Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 Books To Read If You're a Newbie to Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Until a couple years ago, I'd barely read any sci-fi or fantasy. Off the top of my head, all that comes to mind is "Ender's Game" and Deborah Harkness's All Souls trilogy. So it's mostly thanks to blogging -- and working at a library -- that I'm now a budding SFF nerd; the two are rapidly becoming tops on my list of favorite genres.

Sci-fi and fantasy can be a little intimidating to get into, so for today's Top Ten Tuesday post I've made a list of 10 entry-level SFF books -- ones that should appeal to readers who don't typically choose books from those genres. And they're all ones I'd recommend -- many have been on my best books of the year lists!
sci fi

1. Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Red Rising #1): This is one of my all-time favorite books and I recommend it constantly! It's always going up as my staff pick at work, and everyone I've convinced to read it has loved it! It's kind of like "Ender's Game" + "Hunger Games" + Mars but sooooo much better! (my review)

2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: This book blew me away -- I just could not put it down. It involves the idea of parallel universes and is a compulsively readable sci-fi thriller. It's another book I've recommended a lot (one of the perks of working at a library) with positive results! (my review)

3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: "RPO" is set in a pretty crummy near-future where everyone escapes their terrible lives with virtual reality. Enter a contest in the VR world to win a life-changing amount of money, a great protagonist and tons of '80s pop culture references and you have a damn fun read! (Plus the movie version comes out next year!) (my review)

4. The Martian by Andy Weir: This book is different from the rest in that there's nothing speculative about it -- the story is entirely plausible. It's about an astronaut (the brilliant, eminently likable and hilarious botanist Mark Watney) who accidentally gets left behind on Mars, his will to survive, and the efforts of NASA to save him. The book was phenomenal and so was the movie! (my review)

5. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1): "Sleeping Giants" is the first in a trilogy about the discovery of ancient alien artifacts on Earth. It's an epistolary novel told in journal entries, interviews and the like, and the format makes the book absolutely fly by. (my review)

1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik: "Uprooted" is a rare fantasy standalone novel! It involves a teenage girl taking on some malevolent forces of the natural world, and I was completely and utterly enthralled from page 1! (If you like this book, check out the author's Temeraire series, which is an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars with dragons added to the mix!)

2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Shades of Magic #1): The Shades of Magic series features four parallel-universe Londons -- three of which have magic and one of which, Grey London, is the world we knew a couple centuries ago. You'll quickly fall in love with the two protagonists -- Kell (one of the few people who can move between the Londons) and Lila Bard, pirate extraordinaire. Bonus: all the books in the trilogy are out, so you can see this fun adventure all the way through! (my review)

3. The Bear and the Nightingale (The Bear and the Nightingale #1): "The Bear and the Nightingale" is a lovely tale drawn from Russian folklore. The story -- about a young girl who can see creatures others can't, like the little man who lives in the fireplace -- is beautifully written and richly atmospheric. And the next book comes out in January, so you won't have to wait a whole year to find out what happens next! (my review)

4. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Broken Earth #1): This is the most hardcore of the fantasy books I've listed, and it also incorporates a bit of science fiction -- but once you get into the story, you won't be able to put it down! It's about people with the ability to manipulate the earth's power -- orogenes -- and though they literally hold the power to destroy the planet at their fingertips, they're kept oppressed and enslaved.  (my review)

5. Written in Red by Anne Bishop (The Others #1): I don't pick up a ton of urban fantasy, but this book was just such a treat -- I'm glad I took other bloggers' recommendations to read it! It's got vampires, shapeshifters, prophecies and more -- and the whole thing is imbued with this wonderful cozy atmosphere. (my review)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Musings

jarrod and alohi
Sun's out, tongues out!

My week: The week got off to a rough start when I came home from work Monday to find Alohi's cage the most horrific poopy disaster she'd had yet. The towels we'd put in the cage were sodden with diarrhea, every inch of the crate tray was covered in smashed poop, there was poop on the floor, poop on the wall, and of course poop on the puppy. Alohi stress-poops every single day when we put her in her crate, and the Monday debacle was the last straw: we decided it was time to try leaving her out on her own. The good news: no poop! Which means her anxiety comes more from the cage than us leaving. The bad news: our normally non-destructive puppy did chew up a couple things (we came home Sunday evening to find she had gnawed and played with the remote and in the process turned the TV to a vibrator commercial). But there's no going back -- after a handful of glorious poopy-towel-free days, I have zero desire to ever deal with that again! Hopefully she doesn't decide to see how books taste...

The rest of the week was fine. Wednesday was my second time doing the 4th and 5th grade book club at work and that was fun; we read "The Lemonade War," so I had the kids make lemonade from concentrate (like in the book) and fresh-squeezed (they got to juice the lemons!) and compare the two. Saturday we ate at our favorite gourmet hot dog place for lunch and tried a new bubble tea place, then ran errands, and Sunday we went to the beach.


Reading: Last week I had just picked back up "O Jerusalem" by Laurie R. King (the fifth in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series) and I tried it for a couple days and eventually put it down yet again because it kept putting me to sleep (literally). I had trouble with the second book in the series as well, but I plan to power through this one because I do want to read the whole series!

In the meantime, I picked up "This Is How It Always Is" by Laurie Frankel, a novel about a transgender child and her family. I decided to read it because I'd like to learn more about transgender people -- and to be perfectly honest, while I try to be open-minded, I have a hard time wrapping my head around a 5-year-old just bone-deep knowing he or she was meant to be the opposite sex. That's why the book piqued my interest, but it was such a pleasant surprise -- I loved the characters and I really liked Frankel's writing, and it ended up being one of the best books I've read so far this year! I definitely recommend it!

And now I'm reading "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things" by Bryn Greenwood, which I grabbed from work on a whim after chatting with someone who told me they absolutely, positively could not put it down and read it in a day. I'd already been wanting to read it -- in fact, I'm the one who asked my boss to order it -- but I just never seemed to remember to make time for it. It's a controversial book as it features a, shall we say, May/December romance, as well as an abusive mother and a drug-dealing father. It's on the intenser side, but Greenwood is a great storyteller -- and it is indeed a fast, hard-to-put-down book.

Watching: The "World of Dance" finale, "Game of Thrones" and "Turn." Movie-wise we watched "The Lost City of Z," which was a bit of a dud for me. It was looooong (2 1/2 hours) and it seemed to gloss over or put a rosy tinge on all the bad stuff that happened in the book while simultaneously leaving out all the things that made the book interesting. There was way too much England in the movie and not nearly enough Amazon.

I also got sucked into "Coyote Ugly" when it came on the channel we had left on for the puppy when we went out to eat the other night. It's a movie I used to love and hadn't seen in forever, and it was still just as adorably cheesy as I remembered!

Monday Musings
My August 2017 Reading List
I Judge Books By Their Covers: My Not So Perfect Life

Looking forward to: Jarrod has some use-or-lose leave he has to take from work and I took off two days as well, next Monday and Tuesday! We're planning to do fun Hawaii stuff on those days, maybe snorkeling or hiking. Also, we just booked a quick little weekend getaway to Kauai for September! I'm nervous about leaving Alohi (we're having someone house- and dog-sit for us) but, damn, do I need a vacation (this is definitely a mini vacation, but I'll take what I can get)!

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: My Not So Perfect Life

I read and enjoyed Sophie Kinsella's latest British chick-lit novel, "My Not So Perfect Life" a couple weeks ago. It was fun, it was fluffy, and it saved me from my reading slump! Here's my review.

<<<U.S.      U.K.>>>

I don't have super-strong feelings about either cover, though I do like the U.S. one better. In real life, that green is extremely eye-catching -- it definitely stands out on a shelf. I like the dashes of pink and turquoise, and I vastly prefer the more artistic fonts on the U.S. cover over the U.K. one -- those look like they were pulled straight from Microsoft Word! And the U.S. cover just seems to have better flow and balance; somehow those hand-written notes on the U.K. version make it look a bit sloppy.

Both have white, pink and green tones, both have a graphic of a woman, and both appropriately convey the chick-lit tone of the book, but -- while I don't hate it -- there's nothing like better about the U.K. cover over the bright green U.S. one. The U.S. cover is my winner! Which do you like better?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My August 2017 Reading List

We're already a week into August, can you believe it? Right now I'm reading "O Jerusalem" by Laurie. R. King (the fifth Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes book) and I'm far away in the Jerusalem of 1919, solving crimes!

I've got some more armchair travel coming up this month: 1800s England, 1927 America, space, a future filled with monsters... What's on your reading list for the rest of August?

august reading list

1. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey #2):
I devoured the first book in this mystery series last month and immediately requested book 2 from the library!

2. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Wayfarers #1): I've been meaning to get to this well-liked sci-fi novel for months, since I ordered it from Book Depository. It was the one of two books from my July reading list I didn't get to.

3. The Essex Serpent: Oh, I'm so excited about this one! It just came in for me at work yesterday and I'm desperately hoping the story lives up to the lovely cover!

4. Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab (Monsters of Verity #2): I picked up the first book on a whim last week and though it was ok -- not anywhere near as good as Schwab's Shades of Magic series. But I figure I might as well go ahead and read the other half of the duology. It'll be a fast read.

5. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (Temeraire #2): I read and loved "His Majesty's Dragon" -- the first in this alternate history series set during the Napoleonic Wars -- last fall and I'm excited to finally get to book 2!

6. One Summer by Bill Bryson:
This is the other book from my July list I didn't get around to. It's been on my to-read list forever, and now it's been languishing on my bookshelf forever! I really do need to get it back to the library, though, and I also really wanted to read it during summer, so it's a must-read this month.

7. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel: I put this book -- about a transgender child -- on hold at the library months ago and it finally came in!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Musings

Sunday night at the beach.

My week: It was a pretty good week here! (That's a sea change from the past few weeks -- see, I knew August would be better!) One of Jarrod's friends from his deployment several years ago just moved to Hawaii with his family, so we had them over for dinner on Monday and that was fun. Wednesday afternoon we took an impromptu trip to the beach, and it was so nice to go on a weekday when it wasn't crowded! We also went to the beach on Sunday late afternoon and got to see a gorgeous full moon rise over the water.

Reading: I finally finished "Dragonfly in Amber," the second Outlander book! Woo hoo! It was looooong, and though I did really enjoy it, it wasn't nearly as good as the absolutely fabulous first book in the series. Then I blazed through "First Grave on the Right" by Darynda Jones, the first book in her Charley Davidson urban fantasy series. I had picked it up a couple weeks ago but was instantly turned off by the banter-y, sarcastic writing style and knew it just wasn't what I was in the mood for at that moment, but it proved to be the perfect quick and easy palate cleanser after "Dragonfly."

Despite having a gazillion other things to read, I brought home "This Savage Song" by Victoria Schwab after someone returned it at work the other day. I love her Shades of Magic adult fantasy series and I've been wanting to try some of her other books, even though they're mostly young adult. This one was ok... not nearly as enthralling as Shades of Magic, though, and it definitely felt and read like a YA book -- I guess I was hoping it wouldn't.

At the beach on Sunday I read "The Lemonade War," this month's book for the 4th and 5th grade book club I help out with at work. It was cute enough, and mercifully short, but I didn't like it nearly as well as last month's "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech. Now I'm back to "O Jerusalem," the fifth Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery by Laurie R. King. I started it a few weeks ago in the midst of my reading slump and set it aside about 50 pages in. I'm much more in the mood for it now!

Watching: The season finale of "Grantchester," which was bittersweet because it sounds like it's uncertain if there will be another season. (Sniff, sniff!) I also started season 2 of "Outlander" after finishing "Dragonfly in Amber." And Jarrod and I finally watched the first two episodes of this season's "Game of Thrones." Also: "World of Dance," "Deadliest Catch," "Turn." Movie-wise we watched "Office Christmas Party," which was pretty dumb but it made me laugh out loud several times.

Buying: The Target "miracle" swimsuit. It's a black one-piece with diagonal mesh inserts across the belly and it's purported to look good on everyone. (I don't know if it will look good on me yet -- I ordered it online and it should be arriving today!) Before we moved to Hawaii I bought a new swimsuit, but it has a skirt bottom (to cover up the "fluff" I've added on the past few years) but it's just not working out for me. It's impossible to wear shorts over it, and it's just too much wet fabric whenever I actually get in the water. I bought a pair of (rather wild) board shorts recently and just needed to find a black top to go with them -- then I saw a picture of a girl on Instagram wearing board shorts over that same suit and I figured I'd give it a shot too!

Receiving: My Goodreads Giveaway win of "Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore"! I've won several Goodreads Giveways, but this is the first time I've gotten a nice, non-ARC hardcover copy and I was so excited!

Monday Musings
Turning the Page on June & July 2017
How I Choose My Books (Book Tag)
I Judge Books By Their Covers: See What I Have Done
Book Review: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Looking forward to: "This is Us" starting back! I know it's still almost two months away, but I saw something about it recently and it got me excited  (plus a friend just started watching it this week!). I wasn't sure about the show when it premiered last year so I recorded it all on the DVR and binge-watched it in the spring -- and I'm so glad I did! It's SUCH a fantastic show and totally different from anything else on TV, and even though it tackles some tough issues I always feel good and happy after watching each episode. If you haven't watch it yet, do!

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Book Review: First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

"First Grave on the Right" by Darynda Jones
Charley Davidson #1
First published in 2011
310 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A light, easy read, though a bit short on substance. Good enough that I'll probably check out the second book in the series.

The Long Of It:
"First Grave on the Right" was like reading one of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books with a added paranormal element -- after all, our protagonist is the grim reaper. It was a light book that blended mystery, humor and a twinge of romance with a somewhat hapless, lovably flawed main character.

Charley Davidson sees dead people -- and helps them cross over to the "other side." And sometimes she helps the police figure out just what caused them to need her services in the first place. In this first book in the series, she's visited by three lawyers from the same firm who were all murdered on the same night, and with their assistance she and the police investigate their deaths and uncover a sinister crime.

The writing was adequate, I liked Charley for the most part, it made me laugh. It's definitely not going to win any Pultizer Prizes, but it was a fun, easy book and it was the perfect thing to cleanse my palate after reading the long and intense second Outlander book. I will say that the grim reaper jokes got a bit tiresome, and I was kinda confused about some of the supernatural elements, though perhaps those are fleshed out more as the books continue. It's one to pick up when you want something light -- the beach, the airport, when you've got kids tugging at your elbow -- and if you do like it there's a whole (ongoing) series to catch up with afterwards!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: See What I Have Done

"See What I Have Done" by Sarah Schmidt -- a fictionalized account of the Lizzie Borden story -- came out this week and I'm hoping to read it soon. In fact, I have an advance-read copy that I just haven't managed to get to yet. Here's a bit of the Goodreads blurb:
"On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell -- of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence. "

U.S.   //   U.K.

I like both covers! They really have quite a bit in common: a bright, eye-catching single graphic centered on a neutral background, pretty colors, and a sort of rustic feel. And they both have just a little bit of eeriness that likely compliments the grim story -- the strange orange eye of the bird, and the bugs on the partially eaten pear.

The U.S. cover appeals to me because I love anything in the blue-green colorway and that bird is just so striking against the cream background! I also love artsy covers, and the watercolor paint-drip is right up my alley. On the other hand, the U.K. cover has that gorgeous font -- and I love how the author blurbs are made to look like they were handwritten.

In the end, though, the U.K. cover squeaks ahead for the win in my opinion. I like the painted look of the background, the bite taken out of the pear, the different-sized lettering and the colors, which compliment each other perfectly. I also like that it's such a balanced piece of artwork: when I look at it, my eye takes in the entire thing rather than zeroing in on a certain point (on the U.S. cover, my eye goes right to the white "HA").

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How I Choose My Books (Book Tag)

book tag

I came across this thought-provoking book tag on Adventures of a Bibliophile. It was originally posted at Thrice Read. Let me know if you decide to play along too; I'd love to read your answers!

Find a book on your shelves with a blue cover. What made you pick up that book in the first place?
"Something Blue" by Emily Giffin. I actually rescued it, and a few others, from a neighbor's trash many, many years ago. At the time, I had never heard of Emily Giffin, and I didn't realize it was the second book in the series when I read it. But I guess this shows I have a soft spot for books about to meet their deaths... I've rescued a few over the years. And now Emily Giffin is one of my auto-read authors!

Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy but did. Why did you read it in the first place?
Pretty much any YA book I've read and actually liked the past couple years fits into this category. I was never into YA before I started blogging, but then I'd see the same books raved about over and over and feel like I should give them a try -- and I almost always ended up disappointed. Either they were just-ok, or they were awful. So now I'm very picky about YA books and I pretty much always go in expecting to hate them; when I do come across one I really like, it's such a pleasant surprise!

Examples from the past couple years: "The Book Thief" by Marcus Zuzak, "I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson," "A Monster Calls" by Patrick Ness (which I had to read for the library's book club), "Carve the Mark" by Veronica Roth.

Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick a book at random. How did you discover this book?
"The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." I'd heard a lot about this book -- an Oprah pick that has a dog on the cover -- before picking up a rather battered secondhand copy for 50 cents years ago. Still haven't gotten around to reading it, though!

Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?
A hidden gem called "The Dud Avocado" by Elaine Dundy, which chronicles the adventures of a young American expat in Paris in the 1950s. It's a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story filled with charm, humor and life lessons. I loved it! It was recommended to me by a co-worker (a huge Francophile) and I just had to read it -- I mean, it has "avocado" in the name! (And yes, there is a meaning behind the quirky title.)

Pick a book you discovered through book blogs. Did it live up to the hype?
"Red Rising" by Pierce Brown. This book was all over the end-of-year best-of lists for 2014. I had hardly read any science fiction at that point and wasn't really interested, but after seeing it on list after list I figured I had better see what the fuss was all about. And I'm SO glad I did -- it's quite possibly my favorite series!

A few other good books I'd never have read if not for blogs and bookish social media: "The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin, "The Royal We" by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik, "You" by Caroline Kepnes, the Saga graphic novel series... the list goes on and on. (Of course, re: my YA answer above, there are also a lot of books I only picked up because of blogger raves that I regretted wasting precious reading time on.)

Find a book on your shelves with a one word title. What drew you to this book?
From my metaphorical Goodreads shelves: "NOS4A2" by Joe Hill. Something about the cover of the book -- the bloody license plate -- intrigued me, plus I knew it was a horror book somehow tied to Christmas, and I'd had this book on my to-read list for a while. I finally read it right around the time Hill's newest book, "The Fireman" was released; I guess the buzz reinvigorated my desire to read Joe Hill. And then one book later I blew through "The Fireman"!

What book did you discover through a film/TV adaptation?
Hmm... I'm pretty unlikely to go back and read a book after seeing the show or movie, though there are a few exception. I'd really like to read the books the Masterpiece shows "Poldark" and "Grantchester" are based on, which I never would've discovered otherwise, and I want to read the Game of Thrones books as well (though those were already on my to-read list before the show came on).

More often, I see that a movie or show is coming out and it motivates me to read the book beforehand. Most recently I read "The Lost City of Z" by David Grann, though I haven't seen the movie yet. And I'd like to read "Murder on the Orient Express" by Agatha Christie before the new movie comes out in November.

Think of your all-time favorite books. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?
My all-time favorite books are probably the Harry Potter series, which I started reading my sophomore year of high school when a neighbor suggested I borrow the first three books. To be honest, I think I was a little reluctant to take them -- I mean, they were kid books! What a mistake that would've been. I'm sure I would have discovered Harry eventually on my own, but I'm so glad I got into the series when I did because I got to experience four book release days!

More recent favorites have been found through a combination of happenstance (the cover catches my eye when I'm tidying at work, etc.) and, mostly, through blogs, Instagram, Goodreads, even NetGalley, as well as chatting with co-workers at the library.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Turning the Page on June & July 2017

june july

June and July were not the greatest months for me. Jarrod worked a ridiculous number of hours (I'm talking many, many 12- or 15-hour days, plus most of 4th of July weekend and several other weekend days). I had a couple kerfuffles and chaotic days at my work. Alohi got spayed at the end of June, which was a bit stressful because -- despite the sedatives the vet gave us -- our little Energizer Puppy flat-out refused to take it easy (and she also managed to get stung by a bee in her mouth while recovering). I had 24 hours' notice to host a dinner for 13 people from my husband's work I'd never met before. I had a pretty gnarly reading slump. And, by far the most difficult thing, my wonderful grandma was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in June and passed away at the beginning of July. I was more than ready to flip that calendar to August yesterday!

The past two months did have some bright spots, though. We took Alohi to the beach for the first time. I went on a hike with my co-workers. I got to spend some quality time with a good friend before she moved away (oh, military, why do you do this to me?!). July was my first time co-facilitating the 4th and 5th grade book club at work and that was fun. One of my favorite shows, Masterpiece's "Grantchester" came back on TV, and I also got totally sucked into "World of Dance" on NBC. And I bought three new bookish t-shirts!

books read in june july 2017

Books read: 12


"A Twist in Time" by Julie McElwain (Kendra Donovan #2) // 3.5 stars
"The Queen of Blood" by Sarah Beth Durst (Queens of Renthia #1) // 4 stars
"My Last Continent" by Midge Raymond // 4 stars
"The Likeness" by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #2) // 4 stars
"News of the World" by Paulette Jiles // 4 stars


"Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction" by Helen Pilcher // 4 stars
"Vision in Silver" by Anne Bishop (The Others #3) // 3 stars
"Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech (for kids' book club) // 4 stars
"Silent in the Grave" by Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey #1) // 4.5 stars
"Three Times Lucky" by Sheila Turnage (for kids' book club) // 3.5 stars
"My Not So Perfect Life" by Sophie Kinsella // 4 stars
"This Is What a Librarian Looks Like" // 4 stars

Read for 12 days in July but finished August 1: "Dragonfly in Amber" by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #2)

"Just One Damned Thing After Another" by Jodi Taylor

Favorite book: "Silent in the Grave"! Despite it being over 500 pages, I devoured this book in two days and loved it! I have the sequel out from the library right now and I'm excited to get to it soon.

Biggest let-down: "Just One Damned Thing After Another," a fantasy book about time-traveling historians that I fully expected to love, but it just didn't work for me; I actually put it down halfway through.

August release I'm most looking forward to: "Young Jane Young" by Gabrielle Zevin. Her previous book, "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry," was fabulous, and though this one sounds quite a bit different I'm hoping it's just as good.

Book I'm most excited to read in August: The second book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (alternate Napoleonic War history + dragons), "Throne of Jade."

Books added to to-read list: 36 (not great, but not horrible for two months, plus a few were sequels)

Most intriguing TBR addition: "The Revolution of Marina M." by Janet Fitch. From Goodreads: "St. Petersburg, New Year's Eve, 1916. Marina Makarova is a young woman of privilege who aches to break free of the constraints of her genteel life, a life about to be violently upended by the vast forces of history. Swept up on these tides, Marina will join the marches for workers' rights, fall in love with a radical young poet, and betray everything she holds dear, before being betrayed in turn. As her country goes through almost unimaginable upheaval, Marina's own coming-of-age unfolds, marked by deep passion and devastating loss, and the private heroism of an ordinary woman living through extraordinary times."

Favorite bookstagram: Find me on Instagram @knittinglindsay!



No crafts to speak of the last two months! I tried to pick up the Newt Scamander Hufflepuff scarf I've been very slowly knitting for a friend, and I got about two rows done before the puppy ran off with a skein of yarn in her mouth and unraveled it all over the downstairs. The scarf has been shoved in a coffee table drawer ever since!

Book reviews:
"American War" by Omar El Akkad
"Into the Water" by Paula Hawkins
"The Stranger in the Woods" by Michael Finkel
5 mini reviews: "My Last Continent" by Midge Raymond, "The Queen of Blood" by Sarah Beth Durst, "The Likeness" by Tana French, "News of the World" by Paulette Jiles, "Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction" by Helen Pilcher
"Silent in the Grave" by Deanna Raybourn
"My Not So Perfect Life" by Sophie Kinsella

Favorite post: 10 2017 Releases I Enjoyed and 10 I Hope To Read Soon. It's been a fairly mediocre reading year for me, so I'm hoping the 10 I'm looking forward to make up for a lackluster first half of the year -- especially with new releases!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: The week started off on the chaotic side as my husband gave me 24 hours' notice that we'd be hosting a bunch of people for a cookout on Monday night. On the plus side, a handful of them were from the Australian military here for the exercise my husband's work was doing (the cookout was to celebrate the end of it!) and we got two packages of TimTams out of the deal.

Work was busy as the time had come to take down my huge summer reading volcano bulletin board (and I do mean huge -- the board is 13x9 feet) and put up a new one, Swim Back to School, which has an underwater scene with a school of fish at the center. I keep meaning to do a post of all the bulletin boards I've done so far -- maybe next week. This isn't one of my favorites, but I'm already thinking about September and Banned Books Week. (I might go for the cliche but fun "AzkaBANNED Prison" idea.) I also got my genre display at work changed from readable science books to books set in England, which I'd been wanting to do ever since I happened upon a book languishing back in the nonfiction stacks with a brilliant cover called "The A303: Highway to the Sun." Sure enough, it got checked out the first day my display was up!

The weekend was fun but went by way too fast. Saturday afternoon we went to the beach and Jarrod surfed while I read, and Sunday we took Alohi to the beach for the first time! We went up to the North Shore and then got ice cream at our favorite shop there afterwards.

Reading: I'm nearing the end of "Dragonfly in Amber," the second Outlander book! At almost 950 pages, it's one of the longest books I've ever read and I'm feeling rather accomplished! I'm not finding it to be quite as absorbing or immersive as the first book, but I'm really enjoying it nonetheless. (Though I keep thinking about all the other books waiting in the wings: six library books, an ARC, and the August book for the kids' book club at work!)

Watching: Same as the last few weeks: "Grantchester," "My Mother and Other Strangers," "World of Dance." Hoping to start "Game of Thrones" soon! Movie-wise the only one we got to was "Central Intelligence," which made me laugh a few times but overall was pretty dumb.

Listening to: "Redbone" by Childish Gambino.

Eating: So much food. Jarrod had to work late several days this week and we ended up eating out once and picking up dinner twice. And then on Monday for the get-together we had three kinds of smoked meat (Jarrod loves his smoker), buffalo chicken dip, dill french onion dip, pineapple, hashbrown casserole, baked beans, and two types of dessert, the leftovers of which we've been eating all week.

Buying: Some clothes! It's been a while since I've been shopping at my leisure, but I finally made it to the Gap Factory Store on Wednesday and left with a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, some yoga pants and several tops.

Monday Musings
Intriguing August 2017 Book Releases

Looking forward to: Finally getting to watch "Outlander" season 2, now that I'll have read the book. It's been on my DVR for months, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how some aspects of the book are portrayed on screen! I guess if I want to read "Voyager" before season 3 comes on, I better get on that...

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Intriguing August 2017 Book Releases

intriguing august 2017 book releases

Lots of interesting books coming next month! The ones I'm most looking forward to are "The Luster of Lost Things," "Young Jane Young" (I hope it's as good as "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry"!) and "How to Find Love in a Bookshop," which is a bit out of my normal wheelhouse but sounds utterly charming. What August releases are you excited about?

(All summaries adapted from Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.)

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives // A witty, urbane, and sometimes shocking novel, set in a hallowed New York museum, in which a co-worker's disappearance and a mysterious map change a life forever. "Impossible Views of the World" is a dazzling debut novel about how to make it through your early thirties with your brain and heart intact.

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley // In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness. "The Bedlam Stacks" is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

Brave Deeds by David Abrams // "Brave Deeds" is a powerful novel of war, brotherhood, and America. Spanning eight hours, the novel follows a squad of six AWOL soldiers as they attempt to cross war-torn Baghdad on foot to attend the funeral of their leader, Staff Sergeant Rafe Morgan. Moving, thoughtful, funny, and smart, "Brave Deeds" is a gripping story of combat and of brotherhood, and an important addition to the oeuvre of contemporary war fiction.

Morningstar: Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood // A memoir about the magic and inspiration of books from a beloved and best-selling author. In her admired works of fiction, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these works of fiction.

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose // Lee Cuddy is seventeen years old and on the run. Betrayed by her family after taking the fall for a friend, she finds refuge in a cooperative of runaways holed up in an abandoned building they call the Crystal Castle, but the fa├žade of the Castle conceals a far more sinister agenda, one hatched by a society of fanatical men set on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. They believe Lee holds the key to it all. Aided by Tomi, a young hacker and artist with whom she has struck a wary alliance, Lee escapes into the unmapped corners of the city, but the deeper she goes underground, the more tightly she finds herself bound in the strange web she’s trying to elude.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt //  In this riveting debut novel, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka // When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched -- not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters -- Cameron, Jade, and Russ -- must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker // Since the death of Ragnvald Eysteinsson's father in battle, he has worked hard to protect his sister Svanhild and planned to inherit his family's land when he comes of age. But when the captain of his ship tries to kill him on the way home from a raiding excursion, he must confront his stepfather's betrayal, and find a way to protect his birthright. It is no easy feat in Viking-Age Norway, where a hundred petty rulers kill over parcels of land, and a prophesied high king is rising.

The Lauras by Sara Taylor // I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong. As we made our way from Virginia to California, returning to the places where she’d lived as a child in foster care and as a teenager on the run, repaying debts and keeping promises, I learned who she was in her life-before-me and the secrets she had kept – even from herself. But when life on the road began to feel normal I couldn’t forget the home we’d left behind, couldn’t deny that, just like my mother, I too had unfinished business.

The Address by Fiona Davis // Fiona Davis returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City's most famous residence.With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives -- and lies -- of the beating hearts within.

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber // "Serial" meets Ruth Ware’s "In A Dark, Dark Wood" in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case -- and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor // Hazel Gaynor turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. 1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: The True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone // Joining the ranks of "Hidden Figures" and "In the Garden of Beasts," the incredible true story of the greatest codebreaking duo that ever lived, an American woman and her husband who invented the modern science of cryptology together and used it to confront the evils of their time, solving puzzles that unmasked Nazi spies and helped win World War II. Blending the lively pace and compelling detail that are the hallmarks of Erik Larson's bestsellers with the atmosphere and intensity of "The Imitation Game," "The Woman Who Smashed Codes" is page-turning popular history at its finest.

The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller // Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wearer of high-tops. A maker of croissants. A son keeping vigil, twelve years counting. But he wouldn’t be able to tell you. Silenced by his motor speech disorder, Walter’s life gets lonely. Fortunately, he has The Lavenders -- his mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing -- except for his lost father. So when the Book at the root of the bakery’s magic vanishes, Walter, accompanied by his overweight golden retriever, journeys through New York City to find it -- along the way encountering an unforgettable cast of lost souls.

The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet by Henry Fountain // In the tradition of Erik Larson's "Isaac's Storm," a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in recorded history in North America -- the 1964 Alaskan earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and obliterated the coastal village of Chenega -- and the scientist sent to look for geological clues to explain the dynamics of earthquakes, who helped to confirm the then controversial theory of plate tectonics.

The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester // During the dangerous days of World War II, Honey Deschamps is spending her days transcribing decrypted messages at Bletchley Park, when she starts to receive bizarrely coded packages. When everyone is keeping secrets, who can you trust?

The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death by John Bateson // In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job -- from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides. Complete with poignant anecdotes, "The Education of a Coroner" provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry // The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart.

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis // Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is. Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again. Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn't seem so lonely -- until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne // From the author of "The Boy In the Striped Pajamas," a sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man's life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland. In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. "The Heart's Invisible Furies" is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin // Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss -- and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics. She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up -- an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: It was an ok week here. Jarrod's work was in the midst of their 14-day exercise so he worked an absolutely nutty number of hours, and the puppy and I didn't see too much of him. I spent a couple afternoons hanging out with a good friend who's moving away, but then had to say a sad goodbye. (These two things above -- two of the hard parts of military life!) Saturday I went into work for a few hours to help out with the summer reading program finale party, which included raffles, pizza and a magician.

Reading: This time last week I was between a third and halfway into "Just One Damned Thing After Another," the first in a series about time-traveling historians. And not long after that, the book just lost me. The book zigged from where it first started -- a good thing -- but then it zagged to a weird place and I just totally lost interest. The writing was only so-so, and I wasn't particularly attached to the characters, so I gave up on it -- continuing my discouraging string of partially-read books.

"My Not So Perfect Life" saved the day! I haven't read Sophie Kinsella in years, though I had been meaning to read this new book of hers at some point because the plot intrigued me. On a spur-of-the-moment decision, I grabbed it off the library shelf while tidying last Tuesday morning. It was light and fluffy and timely and, for a chick-lit book, I really enjoyed it. I read it in two days and it definitely saved me from sliding into a full-blown reading slump. (Here's my review.)

Now I'm reading the second Outlander book -- years and years after I meant to! I'm reading it along with a friend (the aforementioned friend who's moving) who's just starting the series; hearing her talk about the first book gave me the push I needed to finally make a point to read "Dragonfly in Amber." It's really good, but really looooong! I have a tiny little mass-market paperback (with tiny little font) and it's 947 pages! I recorded the second season of the show when it aired but I've been waiting to watch it until I read the book. I see a fabulous binge-watch in my near future!

Watching: "Grantchester," "My Mother and Other Strangers," (a pleasant new Masterpiece period drama), "Turn: Washington's Spies," "World of Dance" (I'm not huge on competition shows, but I am addicted to this one!).

Eating: I tried a yummy new mac and cheese recipe this week that's definitely a keeper (here), which I served with a tasty blueberry feta spinach salad (here). I also made chocolate chip banana muffins, which I took into my work to share.

Listening to: "Feel It Still" by Portugal. The Man.

Monday Musings
10 2017 Releases I Enjoyed and 10 I Hope to Read Soon
I Judge Books By Their Covers: Darktown
Book Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
A to Z Book Tag (Revisited)

Looking forward to: August. Still August. (It's almost here! Goodbye, shitty July!)

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A to Z Bookish Survey (Revisited)

I love all things list-y and survey-ish and when Barb of Booker T's Farm (fellow boxer mom!) posted this book tag last week I knew I'd have to participate. This fun survey originated with Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner way back in 2013.

ETA: Turns out I actually DID the survey in 2013 -- you can see that one here. It's funny how some things have changed in four years and others haven't changed at all. For instance, I styled it almost exactly the same, and both my answers for Glad You Gave This Book a Chance include, "I don't read a lot of YA, but..."

Author You've Read The Most Books From:
Probably Janet Evanovich. I've read all the Stephanie Plum books and dabbled in her other series.

Best Sequel Ever:
I thought "The Bone Season" by Samantha Shannon was fine, but I looooved the sequel, "The Mime Order." I'm still waiting for my library to get in book three, which came out in March.

Currently Reading:
"Dragonfly in Amber" by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #2).

Drink of Choice While Reading:
A Starbucks white chocolate mocha.


E-Book or Physical Book:
Physical book all the way! The only time I ever read e-books is from NetGalley for review, and I hate it!

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School:
Mark Watney from "The Martian" as a teenager. Nerdy, funny and cute!

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:
"I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson. I don't read a lot of YA but I saw this one recommended over and over on book blogs and eventually decided to give it a try. I devoured it and completely loved it.

Hidden Gem:
"The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis. Absolutely fabulous post-apocalyptic thriller/character study. Read it! Also, "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway, which involves time travel back to the early 1800s.

Important Moment in Your Bookish Life:
My younger neighbor telling me I just had to borrow these books that she loved -- the first three Harry Potters. That was in 2000, shortly before "Goblet of Fire" was released, and my wonderful mom took me to buy it the morning it came out. Of course I spent the entire day inhaling it. (The receipt for the purchase is still tucked inside the book!)

Just Finished:
A reading slump, thanks to the light and fun "My Not So Perfect Life" by Sophie Kinsella.

Kind of Books You Won't Read:
There's no genre that I absolutely refuse to try, but I seldom read romance.

Longest Book You've Read:
Since I've been keeping track on Goodreads: "1Q84" by Haruki Murakami (925 pages). A huge commitment for a book I didn't end up loving!

Major Book Hangover:
"The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth #1). It was such an immersive story with fabulous worldbuiling and I kept on thinking about it afterward. (It was December, and it probably didn't help that I followed it up with a cheesy, rather disappointing Christmas novel.)

Number of Bookcases You Own:
Five, of various sizes, though one is mostly filled with photo albums. I bought some unfinished crates to stain and put together as another bookshelf, but a certain puppy has kept me from getting around to that little project. I do really need another place to put my books, though -- I've got books piled up at random on my existing shelves.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
"1984," in high school and in college. It's time for another re-read I think! My husband has never read and it and I know it's right up his alley, so I'm hoping I can convince him that we should read it together. (He's not much of a reader, sadly.)

Preferred Place to Read:
On the couch under a blanket with a dog or a cat curled up nearby.

Quote that Inspires You: "Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." (I'm not sure about inspires, exactly, but I do love this quote and it definitely suits bookworms!)

Reading Regret:
Not going to Pierce Brown's book signing in Cincinnati the winter before last (we lived in Ohio then). I had a friend visiting and it was right near Christmastime and it was a pretty decent drive, but still! I should've gone.

Series You Started and Need to Finish:
So, so very many! This year I'd really like to finish Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes trilogy. I read and loved the first book, but I keep getting sidetracked from picking up the other two.

Three of Your All-Time Favorite Books:
This is tough -- I don't really have particular books that are my ALL-TIME best-ever favorites. Here are three I know I'll still be recommending years from now: "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand and "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr.

Unapologetic Fangirl/Fanguy For:
Harry Potter! (I'm a Ravenpuff, by the way.)


Very Excited For This Release:
"Iron Gold" by Pierce Brown, "Artemis" by Andy Weir, "A Treacherous Curse" by Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell #3). Can't pick just one!

Worst Bookish Habit:
Always reading library books instead of the books I actually own.

X Marks the Spot (27th book from top left of shelf):
"The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (as yet unread -- see above).

Your Latest Book Purchase:
A Book Depository order of "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" and "Pride and Prejudice" (which I've somehow never read, even though I love the movies!).

Zzzz-Snatcher Book That Kept You Up Late: Most recently: "Silent in the Grave" by Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey #1). It was a fairly lengthy book at over 500 pages, but I read it in just over two days. I could not put it down!

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