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msleighm books

So many books, so little time...


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Currently reading

The Partly Cloudy Patriot
Katherine Streeter, Sarah Vowell
The Age of Edison
Ernest Freeberg
Tales of the Alhambra
Washington Irving
Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey
Alison Gernsheim
The Collected Plays of Theodore Dreiser
Frederic E. Rusch, Keith Newlin
Great Stories of the Sea & Ships
Peter Hurd, N.C. Wyeth
The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra: A Discussion, Vol 1
Haruo Suda Katsuji Saito, Takanori Endo, Daisaku Ikeda
Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights
Jon Winokur
Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde, Merlin Holland
Imaginary Things - Andrea Lochen

3.5 stars. 


Young motherhood, imaginary friends, overcoming childhood trauma to save yourself and your child... 

Night on Fire - Douglas Corleone

3.5 - 4 stars.


2nd in the series. New York lawyer moves to Hawaii to reduce stress and live a laid back lifestyle. 

Pineapple Upside Down - Patrick Stack

4.5 stars


Fun - fun - fun!! I especially enjoyed how the author worked in Hawaiian dialect in ways that made sense and worked with the story.

Daniel Deronda - Barbara Nathan Hardy, George Eliot

5 stars


As much as I love Victorian literature I was having difficulty with this book throughout the first section. After discussing the matter with another reader, I approached the book as though it was written by a French author such as Victor Hugo, instead of an English author. After that mental adjustment on my part, the book was much easier to flow through -- until near the end, when I thought my brain was full and I wouldn't be able to continue. Luckily, I pushed on to the end and then, I didn't want it to be over! So yes, I had a couple of  rough patches, stops and starts, however, I highly recommend this book. Particularly if you have any interest in the history of Judaism pre-1900.

Karma for Beginners - Jessica Blank

My initial reaction after reading was "eh", but since some time has passed, I've been able to expand on my reflections. This book is probably very uncomfortable for many readers as the daughter is 14 when the book begins. If she had been 16, it might be more acceptable, but the ending wouldn't have the same meaning. I'm tryingto be purposefully vague so there are no spoilers. 


Inserted into this book, I could have been Tess. I would not have made all of the same choices, but a lot of them might have been me.


Having admitted that I find the book much more relatable than my first impression, do I alter the rating? I'll have to give that some thought. Maybe 3.5 stars.

The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery - Michelle Stacey

Thank you so much, Jackie, for passing this along to me. It really is a must read for lovers of Victorian Era history. It also covers the beginning of modern sciences, phych studies, and anorexia. A well written and we'll laid out book covering a huge scope. Don't forget the clairvoyants as well! 

Spark: A Novel - John Twelve Hawks

Fascinating character study. Since my total disability, I have found a partial emotional disconnect, though not enough to kill. Like Jake, animals are on the top of my pyramid (of course cats outrank dogs in mine). My mom didn't think I'd like this book and wasn't going to pass it on to me. I'm really glad I found it! 



Sub Zero - John T. Campbell

Having spent time on Kwaj, the surrounding islands, and been to the DMZ (So Korean side), this book was interesting from a geographic point of view for me. It also gave me a better understanding of what my stepfather did for work.

Innocence - Dean R. Koontz

3.5 out of 5


I can't put into words why I didn't care for this book as much as I usually do Dean Koontz. If I hazard a guess, it's because of non-linear nature of the story. It's a good book, an interesting set of circumstances (as his books usually are). The edition I read has a "Bonus Story" with more on the back story of the primary character. Given the way the book is laid out, putting this information at the end, seems to be the best place. I wouldn't recommend reading it first. But I am glad that it was there and I had the opportunity to complete the story with it.

A Habit of Resistance - Fernando  Torres

I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.


This book will take you on a romp through a terrible part of history, bringing you the delicate balance of humor within the framework of the horror of war.


I was enchanted by the third page. The writing is clear, crisp, and concise.


One particular note I made is that the characterizations are fabulously well developed. I really felt like I got to know them and that they were real people.



Growing Up Dead (Volume 1) - Greg Wilkey

 I received a review copy of the book and audio book from the publisher.


I devoured this book. It was delicious and I wanted more. When I done, I actually went back to the beginning and started reading it again, something that I cannot remember doing before.


As a fan of gothic Victorian literature, I have particularly sought out the earlier versions of vampire lore and stories. In my opinion, this book contributes to the growing legacy of vampire mythos.


The reader of the audio book, Maxwell Zener, understands the essence of the story and was able to portray the characters and mood as I imagined it while reading.

Epic Unearthed - Thomas D. Turner

This book was an author giveaway. He was kind enough to inscribe it to me, number, date, and sign it. 


I regret that at this time, I am unable to get beyond page 47. Given that I have not completed the book, I will not give it a star rating. 


It would seem from other reviews, readers tend to love this book, or, like me, it's missing something. I can say with certainty, the use of the present tense is unsettling, though it does give the scenes a sense some sense of urgency. I will leave this with my unread books and perhaps try it again in the future.

Still Life - Louise Penny

First in a series of murder mysteries set just over the Canadian border towards Quebec in the kind of town I imagine I would love living in, but in reality would probably feel claustrophobic. 


This book (and the many I've since read that follow), are more textured and layered than your pharmacy book grab. Instead of vanilla, it's German chocolate with Ganache. 

Scouting for the Reaper - Jacob M. Appel

This book was a generous gift from an unknown author. I am terribly remiss in taking so long  to get my review up.


When the book arrived I was in the midst of an eclectic group of books, including a collection of short stories by Stephen King. Usually I would wait and not mix two books of short stories, but these seemed compatible, so I broke my rule. And I'm glad. 


This collection of short stories held its own against some of the best Stephen King short stories I've had the pleasure to read. The authors voices are different and the subject matters  just different enough, there was no need to even try to say what was better. One day I read from one book, the next day or two from the other, and I continued to be equally delighted each time. 


Enough time has passed I can't say for sure if I had a favorite,  though "Ad Valorem" has haunted me. There was not one that I didn't like and I wouldn't mind reading much more. 


And I don't usually like short stories. 

The Cartographer of No Man's Land - P.S. Duffy

This is a period of history that really interests me. Unfortunately, though this book touched on many important points of the time period, the way some of the topics were covered seemed scholastic instead of intrinsic.


The parallel storylines, though interesting and brought together smoothly at the end, were jarring when going back and forth. Instead of being drawn into the story and reading the book in one or two sittings, almost every time it switched a storyline I put it down. It took me an unusual eight days to read what should have taken two or three, at the most.


If World War I interests you (or Canada, I've been reading a LOT about Canada recently, what's up with that?). This book isn't bad. It's not great. Oh, and sailing. A lot about sailing.

American Pastoral - Philip Roth

2.5 stars


I really enjoy Philip Roth short stories - and that's saying something, because overall, I generally don't like short stories. So when I got this book (thank you CZH), I was very excited to read one of his books, and a Pulitzer Prize winner, no less!


It took me weeks to get through the first few chapters. I almost gave up before the half way mark, but my rule is to get half way before I make a final decision on termination. Imagine my surprise when just before half way, perhaps 10 pages, the plot finally settles down into something I could hold onto and enjoy. Until it didn't.


This is Rabbit in an alternate universe, this time nicknamed "The Swede" with a different difficult family and troubled child(ren). I did spend a lot of time thinking about the Rabbit series and though sometimes tedious, at least it was linear and wrapped the story up.


In the future, I think I'll stick with Roth's short stories.