The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

FlaviaThe Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (2014)
Series: Flavia de Luce #6
310 pages
Goodreads Summary: On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother, Harriet. Yet upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear.

Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd…

Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test.

Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself.

Surrounded by family, friends, and a famous pathologist from the Home Office – and making spectacular use of Harriet’s beloved Gypsy Moth plane, Blithe Spirit – Flavia will do anything, even take to the skies, to land a killer.

I absolutely love the Flavia de Luce series and couldn’t wait until this book came out. I think this might be my favorite of all the series.  The previous book ended on a cliffhanger with Flavia’s father saying they’d found her mother.  I wasn’t sure if she was still alive or if that meant they’d found her body.

That question is answered in this book and I won’t go into details so as to avoid spoilers. In fact I thought I’d seen one review that said it went one way and I went into it totally prepared for that outcome, but there was a totally different one.  Still, I liked this book because it focused more on the family and personal lives of the characters.  I’ve always found the entire family and their relationships fascinating but the previous books mostly focused on the murder mystery aspect.

In this book there is a murder at the beginning but the majority of the novel doesn’t really center around it.  I also like the new direction the series is taking and can’t wait to read about Flavia’s continued adventures and where things are taking her.  She’s such a great character and no matter what she gets up to, I look forward to reading all the details!

If you haven’t read this series yet and you enjoy mysteries and unique characters, definitely give it a try.  I can’t wait for the next book in the series and I hope they just keep getting better and better!

My Rating: 4 Stars

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The Everything Hinduism Book by Kenneth Schouler & Susai Anthony

HinduismThe Everything Hinduism Book by Kenneth Schouler & Susai Anthony (2009)
271 pages
Goodreads Summary: Yoga. Karma. Reincarnation. Most Americans are familiar with a few basic ideas of Hinduism, but are unfamiliar with the big picture. This beginner s guide covers the major Hindu thinkers and their philosophies as well as the dharma, the moral way of life that Hindus practice. In a straightforward style, the authors explain the philosophy, gods, texts, and traditions of the world s third-largest religion, including: the power of karma; Yoga as a path to God; the authority of the Vedas; the development of Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism; the legacy of Mohandas Gandhi; Hinduism in popular culture; and more. This guide is stimulating reading for westerners who want to learn the basics of this ancient and mystic religion.

As I mentioned in a previous post, after I went to India I became really interested in not only the culture and life there, but also about Hinduism and the various religions. So I stopped at my library in search of some books to inform me and teach me the basics. This book is basically like Hinduism for Dummies as it was quite simple, to the point, and easy to read.

This book went into the history, the important texts, and various popular figures in Hinduism.  There was also a section on other religions that are offshoots of Hinduism and contemporary issues and applications.  Although the book wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it did give a lot of information and I felt like I had a general understanding of things which made a great place to start.

So if you know nothing about Hinduism, this would be a great place to start.  If you already know something about it, this book would be a little too simplistic.  And if you want to know more about the day-to-day practices of Hindus, this book doesn’t really go into that but takes a broader perspective instead.

My Rating: 3 Stars

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From the Mating Dance to the Cosmic Dance by Swami Sivananda Radha

Cosmic DanceFrom the Mating Dance to the Cosmic Dance: Sex, Love, and Marriage from a Yogic Perspective by Swami Sivananda Radha (1994)
181 pages
Goodreads Summary: What part do love and marriage play in the pursuit of spiritual fulfillment? Do the bonds of love, sex, and marriage preclude achieving spiritual liberation? In a daring and ground-breaking book, Swami Radha addresses many of the fundamental questions of relationships. She invites readers to inquire into the purpose of life and to explore the mating dance, often mistaken for love, as well as the cosmic dance—that ultimate potential that is available to anyone willing to go in search of it.

With the accumulated wisdom of years of doing spiritual practice and leading workshops with individuals and couples, she illuminates a path for those seeking a purpose and direction in life. Ultimately, she says, the path of spiritual evolution must be traveled alone, and the intimacy of love, sex and marriage can profoundly affect the journey’s progress. With an approach that is pragmatic and down-to-earth, Swami Radha discusses how intimate relationships can further one’s efforts to attain a higher, cosmic consciousness or, conversely, impede the struggle.

I saw this book on the shelf at my local library and it sounded so interesting I just had to check it out.  Since returning from India I’ve become interested more in Hinduism and yoga and how ancient spiritual principles relate to ordinary life.  There aren’t many books about spirituality and relationships or sex so when I come across one, I like to read it and broaden my perspectives.

Unfortunately I didn’t find this one to be all that interesting or really clear and I think it’s a bit dated.  There were various chapters on different stages of a relationship from dating to marriage and even divorce.  The author discussed ways to bring spirituality into a relationship and make sure your relationship is aligned with higher principles to ensure its success.

She also discussed celibacy and why it might come into play.  But she doesn’t advocate it or say that it’s for everyone.  There were also some excerpts from people who had attended workshops by the author and they shared their experiences about how their relationships deepened and changed due to their new spiritual insights.

I didn’t find much of the information to be really relevant to me in my own life or relationship but it did give me food for thought and some interesting perspectives to consider.  Still, I wasn’t inspired to make any changes or adapt anything new as I have been by other books I’ve read which really were life-changing.  Yet I’m glad I read it and if you’re interested in this topic then this might be a book for you as I’ve yet to come across any really outstanding books on this subject.

My Rating: 3 stars

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March 2014 Monthly Reading Summary

Total Books: 25
Adult Full-Length Novels: 2
Picture Books: 5
Graphic Novels: 7
Non-Fiction: 7
Total Pages: 2,879
Male Authors: 15
Female Authors: 9
Male & Female Authors: 1
International Authors: 11
New Authors: 21
Favorite Book(s): The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, Archetype, Griffin & Sabine

Total Pages to Date: 6,546
Total Books to Date: 48

Once again I’ve read a lot of books but not many of them were full-length novels. At the end of February I said I wanted to read more novels and I did read 2 this month, which is one more than last month, so that’s moving in the right direction!

This month I read a lot of short books, graphic novels, and even some children’s books. I got a lot of books read from my TBR which I knew would be quick and easy because that’s what I needed at the time. Maybe after this month I’ll transition into even more fiction in April.  I’ve also started catching up on all my reviews so that’s another goal I have for next month.

How was your March in reading?  Did you meet your reading goals?  What would you like to read more of in April?

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Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat

Five Point SomeoneFive Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat
271 pages
Goodreads Summary: Set in IIT, in the early ’90s, Five Point Someone portrays the lives of the protagonist Hari and his two friends Ryan and Alok. It explores the darker side of IIT, one in which students- having worked for years to make it into the institute-struggle to maintain their grades, keep their friends and have some kind of life outside studies.

Funny, dark and non-stop, Five Point Someone is the story of three friends whose measly five-point something GPAs come in the way of everything-their friendship, their love life, their future. Will they make it?

While I was in India I was looking for books by Indian authors about everyday life in modern India.  My boyfriend’s brother is an avid reader and we were able to discuss books and share recommendations.  He suggested I read this book and even bought me a copy to read while I was there.

This book is the story of three Indian friends and their time at university.  They go through many of the same struggles as any other student and I found myself identifying with all of them.  They had to deal with the pressures of getting grades, difficult teachers, rules of their college and dormitory, family pressures, and the big question of whether they’ll get a job after they graduate.

I loved that the book was set in India and brought a whole new perspective to what might be considered a traditional story.  It was fun to read about places and foods I was familiar with, as well as learn about new things and all the aspects of university life in India that are different.

The book was very humorous but also touching and I really cared about the characters. Even though it was about three guys and written mainly from one of their perspectives, I still liked the book and didn’t find it hard to identify with them and what they were thinking or feeling.  I think anyone who has attended college, regardless of their nationality or where they went to school, will find something of themselves in this book.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Mara by Brian Wood

Mara by Brian Wood (2012-2013)
Series: Mara #1-#6
32 pages
Goodreads Summary: Young Mara Prince is at the top of the world, a global celebrity in a culture that prizes physical achievement above all else. After she manifests supernatural abilities on live TV, she becomes famous all over again but for the worst reasons.

Integrating themes of superpowers, celebrity worship, corporate power, feminism, and political brinksmanship, Mara takes a classic genre to new places.

The plot of this book is what really drew me to it. I was curious to see how the story would play out and what the main message was behind the events of the story.  It’s a very unique story in that the celebrities are athletes instead of movie stars.  Young children attend sport camps at a young age in the hopes of growing up to be like Mara Prince.

However, when she suddenly discovers supernatural powers, everyone turns against her. She is suddenly infamous and everyone wants to know what’s going on, why things are happening to her, and what’s going to happen.  There are also other people interested in using her abilities and she is suddenly unsure where to turn.

The first few books I found really interesting and I was absorbed in the story, thinking it was heading in a certain direction.  The last few books though took it in another direction altogether and I can’t say it really had a strong impact on me.  I felt like the ending was quite vague and the story could have been developed more and given much more depth.

Still, a really original and fun little graphic novel series.  If you’re looking for something new and refreshing, consider picking this one up.  You might like it much better than I did.

My Rating: 3-4 stars

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Velvet by Ed Brubaker

Velvet 1Velvet 2Velvet 3
Velvet by Ed Brubaker (2013, 2014)
32 pages
Series: Velvet (#1-3)
Goodreads Summary: When the world’s best secret agent is killed, Velvet Templeton, the Personal Assistant to the Director of the Agency, is drawn off her desk and back into the field for the first time in nearly 20 years… and is immediately caught in a web of mystery, murder and high-octane action.

I absolutely adore books (and movies) about spies and espionage so this series is perfect for me.  Released in short little installments, it tells the story of a woman named Velvet Templeton.  At first she seems to simply be a personal assistant, but we soon learn she has a secret past as she sets out to find out what happened to her friend, a secret agent who is killed.

This graphic novel is packed with action and the heroine is unlike any I’ve ever read. She’s not the typical young, modelesque superhero-type spy.  She is older and wiser and isn’t overly sexualized in the story.  She’s also highly intelligent and resourceful, but also has a great sense of humor.

As the story progresses it goes deeper and more twists and background information are revealed.  I’ve only read 3 books in the series so far but I’m already hooked.  The graphics are simply beautiful and it’s like watching a really good movie, being on the edge of your seat and enjoying every moment.  Highly recommended for graphic novel fans, especially readers who love spies, secret agents, espionage, and kickass heroines.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani

Dying to Be MeDying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani (2012)
191 pages
Goodreads Summary: In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four years, her body—overwhelmed by the malignant cells spreading throughout her system—began shutting down. As her organs failed, she entered into an extraordinary near-death experience where she realized her inherent worth . . . and the actual cause of her disease. Upon regaining consciousness, Anita found that her condition had improved so rapidly that she was able to be released from the hospital within weeks . . . without a trace of cancer in her body!

Within these pages, Anita recounts stories of her childhood in Hong Kong, her challenge to establish her career and find true love, as well as how she eventually ended up in that hospital bed where she defied all medical knowledge.

As part of a traditional Hindu family residing in a largely Chinese and British society, she had been pushed and pulled by cultural and religious customs since she had been a little girl. After years of struggling to forge her own path while trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, she had the realization, as a result of her epiphany on the other side, that she had the power to heal herself . . . and that there are miracles in the Universe that she had never even imagined.

I read this book on my flight to India and it came at the perfect time for me.  A friend and mentor who was supposed to be joining the us on our trip passed away suddenly and unexpectedly several days before we were scheduled to leave.  Reading this book was actually a very comforting experience and made me feel that his soul chose to move to another realm and that his death was no accident.

In the book Moorjani talks about her childhood and all the ways she was conditioned by society to be a certain way.  She was unhappy with the traditional responsibilities that were thrust upon her and felt like she was different than those around her.  She also carried a lot of fear and stress inside, always worried about her health as she’d had several close friends get sick with cancer or even die.

When she got her own cancer diagnosis, her entire life changed.  She was sick and scared and didn’t know what to do.  None of the treatments helped her and she slowly deteriorated until she was weak and had lost a lot of weight.  One night she was taken to the hospital and doctors said there was nothing they could do.

During that time she had an amazing out of body experience.  She then returned to her body and experienced a miraculous, complete healing.  I’d never heard of any story like this before and was astounded at the miracles that are possible.  She shared what her experience was like, why it happened, and how her life has been changed since then.

For me, I already know miracles are possible, even such amazing healings as she experienced.  While a part of me was questioning why my friend didn’t experience the same healing, her description of the choice she made to return to her body instead of dying, gave me comfort as I realized my friend must have had a choice and made it for reasons unknown to us.

But knowing that life continues after death is something I think many people will find comfort in.  Not to mention the healing power of love and being connected with your higher self.  This book is short and a very easy read.  It is very inspiring and I’d recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about out of body/near death experiences and alternative healing or spirituality.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006)
Series: Gentleman Bastard #1
499 pages
Goodreads Summary: In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part “Robin Hood”, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling…

An orphan’s life is harsh — and often short — in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains — a man who is neither blind nor a priest.

A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans — a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful — and more ambitious — than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men — and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game — or die trying…

I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages and after Sarah at Sarah Says Read raved about it, I just had to read it.  So I added it to my list of Bout of Books readathon books and ended up enjoying it quite a bit.  However, I will say it was quite long and seemed to take forever to get through so it wouldn’t make the best readathon book.

This book wasn’t at all what I was expecting.  I don’t usually read fantasy and I did find some of the world building a little difficult to follow and it wasn’t all my cup of tea.  That being said, I really enjoyed the hijinks of the characters and all the cons they were running.  It was quite clever and entertaining in places, although I found the exciting and fast-paced parts were mixed in with other parts that didn’t hold my attention.

If you’re a fantasy fan, then you’ll probably like this book.  If you aren’t that into fantasy but love reading about thieves and running cons, this book might be entertaining but there are better books more suited to your tastes than this one.

It’s been a while since I read it so it’s not all that fresh in my mind.  I just remember it dragging on and on because it’s so long.  I remember some parts quite fondly and others not so much because there was quite a bit of violence and graphic descriptions.  The writer does an excellent job though because I could imagine things so vividly.  I’m not sure if I’ll continue on with the series and, if I do, it probably won’t be for a while because I’m just not a huge fan of super long books.

Still, I’m so glad I read this book and I was so happy when I finally completed it.  If the premise sounds intriguing then I’d recommend it and maybe it will read much faster for you than it did for me.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Bucket List

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is an awesome weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is bookish things you’d like to do sometime in your life.

1. Attend Book Expo America
2. Go to Booktopia one year (Books on the Nightstand)

3. Read all the books by Booktopia authors the year I go so I can chat with the authors, ask them questions, and really get the most out of it.
4. Read all the classics on my Goodreads shelf (97 total)…I think I’ll get to it eventually.

5. Visit more cool libraries…there are so many great libraries and I dream of stepping foot in all of them!
6. Check out unique bookstores around the world…I don’t have a list of specific ones but my ongoing goal is to visit bookstores anywhere I travel.

7. Meet Gabriel Garcia Marquez…I know he’s getting older and his health is failing and I don’t even know if he speaks English but wow, it’d be awesome to meet him!

8. Write my own book and get it published just for fun.
9. Read over 200 full-length books in a year…I will beat my reading record one day, even if it’s when I’m older and retired!
10. Finish all the books I currently own…there aren’t that many but I usually sideline them for library books which have due dates.

What’s on your Bookish Bucket List?  What cool bookish events do you want to attend?  Which authors would you love to meet?  Which books are you eager to finish one day?  Link to your post so I can check it out!

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