Friday, September 4, 2020

summer reading list

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – There is a pirate in the basement. There are three paths. The son of the fortune teller cuts through the alley behind the building where he lives and sees a painted door so realistic that he knows if he reaches for the door knob and turns it the door will open into a magic place and yet he does not because he does not have faith that what he feels is real. Years later this boy, Zachary, working on his thesis stumbles on a mysterious book on a high shelf on the upper floor of the library, a book with no author and no publisher. He begins to read Sweet Sorrows. He reads about the pirate, he reads about one of the three paths, he reads about the son of the fortune teller, himself. So begins a story of stories. Beneath the surface of the earth is a magic place, the Harbor on the shores of the Starless Sea, a sort of library of every story told, being told, will be told. This particular story is very old and is coming to an end as it has many times before. Zachary, in his effort to learn more about the book in which a part of his life is written, finds his way to a masked ball where he meets people integrally connected to the Harbor: Mirabell who paints doors because, Alegra who is destroying them to protect the Harbor, and Dorian who pushes him through a door but does not manage to enter it himself before he is captured by Alegra and the door destroyed. Zachary finds himself in the Heart of the now empty and deserted Harbor facing the Keeper. There are stories within the story...Fate and Time fall in love, the Moon and the Innkeeper, the Owl King, the other paths, the story sculptor, among others...that help explain the story though near the end it all takes a weird turn as Zachary finds himself alone in the depths of previous Harbors on the quest thrust upon him by Fate and Time. I may have to read this one again. I really enjoyed it but there is a lot to keep track of and you must just accept things as they are presented even if they don't make sense. This is the author's second novel. Her first one is The Night Circus which I thoroughly enjoyed as well.

The Tea Girl Of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See – Li-Yan, or Girl, as her family calls her is the youngest of four siblings and the only girl. Her family is of the Akha tribe living in the remote tea mountains of China who make their living, as all the villagers do as well as all the neighboring villages, picking tea leaves. Li-Yan excels in school and the teacher convinces her family and tribe to continue her education as an asset to the village.But Li-Yan begins to chaff against the traditions of the Akha and her family insisting on marrying a boy who is known to be a less than desirable husband. Nevertheless Li-Yan and San-Pa at 16 dedicate themselves to each other and after he leaves to go make his mark and then return for her, she discovers she is pregnant, so her mother, the region's healer and mid-wife conspires to hide her daughter's pregnancy and delivers the baby in secret since San-Pa has not returned and the child would be considered a 'human reject' and would be smothered instantly. Li-Yan then makes the 2 day journey to the nearest town where she abandons the baby girl to an orphanage and then returns home. San-Pa arrives months later, they marry and leave to return to Thailand where San-Pa has been living but stop at the orphanage only to learn that their daughter was adopted by an American family. When Li-Yan discovers her husband is a heroin addict she runs away but is not allowed to return to her village so her former teacher secures a spot in a trade school for her and Li-Yan begins another new life. The story follows Li-Yan's fortunes, always connected to tea, and that of her daughter who yearns to know who her birth parents are and why they abandoned her. She has one clue, a special tea cake that was in her swaddling when she was given up though all her efforts to identify the wrapping on the tea cake have failed. Until...

The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – I did not realize when I checked this book out that it was the same author as Eat, Pray, Love, a book I have not read and don't intend to read even though it said so right there on the front cover. This book is about 500 pages but I swear it felt twice that long. The author is very wordy and she beleaguers ideas. More than once the book became tedious, other times the story moved along well enough. The story follows the life of Alma Whitaker, born to the richest man in Philadelphia in 1800, the only surviving child of her parents. This is how the book starts and then abandons her to tell the story of who her father was and how he became the richest man in Philadelphia through botanical and pharmaceutical trade before getting back around to Alma, a homely child, tall and big boned, with an extraordinary mind who was given free range to explore and study her surroundings, who was not just allowed but required to sit through dinners with all the guests that came every day to see her father and listen to and even participate in the adult discussions, an upbringing that basically made her unmarriagable. The book follows Alma's life as she grows to adulthood as a botanist, becomes her father's partner in the family business after her mother dies, sees the man she loves marry another, continues her studies and published works as she focuses on mosses, meets a man a decade her junior which turns into a disastrous 1 month marriage and here is where the book got stupid. She banishes her husband to Tahiti to manage the vanilla plantation where he dies a few years later. Her father dies and she gives away all her money to her adopted sister and travels to Tahiti to 'discover' who her husband really was. The whole Tahiti section I could have done without. Stupid. She leaves after a year or so and moves to Holland where she lives the rest of her life refusing to publish her thesis on evolution because it's not 'perfect'. Darwin beats her to it. She's in her 90s when the book ends. I've given you the basic outline so you won't have to bother reading it. To be fair, there were parts of the book I enjoyed.

The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz – a quick pick off the new arrivals shelf at the library. I had never heard of her and there were a few hints that this was in the romance genre but it didn't become fully apparent until about 3/4s of the way through the book but her enormous published book list should have been a dead giveaway. She writes under three names and this name alone had 39 titles. Decades ago the government opened various secret labs around the country to investigate and try to weaponize paranormal energy but something went wrong and one of the labs hidden in a cave complex next to the small town of Fogg Lake exploded and engulfed the town in a cloud that caused the residents to sleep for two days. When they woke up they all had new strange abilities that were passed down to their children. Catalina and Olivia, best friends in high school decide to spend the night in one of the caves, a regular rite of passage for the teens of Fogg Lake, and when they hear male voices coming into the cavern where they are set up, they grab all their stuff and go hide behind a boulder where they witness a murder, the body thrown into the swiftly running underground river. The murderer sees the camp lantern the girls forgot to grab and starts toward them as they run deeper into the tunnel where they run through a psychic energy shield stumbling into/onto a part of the lost lab where they spend the night. The murderer gave up and disappeared. The girls make their way out, tell their story and when no evidence of a murder is found, they are disbelieved and eventually convinced that they were hallucinating. Now, two decades later, Catalina and Olivia have opened their own investigation agency using their peculiar talents to help them solve cases when Olivia is kidnapped and Catalina nearly so. Two murders of collectors of 'hot' paranormal items have taken place and so the Foundation, a private agency that tries to keep an eye on the paranormal community, has sent an agent, Slater Arganbright (gotta love that name) to ask for Catalina's help and she in turn enlists his help to find Olivia and in fact the kidnapping and the murders and the decades old murder in the cave are all connected. The hot romance/sex is of course between Catalina and Slater. The good guys win, the bad guys meet their fate, at least the ones they knew about.

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith – the further adventures of Mma Remotswe and Mma Makutsi...a trip to a safari camp to find a specific guide, an investigation into possible marital infedelity, and rescuing Mma Makutsi's fiancee from the clutches of his aunt.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – Famous painter Alicia and her in-demand fashion photographer husband Gabriel seem to have a perfect life together, in love and both at the top of their careers until one night Alicia shoots her husband in the face 5 times and slits her wrists. Found in time, she survives but never speaks again. In the weeks that follow Alicia paints a self portrait and titles it Alcestis, the heroine of a Greek tragedy, and after her trial she is remanded to a secure psychiatric unit. Theo grew up with an angry verbally abusive and violent father and a fearful submissive mother and spent years in therapy with Ruth trying to overcome the feelings of failure and unworthiness instilled by his father and becomes a psychotherapist himself and falls in love/lust with a woman who seems to return the intensity of their relationship. All is well until Theo discovers she is having an affair. So the story follows two threads, Theo's discovery of his wife's betrayal which churns up all his old feelings and Theo's desire to help, to cure, Alicia, determined to get her to speak again and to that end he goes far beyond the doctor/patient relationship interviewing members of Alicia's family to try and understand what event in her life triggered the murder of her husband and he does succeed in getting her to communicate which ends in another apparent suicide attempt. It seems these two story lines are concurrent until the end when we discover that Theo unwittingly played a crucial part in Alicia's breakdown the night she killed her husband.

Crooked River by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – another Pendergast novel. After solving his most recent case, Pendergast and his ward/companion Constance, are relaxing on a remote Florida island when his boss shows up and asks him to interrupt his vacation and come look at a crime scene knowing that once he does Pendergast will be hooked and take on the case. The crime scene is a Florida beach where over the course of three days over a hundred amputated feet all wearing the exact same shoe wash up on shore. While Pendergast is investigating, Constance rents a victorian mansion scheduled to be demolished and sets out to solve a mystery of her own concerning the house. Pendergast enlists the aid of an ocean scientist researching drift patterns in the Gulf of Mexico as well as his one time partner from the last case, Agent Coldmoon. As they get closer to understanding where the feet came from, they encounter interference in the investigation and Pendergast and Dr. Gladstone are captured by their powerful enemy and it is up to Coldmoon and Constance to rescue them before they are killed. And let me just say that Constance is one bad ass.


  1. For once I have read some of your books! The Tea Girl, Signature, and Double Comfort. I enjoyed all of them, even The Signature of All Things but it was quite awhile that I read it. I do remember it being long but I was blown away (as I recall) by all of the botanical facts.

  2. Lots of reading! I have heard of Jayne Ann Krentz but I haven't read anything by her. The kids at our library LOVE "The Night Circus." I don't think we've bought Morgenstern's new one yet. We need to order it!

  3. I've read three of these. I agree with you - I might have to reread The Starless Sea. It was just so compelling! I'll have to check out the new Pendergast book. I used to read a lot of Jayne Ann Krentz back in the day. This one sounds interesting. I've never read the Gilbert one, but I did read Eat Pray Love & enjoyed it years ago, but most recently I read her City of Girls and LOVED it. It was raunchy & fun & starts in NYC before WWII.

    1. I believe I put those three on my list after reading your reviews of them. I keep a list of books I'm interested in for when I go to the library. right now my list has 4 books on it. I had another list but it's gotten lost since the last time I took it with me to the library.

  4. I've tried, but I simply cannot read novels any more. I seldom, actually never, remember the gist of a book when I'm through, except a vague impression.

  5. Great reading suggestions! Thank you! Regards, Carol (aka

  6. Fantastic reviews, as always! I'm so impressed by your ability to read so widely right now. My attention span is completely shot.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.