Spillover:  Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen
Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC by Joseph B. McCormick

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Another bookish gem...

I had almost reached the back of the room and was casting my eye over a display of cheap trinkets and ugly paintings on the walls when I saw it ... An eighteenth century pastel in its original frame, of a man wearing a powdered wig and blue coat. In the top right-hand corner, a coat of arms I couldn't make out. Yet it was not the coat of arms that grabbed me, but the face. Transfixed, I could not tear my eyes away from it:  the face was my own. 
The Portrait is another delightful read from Antoine Laurain. I love his books, especially The Red Notebook. Both novels are whimsical, subtle, and beautifully written. In this one, a collector of antiques sees a portrait at an auction that looks just like him. And he has to buy it.  But when he gets it home, his jaded wife can't see the resemblance. Her reaction makes Pierre-Francois Chaumont even more determined to learn the identity of the man in the painting. What he discovers is beyond anything he ever imagined. Once again Laurain spins an unforgettable tale of mystery and romance. And he does it in just 128 pages, making The Portrait a true bookish gem.

Happy Reading!

Other bookish gems:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Irresistible Titles...

Because sometimes it doesn't matter what the book is about. Sometimes the title alone is enough to make me check it out. Like these four recent reads:

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life 
      by Sharon Pywell

This one is multilayered, magical and memorable. If you want to know more, check out Melody's review.

Zombies and Calculus
     by Colin Adams

There was a little too much math and not enough zombies for me, but I thought the idea was hilarious!

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

This book was quirky and humorous and I loved it!

The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires
     by Molly Harper

Bit of a guilty pleasure, this book is as fun as it sounds!

And here's one that I haven't read yet but want to just because of its crazy title:

Got any other irresistible titles to add to the list?
Happy Reading!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

How it begins:
"In the sun-warmed quiet of her uncle's library, Lady Helen Wrexhall spread the skirt of her muslin morning gown and sank into the deep curtsy required for Royal presentation:  back held straight, head slightly bowed, left knee bent so low, it nearly touched the floor. And, of course, face set into a serene Court smile."
But 18-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall is not your typical debutante. She has hidden gifts and intuitive powers that other young ladies don't have.  Gifts she inherited from her mother...who died in disgrace ten years ago. 
"...reading expressions was her one true accomplishment. When she concentrated properly on a face, her accuracy was startling and a little disturbing. It certainly made her aunt and uncle uneasy, and they had forbidden her to voice her observations about anyone...Girls were meant to paint screens and play pianoforte, not see through the masks of polite society."
Then there's Lord Carlston, who knew her mother and who seems to know more about Helen than he should. And Helen doesn't know if she can trust him.  Her brother certainly doesn't.
"Lord Carlston was handsome, Helen conceded...and the brown of his eyes was so dark that it merged with the black pupil, making their expression impenetrable. It was very disconcerting and gave him a flat look of soullessness .... Helen dipped into her curtsy but did not lower her eyes as modesty decreed, instead, studying Lord Carlston as he bowed. He was studying her just as closely, his gaze far too penetrating for politeness."
Lord Carlston shows Helen abilities she never knew she possessed. And he tells her why she has them. That it has to do with demons and darkness and saving the world.  That Helen is a Reclaimer. It's an inheritance Helen isn't sure she wants. And the story continues from there--an entertaining and fun (although rather long) supernatural adventure set in the Regency era. (And this story is followed by two more books; The Dark Days Club is book one of a trilogy!)

 Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bookish Suspense...

Julie is only 13 years old when she is abducted from her bedroom in the middle of the night in Amy Gentry's Good As Gone.  Eight long years later, she comes home. Anna, her mother, can't believe it. Having Julie back is the happy ending she never let herself hope for, or even imagine. Finally, their family is whole again.  But then Anna catches Julie in a lie. And a former detective investigating the case questions Julie's story and her identity.  Bones of a young girl are found that fit the timeline of when Julie first disappeared.  And Anna begins to wonder if the young woman claiming to be Julie is her daughter after all.

Sounds like the plot of a typical psychological suspense novel, with all the obligatory twists and turns, doesn't it?  But wow, is Good As Gone so much more than that. I started reading it after dinner one night and I could not put it down. The unique way Amy Gentry chose to tell this story is so compelling and intriguing it completely sucked me in...and it made me want to go back and read it all over again from the start when I was done. And I was not expecting that from this book! I love it when a book exceeds your expectations. And this one definitely exceeded mine. I wish I could be more specific as to why, but I don't want to risk giving anything away. It's too good to spoil. So I'll just say...
BBC series: Thirteen

Happy Reading!

But if you like the sound of this one, then you might also like these:

Baby Doll

Saturday, August 12, 2017

August's Bookish Art...

Walter Launt Palmer -- Afternoon in the Hammock, 1882
"A book is a dream that you hold in your hand."
--Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Lying Game

"It's not a game," she said. "It's the game. It's the Lying Game."

It began seventeen years ago at Salten House, a boarding school in Southern England.
It began with four teen-age friends:  Kate, Thea, Fatima, and Isa.
There were four basic rules:  Tell a lie, Stick to your story, Never get caught, and Never lie to each other.
It didn't end well.

With a career and a new baby, Isa Wilde hasn't thought about the Game or those days at Salten House in years. Then she gets a text from Kate saying:  I need you. And she has to go back. They all do. And while Isa is glad to see her old friends, it's not exactly a happy reunion for any of them. Because the past they thought they'd buried, and all their old secrets and lies, are starting to come to light.
They are here: Luc, Ambrose, and not just them, but ourselves, the ghosts of our past, the slim laughing girls we used to be before that summer ended with a cataclysmic crash, leaving us all scarred in our own ways, trying to move on, lying not for fun, but to survive.
This is not exactly a fast-paced page turner, but I didn't mind the unhurried way this mystery unfolds. It takes its time, but I never felt that it dragged. I was too caught up in the story of these four girls. Isa's narrative flows effortlessly between her memories of her year at Salten House with Fatima, Thea and Kate, and what's happening now with Kate and what's been uncovered. And since I'm a sucker for boarding school novels, I have to admit I liked all those bits set in the past with this quartet of imperfect girls and their unbroken bond of friendship. The rest of the plot kept me guessing as to who was behind what and where the truth actually lay. And I did not see that ending coming! Not having read either of Ware's other novels, I don't know how this one compares, I just know that I liked it. What made it even more fun was reading it with Melody. Make sure you go to her blog and check out her awesome review of this book.

Happy Reading!

Similar read:         
The Lake of Dead Languages
by Carol Goodman
P.S.  Melody had a few questions for me after we finished reading this book; here they are along with my answers:

Q. How do you feel about our four characters--Kate, Isa, Thea and Fatima?
A.  I liked all four of the girls, though I didn't agree with the choices and decisions they made. I had the most sympathy for Kate, even when I found her close-mouthed and frustrating; Fatima and Isa were the most likeable and the two I'd probably get along with the best; and beautiful, prickly Thea was the biggest mystery. I found myself really wanting to know more about her.

Q.  Since this is your first Ruth Ware book, how do you find it and do you like the story?
A. This book is good, although not nearly as suspenseful as I thought it would be. Still, I really like the way Ware writes and I can't wait to try her other books.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A little bookish serendipity....

Inspired by an episode of Friends, Amal, an Australian-Palestinian-Muslim teen-age girl, makes the hard decision to start wearing her hijab full-time. She views the headscarf as a visible badge of her faith. But she's also worried about how everyone else is going to react. Her parents are naturally concerned, but very supportive; the principal of her high school is much less so. At least she can count on her closest friends. But what will Adam think of her new look? Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah is an honest and humorous account of one Muslim girl's journey through life as she navigates school, friendship, love, family and faith.
"All this time I've been walking around thinking I've become pious because I've made the difficult decision to wear the hijab. I've been assuming that now that I'm wearing it full-time, I've earned all my brownie points. But what's the good of being true to your religion on the outside, if you don't change what's on the inside, where it really counts? ... I've been kidding myself. Putting on the hijab isn't the end of the journey. It's just the beginning of it."
Amal is a charming character. She has all the normal teen worries, along with a few extra hijab-inspired ones. And this book gives you a view of Islam from the inside out. It's insightful and entertaining and I liked it a lot. Best of all, I got my copy for a quarter from my library's discarded books sale. Don't you just love  bookish bargains? So, here's to serendipitous library finds that lead to such interesting and enjoyable reads.  I bought another discarded library book the same day I got this one; I hope it's just as good. The cover and title certainly sound like fun:

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A bit of randomness

So, I didn't feel like reviewing The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari, not because it wasn't good...because it was...but because I didn't feel like trying to sum up such a complicated suspense novel in two paragraphs. So I'll just say that I ended up liking it a lot, and plan on reading more of his books. And I highly recommend checking him out.

But that left me without a post for today.

So, I decided to throw together a few random bits that will hopefully make you smile like they did me.  Enjoy!

I feel like this sometimes!
Don't you?

Besides, who wouldn't trade a bunch of boring adult responsibilities for a beach like that!

I also like this "adulting" quote:

This one made me laugh.
Because haven't we all been there?

Or felt this way, too:

Hmm.  Seems I have a theme going here.

But just to keep this post as random as its title suggests, I'll end with something completely different, something even more random. It's a magnet I have on my refrigerator. And I really love it:

Isn't that great?

I'll get back to reviewing books in my next post.  Until then...
Happy Reading!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Another magical read from the K shelf...

Title:  The Mark of the Tala
Author:  Jeffe Kennedy
Genre:  Fantasy

First line:  My version of the story goes all the way back to the once upon a time with the three princesses, each more beautiful than the last. That's me, there, in the middle.

Summary:  Born the middle sister, Princess Andromeda is neither her father's favorite, nor the most beautiful. For the most part, she is invisible. And she likes it that way. But then one day, while out riding, she meets Rayfe, leader of the shape-shifting Tala, who claims she is destined to be his queen. He believes she is the key to saving his homeland of Annfwn. It seems her mother, who died when she was five, was one of the Tala, too. Not that Andi knows anything about them, or their magic. To make matters worse, her father, High King Uorsin, has declared the Tala his enemy and is determined to prevent Andi from fulfilling her destiny. In reality, he wants the fabled Annfwn for himself. Which leaves Princess Andromeda caught in the middle once more.

My thoughts:  This is a fun read. It's not too long or overly complicated. And the three sisters are an interesting study in contrasts, although this is mostly Andi's story. I ended up liking Rayfe a lot, with his dark intensity and ability to shift into the shape of a wolf or raven. He and Andromeda make a great pair. And the Tala magic is cool, though I wish there were more of it in the book. There are a couple of fairly graphic sex scenes, so be warned if that's not your thing. All in all, I'm glad I found this fantasy on the K shelf; and even though I probably won't be reading the next two books that follow it (which are about Amelia and Ursula, Andi's sisters), I enjoyed reading this one.

Happy Reading!

Similar reads:
     Uprooted by Naomi Novik
     The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
     On the Edge by Ilona Andrews