Thursday, December 14, 2017

Back to the Classics Challenge - 2018

I haven't participated in a challenge for ages but, for some reason, Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge called out to me right now. I have many unread classics on my TBR and I would love to get through a few of them next year!

Here are books I might read in each of the 12 categories:

1. A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.
Our Mutual Friend (Charles Dickens, 1865)

2. A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968.
One of Ours (Willa Cather, 1922)

3. A classic by a woman author.
The Linwoods (Catharine Maria Sedgwick, 1835)

4. A classic in translation. Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language.
The Ladies' Paradise (Émile Zola, 1883, French)

5. A children's classic.
Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson, 1883)

6. A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction.
The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katherine Green, 1878)

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. The journey itself must be the major plot point -- not just the destination.
Three Men on the Bummel (Jerome K. Jerome, 1900)

8. A classic with a single-word title.
Emma (Jane Austen, 1816)

9. A classic with a color in the title.
The Red House Mystery (A.A. Milne, 1922)

10. A classic by an author that's new to you.
Lud-in-the-Mist (Hope Mirrlees, 1926)

11. A classic that scares you.
To the Lighthouse (Virginia Wolfe, 1927)

12. Re-read a favorite classic.
David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1846)

Well, I've ended up with two Dickens on here but that may change. Otherwise, I'm excited by this list. Half of the authors are women and that's great! I'm going to pull these books and put them together on my TBR and try to get to them earlier in the year. I was already planning on Our Mutual Friend and The Linwoods in January so I'm hopeful that I will make good progress.

Reading the past,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Moving Forward with Tremontaine

You might remember that, back in June, I sang the praises of Ellen Kushner and Company's Tremontaine, a serialized story published by SerialBox. I read the omnibus version of the first season and fell in love with the swordfighters, the scholars, and the lovers. I wanted to continue with the story but I assumed that the seasons were just in audio form and on the web and I didn't know if I had enough listening/computer time to make much progress in the series. I also thought that you had to keep up with their schedule and I was already hopelessly behind. Luckily, SerialBox reached out and got me onto their app and I discovered that each episode is actually in audio AND print form and is available forever. There are even extras included, like posts from each author as the episode they penned airs -- and they are all archived. Now I've started listening to Season 2 (or reading when I forget my earbuds or only have a moment or two to fit in a scene) and I'm not feeling at all rushed, even though the story has already moved on to Season 3, episode 8. I can buy episodes ($1.59 each -- what a deal!) or whole seasons at any time and just download them when I'm ready. However, I still can't decide whether to binge or take my time and savor each episode, like I would with the choicest Kinwiinik chocolate.

And if I do happen to finally catch up, Serial Box has seven other stories going right now in all different genres. More than one of them has already caught my eye!

With a cup of heaven (or maybe a tomato pie),

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

New Release: Ghosts of Greenglass House

Lately, my new release posts tend to be for review copies because obligation is the only way that I actually get around to reading a book somewhat close to the release date. BUT ... Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford was one that I *had* to buy in hardcover and I could only keep it on my shelf unread for about three weeks -- and, of course, I also had to reread Greenglass House first. It made for the best Thanksgiving break ever!

This story starts exactly a year after the first one ends, on the first day of winter vacation at the inn. Only, this year, there's no snow--only disappointing frost--and also a guest who keeps extending his stay. So, once again, Milo has to cope with a non-standard break that only gets crazier as the days pass. Filled with Nagspeakian history and lore, indoor adventures, and, yes, ghosts, this was another amazing read.

I love Kate Milford's books for so many reasons but I realized a new one this time. She normalizes late risers! Milo and his parents keep late hours because they need to take care of inn guests so they stay up past midnight and then get up at 9 or 10 in the morning and IT'S OKAY. These are people who keep different hours and they aren't lazy or missing out or anything else. They have activities, conversations, and adventures late into the night instead. Thank you, Kate! There were also great discussions about respecting boundaries, more about adoption, and even some lessons on lock-picking. I loved it all.

Finding family in random places,

Monday, November 20, 2017

Holiday Giving on My Mind

As I sit here browsing websites for gifts for my friends and family, there are a couple of standouts that I want to share with you.

1. Art of ... Books
Not everyone is into books and that's okay. Luckily, some of those people are into film.

With the lovely Disney-Pixar film Coco coming out later this week (we'll be seeing it in 3D on Weds), it is a great time to celebrate Day of the Dead with the first animated film to take us into the world of the dead -- Art of The Book of Life by director Jorge R. Gutierrez. This is one of Z and my most favorite films with beautiful music, a gorgeous style, and a heart-warming story. And the art style is so unique that you can totally get lost in this book while you're trying to wrap it for someone else.

Chronicle Books has just released The Art of Aardman, featuring sketches, early models, and movie scenes from all of their stop-motion hits. It will not only remind you of all of your favorite Wallace and Gromit moments but will let you finally see all of the little jokey props that you missed in the rich environment of The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists! even though you have seen the film dozens and dozens of times (oh, is that just us?). It would be perfect for a youngster who is thinking about a career in animation and wants to see the process from the bottom up.

And there are so, so many of these "art of film" books. (Chronicle even has one for Coco!)

2. Collectors' Editions

Sure, pretty much everyone who wants to read Harry Potter has already, but do they have their own house-colored edition of Philosopher's Stone? There are also paperback editions in solid house colors but I think these hardcovers with the tie patterns are the best. If you are in the U.S., you can get them from The Book Depository. I already gave my niece a Ravenclaw edition for her 11th birthday this summer and she almost died when she realized it came from the U.K. and was the British text!

Also, lots of books have beautiful new editions out -- like the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and the Neverwhere Illustrated Edition. I'm asking for more clothbound Penguins to fill out my collection!

3. Bookish Swag

I know everyone has their own places that they like to go for swag, from your local indie bookshop to the neighborhood Barnes & Noble but I just wanted to remind everyone that you can support small businesses by heading to Etsy. There you'll find goodies like magnetic bookmarks from Wrecking Ball Design (also, you may recognize the owner when you click over there)! Just search for any author, title, or item and you'll be sure to find lots of surprises and treats.

Is there anything you want to add to the list? Something you are asking for or are gifting this year?

Spendin' cheese,

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"New" Release: Murder for Christmas

Originally published in 1949, Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan was found in the archives at Vintage Books a few years back and not much was known about the author. Eventually, they discovered that it was the pen name for one William Underhill, a lecturer in economics and history. Sourcebooks is now publishing this book just in time for intrepid readers to unwrap a little murder with their holiday festivities.

The simple set-up is a traditional holiday party at the country house of wealthy bachelor Benedict Grame. He likes to play Santa and his guests range from best friend, Jeremy Rainer, and Jeremy's ward, Denys Arden, to various hangers-on and, not last or least, new acquaintance Mordecai Tremaine, amateur detective. Grame's secretary, Nicholas Blaise, sends Tremaine a note with his invitation saying that he thinks something is wrong with Grame and Tremaine can't resist a visit to Sherbroome House for Christmas. When a murder indeed occurs on Christmas Eve, Mordecai is the only one who can piece together the clues.

I know that this sounds like a pretty standard country house murder mystery but there is one big difference that I LOVED -- everyone is suspicious of Tremaine and close-lipped! They know he's an amateur detective, known publicly for solving a murder in Sussex the summer before. And many of them have something to hide and therefore do not want Tremaine snooping around and sussing things out. This is so different from many other amateur detectives who manage to collect tons of information from every spectator and suspect. It was refreshing to have Tremaine get the cold shoulder, to be lied to, and to be deliberately avoided. The mystery was also satisfying and I hope that more of Francis Duncan's books get reprinted in the US! (It looks like Vintage has started reprinting them in the UK.)

Sprinkling extra tinsel,

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


How is it the end of October already?! Luckily I got my fill of RIP reads over the past two months with 25 perilous reads, 17 of them rereads. Yay!

I loved my massive Agatha Christie binge. I had great fun with audiobooks from Carlos Ruiz Zafón and John Connolly. And I finished the event with a collection of ghost stories--Ghostly--collected by Audrey Niffenegger. With just two duds (I guess I am not really a fan of some modern ghost stories), this was a great collection.

So, I would stop the RIP reads now except that my hold on the audiobook of The Screaming Staircase just came in so I'm gonna need a few more days on this challenge ... ::wink::

What was your favorite read this season (perilous or not)?

Reminder: Witch Week is starting over at Emerald City Book Review today ...

Until we meet again ... in a dark alley, under a full moon,

Saturday, October 28, 2017

#RIPXII 18: New Release: Race to the Bottom of the Sea

Even though Z is starting to transition out of middle grade books, I still love reading them -- especially when I come across a new gem like Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar (released earlier this month by Candlewick Press). The story starts peacefully with eleven-year-old Fidelia Quail out on a boat on the last day of the season, looking to tag sharks, while her parents are down below in a submersible that she designed and built herself. However, it quickly turns dark when a big storm blows in and her parents don't make it back to shore. Fidelia barely has time to grieve before she is kidnapped by pirates because of her ocean expertise and inventing skills and is forced to help them in their search for lost treasure.

So ... wow. I was honestly shocked by how dark and bleak this book got. One specific story line had an inevitable tragic ending with no hope of change offered at all. There was another whose best possible outcome was still incredibly heartbreaking. And this story did not have jovial, cartoony pirates. They were weather-beaten and disciplined and, quite frankly, usually heartless and self-serving. I was surprised by all of this but also impressed that Eagar didn't water the tale down (bad ocean pun). But all of the dark stuff also helped Fidelia's bravery and intelligence shine brighter. She also made me regret not being an active marine scientist. Damn that mal de mer.

Sticking to the shore,

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#RIPXII 3-17: Agatha's Poisons

After my latest reading project, I just might be able to poison someone and get away with it. I started by picking up Kathryn Harkup's A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. I soon noticed that each of the fourteen chapters was based on a specific Christie book or short story collection and, because I wanted comfort reads this season, this project quickly formed in my head -- read or reread a classic mystery before each chapter of non-fiction. It turned out to be a wonderful idea. I loved reading the novel or stories and then delving into why the poison of choice was used and if Christie made any errors, the science of what it is and how it kills, how/if it would have been detected at the time, and some real life poisoning cases/influences. I loved the science, the history, and, yes, the Poirot (and Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Ariadne Oliver, and even Mr. Satterthwaite). I was shocked as I reached book ten or eleven and found that I wasn't at all tired of Dame Agatha's stories. Each one was unique, with a wide variety of settings, characters, and even points of view.

These are the books I read, ranging in publication date from 1921 to 1961:

Murder is Easy
The Labours of Hercules
Sparkling Cyanide
Appointment with Death
Crooked House
Five Little Pigs
4:50 from Paddington
Three Act Tragedy
Sad Cypress
Dumb Witness
Partners in Crime
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Pale Horse
Lord Edgware Dies

I want to point out too that Harkup's book has the most amazing appendix -- a list of every Agatha Christie story and how all of the people die in them! I still have a few Agatha books that I haven't read (I own 66 of her books, not counting her autobiography and her travelogues) but when I'm done, I'll really dive into that appendix.

The only person that wasn't exactly happy with this project was my husband. Apparently, having your wife learn the ins and outs of 14 deadly poisons and then recount all of the gruesome details in bed each night for weeks isn't fun. All I know is that I've already made the mistake of saying too much.

Formulating an alibi,