Sunday, February 28, 2016

'Beastly Bones' Brings More Magic to Readers

In Beastly BonesWilliam Ritter has created another delightful tale with the astute R.F. Jackaby and clever Abigail Rook, who are on the case of shapeshifters, dinosaur bones and a few more otherworldly creatures (including humans).

This tale may begin with kittens, but don't let that lull you into a false sense of security. This is a fast-paced story, a mystery wrapped in a riddle with lots of excitement and revelations. It is funny and poignant, clever and revealing.

Jackaby is a detective who specializes in the supernatural. Abigail fled England to find opportunity beyond the boundaries enforced by her family. It's 1892, and her options are limited — until she meets Jackaby and joins one of the most unique and delightful detective agencies on this side of the Atlantic.

Beastly Bones jumps right into the thick of things with shapeshifters who, for the time being, are adorable kittens (mostly). Their owner soon meets an unfortunate end, and Jackaby and Miss Rook are plunged into a mystery that takes them away from New Fiddleham to Gad's Valley to help their police officer friend, Charlie. A dinosaur skeleton has been unearthed on a farm  — and a mysterious death connects the valley to New Fiddleham.

Not only are we reunited with our favorite characters, we meet another: Hank Hudson, an old friend of Jackaby's, a trapper by trade with an interest in the more rare species. The mystery of New Fiddleham lurks in Gad's Valley, and Charlie has to try to keep the peace, assist in the investigation as only he can, and keep two hotheaded paleontologists from harm (as well as harming each other). Nellie, an intrepid reporter, does her part to get the facts, and the others in Gad's Valley round out this interesting cast of characters.

Readers will laugh out loud and gasp in surprise, well up with a tear or two and root for the underdog (literally). It's a great romp into the unknown with the best guides imaginable led by an occultist and a paleontologist.

This is the second in the series, so consider taking a few hours to read the first book, Jackaby. (I estimate "a few hours" because, if you're like me, you'll finish it in record time.) One need not read the first book to enjoy the second, of course — but an intimacy with the cast of characters will add to a reader's enjoyment of the story.

Readers, rest assured, this is not the end of the story: a third tale in the series is scheduled for publication.

Additionally, Algonquin Young Readers offers a novella titled The Map: A Jackaby Story to tide over Jackaby fans.

Finally, visit the publisher's website for  extras available for both Jackaby and Beastly Bones.

Enjoy the fun and suspense that only R.F. Jackaby and Abigail Rook can provide, and learn a little about a lot of unusual things along the way.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ignore all Hype, Ye Who Read 'Luckiest Girl Alive'

Critics think they are doing Jessica Knoll a favor by comparing her debut novel to Gillian Flynn's books. They are not. I, as a reader, was led to expect an entirely different book than I got.

Is Luckiest Girl Alive suspenseful? Sure. 

Does it tease out the story with plenty of foreboding and dangling clues and teasers? You bet. 

Are there some surprises in there? A few. 

In fact, it's one of the best-written books I've read in a while. However, the hype around the book influenced my reading of it, which wasn't fair to me, Knoll or poor TifAni.
As the book opens, Ani FaNelli is living the life of her dreams. She works not at just any magazine, but The Women's Magazine. She isn't just engaged, but engaged to a blue-blood, Old Money bachelor with an obscenely wealthy family. Her address, her clothes, even her friends are Just Right — rich in all the right ways, and all because of fiancé Luke. She is starving herself into a size six wedding dress, drunk half the time, wicked all the time. The veneer, however, is starting to peel, which her fiancé notices.

Ani's past unfolds alongside her present, and it's compelling. Her childhood was changed by a singular bad choice in middle school that propels her to Bradley, a posh private school in Pennsylvania. Readers meet TifAni, a desperate hormonal teen who will do anything to be popular and accepted by the blue bloods. Despite the central story’s surprisingly short fuse, the tale is well-paced and intriguing.
For 200-plus pages, Ani is a calculating, measured gold digger, a bizarre delight to read — until she nosedives in uncharacteristic missteps and unexpected displays of immaturity. I forgave that flaw in hopes of a big payoff, The Big Secret. In fact, I don’t think there was a Big Secret. There was, however, a logical and satisfying conclusion.

Long story short, abandon all expectation. Hide the dust jacket and ignore all adjectives. Approach this book as a debut novel with a well-told tale that provides an unraveling of a tightly-wound gold-digger whose fall is delicious and hearty.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Poetry: In Honor of Liam's Due Date

My grandson Liam was expected to be born today. As with all babies, he is choosing his own birthday.

Germ of new life, whose powers expanding slow
For many a moon their full perfection wait,—
Haste, precious pledge of happy love, to go
Auspicious borne through life's mysterious gate.

What powers lie folded in thy curious frame,—
Senses from objects locked, and mind from thought!
How little canst thou guess thy lofty claim
To grasp at all the worlds the Almighty wrought!

And see, the genial season's warmth to share,
Fresh younglings shoot, and opening roses glow!
Swarms of new life exulting fill the air,—
Haste, infant bud of being, haste to blow!

For thee the nurse prepares her lulling songs,
The eager matrons count the lingering day;
But far the most thy anxious parent longs
On thy soft cheek a mother's kiss to lay.

She only asks to lay her burden down,
That her glad arms that burden may resume;
And nature's sharpest pangs her wishes crown,
That free thee living from thy living tomb.

She longs to fold to her maternal breast
Part of herself, yet to herself unknown;
To see and to salute the stranger guest,
Fed with her life through many a tedious moon.

Come, reap thy rich inheritance of love!
Bask in the fondness of a Mother's eye!
Nor wit nor eloquence her heart shall move
Like the first accents of thy feeble cry.

Haste, little captive, burst thy prison doors!
Launch on the living world, and spring to light!
Nature for thee displays her various stores,
Opens her thousand inlets of delight.

If charmed verse or muttered prayers had power,
With favouring spells to speed thee on thy way,
Anxious I'd bid my beads each passing hour,
Till thy wished smile thy mother's pangs o'erpay. 
By Anna Lætitia Barbauld
courtesy Poetry Foundation app

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Poetry Wednesday: Chocolate

National Poetry Month begins in April, so here's a tasty morsel to help you get ready!


Velvet fruit, exquisite square
I hold up to sniff
between finger and thumb -

how you numb me
with your rich attentions!
If I don't eat you quickly,

you'll melt in my palm.
Pleasure seeker, if i let you
you'd liquefy everywhere.

Knotted smoke, dark punch
of earth and night and leaf,
for a taste of you

any woman would gladly
crumble to ruin.
Enough chatter: I am ready

to fall in love! 

by Rita Dove
courtesy Poem Hunter

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Month of Letters Starts Today!

When was the last time you wrote a letter?

A card?

A postcard?

Anything without an "e" in the title?

Make February the time to do just that: join A Month of Letters.

It's simple, really. Just write a letter or postcard. To anyone. About anything. And pop it in the mail. Then repeat through February.

Don't worry, you don't have to be wordy, just thoughtful. Or funny. Or — well, you decide.

Stop by the stationery store (yes, they still have those!) and pick up a box of blank cards. Or stop by Target, or your favorite drug store. A sheet of notebook paper folded into an envelope will work as well. Be as fancy or simple as you want.

Yes, writing a letter on the computer counts (if you print it and mail it, of course).

Here are a few ideas:
  • Congratulate a friend.
  • Praise the work of a professional.
  • Thank someone.
  • Send a memory, happy or poignant.
  • Share your favorite poem.
  • Print a photo and send it as a postcard (it's easy!
  • Wish someone a happy birthday.
  • Write a fan letter.

Join me for A Month of Letters!