Moomins!

To all of you who are acquainted with some of the world’s most delightful creatures, the Moomins, I ask that you bear with me as I gush about them. I just discovered the Mooomins by accident a couple of months ago and Comet In Moominland arrived at my house yesterday, so in keeping with my blog’s initial theme of writing about quirky, slightly unusual books, I had to do a post on the Moomins. Not that Moomin books don’t abound or already have a huge following, which they do, but they aren’t quite run-of-the-mill in North America. Yet.

I’m one of those people who reads series in the order the books were published, if it’s at all possible. So naturally, I began with the completely adorable first installment, The Moomins and the Great Flood.
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Illustrated in just pen and ink, these little creatures who don’t like the cold and traditionally live behind stoves (not happy when central air started becoming more and more common) are so endearing I couldn’t put the book down. The books are written and illustrated by Tove Jansson, and the stories were published between 1945 and 1970. There are also comics and picture books, as well as all kinds of fun paraphernalia including calendars, mugs, sweatshirts, a theme park and more!

Moomins are technically children’s books, but Comet in Moominland is over 150 pages (I’m assuming the other books are equally long), so really they are more like Pixar movies. That is, they are officially billed as children’s entertainment, but people of all ages enjoy them. And it’s the same with the Moomin books.
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I mean.. those tails! How adorable are these little guys?!

While so far these are the only two Moomin installments in my collection, I look forward to getting acquainted with the rest of the books and characters. And if you haven’t yet made a trip to Moomin Valley, I hope you do! It will bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.

A bookish retrospective

Hello, and happy new year! I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you are also amazed by how quickly 2016 went by. It happens every year, so I don’t know why it is such a surprise each time, but…I can’t believe it!

Every year people write about all the books they’ve read, and I was always left wondering how I would fit in on the spectrum of volumes read per year. So in 2016 I kept a list, and I managed to get 26 books read this year! That number has made me especially skeptical of those who read over 100 books a year. Unless their job is to read and review books, of course. But for anyone with a full-time job to read over 100 books a year, I have to wonder.

2016 Reading Highlights

  • I discovered a new series this year: A Victorian Bookshop Mystery series by Kate Parker. They are obviously fluffy reads, but I love that they are set in Victorian England; the protagonist is the proprietor of a bookstore; there’s a cat, murder, intrigue and romance. What’s not to love?! A wonderfully entertaining escape from reality.

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  • The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. I enjoyed this novel about a descendant of the Brontë family, and I was especially impressed by the author’s insightful comments about the Brontë girls and how events in the lives of the other sisters seem to have ended up in Charlotte’s best-selling work, Jane Eyre.

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  • As some of my posts this year indicated, I re-read some books that I haven’t looked at in years. Re-reading books is always enjoyable, because it’s like visiting with old friends. I read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which is one of my all-time favourites, and I think I will try to tackle The Moonstone this year, which I haven’t cracked open in close to 20 years.
  • I renewed my acquaintance with Agatha Christie. I read lots of her books in high school, but hadn’t picked one up in years! So after following @agathachristie on Twitter and reading about The Bibulous Bibliobiuli‘s challenge to read all of Christie’s works last year, I thought I would re-visit those classics, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I try to pay equal attention to M. Poirot and Miss Marple.

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Who knows what this new year will hold? If I could make a wish, it would be for the space to build some shelves that can hold all the books in my home. Aside from that, I can’t wait to read more M. L. Longworth books, find out what happens in the newest Birder Murder installation (being released in May), and meet more new books, as well as re-visit some old familiar ones. Oh, and let’s not forget the next illustrated Harry Potter book, due out in October!

On that note, I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year! All the very best in 2017 – may your tea always be hot and your bookshelves always full.  🙂

Classics Re-visited

Earlier this year I mentioned that I planned to re-read some of the classics I’ve read years ago, and I did! I read The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and The Hobbit. I’m hoping to add The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier to my list by the end of this year.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
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This is one of my favourite books. I first read it in high school, and it has remained a favourite for all these years. I even named my cat Percy after the hero 🙂 It takes place at the time of the French Revolution, during Robespierre’s reign of terror. In a gripping tale of suspense, espionage, mistaken identity and love, we meet the daring British men who smuggle French aristocrats out of their homeland to safety, at great risk to their own lives.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
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This is also a favourite of mine, if only because it was so surprising. Written in 1859, the story is incredibly creepy and chilling, and when I first read it (also years ago), I had no idea that semi-early Victorian writers could produce works that would keep modern readers glued to the page. Collins is often cited as the creator of the detective novel, by whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It begins by drawing us in right away, and continues as we meet the man whom our heroine is engaged to marry, and who is not at all what he appears to be. There is greed, more mistaken identity, murderous cunning and a brilliant plot that brings a very satisfying conclusion.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
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Many people are familiar with The Lord of the Rings and middle earth. My father read this book to me when I was about 10, and the only thing I could remember of it was the description of Gollum. I realized it was high time I re-visited this classic and read it over the summer. It was fun to watch the movies afterwards (I always enjoy comparing books to their movie versions), and I’m glad I read this book again. What an epic tale! And while I rarely delve into the fantasy genre, it was highly entertaining to read of the dwarves’ quest for their stolen treasure, and to meet all the different creatures they encounter on their journey.

If you’re looking for something to read and have not enjoyed these classic tales before, or if you have read them but it’s been a while, I recommend all three and hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

You gotta read this!

Hi everyone! I am so sorry I have been such an infrequent blogger this year. Interesting, original blog posts have been hard to come up with, and life has been so busy that I haven’t had many opportunities to read. But I hope I will be able to create more posts as we move into the second half of 2016.

This year, my goals is to re-read some of my favourite books, as well as to read some of the classics that I still haven’t read yet. Future posts will bring you up to date on my progress in those areas, but this post is about some new, interesting, and entertaining books I’ve read lately that I highly recommend.

  • The Case of the Secretive Sister by Nilanjan P. Choudhury

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I first heard of this absolutely delightful book from another blogger, The Bibulous Bibliobiuli. His review here is definitely worth reading to get more of a sense of this witty, engaging read. It’s published in India, and I have not read much contemporary Indian fiction, but this was a quick read that was fun from cover to cover. Perfect summer reading, or just to get away from everything for a while, I know you’ll be glad you read it.

  • Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

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This is the second book I’ve read by Amy Stewart, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both. Girl Waits With Gun takes place in pre-WWI America, and is based on true events. The author brings the past vividly to life in this story about a thug and his gang of hoodlums who hit a horse-drawn buggy while they are driving in their car. The three Kopp sisters were in the buggy at the time of the accident, and the story unfolds as they try to get the driver to pay up for the damages. A very satisfying story with a dose of history as well!

  • The Great Pearl Heist by Molly Caldwell Crosby

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The Great Pearl Heist falls into the true crime category. It’s a well-researched tale of the amazing theft of the world’s most expensive necklace. It happened in London in 1913, and as well as full details on the theft itself, we also learn a lot about policing and the art of detection at that time. For a synopsis, click here – but I have to warn you, if you don’t already, you will want to read the book after you learn more about it!

Beautiful, delicious, French mysteries

Thanks to a very positive review by Dolce Bellezza, I discovered a wonderful series that fits perfectly into my ‘quirky and unusual fiction’ category for book recommendations. The author is M. L. Longworth, and the books take place in the south of France. One of the protagonists loves good food and wine, so along with vivid descriptions of one of the world’s most beautiful areas, we are treated to delicious menus and vintages as well.
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The first book in the series is Death at the Château Bremont and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read from cover to cover. Cafés in Aix-en-Provence, two murders, a chateau in the country, a vineyard, and a trip to Cannes give the reader a literary vacation and a refreshing break from everyday life. I can’t wait to read the next ones!

A Delightful Read for the Holidays

I hope you all had a wonderful day yesterday, whether it was relaxing at home after stressful holiday build-up, or whether it was a full day with family and friends. And of course, I hope your Christmas was full of new books!

Do your holidays have time for reading? If so, I would like to suggest that you check out Attachments by Rainbow Rowell if you haven’t already.
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This was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in quite a while. The story is adorable and well-told. It’s a romantic tale about an IT guy who falls in love with the girl whose flagged emails he has to read. The dialog is really witty and there are some references to grammar, due to the cast of characters working at a newspaper. So if you are a grammar nerd this will appeal to you on that level as well. For anyone looking for something to read that is light and heart-warming, this book is for you!

Christmas Books at Christmas time

Do you have books on your wish list? I sure do, and some of them are Christmas-themed, so I thought I would share them with you on this very special day, Christmas Eve.

First, Dear Santa published by Chronicle Books. ‘Children’s Christmas Letters and Wish Lists, 1870-1920’ how cool does that sound? Amazon’s link to the book shows a couple of sample pages with letters from 1896 and 1907, and they are adorable. It looks like the perfect addition to any Christmas enthusiast’s book collection:
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Next, A Christmas Carol: A Pop-Up Book by Chuck Fischer. Reviewers rave about the amazing detail and intricacies of the pop-ups, and frankly, I am desperately hoping to add this to my collection soon! It looks absolutely beautiful and also deserves a place in the Christmas Book aficionado’s library:
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*both images from the same link

Another version of Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol that I have on my wish list is the one illustrated by P.J. Lynch. The illustrations are lovely, and really bring the story to life. This book is could easily become a family heirloom.
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I wish all of you a happy, blessed Christmas! And may you read all the books you hope to in the New Year 😉

Murder in Japan

I can’t believe that 1) it’s September. What?? I know. It snuck up on me too; and 2) that I haven’t suggested any unusual, quirky reads since July 13. Fortunately, I have just finished reading a new book that fits nicely into that category, and thank goodness there are two more (so far) in the series! So, without further ado, let me introduce you to The Shinobi Mysteries, by Susan Spann:

The Claws of the Cat

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As you know, I don’t do book reviews (there are plenty of other sites out there that do that), but here’s a quick synopsis: It’s 16th-century Japan, and a violent murder must be solved within two days, or innocent people will die. A samurai and Portuguese priest team up to solve the crime, with lots of insight into samurai culture and historic Japan. I highly recommend it. And guess what? There are two more books that follow!

Blade of the Samurai and Flask of the Drunken Master:

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and can’t wait to start the second one. I know you’ll like them too!

365 days

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What a year! Today marks the end of the first full year of this blog. I have delighted in making posts and learning about blogging, and I hope you have enjoyed my posts too. Thank you to every single follower and supporter! I love getting your comments and feedback, and look forward to interacting with you more and more over the next year.

If you would ever like to see a post about something, please don’t hold back! Send me a comment with your idea or suggestion, and I will do some investigating, and put your topic in a post.

Here’s to another year of fun and discovery!

Heart-Warming Murder Mysteries?

Scrolling idly through my Twitter feed, I came across a post from Random House Canada announcing another Isabel Dalhousie mystery being released on July 21. Well! Who is Isabel Dalhousie, and should I know about her mysteries? A quick Google search confirmed that YES, I should know about her. Why? Because she is an amateur detective in Edinburgh. That was all it took (along with quite a few very positive reviews online) for me to add Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club books to my To Read list. And then I realized that his Isabel Dalhousie books join Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries, The Cat Who mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun, and the Birder Murder Mysteries by Steve Burrows in my list of books that I would like to read. There’s a theme here, I thought, and decided to share these series with my readers in keeping with my quirky, unusual reading suggestions.

The first series I really embraced as an adult was Elizabeth Peters‘ Amelia Peabody mysteries.
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These books combine everything I’m interested in: Victorian England, Egyptian archaeology and murder mysteries. Who could ask for more? Even though the first book in the series was published in 1975, they are still for sale on Amazon.com and I highly recommend them for light, enjoyable reading with some ancient history as an added bonus.

I have to admit, the Birder Murders by Steve Burrows look delightful, but I have not yet read them! I just purchased A Siege of Bitterns the day before yesterday, and am wrapping up the book I’m currently reading before I start it.
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Again, the books feature an English detective, and with the addition of birding! As someone who delights in nature and loves birds, I can’t wait to read these books, as they also have great reviews.

The Cat Who mysteries do not have an English detective in them, but they do take place in a very quirky fictional town and the protagonist has two wonderful cats who help him solve each book’s mystery.
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These heart-warming books are wonderful for light reading that brings a smile and keeps you turning the pages. For more info on The Cat Who books, check out one of my prior posts: https://bookideas.net/2015/03/12/the-cat-who-warms-your-heart/

Alan Bradley’s youthful amateur detective Flavia de Luce is adorable and precocious, and basically defines the word quirky. Set in 1950s England with a cast of lovable characters, Falvia always finds the culprits with her usual panache.
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One thing I especially enjoy about this series is that Flavia and her family don’t age – or they do very slowly. In the first six books she is eleven years old, and I find that when authors let their characters grow older, they have to discard scenarios or surroundings and events that occurred in the earlier volumes. And if those were the scenarios, surroundings and events that readers enjoyed, then it’s difficult to keep up the level of appeal. All that aside, though, I truly enjoy these books and hope you will pick one up if you haven’t already!

My newest find is Alexander McCall Smith’s amateur Scottish detective, Isabel Dalhousie. However, once I started looking into Ms. Dalhousie, I also stumbled upon the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which sounds like another gem, and yet another series I need to explore!
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Although the settings are Edinburgh (certainly close enough to my fondness for English settings) and Botswana (not very English, but tea is mentioned in the teaser!), the protagonists sound endearing and lovable and I expect to enjoy these treasures over many cups of tea to come.