Read of the Week – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1)

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“It is not unknown for fathers with a brace of daughters to reel off their names in order of birth when summoning the youngest, and I had long ago become accustomed to being called ‘Ophelia Daphne Flavia, damn it.”
Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

“A peculiar feeling passed over me–or, rather, through me, as if I were an umbrella remembering what it felt like to pop open in the rain.”
Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie


It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Goodreads


I was pleasantly surprised by The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first in a series depicting the adventures of Flavia de Luce.  I normally don’t enjoy mysteries set in the past, but Flavia quickly won me over with her sharp wit, swift thinking, and quirky view of the world. The abundance of descriptive images was, at first, overwhelming, but, as I became used to Flavia’s way of relating to the world, I found myself thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Bradley’s writing style.

I actually listened to this book on CD, a definite plus to my enjoyment. The reader’s voice fit Flavia perfectly, making it easy for me to relate to her depths (or lack thereof).  Unlike the ‘adultness’ of some children detectives, Flavia, nerdy scientist that she is, also exhibits moments of childish fears and glee as she methodically winds her way through the dark alleys and dead ends of the mystery.

A definite must-read if you enjoy twist, turns and razor-wit in your mysteries. I’m looking forward to another fun ride with Miss Flavia in book 2, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.


“Seed biscuits and milk! I hated Mrs. Mullet’s seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin. Perhaps even more so. I wanted to clamber up onto the table, and with a sausage on the end of a fork as my scepter, shout in my best Laurence Olivier voice, ‘Will no one rid us of this turbulent pastry cook?”
Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

“I found a dead body in the cucumber patch,’ I told them.

‘How very like you,’ Ophelia said, and went on preening her eyebrows.”
Alan Bradley, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

 

Read of the Week 2-1-2016

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“We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

“For their entire lives, even before they met you, your mother and father held their love for you inside their hearts like an acorn holds an oak tree.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

 

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

-Goodreads

 

As you probably know if you’ve been following my Reads of the Week, I only talk about books I like. It boils down to, I supposed, the old adage, ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.’ There has to be something in the book that I love in order for me to spend the time writing about it.

That said, now for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. This is one of those books that will stay with me forever. The story is magical, the writing lyrical and smooth, nary a false step to kick me out of my suspension of disbelief.  The varied stories mesh seamlessly into a whole. I sympathized with the characters, caring enough to marvel at their victories, however small, and cry for their eventual failures. The novel exposes the utter cruelties men inflict upon each other, but also the redeeming light of faith, hope and the ultimate good in the world which is, in the end, the salvation of mankind.

Well worth the read and a story to touch the heart inside us all. I would recommend this book to anybody who believes that good, eventually, overcomes evil, however small the victory might be. The world is saved one step at the time and this book moves us forward by bounds.

 

“I’ve always though Marx’s view on religion was the one thing he got right. Faith is a crutch.” ”

If you step on a land mine,’ Akhmed said, “the crutch becomes the leg.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

“Work isn’t meaningful just because you spend your life doing it.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena    

 

 

 

Read For The Week 1-15-2016

 

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“Bravery is not the absence of fear but the forging ahead despite being afraid”
Robert Liparulo, House of Dark Shadows

When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into–as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there’s something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places–in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen’s dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.

-Goodreads summary


A thoroughly enjoyable book, good enough to read the next in the series but not good enough to keep on my shelf (thought I keep very few books on my shelf after they are read). This is, after all, a Young Adult book probably more suited to the 10 – 13 age group. The story is told by both brothers, David and Xander.  It is well written but, compared to a book like The Raven Boys, it is more simplistic than many of the Young Adult/Teen books I have read. Perhaps I didn’t enjoy it more because I had already read a book built around the concept of a house with doors going into different world and times. I also found the basic plot of the book – to find their Mother after she had been kidnapped – thin at times.

All in all, a fun read but if  you want a more engaging book, I’d suggest something like The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater or even the Morpheus Road Trilogy by D.J. McHale.


“Live to fight another day was an expression that did not take into account the loved one who would die because you didn’t continue fighting today.”
Robert Liparulo, House of Dark Shadows

Read Of The Week – Navajos Wear Nikes- A Reservation Life by Jim Kristofic

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“What I’m saying, Mr. Kristofic, is that I learned that it’s not about being black, white, yellow, or red. It’s not about race. It’s about the human race. And too many of the human race act like a bunch of freakin’ morons who will always find some other group of people with a different skin color to blame for their so-called problems.”

Jim Kristofic, Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life

Just before starting second grade, Jim Kristofic moved from Pittsburgh across the country to Ganado, Arizona, when his mother took a job at a hospital on the Navajo Reservation. “Navajos Wear Nikes” reveals the complexity of modern life on the Navajo Reservation, a world where Anglo and Navajo coexisted in a tenuous truce. After the births of his Navajo half-siblings, Jim and his family moved off the Reservation to an Arizona border town where they struggled to -re-adapt to an Anglo world that no longer felt like home. 
With tales of gangs and skinwalkers, an Indian Boy Scout troop, a fanatical Sunday school teacher, and the author’s own experience of sincere friendships that lead to ‘hozho’ (beautiful harmony), Kristofic’s memoir is an honest portrait of growing up on–and growing to love–the Reservation.

-Goodreads summary


Jim Kristofic’s memoir is about more than a bilagáana (white) boy coming to live on an Indian reservations. It is about discovery and learning to be what he calls a ‘Tough Noodle.’ He writes in an informal tone, more like he is physically telling the story rather than recording words to be read later. His writing is open and honest, both the good and the bad, recalling the reality of growing up on the Navajo reservation. This is a story about what home and family really mean.

I thoroughly enjoyed his story and his method of writing. I felt both sorry for him at the appropriate times and joyous at others; extremely satisfied at the ending. He is the kind of person I would invite into my house for coffee, cake and storytelling.


 

Book of the Week – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps”
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.


I absolutely love this book.  Let’s put it this way, it’s rare that a thriller/mystery keeps me guessing like Girl on The Train.  Every time I thought I’d figured out who and what and how, Ms Hawkins turned the tables on me and I’d have to re-think.  The story is gritty and well-written, with real life characters that keep the reader guessing.

Five stars!


“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”

Read For The Week 11-10-2015

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“The only fights you truly win are the ones you don’t have.” ― Lee Child, Make Me

“Why is this town called Mother’s Rest?” That’s all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It’s a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal. Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there’s something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he’s plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother’s Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine.

Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher’s rule is: If you want me to stop, you’re going to have to make me.


Like all the books in the Jack Reacher series, Make Me takes the reader on a roller coaster ride from cover to cover as Reacher once again finds himself drawn into trouble not of his own making. And, as always, he takes his brand of trouble right back to the troublemakers. I enjoyed Make Me. The characters are well fleshed in reality, the plot satisfying with enough twists and turns even I was surprised at what was actually going on. I did not see the ending coming, not only in regards to the plot but also an unusual change in Reacher himself. I honestly don’t know if I misread something, but I will be reading the next book to find out.

A fast, fun, read for anybody who like lone heroes taking on the world.

 

 

 

Read of the Week – Morpheus Road – The Light by D.J. McHale

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“I stood on the street, staring up at the most normal-looking house in the world. My house. I’d lived there my entire life. It was home. It was safe.
It was haunted.
The only other explanation was that I was demented. I couldn’t say which I was rooting for.”
D.J. MacHale, The Light

Marshall Seaver is being haunted. It begins with mysterious sounds, a fleeting face outside a window, a rogue breeze – all things that can be explained away. That is, until he comes face-to-face with a character who only exists on the pages of a sketchbook – a character Marshall himself created.

Marshall has no idea why he is being tormented by this forbidding creature, but he is quickly convinced it has something to do with his best friend, Cooper, who has gone missing. Together with Cooper’s beautiful but aloof sister, Sydney, Marshall searches for the truth about his friend while ultimately uncovering a nightmare that is bigger and more frightening than he could ever have imagined.


From the author of the Pendragon books, D.J. McHale brings us another series fraught with scary ghosts, suspense, humor and likable characters with whom readers can easily relate.  The plot had enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as it moves ahead at a swift clip. The narrator is Marshall and, while he comes off as a nerdy wimp in the beginning, he gradually starts to change as events build around him. The author portrays Marshall’s confusion and fears realistically, keeping the reader engaged in the story and eager to find out what happens next.

I enjoyed this book.  It is well-written; even with all the ‘paranormal’ events going on, I never lost track of the who and where and what of the story.  While this is a Young Adult novel, I would recommend it for anybody looking for a suspenseful (yet not terrifying) read.