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,

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Release: A Far, Far Better Thing to Do + GIVEAWAY

Okay, fam ... be honest with me ... the world has got you down, right? You're constantly looking for distractions but you can't always find the energy to focus on an actual book? Luckily for us, the brilliant folks at Running Press have just put out A Far, Far Better Thing to Do: A Lit Lover's Activity Book by Joelle Herr, illustrated by Lindsey Spinks. This little book is perfect for all of the times when you just want to put down your phone and pick up a pencil.

Instead of scrolling, you can put your own flair onto the portrait of Dorian Gray,

Go on a short quest to capture the white whale,

Or play a little game of Marry, Kill, "Do" where nobody else need see your answers.

(I really couldn't marry or "do" Poe so I guess he must die.)
There are word searches, crosswords, trivia games, coloring pages, and even writing exercises that should give any literature lover at least a few hours of time away from current events. And if you're feeling especially depleted, you can opt for a low-energy activity like a maze or a connect-the-dot picture.


The publisher has kindly offered to send copies of this activity book to a couple of you so, if you are interested, just leave a comment below and tell me which book you would feel most qualified to make crossword clues for. I'll be picking two winners in a week (Friday, Oct 13). International entries are okay and don't forget to leave an email address or twitter handle or something so that I can contact you! (And my answer is either Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or American Gods. Weird combo, I know.)

Brushing up on first lines,

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bryant and May, Completed (For Now)

It is with a heavy heart that I must reveal that ... I've caught up in my favorite current series. Bryant and May have been my companions during the dog days of summers past, the late night hours of readathons, and the stressful days of current events. But, with Bryant and May: Strange Tide, I've used up all of my comfort reads for the moment. I was saving the last couple of books for stressful times and, well, yeah ...

I won't lie. This one, the 13th in the series, was a tough read. One of the main characters isn't well, as you can guess would eventually happen with two elderly detectives past the expected ends of their careers. But these aren't just any men and the reader can't help but pull for them to stay on the job for as long as they possibly can because they are likely the only ones who can figure out why bodies keep showing up near the Thames. Full of lots of Thames lore and current London politics, I once again learned while I was entertained. Sigh. I love that the most.

Now for the good news -- Bryant and May: Wild Chamber comes out in the US on December 5 so luckily I don't have to wait too long until I have another comfort read waiting on my TBR shelf for the next rainy day (figuratively, of course, because ... Seattle).

Following the Thames,

Friday, September 29, 2017

#RIPXII September Update

I thought I would do a little update for the midpoint of the RIP challenge since I'm in the middle of a big reading project and it will take a couple more weeks to wrap up and write about!

So far I've posted three reviews but I've also --

*listened to A Red Herring Without Mustard, the third Flavia de Luce story
*almost finished listening to The Watcher in the Shadows, one of the Carlos Ruiz Zafón YA horror novels
*read the first six chapters of A is for Arsenic, five Agatha Christie novels and twelve short stories

In the coming days, I'm going to keep on with the Agatha Christie/poison project, start another CRZ audiobook, and choose some amazing rereads for Readathon!

How is your RIP season going so far?

Immersed in poison(ers),