Monday, March 30, 2015

10 Books I Just Added To My TBR List

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt at The Broke and the Bookish asks us to list 10 books we recently added to our to-read list. What a fun topic! It's nice to be able to share recent finds without actually committing to read them soon (as in a quarterly TBR list). And it's timely, too, as I just perused the latest issue of Library Journal and added several soon-to-be published works to my to-read list.

This is a completely random mix of old books and new releases and they're in no particular order. Hopefully one day I'll read them all! Do tell -- what new books have you found lately?
From the Goodreads summary:
"The dead can't speak to us," Professor Madoc had said. But that was a lie. Sometimes, only an outsider can get to the truth. Patrick has been on the outside all his life. Thoughtful, but different, infuriating even to his own mother, his life changes when he follows an obsession with death to study anatomy at university. When he uncovers a crime that everybody else was too close to see, he proves finally that he has been right all along: nothing is exactly as it seems. And that there have been many more lies closer to home...

*This is one of my Library Journal finds. The summary above neglects to mention that the main character has Asperger's. It sounds like a novel for people who like crime and mystery novels, but with a totally different type of detective. It's the book on this list I'm most excited to read.

  From the Goodreads summary:
In her New York Times bestselling debut, Rachel Hartman introduces mathematical dragons in an alternative-medieval world to fantasy and science-fiction readers of all ages.

*I saw the sequel to this book on lots of Top Ten Tuesday spring TBR lists and I'm intrigued!

  From the Goodreads summary:
A tree that sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed that stops the heart; a shrub that causes paralysis; a vine that strangles; and a leaf that triggered a war. In Wicked Plants, Stewart takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature’s most appalling creations. It’s an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. You’ll learn which plants to avoid (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln's mother).

*This is another book I came across while browsing Top Ten Tuesday lists. The author also has a similar book about bugs.

  From the Goodreads summary:
Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill in this astonishingly original, terrifying, and darkly funny contemporary fantasy.

*It's hard to tell exactly what this book is about from the two rather different plot summaries I read, but I'm intrigued as I like both Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill.

From the Goodreads summary:
Inspired by creating a library for his fifteenth-century home near the Loire, in France, the author tours from his childhood bookshelves to the Internet, from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Arab world, from China and Rome to Google. He ponders the doomed library of Alexandria and personal libraries of Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, and others. He recounts stories of people who have struggled against tyranny to preserve freedom of thought -- the Polish librarian who smuggled books to safety as the Nazis began their destruction of Jewish libraries; the Afghani bookseller who kept his store open through decades of unrest. Oral “memory libraries” kept alive by prisoners, libraries of banned books, the imaginary library of Count Dracula, a library of books never written.

*Gotta love books about how awesome books are.

  From the Goodreads summary:
A vibrant tale of female boxers and their scheming patrons in 18th-century Bristol. The Fair Fight will take you from a filthy brothel to the finest houses in the town, from the world of street-fighters to the world of champions. Alive with the smells and the sounds of the streets, it is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention and fighting your way to the top.

*This book sounds awesome! It releases in a couple weeks and I'm looking forward to it.

  From the Goodreads summary:
From a real-life ambassador's wife comes a spectacular novel about the brutal kidnapping of an American woman living with her diplomat husband in the Middle East and the heartbreaking choices each must make in the hopes of being reunited.

*This novel comes out in July.

  From the Goodreads summary:
The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams.

*"The Bookseller" is set in Denver and has the word "book" in the title, so it must be given a try.

  From the Goodreads summary:
Albert Podell set a record by going to every country on Earth. He achieved this by surviving riots, revolutions, civil wars, trigger-happy child soldiers, voodoo priests, robbers, pickpockets, corrupt cops, and Cape buffalo. He went around, under, or through every kind of earthquake, cyclone, tsunami, volcanic eruption, snowstorm, and sandstorm that nature threw at him. He ate everything from old camel meat and rats to dung beetles and the brain of a live monkey. And he overcame attacks by crocodiles, hippos, anacondas, giant leeches, flying crabs—and several beautiful girlfriends who insisted that he stop this nonsense and marry them.

Albert Podell’s Around the World in 50 Years is a remarkable and meaningful tale of quiet courage, dogged persistence, undying determination, and an uncanny ability to extricate himself from one perilous situation after another -- and return with some of the most memorable, frightening, and hilarious adventure stories you have ever read.

*A true-life adventure story! It sounds like a blast to travel vicariously around the world with this guy.

 From the Goodreads summary:
Dear Reader, I wasn't going to write a sequel to Me Before You. But for years, readers kept asking and I kept wondering what Lou did with her life. In the end the idea came, as they sometimes do, at 5:30 in the morning, leaving me sitting bolt upright in my bed and scrambling for my pen. It has been such a pleasure revisiting Lou and her family, and the Traynors, and confronting them with a whole new set of issues. As ever, they have made me laugh, and cry. I hope readers feel the same way at meeting them -- especially Lou -- again. And I'm hoping that those who love Will will find plenty to enjoy. —Jojo Moyes

*I loved "Me Before You" and I was super-duper excited when I recently learned of the forthcoming sequel!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: "The Mime Order" by Samantha Shannon

"The Mime Order" by Samantha Shannon
First published in 2015
501 pages
2nd in series of 7 books
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

"The Mime Order" is the kind of rare gems that had me neglecting everything on my to-do list (and reading a couple pages while my oatmeal was in the microwave and grabbing two pages before dashing off to work in the morning and fitting in a page while brushing my teeth). It was one of those novels that sucks you in and demands your full attention and makes devouring the book your number-one priority in life -- screw cooking, cleaning, hygiene, favorite TV shows and feeding the cat (sorry, Lily!).

I don't write a lot of reviews for sequels or series continuations, but I just couldn't resist mentioning "The Mime Order" on the blog given how awesome it was. It's the second installment in Samantha Shannon's Bone Season series and far, far better than the first (here's my review for book 1). "The Bone Season," despite its crazy hype, was just a decent read for me -- nothing mind-blowing. I wasn't even positive I wanted to read the next book.

But I'm so glad I did. The story was fascinating and far more masterfully woven than in the first book. Shannon -- a young author, only 23 -- has really improved her writing chops and I have a feeling her work is going to keep getting better.

I really can't tell you much about "The Mime Order" without giving away all the goodies from "The Bone Season" (so go read my review!) but I can say that the series is about clairvoyants, a future gone wrong and a horribly corrupt government a la "The Hunger Games." Shannon has created a whole other world -- a completely different version of London in 2059, our not-so-far-off future. You'll be drawn into this world with its strange words, its futuristic technology and its cozy remnants of the past, like meat pies and top hats.

"The Bone Season" lays the groundwork for the entire series so it must be read, but don't be discouraged if you don't think it's the best book ever. Just move on to "The Mime Order" and you'll be transfixed and reading while you brush your teeth!

P.S. There are very helpful maps, charts and a glossary in the back of the books.

P.P.S. Since I'm trying to be better about keeping track of quotes I like in books, here's one:
"You're mad," I said into his neck.
"Madness is a matter of perspective, little dreamer."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: "Descent" by Tim Johnston

"Descent" by Tim Johnston
First published in 2015
375 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

Running is 18-year-old Caitlin Courtland's passion. She's heading to the University of Wisconsin on a track scholarship in the fall, and for a high school graduation gift she begged her parents for a trip to the Colorado Rockies to train in the challenging altitude.

But on that first morning in the Rockies, the unthinkable happens. Caitlin is running high up in the mountains with her little brother trailing behind her on a bike. And out of nowhere, a vehicle mows down her brother, sending him into a ditch and mutilating his knee. Caitlin gets into the truck with a man wearing yellow sunglasses -- and vanishes.

I expected "Descent" to be a fast-paced thriller told from Caitlin's -- or possibly a detective's -- perspective, but it was a completely different type of novel. The tale focused mostly on the effect Caitlin's disappearance had on her family -- her mother, who dulls the pain with pills; her father, who stays in Colorado for years, never giving up hope that his daughter is alive; and her guilt-ridden brother, who takes off in their father's truck and has a load of horribly depressing misadventures.

About halfway through the book, the author gradually begins to reveal Caitlin's fate. And the last 75 pages are definitely unputdownable. But the majority of "Descent" is a slow burn, with the plot centered mainly on Caitlin's father and brother. It's a dark, often gloomy novel, artfully written with the kind of complex wordsmithing that forces you to really focus and process every single sentence. It reminded me a lot of Smith Henderson's "Fourth of July Creek."

"Descent" deals with love, family, redemption, guilt, blame, vengeance and inner strength -- all pretty serious topics. It was a decent read -- but be warned that it might be a bit more heavy and depressing than the cover blurbs would lead you to believe.

Monday, March 23, 2015

10 Childood/Teenage Favorites I'd Like to Read Again

Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is a fun and nostalgic one:

10 Books From My Childhood or Teen Years That I'd Like to Revisit

I was a voracious reader as a kid -- and still am, of course -- and it was a blast to think back and reminisce about favorite stories from long ago. Most are from elementary school and two are from high school (and apparently whatever I read in middle school wasn't good enough to be remembered almost two decades later). I had already been planning to re-read a few of these, but there are several that weren't really at the forefront of my mind until I started compiling my list. What fun!

This tale of two kids who take up residence in the Metropolitan Museum of Art has stuck with me through the years and I'm planning to re-read it soon, since I'll be visiting the Met on my trip to NYC in May.

I own both this book of poems and "A Light in the Attic." It's a blast to look back through them from time to time.

I read every single Nancy Drew book there was! Now, of course, there are plenty more ghostwritten modern-day Nancy Drew mysteries, but I'd like to relive some of the old classics. If I ever have a kid, I'd love to read these with her. 

I read "Jane Eyre" in high school and loved it -- and I also really enjoy the movie version(s). 

Ditto "Huck Finn" -- another assigned read that I ended up loving.

Since I work at a library, I'm constantly encountering and flipping through picture books that I loved as a kid -- so those don't really qualify for the list since I'm constantly "re-visiting" them. But just for fun, here's a small sampling of beloved early reading books and series:

Book Review: "The 5th Wave" by Rick Yancey

"The 5th Wave" by Rick Yancey
First published in 2013
First in a trilogy
457 (very fast) pages
My rating: 4 stars
Image from Goodreads

The first wave in the alien invasion of Earth was an electromagnetic pulse that fried all electronics. The second wave was a tsunami that wiped out everything within sixty miles of the coast. The third wave was a plague that took care of everyone else, save the 3 percent of the population with a natural immunity. But the fourth wave works differently, it eats away at hope, trust and the things that make us human. The fourth wave in the extermination of our race is aliens masquerading in human bodies to look just like us -- meaning there's no way to tell your friends from your enemies.

Our narrator, 16-year-old Cassie, puts it concisely: lights out, surf's up, pestilence, and silencer. She wonders what horrors the fifth wave will bring.

Cassie's camped alone in the woods when meet her with just her little brother's raggedy teddy bear for company. Her parents are dead and her brother, Sammy, is missing -- and the only thing that keeps her moving is a promise she made to him. She hasn't seen another human being since the beginning of the fourth wave and she begins to wonder if she's the last homo sapien on Earth.

So when a boy named Evan Walker saves her life, she doesn't know what to think or whether she can trust him. Her instincts are screaming to beware, but as he nurses her back to health with gentle hands she can't deny his kindness, his survival skills or the fact that he hasn't killed her yet. And there's something else there too -- a spark of attraction, a thing Cassie never expected to feel again as the end of her world looms near.

"The 5th Wave" is told from a couple different perspectives, but Cassie is our main protagonist and the glue that connects our unlikely cast of characters. It's a young adult book, so the writing isn't the best ever, but it was decent and it definitely held my interest. It's the first book I've read in a while that kept me up way past my bedtime devouring page after page. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the trilogy, "The Infinite Sea."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Etsy Wish List: March

It's time again for one of my favorite features on the blog -- showing off all my lovely finds from Etsy! Below are 11 awesome handmade goods I'd love to own! Do you have a favorite Etsy shop? Please share!

Etsy shop: ElloThere
Price: $55
Oh my GOSH, I want this national park explorer map so much! Each national park is marked with a mint green tree, and the map comes with darker green tree stickers to put on the map whenever you visit a park (shown in the inset). One of my goals is to visit every national park, and this is such a fun and beautiful way to track my progress!

 Etsy shop: Palomaria
Price: $36
Oh, this necklace. I've been fantasizing about buying it for about two months now, and I'm sure soon I'll just break down and purchase the damn thing. I already own three beautiful necklaces from Palomaria and they're staples in my wardrobe. I get compliments pretty much every time I wear them. 

 Etsy shop: Palomaria
Price: $28
In addition to the necklace above, I've also been lusting after this bracelet. I don't really ever wear bracelets, but I'm thinking this would be a great one to start with! I'm not even sure which color I'd choose -- I like them all!

 Etsy shop: LittleAtoms
Price: $23
This would be a great t-shirt to wear to work at the library! It comes in 5 different colors.

 Etsy shop: PaperArcadia
Price: $25
This print is so pretty and bright, and it perfectly describes the military life.

 Etsy shop: friendlyoak
Price: $19
What a cute shirt! I have another similar shirt favorited on Etsy but it's got birds coming out of the typewriter instead of letters. I think I might like this one even better!

 Etsy shop: Derins
Price: $17.90
What a pretty, spring-y print!

 Etsy shop: coverLove
Price: $46
This shop has all kinds of customizable pillow covers! I really liked this postcard one, and of course I loved the personalized dog silhouette cover. There are tons of offerings that would make awesome baby, wedding, anniversary or birthday gifts!

 Etsy shop: Sparkyvites
Price: $34
How cool is this?! It's a hand-drawn rubber address stamp featuring the dog silhouette of your choice. (We'd need a boxer, of course.) The shop has many other address stamp designs that you can customize too!

Price: $6
I love these fun little library buttons! They'd be great to pin on my name tag lanyard at work!

Etsy shop: wallvinylart
Price: $12
True dat! This vinyl decal would be so cute in a laundry room -- and there are several colors to choose from. Sadly my current laundry room doesn't have real walls, but I'm keeping it in mind for the future!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Top 10(+) Books On My Spring To-Read List

Hello, bookish friends -- or should I say aloha? This is the first blog post I've written since we left for our glorious Hawaii vacation at the end of February. It was so nice to spend two wonderful weeks without thinking about work or Ohio or anything else except relaxing and soaking up sunshine and having fun. (Plenty of vacation pictures to come soon!) And what better post to start back on than Top Ten Tuesday, created by my fellow list-loving read-a-holics at The Broke and the Bookish!
Can you believe it's time to put together a spring TBR list already? Not that I'm complaining -- I'm more than ready for warmer temperatures and sunshine and flowers and green grass. But it's weird to think we're already halfway through the third month of 2015! This is a big year for us -- it's our last year in Ohio before the Air Force sends us somewhere else and I have so many things planned; I have a feeling the whole year is going to feel like it's going too fast!

So onto the BOOKS! I've somehow managed to pare down a list of the 10 books I most want to read this spring (well, sort of -- you'll see). It was a tough decision! I'm having one of those moments where I'm just completely overwhelmed with the impossible number of (hopefully) awesome books I want to read -- new releases, old titles that've been gathering dust on my shelf for years, recommendations and books I've only just discovered. I want to READ ALL THE BOOKS and since that's just not humanly possible (it would take over 5 years to read all the books currently on my Goodreads to-read list) I kind of feel like my head is going to explode from all the choices -- and I'm sad thinking about all the gems I'll miss out on. Does that ever happen to you? What books are you planning to read in the next few months? One thing I know -- it'll be nice to sit out in my hammock with a good book on sunny afternoons again!
(I dare you to lie in this hammock for more than 20 minutes without dozing off!)

 Golden Son by Pierce Brown
I'm very anxious to get my hands on this sequel to "Red Rising," which was quite possibly the best book I've read so far this year.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
I first read about this book several months ago and was hooked instantly just by the quirky title and cover art. It's about an elderly woman who decides to walk to the ocean.

Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
This cover is beautiful and the story of secrets and fate -- written in dual narrative -- sounds intriguing.

 The Marauders by Tom Cooper
One of my favorite book bloggers loved "The Marauders" and a co-worker at the library is also reading and enjoying this novel, which tells the interconnected stories of several different characters in the Louisiana swamp following the BP oil spill.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Another interesting cover and an intriguing plot about magic in parallel-universe Londons.

 The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
Two of my fellow library co-workers have read and liked this book, about a Jurassic Park-style attraction featuring dragons.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
This novel about early-onset Alzheimer's disease has been on my to-read list forever! It sounds like a fantastic -- if heartbreaking -- read and I'd like to take in the novel before I see the movie. I've been warned that I will probably cry.

 Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Non-fiction writer Larson has a new book out this month, "Dead Wake," about the sinking of the Lusitania -- which is also on my to-read list. But first I want to read his book about the 1920 Chicago World's Fair. I've heard nothing but good things about this work.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I'm pretty late to the game on this one, I know. But I'm fairly sure I'm going to really like "Ready Player One" and I think I was sort of saving it for the right time -- like our vacation to Hawaii! Except that it stayed in my suitcase the whole time... It's on the to-be-read-very-very-soon-list though!

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
Now, who could resist that title? This is another recommendation from a friend at work. "The Dud Avocado" is about a single twenty-something American moving to Paris in the 1950s. I'd been planning to read this novel for a while, but just the other day I ran across a "re-read" review of it on The Guardian's website and it convinced me to read this "hoot" of a book sooner rather than later.

And I also really want to make sure I get to the three books from my Winter TBR list I haven't read yet:

And, as if that's not plenty of books to keep me occupied for a long while, I also need to get busy working on my New Year's resolution list of 12 books I must read this year. (Here's the list.) It's mid-March and I've only read one-half of a book from this list so far (I'm currently working on "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"), so I have a lot of catching up to do! Maybe I'll try "Watership Down" next -- rabbits and springtime go together well!
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