Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

"The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin
First published in 2015
465 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:
"The Fifth Season" is a fantasy page-turner set in a cruel world plagued by apocalyptic events -- death seasons -- every few hundred years. I enjoyed Jemisin's creative plot and fantastic worldbuilding and I can't wait to continue the series!

The Long Of It:
Millennia from now, our verdant, gentle, beautiful Earth is an extremely unwelcoming place wracked by constant tectonic plate movement, earthquakes, tsunamis and supervolcanoes, to say nothing of the day-to-day "shakes" and "blows." The inhabitants of this Earth are solely focused on surviving the next "season" or apocalyptic event, which happens every few hundred years here.

While most of the citizens of the ironically-named Stillness are fairly similar to us, some are decidedly different: orogenes, people who have the power to mentally manipulate and harness seismic and thermal energy. These "gods in chains" can both still earthquakes with their minds and unleash enough destruction to kill everyone on the continent.

Both necessary and feared in the extreme, orogenes are treated with utmost suspicion and even hatred. Often when small children exhibit signs of orogenic ability, they're killed by their villages. Sometimes their existence is reported to the proper authorities who send a Guardian -- a special handler -- to whisk the child away to the Fulcrum, a training compound where the young orogene will hone his or her skills and be put into lifelong service for the government -- as well as forever live under the watchful, often cruel eye of their Guardian. The most powerful people in this world have allowed themselves to become the most oppressed.

Our three main characters, whose tales are told in interspersed chapters, are all orogenes of different ages: young Damaya, discovered to be an orogene after she (accidentally) nearly kills a classmate in a playground scuffle; Syneite, an accomplished twenty-something woman paired up with a master orogene for mentoring and breeding; and Essun, a 42-year-old woman keeping her ability a secret and living a normal life in a comm, who arrives home one day to find that her husband has beaten their son to death, presumably after discovering he, too, was an orogene. The multiple points of view -- one of which, uniquely, is written in second person -- helps readers understand what life is like for an orogene from childhood to adulthood (not too good, at any stage), to experience life in different parts of The Stillness, and to get to know these three exceptionally powerful women who will have an important role to play in the reckoning that is clearly coming.

In this futuristic world where preparing to survive the next extinction-level event is paramount, most of humanity is judged by its usefulness. Residents of the walled communities that dot the Stillness are sorted into castes based on what they can contribute to the society in the event of a season. Those with the fewest useful skills are the first to be cast out into the wilds as commless when disaster is approaching. Geology is king and the sciences that we so value, like astronomy and biology, are considered a complete waste of time. Likewise, traditional religion is gone; Father Earth is the only deity this world can handle. Too, relics and ruins of past civilizations, some far more advanced than the one in the novel, are cast aside as worthless -- if it didn't save them, why would it save us? is the mentality. Except some of those ancient relics turn out to be a very important part of the unfolding battle that will surely change The Stillness beyond recognition.

The plot was unique  -- I loved how Jemisin combined fantasy and science -- and the worldbuilding was excellent. I could vividly imagine life on this cruel planet Earth that so hates its human occupants, as well as the appearance of the characters and their communities, in some cases quite different from our own. The plot was also cleverly assembled -- the three protagonists' stories converge to reveal a surprising plot point that readers might not see coming.

My only real gripe about the book was that, though the writing was quite readable and the plot was satisfyingly complex, I sometimes felt like I could be reading a young adult novel; it was the tone in which some things were written, and the overabundance of italics, and odd sentences
that sort of
went like
this.
(And which I've only ever seen in YA books.) Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book, and the more distance I have from it the more excited I am to get back to this original and terrifying world that Jemisin has crafted.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Turning the Page on November 2016

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Between the anticipation of the holidays, new shows and movies to get excited about, knitting projects and Thanksgiving feasting, November was a pretty good month for me. Here are some of the highlights:

*We saw "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and I thought it was a delightful movie! Dear Santa, please bring me a niffler and a bowtruckle for Christmas. (Or at least the Newt Scamander and niffler Funko Pops!)

*Jarrod had to work from noon to midnight on Thanksgiving, so I had the laziest Thursday ever and then we made our big feast on Friday. We had fried turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn pudding, roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash, cranberry sauce, rolls and pumpkin cheesecake -- and it was deeelish!

*I did a little bit of Black Friday shopping online, and I ordered myself a Bose bluetooth speaker and a shirt that says "Books Turn Muggles into Wizards." I also ordered some kids' books because Jarrod and I are going to become an aunt and uncle in January!

*I've also been working on shopping for my Broke and Bookish Secret Santa buddy. I ordered two of the books on her wishlist, and I also bought some Jane Austen socks and a wooden bookmark from the Etsy shop Juniper and Ivy. And I picked up a bunch of Hawaii snacks! Chocolate-covered pineapple, coconut-chocolate macadamia nuts, coconut syrup, etc.

*We started watching two sci-fi shows this month, "Stranger Things" and "Westworld." I had heard a gazillion rave reviews of "Stranger Things," and since I got Netflix streaming so I could watch "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" (which I have yet to do), I was excited to finally see what all the fuss is about. I absolutely adore the '80s nostalgia and music, and the plot -- though kinda wacky -- is pretty good too. "Westworld" is a new HBO show about a futuristic Wild West theme park staffed by extremely human-like robots where people can go to act out all their illicit desires. Also kinda wacky, but we've enjoyed the first couple episodes. (We've also been watching "Designated Survivor," "Survivor," "Elementary" and "Poldark." We've got a zillion episodes of "The Walking Dead" saved on the DVR but after that horrific first episode of the season I just can't muster any desire to watch them at the moment.)

*We totally re-did our front flowerbed. When we moved in back in June, it was just a dirt patch with three crotons in varying levels of decline. We went to a cool nursery owned by an older British guy (with a wild bird who follows him around like a dog) and picked out some lovely ferns and other plants. It was a LOT of hard and filthy work getting the garden in shape, but it looks great now. One of these days I'll post before and after pictures on the blog. (Our backyard underwent an even more major transformation!)

*Jarrod and I were devastated to watch the wildfire unfolding in Tennessee. Jarrod has many fond childhood memories of visiting Gatlinburg, and we went to the Smokies five times in the three years that we lived in Ohio. It's one of our happy places -- the national park is absolutely stunning and so peaceful. It was quite sad to see that our favorite mini golf place, Hillbilly Golf, burned down. :(

nov books

Books read: 9
"The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton (4.5 stars)
"Today Will Be Different" by Maria Semple (3 stars)
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead (4 stars)
"A Fatal Grace" by Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache #2) (4 stars)
"Sweetbitter" by Stephanie Danler (3.5 stars)
"To Capture What We Cannot Keep" by Beatrice Colin (3.5 stars)
"Turbo Twenty-Three" by Janet Evanovich (3 stars)
"The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin (4 stars)
"The Christmas Town" by Donna VanLiere (3 stars)

Books DNFed: "Nevernight" by Jay Kristoff


Currently reading: "The Masked City" by Genevieve Cogman (The Invisible Library #2)

Favorite book: "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton was so good! If you need a book to curl up by the fireplace with, this is a fabulous choice!

Biggest let-down: "Today Will Be Different" by Maria Semple. "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" was such a quirky, fun read and I had hoped her new book would carry on the tradition. But, while it was ok, it definitely didn't have that special charm that made "Bernadette" such a good read.

And I was so bummed that I just couldn't get into "Nevernight." It was the writing -- someone needs to take away the author's Big Book of Similes and Metaphors! -- and the teeny tiny print and the irrelevant footnotes! It was just so looong and the writing was so complicated to parse out at times. It was taking me probably three times longer to read than a typical book, and after 40 pages I decided it just wasn't the right time for me to be reading it. Maybe I'll try again one day.

December release I'm most excited about: Meh. I didn't even put together a December book release post because there's really not a lot coming out this month that strikes my fancy.

Book(s) I'm most excited to read in December: I have a few well-reviewed books coming up: "Maybe in Another Life" by Taylor Jenkins Reid and "The Couple Next Door" by Shari Lapena, both of which I'm hoping to love as much as everyone else. I'd also reeeeally like to finally get to "Morning Star," the last book in Pierce Brown's phenomenal Red Rising trilogy.

Book I won: "The Fire by Night" by Teresa Messineo, a WWII story due out in January. I love Goodreads giveaways!

Books added to my to-read list: 19 (Way too many! I blame the Goodreads Choice Awards.)

Books added to my maybe-to-read list: 15 (Bad bookworm! Bad girl!)

Most intriguing TBR addition: "Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World" by Nell Stevens (out in March). For one thing, it has a penguin on the cover. For another, it's set in the rugged, frigid Falkland Islands, and I have a thing for books that take place in cold climes. And it's an interesting-sounding memoir. Win-win-win!


Books read from my fall reading list: 4! ("The Forgotten Garden," "The Underground Railroad," "To Capture What We Cannot Keep" and "A Fatal Grace.")

Books read from my must-read-in-2016 list: 1 ("The Forgotten Garden.") Only 15 left to go, and one whole month to read them! (Guess those'll be the bulk of my must-read-in-2017 list!)

Favorite bookstagram: Look at that gorgeous pile of library books! Plus my first peppermint (white chocolate) mocha of the season! (Find me on Instagram @knittinglindsay!)

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At the beginning of the month I decided to try my hand at designing some hat patterns, since I've been tossing around the idea of opening an Etsy shop to sell my knitted goods. I really like how both these hats came out, and pattern designing was pretty fun. Even if I don't go forward with the Etsy shop idea, I might try to write up the patterns and put them on Ravelry.

The end of November was taken up with the Gilmore Girls mystery knit-along, meant to be worked on while watching "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life." I really wanted to finish my re-watch of the original show before watching the new episodes, so I've been knitting while watching season 7. I'm in love with the main color yarn, called aspen forest. It reminds me of Colorado, my home state! (More photos to come once the MKAL is over and I've finished knitting. Didn't want to spoil the surprise for anyone else still working on it.)

My next project will be a Newt Scamander Hufflepuff scarf (from "Fantastic Beasts") on request from one of my Harry Potter-loving friends. That marled gray yarn is proving extremely hard to find a match for, though!

Favorite post: Holiday Gift Guide: Books to Buy for All the Readers on Your List
I had fun putting this post together and really thinking about all the books I've read the past couple years and what kind of readers they'd appeal to. If you need some bookish Christmas gifts, check out my guide!

Book Reviews:
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore (4 stars)
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (3 stars)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (4 stars)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (4.5 stars)
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (3.5 stars)
To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin (3.5 stars)

Favorite Review: The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yarn Along: Gilmore Girls MKAL Cowl

Yarn Along is a wonderful weekly link-up hosted by Ginny at the Small Things blog about two of the best things in life: books and knitting.

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I'm working on the Gilmore Girls mystery knit-along pattern by Marinade Knits! The four clues were released Thanksgiving through Sunday; it's meant to be knitted while watching "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life," but I really wanted to finish my re-watch of the last couple seasons before diving into the new episodes, so I'm working on my cowl while watching season 7. (And this way I can really focus and savor when I'm watching "A Year in the Life.")

I really like how it's coming along! I tried to conceal the meat of the pattern in the photo in case anyone happens upon this post who's not done the first three clues yet, but you can see it'll be a long cowl with some colorwork segments (and it does have a unique construction for a cowl).

I'm so glad I splurged and bought the accompanying yarn kit from Knitted Wit on Etsy... it was way more than I would normally spend for yarn (especially for just a cowl! -- and especially for a cowl that I won't be able to wear for the next 2 1/2 years!) but it was my birthday present to myself.

Being from Colorado (and missing it!) I was totally drawn to the main color yarn, which is called aspen forest. The kit also came with four mini skeins of yarn in purple/fuscia, lime green, deep red and bright orange. I'm not really an orange person, and though I hate to stray from the kit and its gorgeous, soft, yummy yarn, I may substitute a teal for the orange. Teal is my favorite color, and it'll fit in great with the other jewel tones. (The yarn colors are so much richer than the photo shows, but we're having an uncharacteristic stretch of gray, rainy weather here in Hawaii and that was the best lighting I could muster.)


There's no book in my photo today -- gasp! I've definitely been reading up a storm (last week I read "Turbo Twenty-Three" by Janet Evanovich, "The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin and "The Christmas Town" by Donna VanLiere) but I'm not too sure if I'm going to continue my current book, a YA fantasy novel called "Nevernight" by Jay Kristoff. (You can see my bookstagram photo here.)

I'm only about 25 pages in -- and I am intrigued by the plot -- but reading Kristoff's writing is like hiking up a mountain over boulders and through sucking mud -- so hard to plod through. It's ostentatious to begin with, there are about 100% too many similes and metaphors, and there are even verbose footnotes! It took me somewhere around 45 minutes just to read those 25 pages, and I'm typically a pretty speedy reader.

I'm not a big fan of YA books because the writing is often too simplistic and the stories lack depth, so I can hardly believe this is a young adult book. I've read my fair share of pretentious literary fiction and yet this YA fantasy novel might be too much for me!

*
P.S. For the most part, I utterly despise my weekly trips to the military commissary (grocery store) but something I do like is that they stock a handful of products from other countries, especially during the holidays. They had a huge selection of German cookies and confections, and I couldn't resist a box of those butter cookies. They're like animal crackers for adults -- and taste so good dunked in a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: Books to Buy For All the Readers on Your List

It's officially Christmastime -- and gift-shopping time! As a devout bookworm myself, I love to buy books as presents but sometimes it can be hard to choose the right book for certain people. Hopefully this list will help you shop for both the booknerds and the reluctant readers on your list! I've read and loved almost all the book below -- and the few I haven't gotten to yet are highly recommended. They're mostly newer releases with a few older books thrown in. Happy shopping!

(I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish to share my list. Head over and check out hundreds of other gift guides there!)



Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

 
 Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (in a tie for my fave book of the year)
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (an awesome Jane Eyre re-telling)
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (I haven't read this family saga yet but I've heard so many good things about it!)
The Dogs of Christmas by W. Bruce Cameron
 Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan
Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthoney Doerr
The Lasts Days of Night by Graham Moore
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
The Fireman by Joe Hill 
The Passage by Justin Cronin

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
You by Caroline Kepnes
The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
 
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

 A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (witches, vampires, daemons)
Written in Red by Anne Bishop (shapeshifters, vampires, elementals)
 
 A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (early- to mid-1900s Russia)
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (late 1800s Washington state and Alaska)
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (1920s Kenya)

In the Woods by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #1)
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #1)
Still Life by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1)
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Detective Hodges #1, more of a detective story than a mystery, but I wanted to make sure it got on the list and this was the most appropriate place)
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (Lady Emily #1)

 
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (all of Kate's books fit in this category!)
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
My Life in France by Julia Child
Delicious by Ruth Reichl 
 

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the America City by Matthew Desmond
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Grunt: The Curious Life of Humans at War by Mary Roach
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

 One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Let's Pretend This Never Happened A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (the funniest book I have ever read)
You Have to Fucking Eat by Adam Mansbach (perfect for parents of toddlers!)
 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (great book for people who don't read much fantasy, also good for teens)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (ditto above)
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
 (Here are some great lesser-known titles that the bookworm in your life might not've read yet.)

 


 Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer (mystery set in Scotland with an autistic protagonist)
The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming by Shreve Stockton (woman moves to middle-of-nowhere Wyoming and adopts an orphaned coyote; amazing photos!)
Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre (a phenomenal war story written by an Iraq veteran)
The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne (memoir by a reference librarian and strongman with Tourette's)
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (American comes of age in 1950s Paris)

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham


(Because, let's face it, there are lots of books geared toward women. But I've read nearly all of these and I can tell you with certainty that they're unisex!)

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If there are any kids on your shopping list, this book is ador-a-ble! (I love the entire Bear series. The board book of "Bear Snores On" is my go-to baby shower gift.)

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