Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

"Rabbit Cake" by Annie Hartnett
First published in 2017
327 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5


The Short Of It:
After reading a few reviews, I was really expecting a hidden gem, but, while charming, "Rabbit Cake" was not quite what I was hoping for.

The Long Of It:
The narrator of "Rabbit Cake" is spunky, intelligent 11-year-old Elvis Babbitt, whose mother recently died by drowning while sleepwalking. Now her family is in a bit of a shambles: her sister is sleep-eating the eggs from the neighbor's chicken coop and her bereft father is walking around in her mother's lipstick and bathrobe.

There's no shortness of quirk here: there's a psychic, a parrot who speaks in Elvis's mother's voice, and a rabbit-shaped cake pan that plays a very important role in the story. Underneath all that is a theme about grief -- why do our loved ones die? How do we come to terms with it? Family is a big theme as well, as we see how Elvis and her eccentric family make it through a year and a half without their cornerstone.

The thing is, while the book was charming and unique, the quirkiness was to the point of unbelieveability. And I really had an issue with the parts of the book where Elvis is working as a teen volunteer at the local zoo -- the things they let her do are just completely out there for an 11-year-old, even a smart one like Elvis. And, though I liked Elvis, I never really became invested in her as a character, and I didn't like her sister and dad all that much. Some of the minor characters, like Miss Ida the psychic and Ms. Bernstein the guidance counselor, were downright irritating.

I also felt like, though this is technically an adult book, if you took out a few things it would really be a middle-grade novel. It reminded me a bit of "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech with it's quirky characters and plot about a child making peace with the death of a parent, and I think, with a bit of editing, that's the age it should've been geared toward.

"Rabbit Cake" was a fast and easy read, but it had an 11-year-old narrator who felt 11, which is not always what I'm looking for in an adult novel, and the nuttiness factor was just too high for me. I was hoping for a delightful 5-star read but found it to be just-ok.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Half-and-Half: 5 Books About Food and 5 Books That Made Me Hungry

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about one of my favorite things: food! I divided my list into two parts: the first is about books that mention a certain yummy food over and over, to the point where you just need to have some! The second half of the list is books I enjoyed in which food plays an important part in the story.
food books 1

1. Cocoa from "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield
2. Cinnamon rolls from "Maybe in Another Life" by Taylor Jenkins Reid
3. Lemon bars from "Aunt Dimity Digs In" by Nancy Atherton
4. Snack cakes from the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
5. Pancakes from "Agnes and the Hitman" by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
food 2

1. "My Life in France" by Julia Child: the famous chef's memoir of her time in France.
2. "Kitchens of the Great Midwest" by J. Ryan Stradal: the story of a chef told through vignettes in which she is a minor character.
3. "Delicious" by Ruth Reichl: a young woman moves to NYC and gets a job at a struggling food magazine.
4. "Sweetbitter" by Stephanie Danler: a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a New York restaurant.
5. "Quentins" by Maeve Binchy: set around an Irish restaurant.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Musings

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Maunawili Falls hike.

My week: My mom and brother got here on Tuesday for a visit and we've had a fabulous time! We went hiking, we rented a boat and went out to a sandbar, we went to Iolani Palace and the beach and the North Shore and a luau. It's been so nice to have the week off work, play tourist and, of course, spend time with my family -- and we took Alohi us as much as we could. She went on her first long hike (and was a total champ) and on her first boat ride, where she tried (and hated) swimming for the first time. My mom and brother fly out tonight, but it's been such a treat having them here!


Reading: Not much time for reading this week, but I did squeeze in a little here and there. Monday night I finished "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" and I absolutely LOVED it. I can't wait to read the second book in the series. Then I started "Rabbit Cake" by Annie Hartnett, which is a quirky book narrated by an 11-year-old. It's a decent and easy read, but it's definitely not sucking me in the way "The Long Way" did.

Eating: Soooo much food! We had malasadas and bubble tea and ice cream (twice) and took my family to a bunch of our favorite restaurants.

Making: The tutu for my book fairy Halloween costume for work. It's a combination of pink, purple, light blue and white, it's ridiculously voluminous, and I love it.


Looking forward to: Watching "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" on DVD. I wanted to see it in the theater but we didn't have a chance, and it's finally come in for me at work!

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

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Mom and me!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: Himself by Jess Kidd

Himself by Jess Kidd
First published in 2016
373 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A genre-blending novel that was rather different than I expected but ultimately enjoyable.

The Long Of It:
"Himself" is part mystery, part glimpse into life in a small Irish village, part historical fiction (it's set mostly in the '70s) and part... paranormal story? Magical realism?

Whatever you call it, Mahony sees dead people -- he sees all the priests that ever lived at the parish house, he sees the dead paramour of his elderly friend, he sees the girl who was murdered while playing in the woods, he sees the nun who was kind to him at the Dublin orphanage where he grew up.

What he doesn't see is how exactly he ended up at the orphanage. Who were his parents and why did they give him up? A chance to solve that mystery arrives in the form of a letter and a photograph of an infant Mahony with his mother in the tiny Irish town of Mulderrig.

Mahony arrives there to find that his mother, who was just a teen when she had him, was not particularly well-liked at best, reviled at worst. The townsfolk don't know what happened to Orla Sweeney -- just that one day she vanished. Did she run off? Or was the village wild child forcibly removed? As Mahony shakes up the town and its secrets, he makes some new friends, most notably the amazingly quirky, sharp and geriatric Mrs. Cauley -- whom every reader will surely fall in love with.

While there was indeed some levity thrown in, "Himself" was a pretty dark, eerie, atmospheric story. The overall feel of it reminded me a little bit of "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield, while the quaint-town's-buried-secrets aspect felt slightly reminiscent of J.K. Rowling's "A Causal Vacancy." But taken on the whole, the story was remarkably unique and the plot was only enhanced by Kidd's lovely writing. I do wish we could've gotten to know Mahony just a little bit better, but overall this was a great debut and I'll happily pick up Kidd's next novel!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Autumn Aesthetic: 14 Fall-ish Book Covers

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is about fall-ish book covers! I'm a very visual person and I love looking at book covers, so I had fun putting this post together. All the books are ones I've read or have on my to-read list. I will say, it was a little harder than I expected; apparently I'm drawn to winter-themed covers -- I have plenty of those on my lists!

Below are 14 book covers that just say "fall" -- they've got leaves, branches, and autumnal hues of gold, brown, red and orange. Ah, I could just step into a few of them!

  fall book covers

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday Musings

sunflowers

My week: It was a pretty quiet week around here. We had two rainy days, which was a nice change of pace. Sunday we went to a pumpkin patch/sunflower field on the east side of the island.

Reading: I read "The Marsh King's Daughter" last week and found it to be just-ok. The premise -- the daughter of an abducted woman and her kidnapper is now an adult, and her father has escaped from prison -- was intriguing, but fell a bit flat. It definitely was not what I would call "psychological suspense" as the cover claims.

After that I spent two days trying to get into "The Keeper of Lost Things" -- another interesting premise and a gorgeous cover -- but it just wasn't what I was in the mood for. So I set it aside and did something completely uncharacteristic: despite the pile of library books I have out, I picked out one of my own books that sounded good. I'm not usually a mood reader, and I have the world's worst time actually reading the books I own, so this was a surprise!

And I'm thrilled to say I'm head-over-heels for "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet"! It's a very charming, fun sci-fi book and I'm so glad I'm finally getting to it! I ordered it from Book Depository months ago and I've been looking forward to reading it for much longer than that.


Watching: "This Is Us," "Poldark," "Designated Survivor." We tried the new show "The Good Doctor" last week and we liked it enough to keep watching.

Movie-wise, we finally got to see "Wonder Woman"! It was just as good as everyone said it was.

Drinking: My new favorite coffee: chocolate-coconut flavor. No creamer needed, just a splash of half-and-half!

Making: My book fairy Halloween costume for the library! I'm putting together a no-sew tutu, and I made myself a pair of wings out of cardboard and a book that Alohi mutilated a while back. It took a while to decoupage the wings (something I haven't done in years!) but I'm really pleased with the way they came out. Pictures to come!

Also making:
The Halloween bulletin board at work! I'm telling you, this giant whopper of a board is a commitment! I feel like as soon as I get one month's up, it's time to start working on the next month's. In any case, I really like our Halloween board, and I had lots of help from a wonderfully creative co-worker on this one.

Blogging:
Monday Musings
10 Book Characters Who Are Sexy As Hell In Their Movie & TV Adaptations
Non-Fiction Review: American Eclipse by David Baron
Book Review: The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

Looking forward to: My mom and brother will be here tomorrow for a week-long visit!

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne
First published in 2017
307 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:

Interesting premise but a little short on the execution.

The Long Of It:
Helena lived isolated in the Michigan wilderness for the first 12 years of her life with only her mother and father -- a kidnapped woman and her captor -- for company. Now, Helena is married with two daughters and finally feels some semblance of happiness in her life -- until her father escapes from prison and may very well be headed her way.

I started off pretty well invested in this dual narrative, which features Helena both tracking her dangerous father in present day and growing up as the half-feral child of a manipulative murderer and a meek and subservient and unsmiling woman, completely in the dark about her situation. They live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, never leave their marsh, never encounter any people, and survive without running water or electricity. All of this is totally normal to young Helena.

The first half of the book was pretty good. But then about 150 pages in, it suddenly felt tedious and boring and repetitive. I was tired of reading the phrases "my father" and "I didn't know it at the time." And Helena isn't a particularly likable protagonist as a child or an adult. I was invested in the plot, but not really her character.

Another problem I had with the book is that the cover proclaims it to be "psychological suspense." That's really not an accurate description. There's really nothing psychological about it -- no twisty-turny surprises, no unreliable narrators, no dark secrets. And it's not suspenseful either. At no point was I on the edge of my seat, blazing through pages to find out what happened next, and despite Helena's present-day hunt for her father, it never really felt like a thriller. I'd probably just bill it as fiction. Too, the writing was a bit off-and-on and I found a few grammatical errors.

However, I did really like a few things about the book. I thought it was a great decision to tell the story through Helena's eyes, even though she was a bit irritating at times. While she was naive in the ways of the world, she was ahead of her years in other ways and the narration wasn't childlike as in Emma Donoghue's "Room." Too, I enjoyed the setting. I've never read a book set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and I thought the author did a great job imbuing the atmosphere of the place, both the towns of today and the woods of Helena's childhood.

What started out as a fairly promising story ended with a bit of a whimper, and while I won't say that you shouldn't read it, I will recommend a couple other books that fall vaguely along the lines of the story with much better execution: "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis and "Our Endless Numbered Days" by Claire Fuller.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Non-Fiction Review: American Eclipse by David Baron

"American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World" by David Baron
First published in 2017
238 pages (plus bibliography)
My rating: 4 out of 5


The Short Of It:
An easy-to-read non-fiction book that came out at the perfect time, right before the total solar eclipse of 2017.

The Long Of It:
I love reading about science and scientists (and mathematicians, for that matter) -- probably because as soon as science became math-based in school, it was bafflingly complicated to me. Even as the topics fascinated me, I despised chemistry in high school and astronomy was quite possibly my least-favorite class in college.

And something you probably know about me if you read the blog regularly is that I'm from Colorado and like to tell people that at every opportunity -- and I like to read about it, too. So when I saw that "American Eclipse" was a story about scientists flocking to the Rocky Mountains to witness the total solar eclipse of 1878, it immediately went on my to-read list.

Baron's well-researched book chronicles the lives and contributions of three scientists and leads up to their trip to the Rockies and their experiences of witnessing and researching the eclipse. And I must say, after reading the book I've added watching a total solar eclipse to my bucket list. It sounds utterly magnificent -- Baron's descriptions made me feel even more like I was there then the videos and photos that flooded social media after this year's eclipse, plus he provided the scientific reasons for all the unusual things that happen when the moon covers the sun.

The three scientists Baron chose for his book are the ubiquitous Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park; James Craig Watson of Ann Arbor who was in a race with a former friend turned bitter rival to discover and name the most asteroids; and Maria Mitchell, the country's first professional female astronomer and a women's rights activist.

Baron gives us their backstories, providing a glimpse into their achievements and personalities. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs scattered throughout, which helped put faces with names, and the stories were interesting enough to keep my attention. My favorite part of the book was the final  chapters that told of the scientists' journey to and arrival in Colorado and Wyoming, their often painstaking on-the-ground preparations, and the momentous 3-minute event itself.

I learned quite a bit from reading Baron's book -- about astronomy, about eclipses, about the various faces of late-19th-century science -- and while it was educational it was also fascinating and short enough not to feel boring or tedious. It was interesting to read a book set in a time when there were many more mysteries yet to be solve about our solar system and when some people still thought an eclipse was a sign of impeding doom or apocalypse. And I'd have to say any book that expanded my bucket list is worth a read!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

10 Book Characters Who Are Sexy As Hell In Their Movie & TV Adaptations

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is bookish boyfriends/girlfriends -- i.e. characters we have crushes on. I have an abysmal memory for that sort of thing in books, so I decided to focus on book adaptations instead. These are all book-to-movie or book-to-TV-show adaptations with some very attractive protagonists. These guys are smart and decent (for the most part) and oh-so-sexy.

It's impossible to put them in any kind of order of preference, so they're alphabetical by movie/show. (P.S. I apparently have a thing for Brits and Bostonians and floppy-haired men!)


Jon Snow, "Game of Thrones"
Jon is quite obviously easy on the eyes, but he's also a damn good person. He's intelligent, brave and kind.


Sidney Chambers, "Grantchester"
Sidney is a somewhat flawed but utterly lovable 1950s English vicar who solves crimes and, mmm, does he look good doing it!


Finnick Odair, "Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
Finnick comes off cocky but he's a softie underneath. He's devoted, clever and self-sacrificing.


Mark Watney, "The Martian"
Mark is so very intelligent -- and funny!

Jamie Fraser, "Outlander"
Oh-em-gee, Jamie. He's passionate, smart and as loyal as they come.


Ross Poldark, "Poldark"
Oh, Ross. He's a man who sticks to his word and stands up for what he believes in. He makes mistakes from time to time, but god damn, does he look good doing it.


Fitzwilliam Darcy, "Pride and Prejudice"
 I mean, isn't Mr. Darcy the quintessential book boyfriend!? And of course we have to go with the Colin Firth version.


Sherlock Holmes, "Sherlock"
Let's be honest, Sherlock Holmes would not be a good boyfriend. He's a self-centered, egotistical, impossible jerk. But there's something so sexy about a confident, brilliant man. And if I had to choose one of the many Sherlocks to be my book boyfriend, I'd have to go with the Benedict Cumberbatch version!


Doug MacRay, "The Town" (book title: "Prince of Thieves")
Gotta include a couple of bad boys! Doug is a Boston bank robber trying to turn his life around.

Eric Northman, "True Blood"
Bad boy #2: everyone's favorite vampire/Viking god (with a secret soft side).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday Musings

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Friday night at the beach.

My week: It was a pretty good week here. Wednesday I got to do preschool storytime at work again to cover for a co-worker who's been out, and it was so much fun! The theme was music and we read two fun stories and made maracas -- plus, a different co-worker's husband, who's a musician by profession, came in to play some instruments for the kids, and of course they loved that. And then on Friday a group of second-graders came to the library as part of a field trip and I got to help out with that too. I read them the new Duck and Goose Halloween book by Tad Hills and asked them what they plan to be for Halloween. The kids were so adorable!

Later Wednesday we had our family pictures with the puppy at the beach, which was... an adventure. Friday evening we took Alohi to the beach for some fun time, and Saturday we went to the Hawaii vs. Colorado State football game (CSU is my alama mater).

Reading: I finished and enjoyed the non-fiction book "American Eclipse," about a total solar eclipse in 1878 and the scientists who flocked to the Rocky Mountains to see it. I learned so much and now I've added seeing a total eclipse to my bucket list; unfortunately Hawaii missed out on the August one. Then I finished the Irish novel "Himself," which was quite a bit different than I expected (I thought it was a straight-up mystery but it also had some paranormal/magical realism elements) but I really liked it, too.

Now I've just started the thriller "The Marsh King's Daughter." I'm only a couple chapters in but I'm really intrigued by the writing and the story (it's narrated by a woman whose parents were a kidnapped woman and her captor -- and now her father has escaped from prison).


Watching: "This Is Us" started back! Such a good episode, too. We also watched an interesting movie called "Denial," a based-in-fact film about a libel trial involving a professor/author (Rachel Weisz) and a historian/Holocaust denier (the guy who plays Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies).

Listening to: "Going To Mars" by Judah & the Lion.


Eating: Homemade apple dumplings. Mmmm.

Blogging:
Monday Musings
10 Novels That Feature Smart Women
Book Review: The Scribe of Siena
Turning the Page on September 2017

Looking forward to: My mom and brother will be here for a visit in just over a week!

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Turning the Page on September 2017


september collage

*Back toward the beginning of September Jarrod and I took a short little weekend getaway to Kauai, our favorite Hawaiian island. We lounged on the beach, hiked to a waterfall and ate some amazing food. Sigh... take me back!

*It was a super-busy month at work for me. In a one-thing-after-another kind of situation, the library ended up being pretty short-staffed in September so I worked some extra hours to help out. And I also got to fill in for preschool storytime twice, which was so much fun!

*We had professional family photos taken at the beach with Alohi last week for our Christmas cards and, as expected, it was a bit of a disaster -- a certain someone is probably going to be completely covered with sand in every picture. But the photographer -- a friend of a friend -- is soooo talented and I'm sure she'll make them look amazing. I can't wait to see!

*Fall arrived! That doesn't mean much here in Hawaii, but I did drink several pumpkin spice lattes, bake pumpkin cookies, and get out all my fall decorations. Plus I was excited about the return of fall TV, especially This Is Us.

*In other TV/movie news, we finished the latest season of Homeland and the final season of Orphan Black and finally started watching the most recent trio of Sherlock episodes.


september books

Books read: 5
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (for kids' book club) // 3 stars
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence // 5 stars
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton // 3 stars
The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer // 3 stars
American Eclipse by David Baron // 4 stars

Currently reading: Himself by Jess Kidd and One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Favorite book: Red Sister, the first in a new fantasy series! It was one of the best books I've read this year.

Biggest let-down: Good Morning, Midnight wasn't a bad book, but it was so far off from what I had been anticipating.

October release I'm most looking forward to: Either Dan Brown's new Robert Langdon book or From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty; I loved her first book, a memoir about working in the funeral industry, and this one is about death practices across the globe.

Book I'm most excited to read in October: The third illustrated Harry Potter is about to be released and I'd really love to read all three at once. I just had to have the other two right when they came out... but I've yet to actually read them!

Current library checkouts:
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne and Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller

Books added to to-read list: 10 (but I deleted a couple hundred!)

Most intriguing TBR addition: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. I don't read much middle-grade fiction, but now that I'm doing the kids' book club at work I feel like I should. Plus a patron was absolutely raving about this book, and it sounds right up my alley!

From Goodreads: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute -- she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan -- and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

Favorite bookstagram: This photo has so many things in it that make me happy: my new watch, my new couch pillows, a pumpkin spice latte, a book and a picture of the Rocky Mountains. Find me on Instagram @knittinglindsay!

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Favorite post: My Fall 2017 To-Read List. Even though I don't always follow them, I loooove putting together quarterly to-read posts!

Book reviews:
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (4 stars)
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton (3 stars)
The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer (3 stars)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review: The Scribe of Siena

"The Scribe of Siena" by Melodie Winawer
First published in 2017
450 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A promising story of time travel to medieval Italy but way too long.

The Long Of It:
After her historian brother's death, New York City neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato travels to Italy to continue his controversial research into the Black Death and why it hit Siena so much harder than anywhere else. But Beatrice continues her journey much farther than she intended, right back to 1347 Siena on the eve of the plague that would wipe out half the world's population.

Romance, intrigue and introspection follow as Beatrice -- put to work as a scribe thanks to her helpful ability to read and write -- discovers that she feels more at home in the 14th century than in the 21st. She knows, though, that there's a very good chance in just a matter of months all her new friends will be dead. On top of that, and unbeknownst to her, Beatrice becomes swept up in a terrible conspiracy -- the very same one her brother had been researching in 2017.

If a book blurb says "time travel," I'm sold; maybe it's because, as a history and historical fiction lover, I find it fun to imagine myself in another time (though I wouldn't actually want to do it -- I'm just fine here in the good ol' 21st century). Some time travel books are definitely more well done others, though, and while "The Scribe of Siena" was ultimately a decent read, it could have been executed better.

For one thing, it was way too long! It was 450 pages but easily could've been 300, and I found myself skimming over entire paragraphs of extraneous detail. The first half seemed to drag on and on. And, despite the author's attempt to create a medieval atmosphere, I never really felt like I was there; contrast that with, say, "Outlander," where I was totally and completely wrapped up in 1700s Scotland right along with Claire. I also felt like there were a few too many historical inaccuracies that took me out of the story -- the way Beatrice talks would never fly in the 1300s.

All that said, it wasn't a bad book, and I still enjoyed my romp to the 1300s with Beatrice. There are better time travel books out there, though, if that's what you're craving. (One of my favorites is "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway!)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

10 Novels That Feature Smart Women

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie of sorts -- 10 characters who X. I had initially planned to list characters who like science, but that morphed into a list of smart female characters -- many of whom happen to be good at science. Math and science were not my favorite subjects in school (not surprisingly, given that I have a book blog and work at a library, I always gravitated toward English and history) but I'm in awe of people who are very good at those things, so that's mostly the kind of "smart" that's here on my list.

I threw this post together rather hastily and I'm sure I've left some brilliant fictional ladies off my list, but I can say I've read and enjoyed all of these books. Do you have any recommendations for me that feature smart women?

smart women

1. The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church: This beautiful book is about an ornithologist whose career aspirations are wrecked when she follows her husband to Los Alamos, New Mexico, for his work on the atom bomb.

2. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey: One of my favorite books last year, "To the Bright Edge" is an epistolary novel set in the late 1800s about a man on an Alaskan expedition and his wife, who stays behind in Washington state and has adventures of her own.

3. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King: Oxford student Mary Russell is at least as smart as her mentor, Sherlock Holmes.

4. A Discovery of Witches: Before she gets wrapped up in a world of witches, vampires and daemons, Diana is a brilliant academic.

5. My Last Continent by Midge Raymond: Scientist Deb spends several months each year in Antarctica studying penguins.

6. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nuevel: Protagonist Rose is a physicist at the top of her field in this first installment of a series about ancient aliens.

7. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict: Was Albert Einstein's wife just as smart as he was? In her based-in-fact novel, Benedict asserts that Mileva was a genius mathematician in her own right.

8. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn: Good ol' Veronica Speedwell is a naturalist as well as an amateur sleuth. (I kept my phone by me the whole time I was reading this so I could Google all the butterflies mentioned!)

9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Claire is a nurse, and later a doctor, and she manages to use her medical knowledge to her benefit many times over in 1700s Scotland.

10. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain: Beryl Markham, the protagonist of this based-in-fact novel, was a fascinating woman wholly ahead of her time -- and she was also the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.


Bonus: Non-Fiction

11. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren:
Hope is a brilliant scientist who studies botany, among other things, and I thoroughly enjoyed her memoir!

12. American Eclipse: The Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World" by David Baron: I'm reading this book right now and one of the main characters is Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer is the U.S. (and also a professor at Vassar).


Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Musings

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I looove my new white watch! And my new orange pillow. I don't normally gravitate toward orange, but I recently got some new couch pillows that are mostly beige with orange accents and I adore them! When I saw that little pumpkin-spice colored one at Pier 1 this week I just had to grab it!

My week: It was a pretty quiet week here. At work I was busy getting things around for my big Halloween bulletin board. I feel like I just got the AzkaBANNED Prison banned books board up; I can't believe it's almost time to take it down!

Reading: It took me a while, but I finished the time travel (to 1300s Italy) novel "The Scribe of Siena" by Melodie Winawer on Friday evening. It had taken me all week to read the first 200 pages, and man did they drag, but the second half picked up and I read/skimmed the last 250 pages in a few hours.

Now I'm reading "American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World" by David Baron, which is a readable and fairly short (just over 200 pages) non-fiction book about the total solar eclipse of 1878. I've learned a ton already, and though it's a little to dry to read non-stop, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I had it from the library in time to read it during all the eclipse fervor last month (even though we didn't get to see it here in Hawaii) but I just didn't get around to it.

I also started "Himself" by Jess Kidd, an Irish mystery-ish novel (with a tinge of magical realism -- the protagonist can see dead people) I've been looking forward to for ages -- my library finally got it in! I'm not too far in and it's not quite what I expected, but I'm definitely liking it. If you need a good October-ish book (because October starts in just a few days, if you can believe it!), I'm thinking this is a good choice!


Watching: Jarrod was back to working ridiculous hours this week, so we didn't have much time for movies and TV (plus football is on all weekend in our house this time of year thanks to my football-obsessed husband). We did watch a few more episodes of "Orphan Black" -- it's getting pretty hokey and, while I do love the show, I think it's probably a good thing this is the final season.

Baking: Pumpkin cookies with maple cream cheese frosting. Mmmmm.

Cleaning out: My Goodreads to-read and maybe-to-read lists. When the combined total of those lists hit 900(!!!!!!) I knew it was (well past) time. I culled about 200 books -- most of which I had no recollection of whatsoever --  but I could definitely chop more. Sometimes I think about deleting the lists entirely and starting from scratch. How do you handle your to-read list?

Lusting after: The new Harry Potter collection from Pottery Barn Teen! I totally want that glow-in-the-dark Marauder's Map pillow (and pretty much everything else)!

Putting out: Fall decorations! It was quite an endeavor because the under-stairs closet where all the holiday decor is stored became kind of a catch-all this year for puppy-proofing and everything else, so there was a lot of stuff to sort through before I made it to the fall boxes. It allllmost wasn't worth it, but now that I'm surrounded by pumpkins I'm glad I did it. And now the closet is organized!

Blogging:

Monday Musings
My Fall 2017 To-Read List
10 Things I'm Looking Forward To This Fall
Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Looking forward to: We're taking professional family pictures with Alohi on the beach this week for our Christmas cards, and while I'm honestly sort of dreading the photo shoot (Alohi is sure to be a total maniac) I'm excited to see the results!

Also, fall TV starts back this week! I'm especially looking forward to "This Is Us" and "Poldark," and I'm going to give the "Will and Grace" revival a try. What shows are you excited about? Are you going to watch any new ones?

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

"Good Morning, Midnight" by Lily Brooks-Dalton
First published in 2016
253 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:
Such a promising premise, but not the story I expected.

The Long Of It:
Sully is an astronaut returning from a trip to Jupiter when her ship permanently loses communication with Earth; Augie is an elderly astronomer in the Arctic who decides to stay and finish out his days with his telescopes when the rest of the base is evacuated. Both know something horrible has happened, but they have no idea what disaster has befallen their planet and no clear way of finding out.

The library sticker on my copy of "Good Morning, Midnight" proclaims it to be science fiction and I was pumped for a fast-paced post-apocalyptic thriller, but it should be billed as literary fiction -- it's really a quiet novel about human connection. The possible end of humankind had both characters -- neither particularly likable -- doing a lot of soul-searching and cataloging their many, many regrets -- and me doing a bit of yawning.

There was an interesting twist at the end, but by then the book had mostly lost my interest. About a third of the way through I had the sinking feeling that the actual nature of the apocalypse wouldn't be revealed -- the what and how and why wasn't necessary to the character-driven story -- but I still had hope. Nope, Brooks-Dalton never expounds of the topic.

The book was well-done for what it was, and I really liked the author's idea -- two lost souls coming to terms with the fact that something awful has likely wiped out everyone and everything they've ever known -- as well as reading about life on a spaceship, but it was a totally different novel than I had in mind. I wanted something like "Station Eleven" or even "The Fireman," but I got a rather depressing and cerebral story instead.

Friday, September 22, 2017

10 Things I'm Looking Forward to This Fall

10 things fall

1. A family visit! My mom and brother are coming to Hawaii in October.

2. Dressing up at work for Halloween. I haven't decided if I want to wear my Hermione costume again or come up with something new.

3. TV shows coming back! I'm especially looking forward to "This Is Us" and "Poldark." "Stranger Things," too.

4. Pumpkins! Those jolly orange squashes make me so happy.

5. Going to the University of Hawaii vs. Colorado State (my alma mater) football game.

6. Baking apple dumplings from my grandma's delicious recipe. Plus pumpkin desserts galore!

7. Trick-or-treaters! We had TONS of kids last year. I love seeing their costumes.

8. Seeing the results of our family photo shoot (with crazy puppy) on the beach. I'm not exactly looking forward to doing the shoot next week, but I'm so anxious to see how the pictures turn out!

9. Starbucks pumpkin scones. I don't usually splurge on pastries with my coffee, but those scones are so good. I tried to make a copycat recipe a couple years ago, but they didn't come out the same.

10. Finally getting to see "Wonder Woman" and "Guardians of the Galaxy 2." We wanted to see them in the theater but it just didn't happen (if you can believe it, we haven't been to the movie theater since "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"), but we'll be able to watch them on DVD soon!

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Fall 2017 To-Read List

It's nearly the official first day of autumn! This will be my second fall back in Hawaii, and man, do I ever miss my favorite season! Please enjoy crisp air, crunchy leaves, stunningly colorful foliage, apple cider, sweaters and sitting by the fireplace for me! We'll have one more fall to spend in Hawaii after this one, and while there will definitely be things I miss about living here, I'm crossing my fingers that we head someplace with seasons!

I really cannot believe it's nearly October (my favorite month of the year, by the way). Time has just flown, and now we only have a few months left to cram as many books as we can into 2017! As I've said, it's been a kinda mediocre reading year for me, and I'd love to finish it off on a high note. So tell me, what's the single best book you've read so far this year? And your favorite 2017 release?

I've got a pretty ambitious fall to-read list, and I know I won't get to all of these books. I didn't even read half the books I talked about in my summer to-read post. But I'm gonna give it my best shot -- and hopefully some of these will blow me away! What are you excited to read this fall? (I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish to share my list for Top Ten Tuesday.)

fall 2017 to read list

1. Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller: This novel has to do with the Sioux Nation, and it sounds a little intense. It also has very mixed reviews, so we shall see! It has the least priority among my current library books, and I won't be totally heartbroken if I have to return it unread.

2. Himself by Jess Kidd: "Himself" is a mystery set in Ireland and I've been looking forward to it for months! My library finally got it in and I'm so excited to dive in. I love books set in Ireland.

3. The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne: I've pretty much given up on the thriller genre, but I'm going to give this one a try. It seems to have tinges of one of my favorite 2016 books, "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis.

4. American Eclipse: A Nations's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron: I meant to read this non-fiction book around the time of the eclipse, which has come and gone. Oops.

5. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan: I stumbled across this book while browsing online and the cover caught my eye, then I saw it has really good reviews!

6. Artemis by Andy Weir: The second book by the author of "The Martian," which I loved, and it's set on the moon! I can't wait for this one!

7. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty: I loved the morbid and educational and thoughtful "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," Doughty's memoir about working in the funeral industry. Her second book sounds just as interesting!

8. Strange Weather by Joe Hill: I've read all but one of Joe Hill's books and, though I don't normally like short stories, I'm going to give Hill's a shot!

9. Origin by Dan Brown: For some reason, book bloggers seem to look down on poor Dan Brown, but I enjoy his Robert Langdon page-turners!

10. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz: This seems like the perfect book for October!

11. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I really liked "Maybe in Another Life" and I want to read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid's work! This is her newest release and has to do with a classic film actress -- different from her other stuff, but I'm intrigued.

12. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: That cover totally sucked me in! The plot sounds good too, so I asked my boss at work to order it for the library.

13. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: This is a 2017 release everyone seems to love, so of course I have to jump on the bandwagon!

14. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: This is a carryover from my summer to-read list. Another book that should be a perfect fall read, and then I can go see the movie.

15. The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh: This book has a hideous cover and a kinda weird-sounding plot, but I saw several people raving about it online so I decided I want to give it a shot.
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