Month: October 2011

What I Am Reading Now: The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson

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Johnson imagines a backstory for Shakespeare’s The Tempest in this entertaining tale of mystery, romance, and shipwreck.

Recently orphaned, Elizabeth signs on as servant to the crabby benefactress of the Virginia Company, sailing with her from London to the newly founded Jamestown Colony.

A colossal tempest strands the passengers and crew near the Bermuda islands, rumored to be inhabited by spirits and cannibals, but upon going ashore they discover a tropical paradise.

When the ship’s cook falls ill, Elizabeth takes charge of feeding the castaways. Her experiments with native herbs and vegetables are such a hit that she is soon cooking up great feasts for the group. (Johnson includes some of her recipes–for dishes like oyster stew and baygrape jelly.)

When Elizabeth gives cooking lessons to her swarthy fellow cook, a romance, encouraged by the pair’s mysterious friend William Strachey, blossoms.

After William creates a play for the amusement of those stranded, Elizabeth–cast as Miranda–begins to unravel his true identity, and the bond they develop changes the course of her life.

Johnson may not be Shakespeare, but her tribute is nevertheless a well-crafted drama.

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My Thoughts on The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

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How can you not love a book that starts with the main character saying that her life would have been much different if her grandmother would not have blown up?

And there starts a good book by a great storyteller. I really enjoyed this book! Little Pia, age 10, is going through such a hard time as she faces issues which are too big for her little ten years. The story is charming and you do not sense that this is truly a scary story until it is almost too late. Wait! This is a nice kid story! When did it turn into Steven King?

You can see the danger approach. You know things are not as they seem. But you pity a ten year old who is trying to figure out why girls are vanishing in her small village in Germany and who wants to be the town hero in order to stop being the girl whose grandma blew up at Advent.

It starts off with a charming little story and then it gets scary. Legitimately, start skimming like crazy because this paragraph is too scary, scary!

I liked this book, though, because the author is a master storyteller and she ties up all of the loose ends. It’s a great October book!

What I’m Reading Now: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

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It may seem strange to describe Grant’s debut as a charming horror novel, but there’s a determined amiableness about the narrative that will appeal to readers who wouldn’t typically be drawn to such subject matter.

It’s December 1998, and 10-year-old Pia Kolvenbach and her family are living happily in the quaint German town where her father grew up, until Pia’s grandmother accidentally sets herself on fire and burns to death.

A rumor erupts that her grandmother exploded, and, overnight, Pia becomes an outcast. Her only friend from then on is the most unpopular boy in her class, nicknamed StinkStefan.

The two of them begin visiting an elderly man who entertains them with ghost stories from local folklore that Pia and StinkStefan hope might help them solve the decades-old mystery of a number of local girls who have gone missing.

The story’s richness isn’t as much in the mystery plot as it is in the finely rendered background, where desperate parents strive to protect their children in an uncertain world, though the simplicity of the narration makes the novel feel lighter than probably intended. (Aug.)

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