Author: Former Lemurians (Page 1 of 109)

Climbing the Wall in Dan Santat’s ‘After the Fall’

“Life begins when you get back up”

after the fall

Now we all know the story of Humpty Dumpty and how he fell and couldn’t be put back together again. But in Dan Santat’s beautifully illustrated new picture book After the Fall, he has already been put back together, but is now terrified of heights. His fear was so crippling that he could no longer enjoy things he once loved, like the good cereal on the top shelves of the grocery store or bird watching on top of the wall.

atf pictures

But Humpty Dumpty will not give up all the things he loves just because he is afraid of heights. No! He will just have to be more creative about enjoying them. He starts making paper airplanes to fly alongside his beloved birds. But tragedy strikes again, and his favorite plane gets stuck on top of the very wall he first fell off. Now Humpty Dumpty has to face a hard decision.

Does he let his fall define him or does he get back up again?

Dan Santat’s storytelling and illustrations blend perfectly together to create this vibrant and heartfelt story. With some fun twist and surprises to a tale we all thought we knew, After the Fall will inspire all that read it (trust me, I loved it so much that I bought it for myself). This is not just a book for children, it is a fun reminder to everyone that the important thing is not that you fell, but whether you get back up again.

‘An Enchantment of Ravens’ enchants with its beauty and thrills

“No. You surpass us all.” Beside me she looked colorless and frail. “You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”

~Margaret Rogerson

Let me preface this blog by saying that I am a huge fan of fantasy books, but for some reason, I am not always a big fan of books about fair folk. For some reason, they don’t seem to be able to reinvent themselves as easily as other fantasy.enchantment of ravens But An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson took me completely by surprise. I was completely captivated by this book within the first chapter. It was probably one of the few books that I have read this fall that I have binged.

We begin this story with Isobel, an incredible painter who fashions portraits of the fair folks. She exchanges these portraits for magical favors. Fair folk are obsessed with “Craft”, anything that is made, for they can not make anything without it falling to dust. She is highly acclaimed among the fair folk but is still startled and nervous by the idea of receiving Rook, the Autumn Prince, for the first time. She sees sorrow into the eyes of Rook and paints it into his portrait despite the fact that the fair folk do not have human emotions. When Rook presents the portrait for the first time in the Autumn court, the display of a human emotion on his portrait is taken as a display of weakness and he takes it as the greatest betrayal. Rook demands that Isobel come with him and stand trial for her crimes.

This is the beginning of a magical and dangerous adventure through the land of the fair folk. Along this journey, alliances are broken and reformed, emotions flare between hate and love as  Rook and Isobel try to stay alive and find their way to the Green Well. If a human drinks from the Green Well, they will become a fair one and this may be the only way for Isobel to save herself from the others. But the catch is, if she chooses this path, then she will have to give up her Craft forever.

Margaret Rogerson’s writing is absolutely lovely and magical. Just like Isobel beautifully paints portraits, so does Margaret paint this rich world with words. The language paints a perfect picture of Isobel’s world and any reader will feel like they have just stepped up next to Isobel as she picks up her paints.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough: ‘Resurrection of Joan Ashby’

A couple of months ago the store got advanced copies of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, this new novel from Flatiron Books that was touted to be a HUGE debut. Upon first seeing the book, I decided it certainly appeared to be huge in size, but whether or not it was a great debut was yet to be seen. I will be the first to tell you that I tend to steer away from physically large books, because I think they will take a lifetime to read (even though they never actually do). So, my first thought was that I would never actually read this book.

But then Kelly, our manager, said that she had started the book, and it was absolutely amazing. This was a large vote in the positive, because Kelly is a tough critic, guys, and if she says something is amazing I am quick to take notice. I lugged this tome home and vowed to start that night. To say the next week and a half of my life was just me trying to plot out when I could get back to reading this book is an accurate assessment. I became devoted to Joan Ashby and the story of her life, and I have yet to stop talking about this book. So let’s get down to me actually telling you about this story:

Joan Ashby became a wildly successful and award-winning author as a young woman. This could be attributed to the fact that she has been dedicated to her craft all of her life. An article in Literature magazine (Fall Issue)) at the start of the book prints something from her journal that she wrote when she was just 13 years old. It is a list of commitments to herself and requirements to becoming a great author. The list goes like this:

1) Do not waste time
2) Ignore Eleanor when she tells me I need friends [she is referring to her mother]
3) Read great literature every day
4) Write every day
5) Rewrite every day
6) Avoid crushes and love
7) Do not entertain any offer of marriage
8) Never ever have children

9) Never allow anyone to get in my way

As you can see, Joan was a very intense and dedicated little girl. She knew what she wanted, come hell or high water! But of course love will find a way, won’t it? And it certainly does for Joan when she meets Martin. Joan is upfront with Martin from the very start when she tells him that her writing will always come first and children are completely off the table. No exceptions. Clear enough, right?

Haha, wrong again

Before long, Joan will end up unexpectedly pregnant. When Martin is visibly delighted by this development, Joan can’t help but feel betrayed by his quickness to break their vow. So a child is born…and then another child. All during this time, Joan is trying to complete her highly anticipated first novel. Being a wife and a mother comes with many demands, as many of you women out there know. Just reading a book in its entirety is a struggle, much less actually writing one. All through this telling of Joan’s life, snippets of her own incredible short story are sprinkled throughout the book. It is easy to see how she became such an acclaimed short story writer so early in her career.

I don’t want to give too much about the story away, but I will tell you that she does complete her novel and there is a betrayal of Shakespearean proportions. I was reading this book on a plane and when the big event occurred, the woman sitting beside me must surely have been worried about my mental stability. I was breathing heavily and grinding my teeth. I feel sure I made her very uncomfortable, but oh well!

I truly cannot say enough about how much I loved this book. I found Joan incredibly relatable, aside from her obvious genius. She is a woman who says the thing you are not supposed to say about motherhood and being a wife: it is not enough for her. She is not completely fulfilled by the triumphs of her family; she needs something of her own. Of course she loves her family, but she has creative goals and needs. Being creative also, I relate to this. I loved Joan Ashby and I found myself cheering for her this entire book. I literally could have read this forever and been completely satisfied.

Signed first editions of The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas are still available.

‘Genuine Fraud’ by E. Lockhart is a genuine gem

genuine fraudI was first turned on to E. Lockhart when my best friend and trusted book consultant recommended Lockhart’s We Were Liars. She couldn’t put it down. She loved it. She hated it. It wrecked her. All she could do after was take a nap. She couldn’t stop talking about it. This got me interested and when I saw she was coming out with a new book called Genuine Fraud and we had an advanced copy I knew I just had to read it.

Knowing what I did about We Were Liars, I was hesitant to believe or trust anything in her new novel Genuine Fraud. I knew nothing and no one  would be as simple as they seemed.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

Lockhart introduces a new and captivating suspense and psychological horror novel with Genuine Fraud. The book starts off with chapter 18, in June 2017. Hint: you should pay attention to the dates. The story is mainly told in flashbacks over the course of the past few years. The story is about Imogen and Jule and their friendship and time together. It’s a story of those who lack morals. It is a story about those that lack ambition and others who will do whatever it takes to get what they want. It’s a story about liars and cheaters (in more ways than one). It’s about accidents and premeditation and telling more would give too much away.

If you have read We Were Liars, be warned the only similarity is that they both take you by surprise. Genuine Fraud is very straight forward and, in some ways, this makes the mystery even harder to figure out. It seems like things are one way, and because they are presented as fact, I was always questioning what was real and what wasn’t. It is a very fast and short read, perfect for a weekend binge read. It has just enough ambiguity in the plot to keep you flipping the pages until the very end.

With Her Little Eye: ‘Olivia the Spy’ by Ian Falconer

This blog is in honor of my little sister, Olivia. She grew up on Olivia the Pig books and I got the joy of reading them along with her. Olivia is a classic and has made many families fall in love with her over the years. My family even started a collection of pig stuffed animals. We can’t see a pig without thinking of Olivia the Pig. She is a most beloved children’s book character and, after many years, she is back.

Olivia is sassy, bold, and refuses not to be seen. She has been any- and everything from a fairy princess to a circus performer–and now she is a spy!

In Olivia the Spy, Olivia overhears her mom talking with her dad about her, and she must know what they were discussing. She decides to do some investigating herself. She becomes a spy! She is sneaky and quiet. She must blend in with her surroundings. This is not something Olivia is good at, but she never gives up. Don’t worry; Olivia always finds a way.

“Olivia, Who had always stood out, now needed to blend in. She might be anywhere. Anywhere. Seriously, Anywhere.”

“Olivia, who had always stood out, now needed to blend in. She might be anywhere. Anywhere. Seriously, anywhere.”

What will Olivia discover through her investigation? Is it the truth? Olivia will learn whether or not she can trust what she overhears as the whole story.

Ian Falconer brings Olivia alive once again in this hilarious new book. Lovers of the classic Olivia books or those who have not even met Olivia yet will thoroughly enjoy Olivia the Spy. Falconer’s comical illustrations are very funny, a combination of drawings, painting and photos that bring even more life to his stories. They are quirky and will brighten anyone’s day.

Ellen’s Bodacious Beach Reads 2017

So I shall be going to the beach next week, and next week can’t come soon enough. Now, being of the pale skin variety (i.e. I look like I’ve been dead for two weeks because I’m so pale), I tend not to actually sit on the actual beach all that much. I just want to sit on the balcony, smell the ocean, smoke many packs of cigarettes, and read…A LOT OF BOOKS. So, for several weeks, I have been thinking about which books I would be taking to the beach to read. This has been difficult for me, because I have several hundreds of books on my TBR (to be read) list. I have finally narrowed down the list. Hallelujah!!! So let’s do this!

made for loveThe first book on my list is the new novel from Alissa Nutting, Made for Love. People: this book’s cover is of the air-brushed persuasion. If that is not enough to get your engines started, let me break this novel’s story down for you: Hazel has just left her tech billionaire husband, who has also his sights set on world domination. Things have been weird in their marriage for years, but the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back is when Byron wants to insert a chip in his and Hazel’s brain in order to achieve the first mind meld in history. pinky ru ponderingHer only option is to seek refuge in her father’s home that is in a retirement trailer park. Did I mention that her widower father has just purchased a brand new lifelike sex doll named Diane? Hazel’s father’s hope is that in his last years he will die doing something that he loves; obviously, that thing is having sex with Diane. “Hazel began to look at the five-foot four-inch silicone princess a little differently now: Penthouse pet from waist up, Dr. Kevorkian from the waste down.” If this little bit I’ve just shared does not convince you to buy this book, then we do not share the same sick sense of humor…and that is totally your choice. Albeit the wrong one, but I digress.

goodbye vitaminNumber two is Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. Ruth, freshly disengaged from her fiance, is summoned home to help care for her father Howard, a once prominent history professor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has bouts of lucidity. When Ruth arrives home, she finds the situation much more serious than she had anticipated. When the university does finally sack Howard, Ruth and a handsome ex-student of Howard’s go a little too far in the name of justice. Over the course of a year, the comedy in Ruth’s situation becomes apparent and it gently transforms her grief. Honestly, I am eager to read anything about a thirty-something woman who is not exactly where she would like to be in her life. Perhaps I relate. HAHAHAHA.

watch me disappearWatch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown is coming in hot at number three on the list. This novel is about Billie Flanagan, who went missing a year earlier in Desolation Wilderness (which does not sound like an optimal location to go on a solo hike, but that is what she does). Her body is never found, but a shattered cell phone is recovered. Billie left behind a husband and a teenage daughter. Both of the survivors in this story deal with the loss of Billie in equally unhealthy ways. However, things get seemingly extra unhealthy when Olive, the daughter, starts having visions of Billie…alive. Jonathan, Billie’s husband, is very concerned for Olive’s emotional stability when this all begins, but as he uncovers secrets from Billie’s past, he wonders if he ever knew her at all. So, of course Olive and Jonathan unite in a quest to figure out the truth about Billie’s past and her disappearance. The tagline to this book is “Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.” (cue ominous mood music)

white furNumber four is White Fur by Jardine Libaire. The title of this novel is taken from the white rabbit fur coat the female protagonist always wears. Another great novel tagline is coming your way: “A stunning, star-crossed love story set against the glitz and grit of 1980s New York City.” COUNT. ME. IN. I mean, this novel has absolutely all the things I care about: star-crossed lovers? YES. 1980s New York City? OH YOU KNOW IT! And a female protagonist who is from the wrong side of the tracks and falls in love with a WASP? I’M STARTING TO GET SHORT OF BREATH! HELP ME! So, I have already read the first few pages and it opens in a seedy motel room with Elise, our girl, sitting on the bed with a rifle pointed at Jamie, her guy. All I can think of is, how did it get to this point? My book club is actually reading this book for July and I have already heard wonderful things from some of the members.

meddling kidsLast but not least is number five on the list, Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. Essentially, this book is about the Mystery Inc. gang all grown up, and it ain’t pretty, people. In this novel, the gang is known as “The Blyton Summer Detective Club.” Blyton Hills is a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley. In 1977, the gang solved their last mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster. So the story itself starts in 1990 after all of the former detectives have grown up and apart. Everyone is haunted by the disturbing memories of their final night on the case. To give you a sense of how everyone’s lives have turned out up to this point, I’ll explain everyone’s current sitch. Andy, who was the intrepid tomboy, is now wanted in two states and is tired of running from her demons. Kerri is the once kid genius who is drinking away her life in New York City with a Weimaraner named Tim who is a descendant of the original canine in the gang. Then there is Nate, who is a horror-loving nerd that is currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the gang leader, who was a star jock-turned-actor. This would be totally normal…if Peter were not dead, which he has been for years. So everyone is going to get the gang back together and face their fears about what happened all those years ago! I mean honestly I might start my beach trip off with this book because it sounds like too much damn fun.

So that’s what I’ll be doing for a week. I hope everyone’s week next week is as fun as mine!

Ellen offers opinions on Olds’ outstanding ‘Odes’

So, I’m not sure why, but I have not been able to get enough poetry as of late. I feel like I spend most days at work figuring out which book of poetry I’ll read next. Now mind you, I don’t like flowery poetry that I have to turn my brain inside out attempting to figure out what the string of words mean when put all together. I like it to be right out there in front of me, screaming.

odesAll of that is to say I am reading A LOT of poetry right now. However, in my mind, one collection of poems currently shines above the rest. Sharon Olds won the Pulitzer with her 2012 collection, Stag’s Leap. Her newest collection is entitled Odes. Olds uses this old form of a poem to celebrate all parts of herself and female sexuality. I can’t stress enough how excited I was to get home every night and read some of these poems. I could have plowed through the book in one sitting, but I opted to savor every single one, only allowing myself–at most–five poems at a time. The subject matter of the poems ranges from the purely sexual to the everyday mundane: “Blow Job Ode”, “Ode to the Clitoris,” “Hip Replacement Ode,” “My Mother’s Flashlight Ode,” “Real Estate Ode,” & “Ode to the Last Thirty-Eight Trees in New York City Visible from This Window”. The imagery conjured by these poems is at once brilliant and so obvious, at least once Olds has put it in front of you. Many times I found myself asking in my mind “Why haven’t I ever thought of that before?” These are beautiful and brilliant in their simplicity. Get in this mix guys.

“Ode of Girls’ Things”

I loved the things that were ours–pink gloves,
hankies with a pastoral scene in one corner.
There was a lot we were not allowed to do,
but what we were allowed to do was ours,
dolls you carry by the leg, and dolls’
clothes you would put on , or take off–
someone who was yours, who did not
have the rights of her own nakedness,
and who had a smooth body, with its
untouchable place, which you would never touch, even on her,
you had been cured of that.
And some of the dolls had hard-rubber hands, with
dimples, and though you were not supposed to, you could
bite off the ends of the fingers when you could not stand it.
And though you’d never be allowed to, say, drive a bus,
or do anything that had to be done right, there was a
teeny carton, in you, of eggs
so minute they were invisible.
And there you would be milk, in you, too–real
milk! And you could wear a skirt, you could
be a bellflower–up under its
cone the complex shape like a closed
buckle, intricate groove and tongue,
where something like God’s power over you lived. And it turned out
you shared some things with boys–
the alphabet was not just theirs–
and you could make forays over into their territory,
you could have what you could have because it was yours,
and a little of what was theirs, because
you took it. Much later, you’d have to give things
up, too, to make it fair–long
hair, skirts, even breasts, a pair
of raspberry-colored pumps which a friend
wanted to put on, if they would fit his foot, and they did.

Find a classic Easter adventure in DuBose Heyward’s ‘The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes’

“One day a little country girl bunny with brown skin and a little cotton-ball of a tail said, ‘Some day I shall grow up to be an Easter Bunny: –you wait and see!’”

country bunnyI’m bringing back a classic Easter book here, guys. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by DuBose Heyward, which was first published in 1939. This is not only one of my favorite Easter books, but also one of my favorite picture books in general from my childhood. My sister and I would go over to my grandmother’s place and have her read it to us repeatedly. It didn’t matter if it was Easter or not, it was the book we asked for. We even fought over who got my Grandmother’s copy just last summer (we’re high school and college students). This just goes to show how the books of your childhood can leave a mark.

Part of this book’s appeal for me as a child was, to be honest, the bunnies and the golden shoes (What can I say? I like my shoes). On the surface, this book is about a cute momma bunny (of 21 little bunnies) who wants to be the next Easter Bunny. The country momma bunny is named Cottontail, and she enters to be the next Easter Bunny. All the other rich white bunnies laugh at her and tell her that she can’t do it, but she is determined to prove them wrong. For kids, the idea of an Easter Bunny that wears golden shoes to deliver their Easter goodies is just so much fun, and you just can’t go wrong with bunnies.

I’ve recently gone back and reread it and I was shocked by its deeper meaning, and how wonderfully it is crafted for both children and parents. Not only is this a cute book about Easter Bunnies but it speaks to race relations, social standings, and gender roles. Cottontail is not only a brown, country bunny but she is a lady and a mother, at that. How could she possibly be able to be Easter Bunny? hoppsThis digs into the bigger issues in a very subtle way that is appropriate for small children, but also makes it more interesting for the parents to read. They question her color and class standing, but she overcomes this. They suggest that because she is a woman and a mother, there is no way she could be the Easter Bunny, but she proves them wrong. She never gives up and in the end, she is rewarded for this determination.

This is one of the sweetest picture books out there and my favorite Easter book. It’s a beautiful story of motherhood and following your dreams.

Secrets and Lies in ‘Behind Her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough

Continuing on with the British mystery trend, I would like to talk about Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes.

jaw dropLet me just start by saying you that will never guess how this book ends. Try as you might, this book is going to throw you for a serious loop. I finished this book on my lunch break one day and came back in the store and yelled “WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO ME?!!!” There is even a hashtag for this book, #WTFtheending. Don’t let this make you think that the ending was not good; it just shocked the hell out of me.

So onto the story: Louise, a single mom and a secretary, lives in London. Louise divorced her husband several years ago after he had an affair. Her days are taken up with work and her son. behind her eyesOn a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and they kiss. She is totally giddy about it because she feels there is a real connection and this has not happened to her in years. The next time she is at work, she meets her new boss who is incredibly handsome–and just happens to be the man from the bar. He also happens to be VERY married. Not only that but his wife is INCREDIBLY gorgeous. The new boss, David, and Louise talk about what happened and move forward. No big deal, right?

Then one day, Louise is walking back from dropping her son off at school and plows into a woman and knocks her down. It is Adele, David’s wife. Well, for whatever reason, Louise does not say she works for her husband. They grab a coffee and have a great time talking. They exchange numbers and start to become very chummy. While Adele and Louise’s friendship grows, David cannot seem to keep his eyes off of Louise. Well, of course this escalates and Louise is suddenly in secret relationships with both husband and wife. The more Louise gets drawn into Adele and David’s life, you become aware that something is very strange about this couple. They seem to be so perfect, but obviously something is rotten in Denmark. David cheats on his gorgeous wife, making the David that Adele describes in no way line up with the David Louise has come to know. So, who is lying?

This book had me guessing until the very end. If you love psychological thrillers, then you need to stop what you are doing and read this.

Just About Enough of This Ship: ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’ by Ruth Ware

Continuing on with my mystery trend as of late, I want to tell everyone about Ruth Ware’s latest book The Woman In Cabin 10. Since this recent obsession of mine was kicked off with Ware’s first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, I figured why not try the one that people have been buying like crazy since it came out.

The main character is a travel journalist named Lo Blacklock, who has worked at the same magazine for awhile and gets an exciting assignment because her boss is on maternity leave. Lo is eager to go on this assignment and make a good impression on her boss, because she would love to keep getting assignments such as this. titanic ballroomRichard Bullmer, the multi-millionaire businessman who married a noblewoman from the Netherlands, has built a state-of-the-art luxury cruise liner named the Aurora and is about to take its maiden voyage to the North Sea. The ship is said to the be the height of luxury and opulence, so obviously Lo is very excited to cover the maiden voyage and profile some of the super A-list guests.

A few days before Lo is set to leave on her trip, she is a victim of a home invasion and is extremely shaken. Lo is determined to not let this unfortunate event keep her from her work. On the day of departure, Lo boards the ship and is immediately impressed with the ship and the staff. Her cabin is like nothing she has ever slept in, and she settles right in. On the first night is a formal welcome party, complete with evening gowns and tuxedos. When Lo was getting ready, she met the girl in cabin 10, which is beside her cabin; however she does not see her at the the welcome dinner. Lo wonders if she is being hidden there by another passenger because she doesn’t look like the kind of person who would be on this ship. Richard Bullmer is handsome and extremely charming and his wife is exquisitely dressed, but extremely frail due to the treatment for aggressive breast cancer she has been diagnosed with and battling with for a year.

overboardLater that night, Lo is woken by a noise next door and then hears what she believes to be a body splashing in the water. To say that Lo has a proper freakout about this would be an understatement, and rightly so. She gets the head of security involved and demands to meet all of the staff to see if the girl in cabin 10 is among them or if anyone notices her missing. So what seemed like it was going to be a very pleasurable assignment soon becomes a real-life nightmare. Lo is nervous about the confined spaces, jumpy from her home invasion, and rather unnerved because no one believes her suspicions about what has happened to the girl next door. Lo discovers that all the passengers and staff members remain accounted for, which makes it especially hard to prove that there was a person murdered if no one even knows about the person. Much to Lo’s dismay the cruise continues on as if nothing is wrong. This does not dissuade Lo in her hunt for answers.

There is a crazy twist in this book that I didn’t see coming at all. Mrs. Ware really set the mood of this book in her writing. There were times that I found myself struggling with the small spaces that the character was put in and just her general mood of desperation. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone needing a thriller in their life.

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