Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Grey Mist Murders by Constance and Gwenyth Little

The Grey Mist Murders
Constance and Gwenyth Little
3/5 stars

The Grey Mist Murders takes place on a cruise ship, and is told in first person by sassy, quick-witted Carla.  Two young women are strangled, and one more (the narrator) nearly murdered as well.

This is the first mystery written by the Little sisters, and it lacks the sparkle of their later works.  As with all their mysteries, this one is a light mystery with humor and a bit of romance, but in other parts it is dry, and there were times when it was a chore to read.  The plot was interesting, but the conclusion not fully believable, and the amount of evidence the hero was able to piece together was far fetched as well.

This is not a good example of the talent of the Little sisters.  If I had read it first, I would probably not have tried another one.  I suggest that this one be skipped by all but the most dedicated of the Little fans, and then read it as an experience to see how much they grew over their career.

(I recommend the Black-Headed Pins, the Black Honeymoon or the Black Coat for first time Little readers.)

Top Five Wednesday: Books You Will Never Read

Top Five Wednesday is a Goodreads group.

Today's topic is: Books You Will Never Read.  I sort of hate to list these, as some will be favorites of fellow bibliophages, but here it goes.

1. The rest of the Hunger Games series
I read the first book, and it just didn't grab me, so I didn't finish the series.  (Please don't throw bricks through my window, folks!)

2.  The rest of the Twilight series
Again, I read the first book, and again it didn't grab me.  Frankly, I found it kind of icky.  (Again, no bricks, please!)

3. Haruki Murakami's novels
I want to like him so much!  He has such a devoted fan base and the books sound so fascinating, but. . . I have tried three different books--I even read the entire first volume of 1Q84--and I just felt lost and bored.  I've finally, after this third attempt, decided we are not fated.

4.  Any more Dickens
First off, let me say, I love Victorian literature.  Wilkie Collins is one of my top-ten favorite authors,  As for his good friend Dickens. . . His plots are great, but his prose is yawn-inducing.  I've read a wide variety of his works in high school and college and have yet to be anything but disappointed by them.  I keep trying, believe it or not.  I just find him dull.  

5.  Any more book about animals
I can not do it!  Animal books make me cry and I honestly have anxiety during the entire book.  Mom used to make me read some of the more famous ones, like Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller, and I hated them as much as I feared them.  As soon as I could make my book choices myself, animal books never crossed my path.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer
4/5 stars

Winter is the final installment in the Lunar Chronicles.  Princess Winter's history, which is revealed in this volume, is a retelling of sorts of the Snow White story.  She joins with Cinder, as Cinder and her friends try to start a revolution on Luna to overthrown Queen Levana.

Winter is a fast-paced novel, with much action and adventure.  At times, it seemed redundant and over long (it is over 800 pages), but overall, both the flow and the storytelling were good.  I had expected a slightly different ending, and was somewhat disappointed with the actual conclusion.  It was good, but I felt that there was one end that could have been tied up much more neatly than it was.  Other than that, it was a worthy end to this enjoyable series.

Cinder, the first in this series, was not well-written.  In an interview, Meyer states that she grew as an author over this series, and that is apparent.  She even admitted that the author she was when she wrote Cinder could not have written the complex Winter.  Cinder was a mediocre novel, but Winter was, while not five star worthy, a good and pleasurable read.  I'm glad I stuck with the series and do recommend it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Salon: Book Hangover

Musing for this week's Sunday Salon.

After finishing Kids of Appetite (review), I've been in a book hangover, and can't settle with another book.  First, I tried the library-magazine recommended Security by Gina Wohlsdorf and found it dull.  (If I'd looked it up on Amazon or Goodreads first, I'd never have tried it.)

I picked up StormDancer by Jay Kristoff.  He's co-writer of Illuminae which I loved (review), and I wanted to try his solo works.  It was interesting, but I felt like I needed to know Japanese mythology to appreciate it.  I just floundered in the few chapters I read.

After that, I excitedly picked up Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas. This is the high-rated second book in the Throne of Glass series, the first of which I quite enjoyed. (review)  I know it must just be me, but. . . I could not become invested in the same characters that I cared so much about in the first book.  In addition, I had read what the third book was about and the blurb caused a huge spoiler for this book, which didn't help this book become any more interesting.

Next on my list was Gail Carringer's Etiquette & Espionage, the supposedly delightful beginning to a supposedly delightful series.  Just like Soulless, it was a silly bit of fluff and, though it made me laugh, I abandoned it after a few chapters.

Then I picked up a Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab.  This Savage Song (review) was so excellent, and I had high hopes for this series.  The premise is interesting, and Schwab's writing is great, but. . . Again, I know it's just me but I couldn't stay focused on it.

I've got about ten more library books checked out, but instead, I'm reading one of my unread Little sisters novels to get me back in the reading saddle.  These sisters wrote slapstick mysteries during the 1940's and 50's.  They plot well and the characters are always bizarre and interesting.  The comedy isn't over done and generally balances the somewhat gruesome crimes that are the center of the story.
If this doesn't cure the hangover, I'm just going to read Kids of Appetite again!

Note all the flagged passages.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

Kids of Appetite
David Arnold
projected publication date 9/20/16
5/5 stars

Kids of Appetite is a difficult book to describe without spoiling the book by sharing too much.  The story starts with teenaged Vic still reeling from his dad's death, two years later.  His mom has moved on, and Vic can't accept this, and runs away from home.  Having Moebius syndrome has made him an outcast with his peers, but just when he needs a friend the most, his path crosses that of Mad.  She and her group of fellow outsiders accept and support Vic on his quest to scatter his dad's ashes in special places.  Then, Mad's abusive uncle is murdered, one of their group is arrested for the crime, and Mad and Vic find themselves sharing their story with the Hackensack police.

Kids of Appetite is a stunning book.  The story is deep, exploring love, pain, what it means to be a family, how to listen, simultaneous extreme opposites, and how far one will go for a friend.   It's also amusing, encouraging, and moving.  The prose is breath taking at times, yet still accessible.  Arnold reveals the plot slowly, in pieces, by skillfully alternating between the past and present, and between Mad and Vic as narrator.  This engaging book will appeal to both the targeted YA audience, and adults as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Top Five Wednesday: Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year

Top Five Wednesday is a Goodreads group.

This week's topic is: Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year.

I have a monstrous stack of books I'd like to read before the end of the year, due to out-of-control book buying in the past three months.  However, these are five that spring to mind.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction  by J. D. Salinger
After rereading Catcher in the Rye, I'd like to immerse myself  in Salinger by reading this and the rest of the Nine Stories I've not yet read.

Circles: Fifty Round Trips Through History by James Burke
I've been in love with Burke's theories, discussions and personality since college.  Bryan got this for me for Christmas two years ago, and I've been slowly reading the stories.  I'd like to finish it this year, not to hurry through it, but so as to go on to another Burke I've got waiting.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
I know, I know. . . I should've read this years ago.  I didn't though, and didn't own it until this month.  Once I'm done with my Harry Potter audio book reread (currently on book two), I plan to read it.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I've only read a children's abbreviated version of this influential classic.  I got a copy of it today, and intend to read it in the next few months.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
This is a reread that's been on my to-be-read pile all year.  I remember not liking it as much as I liked all the other Woolf novels, so I wanted to give it another try.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Demon in the House by Angela Thirkell

The Demon in the House
Angela Thirkell
4/5 stars
Angela Thirkell,
portrait by 
John Collier, 1914

Despite sounding like a book about exorcisms, the Demon in the House is actually a delightful story in Thrikell's Barsetshire series.  The "demon" is Tony Morland.  He's a charming, busy, and loving thirteen year old boy with a catchphrase of "I know" and a preternatural ability to get dirty anywhere.  The action takes place during the home-from-school vacations across a year, and we watch Tony grow from knickerbockers to trousers.

His doting widowed mother, Laura, was the focus of the first Barestshire novel, High Rising, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  These novels need to be read in order, to follow what is going on in the neighborhood.  I made a mistake and read this as the second novel instead of the third, and there were a few times that I knew I was missing information.

The Barsetshire novels are gentle and pleasant to read, and, while I've only read the two, this series is becoming a favorite.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Shelf

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

Today's topic is "Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven't Read Yet".

Frankly, this is rather embarrasing!

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
I pre-ordered this one in 2012, and have yet to read it.  I don't know why, but I just haven't!

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi by Mark Hodder
This was, for me, a highly anticipated sequel in the Burton and Swinburne Adventures.  I started it, but felt like I needed to remind myself more about the first three before I could get into it.  I've never got back around to it--even though I own all the series now.  It's the second youngest of my list, though; I bought it in 2013.

The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt
I loved the two Hunt books I've read, but I just neglected to ever get to this one.  I need to add it to my to-be-read stack.  In my defense, I've only had it since 2009.

The Breaking Point by Daphne du Maurier
Du Marier is a top-ten favorite author, and yet I've had this for at least ten years and not read it.  It'a short stories, too, at which she excells!  As I said before: I don't know why!

The Sword of Honor Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh
Waugh is another top-ten favorite author.  Despite that, I've had these for over twenty years and just never got around to reading them.

An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England by Venetia Murray
I'm ashamed that I've yet to read this nonfiction, after I purchased it new in 1999.

The Last Duel by Eric Jager
This was gifted to me, maybe ten years ago, and I started it. It's a highly readable, very interesting nonfiction, and yet. ...  I sat it aside and never returned!

The Pinball Effect by James Burke
Burke's theories are so intriguing and enthralling.  So why have I not read this one ten years later?  I don't know!

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill
After reading his book on the Irish, I bought this one in 2003, but. . . I've not yet read it.

Alva, That Vanderbilt-Belmont Woman by Margaret Hayden Rector
I purchased this biography in 1999 and intended to read it right away.  I didn't.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Classics Club: Catcher in the Rye

(about the classics club)

I've had Holden on my mind for some time, so I decided it was time for another re-read.

Reading Catcher in the Rye in high school was my first experience with an unreliable narrator.  I can still remember how my mind was blown when the teacher explained that not all narrators can be trusted.

I thought a lot about how amazing Salinger is.  Reading Catcher in the Rye is like having a conversation with Holden.  The flow, the speech patterns, the rambling. . . It's eerily real.  Also, the use of italics to emphasize parts of words ("I'd only written that. .. ") is brilliant.  Why don't more authors use this?

immediately fell under Salinger's spell, from the first sentence, and I wondered why I don't read him more frequently.  I've not read all of the Nine Stories, nor have I read Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.  Rereading this made me want to immerse myself in Salinger, and finish them all.

Reading this also made me want to read Ring Lardner and reread Out of Africa and the Return of the Native, since Holden enjoyed them some much.

I also wondered if Holden's voice is so typically American that it is hard for other cultures to relate to him.  

I wondered about the ending, too.  If Salinger copped out a bit by not describing "what I did after I went home".  I talked it over with Bryan and with his help, decided that, no, it was actually a wise move by Salinger and that the novel would have been weaker if all "that stuff" had been described.

 I want to help Holden every time I read this.  He is alive to me, and I ache for him.  This time, though, I'm reading it a few years after my own emotional difficulties, and it was nearly painful to read.  I've never connected with Holden in a personal way before, just felt empathy.  This time. . . I understood his motives and actions intimately, and it hurt.

I flagged favorite passages during this reread.  When I was finished, I had 31 pages marked.  Here are a few that really stand out.
Note:  You'll may not get enjoyment out of a few of these passages unless you've read the book.  Some are notable simply because they are typical Holden statements.

"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

"New York's terrible at night when somebody laughs on the street very late at night.  You can hear it for miles.  It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed."

"Grand.  There's a word I really hate.  It's a phony."

"That's the whole trouble.  You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any.  You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write 'Fuck you' right under your nose."

"When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around.  I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something.  Only I don't go.  I'm too worried to go."

"The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have let them do it. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them."

Friday, August 19, 2016

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You
Kasie West
4/5 stars

Lily, bored in Chemistry class, scribbles some Indie song lyrics on her desk.  Coming to class the next day, she is surprised to see that another line has been added.  This begins a written friendship with an unknown fellow student.  They discuss music at first, but gradually begin to share intimate details of their lives, then offer support and friendship to each other.  Lily wants to know who her pen pal is, but will finding out who is he spoil it all?

This is a YA romance, yes, but it's also a book about assumptions, about both the image and walls we create for ourselves, and about letting down our guard so that our true self can show.  It was well-written, the characters were well-rounded, and the story well-plotted.  Overall, while not my preferred genre, I found it a delightful book.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass
Sarah J. Maas
4/5 stars

Celaena is a famous assassin, serving a life sentence in a salt mine.  The King wants a personal assassin, and holds a tournament to choose himself a Champion.  Celaena is pulled from the mines to fight 23 other killers for this title. When some of the participants are found brutally murdered,  a long-dead Queen recruits Celaena to root out the evil stalking the tournament.

What seemed at the beginning to be a predictable, high fantasy with a love triangle, quickly turned into a complex plot, full of mystery, suspense and excitement.   Maas revealed the main characters' personalities and motives slowly, and by the end of the novel, the reader is left knowing them rather well.  Being the first in a series, Maas left just enough pieces dangling to make the reader excited for the next volume, without leaving the reader feeling cheated by a cliffhanger.

Throne of Glass is a well-written and well-plotted fantasy that, though it contains some familiar tropes, is just different enough and exciting enough, to be gripping and thoroughly enjoyable.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August OwlCrate

The August OwlCrate arrived today!  This month had a high school theme. Here is what it contained:

The book pick for this month is P.S. I Like You.  Contemporary romance is not my genre of choice, but I started it this afternoon and am enjoying it beyond expectation so far.  The book came with a signed bookplate, a pack of colored pencils, and a letter from the author.

Also included in the crate were two pins and a necklace.  The Hogwarts one was designed by Taryn Draws.  The raptor pin and the Eleanor and Park necklace are listed as OwlCrate exclusives, so I'm not certain who designed them.

It also contains a "decomposition" notebook by and an OwlCrate exclusive coloring book by Blue Star Coloring.

The most beautiful part of this month's OwlCrate is this stunning exclusive print of the Golden Trio by Suzanne Draws.  I plan to frame it and put it on the bookcase.

While I don't love "Fast Times at YA High" as much as the boxes from the past two months (June and July), I still liked it a lot.  The theme for the September box will be "Darkness", and I'm looking forward to it, too!