What a treat to find a spotlight on Ghouls’ Night Out and Cape Menace this week on Sally Cronin’s blog. You can check it out, along with some great-sounding books from two accomplished authors, on Sally’s blog. Thanks again, Sally!
For the entire month of August, I’ve been thinking that the last Tuesday was actually next week. Imagine my shock when I learned it’s today. Luckily, over the past month I’ve been working on this post each time I finish a book, rather than waiting until the day before the last Tuesday and then writing the whole thing.
Anyway, August was a good month for reading! I’ve finished seven books since my last Reading Round-Up, and it’s an even more eclectic bunch than last month. Let’s get started!
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. I read this for my book club, and if it hadn’t been assigned, I might not have chosen to read it. I think World War II stories are important, but I have to read them really far apart from each other or I just find them too overwhelming.
Let me start by saying this book is very closely based on a true story, which I find absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it, but only before and after you’ve read something very light-hearted. If you’re looking for a happy book, this isn’t the one for you. It takes a lot to get me to cry while I’m reading, and this reduced me to a puddle. Read my review here.
Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin. I first heard about this book, the first in the DI Frank Farrell series, on Twitter when I started following author Jackie Baldwin. I was intrigued at first because I love books set in Scotland, but once I started reading the intrigue factor jumped into the stratosphere and I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. Are you looking for a thriller that will leave you breathless? You’ve come to the right place. Read my review here.
Out of the Woods by Patricia Gligor. This is the third book in the Small Town Mystery Series. In this book, Kate Morgan confronts the man who left her, a pregnant teenager, eleven years ago. For the sake of their daughter, she tries to make the best of the situation, but his return causes some problems, not the least of which is the reaction of her fiance. And when questions arise about the man’s possible involvement in a number of horrifying home invasions, what will she tell her daughter?
This is a great book and although it’s classified as a mystery, it crosses genres into women’s fiction, family drama, and suspense. It’s got it all. Read my review here.
I really looked forward to reading Sea Wife by Amity Gaige. Billed as psychological suspense, it’s the story of a family (husband, wife, two young children) who leave their lives behind for a year and sail around the Caribbean. Unfortunately, it’s all psychological and no suspense. The main character, Juliet, suffers from depression and, it would appear, anxiety, and the story ends up being a morose tale of a marriage that has gone stale and the disturbing thoughts of a woman who doesn’t think she was ever meant to be a mother. I gave the book 3 stars and you can read my review here. As I noted last month when I shared a book I didn’t really like, don’t let my review put you off from reading the book. There are plenty of glowing reviews for this work of literary fiction.
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin was a book club pick. I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t like it. It was depressing, entirely bereft of any semblance of happiness for any of the characters, and looooong. As in, almost 600 pages. The book spans many years, and I often felt like I was reading it in real time. On the other hand, in taking a look at the many reviews this book has garnered, I am clearly in the minority. There are lots of people who think this book is beautiful, moving, and melancholy in a good way. It’s just not my cup of tea. I think it’s because I like my reads to have at least a little bit of action and some character growth, and I saw almost none of that in this book. If you like a character-driven story, this might be for you. Read my full review here.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a work of art. I listened to this memoir on CD, and hearing the book read by the author was a great experience. This is the first time I’ve heard a book (at least, not a children’s book) read by the author and though I have my doubts about fiction writers voicing their own work, for a memoir it was a wise choise. Read my review here.
This book has been on my radar for a while, and I was eager to read it. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner doesn’t disappoint. Read my review here.
What have you read this month? I hope you’ll share your reads in the comments.
Until next time,
Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s poll to choose the next read for my book club. The book I hoped would win (These is My Words by Nancy Turner–I have read another of her books and loved it) didn’t win, but I am pretty sure I’ll be reading all the books on the list eventually. And, of course, I’ll review each one and keep you posted on the last Tuesday of each month.
The winner is Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. The story actually takes place in Atlantic City, which is about ten miles from my house as the crow flies. When I go for a walk in the evenings I can see the casinos lit up on the horizon.
Now on to my main topic for today. As many of you know, I am currently working on the second book in my Libraries of the World Mystery series, which uses special library collections from around the world to commit or solve crimes. In the first book in the series, Trudy’s Diary, the main character (Daisy) helps solve a crime in the present day by using the dime novel collection in the Library of Congress to solve a related mystery that took place in the 1800s.
In the second book, Dutch Treat, Daisy is working as an associate professor at a college in New York City while she’s on sabbatical from her job at Global Human Rights Journal in Washington, D.C. When one of her colleagues is murdered, Daisy is drawn into the search for the killer and discovers some fascinating information about her own family’s background in New Amsterdam, long before the city became known as New York.
In my research for the book, I’ve done a lot of reading about the New York City Public Library. Today I’m going to share my top ten favorite facts about the library.
- When the New York City Public Library opened in 1911, it was the world’s largest marble building. Its exterior walls are 12 inches thick and builders used 530,000 cubic feet of marble to construct the magnificent edifice.
- The two lions guarding the front entrance to the library on the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, Patience and Fortitude, are both males. Their original names are Lord Lennox and Lady Astor.
- And speaking of the lions, Teddy Roosevelt was not happy with the choice of mammal to grace the library’s entrance. His vote? Buffaloes. He wanted animals that would symbolize the American West.
- In 1987, the original Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and Kanga became permanent residents of the library.
- In the early years after the library opened, it took 20 tons of coal per day to heat the building.
- In one of the library’s collections, you will find Charles Dickens’ favorite letter opener. The tool consits of an ivory shaft topped with the embalmed paw of Dickens’ favorite cat, Bob.
- Lions aren’t the only animals featured in the library’s architecture. There are also dolphins, catfish, oxen, turtles, snakes, birds, rams, bees, dogs, eagles, swans, and roosters.
- In 1911 all the employees of the library were given rubber-soled shoes to wear at work because the marble floors were so hard on feet!
- If you’ve ever wondered where you might find a lock of Charlotte Brontë’s hair, you’ve come to the right place (likewise the hair of Wild Bill Hickok, Walt Whitman, and Mary Shelley).
- The New York City Public Library has the fourth largest collection of volumes in the United States. The library with the largest holdings is the Library of Congress, followed in order by the Boston Public Library and the Harvard Library.
Which is your favorite fun fact? Have you ever visited the New York City Public Library?
Until next time,
I’m hosting book club again in September! You know what that means: you all get to decide what book we read. There are five books listed below, and down at the bottom, a poll where you can cast your vote for the next book club read. As I did last time, I’ve provided the cover and the Amazon blurb for each book, so read through them and let me know which title you choose. I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday.
And thanks for your help!
Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. Here’s what Amazon says about it:
Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s Playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home.
Now Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams.
Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe but some matters are beyond her control: there’s Fannie’s risky pregnancy—not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac—and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies, seems to be in love with Florence.
When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies, bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal.
Based on a true story and told in the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions and Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl, Beanland’s family saga is a breathtaking portrait of just how far we will go to in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after tragedy.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Here’s the blurb:
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton. Here’s what Amazon says about it:
For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.
After the Cuban Revolution of 1933 leaves Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a notorious American. Following her wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to her new husband, his illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.
Elizabeth Preston’s trip to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles after the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.
Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.
The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea. Here’s the blurb:
Rósa has always dreamed of living a simple life alongside her Mamma in their remote village in Iceland, where she prays to the Christian God aloud during the day, whispering enchantments to the old gods alone at night. But after her father dies abruptly and her Mamma becomes ill, Rósa marries herself off to a visiting trader in exchange for a dowry, despite rumors of mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death.
Rósa follows her new husband, Jón, across the treacherous countryside to his remote home near the sea. There Jón works the field during the day, expecting Rósa to maintain their house in his absence with the deference of a good Christian wife. What Rósa did not anticipate was the fierce loneliness she would feel in her new home, where Jón forbids her from interacting with the locals in the nearby settlement and barely speaks to her himself.
Seclusion from the outside world isn’t the only troubling aspect of her new life—Rósa is also forbidden from going into Jón’s attic. When Rósa begins to hear strange noises from upstairs, she turns to the local woman in an attempt to find solace. But the villager’s words are even more troubling—confirming many of the rumors about Jón’s first wife, Anna, including that he buried her body alone in the middle of the night.
Rósa’s isolation begins to play tricks on her mind: What—or who—is in the attic? What happened to Anna? Was she mad, a witch, or just a victim of Jón’s ruthless nature? And when Jón is brutally maimed in an accident a series of events are set in motion that will force Rósa to choose between obedience and defiance—with her own survival and the safety of the ones she loves hanging in the balance.
These is My Words by Nancy Turner. Here’s the Amazon blurb:
A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author’s own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon—from child to determined young adult to loving mother—she shares the turbulent events, both joyous and tragic, that molded her, and recalls the enduring love with cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot that gave her strength and purpose.
Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, These Is My Words brilliantly brings a vanished world to breathtaking life again.
Now you choose!
Until next time,