Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: My Bookish Year in Review

my bookish year in review

Books read: 86 (80 fiction, 6 non-fiction; 85 adult, 1 YA)

5-star books: 14 (definitely a record!)

Favorite book of the year: "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi. Superb writing, clever format, fascinating plot, timely topic. I loved everything about it and everyone should read it! (I won't mention it again because it would take up half the answers!)

Favorite historical fiction: It was an awesome historical fiction year for me and I can't choose just one -- and hell, I'm making this questionnaire up as I go, so I can do what I want, right?! I'll say it's a multi-way tie between "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles, "To the Bright Edge of the World" by Eowyn Ivey, "Letters to the Lost" by Iona Grey, "Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent, "Jane Steele" by Lyndsay Faye and "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr. (Those were all 5-star reads, by the way.)

Favorite mystery/thriller: "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis (more thriller than mystery, with an added post-apocalyptic element; I read way fewer mysteries than usual this year.)

Favorite sci-fi: "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch

Favorite fantasy: "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik (no review for this one, but trust me, it was ah-maze-ing. Even if you don't normally read fantasy, you should check it out!)

Favorite women's fiction: a tie between "Maybe in Another Life" by Taylor Jenkins Reid and "The Things We Keep" by Sally Hepworth

Favorite non-fiction/memoir: "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi, "Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson

Most unputdownable: "The Fireman" by Joe Hill, "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch, "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik

Most disappointing book: "The Hike" by Drew Magary. Pointless plot and terrible writing -- ugh.

Best plot-driven novel: "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik

Best character-driven novel: "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles

Longest book: "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" (7 trillion pages... oh wait, it just felt like that. It was actually 782.)

Shortest book: "Saga" volume 5 (152 pages)

Favorite new author(s) discovered: Amor Towles or Eowyn Ivey; I'm so excited to read their previous releases!

Best debut: "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis or "The Atomic Weight of Love" by Elizabeth J. Church

Best series started: The Others urban fantasy series by Anne Bishop ("Written in Red" is the first book); the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (starts with "His Majesty's Dragon")

Most pleasant reading experience: "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles

Most unpleasant reading experience: "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara

Most over-hyped book(s): "The Couple Next Door" by Shari Lapena, "Be Frank With Me" by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Biggest let-down: I definitely gave some books lower ratings, but I had such high hopes for "Today Will Be Different" by Maria Semple; sadly, while it was ok, it didn't hold a candle to quirky, brilliant "Where'd You Go, Bernadette."

Most memorable character(s): Count Alexander Rostov from "A Gentleman in Moscow," Jude from "A Little Life"

I can't believe I waited until 2016 to finally read: "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, "Maybe in Another Life" by Taylor Jenkins Reid, "The Royal We" by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Novel that taught me the most: "The Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore, a great novel about the battle between A/C and D/C current and between Edison and Westinghouse

Most thought-provoking book: "Poor Your Soul" by Mira Ptacin, a wonderful, laid-bare memoir about an impossible choice, grief and moving on

Best worldbuilding: a tie between "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik and "The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin

Most atmospheric novel: "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton, "The Moor" by Laurie R. King (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #4)

Most underrated good book(s) I read this year: besides "The Wolf Road," I'd say "The Atomic Weight of Love" by Elizabeth J. Church (about a wife and aspiring ornithologist who follows her husband to Los Alamos, New Mexico, for his work on the atom bomb in the 1940s) and "Letters to the Lost" by Iona Grey (an absolutely fantastic dual narrative set in present day and WWII, told partly in letters)

Favorite book-to-screen adaptation: "Me Before You" -- I thought the casting was spot-on!

Favorite covers: apparently I read a lot of blue books this year! In no particular order...

book covers 2

Friday, December 30, 2016

I Judge Books By Their Covers: "I'll Give You the Sun"

 Hello, my name is Lindsay, and I judge books by their covers.
Confession: I always judge books by their covers. A book's appearance -- from the artwork to the font to the colors to the texture to the weight and cut of the pages (I like the ragged-edged ones) -- is very important to me. And there are certain kinds of covers I like and certain ones I'd never pick up unless I was already planning to read the book. It's fascinating to see how covers change between editions -- hardcover and paperback, or U.S. and international -- and it's so fun to see who prefers what!

hardcover // paperback

Earlier in the week I posted a list of my favorite books I read in 2016, and it seemed like an appropriate time to talk about a book that was on my best-of in 2015, "I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson. It's one of the rare young adult books I've loved -- and possibly the only one I didn't find any faults with.

This cover battle is easy-peasy! I'm a huge fan of bright, cheerful, eye-grabbing color on book covers, in my wardrobe and in my home decor. I hands-down choose the hardback cover. But I should note that I have absolutely nothing against the paperback cover -- I love all the fonts and the dark yellow color. It's bold and artistic and, in fact, I like the cursive font (and the heart-dotted i) better! But I just can't say no to all that gorgeous color, which even fits well with the story. Which cover do you like better?

My winner: hardcover

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Best Books I Read in 2016

the best books i read in 2016

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (review) This book was absolutely phenomenal. Not only was it a spectacular work of fiction with a creative but totally effective format, it was extremely timely considering the call for diversity that swept the book community this year and the ongoing conversation about race in our country. It was unlike any book I've read before and I highly, highly recommend it. Gyasi is a master storyteller.

2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (review) I adored "A Gentleman in Moscow," a character-driven novel about a young Russian count who is sentenced to live out his days in a grand Moscow hotel during the Bolshevik Revolution. It was charming, it was funny, it was poignant... it was probably the most pleasurable reading experience I had this year. It also made me want to read more books set in Russia!

3. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (review) I love books set in Alaska, and this epistolary historical fiction novel is about a late-1800s expedition into uncharted Alaskan wilderness. It's told mostly in journal entries by Lt. Col. Allen Forrester and his wife, Sophie, who stays behind in Washington Territory and has adventures all her own. I loved the twinge of magical realism and Native American mythology, the setting -- which became a character all its own -- and the format, which included journal entries, letters and even illustrations and photos.

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik I never got around to reviewing this book, which I discovered browsing best-of lists this time last year, but it was an absolute joy to read. It's a fantasy novel, but even non-fantasy fans will love it. The writing was superb and the story was utterly enchanting. Not to mention I devoured this over-400-page story in just over two days!

5. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (review) This "Jane Eyre" re-telling is a must-read. The bare bones of the original Jane are there, but Faye has given the story fantastic new life in this unique tale, which includes the very telling line, "Reader, I murdered him." I loved it!

6. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (review) I finally read this ubiquitous WWII story in 2016 and let me tell you, it deserves every iota of praise and hype. The writing was absolutely stunning and the story was beautiful.

7. The Fireman by Joe Hill (review) "The Fireman" was a bit of a departure from Joe Hill's previous work -- it was more apocalyptic thriller than horror -- but I liked it even better! It's about a plague that causes victims to spontaneously burst into flames, but it's also about human nature (the good parts and the bad) and finding hope in the worst of times. This was another long book that I absolutely could not put down -- the story totally enthralled me!

8. The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis (review) "The Wolf Road" is hugely underrated -- it only has 1,500 ratings on Goodreads -- and I'd love to see this post-apocalyptic thriller/adventure story/character study get the recognition it deserves. Seventeen-year-old Elka has been raised by a man she knows only as Trapper, and after the stunning revelation that Trapper may very well be a serial killer, Elka must run for her life and navigate this dangerous post-apocalyptic world, which in some ways resembles the Wild West. Readers are guaranteed to fall in love with Elka!

9. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (review) At just 36 Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a brilliant neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. His memoir is a poignant, inspiring and heartbreaking treatise on death, medicine and finding purpose in life. It was a beautiful, courageous book and I think everyone would benefit from reading it.

10. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (review) What a breathtaking book this was. I loved the glimpse into Icelandic history and culture, the rugged starkness of the setting, the haunting story and the gorgeous writing! Plus the story is based on a real person, which makes it even more impactful.

-The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church (review)
-Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (review)
-Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (review)
-The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (review)
-Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey (I never managed to review this WWII/present day dual narrative, but it was SO good. I happily awarded it 5 stars!)
-Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)
-Written in Red by Anne Bishop (The Others #1) (review)
-June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (review)
-The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (review)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Musings: Mele Kalikimaka

christmas tree picture 2016

My week: We had a lovely, quiet Christmas. On Christmas Eve we got holiday drinks from Starbucks, then went to see Hanapa'a Christmas, a cul-de-sac that goes all out for Christmas in Clark Griswold-esque style, and the crown jewel is a huge Christmas tree made out of Heineken bottles synced to flash in time with Christmas music. Then we went headed back in the opposite direction to see the Honolulu City Lights display and, of course, Shaka Santa.

I got some wonderful Christmas gifts, including a massage appointment from Jarrod, a niffler Funko and some Harry Potter playing cards from my parents, a gorgeous handmade personalized clutch from my best friend, and a variety of Lindsay-brand olives from my brother-in-law! And my parents got us a fancy stainless steel trash can, which I was really excited about. We'd been using the same kitchen trash can I got my sophomore year of college (many, many years ago now), and it was about time we upgraded to a grown-up version!



Reading: Last night I finished "The Bear and the Nightingale" by Katherine Arden, a novel set in medieval Russia and inspired by Russian folktales, which comes out January 10. I really enjoyed it, and even though the first half was a little slow I really loved the atmospheric quality and the good writing. (Review to come soon; I gave it 4 stars.)

Next up is "Vassa in the Night" by Sarah Porter. I have to read "Vassa" (another novel, this one YA, inspired by a Russian fairytale) for the adult book club at the library, which I'll be co-facilitating the first week in January. Have you read it? I'm not too keen on YA (I only read one YA book this year, and probably not coincidentally it was my best reading year yet), but a co-worker loved it so I'm trying to keep an open mind.

After that will be "The River at Night" by Erica Ferencik, a thriller set in Maine involving a white water rafting trip gone wrong, which also comes out January 10.

I'm still trying to get into a good routine (that doesn't involve falling asleep on the couch at 10 p.m. every night) with my new work schedule, and my reading has most definitely suffered. Normally I'd have read three or four books in the 11 days it took me to read "The Bear and the Nightingale"!

Knitting: I finished the knitted Christmas ornament (from the "55 Christmas Balls to Knit" book) I started last Sunday and I really like the way it came out!


Watching: "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Home Alone," you get the idea.

Listening to: Christmas music, obviously! ;)

Eating: Our Christmas feast included ham, which Jarrod did on our smoker, sweet potatoes, corn pudding, green bean casserole, sweet Hawaiian rolls and apple crumble. Yum!

Looking forward to: Five days off from work to start the new year!

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Yarn Along: Christmas Balls and "The Bear and the Nightingale"

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


Over the weekend I checked out the "55 Christmas Balls to Knit" book from the library and I've thoroughly enjoyed working on these satisfying little projects! My first ball was a reindeer-themed one (with an added red nose -- you can see it here) and I'm almost done with the above poinsettia ball. I started it on Sunday but didn't have any time to knit the past few days. I'll be finishing it up today though -- I just want to duplicate stitch over two small errors that have been bugging me as well as the wonky unaligned spot at the beginning/end of the row. I've already picked out which pattern I'm going to knit next -- a snowman design!

I'm about a third of the way through "The Bear and the Nightingale" by Katherine Arden (out January 10), a novel inspired by Russian folk tales. So far I'd give it my recommendation! It's got tinges of "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik, one of my favorite reads of 2016, in that it's got a magical feel and the main character has a strong connection to nature.

I just found out I'll be running the adult book club at work in 2017 so I've got to hurry up and read the first selection, a YA novel called "Vassa in the Night" by Sarah Porter (not my choice, but I'll give it a shot). It's also based on a Russian fairytale, which is kind of ironic. At this rate, I'll be an expert soon! ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dear Santa: Please Bring Me These Bookish Gifts!

Dearest Santa,

I've been an awfully good bookworm this year and I'm looking forward to lots of fun presents under the tree. For your gifting ease, I've compiled a helpful list! Give Rudolph my love.

Festively yours,

"Fantastic Books and Where to Find Them" t-shirt
(from Out of Print Clothing)
I love me a good bookish t-shirt, and I like the punny play on "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."

Newt Scamander and niffler Funko Pops
There are a few versions of Newt, but the only one I want is the Newt with the Hufflepuff scarf and suitcase -- and apparently this version is sold out everywhere! Why on earth don't the Funko people just make more already?!?! Luckily, Santa, you don't need the Funko people -- you've got elves and magic!

Pride and Peppermint tea and tin
(from Novel Tea Tins)
Santa, have you heard of this fun new company that combines two of life's best things: books and tea?!

(from Rifle Paper Co.)
I've been wanting a nice journal for writing down quotes I like from books, favorite words, and running lists of the books I read and their ratings. I've been lustfully eyeing other people's gorgeous stuff from Rifle Paper Co. forever, so Santa, please step in and just get me something. And, hey, maybe throw in some notecards and stationery too...

Any and all book-themed candles
This one is from NorthAveCandles on Etsy and is made up of Hermione's three amortentia scents: freshly mown grass, new parchment and spearmint toothpaste. Candles inspired by books are another thing I've been ogling forever but haven't taken the plunge on yet. And there are a gazillion different ones to choose from, so Santa, just bring me a wide variety, ok? I'll take some 221-B Baker Street and some Pemberley and some butterbeer and some hobbit garden; just chuck it all in there. And some bookish wax for my Scentsy would be cool too.

Bookish socks
Santa, whatever you designs you select will surely be wonderful -- it's hard to go wrong with book-themed socks -- but I'd happily take these Sherlock Holmes socks and these Jane Austen socks, which say, "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading." I actually bought the Austen socks for my Broke and Bookish Secret Santa partner (but not for myself -- dumb!).

"Never a Quiet Year at Hogwarts"
(from Society 6)
I love this magical Hogwarts picture! I'm not sure if I'd rather have the print or the notecards, which I could send to my fellow Harry Potter- and letter-loving friends...

An all-expenses-paid trip to the U.K. and a stay in an English country cottage...
...preferably stone, must have a garden. In Cornwall, if possible, and within walking distance of the sea. Please and thank you. (This may or may not be Kate Winslet's cottage in "The Holiday.") (This is indeed book-related; I've read so many books set in the English countryside that I am dying to go there!) Of course, while I'm in England I'm going to need to visit all the other bookish spots, like the Harry Potter film studio, Platform 9 3/4, the Bodelian Library, Jane Austen's house, up to Scotland to see the scenery from "Outlander," you get the idea, Santa. Let's make it a two-week trip; you fill in the itinerary for me!

(I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish blog to share my Christmas wishlist. Head over to see what other bookworms want for Christmas!)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Musings

I love my Harry Potter Christmas ornaments! I also have a Hogwarts Castle one, and the little Hedwig on the tree came with a snitch and a sorting hat.

My week: This was my first full week of work at my new library job and man, was I exhausted. Jarrod's schedule changed this week, too, to 4 a.m. to noon, so it was adjustments all around. We both fell asleep on the couch around 10 p.m. on Friday night and I slept all the way til 9:45 Saturday morning!

I work three 8-hour shifts (really 9, with my lunch hour), which is a huge change from the four or five 5-hour shifts I had at my previous job. And I've been spoiled by getting to sleep in these past several months, so getting up at 7:30 wasn't too fun. I'm sure I'll get used to it all soon, but I'll admit this week was a little rough -- and even rougher on poor Jarrod, who is most definitely a night owl; his body is hardwired to go to sleep at 3 a.m., not get up then. I do have to say, though, it IS wonderful to be back in a library!

Reading: I finished up the thriller "The Couple Next Door" by Shari Lapena, which I found to be pretty disappointing (here's my review) and then I started "The Bear and the Nightingale" by Katherine Arden, a novel inspired by Russian fairytales (due out in January). I haven't gotten very far but I've enjoyed what I have read!

Knitting: I had a work Secret Santa swap sprung on me at the last minute this week; I got my recipient on Monday and the gift swap was on Wednesday. I only had one day to get my gifts together, but luckily my new co-worker was pretty easy to shop for. She likes owls, so I whipped up this cute owl ornament (from the Owl Puffs pattern on Ravelry). I love how it came out and I think I might just make one exactly the same for myself!


This week I checked out a book from the library called "55 Christmas Balls to Knit," and I worked up a Rudolph ornament Saturday night while we watched a movie. I started a second Christmas ball yesterday. They're definitely addicting little projects!

knitted reindeer ornament

Watching: We've continued watching the HBO show "Westworld." It's a little strange but we're enjoying it for the most part. 

Listening to: More Christmas music. I love Celtic-themed music and this is a new favorite:

Drinking: Peppermint tea galore!

Looking forward to: Christmas!

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

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Broke and Bookish Secret Santa 2016

I have never had so much fun with a Secret Santa swap as I have with The Broke and the Bookish blog's gift exchange. This was my second year participating and once again I had a fantastic time! I enjoyed shopping for my recipient and I got a wonderful box of goodies from my Secret Santa. It's so nice to give and receive stuff when you have a shared love of books!


My Secret Santa was Carrie, @onebookishmom, and I was absolutely thrilled with all the goodies she included for me -- two historical fiction novels I've been meaning to read for ages, a skein of my favorite yarn in my favorite color plus a reusable bag from a local knitting shop, a Jon Snow Funko Pop (only my second Funko!) and some delicious mint chocolates. It's like she knows me so well even though we've never met! Also, we clearly share a love of owls -- look at that adorable wrapping paper!


My recipient this year was Amy from Bookzilla, and I had such fun putting together her package! Of course I included some Hawaii goodies (a few more than the picture shows), and since she's a Jane Austen fan I thought these socks, which say "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading," would be right up her alley! I got the bookmarks from the Etsy shop Juniper and Ivy -- and I confess that I also ordered a "For Fox Sake" one for myself. ;)

 I'm already looking forward to next year's bookish Secret Santa -- and if you haven't joined in yet, you should most definitely keep it in mind next November when sign-ups roll around! Merry Christmas, fellow bookworms!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mini Reviews: Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Yay!) and The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (Ugh!)

"Maybe in Another Life" by Taylor Jenkins Reid
First published in 2015
331 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5

I'm a little late to the party, but I'm so glad I finally read this fantastic novel! I had it in my mind that it was a fluffy chick-lit romance, but I was wrong -- the plot was thought-provoking and had surprising depth. It's about a subject I ponder often -- how one little choice can change so very much, for both you and the people around you. And is there such a thing as fate? How about soul mates?

Twenty-nine-year-old Hannah Martin has spent the last decade moving from state to state, searching for purpose and for a place that feels like home. After a disastrous relationship in New York City, she packs her bags and flies to Los Angeles, where she plans to stay with her best friend, Gabby, until she can get her life sorted.

Gabby has arranged a little get-together with friends old and new for Hannah's first night back in her hometown, and the guests include Hannah's high school flame, Ethan. Hannah is shocked by the immediate attraction she still feels for him a decade later -- could he be what she's been looking for all this time? The book then diverges into two concurrent storylines -- one in which Hannah leaves the bar with Gabby when she heads home for the night and one in which she stays there with Ethan -- that very rapidly become two completely disparate versions of the same life, all because of one simple decision. Despite the differences in how things unfolded, though, some things remain the same on both sides of the divide.

Hannah is such a well-drawn, lovably flawed but ultimately optimistic, bright and hopeful character; just about every reader should find some way to relate to her. I thought the writing was good (though I was slightly put off by Reid's odd aversion to contractions) and the first person narrative really makes it feel like you're having a long chat with your best friend over coffee. The book's construction was clever, the theme was intriguing, the book was a total page-turner with surprises I never saw coming, and the endings to both storylines were satisfying. It was a charming, lighter read, but it had much more substance than some other women's fiction. I highly recommend it!

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
First published in 2016
308 pages
My rating: 2.5 out of 5

"The Couple Next Door" is a pretty well-reviewed new thriller, but I'm sad to say I was thoroughly underwhelmed. The plot can basically be summarized in one brief line: a couple's infant is stolen from her crib while they're next door at a party, and the police think the couple was behind it. Here are some of the reasons the book disappointed me:

1. The writing. 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.

This was enhanced by the present tense, third-person omniscient narrative style, which just didn't work for me here. A made up example in the style of the book: "Anne gets up and looks out the window. Anne sees the reporters. Anne knows they hate her. Anne starts to cry." 

Not to mention, it was so repetitive. You read paragraph A. And then a few paragraphs later, there's almost word-for-word paragraph A repeated all over again!

2. There are three main characters, the couple whose baby was taken, Marco and Anne, and the lead detective on the investigation. We get almost zero background or personality information on the couple and none at all on Detective Rasbach, which made it completely impossible to sympathize with them or care about their fates. I had no vested interest in the outcome of the story at all. It reminded me of a bad YA novel -- all plot, no depth of characters or setting.

3. The plot was boring and slow-to-progress. I wasn't surprised by the "twist" -- and there were really no red herrings or ways for the reader to play along to solve the mystery, and we don't get any look at the police work, despite the fact that a detective is one of the supposed protagonists (I say "supposed" because they all felt more like antagonists to me). There was so little substance (what with all the repetition) that it could easily have been a novella (and maybe a much better one!).

4. This book is about a kidnapped child, which is such a completely overused plot in recent thrillers. Maybe it's an easy way to get women (which after all, is the target audience) to have an interest in the outcome because it forces them to imagine their own children going missing, but I don't have kids so it doesn't tug on my heartstrings the same way. On a similar note, someone please give Ms. Lapena a thesaurus! I can't imagine another fiction novel beating this book for use of the phrases "the baby" and the baby "fussing." Argh!

Did you read and enjoy "The Couple Next Door"? What did you like about it that just wasn't coming through for me?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Jingle Bell Book Tag

I saw this Jingle Bell Book Tag on Adventures of a Bibliophile (originally from The Humpo Show) and I just couldn't resist! Feel free to consider yourself "tagged" by me if you'd like to participate. I had fun filling it out!

1. “All I Want For Christmas Is You…” – What book do you want to see under the Christmas Tree?

I'd love to see a copy of "Pride and Prejudice" with the perfect cover. I planned to read it over the summer, and then I decided to buy a copy with a cover I really liked but it was so overwhelming! And some of the covers that jumped out at me aren't really available anymore. So maybe Santa or the Book Fairy could just find the exact right cover for me and leave that edition under my tree!

2. “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time…” – What book that you have read this year have you enjoyed the most?

Probably "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles. It was such a charming book!

3. Elf – What book unleashes your inner child?

"Animalia" by Graeme Base. I discovered this book in first grade and have loved it ever since. Not surprisingly, I've always had a special place in my heart for the "L" page, which features a library, lions, and the first letter of my name!

4. “It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” – Which book has the most festive look to it?

I totally loved the cover of Donna VanLiere's "The Christmas Town"! I was a little less impressed when I saw that it was a whole slew of Shutterstock images Photoshopped together, but don't you just want to step into the picture? I also really like the U.K. cover of "The Great Christmas Knit-Off," which I read and enjoyed last Christmas.

5. The Grinch – Your favorite villain…

Joe Goldberg, sociopath extraordinaire, from "You" by Caroline Kepnes.

6. The Holiday – Name your favorite TWO couples…

Louisa and Will from "Me Before You" and Alana and Marko from "Saga."

7. What book would you like to give as a present to your followers?

"Red Rising" by Pierce Brown. I think almost everyone who reads this book will love it and I'm constantly recommending it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yarn Along: A Cozy Owl Ornament and "The Couple Next Door"

Yarn Along is a weekly link-up about books and knitting hosted by Ginny at the Small Things blog.

yarn along 121416

I whipped up an Owl Puff last night -- isn't she adorable?! My first full day at my new job (the library at the Air Force base where we're stationed) was on Monday and a Secret Santa pal totally got sprung on me -- at the last minute, since the gift exchange was today! Luckily my partner's likes were pretty easy and included owls, so last night I dug through my yarn stash, put on a Hallmark Christmas movie, and knitted up this cozy little scarf-wearing owl. I think she needs a name, but I can't put my finger on one. Maybe something peppermint-related? (Or maybe I'm just saying that because I had a peppermint candle lit last night!) I also got an owl mug, a Bath and Body Works candle and some Ghirardelli chocolates for my Secret Santa partner. Hope she likes everything!

I'm almost done with the new thriller "The Couple Next Door" by Shari Lapena, and I'm so ready to be done with it. I've read a few thrillers this year and I haven't liked any of them, so maybe I just need to avoid the genre until the next "Gone Girl" or "The Girl on the Train" comes along. This one is about a kidnapped child (like, seemingly, all the other thrillers I've read this year) and I'm so bored. I'm finding the writing to be dull and repetitive, the plot to be soooo slow to develop and the characters utterly hateable. I don't understand why so many people gave this one a rave review. I'm excited to move onto my next book, an advance-read copy of "The Bear and the Nightingale" by Katherine Arden, a novel inspired by Russian fairy tales which comes out January 10. I actually tried to include it in my Yarn Along photo but the glare on my iPad was too bad. So "The Couple Next Door" it is!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New Year, New Books: Early 2017 Book Releases I'm Looking Forward To

I can hardly believe it's time to talk about books coming out in the new year -- with our military move from Ohio to Hawaii and all the craziness that went with it, it seems I had a case of "the days went slow but the months went fast" this year.

But, alas, 2017 is nearly upon us -- and with it comes tons of promising new books! Below I've listed 14 of my most anticipated releases for the next several months, but be sure to check back at the end of December for a fuller list of books I'm excited about in January (and at the end of January for February releases and so on). I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish blog to share my list.

What 2017 releases have caught your eye?

January 3
After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion -- a strange, intolerant woman -- has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.

As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.

January 10
Veronica Speedwell returns in a brand new adventure from Deanna Raybourn, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries.

London, 1887. Victorian adventuress and butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell receives an invitation to visit the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women. There she meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Accused of the brutal murder of his artist mistress Artemisia, Ramsforth will face the hangman's noose in a week s time if Veronica cannot find the real killer.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems and unmasking her true identity is only the first of the many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural historian colleague Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer -- a ruthless villain who not only took Artemisia's life in cold blood but is happy to see Ramsforth hang for the crime. From a Bohemian artists colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed.

(I LOVED the first book in this series! If you're looking to start a delightful new mystery series, I urge you to check out "A Curious Beginning"!)

January 10
A young woman’s family is threatened by forces both real and fantastical in this debut novel inspired by Russian fairy tales.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift -- a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

January 17
Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in Veronica Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series.

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not -- their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power -- something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows. Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive -- no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive -- or to destroy one another.

January 17
A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight -- a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.

February 7
Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband Gil about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides each in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years after her disappearance, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Sexy and whip-smart, "Swimming Lessons" holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious and complicated truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

(I enjoyed Fuller's debut, "Our Endless Numbered Days.")

February 7
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. But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and -- maybe, just maybe -- his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future -- our future -- is supposed to be.

February 14
Our world belongs to the Equals -- aristocrats with magical gifts -- and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge. Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution. Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts. He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate -- or destroy?

February 21
The battle between four magical Londons comes to a head in this stunning finale to the New York Times bestselling Shades of Magic trilogy by rising star V. E. Schwab.

(I love these books! They're totally accessible, fun, exciting fantasy that even non-fantasy-readers are sure to enjoy!)

February 21
From the author of "Orphan Train," a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists. Told in evocative and lucid prose, "A Piece of the World" is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

("Orphan Train" has really stuck with me, and I'm planning to read Kline's new release, though it sounds quite a bit different.)

February 21
With every book, Sally Hepworth becomes more and more known for her searing emotional portraits of families -- and the things that test their bonds. In "The Mother’s Promise," she delivers her most powerful novel yet: the story of a single mother who is dying, the troubled teenaged daughter who is battling her own demons, and the two women who come into their lives at the most critical moment. 

Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two all their lives. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works -- until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets -- secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, "The Mother’s Promise" is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness.

(I really enjoyed Hepworth's previous novel, "The Things We Keep." She managed to craft an uplifting story around the very tough topic of early-onset Alzheimer's, and I'm anxious to read her new book!)

March 7
The hotly anticipated third book in the bestselling Bone Season series -- a ground-breaking, dystopian fantasy of extraordinary imagination.

(YAY!!! Book 1 was decent but book 2 was phenomenal, and I can't wait to dive back into the series after this long wait!)

March 14
On a frozen island in the Falklands, with only penguins for company, a young would-be writer struggles to craft a debut novel... and instead writes a funny, clever, moving memoir that heralds the arrival of a fresh new literary talent.

Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came an irresistible opportunity: she won a fellowship to spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Did she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock off the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she imagined she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she'd have a novel, right?

It's true that there aren't many distractions on Bleaker, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia and the weather. But as Nell gets to work on her novel -- a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House -- she discovers that an excruciatingly erratic Internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production.

With deft humour, this memoir traces Nell's island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel as well, as memoir and novel start to reflect one another. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run -- neither a remote island nor the pages of her notebook -- to escape herself. A whimsical, entertaining, thought-provoking blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with tongue-in-cheek writing advice, "Bleaker House" brilliantly captures the hopes, fears, self-torture and humour of being young and yearning to make a creative life. With winning honesty and wit, Nell's race to finish her book emerges as a fascinating narrative in its own right.


April 4
In the gripping sequel to "Sleeping Giants," which was hailed by Pierce Brown as "a luminous conspiracy yarn...reminiscent of 'The Martian' and 'World War Z,'" Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

May 2
From Library Journal: Says Riverhead editor in chief Sarah McGrath, “Just as The Girl on the Train explored voyeurism and self-perception, so does Into the Water interrogate the deceitfulness of memory and all the dangerous ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present and future.” The story opens with a single mother and then a teenage girl found dead at river’s bottom, with the subsequent investigation revealing the kind of twisty, winding history for which small towns are so famous.

May 2
A novel about love, music and coming to terms with the past, from the author of the international bestseller "The Rosie Project."  On the cusp of fifty, Adam Sharp has a loyal partner, earns a good income as an IT contractor and is the music-trivia expert at quiz nights. It’s the lifestyle he wanted, but something’s missing.

Two decades ago, on the other side of the world, his part-time piano playing led him into a passionate relationship with Angelina Brown, who’d abandoned law studies to pursue her acting dream. She gave Adam a chance to make it something more than an affair -- but he didn’t take it. And now he can’t shake off his nostalgia for what might have been. Then, out of nowhere, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously? How far will he go for a second chance?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...