Goodreads Monday- The Queen of the Night

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and tell the world about it. It’s hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, so remember to link back to her page so that we can see what everyone wants to read.


17912498The Queen of the Night
by Alexander Chee
561 pages
Published February 2016

From Goodreads: Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all.  As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.

Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation — or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.  


I saw this book a while back on the New Releases shelf in one bookstore or another, and it looks fascinating. At 561 pages, it’s tough to find a time of year where I’ll be able to take on longer novels like this one. Perhaps this fall, before the holiday season sucks away all my free time.

Goodreads Monday- Karen Memory

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and show it off. It’s hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, so don’t forget to link back to her page so we can see what everyone’s planning to read.


22238181Karen Memory
by Elizabeth Bear
346 pages
Published February 2015

From Goodreads: “You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I’m one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It’s French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, begging sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.


I’m not sure where I first saw this book, but it looks interesting. I’ve had a longstanding love of fiction set in the Victorian era, and a slightly newer fascination with Steampunk. It looks like this book scratches both of those particular itches, so it should be a run read!

Sunday Sum-Up

This was an eventful week, in which I found myself renting cars in foreign countries, accidentally attending a big band concert, finally getting my hair cut after letting it grow for a year, and running in circles at work, all while trying not to melt while I read a new favorite and re-read an old favorite, then ended the week with some amazing Indian food.

As it was hot again all week, I spent my evenings away from my muggy apartment until the sun went down. The hottest day was Monday, with a heat index of 105°F in the afternoon. It had dropped all the way down to 101°F by the time I left work at 7:30 pm, so I decided to go to a cafe downtown where they have great food and a quiet atmosphere. I wanted to keep reading Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister, and do it somewhere cool. Little did I know that there was a big band concert going on. I didn’t want to look stupid walking in and then walking back out again (and I really wanted their specialty mac&cheese), so I stayed. I have to say, reading Red Sister while listening to 1940s swing classics is a bit strange.

After procrastinating for four months, since I bought my plane tickets back in March, I reserved a rental car so that I can go see Iceland’s gorgeous sites at my own pace and on my own schedule. So far, I’m planning to visit the little down of Vik, with its black sand beaches and weird rock formations (also the filming location for the Iron Islands sequences in Game of Thrones), Snæfellsjökull National Park, and Gollfoss Falls. I also fully intend to check out the bookstore scene in Reykjavik. If I’m being honest about the trip, I’m a little weirded out by the thought of driving in Iceland since I’ve never driven in a foreign country before (I’ve gone places by trains, buses,  on foot, and via horse and buggy, but I’ve never driven), but I figure that if my friend who had never been out of the country until she went to Ireland last year could handle the left-hand driving on narrow Irish roads without getting too lost, then I can make my way through Iceland.

But if I suddenly disappear in mid-August, you’ll know I either got completely lost and decided to put down stakes in the Icelandic wilderness, or I went off to join the elves.

I read two books this week- Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It felt like a case of literary whiplash going from one to the other, but I don’t regret reading one right after the other. Pride and Prejudice was a breath of fresh air after the darkness of Red Sister.

 

 

What’s next? Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s My Soul to Take, for sure. It’s a mystery set in Iceland, so it appeals on two fronts: the first, because I’m going to Iceland in less than a month, and two, Iceland is much cooler than Nebraska temperature-wise and it will be nice to read about a place that isn’t hot and humid. The next one might be Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. A librarian-friend of mine gave it five stars on Goodreads, and when I read the synopsis, I was definitely intrigued.

Or I might read something else altogether. Who knows?

On the television front, I’m planning to watch the next episode of TNT’s Shakespeare show, Will before the new one premiers on Monday. And by the by, I tend to put literary quotes in my bullet journal to briefly sum up my day, and after watching the first episode I decided to include a Shakespearean quote. While I was browsing Goodreads’ quotes, I came across this:

hellisempty

That tag, though… I do not think that word means what you think it means.

And…

GAME OF THRONES!!!!!

Can I begin to describe how much I’m looking forward to seeing this woman finally get to Westeros?

got-season-7

My hopes for the new season? To see the Starks get back together and fully take back the North, to see Sansa get the better of Petyr Baelish and become the political master I’ve been hoping she’ll become, to see Arya continue to kick ass, and to see Cersei get taken down, preferably by Tyrion, just because she’s always been so horrid to him. I’d also like to see Gendry again. Hopefully he didn’t float out to sea in that little rowboat way back when.. I think it’s a safe bet that I’ll be commenting at length after watching each episode.

 

Goodreads Monday: Practical Magic

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where you randomly choose a book from your To Be Read list and share it with everyone.

This week’s selection:

22896Practical Magic
by Alice Hoffman
286 pages
First Published in 1995

From Goodreads: “[A] delicious fantasy of witchcraft and love in a world where gardens smell of lemon verbena and happy endings are possible.”—Cosmopolitan

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…


I watched the movie based on this book for the first time last winter, on the recommendation of one of my best friends. Practical Magic is one of her favorite movies, and I quite liked it, too. I was happy to find that the movie was based on a book, and I’m looking forward to reading the book. It might be something to read during one of my upcoming flights.

Goodreads Monday- The World Between Two Covers

23331535The World Between Two Covers
by Ann Morgan
326 pages
Published May, 2015

From Goodreads: A beguiling exploration of the joys of reading across boundaries, inspired by the author’s year-long journey through a book from every country.

Following an impulse to read more internationally, journalist Ann Morgan undertook first to define “the world” and then to find a story from each of 196 nations. Tireless in her quest and assisted by generous, far-flung strangers, Morgan discovered not only a treasury of world literature but also the keys to unlock it. Whether considering the difficulties faced by writers in developing nations, movingly illustrated by Burundian Marie-Thérese Toyi’s Weep Not, Refugee; tracing the use of local myths in the fantastically successful Samoan YA series Telesa; delving into questions of censorship and propaganda while sourcing a title from North Korea; or simply getting hold of The Corsair, the first Qatari novel to be translated into English, Morgan illuminates with wit, warmth, and insight how stories are written the world over and how place-geographical, historical, virtual-shapes the books we read and write.


I first heard about this book after watching Ann Morgan’s TED Talk about her literary adventure. She realized one day that most of the books she read were by British or American authors and wondered what she was missing out on, so she set out to read a book from every country- 196 of them- in one year. Some things were easy to find, others were extremely difficult, and in the process she encountered issues such as censorship and what makes a person a citizen of ‘Country X’ if they are immigrants or living in exile.

Morgan’s story inspired me to start reading books from other countries, and it’s been interesting (in a good way!) so far. I’ve read Ukranian satires (The Master and Margarita), dark stories about conflicts between siblings and even deeper inner conflicts from South Korea (I Have the Right to Destroy Myself). I have a long way to go, but it’s going to be a fantastic journey.

May Summary and June Preview

And like that, May was over. It was full of rain, work, and sadly, not enough reading. I finished a whole six books this month. I’m hoping to have a better record in June.

Now, to be clear, I read nearly four hundred pages of Sharon Kay Penman’s Falls the Shadow before giving up on it, and the first chapter of Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos before realizing that he was explaining concepts I was already familiar with, so page count-wise, I’m not that far behind April’s total. I just didn’t finish as many total books. So it goes.

Anywho. The six books I finished:

I enjoyed the first three immensely, while the other three were a little… eh. They were quick reads, in any case, and I don’t regret reading them.

This past Memorial Weekend saw my plans change from one day to the next, and so I was doing a lot of driving, and not nearly as much reading as I had hoped to do. Still, I got a little done before our hiking trip, which was on a beautiful day and full of beautiful views like this:
dsc00403-copy

Thanks to a lot of rain in the past few weeks, the trails at the park were starting to wash out, so while they are not technically difficult, the footing was a bit treacherous from time to time. Fortunately, there were few bugs and the temperature was perfect for being outside. I’ll have to remember this day once the summer heat comes along to melt us all like popsicles.

I’ve had this song in my head off and on again for the last couple of weeks:

 

Over the next couple of days, I’m hoping to finish up a couple of the books I’m currently reading- Conn Iggulden’s Margaret of Anjou, and Lisa Goldstein’s The Red Magician. I’m just over halfway through The Red Magician (it’s not terribly long) and I have less than 100 pages left in Margaret of Anjou, so provided I don’t get too distracted, I should be able to finish them both by week’s end.  I’m less than halfway through Margaret Campbell Barnes’s Brief Gaudy Hour. I’m enjoying it quite a lot, though, so it shouldn’t take too long to finish it.

As usual, I’ve picked five books I plan to read in June. My record with May’s ‘Top Five To Read” was pretty dreadful, as I only finished one of them (The Return of the King), and did not finish two others (Falls the Shadow, The Fabric of the Cosmos).

June’s Picks:
1. Bloodline – Conn Iggulden
2. Ravenspur – Conn Iggulden
3. Istanbul – Orhan Parmuk
4. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
5. The Black Company – Glen Cook

Bloodline and Ravenspur are the last two books in Iggulden’s The Wars of the Roses serieswhile Istanbul was one of my May picks that I’m still super interested in. I’m going to re-read Pride and Prejudice because I adore it and I haven’t read it for a whileand The Black Company has been staring at me from its spot on the bookshelf for a while now. There’s apparently going to be a television show based on it, and as a few of my friends are super excited about it, I feel like I should get a handle on what it’s all about so I have some idea of what they’re talking about.

And speaking of television shows….  I’m still loving American Gods, but haven’t watched any of the new Twin Peaks episodes yet. Given how that wonderfully weird show was a foundation for much of my pop cultural leanings, I really should get caught up on them. Also, Game of Thrones will be back soon!

But the show I’m most looking forward to this fall?

This one: