Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday Musings: Happy Halloween!

pumpkin 1

We carved our pumpkins yesterday; I think they came out great this year! Happy Halloween!

My week: I turned 31 last week and I had a decent little birthday. I spent the afternoon watching "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," which I hadn't seen in forever, then we went out to eat and to see "Inferno" at the theater. To be honest, while the year started out great the second half has decidedly not been my finest chapter, so I was glad to leave 30 behind. Here's to 31 being my best year yet!

Reading: I finished and enjoyed "The Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore, a historical fiction novel about the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to power America. Then I read -- and hated -- "Die Like an Eagle," the 20th installment in Donna Andrews' Meg Langslow cozy mystery series. I've read every book in the series, but I think this one may be my last. It was filled with awful typos, lackluster writing and a snooze-inducing plot.

Next I finished up "All the Winters After" by Sere Prince Halverson; I started it way back in April when I was staying with my parents during our move and had to abandon it about 1/3 of the way through because it was time for us to leave for Hawaii. I finally got it from the library here, and luckily the plot came back to me pretty quickly. I enjoyed this novel of grief, second chances and moving on set in beautiful, rugged Alaska.

And now I'm just a little ways into "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton. Already it seems different from the other books of hers I've read, and while I've loved them all I think this one may become my new favorite.

Knitting: I decided to try my hand at hat pattern designing this weekend. Not long after I took this photo I realized it wasn't coming out as slouchy as I wanted, so I ripped it out and cast on again with larger needles. I was a little bummed about losing all that work, but I'm knitting with my favorite yarn (Malabrigo), which is always a joy.

FullSizeRender (3)

Watching: As mentioned, we went to see "Inferno," based on the Dan Brown book, for my birthday. It was pretty good -- and I totally loved Felicity Jones in it. We also watched the new "Ghostbusters" movie; it was silly and entertaining and perfect for Halloween. And I started re-watching "Gilmore Girls" in anticipation of the revival. I don't have time to make it through the entire show so I decided to start on season 5. I always did like Logan best of Rory's boyfriends anyway.

Eating: Instead of birthday cake this year Jarrod got me a chocolate macadamia nut pie from a well-known Hawaii bakery -- yum! Our little veggie garden is flourishing and this week we ate cherry and regular tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, okra and bell peppers from our own backyard!

Monday Musings
10 Good BOOks for Halloween Reading
Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (3.5 stars)
Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (5 stars!)
10 Intriguing November 2016 Book Releases

Looking forward to:
Trick-or-treaters tonight!

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

10 Intriguing November 2016 Book Releases


Happy almost-November! It's the month to count our blessings, and as always I'm immensely grateful for more amazing books than I could ever read in 10 lifetimes and free access to all of them through the public library.

Below are 10 books coming out this month that have caught my eye.

The Burning Isle by Will Panzo

From Goodreads: A powerful and gripping debut grimdark fantasy novel, set in a world of criminals, pirates, assassins, and magic.

“A man has only three reasons for being anywhere: to right a wrong, to earn a coin, or because he is lost.” Cassius is not lost... The mage Cassius has just arrived on the island of Scipio. Five miles of slum on the edge of fifty miles of jungle, Scipio is a lawless haven for criminals, pirates, and exiles. The city is split in two, each half ruled by a corrupt feudal lord. Both of them answer to a mysterious general who lives deep in the jungle with his army, but they still constantly battle for power. If a man knows how to turn their discord to his advantage, he might also turn a profit. But trained on the Isle of Twelve, Cassius is no ordinary spellcaster, and his goal is not simply money. This a treacherous island where the native gods are restless, and anything can happen.

My thoughts: I'm all about fantasy these days and this one has my attention. Criminals, pirates, assassins and magic remind me of another fantasy series I love, the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab, and while surely this one is different (it sounds a little less light-hearted) I'm planning to give it a try.

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

From Goodreads: In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life. She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning. Resolving to meet the threat head on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life, but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival.

As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of. In this tautly plotted novel, Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set.

My thoughts: A romantic thriller by Stephenie Meyer? Yes, please! Say what you will about the Twilight series, but "The Host" was excellent and this seems to be in the same vein.

The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee

From Goodreads: At the heart of this psychological suspense novel is the haunting depiction of a family’s fall and the extraordinary gifted dog, Caity, who knows the truth. As the drama unfolds Caity evolves from protector to savior, from scapegoat to prop, and eventually, from avenger to survivor. She is an unselfish soul in a selfish world -- and she is written with depth and grace by authors Ketchum and Mckee, who display a profound understanding of a dog’s complex emotions.

My thoughts: The plot sounds a little strange but I can't resist a novel where a dog is the hero!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

From Goodreads: Long before she was the terror of Wonderland -- the infamous Queen of Hearts -- she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen. Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. In her first stand-alone teen novel, Meyer dazzles us with a prequel to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."

My thoughts: I enjoyed Meyer's creative and fun first novel, "Cinder," and one of these days I'm going to get around to the rest of The Lunar Chronicles. But for now, she has a standalone coming out, and it's sure to appeal to fans of "Alice in Wonderland." (Not really me, but maybe I'll become one if I read Meyer's adaptation.)

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

From Goodreads: Anna Kendrick’s autobiographical collection of essays amusingly recounts memorable moments throughout her life, from her middle class upbringing in New England to the blockbuster movies that have made her one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses today. Expanding upon the witty and ironic dispatches for which she is known, Anna Kendrick’s essays offer her one-of-a-kind commentary on the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture.

My thoughts: I'm not a huge reader of celebrity memoirs, but I might just read this one. I really like Anna Kendrick and I have a feeling she's written a fun and honest book.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

From Goodreads: Two brown girls dream of being dancers -- but only one has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either. Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, "Swing Time" is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from North-West London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

My thoughts: This book is getting so much hype! I'd never heard of Zadie Smith before, but apparently she's well-known among bloggers and I somehow missed her. I'm really intrigued by the plot of her new novel, so I'm planning to start there.

Hi, Anxiety: Life With a Bad Case of Nerves by Kat Kinsman

From Goodreads: Joining the ranks of such acclaimed accounts as "Manic," "Brain on Fire," and "Monkey Mind," a deeply personal, funny, and sometimes painful look at anxiety and its impact from writer and commentator Kat Kinsman. Exploring how millions are affected by anxiety, "Hi, Anxiety" is a clarion call for everyone -- but especially women -- struggling with this condition. Though she is a strong advocate for seeking medical intervention, Kinsman implores those suffering to come out of the shadows -- to talk about their battle openly and honestly. With humor, bravery, and writing that brings bestsellers like Laurie Notaro and Jenny Lawson to mind, "Hi, Anxiety" tackles a difficult subject with amazing grace.

My thoughts: Anxiety is a new and annoying companion of mine, and the book has a bunny on the front, so I may give it a read. I imagine it having some of the humor of one of Jenny Lawson's amazing books with the addition of constructive advice.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

From Goodreads: In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria -- sheltered, small in stature, and female -- became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone. One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband...

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels "The American Heiress" and "The Fortune Hunter" brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

My thoughts: Goodwin and PBS have turned the book into an 8-part miniseries to air in 2017 (in January, I think), and I will most definitely be watching that. Perhaps I'll get to the book beforehand -- it sounds wonderful.

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

From Goodreads: Set against the construction of the Eiffel Tower, this novel charts the relationship between a young Scottish widow and a French engineer who, despite constraints of class and wealth, fall in love. Seamlessly weaving historical detail and vivid invention, Beatrice Colin evokes the revolutionary time in which Cait and Émile live -- one of corsets and secret trysts, duels and Bohemian independence, strict tradition and Impressionist experimentation. "To Capture What We Cannot Keep," stylish, provocative, and shimmering, raises probing questions about a woman's place in that world, the overarching reach of class distinctions, and the sacrifices love requires of us all.

My thoughts: I have an advance-reading copy of this and I'm planning to get to it soon. I will admit, it's that gorgeous cover that drew me in!

Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

From Goodreads: In her first work of nonfiction, the beloved star of "Gilmore Girls" and "Parenthood" recounts her experiences on Gilmore Girls -- the first and second time -- and shares stories about life, love, and working in Hollywood. This collection of essays is written in the intimate, hilarious, and down-to earth voice that made her novel, "Someday Someday Maybe," a New York Times bestseller.

My thoughts: So, yeah, what was that about me not being a big reader of celeb memoirs? But I do love Lauren Graham/Lorelai Gilmore, and what better time for her memoir to come out than right after the release of "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" (which, by the way, I am so excited about)!?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

"A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles
First published in 2016
462 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5

The Short Of It:
This book was a joy to read and it's one of my favorites this year!

The Long Of It:
Every once in a while I happen upon a book that is just a pure delight to read, and "A Gentleman in Moscow," with it's charming protagonist, unique setting, beautiful writing, positive outlook and spot-on observations about life, was one of those gems.

Count Alexander Rostov is our esteemed main character, and at just 30 he's convicted of being an unrepentant aristocrat and sentenced to live out his days in Moscow's Hotel Metropol; if he steps outside, he'll be shot. It's 1922, and the Bolshevik Revolution is in full swing.

Luckily, Alexander possesses a unique zest for life, an infectious good humor and a very pragmatic outlook on his situation. It doesn't hurt that the Hotel Metropol -- the preeminent hotel in Moscow and perhaps all of Russia -- is basically a small village unto itself. And so begins the second chapter of Alexander's life, in which he lives in a tiny room in the Metropol's attic with an infinitesimal fraction of his previous belongings, and in which he views events large -- the rise of communism, World War II -- and small -- geese set loose in the hotel, a famous actress in residence -- from his now-permanent home.

And though Alexander can't place a toe outside the hotel, his days are far from stagnant. A vibrant cast of characters comes into his life over the years, from the moody chef of the hotel's famous restaurant who becomes one of Alexander's very best friends to a government official who secretly loves Humphrey Bogart to an adorably precocious little girl who will change his life in unimaginable ways.

In addition to the colorful characters and our charismatic protagonist, I loved the setting and the historical fiction aspect of the story. Despite Alexander spending almost the entirety of the book within the Hotel Metropol, Towles is able to vividly portray early- to mid-century Russia, with its secret police, its Siberian labor camps, its cheerful church domes, its inhospitable weather and its hearty cuisine. I haven't read many books that take place in Russia so I thoroughly enjoyed the rich details and I learned plenty of new-to-me Russian history. (It was especially interesting since I recently watched the "War & Peace" BBC miniseries, and Tolstoy's novel and the Napoleonic Wars are mentioned several times in Towles' book.)

On top of all that, I found Towles' writing to be absolutely gorgeous -- conversational, warm, funny and beautifully descriptive -- exactly as if Count Rostov were a beloved old friend chatting over tea. I can't remember the last time a book made me smile and chuckle so often. I most appreciated when Towles employed his lovely prose to impart bits of life lesson and observation from Alexander's point of view. A few examples:

"Either way, a cup of coffee would hit the spot. For what is more versatile? As at home in tin as it is in Limoges, coffee can energize the industrious at dawn, calm the reflective at noon, or raise the spirits of the beleaguered in the middle of the night."

"Surely the span of time between the placing of an order and the arrival of appetizers is one of the most perilous in all human interaction. What young lovers have not found themselves at this juncture in a silence so sudden, so seemingly insurmountable that it threatens to cast doubt upon their chemistry as a couple? What husband and wife have not found themselves suddenly unnerved by the fear that they might not ever have something urgent, impassioned, or surprising to say to each other again? So it is with good reason that most of us meet this dangerous interstice with a sense of foreboding."

"When all is said and done, the endeavors that most modern men saw as urgent (such as appointments with bankers and the catching of trains), probably could have waited, while those they deemed frivolous (such as cups of tea and friendly chats) had deserved their immediate attention."

I can see how "A Gentleman in Moscow" might not be everyone's favorite. It's definitely a character-driven story -- which I don't always enjoy myself -- and overall it was a bit of a quiet tale, but it was so very well done. Despite the lack of edge-of-my-seat action, I absolutely couldn't put this book down. I loved the protagonist and the minor characters, I loved the setting -- both Russia and the Hotel Metropol, I loved the atmosphere of the time period, and most of all I loved Towles' expert writing. If his first novel, "Rules of Civility," is as good as his second, he will most definitely be among my list of most favorite authors!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

"Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier
First published in 1938
376 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Short Of It:

Atmospheric and a bit creepy, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations for "a tale of suspense."

The Long Of It:
I'd been meaning to read "Rebecca," Daphne du Maurier's famous gothic novel, for ages, and I had always intended to curl up with it on a blustery October day under a blanket, mug of coca in my hand. I ended up reading it with my toes in the sand in Hawaii -- which was actually ok, because the book wasn't as eerie or as suspenseful as I had imagined, and it made for fine beach reading.

Maybe I've been spoiled for classic thrillers by edge-of-my-seat, gasp-inducing "Gone Girl" and the like, and it's quite probable that "Rebecca" was very shocking and suspenseful when it was published in the 1930s. But I had higher expectations after seeing how well-loved and highly recommended it is. I do have to say that it was surprisingly readable for a book written nearly 80 years ago and I did enjoy the prose, as well as the vivid descriptions of the setting.

The story begins when our narrator is working as a companion to a wealthy old woman; she's accompanied her employer on holiday to Monte Carlo when she meets Maxim de Winter, partakes in whirlwind romance and ends up wed to the handsome, rich widower nearly old enough to be her father. The two return to Manderley, the de Winter estate in Cornwall, but wedded bliss does not ensue.

Rather, Maxim's deceased wife Rebecca and the memory of her lauded life and tragic death cast a pall over everything at Manderley -- and most especially on the narrator herself. She's incessantly informed that Rebecca was stunningly gorgeous, brilliant, kind and beloved by all, and the shy and youthfully naive Mrs. de Winter #2 feels that she cannot possibly compete for her husband's affections when held up against the bright flame of Rebecca. This notion is only encouraged by Manderley's housekeeper, who is utterly -- excessively -- devoted to her former mistress, such that she has faithfully preserved Rebecca's bedroom exactly as it was on her last day, down to the last hair in her brush.

Strange and disturbing happenings ensue. Our narrator has an increasingly rough time of it. Manderley's beautiful gardens and stunning architecture take on a sinister cast. And all is not as it seems. I won't say more at risk of spoiling the plot, which is indeed enigmatic if not entirely thrilling -- it took quite a while for me to figure out whether I was reading a ghost story, a mystery or something else entirely.

The plot didn't quite have me on the edge of my seat, I found the story a bit slow at times, and our daydream-y narrator (whose first name we never learn -- ergh!) was a bit irritating in the first half of the novel -- but I'm still glad I read it, and I wouldn't discourage any potential readers. It was a wonderfully atmospheric tale with a creative plot, and I still can't get over the fact that this suspense novel was written by a woman in 1938 -- that alone makes it worth a read!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

10 Good BOOks for Halloween Reading

Happy Halloween! In honor of the spookiest day of the year, this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is about Halloween books. What exactly makes a book suited for Halloween reading? I narrowed down three different attributes: supernatural characters, a dark-and-stormy-night or magical atmosphere, and a downright creepy plot.
1. Written in Red by Anne Bishop
(my review -- 4.5 stars)
This book has it all -- vampires, shapeshifters and more, plus a wonderfully cozy atmosphere and great characters.

2. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
(my review -- 5 stars)
Part of this book even takes place on Halloween! It's got witches, vampires, daemons, and the cozy and esteemed Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

3. Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
(my review of book 2 in the series, but with a summary of this book -- 4 stars)
Even if you gave up on Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, I suggest giving the Wicked books a try when you need some fluffy, fun reading. This series has a delightful tinge of the supernatural.

4. The Passage by Justin Cronin
(my review -- 5 stars)
"The Passage," book one in a trilogy, was one of the best books I read in 2013. It's a post-apocalyptic epic that features monsters that are like a cross between vampires and zombies.

5. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
(my review -- 5 stars)
This is the ultimate book to curl up with on a cold, rainy night.

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
(my review -- 3.75 stars)
This paragraph from my review sums it right up: "The venue is the Night Circus, a fantastical and mysterious traveling circus of dreams, open only at night with a magical black-and-white color scheme. There are the usual acts -- a contortionist, an illusionist, acrobats, a maze, mirrored rooms, a fortune teller -- but they're all elevated, different, special, unique... magical. Because they all involve the very real magic of Marco and Celia as they play out the game, the stakes of which they have no idea."

7. The Moor by Laurie R. King
(4 stars)
Scenes of the dreary, spooky English moor are contrasted with lovely images like this one: "I pulled one of the armchairs up to the fire, threw some logs onto the red coals, kicked off my shoes, and drew my feet up under me in the chair. It was very pleasant, sitting in the solid, patient old house, in the wood-panelled room with the threadbare, sprung-bottomed furniture. The fire crackled to itself, the cat slept on the bench, the fox and hounds ran across the carved fireplace surround, and occasional voices came from the other end of the house. Sighing, deeply content, I began to read." This is the fourth book in King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery series, but I think it could be enjoyed without having read the previous installments.

8. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
(3.5 stars -- but still worth a read)
"Rebecca" -- "the classic tale of romantic suspense" -- takes place at Manderley, a rambling old estate near the Cornwall coast, and du Maurier's writing can make even the loveliest of azalea gardens seem sinister.

9. You by Caroline Kepnes
(my review -- 4 stars)
This book is about a scarily skilled stalker -- a very charismatic sociopath, a brilliant and manipulative guy who knows every which way to dig into a woman's life -- and her mind. It'll have you wanting to check your social media privacy settings posthaste!

10. Horns by Joe Hill
(my review -- 4 stars)
This was my very first Joe Hill book, and it's probably the most suited for Halloween but any of his novels would fit the bill. The narrator wakes up after a very rough night to find he has sprouted horns on his head -- horns that look to be of the devilish variety -- and he suddenly has, among other talents, the ability to encourage people to act on their most sinful and hidden desires. There are also creepy references to an old foundry, fire, snakes and the like. But there's way more to the story than horror -- it's also a murder mystery.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Musings

Gorgeous double rainbow on Friday afternoon. I chose the right time to walk up and get the mail!

My week: My mom flew back to Colorado on Monday night. I miss her already, but I'm so glad she was able to come visit. And we had a great time on Kauai! This weekend we went to the pick-your-own-pumpkin patch and relaxed at home.

Reading: In my last Monday Musings post I said I was planning to start Kate Morton's "The Forgotten Garden" after I finished up "Rebecca," but then it occurred to me that I better start on the library books I know I won't be able to renew.

First I read "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles, an author I had never even heard of until the hype for this, his second novel, started up. But he definitely has the potential to become a favorite -- I absolutely loved this delightful novel about a count who gets sentenced to live out his days in the Hotel Metropol in Moscow after being convicted of being an unrepentant aristocrat during the Bolshevik Revolution. The writing was gorgeous, the main character was utterly charming, and the story was delightful!

Then I started another newish historical fiction novel, "The Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore (screenwriter of "The Imitation Game"), which is about the rivalry between Edison and Westinghouse, the battle between A/C and D/C current, and the dispute over the creation of the light bulb. I'm not very far in yet, but I have noticed the writing is just slightly less stellar than I imagined (though still perfectly adequate), which is extra apparent after just finishing the amazingly written "A Gentleman in Moscow." I'm still enjoying it, though! The subject matter and time period are certainly interesting.

Knitting: I didn't knit a single stitch this week, but I did splurge and buy the pattern and yarn kit for the "Gilmore Girls" mystery knit-along. It's a cowl (design unknown -- that's the mystery) to be worked on while watching "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life." I can hardly believe I spent that much money on yarn for a cowl (which I won't even get to wear for the next three years) but I just could not resist those colors, especially the aspen bark one. I'm so excited!

Watching: We went to see Ben Affleck's new movie, "The Accountant," about an accountant/assassin whose autism enhances his particular skill set but makes it nearly impossible for him to form relationships. The movie was pretty good, and I liked the twist given to the typical action/guns/revenge plot by the main character's autism and the (hard to watch, at times) flashbacks to his difficult upbringing.

We also started watching the British crime drama "Broadchurch." It's a modern-day detective story set in the quiet seaside community of Broadchurch in Dorset, centered on the suspicious death of an 11-year-old boy. The investigation uncovers many dark secrets in the small community. We watched the first three episodes and I'm definitely intrigued!

Eating: I made from-scratch chicken noodle soup for the first time ever! I used this recipe from Tyler Florence (with a few tweaks) and was proud of myself for making my own stock. (Though I didn't have a turnip like the recipe calls for -- I accidentally bought a beet! Luckily I realized that before I put it in the pot.)


Looking forward to: My birthday is this week! I've spent my last two birthdays in the Smoky Mountains surrounded by stunning fall foliage, so this year's is a little anticlimactic, but I'm thinking I might go get my free birthday drink from Starbucks and have a mini Harry Potter marathon.

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

I Judge Books By Their Covers: "The Last Days of Night"


I just started reading Graham Moore's "The Last Days of Night" yesterday so I can't tell you much about it yet, other than that it involves the rivalry between Edison and Westinghouse, electricity and the light bulb. The little I've read seems completely promising, and I'm expecting to love it! When I was on Goodreads yesterday marking it as my current read, I couldn't help but notice how completely different the U.K. cover is, and I couldn't resist a cover comparison!

U.S. hardcover // U.K. hardcover

Let me start by saying that there's nothing at all I dislike about the U.K. cover -- the color, the font, the illustration and the Gillian Flynn quote are all perfectly pleasing and if I saw this book sitting on a shelf at the store, I'd definitely pick it up to read the blurb.

But there's just something so inviting about the U.S. cover. With that warm glow, the 19th century flair and the gold embossing, this book is just asking to be read under a blanket with a warm beverage in hand. It sets the stage perfectly for a historical fiction novel centered around the creation of electric light.

Which cover do you like best?

My winner: U.S. hardcover

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

2015 Travel Recap: Niagara Falls

Well, I'm ashamed to say that 2016 has somehow surpassed me dawdling along with my travel recaps from last year and our trip to Cleveland and Niagara Falls actually happened over a year ago, at the beginning of October 2015. Goodness, it's hard to believe it's been that long -- and what a year it's been!

If you're interested, you can see posts about the rest of our fun year of travels here:
New York City
Bristol Race, the Biltmore and the Smokies
Colorado Part 1: Lost Lake and Pikes Peak
Colorado Part 2: Rocky Mountain National Park
Cleveland: Cuyahoga National Park and "Christmas Story" House
Next up: back to the Smoky Mountains in October 2015


At the beginning of October last year, we took a long weekend getaway to Cleveland and Niagara Falls, with a stop in Buffalo on the way home to sample the fare at the restaurant that claims to have created buffalo chicken wings. Cleveland was already on the to-do list since it was our last year in Ohio and we hadn't been yet, and I figured we might as well jaunt over to the Falls because who knows when we'll be in that part of the country again. I'm so glad we did... I had never given Niagara Falls all that much consideration before, but I was pleasantly surprised -- the falls were so very stunning in person!

American Falls with Bridal Veil Falls off to the far right of the photo. Bridal Veil Falls is the waterfall you walk next to on the famous Cave of the Winds excursion (which we did, and which was very wet, and which you'll see below).

Another view of American Falls during the day. I was shocked by the sheer volume and power of the water.

There's a light show at night!

On our second day, we headed over the bridge to Canada (I was vaguely disappointed not to have my passport stamped). It's true what everyone says -- the Canadian side is nicer in every way. The Canadian part of the waterfall (Horseshoe Falls) is even more impressive, and the area is much cleaner and more nicely maintained.

That mist is no joke!

Jarrod looks like the Marshmallow Man with this windblown poncho!

And here we are getting drenched, and then drenched some more. The top two photos with the blue ponchos are from the Maid of the Mist boat tour, which takes visitors right up to both the American and Canadian falls for an up-close-and-personal encounter with an insane amount of gushing water and resulting mist.

The yellow ponchos are from Cave of the Winds, where we donned special rubber sandals and walked up a maze of wooden stairs and platforms alongside Bridal Veil Falls. It's smaller, but let me tell you, it's formidable. Every part of me that wasn't completely and totally covered with my poncho (which billowed out constantly from the wind created by the falls) and most of me that was covered was absolutely soaked with ice-cold water. It was an entirely miserable/amazing experience.

You can't quite tell in the photo, but this was basically like standing in a downpour. I would definitely recommend Cave of the Winds, but be prepared to be wet and cold!
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