Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Musings

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My week: Another hectic and exhausting week here that consisted mostly of work, puppy-ing and cleaning up accidents. So long clean house, afternoons reading with the cat curled up on my lap, beach days and full nights' sleep! On the plus side, we have an adorable, sweet, bold, funny boxer baby!

Reading: I finished "The Chemist" by Stephenie Meyer (pretty good) and read Clare Mackintosh's new thriller "I See You" (ok) -- review links at the bottom of the post -- and now I'm a little ways into "Dead Letters" by Caite Dolan-Leach, a thriller that comes out Tuesday. It's about a set of identical twins who've had a falling-out; Zelda dies in a fire but Ava has a hunch it's one of her sister's elaborate schemes. I have a feeling there are some big twists and turns coming!


Knitting: I really should be working on the Hufflepuff scarf for my friend, but I was craving a soothing, fun knit and I decided to start a hat. It'll be teal with white hearts.

Watching: We've continued watching season 1 of "House of Cards," and I'm getting more and more into it. We also watched "Deepwater Horizon" and "Manchester by the Sea" this weekend. I liked both fairly well, but Jarrod thought "Manchester" was just-ok. We had the Oscars on for a bit last night. Jarrod couldn't care less, but I love seeing the glamorous (and hideous) dresses!

Eating: We tried this recipe for beer-honey chicken skewers this week and both thought it was a winner.

Blogging:
Monday Musings
10 Recent Reads That Didn't Live Up To My Expectations
Mini Reviews: Gilded Cage, Lab Girl and The Chemist
I Judge Books By Their Covers: All Our Wrong Todays
New Release: I See You by Clare Mackintosh
16 Intriguing March 2017 Book Releases

Looking forward to: The weekend!

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

16 Intriguing March 2017 Book Releases

It's nearly March -- and with it comes spring, along with a whole new crop of books to fill up your to-read list! I'm particularly excited about a couple of these, especially "Bleaker House" and "Exit West." All the book blurbs below are from Goodreads.

intriguing march 2017 book releases

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid // In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet -- sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors -- doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
My take // I'm always fascinated by books set in the Middle East -- a region so different in many ways from our own -- and I'm completely intrigued by the magical realism aspect!

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar // An intergalactic odyssey of love, ambition, and self-discovery.  Orphaned as a boy, raised in the Czech countryside by his doting grandparents, Jakub Proch√°zka has risen from small-time scientist to become the country's first astronaut. When a dangerous solo mission to Venus offers him both the chance at heroism he's dreamt of, and a way to atone for his father's sins as a Communist informer, he ventures boldly into the vast unknown. Alone in Deep Space, Jakub discovers a possibly imaginary giant alien spider, who becomes his unlikely companion. Over philosophical conversations about the nature of love, life and death, and the deliciousness of bacon, the pair form an intense and emotional bond. Rich with warmth and suspense and surprise, "Spaceman of Bohemia" is an exuberant delight from start to finish.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel // Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die. After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away. Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

The Lucky Ones by Julinane Pachico // Set during the peak of Colombia’s drug-fueled conflict, and in New York City, this captivating, kaleidoscopic debut novel centers on a group of high school girls and the people whose lives touch theirs -- including their parents, teachers, housekeepers, and the warlords and guerrilla fighters who surround them. Taking place over two decades, "The Lucky Ones" presents us with a world in which perpetrators are indistinguishable from saviors, the truth is elusive, and people you love can disappear without a trace. A prismatic tale of a group of characters who emerge and recede throughout the novel and touch one another’s lives in ways even they cannot comprehend, "The Lucky Ones" captures the intensity of life in Colombia as paramilitaries, guerillas, and drug traffickers tear the country apart.

Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato // Eight-year-old Edgar Fini remembers nothing of the accident people still whisper about. He only knows that his father is gone, his mother has a limp, and his grandmother believes in ghosts. When Edgar meets a man with his own tragic story, the boy begins a journey into a secret wilderness where nothing is clear -- not even the line between the living and the dead. In order to save her son, Lucy has no choice but to confront the demons of her past.

Celine by Peter Heller // From the best-selling author of "The Dog Stars," a luminous, masterful novel of suspense -- the story of Celine, an elegant, aristocratic private eye who specializes in reuniting families, trying to make amends for a loss in her own past. Working out of her jewel box of an apartment at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, Celine has made a career of tracking down missing persons, and she has a better record at it than the FBI. But when a young woman, Gabriela, asks for her help, a world of mystery and sorrow opens up. Gabriela's father was a photographer who went missing on the border of Montana and Wyoming. He was assumed to have died from a grizzly mauling, but his body was never found. Now, as Celine and her partner head to Yellowstone National Park, investigating a trail gone cold, it becomes clear that they are being followed -- that this is a case someone desperately wants to keep closed.

A Bridge Across Oceans by Susan Meissner // February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a 70-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.
My take // Oooh, I love a good historical fiction dual narrative!

Bleaker House by Nell Stevens // On a frozen island in the Falklands, with only penguins for company, a young would-be writer struggles to craft a debut novel...and instead writes a funny, clever, moving memoir that heralds the arrival of a fresh new literary talent.
My take // I've been looking forward to this memoir since I first heard about it months ago. Frigid setting, novel-writing and penguins -- I'm all about it!

The Idiot by Elif Batuman //  The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson // A new vision of the future of New York City in the 22nd century, a flooded, but vibrant metropolis. The waters rose, submerging New York City. But the residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been. Though changed forever. Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building, Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides. And how we too will change.

Writer, Sailor, Solider, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures by Nicholas Reynolds (non-fiction) // An international cloak-and-dagger epic ranging from the Spanish Civil War to the liberation of Western Europe, wartime China, the Red Scare of Cold War America, and the Cuban Revolution, here is the stunning untold story of a literary icon's dangerous secret life -- including his role as a Soviet agent code-named "Argo" -- that fueled his art and his undoing. A literary biography with the soul of an espionage thriller, "Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy" is an essential contribution to our understanding of the life, work, and fate of one of America's most legendary authors.

Himself by Jess Kidd // When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies. His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village -- living or dead -- will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony's certainty that more than one of them has answers. Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secret
My take // Other than Maeve Binchy and Tana French, I've not read too many books set in Ireland -- a place that fascinates me -- and I'm looking forward to this Irish mystery.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See // A thrilling new novel Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple. A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, "Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck // Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold. Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti // After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks. Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, "The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley" explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (young adult) // The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around -- and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New Release: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

"I See You" by Clare Mackintosh
First published February 21, 2017
384 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:
A quick, creepy British thriller with average writing and plot.

The Long Of It:
Your life is quiet, comfortable, routine. And then one day on your train commute to work, you happen across something that changes everything -- your own photo in a very strange newspaper classified ad, accompanied only by a website URL -- findtheone.com -- and an invalid phone number. You do a little investigating and are horrified to discover that the ad features a different woman every day -- and that some of the women have subsequently been victims of crimes. You, of course, begin to wonder if you're next in line -- for stalking, burglary, or much worse.

That's the new normal for Zoe Walker, whose fears are brushed off by both her family and law enforcement. Enter police officer Kelly Swift -- a woman battling some demons of her own -- who takes Zoe seriously and is quick to see the potential danger in those alarming ads, which turn out to be far more twisted and disturbing than anyone could've imagined.

As with many thrillers, I had trouble actually connecting with and becoming invested in the fate of our main character -- so often, I feel like these protagonists lack depth. But while I didn't really care if Zoe lived or died or something in between, I was definitely curious to see what unfolded. And I did like Kelly -- enough that I almost wished this were the first in a detective series in which she was the star.

I admit to doing a bit of skimming here and there, because after all the whole point of a run-of-the-mill thriller is to find out whodunit and the middle parts can seem a bit tedious at times, but overall the pace was fast enough, the mystery was intriguing enough and the story was disturbing enough to keep me interested. The novel definitely had some of the lurking look-over-your-shoulder creepiness that so permeated Caroline Kepnes' "You," and it had me wanting to double-check the privacy settings on my Facebook page! "I See You" was your typical quick-read thriller-with-a-twist, and it's worth a chance next time you're craving something easy that'll keep you turning pages.

*I received a free advance copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: All Our Wrong Todays



Hi, my name is Lindsay, and I judge books by their covers.

I was completely intrigued by the premise of "All Our Wrong Todays" -- ("You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we'd have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren's 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed... because it wasn't necessary.") -- but I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into. Luckily, as you can see in my review, I ended up thoroughly enjoying this novel, which is part science fiction, part search for purpose in life, and even part romance.

U.S. // U.K.

I think this is a case of less is more for me -- the bright colors and white background of the U.K. cover are attention-grabbing and modern without being too cluttered. And, after reading the novel, I like the homage that the lemon pays to the story, and there's a bit of symbolism in the spiral peel. Too, while there's definitely a sci-fi element to the plot, I'd shelve it in the regular fiction section at my library given the choice, and the U.S. cover might turn some readers off if they're not science fiction fans.

This is an easy one for me: I definitely like the U.K. cover better. Do tell: which do you prefer?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mini Reviews: Gilded Cage, Lab Girl and The Chemist

"Gilded Cage" by Vic James
First published February 14, 2017
368 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars


In the alternate reality of "Gilded Cage," slavery is still alive and well, though it has nothing to do with race. Instead, commoners -- ordinary people -- are forced to give up a decade of their lives in unpaid, often miserable service to the ruling class. Those in power are known as Equals, and they have innate hereditary abilities to do things like heal themselves from injury, read minds, wipe memories, cause pain, and so much more. You can surely see where this is going: time for a revolution.

Luke and his family -- his mom, dad, older sister Abi and 10-year-old sister Daisy -- end up smack in the middle of the excitement when they decide to do their slavedays together as a group, and Abi has arranged for them to be house slaves at the estate of one of the most powerful Skilled families in Britain. They expect it to be a comparatively cushy 10 years, but things go awry when Luke is whisked away from them to a horrendous slave town filled with treacherous factories, malnourished "property," violent guards -- and faint stirrings of subversion.

I thought the author made the right choice in using multiple points of view to tell the story, giving us a commoner's look at life in a brutal slave town and at the estate, as well as Equal perspectives. As with any uprising story with a political bent, there are plenty of secrets, intrigue and people who are not what they seem, and while I was disappointed that there wasn't as much fantasy as I expected, there was enough excitement to hold my interest and I enjoyed getting to know the characters (especially a dark, inscrutable and terrifyingly powerful Equal named Silyen). I'll most likely read the next installment of this series, which feels to me like a somewhat less-impressive Hunger Games with a tinge of fantasy.

*I received a free advance copy of "Gilded Cage" from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"Lab Girl" by Hope Jahren
First published in 2016
290 pages
4 out of 5 stars


Memoirs are my favorite kind of non-fiction -- especially when they're as intimate and open and raw as "Lab Girl" was. I enjoyed getting to know Hope Jahren, an absolutely brilliant scientist whose specialty is plants (though her work incorporates many other fields, like paleontology and chemistry) and I was fascinated by her journey a scientist and a woman.

Hope tells us of the path that took her to science, the struggle to gain respect as an outside-of-the-box-thinking woman in a man's field, finding a balance between work and life, and the very special (completely platonic) relationship she has with her best friend and longtime lab partner, Bill. There are moments of poignancy, wackiness, humor and frustration in Hope's story, and through it all is her creative, wonderful, curious, so-so-so smart mind. Science has never been my thing, but I really enjoyed reading about the interesting work Hope does.

Interspersed between the longer chapters about Hope's life -- from her childhood in icy Minnesota to her present as a tenured professor, wife and mother in Hawaii -- are snippets about the life cycle and personality of trees and plants. Hope's story roughly follows along as the tree matures from a seedling to a forest giant, and as much as I enjoyed reading about Hope's life these little sections were my favorites. Hope explains botany in interesting, conversational layman's terms, and I learned so much about plants! It made me look at the houseplant on my table and the tree in my backyard with more respect. "Lab Girl" is definitely a solid pick next time you're craving a memoir.

"The Chemist" by Stephenie Meyer
First published in 2016
518 pages
4 out of 5 stars


"The Chemist" is an action-packed thrill ride about a woman formerly employed as a specialized interrogator by a covert government agency -- and now that agency is hell-bent on killing her. After three years on the run (and multiple assassination attempts) she's tracked down by an old boss, and she realizes the time has come to get her life back or die trying. What she doesn't count on is her universe of one suddenly expanding by a few people -- one of whom might just be a liability in the best possible way.

I didn't go into "The Chemist" looking to make comparisons to Meyer's previous work, but I couldn't help thinking this book was like Twilight reversed. Juliana is Edward -- an extremely smart, extremely dangerous predator who never dared to hope she might have a significant other and who may very well get everyone around her killed. Clumsy, adorable, selfless Bella is played by the aforementioned liability, Daniel. There's even an annoyingly lovable brother in the mix, and a showdown with "the Volturi" at the end during which everyone could quite possibly wind up dead.

Even though it didn't feel entirely original, I did enjoy the novel, and with a few exceptions the fast pace kept me blowing through the chapters. Also, there were dogs! Lots and lots of very smart, wonderful dogs! Bonus points for that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

10 Recent Reads That Didn't Live Up To My Expectations

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is books we loved more or less than we thought we would. With the whole "too many books, too little time" problem, I try to only pick up books I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy so I don't have many books that I loved even more than I already hoped to. But once in a while there's a book that just doesn't live up to my expectations. The books below are all ones I felt sure I was going to love, but I ended up finding them somewhere between just-ok and terrible.

What books were you expecting to love but didn't?

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1. The Mothers // 3 stars // Everyone loved this book, but it just rubbed me wrong right from the start. Being a military spouse I'm sensitive to inaccuracies about the military in fiction (point #1 -- you can't just take your service pistol home with you -- it stays locked up in the base armory!), and things went downhill from there; I didn't really like the plot and I never could connect with the characters.

2. The Couple Next Door // 2.5 stars // Another novel that almost everyone else seemed to love, but I didn't find much at all to love about this "thriller."

3. The Masked City // 3 stars // I really enjoyed the whimsical, bookish first novel in the Invisible Library series, but I had a hard time with book 2, so much so that I don't think I'll continue the series.

4. Today Will Be Different // 3 stars // I loved the quirky and fun "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" and I had such high hopes of Semple's 2016 release. Unfortunately, this quick little read was a disappointment.

5. American Housewife // 3 stars // Though I don't normally read short stories, this one kept catching my attention. After all, I'm basically an American housewife myself. The first story made me smile, but I didn't really enjoy any of the others.

6. The Magicians // 3.5 stars // I did like this one, just not nearly as much as I expected (I had foreseen 4.5 or 5 stars) and I didn't find the "Harry Potter for adults" comparison to be particularly accurate.

7. Redemption Road // 3 stars // This mystery/thriller got a lot of pre-pub hype but I thought it was overdone and too long.

8. Be Frank With Me // 2.5 stars // Ugh, this book had so much wasted potential! The author came up with an interesting starting plot and then squandered it.

9. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell // 3 stars // This was one of my first reads of 2016. It'd been on my bookshelf for years and I'd been saving it for the right time, fully anticipating a 5-star read. It's about magic and books and England and the Napoleonic Wars, after all! But, oh my GOD, was it a slog. The last chunk was better, but the rest... zzzzzz.

10. The Hike // 2 stars // If I were more accurate in my ratings, this would have been a 1 star read for me (i.e. I hated absolutely everything about it), which is a huge bummer because I won an advance copy in a Goodreads giveaway and I was thoroughly expecting to love it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Musings

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My week: My week was basically spent working, napping, cleaning up accidents and entertaining a puppy!

Reading: I finished Hope Jahren's memoir, "Lab Girl," and then read the new YA release, "Gilded Cage" by Vic James. It was ok, not as heavy on the fantasy as I expected, but I was intrigued enough that I'll probably continue the series when the next book comes out. Now I'm reading Stephenie Meyer's new book, "The Chemist." I liked the first part but the middle is getting a little hokey and drag-y.


Knitting: Nothing at all! One of these days (like when the puppy turns 1 in 10 months) I'll get back to the Hufflepuff scarf.

Watching: We started watching "House of Cards" this week. I wasn't immediately hooked, but I'm intrigued enough to keep watching.

Listening to: "Dirt On My Boots" by Jon Pardi.


Eating: Chocolate chip banana bread. And out, several times more than normal, thanks to our new addition! Also, we tried out this recipe (grilled Hawaiian teriyaki chicken bowls) and thought it was a winner. I really liked the extra flavors from the coconut rice and toasted coconut.

Blogging:
Monday Musings
10 Favorite Fictional Couples
I Judge Books By Their Covers: Lab Girl

Looking forward to: Three more days off from work! With my part-time work schedule, three-day weekends become five-day weekends and it is completely fantastic.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Lab Girl



Hi, my name is Lindsay, and I judge books by their covers.

I just finished reading the fantastic memoir "Lab Girl" by Hope Jahren, about her journey as a woman and brilliant scientist (as well as fascinating tidbits about trees and plants). Perfect time, then, to compare covers!


U.K. cover

U.S. cover

The U.S. cover is perfectly fine, it fits with the book, and it would surely catch my eye at a library or bookstore. I definitely don't dislike it, but I loooove the U.K. cover! Maybe because I'm obsessed with looking at the patterns and shapes and colors of leaves myself, but I think it's just gorgeous. And it's also got a little illustrated Hope Jahren! And I think the inclusion of a subtitle is a good idea, too. I can see how some people might think the U.K. cover is too busy, but I have a thing for illustrated covers and pops of red, so there's no way the U.K. cover wasn't getting my vote!

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

10 Favorite Fictional Couples

Happy Valentine's Day, fellow booklovers! This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is about romance, naturally, and I decided to keep it simple with 10 of my favorite fictional couples. In no particular order:

favorite fictional couples 2

1. Alana and Marco // Saga series
2. Lou and Will // Me Before You
3. Claire and Jamie // Outlander series
4. Bex and Nick // The Royal We
5. Mustang and Darrow // Red Rising trilogy
6. Diana and Matthew // All Souls trilogy
7. Lila and Kell // Shades of Magic trilogy
8. Emily and Colin // Lady Emily series
9. Stella and Dan // Letters to the Lost
10. Agnieszka and the Dragon // Uprooted

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Musings

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My week: What a week it's been! We got back from our trip to the Big Island Sunday night, worked all day Monday, ran errands and went to the beach Tuesday afternoon -- and then picked up our new little bundle of joy Tuesday night. Life has been just a little bit crazy since then!

Meet our adorable 8-week-old boxer puppy! She's so, so, so cute, and she's rambunctious and curious and playful and smart, and she adores snuggles and naps. We didn't intend to start this so soon, but she already sleeps curled up in between us at night. She was pretty much destined to be spoiled from the start! I haven't had a puppy since first grade when my family got our sheltie, Stoney, and I have to say puppies sure are exhausting. But we are completely in love with our furbaby -- it's just delightful to watch her discover the world.

You might notice I didn't mention a name -- she doesn't have one just yet. We're temporarily calling her Alohi when we need to use her name (it's the nickname her parents' family gave her and it means brilliant in Hawaiian). We might keep that, or we might go with one of our previous contenders (like Hanalei, Juniper or Daisy), or something else might just present itself as the perfect name for her. For now, she's "the puppy." 

Reading: I've hardly had any time for reading this week, but I did finish "Looking for Alaska" by John Green, this month's pick for the book club I facilitate at work. (Not my choice, and I thought the book was just-ok, though I did like it better than "The Fault in Our Stars." I'm really just not a YA fan.)

I made a some headway in "Lab Girl," a wonderful memoir by Hope Jahren. I absolutely love her conversational descriptions of the life cycle and science of trees and plants, which follow along with her own journey as a woman and a scientist. I'm about three-quarters of the way done and I would definitely recommend it!

Next up: an advance-read copy of the new YA fantasy (I know I just don't like YA, but I couldn't resist this one), "Gilded Cage" by Vic James. It comes out this Tuesday and I know I won't be able to read it before then, but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless.


Knitting: Not a stitch. Though I did talk to two patrons at the library about fiber arts this week!

Watching: We watched "Snowden" and "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" this week and enjoyed them both.

Making: Monday was a gray, rainy day and it seemed like the perfect time to make a Sherlock Holmes-themed display at work! If you're familiar with the show "Sherlock," you'll get the wallpaper, smiley face and "I am Sherlocked." There are SO many Sherlock-themed spin-offs (or "pastiches" if you're feeling literary); my library is pretty small, so it says a lot that we had this many in our collection!

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Looking forward to: The upcoming three-day weekend!

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet"


Hi, my name is Lindsay, and I judge books by their covers.

This sci-fi novel was on my list last week of books with gorgeous covers I've recently added to my to-read list, and it seemed like a great time to talk about it in a bit more detail.

U.S. // U.K.

"The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" is on my must-read-in-2016 list, but I have to admit that, while I had seen the book floating around, I never gave it a second thought until I saw the beautiful U.K. cover, upon which I instantly thought, "Oh my gosh, I have to look that book up and see what it's about right this minute," only then realizing that it was the very same book I had seen before. And here we have a great example of the problem with judging books by their covers (which I totally do and will probably never stop doing): by all accounts, this is a fantastic book, but I never would've picked it up based on the U.S. cover unless I had happened upon some very persuasive reviews.

It's funny: usually when I do these cover battles there are elements that carry over between all the various cover versions, but in this case there's really not a single thing that's the same. And that's what it boils down to for me: everything about the U.K. cover appeals to me, while pretty much nothing about the U.S. cover does.

Do you feel as strongly as I do about this one? Or maybe you've got the opposite stance and you prefer the U.S. cover? I'd love to know!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday Musings: Lava!

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My week: We had a fantastic weekend on the Big Island! It was a super-short trip, but we wanted to make sure we got a chance to see where lava from Kilauea volcano is flowing into the ocean before the puppy joins our lives and we won't be able to travel for a bit. It was even more amazing than I expected -- we were lucky to see Pele's magnificent "lava hose" pouring into the ocean! We also cruised around Volcanoes National Park, checked out Halemaumau Crater at night (it glows orange and now that the lava lake's higher you can see lava shooting up from time to time) and popped down to the black sand beach. I love going there because there are almost always sea turtles basking on the warm sand. I'll do a whole post soon with a bunch more lava and Big Island pictures; for now, here's a video of the lava ocean entry at Kamokuna (it was absolutely breathtaking to see in person!).

Reading: I had just started "The Lonely Hearts Hotel" last week at this time and I thought it had major potential. Unfortunately, it went downhill fast from there -- the main problem was that it was not at all as advertised. Maybe if I'd have known what I was getting into, I would've liked it a lot better. (Here's my review.)

Now I'm reading "Lab Girl" by Hope Jahren, a fantastic memoir that combines Hope's journey as a scientist with the life cycle of a tree. It's really interesting, I love her writing and I've learned a ton! I'm also reading "Looking for Alaska" for the adult book club I co-facilitate at work. I didn't get to pick the books and I don't really like YA, so I'm surprised to say it's actually not bad so far. (I thought "The Fault in Our Stars" was super over-hyped and just-ok, so I didn't have high hopes for this one.)


Knitting: Not much time for knitting last week, but I added a couple inches to the Newt Scamander Hufflepuff scarf I've been working on.

Watching: I watched the first episode of "The Crown" on Netflix last week. For some reason I thought it was about Queen Elizabeth I, so I was in for quite a surprise (it's about the current Queen Elizabeth's early reign), but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

Blogging:
Monday Musings
14 Gorgeous Covers On My To-Read List
Yarn Along: "Lab Girl" and a Wizard Scarf
20 Intriguing February 2017 Book Releases
Upcoming Release: The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill
Upcoming Release: The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister

Looking forward to: If all goes well, we'll be bringing our boxer puppy home tonight! We found out she has a breathing issue that sometimes affects short-nosed breeds, so we're taking her to the vet this evening to make sure surgery will fix the problem and she'll be able to fly with us when we leave the island in a couple years. If the vet gives us a good prognosis, she'll be coming home with us. Fingers crossed!

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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Upcoming Release: The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister

"The Young Widower's Handbook" by Tom McAllister
Release date: February 7, 2017
288 pages
My rating: 3 stars

The Short Of It:

A quirky, funny, sad novel that didn't live up to its potential.

The Long Of It:
Hunter Cady is just 29 when the love of his life, his wife Kait, dies unexpectedly, leaving him an all-too-young widower. He's kind of a lovable, bumbling loser to begin with, but Kait's death throws him into a tailspin of despair. He can't help but think of all the things she'll never get to do -- most especially travel the world, something they'd endlessly fantasized about and planned and hashed out for the future.

Aimless, adrift and grieving, Hunter spirits the urn full of Kait's ashes away from her (scary-crazy!) family and embarks on an epic road trip across the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book -- Hunter's travels with Kait's urn and his reminisces about their romance and their life together. It was a bit wacky, a bit funny, a bit self-deprecating and a bit heartbreaking.

But after a charming, engrossing first half, the rest of the book fell flat for me and I struggled to finish. Eventually Hunter meets up with a just-out-of-college couple taking a trip along Route 66 with the girl's grandfather -- also grieving a lost wife -- and things went downhill from there. I really couldn't have cared less about the trio, and their adventures just didn't capture my interest like Hunter's solo travel in the first half did. And while the ending was relatively satisfying, it wasn't the big life-changer that the first half of the book felt like it was working up to.

That said, it was still a decent read. It's about the worthy themes of family, love, overcoming grief and getting your shit together -- with some commentary about our social media-obsessed culture thrown in for good measure. And I enjoyed getting to know Hunter and, through his remembrances, the wonderfully flawed Kait. "The Young Widower's Handbook" didn't blow me away, but it wouldn't be a travesty if it ended up in your pile of checkouts at the library.

*I received a free advance copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Upcoming Release: The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill

"The Lonely Hearts Hotel" by Heather O'Neill
Release date: February 7, 2017
400 pages
My rating: 2 out of 5

The Short Of It:

Like, whoa. Talk about a deceptive cover and blurb.

The Long Of It:
So you see the sparkly stars and glowing moon on the cover, the fun Art Deco font, the comparison to "The Night Circus," and words like "enchant" and "magical," and you probably think this is going to be a somewhat lighthearted page-turner. Let me just clear that up right now: this book is mostly depressing as fuck, with just enough charm thrown in here and there to keep you hanging on.

The story started off with such potential! Two quirky children, a boy and a girl, bond in a miserable WWI-era Montreal orphanage. There's something whimsical, almost eerie, about both of them. The boy, Pierrot, has a special connection to pianos and cats; the girl, Rose, has a clever head and feet made for dancing. They both have a magnetic charisma and a knack for performing, and they delight and charm everyone they meet (excepting the strict nuns who run the orphanage). They dream up a brilliant revue show, the Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza, writing up plans to enact as soon as they escape the dreary orphanage. But fate intervenes and Rose and Pierrot must go their separate ways. Over a decade later, the Snowflake Icicle Extravaganza comes to fruition and it's fabulous, innovative and moving -- a joy to read about!

Everything in between? That's where the "depressing as fuck" comes in. There's sex, drugs, rape, prostitutes, addiction, the Great Depression, pornography, unwanted pregnancies, obsession, more drugs and more sex. A disturbing, strange sexual thing happens at the beginning, when Pierrot and Rose are still at the orphanage, but I went along with it. The entire middle chunk of the book, though, was thoroughly lacking in magic and enchantment and thoroughly overdoing it in the sex, drugs and debauchery department. Thanks, but I don't need to hear about every single time a "cock" explodes into a "cunt." (And these weren't erotic sex scenes, either -- the author just felt like she had to let us know every time the characters got it on.) I can understand how all the sex, drugs, poverty and generally shitty times were essential to the plot, but I think the middle section could've been condensed down to 50 pages instead of 200.

I also had mixed feelings about the writing. On the one hand it could be lyrical and filled with the loveliest of metaphors, and on the other it was sometimes choppy and peppered with odd word choices incongruous with the flow of the story and the historical time period.

One thing I did appreciate about the novel was a strong female main character -- a maverick, really. While Rose had plenty of flaws, she knew her own mind, she knew what she wanted out of life and she figured out how to make it happen by whatever means necessary. The author had a lot to say about women's place in the world historically, and while circumstances are quite obviously a million times better for women now that they were a hundred years ago when the book is set, some things still resonated as true. When I read this quote -- "The only females in society who had any real bargaining power were the dopey little virgins with rags safety-pinned to their underwear, filling up with blood the color of fallen dead rose petals. The minute the gave themselves up, they really had no agency whatsoever." -- all I could think about was Donald Trump grabbing pussies. Here we are in the 21st century and women are still sometimes seen as nothing more sex objects.

While "The Lonely Hearts Hotel" is most certainly crass, vulgar and dark, it does indeed have some magical, charming, wondrous elements. I just wish there were way more of those and fewer of the former -- though perhaps I wouldn't feel so strongly that way if the book had been marketed differently. When you go in expecting a fantastical adventure and get heroin and prostitutes, it's hard to get your bearings. (P.S. Despite what the publisher's blurb says, I didn't find this book to be anything like "The Night Circus.")

*I received a free advance copy from the Penguin First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

20 Intriguing February 2017 Book Releases

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All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai // From my review: Tom Barren lives in a 2016 that's a technological utopia, made possible by the 1965 invention of a clean, infinite energy source. His world has flying cars, food synthesizers, robots and Sunday jaunts to the moon, not to mention extremely low crime and poverty rates and what basically amounts to world peace -- and yet Tom is not happy. And that's before a royal screw-up with a time travel machine lands him in our version of 2016 (which seems like a hideous wasteland to Tom).

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill // From Goodreads: "The Lonely Hearts Hotel" is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one's origins. It might also take true love.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella // From Goodreads: Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed. Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers. But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman // From Goodreads: Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon...and fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

The Refugees by Viet Thahn Nguyen // From Goodreads: Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration. The second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, "The Refugees" is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola // From Goodreads: In 1837, a woman's dismembered body is found scattered across London. Sarah Gale, a seamstress and fallen woman, is sentenced to hang for her alleged role in the murder; although she professes her innocence, she is hiding darkness in her past. Edmund Fleetwood is the young, idealistic lawyer tasked with Sarah's case. The stakes for both are high: Edmund has untold gambling debts he must urgently settle, and Sarah is desperate to escape the gallows. But as the two grow closer, the barriers between confessor and penitent start to blur, and Edward can't be sure if Sarah is a victim or a murderer.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee // From Goodreads: "Pachinko" follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.


Gilded Cage by Vic James // From Goodreads: Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders // From Amazon: February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson // From Goodreads: When the Twin Towers suddenly reappear in the Badlands of South Dakota twenty years after their fall, nobody can explain their return. To the hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands drawn to the American Stonehenge the Towers seem to sing, even as everybody hears a different song. Haunting, audacious, and undaunted, "Shadowbahn" is a winding and reckless ride through intersections of danger, destiny, and the conjoined halves of a ruptured nation.

Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt // From Goodreads: Eating one’s own kind is completely natural behavior in thousands of species, including humans. With unexpected wit and a wealth of knowledge, biologist Bill Schutt takes us on a tour of the field, dissecting exciting new research and investigating questions such as why so many fish eat their offspring and some amphibians consume their mother’s skin; why sexual cannibalism is an evolutionary advantage for certain spiders; why, until the end of the eighteenth century, British royalty ate human body parts; how cannibalism may be linked to the extinction of Neanderthals; why microbes on sacramental bread may have led Catholics to execute Jews in the Middle Ages.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter // From Goodreads: A novel -- based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews -- of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow's most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, "We Were the Lucky Ones" demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century's darkest moment, the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan // From Goodreads: As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead "carry on singing." Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir," the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives. Told through letters and journals, "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir" moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death.

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman // From Goodreads: At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It's a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts. And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he's Chagall. When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence...


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

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline // From Goodreads: To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century. Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff // From Goodreads: "The Nightingale" meets "Water for Elephants" in this powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh // From Goodreads: When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make?

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach // From Goodreads: A missing woman leads her twin sister on a twisted scavenger hunt in this clever debut novel of suspense for readers of "Luckiest Girl Alive" and "Reconstructing Amelia."


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas // From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Yarn Along: "Lab Girl" and a Wizard Scarf

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

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This week I made a little more progress on the Newt Scamander Hufflepuff scarf a friend commissioned me to knit. I've got a loooong way to go (I haven't had much time for knitting lately) but I think it's working up well, and I'm really glad I decided to go the route of knitting it as a tube in the round. I'm not a huge fan of the yarn (Lion Brand Heartland) -- it's irritatingly splitty -- but it is definitely the best color match to the movie for a reasonable price. And it's soft, which is always good for a scarf.

I'm doing something I seldom do (not very well, I must admit) -- I'm a polygamous book reader this week! I almost never read more than one book at a time, but my main read (an advance copy of "The Lonely Hearts Hotel" by Heather O'Neill) is in a format I can only read on my laptop (ugh!). So I'm reading "Lab Girl" in teeny tiny bits and pieces on my lunch breaks at work. I'm enjoying what I have read, and I'm extra-interested in this memoir because the author works and lives here in Hawaii! I don't feel I've read enough yet to adequately explain what it's about in my own words, so here's the Goodreads blurb:
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life -- but it is also so much more. 
Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work. 
Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.
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