Thursday, January 19, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: The Comet Seekers


Last week I wrote about several 2016 book releases I missed out on, and "The Comet Seekers," a novel set in Antarctica and described as a cross between "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "One Day," was on the list. It was one of my most-anticipated books last year and I really hope to get to it soon. I have a special affinity for books set in cold places like Alaska and Antarctica! I noticed that it's got two pretty different covers, so I thought it was a great opportunity for a cover battle!

U.S. // U.K.

These covers have an awful lot in common -- a wintry setting, a tent, two human figures, a serif font and, of course, a comet. But this contest is hands-down for me -- I always gravitate toward artsy covers over more realistic, photograph-style ones and I love the U.K. cover. The illustration is just gorgeous, and I enjoy the subtle pops of color mixed with silhouettes. It sounds like the story has a bit of a whimsical tinge to it and the U.K. cover certainly conveys that feeling, along with a sort of joyful coziness, fostered in part by the warmly-lit tent and the glittering stars. I have no idea if that's an accurate depiction of the story's tone, but I sure do like it. There's nothing wrong with the U.S. cover, but I find the U.K. version to be marvelous!

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Yarn Along: Newt's Hufflepuff Scarf and "All Our Wrong Todays"

Yarn Along is a 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 finally about to cast on for a Newt Scamander Hufflepuff scarf, a request from a friend. I couldn't find any yarn in the right gray marled colorway here in Hawaii and it's really hard to tell something like that online (trust me, I spent hours looking), so my wonderful mom went on a shopping trip to Joann for me and mailed the yarn out. I think the colors she picked out are perfect! (She also gave me the adorable little niffler Funko for Christmas.)

I just started an advance-read copy of "All Our Wrong Todays" by Elan Mastai (out February 7). I'm about halfway in and I'm totally enjoying it! Here's a snippet from the book blurb:
"You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we'd have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren's 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn't necessary. Except Tom just can't seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that's before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

12 Underrated/Overrated Books I've Read Recently

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is about underrated books/hidden gems we've read lately. We did a similar topic a few months ago so I'm switching it up a bit. Below are 6 great books that I think deserve to be more widely read, and six books that everyone else seemed to like but I didn't get the hype. I've read all these in the past year and half or so (most in 2016).

I highly recommend the underrated books (the first four were 5-star reads for me!) and if you were a big fan of any of the books on my overrated list, I'd love to know what you saw in them. (Granted, we all have different reading tastes, and I think it is totally ok for some books to just not "be" for us.)

underrated books

1. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey // From my review: I loved everything about this historical fiction novel, from the setting -- Alaska and Washington -- to the unique format to the engrossing story to the illustrations.

2. The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis // From my review: "The Wolf Road" is a post-apocalyptic tale, an adventure story, a horrifying thriller and, above all, a fascinating character study of 17-year-old Elka, who just found out the man who raised her may very well be a serial killer.

3. The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church // From my review: Meridian and the issues of marriage, identity, sacrifice, regret, love and friendship are center stage, but they're perfectly supported by the unique WWII story playing in the background. On top of that, Church's prose is beautiful. I couldn't put this book down and I urge you to get wrapped up in Meridian's heartbreaking -- but ultimately hopeful -- saga too!

4. Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey // No review for this one, but I absolutely recommend this dual narrative told in WWII and present day. It was amazing and anyone who enjoys historical fiction should read it!

5. Poor Your Soul by Mira Ptacin // From my review: I appreciated Mira's candid, sincere, real account of this terrible thing that happened to her, her grief and, ultimately, how she overcame it. An added bonus is that her writing is gorgeous -- almost poetic at times -- and full of lovely similes and metaphors. Plus the book is as readable as a novel. I highly recommend this insightful, enthralling memoir.

6. Boo by Neil Smith // From my review: "Boo" is one of the most unique books I've read this year. Somehow Smith managed to write a book about a dead eighth-grader -- not the most cheerful subject matter -- that is sweet, funny and thought-provoking. I fully recommend this quick read.

overrated books

1. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena // From my review: Oh, the writing. It was fine grammatically, but it was so very dull and uninspired. Half the time I felt like I was reading a "Dick and Jane" book, with short, straightforward sentences -- no metaphors or interesting word use and little varied sentence structure. There was no "writing as an art form" to be found here. (Needless to say, I had a few other problems with this one besides the writing.)

2. Redemption Road by John Hart // From my review: This gritty North Carolina crime thriller didn't live up to the hype. The plot was over-the-top and the writing was not nearly as good as I expected from reviews. This one was just ok for me.

3. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George // From my (rather long and rant-y) review: That book-centric plot certainly sounds intriguing and I fully expected this book to be one of my favorite reads of the year, but I just could not get into the story. I had to force myself over and over to pick it up and read. The last 50 pages were the best of the book -- not only because it was ending, but because our characters finally stopped being moronic idiots!

4. Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson // From my review: "Be Frank With Me" is a perfect example of a promising premise suffering from poor execution. I was all set to love what I thought would be a charming, funny and poignant story only to encounter a plot that went nowhere and zero character development. At least it was well-written!

5. What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan // From my (self-described as a bitch-fest) review: The most glaring problem with the book is that it's billed as a psychological thriller -- and the cover even proclaims that it's as gripping as "The Girl on The Train." But it's really just a straight-up mystery -- and a slow-moving one at that. It didn't have the requisite twists, turns, unreliable narrators and jaw-dropping reveals of a proper psychological thriller. I kept waiting and waiting for the big game-changer and it never came. It was nothing like "The Girl on the Train."

6. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katrina Bivald // From my review: While "Broken Wheel" was a cute, fun, fluffy bookish story, there were several things I struggled with. I initially had a hard time keeping all the characters straight, and I never really cared about their stories or the sometimes-annoying small-town dynamic. Bivald was going for quirk, but sometimes Sara's new friends were just plain irritating. I also never really warmed up to Sara. I appreciated her deep love of books, but I was frustrated with her utter lack of self-confidence and her weak nature.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Musings

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My week: We had an up-and-down week here in the Silcox household. I'm still feeling under-the-weather with some mysterious ailment that's been causing tons of coughing and mucus in my throat. (Jarrod wonders if it's the excess vog -- volcanic haze -- we've been having. Some people get severe allergic reactions to it, though it didn't bother me last time we lived here.)

Also, we had been keeping an eye on a lost dog -- a cute boxer mix -- on the humane society's website. His status was changed to available for adoption on Tuesday night and we had planned to go check him out (and most likely bring him home) on Wednesday after lunch. Both of us had thought we'd be getting a dog that day -- a boxer! -- and we were devastated to learn he had been adopted immediately. Jarrod called that morning and left a message expressing our interest in the dog, and the person who called him back said that when a "good" dog goes up for adoption, people actually line up outside half an hour before adoption hours start at 11 a.m. to get first dibs. That sounds like one of those crazy only-in-Hawaii things to me, though I can sort of understand it. As we have learned, it is pretty tough to get a boxer here -- and of course, we've just so happened to finally decide we're ready to get another dog after losing our sweet Conan to cancer almost three years ago. Sigh... Hawaii.

On the plus side went to the beach on Wednesday afternoon (in lieu of going to the humane society) and the vog made the most stunning sunset. The above iPhone picture doesn't come close to doing it justice -- the sun was a giant ball of fiery neon orange.

Reading: I thoroughly enjoyed "The Fire By Night" by Teresa Messineo (out Tuesday), a novel about two WWII nurses, one in Europe and one in the Pacific (here's my review). Then I started the much-talked-about memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" but got sidetracked when I finally got "Saga" volume 6 in at the library! Are you a "Saga" fan? If not -- even if you don't think you would enjoy graphic novels -- you must give it a try!

Anyway, I'm not too far into "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" yet but I already really like the author's writing and tone. He's only 31, which probably helps. And I'm interested in the subject matter having just lived in Ohio for three years and often ventured down to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.


Winning: "Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk" by Kathleen Rooney in a Goodreads giveaway! And, in unprecedented fashion, it arrived almost immediately!


Knitting: It was a quiet week for my knitting needles. I finished up the baby hat for our future niece and got it mailed off. Thanks to the long weekend I get five glorious days off in a row, so I'm hoping to finally start the Newt Scamander Hufflepuff scarf a friend requested.

Watching: We finished up our binge-watch of season 5 of "Homeland" just in time for season 6 to start on TV! I know the show isn't for everyone, but Jarrod and I love it.

Crafting: A Valentine's-y staff picks display at work! One thing I'm enjoying about being in a smaller library is the chance to be creative and crafty. I'm particularly fond of the book-page garland I made out of a book that was destined for death. (P.S. My pick was "Red Rising" -- which, I'm thrilled to say, got checked out! I replaced it with "Written in Red" by Anne Bishop. It's crazy to see how many of my current faves are sci-fi and fantasy when I didn't even read those genres a few years ago!)

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Drinking: Still more gallons of hot tea to soothe my throat and whatever random thing it is I have going on.

Blogging:
Monday Musings
So Many Books, So Little Time: 2016 Releases I Didn't Get To (But Will Soon -- Right?!)
Yarn Along: A Cheerful Baby Hat and The Fire By Night
New Release: The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
My Etsy Wishlist: Earrings Edition
Upcoming WWII Novel: The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo
Random Musings on "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" (Spoiler Alert!)

Looking forward to: Three more days off! I really only get one extra day off (today) for MLK Jr. Day, but since I don't work Tuesdays or Wednesdays it turns into a five-day weekend. I have tons of stuff on my to-do list -- including reading, relaxing and kitty snuggles.

*I'm linking up with Kathryn of Book Date for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Random Musings on "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" (Spoiler Alert!)

I'm super late to the game here, but I decided a little belatedly (in October) to re-watch the last three seasons before "A Year in the Life," and I was working on finishing up season 7 before diving into the four new episodes. I finally watched them, and below are some random, in no-particular-order thoughts.

I'd love to hear what you thought of the revival!

*I really wasn't impressed with the Winter and Spring episodes, but Summer gave me hope and I did really enjoy Fall. Fall was what I wanted all along -- less silly Stars Hollow fluff and more substance.

*I totally want a pet pig now. Petals! But I still can't stand Kirk. Ugh.

*I could most definitely have done without "Stars Hollow: The Musical" in my life. What a waste of time!

*I get that it wasn't necessary to the plot and could quite possibly have been boring, but I wish Lorelai had actually hiked some of the Pacific Crest Trail. (I liked the whole "doing 'Wild'" bit, and the book vs. movie hikers.)

*Logan is as hot as ever. Swoon! (Though he's still a cheater... not swoon.) I really hoped he would just forget about his fiancee and make his relationship with Rory official and permanent. Maybe he will, after the big revelation at the end.

*I am totally not a crier, but there were definitely tears when Rory and Logan said goodbye.

*Oh my god, Jess! Even though I'm Team Logan, Jess was fucking hot. And as always, he helped guide Rory to the path she needed to be on. I wished there was more of him.

*It annoyed me in the original show what a tough time Rory had getting a job with her journalism degree from YALE, and it still annoyed me in the revival. I have a journalism degree from infinitely less prestigious Colorado State and I didn't have a problem getting a newspaper job after graduation.

*Even though it was kind of random and unrealistic, I really enjoyed the Life and Death Brigade segment!

*In the later seasons of the original show I often drooled over Rory's clothes, but I loved Lorelai's outfits in the revival. They were still full of personality, but classy too. (The photo to the right is one of my favorite outfits -- and something I would totally wear myself with jeans in place of the skirt.)

*I loved the Secret Bar! I remember it being mentioned though never shown in the original series, and I wish it had been!

*I enjoyed Emily's progression throughout the four episodes, from being utterly grief-stricken to selling the house, quitting the DAR, moving to Nantucket, being incredibly kind to her maid and volunteering to terrify guests at the whaling museum. In sneakers, no less!

*The story arc about Luke not understanding how surrogacy works was so tedious! Same goes for the giant painting of Richard, the Naomi Shropshire book, the confusion of Rory and Lorelai delivering the Stars Hollow Gazette around town, and the rotating celebrity chefs at the inn.

*I loved the story Lorelai told Emily about Richard in the Fall episode.

*I was totally expecting Kiefer Sutherland to make a cameo appearance!

*Paris looks awesome with the short hair and fancy clothes!

*The Stars Hollow gays/gay-borrowing thing... really?

*What exactly has Sookie been doing? I liked seeing her for the wedding cake scene (all those amazing cakes!), but the other references to her absence were kinda confusing.

*I was thrilled when Lorelai found the perfect way to expand the inn and hopefully keep Michel around.

*I loooooved the magical wedding set-up in the town square! I wasn't entirely crazy about Lorelai's wedding outfit, though. I presume that was just what she put on for the impromptu pre-wedding wedding, but I was dying to see her in a real wedding dress!

*The last four words... At first I was like "What?!?!" But after mulling it over, I kind of like the plot twist, even if it was recycled from 10 years ago. I just wish that hadn't been where it ended -- probably forever! Does Rory keep the baby?! If so, do she and Logan get together for real?! Is it a boy or a girl?! If it's a girl, will be be named Lorelai too? Does the baby help her get focused and get her life together or is she even more of a mess?! I need to know!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Upcoming WWII Novel: The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo

"The Fire By Night" by Teresa Messineo
Release date: January 17, 2017
320 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Short Of It:

An enthralling novel about two WWII nurses that's both action-packed page-turner and emotional journey.

The Long Of It:
Any fan of WWII fiction should make a point to read Teresa Messineo's debut novel, "The Fire By Night," a dual narrative set in both theaters of war and told by two admirable, amazing women.

Despite their vastly different backgrounds, Jo McMahon and Kay Elliott become fast friends in nursing school. America is on the cusp of entering WWII, and both women join the Army with Kay heading to the Pacific and Jo to Europe.

Now, in 1945, they're separated by so much more than just an ocean. Jo is in war-ravaged France and the care of six grievously injured men has fallen into her hands alone, while Kay is wasting away in a barbaric Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. Both women escape into memories of the past -- good and bad -- to transport themselves away from the horror that has become their everyday lives. You'll be cheering for them to hang on just one more day, to keep fighting to survive against the odds.

Connection to the characters is so important in a novel like this, and I instantly fell in love with both Jo and Kay (though especially Jo). They're brave and courageous and brimming with perseverance and spunk, but they're also flawed and relatable and deeply affected by the many, many terrible things they've endured during the long and brutal war. Reading their stories, I felt like I was talking to friends I've known for years, not just characters on page. This is partly because of the author's writing skill and partly because countless real women experienced the same things.

Striving for historical accuracy, Messineo spent seven years doing research for her novel; her dedication shows in the dozens of small details she included that brought the scenes to vivid life. And I learned a lot too -- for instance, WWII nurses only had the "relative rank" of officers, meaning they were basically pseudo-officers getting a fraction of the pay, benefits and respect of male officers. While it surely meant double the research, I also really appreciated that Messineo chose to write a dual narrative; most WWII novels are set in either Europe or the Pacific and I enjoyed getting both perspectives in one harrowing tale.

"The Fire By Night" is a story of survival, of selflessness, of passionate love, and of the deep bonds of friendship, and it's a must-read for historical fiction fans.

*I received this book for free from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 13, 2017

My Etsy Wishlist: Earrings Edition

I started a new library job not that long ago, and my work outfit consists of jeans and a uniform polo shirt. As much as a uniform shirt can be convenient, I desperately miss getting to wear whatever I wanted at my last library, and there's not that much room to personalize the outfit. One thing I can change up is my earrings! Not that I need any more earrings, but I couldn't resist doing a litle browsing on Etsy. I want all of these!

Etsy shop: BijouLimon
$25

Etsy shop: MyPieceOfWood
$21
(these are made with slices of tree branch!)

$8
(I just ordered these!)

Etsy shop: OeiCeramics
$63.12

Etsy shop: gabigabiheyshop
$16
(made from Harry Potter book pages)

Etsy shop: VillaSorgenfrei
$18.90

Etsy shop: TwikiConcept
$11.95

 Etsy shop: Boutiqable
$9.29

Etsy shop: gabigabiheyshop
$16
(my favorite punctuation mark!)

Etsy shop: ArtGalleryAU
$7.50

Etsy shop: Chrysalism
$24

Etsy shop: Coryographies
$20.22

Etsy shop: BubuRuby
$12

Etsy shop: PaperHeartDaily
$14.95

Etsy shop: katrinkles
$15


Etsy shop: MaderaLane
$15

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