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!

I Never Would’ve Read That!

Over the years, friends and family have broadened my reading horizons considerably. Gifts and reading recommendations have influenced me to read things that I never would have read on my own. Some examples of recommendations are: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, Headhunters by Jo Nesbø, and Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Each of these are books that did not catch my eye in the bookstore or library, but came with such persuasive insistence that I would enjoy them, that I felt I should at least give them the 50-page trial. And while each of them are totally different genres, they were all page-turners that I thoroughly enjoyed (and now recommend to others).
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My parents gave me the adorable, heart-warming story of Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron for my birthday and I was unfamiliar with this amazing true story. I would never have picked it up if I’d seen it on the shelf at a bookstore, but after I unwrapped it and read about the poor kitten who was left for dead in the library’s book return and lived to brighten countless lives, I couldn’t resist it!

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King was a birthday present some years ago now, and as with Dewey, I was a little surprised when I unwrapped it. But, I had such a high regard for the friend who gave it to me, that when they told me that they had not only enjoyed it, but thought of me when reading it, I gave it a go. And I did love it! They were right – Ross King brings the history of the Sistine Chapel ceiling to life in an unforgettable, intriguing way.

Yet another birthday brought me Secret Sanction, the first in a series by Brian Haig, and I thought, “Hm..” when I opened it. Military suspense/thrillers are okay, but once again, not something I look for. I enjoyed it so much that I bought all the others in the series. Haig’s dry wit actually had me chuckling out loud throughout the books while I also enjoyed the action and suspense.
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In fact, the bookmark pictured here in Dewey, and that fun mug are gifts too. 🙂 Have you received gifts or recommendations that prompted you to read something you would otherwise not have considered? It’s always such a nice surprise to have your horizons broadened enjoyably!

Terror and Treachery

Recently, I read two non-fiction books that I heard about from friends. The first, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan, was a page-turner. A vibrant, healthy, twenty-something woman suddenly becomes psychotic, and then, even worse, she loses her ability to speak properly and even to move. What makes this book so frightening is that what happened to the author could, in theory, happen to anyone. Susannah developed an autoimmune disease and was the 217th person in the world to ever be diagnosed with it. That was in 2009. The figure has quickly grown and continues to, as people become more aware of it.
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The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding is an interesting tale about a young NSA employee who got disgusted with the carte-blanche information gathering that was going on unimpeded. He risked it all to expose the NSA’s shocking invasion of the world’s privacy.
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Bringing Calm to Your Hectic Life

I remember seeing adult coloring books and posters when I was a kid, but they are something I haven’t thought of for years. The other day, I stumbled upon Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford and I thought to myself how much fun it would be just get some fresh coloured pencils or markers, and sit with that book for an hour or two and let all my cares slip away. With that in mind, I would like to recommend some adult coloring books that are sure to bring some calm to your hectic schedule:

1. Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book and Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford
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2. Color Me Calm by Lacy Mucklow (author) and Angela Porter (illustrator)
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3. Flower Designs Coloring Book (Volume 1) by Jenean Morrison
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Hobbies and Honeybees 🐝

A couple of years ago, I became interested in the plight of the honeybee. I read many books about bees and beekeeping, and now I’m just biding my time until I can have a hive or two of my own. This post is a salute to honeybees and a call for comments and books about hobbies of your own.

The first book I read about bees was A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply by Michael Schacker. If you are at all interested in the debates about whether neonicotinoids are behind bee deaths, I strongly recommend this book. The author explores some extremely compelling research and reveals the distressing fact that at the time, the makers of the pesticides were the ones funding the bee-death research.
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The next book I read was A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell. This book was a delight from start to finish, and paints an idyllic picture of working with bees. Written in 1988, many of the pests and problems associated with beekeeping today were not an issue, so it is a beautiful glimpse into a discipline that will never be that way again.
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Another look at bees and their wondrous honey came from C. Marina Marchese in Honeybee: From Hive to Home, Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. I enjoyed reading about the author’s transformation from a passive bystander to active honey enthusiast and beekeeper. 
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If this post has inspired the latent apiculturist in you, here’s a book in the Homemade Living series that has lots of useful information on beekeeping: Keeping Bees by Ashley English.
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The following titles may be of some help to those who are lucky enough to be able to set up their own colony. I confess I haven’t read these, but they’re on my list of future acquisitions!

Bees Make the Best Pets by Jack Mingo, Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad (this one is especially relevant today because of all the pests and diseases that attack bees. Any approach that reduces the amount of chemicals our insect friends are exposed to is a step in the right direction), and The Beekeeper’s Bible by Richard Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch.
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What do you enjoy doing on weekends or away from “work?” Are you a committed hobbyist? Tell us about it!

Coffee Table Books for the Christmas Season

Sometimes it doesn’t really feel like Christmas until your books are Christmas too. If your coffee table hasn’t embraced the holiday season, maybe some of these titles will help make your space a truly festive one.

The Little Book of Snowflakes by Kenneth Libretto

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This book is on the small side, measuring about six inches square. But don’t let its size fool you. Full of astounding photographs of magnified snowflakes, many people have expressed their wonder and disbelief thumbing through this one. It’s a definite conversation-starter! Click here for more info.

The Christmas Tree Book – A Collection of Fantasy Trees by Sharon Hays

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This book is beautifully done, filled with full-page photos of celebrity Christmas trees and trees from landmark places like Biltmore and Graceland. It was published in 1998, so it is now out of print, but click here for some used copies. Well worth every penny, this is a lovely book to spruce up any table. (8×10″)

A Fairy Tale Christmas by Karen Anderson. Decorations by R. A. Pesce

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Set in Lyndhurst, in New York state, each of the 15 rooms is themed after a different fairy tale and viewed through a Christmas lens. There’s an Alice in Wonderland tree, a Sleeping Beauty tree, Princess and the Pea, Peter Pan, and many more. Vibrant, full-page photographs are beautiful and captivating. Click here for more info. (8×10″)

Christopher Radko’s Heart of Christmas by Olivia Bell Buehl

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If you are at all familiar with the art of Christopher Radko’s Christmas ornaments, you will want to make sure this book is part of your collection. Excellent photography depicting spectacular trees and beautiful decorations, this book will add some holiday cheer to any room when it’s on display. Printed in 2001, it is still easy to find. (8×10)

And Lastly, even if you’re all grown up, there are always those classic children’s Christmas books that we never get too old for. One of them is unquestionably, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.

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This book makes people’s hearts smile, and I guarantee your guests will start flipping through it just to see those familiar illustrations one more time. We all know this classic: it brings to life every child’s dream of meeting Santa. For that reason, I recommend adding it to your Christmas décor. Young or old, we all love it!

More Non-Fiction Titles

The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart

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  • I know this is not the most gripping-sounding book, but I really enjoyed it. However, I have a soft spot in my heart for worms, so if you don’t, I have to admit this may not be as enjoyable as all my other recommendations. (I was being ironic about my recommendations.) But if you also stop to save worms that are drowning in puddles after it rains, this is most definitely the book for you! It’s full of facts that will change your understanding of the world around you. For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King

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  •  Amazingly, this book tells a gripping story, despite being comprised of research about 16th century politics, Michelangelo’s odd habits, and fairly detailed information about the actual painting of the Sistine ceiling. I was given this book as a gift, because speaking frankly, I would not have picked up a non-fiction book about a work of art unless there were some fantastic scandal associated with it. However, I could not put it down, and then read more by Ross King, including Bruneslleschi’s Dome. Intrigue, political scandal, and really cool facts about how the ceiling was done, this book was a really good read and is very highly recommended. For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

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  • Again, not a book that screams “action!” or “suspense!” but undeniably fascinating and horrifying. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. For real information on what organic means today and for anyone interested in sustainable foods, this book is for you. And for people who eat food from the grocery store and think you know what you’re eating: Read this book! For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

Under the Banner of Heaven: A story of violent faith by Jon Krakauer

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  • When I read this, it was the last thing I thought about before falling asleep and the first thing that entered my mind when I woke up. Fascinating is an understatement. Meticulously researched and entwined with a murder trial from the 1980s, this book was also a gripping page-turner and impossible to put down. For more reviews, check it out on Amazon.com.

Non-Fiction Titles You Might Enjoy

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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  • Okay, yes. There is a little fiction thrown in here to make the story really come alive, but it’s a true crime read that will not disappoint. I originally read this for a book club and was reluctant to read it. Wow, was I in for a shock. This is a gripping page turner that educates at the same time. Highly recommended! Check out more reviews at Amazon.com.

The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray

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  • Toronto, 1915. A bit dry at times, but a very interesting look at how Toronto (and Canada) were a century ago. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Midnight in Peking by Paul French

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  • A fascinatingly educational, gripping page-turner. Written about an event that took place in 1937, this book provides a glimpse into a bygone Peking as well as a satisfying solution to a grisly unsolved murder. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell

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  • A very convincing case, I really believe Cornwell solved this one. Thoroughly researched with lots of photos, this is highly recommended! Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine’s Nuclear Strike Attempt on the US by Kenneth Sewell

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  • This book was amazing. Very well written and thoroughly researched, you won’t believe it’s true – but it is! Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife by Irene Spencer

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  • Absolutely fascinating! The title pretty much says the rest. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.