The ups and downs of 2017

Hello, and happy new year! I hope 2017 was full of literary joys and adventures for all of you, and I hope 2018 continues to delight and surprise us.

Throughout the year I read several new books that were not really ‘new,’ in that although I had not read them before, they were from series I enjoy, such as M. L. Longworth installments or Agatha Christie novels. They were not exactly new, but delightful all the same.

image1

M. L. Longworth books

image1-2

My Agatha Christie collection so far…

Others were books I found through rabbit holes that one so easily falls into when looking at Amazon suggestions and reviews. One such gem was The Relic Master. I have mentioned it in a previous blog post, and I can’t recommend it enough. A healthy dose of history, mystery, some action, and a little romance, made for an edition to my collection where I was sorry to reach its end.

IMG_2579

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley

Another unexpected surprise was Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but it far surpassed the ones I had. Murder, devious plots, mistaken identity and a little romance make this another one that was hard to put down.

IMG_2423

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

And speaking of books from the past, I re-read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It’s probably been twenty years since I first read it, and I have to say, I really liked it! I am an unabashed Wilkie Collins fan, and this confirmed my high regard of his work. At over 500  pages, it looks like it could be a bit of a slog, but it went very quickly with lots and lots of mystery and intrigue, and of course some romance as well. If you haven’t read it (or The Woman in White, my all-time favourite) I can highly recommend it.

image1-3

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I also read a few books this year that were a little underwhelming, the most notable of which was The Circle by Dave Eggers. It was actually just the end that I disliked. To avoid spoilers I won’t go into detail, but I will say that the protagonist’s final actions were thoroughly unsatisfactory, in my humble opinion. Which leads me to another story I didn’t love, and that was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I am glad I have finally read it, but it wasn’t a story that resonated with me. That’s not to say that it wasn’t well written or engrossing, both of which it was. It just wasn’t my favourite.

I could go on and on, but I try to keep my posts from rambling, so I will sign off for now. If you would like to see all the books I read in 2017 (a whopping 38), please click on the link below.

Books for 2017

A very happy and healthy new year to each and every one of you. May your year be full of love, laughter, and wonderful BOOKS!

image1-4

Looking for something different?

Hello and happy summer, everyone! I didn’t think it would be possible, but this year has been even busier than last year was. Has anyone else noticed that? Despite being run off my feet while the days become weeks and weeks dissolve into months, I have found time to enjoy a little literary peace and tranquility.

Himself  by Jess Kidd
IMG_2550
I have to admit, I was immediately drawn to this book because of the cover. As a honeybee enthusiast and admirer, I couldn’t resist picking this up at the bookstore and was pleasantly intrigued by the synopsis. There are some brief moments of graphic brutality that caused me to question my choice, but I persevered and I’m glad I did. This book was an enjoyable step out of the norm and I really liked it. As per my usual, it’s out of the ordinary and would definitely be at home in the ‘quirky’ category.

The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
IMG_2579
Oh my goodness, was this ever a fantastic book! I highly, highly recommend it. Once again, this is beyond the scope of your average mass market read; a really engaging look into Renaissance-era art and forgeries. Intrigue, murder, scandal and a touch of romance make this a wonderful escape from the everyday. If you are looking for something different, this is another book you might just love.

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
IMG_2423
This one was a real surprise. I don’t know why I always expect older books to be kind of slow, but this was amazingly gripping. I am a huge Wilkie Collins fan, and I think Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s style is similar in a lot of ways (but slightly less wordy). There was murder, tons of mystery, secrets galore, suspense almost from the very first page, and a delightfully happy ending. Again, this is one I would definitely recommend.

What are you reading this summer? If you’re looking for a break from the ordinary, I hope these books will give you a nice change, leaving you refreshed and ready for your own next chapter!

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).
IMG_1900

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.
IMG_1902

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!

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.
IMG_1784

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!

So. Many. Challenges.

Is reading a competition? With so many reading challenges out there, I feel like it’s becoming a competition, or at least a means of putting one’s self on a pedestal. But maybe that’s because I haven’t done one yet 😉 I honestly don’t have the time – or maybe I do?

Have you noticed how many reading challenges there are out there? Some of them definitely pique my interest, and I find myself tempted to participate. Like this one from Modern Mrs. Darcy: 12 Books, 12 Categories, 12 Months. Now that, I could do.
IMG_1041

Then there are the incremental challenges that I see and think, “I could do that.. I could do that one too, probably.. Nope, couldn’t do that… Do these people read for a living?!” Like this set of challenges on challies.com. The Light Reader does 13 books in a year. No problem! Easy. Definitely doable. The Avid Reader does 26 books a year. Also possible. I consider myself around (if not technically in) the Avid Reader category, so 26 books in one year should be fine. But then comes The Committed Reader, with an entire book in each week. I have to ask myself, are we reading books that are 100 pages long? Are we speed reading? I begin getting skeptical at this point. But, there is yet another category: The Obsessed Reader. This category reads 2 whole books each and every week for an entire year. Really? Is that possible? Again, the skepticism; but, maybe it can be done – after all, I’ve never tried (or kept track)! If you are looking for a reading challenge for 2016, I hope you clicked on the link because there is a wonderful chart for keeping tack of your books for each level (Light, Avid, Committed and Obsessed) on Challies.com.

When looking for some fun reading challenges for this post, I came across You, Me, and a Cup of Tea which has a wonderful assortment of themed reading challenges and links to the websites/blogs that host them. Like the audiobook challenge by HotListens.com and the Back to the Classics challenge by Books and Chocolate, and even the Hard Core Re-Reading challenge hosted by You, Me, and a Cup of Tea! So if you’re looking for a challenge to guide your reading this year, please check these out. And happy reading! Maybe next year I will be posting about a challenge I completed…

 

 

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.
IMG_1751
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!

Broke & Bookish Secret Santa

Happy November, everyone! I have to apologize for not posting in over a month. Truth be told, I’ve been uninspired lately. BUT, I just found The Broke and the Bookish‘s Secret Santa and I’m so excited that I wanted to share it with you. There’s not much time left, though, so sign up now if you’re interested!

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 2.21.13 PM
http://www.brokeandbookish.com/2015/10/6th-annual-broke-bookish-secret-santa.html

This is such a great idea! Send in your address and a list of books you’ve got on your TBR list (you can even send a link to your wish list), along with some other details, and you’re in. I just signed up and I’m really looking forward to it. Enjoy, good luck, and Merry Christmas!

Creepy Classics

As someone whose reading preferences lean towards the light-hearted and uplifting, it’s rare that I read something dark. But over the years, I have read those wonderfully creepy tales by Poe, and I’ll never forgot how downright shocked I was when I read Dracula, having expected something far more demure and reserved from a Victorian novel. I added The Picture of Dorian Gray to my reading list a few years back, so I have ventured down the path of creepy reading, but it’s not somewhere I go very often.

To those who haven’t read Dracula, you need to read it. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t read Edgar Allan Poe? Probably not, so I won’t recommend those (but just in case you haven’t – they’re short, so you don’t have to invest a lot of time, but they are thoroughly frightening and just right for this time of year). My suggestions for this post aren’t very quirky or unusual (being classics..), but they do fit nicely into the October/Hallowe’en theme. I still haven’t read Frankenstein or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I really should get around to those one day, because those would also fit this reading category, from what I’ve heard. Are there other creepy classics out there? Does anyone have any other recommendations? Oh, and check out my corresponding Bookstagram! (don’t forget: wmgirl01 on Instagram)
IMG_1606

Happy autumn, and happy reading!

Controversial Books

My sincere apologies for not writing much lately. Life has been far too busy and is starting to seriously impair my ability to write an engaging blog. Blogs are meant to be fun and not a source of stress, however, so I continue on and blog when I can, in the hopes that you all understand and don’t hold the infrequency of my posting against me.

Now that it’s well into September and school is in full swing, I wanted to do a post on controversial books. I’ve just begun reading The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, and I still recall the uproar it caused when it was first published in 1988.
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 3.47.20 PM

Last year I read Native Son by Richard Wright, which has been ‘challenged’ repeatedly since it was published. The challengers are right – it does have very explicit sexual scenes and violence, but it is an incredible book. I still can’t believe it was written in 1940, with a searing social commentary on race relations in the United States that is still relevant today.
Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 4.08.00 PM

I’m looking forward to the epic read that Satanic Verses promises to be, and I wonder what controversial books all of you have read. Did you enjoy it (or them)? Did you wish you hadn’t read it, or agree with those who challenged it – that it should not have been published? Or did you like it so much you wish it were required reading for everyone?

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

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 6.55.48 PM
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:

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 7.06.42 PM   Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 7.44.51 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and can’t wait to start the second one. I know you’ll like them too!