Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

In this, the third and final novel of the Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas is coming to the village of Mount Polbearne.  Mount Polbearne is an unusual village set on the coast of Cornwall; when the tide comes in, the only road leading to and from the village is covered by the sea, and it becomes a little island.  Windy, cold, and oftentimes isolated, it's a village where generations of fishing families have lived, and tourists visit during the summer.  Polly's bakery is still in full swing, and as popular as ever.  She's living with Huckle, her beekeeping boyfriend in the lighthouse she bought earlier in the year.  They're engaged.  Life is good. 

But we all know that when life seems at its most stable, we're often thrown a curve, and that's just what happens to Polly.  Huckle wants to get married and have kids; Polly's fatherless childhood preys on her mind, and makes her hesitate.  Her best friend Kerensa, married to the mogul Reuben, finds out she's pregnant, but instead of being happy about it, she's terrified it will expose a secret only she and Polly know about.  Forbidden to tell Huckle the secret, the added stress on Polly creates even more tension between Polly and Huckle.  

While Polly's life in Mount Polbearne is the happiest she's ever been, it certainly has a few bumps in the road.  Can she find a way to make everyone happy, and keep herself from going crazy?  Add to that Reuben's request for Polly to cater his whole Christmas celebration (which is multiple parties), when all she wants is to spend Christmas Day lounging around with Huckle and not baking one thing.  But the money Reuben is offering is more than Polly can even comprehend, and would go a long way towards making life easier.  What's a baker to do?

This was a good conclusion to the Little Beach Street Bakery trilogy, although it did seem a bit gloomy at times.  I'll certainly miss the people I've come to know reading these books, and I'll always be hoping Jenny Colgan sends out an unexpected, yet very welcome, update on Polly, Huckle, Kerensa, and Reuben.  Polly's journey to happiness comes to a satisfactory conclusion, and the ending is sweet and perfect.  

If you haven't read the first two books in this trilogy: Little Beach Street Bakery, and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery,  please do before you read this--you'll understand the dynamics of the characters much better, and  Polly's journey to happiness as the beloved baker of Mount Polbearne is worth the read.  

Rating:  4/6 for a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.  Polly and Huckle, while happy, still have growing pains (as do all relationships).  I appreciate the author's understanding that happily ever after takes constant work!

Available in paperback and ebook.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale by G. Neri

 It's very true I haven't read much children's fiction this year. I saw this book and, knowing a little bit about Truman Capote and Harper Lee's childhood friendship, I thought this would be a good read to include in my Christmas picks for December.  It is the continuation of Tru and Nelle, but you don't need to read that in order to enjoy this tale.  

I read the author's note after finishing the book, and learned that most of the people in this novel were actual real-life folks in Truman and Nelle's lives. Set in 1935, just a few days before Christmas, Tru is a runaway, hitching a ride on a train from his military school in New York to Monroeville, Alabama.  He had moved to New York with his mother and step-father, preferring the bright lights of New York City.  But once his mother was granted full custody after a bitter divorce, Truman finds out he's in the way, and shipped off to a military school where he doesn't fit in at all.  He decides he can't take it anymore and hops a train, getting back to his friend Nelle and his family:  Jenny, Big Boy, and Sookie.  He's welcomed back with open arms, but isn't there very long before bad things start to happen around Tru.  Suddenly homeless, his family ends up staying with Big Boy's family on their farm for Christmas.  A mysterious murder happens, and Nelle--trying to be helpful for her father, A.C., ends up creating a disaster when she notices two black men hanging around near the murder scene.  

While Christmas is approaching quickly, Tru and Nelle are struggling to find the meaning of Christmas, and the hope for justice to be served after it becomes quite clear the two men are not guilty of anything but being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But the South in 1935 is no place for justice when it comes to race, and A.C. has his one and only criminal case in Monroeville, defending the two men.  

Through all of this turmoil, Tru and Nelle are rediscovering their friendship, evolving in their love of storytelling, and struggling with their identities--neither one is a typical tween and they don't fit in anywhere.  But Christmas has a special pull, and the love of family and friends means a lot in a time of despair and racial injustice.  

I really did enjoy this novel.  I thought it was a good balance between what the climate was like for 1935 Southern America--so many people with nothing, the KKK, racial tensions; but still that important pull of family and sticking together. Of being a good neighbor, of taking that one extra step to help, be kind, and understanding.  Tru and Nelle's struggle to move their relationship from a childhood friendship to a young adult friendship is something most of us have had to go through with dear friends we've know for a long time.  And justice.  As A.C. tells Nelle, sometimes the most important thing we can do is to be a witness to events, even when we can't do anything to prevent the outcome.  

This is a young reader novel, but very suitable for adults and teens, too.  Truman Capote's memoir A Christmas Memory is still available in bookstores and libraries.  

Rating:  4/6 for a novel about Truman Capote and Harper Lee's childhood friendship, and one special Christmas.  

Available in hardcover and ebook. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz

I can't say Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my most favorite book ever, but I definitely have a soft spot for it, and of course I love the BBC series version with Colin Firth.  So much so, that I bought it on VHS tape years and years ago.  And, Colin Firth remains the only Darcy in my heart.  

I thought this would be a fun read-a modern version of P&P with the roles reversed:  Darcy is a 29 year old super smart woman who has risen to partnership in her hedge fund financial corporation in New York City.  From the town of Pemberly, OH, she's avoided going home for eight years after a falling out with her father over her refusal to marry Carl, who looked good on paper, but whom Darcy just didn't love.  Instead, she left for New York City and became a very rich woman working on Wall Street.  Her life is fairly empty except for work; she can buy anything she wants, but just isn't very happy.  A family health crisis sends her flying home just before Christmas.  She's uncomfortable in her family's very plush home (Dad is a very successful businessman) and running into old family friends-namely, the Bennets, a family of men who Darcy's known all her life.  There's Jim, who makes an immediate connection with Darcy's actor friend Bingley, and there's Luke.  He's annoyed Darcy all through high school, and their drunken make out session under the mistletoe at her family's Christmas party is a shock to Darcy.  A shock, you say?  Yes, because she realizes she's got feelings for Luke.  

There are all sorts of complications, and the path to true love for Darcy and Luke isn't smooth.  I got tired of trying to compare P&P to this story, and I wish De La Cruz hadn't even tried to make this a modern version.  It would have been a perfectly good story without trying to force it into the P&P mold.  It strayed enough away that I just got annoyed, and the flimsy pivot in the plot (two Bennet boys are juvenile delinquents, and Darcy basically pays off the high school principal to let them stay in school) was lame-o.  This novel would have been heaps better if it was just about two people who discover they don't dislike each other, but actually quite like each other-without all the extra junk that mucked up the story.  I also found the nonchalant way Darcy talked about money a bit off-putting.  It was a Hallmark movie gone wrong, I'm afraid. 

Oh well.  It's a quick read, and enjoyable enough, just disappointing for me. 

Rating:  2/6 for a plot that tries to force itself into a clever, modern twist of Pride and Prejudice, but fell short for me.  I didn't much like Darcy, either.  

Available in hardcover, and ebook.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brimstone by Cherie Priest and My November Fails

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I love Cherie Priest novels. She's a fantasy writer with a touch of paranormal creepiness that is just right for someone like me.  I don't care much for horror novels, and her writing comes right up to the edge but doesn't tip over.  I think she's hitting her stride, and more readers are discovering her novels in the science fiction/fantasy sections of their libraries and bookstores. 

In Brimstone, Cherie takes us to 1920 Cassadaga, Florida.  There are two main characters:  Alice Dartle, a young woman from Virginia who has come to Cassadaga to share her clairvoyant talents, and Tomas Cordero, a World War I vet who lives in Ybor City, Florida.  He is haunted by the task he was given as a solider:  to be part of a small force of men who used a flamethrower to kill enemy soldiers.  He returns home to find his wife has died of influenza while he was gone, and he's a broken man. He is desperate to communicate with her. But something strange is happening:  small fires are appearing out of nowhere, and the local police are suspicious that Tomas is setting them himself.  But he's not.  

Cassadaga is a small community built to welcome people who have a variety of talents: mediums, clairvoyants, tarot readers; anyone who has a legitimate talent to see to the other side.  Folks travel to Cassadaga from all over the United States and the world to stay at the hotel, attend lectures, and have readings.  It's one place people like Alice can come to live and feel welcome and develop their talents with like minded people.  At her first outing to conduct live readings, she zeros in on something dark, hulking, and evil.  It calls itself The Hammer.  Not understanding what it is, and overwhelmed by the ferocity of this malignant "thing", Alice is shaken and takes awhile to recover.  She's also dreaming about a solider wearing a strange mask, and surrounded by flames and a battlefield. 

Tomas, meanwhile, has increasingly frightening episodes of fires erupting at his home, but also tragically elsewhere in his neighborhood and business.  People are starting to die in these fires, which are horribly fierce and leave nothing standing.  He has written to Alice (after seeing her profiled in a newspaper) and decides after the worst fire to flee Ybor City and travel to Cassadaga for help. 

Alice and Tomas finally meet in Cassadaga, but Tomas has brought something terribly dark, evil, and bent on destruction with him.  Now the evil has set its sights on Cassadaga and all who live there.  Will Alice be able to figure out what The Hammer is, and stop it before it destroys Cassadaga?

It took me awhile to get through this novel; not because it wasn't interesting, but just because I was easily distracted this month.  When I finally dialed in and focused, I was sucked in and soon I could smell the smoke, feel the heat, and taste the soot.  I could feel myself becoming a little paranoid about smelling fire, too.  As the tension ramped up, I felt myself urging Alice and Tomas to figure it out, quickly!  When the identity of The Hammer is revealed; well, I thought heck, that was a pretty cool plot twist.  Cherie Priest also explores grief, and how sometimes we so desperately want to hear from our loved ones that we'll accept anything as a sign they are near, even if it is so clearly not a good sign-and perhaps even a deadly sign.  Maybe it's not your loved one, but something dark from the other side...

If you haven't tried a Cherie Priest novel, give her a try.  She's written a few stand alone, but also a few series and they are all very different.  There is sure to be something there to interest you! Here's a link to her list of books on her blog: http://www.cheriepriest.com .  

Rating:  4/6 for an unusual plot and a fascinating look at Cassadaga (which does exist!), grief, and what haunts us.  Available in paperback and ebook. 

My November fails.  There were a few, I'm sad to say.  Time got away from me, and I didn't get to read nearly enough of what I'd planned.  Tomorrow is December 1st, and I've already started on my pile of Christmas reads.  I'm ready for the comfort and entertainment they will bring me.  Here's what I started, but didn't finish in November:

I thought I would be able to read this YA novel based on the amazing life of Dita Kraus, and her time spent at Auschwitz as a teenager.  I was wrong.  I made it to about 100 pages, and then just couldn't read anymore.  It was a fascinating story, but the horrible, palpable evil of Auschwitz and the suffering that occurred there is still too much for me to read.  Maybe someday I'll try again.  The evil people are capable of inflicting on other people is something I will never be able to understand. 

Dang it, I was so excited about this novel!  I'll be frank:  it is a big, hefty tome.  It is full of all sorts of bits of journals, history lessons, and other interesting tidbits.  It deserves a lot of time and energy, and those were lacking this month.  It's not a straightforward tale.  I'll have to return it to the library, but I will try again.  I think there's something very interesting here. 

 I have heard so much buzz about this, that I finally decided to try it and checked it out of the library.  I started it late, but within the first few pages, I was hooked.  Unfortunately, I ran out of time, and it's due back to the library for the next person on the holds list--darn it!  I may end up buying this one, because I really, really want to read it.  

One reason I was less than my usual reading self this month was because I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month.  It runs from midnight of November 1 through midnight of November 30th.  Your goal: write a 50,000 word novel in that time.  If you stick to a plan and write every day, you'll easily achieve your goal before the deadline.  No editing, no rewriting: just get your idea down on paper.  The rewriting and editing comes in January, or in my case, never.  For me it's all about getting the creative juices flowing, and trying something just to see if I can do it.  So, I started out doing well, and keeping up with the pace.  But then life happened, and there were a few days where I wrote nothing at all.  Yikes.  I fell behind, and thought I'd catch up over Thanksgiving weekend.  Well, plans changed, and I ended up not being home for most of the four days of the holiday weekend.  No writing done. I did some fancy early morning and late evening work, drinking lots of coffee and listening to classical music to help my brain work.  And I'm happy to say, I did finish two days before the deadline.  I got my 50,000 words (and 89 pages) in and verified on Tuesday night.  Now I won't be looking at what I wrote for a very long time, if ever.  I'm just happy I set a goal and achieved it.  

So now, onto December.  Yay!  Baking cookies and breads, decorating the house, and spending my evenings reading holiday books.  I can't wait.  Egg nog is on the grocery list for this weekend. 

What are you reading in December to combat holiday stress? Share it in the comments!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

This was a powerful novel, and if not for folks around me talking about it, I probably would have passed it by.  However, fate intervened, and I'm happy to have spent the time reading about Jende and Neni Jonga's experience as immigrants in America.  There is so much to talk about, it is definitely a novel you'll want to discuss with friends. 

Jende is a native of Cameroon, and is living in New York City with his wife Neni and their young son, Liomi.  Jende had arrived in New York City alone, and spent a few years working hard, scraping up enough money to marry Neni and bring her to America.  His dream was to leave Cameroon, where opportunities to succeed were slim to none.  Jende is extremely hard working, of noble character, and polite to a fault.  He's also living in the U.S. without a green card, and an expired visa.  

Jende's chance to make a huge leap in providing for his family comes when he's offered a job as the chauffeur to Clark Edwards, an executive with Lehman Brothers.  It's 2007; Barak Obama is running for President, and the financial crisis that rocks Wall Street is looming. Neni attends school, with the dream to be a pharmacist.  Jende and Neni are two hard working people who save every penny they can, live very modestly on very little, and dream of providing a future for their son that wouldn't be possible in Limbe, their hometown.  America is their dream, if only Jende could receive a green card.  

Jende's employment with the Edwards family extends to Clark's wife Cindy and their sons, Vince and Mighty.  As he chauffeurs them around New York City, he learns that money cannot buy happiness.  Cindy is a closet alcoholic, deeply unhappy with life, and haunted by a terrible childhood.  Clark is desperately working to keep Lehman Brothers from falling apart; Vince loathes everything about America and longs to run away to India.  Mighty, Clark and Cindy's young son, is watching everything he knows crumble and fall apart. 

Jende's life is also hanging in the balance; he has an upcoming court date with Immigration, and chances are good he may be deported. What will he do if this happens?  How will it change his life, and that of his family, if he's forced to return to Cameroon, a place that is at once home, but also a place of failed opportunities?  Jende's anxiety and desperate hope that he will stay in America is palpable throughout the novel, and I kept getting anxious every time his looming immigration court date was mentioned.  As the Edwards' life implodes with the Lehman Brothers scandal, Jende's life is also affected in ways that are startling and for me, unexpected.  Neni's anger at the prospect of leaving America is so powerful; as a woman I could understand her desire to make a better life for herself;  and her willingness to work very hard to do so. Neni's fierceness in protecting her family is a welcome part of her character development.  For most of the novel, she's quiet, hard working, and supports Jende in everything he does. But as their life takes a sudden turn, she finally opens up and demands to be heard, not only by Jende, but by everyone in her life. 

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is the idea of home and where we come from.  How it can be both the most wonderful place, and the one place we never want to return to because we see it as a sense of failure and giving up.  We see it in both Jende and Neni, and the Edwards family.  Success can be measured in so many ways, and it changes depending on where we are in life.  But it doesn't matter if you're black, white, an immigrant, or a citizen. 

This book was very good, and I'm hopeful Imbolo Mbue writes more.  This was an extraordinary first novel.  Random House has helpfully provided reading group discussion questions, as well as an interview with Imbolo Mbue in the latest paperback edition of the book.  Both sections are worth reading.  A timely novel that will generate many discussions on immigration policy, and the plight of immigrants not only in America, but throughout the world. 

Rating:  6/6 for a novel that explores immigration, race, dreams, family,  and the meaning of success. 

Available in paperback, audio, and ebook.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I Can't Wait to Tell You What I'm Reading in December: Bring on the Holiday Novels!

As I'm making my way through two three novels this week, and hitting a dip in my NaNoWriMo project, I have been longingly thinking of the holiday books I've got lined up for December.  

I started reading fun, holiday themed books in December while I worked in retail. Working extra hours, literally running back and forth in the bookstore for hours each day, left me completely spent and fried. My solace was to dive into books that helped remind me that the holiday season was about family, friends, and that wonderful anticipation of Christmas morning.  I'm out of retail, but I still find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed at the holidays and needing that reminder to slow down and enjoy the season.  So, starting shortly after Thanksgiving--I've made myself wait until then--I've got a load of new holiday titles to read.  Maybe there's something in my list that you'll love, too:

As you can see, there are plenty of new titles out this holiday season.  Meanwhile, I'll be working away on my title list for November.  Reviews coming soon!  What holiday books are you reading in December?  Let me know!  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen

This memoir had been on my TBR list for quite some time, but I had to be patient and wait my turn at the library.  I had watched Amy's cooking show, Heartland Table on the Food Network years ago, and was intrigued by her kitchen. It looked small, rustic, and not fancy at all.  No high end, shiny, expensive kitchen gadgets; no gleaming countertops. I liked the way she talked about food, and how she used her garden and what she could find at her local grocery store to make amazing meals.  Her Midwest nature appealed to this Midwest woman.  

So with that in mind, I started to read her memoir.  It took me many days (okay, weeks) to get through this memoir, and I'm puzzled as to why.  Amy writes beautifully; if she hadn't made it as a cook, she would find her niche in writing.  Her descriptions of food make your mouth water; her fondness for the food of her Minnesota youth spars with her awakened palate for fine food.  

Amy's story begins in Minnesota, and ends there.  But in between, Amy and her boyfriend, artist Aaron Spangler move to Brooklyn and live there off and on for years.  Aaron is working on his art and Amy attends cooking school, then bounces around some of the most famous restaurants in New York City, learning from the best.  What I found refreshing about Amy is that she was not interested in moving up the ranks to someday be top chef, or even run her own restaurant in New York City.  For her, it was all about learning the skills, and exploring flavors.  Amy and Aaron would sometimes leave Brooklyn and return to Minnesota to spend the summer in Aaron's rustic (no running water, no electricity) little home out in the wilds of Minnesota.  There they would plant a huge vegetable garden, harvest wild rice out of their front yard, and puzzle over their yearning to be home, yet at the same time resenting the pull of home. Two people who never thought they would return to Park Rapids, Minnesota, yet find themselves homesick for the flavors, the quiet, and the freedom from busy city life.  

Amy and Aaron get married, and continue to live in Brooklyn.  Her work as a cook demands 80 plus hours a week, and she's not making much money at all.  Aaron finally gets some well deserved attention for his art, and it looks like Brooklyn is finally paying off.  Until Aaron tells Amy he wants to move back to Minnesota and build a studio next to their rustic little home. Amy, who has been questioning her passion for the high stress world of New York haute cuisine, realizes that what she really wants is to be a home cook.  Armed with her skills and her new palate, she returns to Minnesota with Aaron and creates a life that happily continues to fulfill them both.

Amy's book is a bit different from other cooking memoirs I've read, mostly because of her attitude towards the cooking industry.  She started cooking school after college, and knew her strengths and weaknesses going into her various tenures at restaurants in New York City.  For her it wasn't about rising to the top, or making the big bucks.  She became obsessed with creating flavors, and it almost consumed her.  Her passion for cooking was overwhelming to read; sometimes I had to put the book down and take a break.  Part of me kept thinking, the customer doesn't care about all the heart and soul you put into that one dish! They just want something good to eat, and something worth the money they're spending. I almost felt bad for all the effort she put into dishes, knowing the recipients had no idea, and probably wouldn't have cared to know.  

I did enjoy this book, but it was a bit of an effort to read it.  It made me very aware of just how much food is a part of our memories, our childhood; how it alters the way we look at the world.  I recently had a birthday, and my boyfriend wanted to take me out to dinner.  I didn't want to go to a restaurant.  Instead, I made my favorite birthday dinner.  One that my Mom made for me almost every birthday I had in my youth:  scalloped potatoes and ham, followed by a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  I made it a little different than my Mom's recipe, but that special flavor was there, and it made me very happy to dive into a plate of creamy potatoes dotted with bits of ham and cheese.  For just a few minutes, I was back at home with Mom and Dad and my siblings, eating my favorite meal on a cold November night.  These memories are all the more precious now that my parents are gone. Food, more than anything else, keeps me connected to my very best memories of childhood. 

Rating:  4/6 for a savory, finger licking good memoir about food, home, and memories. Amy reminded me that food is more than just fuel for the body.  

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November Reads: My Library Cup Overfloweth

I looked up, and it's already November 7th.  Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away, and I'm still startled to see Christmas in every retail store.  You also know Christmas season is around when the Hallmark Channel starts playing their holiday movies at the end of October.  And as I pointed out to my boyfriend's mother, there are 21 new Hallmark holiday movies this season.  What?!  My DVR will get a workout this month.  

Much as I'd like to A) watch Hallmark movies and B) dive into my TBR piles at home, the library elves have decided that now is the time to have all of the books I've placed on hold become available.  So while I may sneak in a few books off my shelves at home, most of what I'm reading this month will be courtesy of my library.  I've had some dangerous moments, wandering the aisles.  So many books I want to read!  I have to turn my back, or I'd be checking out books almost every day.  The life of a bookworm is just not that easy.  

So, while I'm gamely working on my novel for NaNoWriMo (the tug of war between reading and writing is fierce every day), I'm also working on my stack of library books.  Here's what I'm reading this month:

A favorite author has another paranormal novel out!

A YA novel based on a true story

I watched her cooking show on Food Network, had to read the book!

Scotland.  Enough said. 

A timely novel about dreams, immigration, and reality.

A little bit of everything tossed together.  Next month I'll be reading a gaggle of holiday novels, and I can't wait!  Bring on the early nights, bring on the chilly weather.  I'm ready to stay home and read. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Two Reviews in One: The House Between Tides & How to Change a Life, Plus Other Book Stuff

The march to the end of 2017 is picking up speed, and while this is probably the first upcoming holiday season where I don't have a zillion things to do, I expect I will be busy with last minute baking, get togethers, and *ahem* creating my homemade limoncello.  

And, my beloved books will always be at the forefront of everything I do.  I haven't read nearly everything I wanted to this year: Lincoln at the Bardo, The Hate U Give, Origin, The Underground Railroad...just to name a few.  Sometimes I wish I was more disciplined with my reading--spreadsheets, mapping out what to read when; but then I realize some of the best reads I've stumbled on purely by accident and because they weren't planned.  So I'll stick with my purely organic, absolutely no spreadsheet approach to reading and reviewing. I always believe the books I'm meant to read will find their way to me.  

With a time crunch, I'm reviewing two books I've read in the past few weeks.  Both were on my October To Be Read list.  Reviews are short mainly because I was a bit disappointed with both novels.  

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis. I have read some of her previous novels, and would readily recommend her to anyone who loves Chicago, foodie novels, and novels about women past the first bloom of youth, but not quite into middle age.  That part of life where you start to look at the choices you've made, and wonder if they were the right ones, or if you have to reset and do something different.  Normally I gobble up her tales--they always have a happy ending, but not the soppy ending you find in a standard romance.  For some reason, this one just didn't click with me.  Eloise is a private chef in Chicago; the death of a beloved high school teacher brings her back in touch with her two best friends from high school, and they decide to revive their lists of things to accomplish before 40--as they are all 39.  Some of the items on Eloise's list:  go out on dates, and put together a cookbook proposal. 

 I will say, the romance that comes into Eloise's life was really pretty good, but I felt like it was just a little too perfect. Eloise meets a man at a Halloween party, and things click from there.  One twist is that she's white, and he's African American.  It was refreshing that this wasn't belabored over at all, but for a few conversations that Eloise and Shawn have concerning meeting each other's parents. They have a very mature relationship (with plenty of sparks!), and an obvious drama pops up from Shawn's past that I felt didn't provide enough of a conflict to make a big difference in the storyline. I felt that if Eloise was so ready for changes in her life, it didn't take much for her to do them, and left me wondering why she didn't do them earlier.  There didn't seem to be much of a change in her besides meeting a wonderful partner and entering a serious relationship.  Not much drama between the friends, and not really any big conflicts between Eloise and Shawn.  So while it was an enjoyable read, I just wasn't terribly impressed with Stacey Ballis' latest. 
I give this novel a 2/6.
It is available in paperback and ebook. 

The House Between the Tides by Sarah Maine was another book that fell a bit short for me.  Darn it all, I was really ready for a gothic tale set in Scotland.  At first, I was completely into the novel.  Hetty Deveraux travels to Muirlan, a home she's inherited in Scotland's Outer Hebrides.  What's unusual about this home is that it sits on an island and is only accessible by foot and car when the tide is out. Muirlan's history revolves around artist Theo Blake, who lived there until his death by drowning in the 1940's.  Theo had brought his new bride, Beatrice, to Muirlan in 1910, and things didn't go well for the couple.  Theo was broody, sullen, and had lost his way artistically.  Hoping to recover that passion, he pinned his hopes on being back at his beloved home.  A failed romance from the past leaves him haunted, and Beatrice finds out the man she married isn't quite who she thought he was--now what should she do?

In present day, Hetty wants to turn the home into a hotel.  James, a local architect, has been hired to look over the house. It's in pretty bad shape, and while looking around inside, he finds disturbed floorboards, and a skeleton placed in the hollow underneath.  Who is it, and who placed the body there, so long ago?  

The novel moves back and forth between Hetty's struggle to solve the mystery, and 1910, when Theo and Beatrice arrive at the island and spend one summer there before Beatrice disappears from the scene.  I did find Theo and Beatrice's story much more interesting, but the story dragged and I lost interest, but kept plodding through.  I didn't much care for Hetty.  She seemed completely unaware that her plan was not feasible, and distrusted James to the point that it felt more reactionary than because she had a good reason.  The romance between Hetty and James was not a surprise, and I was happy about that; it certainly didn't come as a surprise.  Beatrice's story is sad, so darn sad; you do get all the answers, eventually, in the last chapter.  While this had all the promise of a good gothic mystery, it petered out and felt too long.  Nuts.  
I give this novel a 3/6 for atmosphere and setting. It is available in paperback and ebook. 

Now, book business.  Heading into November, I've got a pretty good list of books to read, and I'll have an upcoming reviews post in a few days.  December I traditionally read holiday novels--it's my way of enjoying Christmas and so far I've gathered quite a few new titles for December.  I'll be sharing those with you at the end of November.  Meanwhile, I am also taking part in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which runs from November 1-November 30.  It's a way to nudge your inner writer into action, and requires you to write a 50,000 word novel.  No editing, no polishing--just get those words down on paper (or Word).  It is a challenge to keep writing every day; it's easy to fall behind.  I've managed to complete it once, years ago, and am trying again.  Wish me luck!  

Sue A/K/A
The Bookalicious Babe

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Last To See Me by M Dressler

I had to finish out the month of October with a ghost story.  Happy Halloween!  I spotted this novel while looking at upcoming releases, and when I saw the main character was a ghost, I just had to read it.  What I got was part supernatural, part history, part philosophical.  

The novel takes place in Benito, California; a small Northern California town previously known in the early 1900's for the timber industry.  Now it's a quaint tourist stop.  Hunters--ghost hunters--are bonded by law, and hired to clear spirits out of places, and they've done a pretty good job in Benito--except for one ghost.

Emma Rose Finnis died in 1915, and she continues to haunt the town of Benito, and the stately Lambry Mansion.  Alice, the last Lambry, has died, and directed the mansion to be sold and the profits to be divided up between her distant family.  A obnoxious rich couple want to buy the mansion, and completely gut it and change it from the beautiful home it is into a contemporary monstrosity.  Emma won't have it. 

Philip Pratt is hired to clear out whatever spirit is causing all the trouble at the Lambry Mansion.  He teams up with the realtor, Ellen DeWight, to figure out who the spirit is--once he knows their name, he has all the power.  Emma is pretty smart, however, and has had plenty of practice honing her skills, and keeping her anger from allowing her to be seen.  

The novel switches back and forth between the contemporary plot, and Emma's life as a chambermaid in Benito.  Her mother died in childbirth, and her father died from a horrible logging accident, leaving Emma to fend for herself as a teenager.  She was a good girl, and only wanted to have a simple life, and maybe find some peace.  But that wasn't to be. After attracting the attention of one of the Lambry sons, Mrs. Lambry offers her a position as housekeeper to a family hired to help at the lighthouse on a desolate piece of land.  She takes the job, but what should be a means for her to save money and eventually leave quickly turns into a nightmare--and leads to Emma's death.  

You feel for Emma.  She's at times angry, sorrowful, and lonely.  Pratt has a job to do, and sees all spirits as not human, but creatures that harm living people.  When he sends them away, he destroys them--and whatever bits of humanity were left disappear.  It's an interesting novel, in that you see both sides of the story.  It's hard not to sympathize with Emma, however.  

The ending is a bit of a surprise, for sure.  There is more going on that you realize, until the last bit of the book.  And as you move closer to learning about Emma's death, the tension does grow.  You'll start to think about what death really means, and why some souls move on, and others stay.  What is it about a life that keeps us here?  And do those souls deserve a place here to heal?

A different kind of ghost story, and a good one.  The writing is beautiful, and ethereal.  A perfect tale for a dark, spooky night. 

Rating:  4/6 for a ghost story unlike any other I've read, with a compelling spirit you'll be rooting for, even though you wish her peace.  

Available in hardcover and ebook. 

Happy Halloween!!


Monday, October 23, 2017

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

My interest in bees is fairly new. Up until about 3 years ago, my only reaction to bees was the painful memory of being stung in my ear by a bee as a kid, and how much it hurt! As I started to garden at my house, I would walk outside and notice the butterflies and bees flitting around my flowers, and I was happy--as long as they stayed away from me. 

That slight awareness of bees became an interest when I stumbled upon urban beekeeping articles as I was searching for a paper topic in grad school.  From then on, I was interested in bees, and horrified at the mysterious deaths that are sending our bee population into a nosedive.  All of that back history drove me to pick up this book at my library.  

This novel is told in three separate historical settings: William, a biologist in 1852 England,  George, a beekeeper in 2007 Ohio, and Tao, a human pollinator in 2098 China.  In Tao's world, the bees have disappeared; world population has plummeted due to food shortages (no bees=no food!), and she is part of a group of workers who climb fruit trees and hand pollinate in order to produce crops.  It's endless work; every day, back breaking work with little pay, and very little to eat.  Tao lives with her husband and young son, Wei-Wen in a little house near the fields.  She hopes for a better future for her son, but has no idea how to make that happen.  

William is in a deep depression.  A budding biologist, his hopes of studying and research ended when he married and had children.  His former mentor has dismissed William, and now he's spent months lying in bed, as the money runs out and his seed shop remains closed.  One day, his son visits him, and provides a spark for William.  He finally gets out of bed, determined to begin research again--and finds that bees and hives are his passion.  Can he create a new, man made beehive that will revolutionize beekeeping, and provide his family with wealth?  

George is the latest in his beekeeping family.  A successful farmer, he's always made his own beehives from a family plan handed down through the generations.  His son Tom is away at college, but George has plans to work along side his son and hand off the family beekeeping operation to the next generation.  Tom, however, returns from college a changed man--one who isn't all that interested in beekeeping.  It's 2007, and reports of whole bee hives mysteriously dying off has folks puzzled and afraid.  Will George manage to keep his farm going?

Well.  We know it doesn't go well for the bees, thanks to Tao's story.  By 2098 the world is decimated--all because of The Collapse.  If anything, this novel makes you aware of just how vitally important bees are to, well, EVERYTHING.    It's serious stuff, and not made up fiction. Tao's world can be avoided.  

While this could be a novel about hopelessness, it's actually the opposite.  Tao's story is the most interesting one, because it's through a horrible tragedy involving Wei-Wen that hope is once again born in the world. You may wonder how these three characters, decades apart, could possibly be connected.  Oh, they are--in such a wonderful way.  I myself just had to cheer for William at the end of Tao's story.  Yes, both William and George (and Tom) are vitally present in 2098 China.  A perfect example of how we are all connected, and how much bees have helped sustain life over and over, and will continue to do so--if we just be mindful of them and get out of their way. 

It took me a while to get through this book. I had some trouble sticking with it, but have to admit Tao's story kept pulling me back, and I'm so glad I finished the novel.  It is one of those reads that resonates after you've read it and have time to think about it.  I'm definitely going to do my part next Spring and plant plenty of bee-friendly flowers in my yard. This novel may just be the catalyst to your interest in bees, and how incredibly important they are to our survival. There are plenty of books and documentaries about The Collapse, the history of bees, and yes--even how to be an urban beekeeper.  Get busy!

Rating:  3/6 for a good novel, but one I had to work to get through, until it clicked about 3/4 of the way through and then I raced to finish it.  A fascinating look at history, how we all are connected, and the power of bees. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I'm probably one of the last people to climb aboard the Scandinavian mystery/thriller train, but I've finally taken my seat, and I'm happy to say I get all the excitement.  

The Scarred Woman is the 7th novel in the Department Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  I usually don't like to start a series with the latest book, but I thought I'd give it a shot.  For the most part, it worked for me.  But, one of the major parts of the novel has a backstory that I wish I was more familiar with before jumping into this novel.  Adler-Olsen makes up for that by digging into the story of Rose, one of the investigators for Department Q and not only familiarizing the reader with her sad, troubled past, but actually solving a big puzzle that will help her heal and move forward.  Rose is an unforgettable character, and her mental scars from emotional and verbal abuse are so vivid that it's painful to read about her experiences.  

So.  The Scarred Woman is really good!  It is dark, for sure, but refreshingly so. Like a blast of cold air that wakes you up.  In this novel, there is the recent unsolved murder of Rigmor Zimmerman, an elderly woman found dead in a park with head trauma and a substantial amount of money on her person.  It resembles a old cold case involving a beautiful young teacher who was also found dead with head trauma over ten years before.  While it feels like there should be a connection, I kept thinking it was a far stretch and no way could they be connected.  I was wrong.  

Besides Roses' story, which is painful to read, there is the story of Anne-Line, a social worker who is fed up with her job, the unending revolving door of young capable women who live off of the government, and upset about a recent medical diagnosis.  Anne-Line is one of those folks who work the same job for years, live quietly alone, and one day wake up to realize they are fed up with the unfairness of life, and decide to do something about it.  Anne-Line decides these girls- these lazy, selfish, dregs on society, must die.  Her reasoning, her decision making, and her planning are unsettling.  So this is how people become unhinged, I thought.  How people who can be described as "quiet, hardworking, nice" become killers.  Her transformation was chilling. I have to say she was my favorite character in the novel.  

So it seems that Carl and Assad, two investigators in Department Q, have a lot of seemingly random cases to solve.  Jussi Adler-Olsen skillfully weaves them all together, and the end is quite good.  Wow.  So impressed!  I did feel a bit lost a few times, because there is an established history between Carl and Assad, and Rose.  I felt I walked in mid-conversation, but it wasn't enough to keep me from getting into this novel and watching it all unfold.  I may go back and read the first Department Q novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes.  I usually don't read a lot of gritty contemporary mysteries, but this has turned me onto them, and I will certainly read more-especially by Scandinavian authors.  There was something very appealing about a mystery set in Copenhagen.  

A huge thank you to Dutton/Penguin for a review copy of The Scarred Woman. Yet again another genre I probably would have never read, but for this review opportunity.  Now I've got another whole world of Scandinavian thrillers to explore.  

Rating:  5/6 for a very clever mystery set in modern Copenhagen.  Each plot point in itself is solid and interesting, but the path to solving each mystery and the final solution are fascinating and make for one excellent read.  If you're interested in the Department Q novels, I'd start with the first one and work your way up to The Scarred Woman.  Or, you can be like me and jump in--either way will work!

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay: A Review and Winner of Giveaway Announced

As I said in my previous post about Picnic at Hanging Rock, this novel came out of nowhere for me, and after a quick search on the internet, I was intrigued not only by the novel, but by the author, Joan Lindsay. 

Joan Lindsay wrote this book in 1967, when she was 70 years old.  Her first novel.  It became an instant hit.  The tale is simple, but as any simple tales go, there's a lot going on underneath the surface.  It's February 14, 1900.  The young ladies at Appleyard College for Young Ladies in Australia are eager to take a day trip to Hanging Rock, a place ideal for picnics and taking in some fresh air and nature.  The group, with Miss McGraw, the mathematics teacher, and Mademoiselle De Poitiers, the popular French teacher as chaperones, take the three hour carriage ride out to Hanging Rock.  The plan is to eat lunch, rest, explore a bit (as much as you can in gloves and corsets), and return to Appleyard at 4 PM.  Other folks are also there picnicking: Michael Fitzhubert, visiting from England; Albert Crundall, the coachman for Michael's Aunt and Uncle; and Mr. Ben Hussey, the carriage driver.  

Miranda is a senior, and the most popular girl at Appleyard.  She decides to climb Hanging Rock, and takes along Irma, Marion, and Edith.  The girls are seen crossing a creek by Michael and Albert, and then simply disappear.  Edith appears later, screaming, hysterical.  She can't tell anyone what happened, and no one can find the three missing girls.  Oddly enough, Miss McGraw is missing, too.  Searches, questions, theories abound.  Michael is haunted, and decides to travel back to Hanging Rock to try and find something, anything to answer his questions.  Miraculously, he finds Irma weeks after the incident, but in mysterious circumstances and unconscious. The other two girls and Miss McGraw are never seen again; nor is any trace of them ever found.  They have simply disappeared into thin air. 

From this dark day, the story moves on to how the disappearances change everyone who is touched by them: the students at Appleyard, the Headmistress of Appleyard, the teachers, Michael and Albert.  It's a pretty interesting ending; a bit of a shock to me.  According to the foreword, Joan Lindsay had written an ending that explained exactly what happened to the girls, but it was so "out there" (my words) that the publisher had her cut it.  There are hints of strangeness, and it's left up to readers to decide for themselves what may have happened to the girls on that lovely summer day.  Joan Lindsay herself claimed that the story may or may not be true, and plenty of folks have searched for information over the decades, but have found nothing.  

I'm intrigued enough to have placed  a hold on the movie at my local library. I can't wait to watch it.  

A huge thank you to Penguin/Random House for providing a copy not only for my review, but a copy to give away to a lucky reader.  And the winner of the giveaway is...

Thank you to all who entered the contest.  I am very glad I had the opportunity to read this classic novel, and I think it would make a very good book club discussion--or even better, a classroom discussion.  Just goes to show, any book you haven't read (even one 50 years old!) is new if you haven't read it yet.

Rating:  4/6 for a novel that has  a lot to offer towards discussion.  What is it about this tale that has stood the test of time?  Fascinating!

Available in paperback and ebook. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack

Fans of M.J. Rose, Kate Mosse, and Katherine Neville have, no doubt, already discovered Gwendolyn Womack with her first novel, The Memory Painter. If you haven't, you'd better get busy and start reading.

This was one of those novels that I bought, added to my stacks at home, and forgot about for a few months.  When I finally plucked it out of a stack to read for October, I spent plenty of time congratulating myself for being smart enough to buy it and finally read it. It's exactly the kind of historical/magical/thriller/toss-in-just-a-wee-bit-of-romance novel that I relish reading. 

Two stories in one that eventually blend together.  Semele Cavnow is an expert at appraising antiquities for a very exclusive auction house in New York City.  She's sent to Geneva to appraise a rare private collection of ancient texts and manuscripts, and finds one written in Greek that is hidden from the rest of the collection.  Slowly translating it, she is a bit startled when it appears to be a written by a famous seer who was the daughter of a librarian at the great library in Alexandria. Odder still, this seer addresses Semele by name, and proceeds to foretell many big world events that won't come to pass for thousands of years, long after the seer is gone.  Semele is warned that there are people who want the manuscript.  Returning to New York with the manuscript and a digital copy (smart lady digitizes the whole manuscript and saves it to her laptop), she's aware that a man is following her, and her boss decides she will be removed from the project and sent to Beijing instead--with no explanation. Furious, Semele keeps translating the text, and learning all about the long line of women who have shared the gift of foretelling, vision, and reading a tarot deck that if found, would fetch an extremely high price. She's in danger, and forces are beginning to draw a net around her. 

I quickly became fascinated by the story about the extraordinary women who each sacrificed themselves to keep the tarot deck in safe hands, and to pass it onto the next generation.  A long, unbroken line that travels from ancient Alexandria, to Iraq, Greece, England, France, Germany, and eventually America.  But how does Semele fit into all of this?  That's part of the story.  Not only has she found out recently that she's adopted, but she is having flashes of the future, and senses that something bigger than herself is at play. 

I loved this novel!  It was all I could do to be a productive member of society last week, because all I wanted to do was sit and read it.  The end was truly not at all what I expected, but I thought the author's ability to wrap it all up, bring all that storyline together into one place, was masterful.  It answered a lot of questions.  Not only did I love the references to the great library of Alexandria, but all the reverence given to libraries, librarians as protectors of knowledge, and the awareness that we have always valued books, libraries, and those who make seeking and protecting knowledge their life's work. Our ties to the past are many and sometimes we forget that.  

Oh, I hope you read this and let me know what you think of it.  I'm a huge fan of Ms. Womack and have added her to my list of new favorite authors.  

Rating:  4/6 for an inventive novel about ancestors, an ancient tarot deck, libraries, and finding out our connections to the past.  Just enough romance, but not too much; good to read about a smart, capable woman who is an expert in a field that is usually dominated by men. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Widow's House by Carol Goodman

It's been a few years since I read my last Carol Goodman novel.  I stumbled across her while I was shelving at my bookstore, thought I'd try out her writing, and I'm so glad I did. Her contemporary gothic thrillers are just the kind of novel I enjoy.

 I would compare her to Kate Morton and Simone St. James; if you're a big fan of novels set around the Hudson Valley, you should read not only The Widow's House, but some of her other novels. She's also written a series for teens: Blythewood, Ravencliffe, and Hawthorn. She hasn't forgotten young readers, either: The Metropolitans looks like a great little mystery, and I'm adding it to my TBR list.  

Onto The Widow's House.  Jess and Clare Martin are two writers who have hit rock bottom.  Jess' first and only novel, written just out of college, was a big hit, but he's failed miserably writing his second novel.  Clare has put aside her own desire to write (she's the better writer of the two) in order to work at a publishing house to makes ends meet.  A stressed marriage and no money combine to take the Martins out of New York City and back to Concord, a sleepy village in the Hudson Valley known for its apple orchards and Apple Blossom Queen Festival.  It is where Clare grew up, and met Jess at Bailey College.  Not a place Clare was eager to return to, as her memories of growing up in a harsh household, knowing she was adopted, has left her feeling a bit adrift.  

Jess and Clare end up at Riven House, a huge mansion out in the country, where Alden Montague--their former professor at Bailey College, resides in what was once a glorious estate.  Taking the caretaker's job means they have an affordable place to stay, and the quiet Jess needs to finish his novel.  

But of course things aren't that simple.  Clare sees a young woman standing outside; hears a baby cry in the night, and is haunted by the tale of the Mary Foley, her lover Bay Montague, and their tragic ending in 1929.  Is it Mary she sees at night near the river, holding her baby?  What story does Mary want Clare to tell?

As Clare digs into Mary's story, her own novel starts to take shape at a feverish pace, and her obsession with Mary's tragic life compels Clare to start exploring the house and the secrets it holds.  Does she just have a vivid imagination, or is there evil at Riven House?  

I've got to say, I enjoyed everything about this novel except the relationship between Jess and Clare. They are obviously an unhappy pair; his treatment of Clare just had me really annoyed and wanting to smack him upside the head. Clare's high school boyfriend is the sheriff in town, and from the first time they meet again, it's obvious he's the good guy, and the man she should be with--not Jess.  That was frustrating, waiting for the story to evolve.  Other than that, there's enough history, paranormal possibilities, and backstory to make this a novel that you will carry with you everywhere, waiting to read just a few pages.  
A perfect Halloween read.

Rating:  4/6 for the atmosphere; the story of the Apple Blossom Queen is solid, and Clare is someone to cheer on in her journey to unveil the mysteries of Riven House. 

Available in paperback and e-book.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

This book.  Seriously loved it.  It came at the right time. It's been sitting in a stack of books for a month or so, I can't believe I managed to hold off as long as I did before I grabbed it and settled in for a good read.  

Equal parts humor, sentiment, reflection, and whimsy, Michael Poore's novel about one man's 10,000 lifetimes was such an enjoyable reading experience. Milo is a character that will stay with you long after you've finished the book.

So Milo has lived 9,995 lives; in the life he has just recently departed, he's eaten by a shark, after having an otherwise pretty good day.  He's back on the other side, meeting Death--a woman named Suzie (she prefers that to "Death") and falling back into their love affair.  Yes, Milo and Suzie have been lovers for centuries.  Suzie isn't all that happy being Death, and tempts fate by quitting.  

Meanwhile, Milo has only 5 lives left to reach perfection/get it right/know all the answers in order to become one with the cosmic soul.  It's what every soul aims to do.  Milo has become well known on the other side because it's taken him so very, very long to reach this state--and if he doesn't get it right very quickly, he'll be shoved off the cosmic sidewalk into nothingness.  Every other soul has managed to figure it out long before their allotted 10,000 lives, but Milo just can't seem to get it right.  He's come close, but then blows it.  

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, this is a refreshing and humorous look at just how hard it is to get life right.  Getting it right means many things to many people, but when we boil it down, it's all about being a good, kind, unselfish person, and putting others before ourselves.  Milo's adventures aren't just linear; he looks into a river, picks a life that will help him achieve perfection, and dives into that new life.  It can be in India thousands of years ago, or 1920's America.  It can be in the future, on another planet after Earth has been ruined by the human race. All lifetimes are happening at the same time. His lives are sometimes short, sometimes long; uneventful, or full of pain.  All his other previous lives, however, are a voice in his head, helping and nudging him to make the right choices.  Yes, he is wiser in the process, but his human qualities can take over, and ruin what was a pretty good life. Milo is funny, wise, curious, rueful, determined, and a bit of a lazy ass.  He reincarnates as men, women, animals, insects; black, white, red, yellow, other worldly.  Sometimes with wealth,sometimes very poor.  Sometimes healthy and strong, other times with physical limitations.  The universe is throwing everything at him and giving him every chance to get it right, but dang it all Milo!  He keeps ruining his chance.  

I absolutely loved this book.  Thinking about it, I realize it leaves me with hope. Hope that there is something bigger than all of us, and we are all working towards perfection--not in our physical world, but in our souls.  I don't plan on spending 10,000 lifetimes to find it!  

6/6 for a fantastic look at life, death, the great cosmic wheel, and how we can get it right.  Laugh out loud, poignant, and thoughtful.  Fans of Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, and Terry Pratchett will enjoy this novel. I hope Michael Poore keeps writing!

Available in hardcover and ebook.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Book Giveaway: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

It never gets old:  the surprise I feel when books  I've been completely unaware of all my adult reading life pop up on my radar. This is one of those books.  And lucky for you, my blog fans, you get a chance to win a copy from Penguin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this classic.  

Here's what Penguin is saying about this newly released paperback edition:

A 50th-anniversary edition of the landmark novel about three “gone girls” that inspired the acclaimed 1975 film and an upcoming TV series starring Natalie Dormer

by Joan Lindsay
Foreword by Maile Meloy

“A sinister tale...laced with touches of other-worldliness” The Guardian

“Deliciously horrific.” The Observer

“The fact that most people believed that this palpable fiction was a record of a real event is not merely a tribute to the writer...but a testimony to the atavistic power of its theme.” The Spectator

“Beautifully haunting.” The Sun Herald (Australia)

Mysterious and subtly erotic, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (Penguin Classics; On-sale: October 3, 2017; $16.00; ISBN: 9780143132059) was first published 50 years ago and inspired the iconic 1975 film of the same name by Peter Weir—as well as a six-episode TV series starring Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer, scheduled to be released by Amazon next year. Widely considered one of the most important Australian novels of all time, it stands with Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides as a masterpiece of intrigue.

On a cloudless summer day in the year 1900, everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, three girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of the secluded volcanic outcropping. Farther, higher, until at last they disappeared…. They never returned.

Over the course of four weeks in 1966, Joan Lindsay wrote PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, a debut literary novel that became a sensation. The intrigue surrounding it propelled it into Australia’s national folklore. This new Penguin Classics edition, featuring a foreword by Maile Meloy, author of the recent bestselling novel Do Not Become Alarmed, about the disappearance of four children on a family vacation, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the novel’s first publication.

As Maile Meloy recommends in her foreword, new readers are encouraged to delve into PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK with as little information as possible. For whether these accounts are fictional or true is entirely up to the reader to discern.

About the Author:
JOAN LINDSAY was born Joan à Beckett Weigall in Melbourne, Australia, in 1896. She attended Clyde Girls Grammar School, the model for Appleyard College in Picnic at Hanging Rock, and the National Gallery of Victoria Art School, where she studied painting. On Valentine’s Day 1922 she married Daryl Lindsay in London. She chose Valentine’s Day 1900 as the setting for Picnic at Hanging Rock, her best-known work, which was first published in 1967 and is the basis for the 1975 film of the same name by Peter Weir. She died in Melbourne in 1984.
MAILE MELOY (foreword) is the author of the novels Do Not Become Alarmed, Liars and Saints, and A Family Daughter; the story collections Half in Love and Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It (named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review); and the Apothecary series, a middle-grade trilogy. She has received The Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize, the PEN/Malamud Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Rosenthal Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in Los Angeles.

Enter to win a copy!  Here's how:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest ends at 12 AM on Sunday, October 15th.  Open to U.S. residents only.  

Review and winner will be announced Sunday, October 15th!