Monday, September 30, 2013

A-Z Bookish Survey

I've always been a sucker for surveys, and when I stumbled upon this book-themed one (which originated at The Perpetual Page-Turner) I knew I'd have to fill it out!

A uthor you’ve read the most books from: Probably Janet Evanovich. Her Stephanie Plum series alone has 19 numbered books, plus the "between-the-numbers" ones. Honestly, I think it's about time for Janet to put Stephanie to rest, but I'll keep on reading until she does!

B est Sequel Ever: "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins. I tore through that puppy!

C urrently Reading: "The Other Typist" by Suzanne Rindell.

D rink of Choice While Reading: Tea or cocoa.

E -reader or Physical Book? I just finished my first-ever e-book last week and it wasn't nearly as horrible and soul-killing as I expected, but I think I will always prefer real books.

F ictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School: Err... no idea on this one. I never had a long-term boyfriend in high school, so I guess that's fitting!

G lad You Gave This Book A Chance: I don't read a ton of YA books, but I saw "The Book Thief" over and over again on book blogs and decided to give it a try. The story of a young German girl in Nazi Germany was fascinating and the writing style was totally unique.

H idden Gem Book: "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple was such a fun, quirky read.

I mportant Moment in your Reading Life: Spending summer afternoons immersed in Nancy Drew and the Babysitter's Club.

J ust Finished: "The Passage" by Justin Cronin. Vampire-zombie hybrids, oh my!

K inds of Books You Won’t Read: Harlequin romance-type books, although I did give them a try in my teenage years. I also haven't read an edge-of-your-seat crime thriller (i.e. James Patterson) in a few years. They make me scared of the dark!

L ongest Book You’ve Read: Not positive, but I'm guessing it would be "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon. (870 pages)

M ajor book hangover because of: "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson.

N umber of Bookcases You Own: 4, but I've got some books boxed up too.

O ne Book You Have Read Multiple Times: I very rarely re-read books, but I've read the Harry Potter books several times (though book 7 only twice). I got into the series shortly before book 4 came out, and I used to re-read all the books before the new installments were released. I'm actually planning to re-read the entire series this winter (our first full one after three years in Hawaii). I figure it'll give me something to look forward to when it's gloomy and gray out every day.

P referred Place To Read: The beach. But the place I read most often is bed.

Q uote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: The coming of age/end of the world novel "The Age of Miracles" was full of amazing quotes, but apparently I didn't write any of them down!

R eading Regret: Despite what I wrote under "worst reading habit" below, I did actually suffer through the entirety of J.K. Rowling's "A Casual Vacancy." It was so boring and depressing as hell, and I sure regret that! Luckily I learned from this experience and when "A Cuckoo's Calling" was (literally) putting me to sleep 100 pages in, I took it back to the library unfinished.

S eries You Started and Need to Finish (all the books are out): the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini, the Passage series by Justin Cronin, the Chet and Bernie through-the-dog's-eyes mystery series by Spencer Quinn. (Not all these series are complete yet, but I'm way behind in the ones that aren't.)

T hree of your All-Time Favorite Books: "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand, "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein.

U napologetic Fangirl For: I'm not super-fanatical for any author right now, but I do like to recommend Tasha Alexander to fans of mysteries and historical fiction.

V ery Excited for This Release More Than All the Others: Coming soon: "Allegiant" by Veronica Roth, third in the Divergent trilogy. Sometime in the distant future: the last book in Deborah Harkness's All Souls trilogy.

W orst Bookish Habit: Last year I conquered my worst habit. I used to continue on with a book even if it was boring or I hated it, crossing my fingers that it would eventually get better or feeling some sort of bizarre moral obligation to see the story through. Not anymore! I finally realized that not only do I have dozens of unread books on my shelves, I work at a library with thousands of books to pick from. There's no need to waste time on books that aren't enthralling.

X Marks The Spot (start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book): "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. (Have yet to read this one.)

Y our latest book purchase: I've been checking out library books galore lately and it's been a while since I've purchased a book, but I did pick up "A Partial History of Lost Causes" by Jennifer Dubois at the library for 25 cents last week. I'd never heard of it before, but it came out last year and involves chess, Russia and an old letter.

Z ZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): "The Passage," my latest read, was a definite page-turner!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stacking the Shelves #2

I'm participating again this week in Stacking the Shelves, a weekly link-up hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which bloggers share the new books they acquire each week. What a great way to get some ideas for reading material you might not otherwise come across! (Cover images from Goodreads.)

I grabbed "The Other Typist" at the library this week. It's an express book, meaning it's a 7-day unrenewable check-out. I know there's no way I'll have it done by next Wednesday, so it's a good thing I'm a library employee and don't have to pay late fees! All I really know about the book after reading the first 15 pages is that it's set in 1920s Manhattan and our protagonist is a typist at a police station. So far I'm enjoying the writing!

This novel, which came out in 2012, was 25 cents from the library's ongoing book sale. The cover pulled me in, and who can resist a book for a quarter? It's set in Russia and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and involves chess, love, Huntington's disease and an old letter.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Reading Round-Up: The Good, The Bad and The Unfinished

It's been several weeks since I've written a book review, and that's mostly because I haven't read any good books! I've been in a reading rut -- nothing was catching my attention, compelling me to turn the pages. I finally found a gripping book, though -- "The Passage" by Justin Cronin, a vampire-zombie apocalypse epic -- that I've barreled through and will be reviewing shortly. For now, here's a quick look at what I've suffered through (or attempted to suffer through) since July. (All pictures from Goodreads.)

The Good:
On the recommendation of a friend, I read the entire Matched YA dystopian trilogy this summer and I actually liked it pretty well. It wasn't of the caliber of the similarly toned Hunger Games and Divergent series, but the fast-moving pace and somewhat unique dystopian world pulled me in. As with many trilogies, book 2 ("Crossed") was unfortunately slow and I found myself skimming far too often, but books 1 and 3 were real page-turners. I'm looking forward to the movie, which is in the works.

The Bad:
I saw this book at Target and was instantly drawn in by the cover. My library didn't have it (for good reason!) so I requested it via inter-library loan and took it on our vacation to Tennessee. This mediocre and somewhat annoying story is about Maz, a London vet who's fired after her affair with her boss ends badly. Maz's best pal from vet school operates a practice in rural England and asks Maz to take over the office for six months while she and her husband take a much-needed vacation. Sounds cute, except most of the story is about the small town's rival vet making things tough for Maz and all the gossipy townsfolk turning against her. The book was penned by a former small animal vet, and the book made me wonder what our vet does to our critters and says about us when we're not there! This was a bad case of judging a book by its cover -- great cover, blah book!

This is the second book in Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery series. I read the first installment, "The Beekeeper's Apprentice," in the spring and loved it. But this book was slow-moving and I didn't find the mystery gripping. While I was disappointed in book 2, I'll still give the rest of the series a chance.
I've read all the books in Donna Andrew's Meg Langslow cozy mystery series and enjoyed each and every one... until now. This entire book takes place over a couple days at the county fair and was way too bogged down with endless talk of heritage breeds of livestock and such. I now know way more about chickens than I ever wanted to! It was a struggle to get through, and the climax was a total yawn.

The Unfinished:
After the disaster that was "A Casual Vacancy," I desperately wanted to like J.K. Rowling's new book. It sounded promising -- a detective story that had supposedly gotten decent reviews before anyone ever knew J.K. Rowling had penned it. But... I couldn't do it. I didn't even make it to page 150 before giving up. The story moved so slowly (I fell asleep FOUR times while reading it!), I didn't find the central "mystery" interesting, and, though not as much as "A Casual Vacancy," I found the characters to be dark and depressing, and it seemed as if Rowling wrote them with an almost mocking attitude. In any case, I think Rowling should have just stuck to the wonderful wizarding world for which she is beloved.

I love watching "Downton Abbey," so I figured a book about other women watching the show would be wonderful. Not quite. I'm not sure I gave this book a fair chance, but after 20 pages I wasn't the slightest bit into it and I knew other people had it on hold, so I took it back to the library. I didn't find the characters likeable and the book seemed pretty cheesy.

This story is about a divorced mom and her angsty teenage daughter. She moves to rural England with the dream of turning an old barn into a restaurant. Murder sneaks into the story somehow. The blurb on the cover really sounded interesting, but I was bored after 50 pages and couldn't make myself continue.
I kept seeing hype about this book before it came out, and when I spotted it on the new books shelf at the library I figured I'd give it a try. I didn't make it far enough to delve into the real plot (something "Gone Girl"-ish, apparently) but I just hated the characters and the story wasn't moving fast enough for me.
The Books I Had To Return Before Reading:
These are all books I checked out from the library with every intention of reading and just didn't get to. Eventually I'll get around to them again... though judging from this blog post, I didn't pick very good books this summer, so maybe I should just let these go by the wayside!
"Silver Star" by Jeanette Walls
"The House at the End of Hope Street" by Menna VanPraag
"Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter
"The House Girl" by Tara Conklin
"The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday

It's been a while since I've done a What I Wore Wednesday link-up with The Pleated Poppy. But now that fall's upon us, I'm breaking out the flats and sweaters and long-sleeve shirts and thought I'd share some of my outfits.

Do you have a fall fashion shopping list? I recently bought three plaid button-down shirts from Old Navy and a cute tan cardigan at Target, and I'm planning an excursion to the outlet mall in Cincinnati to check out the Banana Republic Outlet. I have plenty of fall tops, and nearly enough jeans (I'm still on a quest for a pair of white), but I'm having the damnedest time finding the perfect pair of boots!

The boots I have are a Hawaii purchase; I just bought some cheap-o ones from Payless since I knew they wouldn't be getting much wear there. But I wanted to splurge on some nice leather ones this year since -- if last February and March are any indication -- I'll be wearing them every day all winter long. Boots are ubiquitous nowadays, so I never thought it'd be that challenging to find a pair that meets my specifications. But the Great Boot Search continues... wish me luck!

P.S. Good grief, I just realized I'm wearing the same pair of jeans in all these pictures!

 It seems a shame to pack away all those cute summer tank tops, so I like to layer them under light sweaters in the early fall.
 Tank top: Kohl's
Sweater: Target
Jeans: 7 For All Mankind
Shoes: Clark's
Earrings: Boutiki gift shop in Hawaii

 This look is novel because my hair is in a ponytail! I hardly ever wear a ponytail outside of lounging around the house and walking the dog, but it is definitely time for a haircut and my hair and I were fighting with each other that day. I suppose it actually doesn't look half bad! And maybe with my curls pulled back, I won't get called "sweetie" and "young lady" and "kiddo" by random people all the time -- which annoys me to no end! (My husband maintains that my curly hair makes me look about 18 or 20... maybe someday that'll be a good thing, but right now I'd much rather just look 27!)

Top: Old Navy
Jeans: 7 For All Mankind
Necklace: International Marketplace in Waikiki
Shoes: Clark's
Bag: Bueno brand, Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange

 Daddy said the word "treat"!
 Sweater: Old Navy
Jeans: 7 For All Mankind
Shoes: Clark's
Necklace: The Pleated Poppy

I wore this outfit to the Wool Gathering festival this weekend. It's a celebration of fiber arts, with tons of vendors selling yarn, accessories and handmade goods. Plus Young's Dairy, where the festival is held annually, had tons of pumpkins and gourds for sale, so of course we left with some of those too!

Top: Old Navy (new purchase)
Jeans: (shocker!) 7 For All Mankind
Necklace: Palomaria on Etsy
Boots: Payless

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Knitting FO: Jack Frost Cowl

Project: Jack Frost Cowl
Pattern: Honey Cowl
My Ravelry project page
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Polar Morn colorway
My latest project is another warm weather accessory -- a soft, squishy cowl made out of my favorite yarn, Malabrigo. The pattern provided instructions for a short cowl and a long one; I cast on 220 for the long cowl, but I knit it on size 7 needles for a warmer, denser fabric. The original pattern called for making it almost twice as wide as I did, but I wanted to have some yarn left over for matching mittens.
Most often I will probably wear the cowl doubled around my neck, but it also looks cute this way -- its full length, folded in half, hung around my neck.
I bought two skeins of Polar Morn a while ago and was waiting for just the right project to come along. I think the simple honeycomb stitch of the cowl really showcases the subtle gray color changes throughout. I enjoyed knitting this easy cowl; it got a bit boring but it was great to work on while watching TV!

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Fall Reading List

It's Tuesday, which means it's time for the weekly top 10 list at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt is the top 10 books on your fall to-be-read list. I actually did read most of the books on my summer TBR list -- and I've put "The Bone Season" on hold at the library. I did check out "The Other Typist" and "Silver Star," but I ran out of time to read them and had to take them back to the library. So all three of those books are also on my fall list, too!

Books in series I read that come out this fall:

The final book in the Divergent dystopian YA trilogy comes out October 22.

The latest installment in Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series releases October 8.

Tasha Alexander writes one of my favorite series; it features Lady Emily, an unconventional Regency-era amateur detective. It comes out October 15.

I read the first two Bridget Jones books ages ago, and it'll be interesting to catch up with Bridget all these years later. Judging from the cover art, she's now a mother! "Mad About the Boy" also releases October 15.

Other books that come out this fall:

I didn't love "Eat, Pray, Love" as much as the rest of America, but this work of fiction, which comes out October 1, spans the 1800s and sounds really fascinating.

I hardly ever read non-fiction, but I love Bill Bryson and his latest work, which comes out October 1, should be a good read. Apparently the summer of 1927 was an action-packed season in America's history (think Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth and Al Capone) and I'm excited to immerse myself in it!

Books already out that I plan to read in the next few months:

My mom came across a blurb on this newer book and told me it looked good. I agreed, and I've got it on hold at the library.

Despite the fact that the "series" section of my list contains two YA books, I generally try to stay away from the genre. But I've been seeing the name Rainbow Rowell everywhere and I figure I better see what all the fuss is about.

This story of two women united by letters during WWII caught my eye. It came out last May.

This modern-day/historical fiction novel involves a ghost at Tudor England. Some people have compared it to a Dan Brown novel... not sure if that is good or bad. 

Knitting FO: The Summer of... Shawl

Project: The Summer Of... Sweet Corn and Mountain Air
Pattern: the summer of... MKAL
My Ravelry project page
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette in Seafaring and Tranquil
This pretty shawl was a mystery knit-along, one of my favorite things! You know what type of knitted item you're making, but have no idea what the finished product will look like. A piece of the pattern is released each week, and you can follow along with other knitters' progress and see how their projects are shaping up as the pattern grows.
I named my shawl "The Summer of Sweet Corn and Mountain Air." Good, reasonably priced sweet corn is hard to come by in Hawaii, but it's ever-present in the summer in Ohio and I definitely ate my fill. We even went to the Sweet Corn Festival our town put on in August.
The mountain air part represents our amazing trip to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I had every intent to knit work on the shawl while we were on vacation (the last clue came out the day we arrived) but I didn't knit a single stitch! Still, it made the journey with us and spent a week of its life in a cabin in the mountains.
I'm really pleased with the end result. That lace border is just stunning! I doubt I'll wear it much as a shawl but more like a triangular neck scarf, as in the third picture. The weather is getting chillier by the day and soon it'll be time to layer on knitted goodies for a little extra warmth!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Stacking the Shelves #1

Last week I came across a fun book link-up hosted by Tynga's Reviews called Stacking the Shelves, in which bloggers share the books they added to their shelves each week. They can be purchased books, library books, borrowed books, e-books, etc. Since I'm at the library nearly every week, I thought this would be a fun way to share the books I'll soon be reviewing.

This is my first-ever e-book. It was on hold at the library but available on Overdrive, so I decided it was finally time to attempt to read a novel on my iPad.

I picked up this book from the new books shelf at the library. I just couldn't resist the whimsical cover! The summary on the book jacket sounds quirky and charming, and I'm looking forward to getting lost on Hope Street in Cambridge, England.

Furry Friday: Lions, Tigers and Lemurs, Oh My!

A few weeks ago I went to Dallas to visit my best friend, Katie. I'm sure you've seen her on the blog before. We met in 9th grade band class where we excelled in playing the clarinet and aggravating the band teacher. Though we haven't lived in the same city (or state, unless you count Texas, where we were six hours apart) since the start of college, we try to see each other in person as often as we can.
Katie works at the Dallas Zoo, and one of her co-workers volunteers at the C.A.R.E. big cat sanctuary in Bridgeport, Texas. She invited us to come for a tour of the rescue. There are over 40 big cats on the premises, but they also house a few other random critters -- like these adorable ring-tailed lemurs.
The lemurs went crazy for the blueberries we brought in.
This is Tawny, the mountain lion. The facility has a few mountain lion rescues, and I was horrified to hear the story of one who was declawed during its life as a "pet" at a college fraternity.
Many of the big cats at the sanctuary are tigers, both white and orange. Katie and her friends get to work with animals every day, but not many regular people get to handle lemurs or be separated from a tiger by a few feet and a chain-link fence. I was awed to be in their presence. I was also fascinated by how much their behavior resembled that of a house cat -- purring, rubbing their face on the fence in that blissful way cats do, etc.
Many of the cats were pets(!!!) or in a traveling show at one point so they're relatively tame, but -- as snuggly and sweet as they look -- you couldn't pay me to get beyond the chain-link fence! I was glad to hear the employees don't go in the enclosures while the cats are present either.
This was my favorite animal of the day. So gorgeous!
Look at those chompers!
We also went to the Dallas Zoo while I was visiting. It was so fun to see Katie's daily environs at the Children's Zoo! She works with creatures like donkeys, horses, possums, birds, rabbits, naked mole rats and more.
The zoo has an albino alligator! If you look closely, you can even see its red eye.
And here I am in the aviary, feeding the birds. Astonishingly, you can't tell in the picture, but we had just about sweated to death in the 100+ degree heat by this point!

In addition to the cat rescue and the zoo, we visited the Dallas Arboretum, went to the famous Sprinkles Cupcakes (twice) and Katie taught me to make sushi. It was a fantastic little getaway and I had a blast with my best friend!
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