Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Book Review - J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Published by: Educa Books
Publication Date: June 26th, 1997
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

I like to brag a bit about my mom being way ahead of the curve with regard to Harry Potter. Harry Potter was just starting to get buzz stateside by the fall of 1999 when Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released, following swiftly on the heals of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets which was released that June in the US. By the time Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released in 2001 they were having midnight release parties at bookstores and everyone was awaiting the release of the first film, a deal sealed in late 1998. Summer of 1999 my mom spent every minute talking about owls delivery mail and magical ceilings that reflected the night sky. Prepping for displays for her library when school started in the fall our dining room became a veritable owlry. We had so many stuffed animal owls pictures from my 21st birthday have A LOT of owls in them. Thankfully my friends were really good at doing owl impressions so it's a cherished memory. I personally didn't get around to reading the first three books until I got sick over the Christmas holidays. I remember as the new century dawned I was ensconced in my bed reading about "The Chamber of Secrets" and totally understanding for the first time why my mom subjected us to the summer of owls.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg
Published by: Park Row
Publication Date: December 29th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett's Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant at Miss Brickett's receives a letter of warning, detailing a name, a time, and a place. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can't see--her death the only sign she wasn't alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett's, making everyone a suspect.

Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and colleague is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett's and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie-style locked-room murder mystery, with an exciting new heroine detective."


To Fetch a Felon by Jennifer Hawkins
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: December 29th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Emma Reed and her beloved Corgi move from London to Cornwall with the dream of opening a tea shop - but first they’ll have to collar a criminal in the first book in a charming new series.

Emma leaves London and her life in high finance behind her and moves to an idyllic village in Cornwall, with its cobblestone streets and twisting byways. She plans to open a village tea shop and bake the recipes handed down to her from her beloved grandmother, and of course there’ll be plenty of space for her talking corgi, Oliver, to explore. Yes...talking. Emma has always been able to understand Oliver, even though no one else can.

As soon as Emma arrives in the village she discovers that the curmudgeonly owner of the building she wants to rent for her shop hates dogs and gets off on the wrong foot with Oliver. Although some might turn tail and run, Emma is determined to win her over. But when she delivers some of her homemade scones as a peace offering, she finds the woman dead. Together, Emma and Oliver will need to unleash their detective skills to catch a killer."

FINALLY! Corgis coming into their own in cozies! Also, That corgi on the cover is beyond adorable which goes into cuteness overload when you see the fox.

The Dark Archive by Genevieve Cogman
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: December 29th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A professional spy for a mysterious Library which harvests fiction from different realities, Irene faces a series of assassination attempts that threaten to destroy her and everything she has worked for.

Irene is teaching her new assistant the fundamentals of a Librarian's job, and finding that training a young Fae is more difficult than she expected. But when they're the targets of kidnapping and assassination attempts, she decides that learning by doing is the only option they have left...

In order to protect themselves, Irene and her friends must do what they do best: search for information to defeat the overwhelming threat they face and identify their unseen enemy. To do that, Irene will have to delve deeper into her own history than she ever has before, face an ancient foe, and uncover secrets that will change her life and the course of the Library forever."

I'm always reading for the next Invisible Library book! 

Friday, December 25, 2020

A Happy Christmas Day!

"By loving friends you are surrounded, oh be not blind to this I pray. They wish that joy and mirth unbounded my crown your happy Christmas day."

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Book Review - Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1912
Format: Hardcover, 224 Pages
To Buy

Here we go people! Another orphan story! Can't say my mom wasn't consistent! She liked unconventional families, be they big and rambling, or the families you found after being an orphan. And isn't it the time of year for orphans? It's very bleak Dickensian Christmas to be one... Anyway, my mom became obsessed with this book because of the 1955 film starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. Now usually it's me that falls in love with books after first seeing the movie, but I guess that turns out to be hereditary... The thing is she had issues with the movie, she thought it odd that a young girl would fall in love with her benefactor and the age difference she found creepy. So she read the book to see how much was changed and fell in love with the book, which is quite different and told in a wonderful epistolary style. In fact she was so obsessed with Daddy-Long-Legs that when she learned there was an out of print sequel, Dear Enemy, she spent months scouring shelves of used bookstores for a copy. So one year, for Christmas, I found a copy online, a first edition inscribed "Christmas 1915" and gave it to her. I think she liked it. She oddly didn't read it for quite a few years. I think by that point she was worried it would disappoint her and then it came back into print and I found her reading a paperback copy one day but she wouldn't comment on it being good or bad. So I at least know the first book in the series is a classic... the second is up in the air.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Love to Bake by Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and the Bakers
Published by: Quercus
Publication Date: December 22nd, 2020
Format: Hardcover
To Buy

The official patter:
"Love to Bake is The Great British Bake Off's best collection yet - recipes to remind us that baking is the ultimate expression of thanks, togetherness, celebration and love.

Pop round to a friend's with tea and sympathy in the form of Chai Crackle Cookies; have fun making Paul's Rainbow-coloured Bagels with your family; snuggle up and take comfort in Sticky Pear and Cinnamon Buns or a Pandowdy Swamp Pie; or liven up a charity cake sale with Mini Lemon and Pistachio Battenbergs or Prue's stunningRaspberry and Salted Caramel Eclairs. Impressive occasion cakes and stunning bakes for gatherings are not forgotten - from a novelty frog birthday cake for a children's party, through a towering croquembouche to wow your guests at the end of dinner, to a gorgeous, but easy-to-make wedding cake that's worthy of any once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

Throughout the book, judges' recipes from Paul and Prue will hone your skills, while lifelong favourites from the 2020 bakers offer insight into the journeys that brought the contestants to the Bake Off tent and the reasons why they - like you - love to bake."

It's days until Christmas, what do you get for your friend or family member who loves to bake and has done nothing but during quarantine? This. You get them this.

Scones and Scofflaws by Jane Gorman
Published by: Blue Eagle Press
Publication Date: December 22nd, 2020
Format: Kindle, 266 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When a gorgeous man dressed as Bridgette Bardot buys her a Scofflaw and asks her out on a date, Anna McGregor begins to suspect her murder investigation has taken a wrong turn. Her previous work as a medical anthropologist exposed her to a variety of unexpected situations, but none quite like this.

It all seemed so simple: fix up the Cape May Victorian mansion she’d inherited from Great Aunt Louise and re-open it as the exceptional B and B it used to be. Everything’s going great, until her very first guest turns up dead at the breakfast table, crumbs from Anna’s blueberry scones scattered on the lace tablecloth.

As the town’s gossip mill goes into overdrive, Anna leaps into the fray to save her reputation, her business and Great Aunt Louise’s legacy.

With help from a handsome handyman eager to solve all of Anna’s problems and a young police officer new to murder investigations, Anna does her best to convince the town - and her future guests - that while her scones may be killer, someone else was responsible for this murder."

I was sold at Bridgette Bardot.

Reckless by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Published by: Image Comics
Publication Date: December 22nd, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 144 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Sex, drugs, and murder in 1980s Los Angeles...And the best new twist on paperback pulp heroes since The Punisher or Jack Reacher.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the modern masters of crime noir, bring us the last thing anyone expected from them - a good guy - in a bold new series of original graphic novels, with three books releasing over the next year, each a full-length story that stands on its own.

Meet Ethan Reckless: Your trouble is his business, for the right price. But when a fugitive from his student radical days reaches out for help, Ethan must face the only thing he fears...his own past."

I'm loving how much new Brubaker and Phillips we've been having lately!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Book Review - Hilary McKay's Saffy's Angel

Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: 2001
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

Again, leave it to my mom to fall in love with another series that is impossible to find stateside. In fact, despite being an Anglophile myself there's a strong likelihood that the majority of my overseas book purchases over the years have been down to my mom. Once again it's a large rambling non-conventional family and the adventures they get up to, this time in the wake of their grandfather's death and his bequests to the Casson family. What my mom loved most about this series is that all the children are named after paint colors. Or should I say colours because this is a British series? My mom was always going back and forth between books and art and loved when the two commingled. Though what I am most grateful for is that this series didn't come out until long after I was born. I don't think I could be a Saffron or a Cadmium or a Indigo and definitely not a Permanent Rose! It's a very cool concept for a fictional family, but I don't think it would work without a few raised eyebrows in the real weird. But if you want to escape for awhile into a family that you wish you could be a part of, quirky names and all, then start with Saffy's Angel, because this series might just be for you!   

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Book Review - Johanna Spyri's Heidi

Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Published by: Everyman's Library
Publication Date: 1880
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

Before my mom moved into a nursing home for some reason she became a little orphan obsessed, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi... many of our Children's Classics pulled off our library shelves and read and oddly reshelved all dealing with orphans. The reshelving is actually how I found out what she was reading. My mom was a wicked fast reader so I often didn't know what she was reading at any given time as a book could be picked up and completed in an afternoon and if I hadn't checked on her in awhile, well, the book was already done and dusted when I checked in on her. I have actually not read Heidi, I know, an oversight on my part but in fairness the beautiful Everyman's Library Children's Classics edition was just published last fall and I picked it up when at a Joe Hill event in Milwaukee. But I was mildly obsessed with Heidi when younger because I was a TV addict and the old movie stations would air it a lot. I'm not sure if it was the original Shirley Temple version or the later sixties version, I just remember being obsessed with the Alps and the gorgeous house. When I was little I often didn't care about story, it was all about setting for me. Could I lose myself in the sets and the place? Well yes I did. Perhaps that's why to this day I think the settings in books are so important, and give me a big country house any day and I'll be happy! 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

Pretty Broken Things by Melissa Marr
Published by: MM Ink
Publication Date: December 15th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 300 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Heavily-tattooed and erratic, Tess hides in plain sight, off-the-grid in New Orleans. Tess is a survivor with more secrets than even she knows. Her clearest memories are tattooed on her skin, memorials to the missing dead.

No one knows who Tess is - or that she's still alive. That is, until writer J. Michael Anderson appears in town looking for someone with an irresistible story he can use to revive his flagging career.

In Durham, North Carolina Juliana Campbell comes face to face with death every day, but nothing in her mortician's training prepares her for the bodies that have started to appear on her table. With each body her anger grows, and she becomes ever more driven to find the murderer.

In the shadowy edges of the French Quarter, these three lives collide as long buried secrets and one woman's harrowing past ensnare them in the sights of the killer."

A new Melissa Marr in time for Christmas!?! Insert Kermit arm flail here.

The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: December 15th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Engaging and fast-paced, this gripping coming-of-age novel of chess, feminism, and addiction speeds to a conclusion as elegant and satisfying as a mate in four. Now an acclaimed Netflix series.

Eight year-old orphan Beth Harmon is quiet, sullen, and by all appearances unremarkable. That is, until she plays her first game of chess. Her senses grow sharper, her thinking clearer, and for the first time in her life she feels herself fully in control. By the age of sixteen, she’s competing for the U.S. Open championship. But as Beth hones her skills on the professional circuit, the stakes get higher, her isolation grows more frightening, and the thought of escape becomes all the more tempting."

Because everyone has watched the series by now and wants more, so here's the book! 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Book Review - Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Published by: Bullseye Books
Publication Date: 1936
Format: Paperback, 281 Pages
To Buy (different edition than one reviewed)

Fun fact time. My mother wasn't a fan of ballet. Extra odd because she was a Russian major and I know studied the Ballets Russes. So either she didn't like ballet because of her studies or it was just something she said to me because she didn't want me to do it. In fairness I would have been a horrible ballet student and she was just heading off a battle before it started. But here's the thing, I couldn't care less about ballet. I never wanted to take ballet, the shoes just transfixed me the first time I saw them in a store window at West Towne Mall. So if my mom's outward dislike of ballet came about because I was eyeing those shoes, I feel bad that we couldn't unite in our dislike. Despite her "dislike" of ballet she adored Ballet Shoes. In fact, she adored any book written by Noel Streatfeild, an author that is shamefully underrepresented on US shelves with only a handful of her many "shoes" books available here. In fact I had to often order her books from England for my mom because she couldn't get enough of her writing! Thankfully Noel Streatfeild's books are a little more accessible stateside after the adorable 2007 adaptation of this book staring Emma Watson. So if you're an author whose books aren't showing up on the shelves just get a movie adapted of your work staring someone from Harry Potter and you're set apparently! As to why it's a favorite of my mom's? She loved historical fiction about children foisted into situations meant to test their mettle. Extra points if they're an odd conglomeration of a family with lots of quirks and ambitions. And if that's your jam this book will be up your alley too.   

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Book Review - Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Published by: Yearling
Publication Date: June 14th, 2005
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

If you haven't been paying attention you might not have noticed a trend in my mother's favorite books. That trend is a love for big families and summer vacations that seem to last forever. My mom has four siblings. Two of her three elder sisters were married when my mom was young, making several of her nieces and nephews closer to her own age than her sisters. Family was always around, be it her nieces or nephews or cousins, her love of a large family unit was born through her experiences as a kid. As for idealized summer vacations... from what I've gathered any vacation usually was an excruciatingly long ride to somewhere only my grandfather was interested in, often insisting everyone stay in the car while he went off and did what he wanted to do. Alone. I can picture my mom in all those cars dreaming up a vacation worthy of a family like the Penderwicks. So I think it's easy to say that she longed to have the perfect family summers that books, like The Penderwicks, encapsulated and she devoured by the shelf. When this series was first published it was obviously going to be an instant favorite with my mom, I mean, seriously, just look at the cover and the fact that it's basically combining Magic by the Lake with The Secret Garden. Timeless tales of youth and a golden summer that she dreamed of having. Well, if you can't have it in life at least you can have it in literature.    

Monday, December 7, 2020

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Promise of Ankles by Alexander McCall Smith
Published by: Anchor
Publication Date: December 8th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The latest, delectably witty installment of Alexander McCall Smith's sumptuous 44 Scotland Street series.

For the residents of 44 Scotland Street, life in Edinburgh's intriguing New Town is a thing to be relished. After all, there are new faces to excite Domenica's anthropological imagination, precious moments with his triplets for Matthew to savor, and the prospect of a trip to the promised land of Glasgow for young Bertie.

But there are mysteries that need solving too. Could Angus Lordie's dog, Cyril - the only dog in Scotland with a gold tooth - have unearthed a Neanderthal skull? Does the long-suffering Stuart have any hope of kindling a new relationship when Bruce, ever the navel gazer and consummate seducer, effortlessly steps into his pas de deux? And how will the patrons of Big Lou's cafe react to the menu's imminent culinary transformation?

The stories of this wonderfully vibrant cast may take unexpected turns, but the warmth and humor at Scotland's most recognizable address will ultimately affirm the joy life brings us all."

It makes me sad that my mom isn't around to read the latest installment of her favorite series. 

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo
Published by:
Publication Date: December 8th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 128 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover - a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty - and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

Nghi Vo returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle in When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, a mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune."

Such cover lust! It's so rich and luscious! 

A Universe of Wishes edited by Dhonielle Clayton 
Published by: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 8th, 2020
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes a young adult fantasy short story collection featuring some of the best own-voices children's authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Libba Bray (The Diviners), V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic), Natalie C. Parker (Seafire), and many more. Edited by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles).

In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Jenni Balch, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, V. E. Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone."

Because who doesn't want to read a story about saving yourself? 

Mercy by Mirka Andolfo
Published by: Image Comics
Publication Date: December 8th, 2020
Format: Paperback, 192 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Mercy, a goth-inspired, Victorian monster series explores topics of "otherness," damnation and redemption, and what it means to be a monster in a horror graphic novel perfect for fans of Penny Dreadful, Crimson Peak, The Alienist, Parasol Protectorate, and Dark Shadows.

This new graphic novel by acclaimed creator Mirka Andolfo (Unnatural) is a gothic horror tale where mysteries and unspeakable sins are blended together in a unique and sensual way.

Washington State, late nineteenth century. During the frenzied historical era commonly known as the Klondike Gold Rush, a mysterious woman arrives in Woodsburgh, a small mining town close to the Canadian border.

It's been a few years since the Swanson mine was closed following the terrible accident that claimed the lives of so many men and women, including the owner's and the city it's still struggling in search for a new place on the map of the country.

Elegant and extraordinarily wealthy, Lady Hellaine arrives in the city accompanied by her faithful butler Goodwill and settles in one of the most luxurious mansions in town. A lifestyle that contrasts sharply with that of the majority of the population, forced to choose between humble crafts and illegal activities.

No one is aware of the reasons that led such a classy lady to move from Seattle to the small village, but her arrival certainly did not go unnoticed. Especially in the eyes of Lady Swanson, widow of the late mine owner and leading figure of the local bourgeoisie. Lady Hellaine's plans will bring her on a collision course with the powerful Lady Swanson, who, for reasons not entirely rational, distrusts the newcomer.

Meanwhile, the streets and surroundings of Woodsburgh are flooded in blood: a heinous creature is killing incautious citizens, wreaking havoc on their bodies. Enough to induce local authorities to impose a strict curfew after sunset.

And with the falling of the first snow, the "Woodsburgh Devil"'s fury seems to have even increased. What's the connection, if any, between this disturbing presence and the ivory-skinned stranger?

Who is Lady Hellaine, really? And what's her secret agenda?

Collects Mirka Andolfo's Mercy #1-6"

I picked up this series because it ticked so many of my Gothic boxes, but I stayed because it became something uniquely it's own. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Review - Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Egypt Game

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1967
Format: Paperback, 240 Pages
To Buy

My mom has always been a fan of Zilpha Keatley Snyder. She's one of the few authors I was allowed to order from my school book program. I have an old Scholastic copy of The Egypt Game and I was obsessed with that cover. In fact, I had many books when younger that I was meaning to read which instead I would just look at the cover and make up my own story in my head. I was convinced that The Egypt Game would be too scary. This was probably due to my Dad and brother. While me now has a deep abiding love of all things Egyptian, I literally can not get enough, me then was convinced mummy curses were real and they were coming for me. Actually I still think mummy curses are real, they're just not coming for me because I'm not stupid enough to mess with them. But I remember going to Chicago to see King Tut. It was a big family trip where we were meeting up with my cousin and Aunt who lived down there and all going to The Field Museum to see Tut. We got there and my Dad and brother informed me that if I looked on the boy King I would get the curse. I spent the trip in the stairwell crying. Therefore reading a book called The Egypt Game that I got around this same time seemed dire folly. YOU DO NOT MESS WITH MUMMIES! Though I'm glad I didn't read the book then, just making my nightmares worse, because now I can enjoy it with hindsight and the knowledge I'm reading yet another book my mother loved.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Book Review - Carolyn Keene's The Secret of the Old Clock

The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
Published by: Grosset and Dunlap
Publication Date: 1930
Format: Hardcover, 180 Pages
To Buy

I will fully admit that until recently I was never really on board with Nancy Drew. As a kid I never read her adventures, though I do remember the spinning book rack in my middle school library, the one my mom worked at for many, many years, was larded with Nancy Drew books and I did pick up The Secret of the Old Clock one day and stopped about two pages in. The story just didn't grab me and at that time in my life I was a reluctant reader. I remember Northern Exposure's Nancy Drew parody with Maggie more than the books themselves! So while not being a Nancy Drew fan I still enabled my mom's addiction. She adored the books when little, checking them out from the library as summer reading. So needless to say when they started issuing reproductions of the original books my mom was over the moon. I helped her hunt them down in our local stores. From Borders to The University Bookstore for Kids, we anxiously awaited the new re-releases was scanning the shelves for any other books that might want to come home with us. I now have these reprints and can not wait to read them for the first time as I have become a Nancy Drew addict because of the new CW TV show. I didn't expect it. I only watched it at first because it was paired with Riverdale and was another "dark retelling" but this time the supernatural aspects were real. As time went on Nancy Drew quickly became my favorite show, and Riverdale fell by the wayside, though I did like their own take on "Nancy Drew," AKA Tracy True, this season. The only real regret I have is that my mom never got to see this adaptation and the resurgence in Nancy Drew's popularity. I think she would have been on board.

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