Monday, December 29, 2014

Five Goals For 2015

Happy New Year! I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish to tell you about my resolutions for 2015. There aren't many and they're not insanely ambitious, so hopefully I'll be able to accomplish them all!
1. Read these books -- there are 12, one for each month of the coming year. I own most of this selection and some I've had for years and years, like "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell." Others I've just been meaning to read for ages and never do, like "The Thirteenth Tale."

2. Learn to pipe frosting and get better at cake decorating. It's time to advance beyond my "glob and smear" method of frosting!

3. Get better at working with yeast. By the end of the year I want to be confident about baking breads, cinnamon rolls and homeade pizza crust.

4. Visit two new states. This year I went to West Virginia and Pennsylvania for the first time. Where will 2015 take me?

5. Splurge on some nice yarn and knit myself a sweater that I will really love.

That's it! I'm hoping 2015 will be a year of good books, beautiful knits and fun adventures. What are your goals and dreams for the coming year?

Knitted Mitten Garland and Christmas!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Ours was fantastic -- I got to spend time with family and my best friend, and I received some amazing and thoughtful gifts. And I ate sooooo much delicious food!

And I finally finished my knitted mitten garland for the mantel! I started this sucker before Christmas last year and it languished in a drawer in the coffee table for months and months. I finished the last mitten over the summer but wasn't sure how I wanted to string them up. And just the other day I came across some miniature clothes pins that I'd bought for another project and realized they'd be absolutely perfect for the purpose. For now, the mittens are just strung up on some garden twine. I had intended to make a fancy braid out of knitted i-cord, ribbon and twine... maybe next year!
The mittens are from the Smitten pattern on Ravelry. They're super fast and easy. And anything in miniature is just adorable. I love my mitten garland! Maybe now I'll have the motivation to finish that felted heart garland I started before last Valentine's Day!
We cut down a magnificent tree this year! It's a stunning 9 1/2 feet tall and fits the corner perfectly. And almost a month later, it still smells good. It might just be the best tree we've ever had!
Perched at the top is our boxer tree topper. I'm so glad we bought it last year -- now Conan can be with us every Christmas.
We didn't do a whole lot of Christmas-y activities this year, but we did go to the Columbus Zoo Wildlights with my best friend, Katie. The zoo was decked out in zillions of beautiful lights and the effect was quite spectacular!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 End-Of-Year Book Survey

Hello, book friends! I'm super excited to participate, for the second year, in the end-of-year book survey hosted by one of my favorite book blogs, The Perpetual Page-Turner. The end of the year is kind of bittersweet -- I'm always left with a where-did-the-year-go?! kind of feeling -- but it's also fun to look back and reminisce about all the wonderful adventures I took, memories I made, and books I read over the past 12 months. So, without further ado, let's get started! (If you're curious, here's my survey from 2013).
Number Of Books You Read: 59 so far
Number of Re-Reads: 1, a childhood favorite, “Bunnicula” by James Howe
Genre You Read The Most From: adult fiction

1. Best book you read in 2014?
Oh my goodness. Put me on the spot right away, why don’t you?! I just made a list of the top 10 best books I read this year, and I had a six-way tie for first place. It was a toss-up between “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan, “The Martian” by Andy Weir, “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin, "The Poisonwood Bible" by Barbara Kingsolver, "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway and "The Book of Life" by Deborah Harkness.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
I read a handful of disappointing over-hyped books this year. First up is “We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart. All I saw was twist, twist, twist… and the twist was really NOT that shocking or amazing. I was pretty much appalled to see this was voted best YA fiction of the year on Goodreads. Ugh!
I also really didn’t like Jennifer Weiner’s newest release, “All Fall Down.” It was a major departure from her normal writing. The subject matter irked me and the book just didn’t do it for me. And everyone talks about Colleen Hoover, but I wasn’t exactly blown away by “Ugly Love.” I definitely didn’t hate it, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. Same goes for “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. It was decent, but I really don’t get what all the Rainbow Rowell fuss is about.
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 
“The Martian” by Andy Weir. I really didn’t know what I was getting into with this tale of an astronaut stranded on Mars, but it was a totally compelling, fascinating read. I loved it and can’t wait for the movie!
4. Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did) in 2014?
Probably “Gone Girl.” I read it back in 2012 but still recommend it to people all the time.
5. Best series you started in 2014? Best sequel of 2014? Best series ender of 2014?
Series started: I enjoyed “Midnight Riot” by Ben Aaronovitch as well as “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer. I’ve only read the first books in each series but look forward to getting caught up soon.
Sequel: “Mad About the Boy” by Helen Fielding (Bridget Jones #3)
Series ended: Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy with “The Book of Life”
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
 Bee Ridgway, author of “The River of No Return.”
7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
“Wonder” by R. J. Palacio. I don’t read many middle-grade books but “Wonder” is a book for everyone!
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
“The Martian.” Or “The Book of Life.” “The Martian” was a spell-binding tale of survival and ingenuity, and “The Book of Life” was a fantastic conclusion to my favorite series ever.
9. Book you read in 2014 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
I don’t re-read books very often (other than Harry Potter), but I wouldn’t mind re-reading “The StoriedLife of A.J. Fikry” and “The Catcher in the Rye” at some point in the future.
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?
“The River of No Return” by Bee Ridgway. It’s lovely, and it perfectly ties into the book. I’m also really drawn to the simple tree trunk cover of “Fourth of July Creek.” It has a cool texture to it, too.

11. Most memorable character of 2014?
Mark Watney, hero of “The Martian.”

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
“The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver.

13. Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book of 2014?
“The Poisonwood Bible.” Lots of thoughts on Africa, family, religion and more.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?
“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. I really need to read more classics!
15. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2014?
I really should keep track of this stuff better! I rarely write down quotes from books, but I did just copy down a sentence from “A Sudden Light” by Garth Stein: “Oh, the whimsy of fate.”
16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2014?
Shortest: “Bunnicula” by James Howe, 78 pages.
Longest: “The Book of Life” by Deborah Harkness, 561 pages.
17. Book that shocked you the most?
“Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn. But after reading “Gone Girl,” I was prepared for something sick and twisted.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)
Huh? So out of the loop here… I’m assuming this means favorite romantic couple? If so, I’ll go with Julia Percy and Nicholas Falcott from “The River of No Return.”
19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?
I listened to the first four Harry Potter novels on audiobook this year (they are fantastic and I plan to finish the audiobooks in 2015), and I’d have to say Harry Potter and Ron Weasley.

20. Favorite book you read in 2014 from an author you’ve read previously?
“One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes. I absolutely LOVED “Me Before You” and “One Plus One” is a more fun, charming love story. No tissues required.
21. Best book you read in 2014 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else?
“Midnight Riot” by Ben Aaronovitch. A friend told me it was like Harry Potter + detective novel. I’d never heard of the series before, but how could I resist that description?!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Warner from the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. Or maybe Holden Caulfield from “The Catcher in the Rye.” Or Nick from “The River of No Return.”
23. Best 2014 debut you read?
“The Girl With All the Gifts” by M.R. Carey. Zombies!
24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?
This is a tie between two vastly different books. “Delicious!” by Ruth Reichl had an amazing charming atmosphere. Food, New York, quaint little restaurants and delis, a cool old mansion, a secret library… Barbara Kingsolver painted a totally different picture in “The Poisonwood Bible,” of the dark and dangerous Congo.

25. Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
“One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes. And "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2014?
None, that I recall. It takes a lot to get me to cry. Kill a dog or Dobby and you’ll get some waterworks, otherwise… not likely.
27. Hidden gem of the year?
“I’ll Be Seeing You” by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. I loved this touching WWII story told in letters between two women set up as penpals.
28. Book that crushed your soul?
Huh. I read a lot of happy books this year. “Elizabeth is Missing” didn’t exactly crush my soul, but it was painfully difficult at times to read a book written from the perspective of someone with Alzheimer’s.
29. Most unique book you read in 2014?
"Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them." I loved this short and sweet book, which is exactly what it says -- artistic renderings of tattoos and the owners' explanation of why they got them.
30. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014?
I discovered quite a few new book blogs this year, but I particularly like Fourth Street Review and The Snail on the Wall.
31. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Perfect for browsing when I'm bored at work. And I absolutely WILL be buying this awesome Harry Potter t-shirt from the Book Riot store!!!
32. One book you didn’t get to in 2014 but will be your number 1 priority in 2015?
Oh, soooo many to choose from! I'll go with “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion.
33. 2015 debut you are most anticipating?
“War of the Encyclopaedists" by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite. The premise is totally intriguing!
34. Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2015?
“Wicked Charms” by Janet Evanovich. While I will read them 'til the end, the Stephanie Plum books are getting pretty tired. But I love Janet Evanovich's Wicked series and I've been anxiously awaiting the third book in this light and fun series. The Wicked books remind me of the earlier magic and humor of the Plum stories -- and any book that gets me to laugh out loud scores bonus points with me!
35. One thing you hope to accomplish in your reading/blogging life in 2015?
Read more of the books I already own instead of always checking out library books. (Which is hard when you work at a library!!!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Top 10 Books I Read in 2014

Happy Tuesday, friends! It's that time of year when we get to talk about out favorite books from the past 12 months! 2013 was kind of a disappointing reading year for me, and I'm glad to say 2014 was filled with lots of reading mojo and much better books. This was the first year I kept track of all my books on Goodreads, and so far I've read 59 -- not too shabby!

Reading took me on some really amazing adventures this year -- I went everywhere from the Congo to Nantucket to Jane Austen's Longbourn, from the future to WWII to the 1800s, hung out with Sherlock Holmes, Greek gods, astronauts, murderers and middle-schoolers. And I discovered the phenomenal Harry Potter audiobooks, which I'm pleased to say add a whole new dimension to the whimsical tales. I hope 2015 brings us all bountiful 5-star reads and many nights where we just have to read "one more page."

The 10 Best Books I Read This Year

I read a handful of really wonderful 5-star books, and despite several days to mull it over, I just can't pick a clear winner. They're all so different and amazing in their own ways, so I'm declaring it a 6-way tie!
1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Charming, bookish and wry. This novel is for everyone. If you didn't read it this year, pick it up in 2015!

1. I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan
I love WWII fiction and novels written in letters, and this book is both. It's a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of two war wives set up as penpals and is the perfect combination of history, friendship and letters.

1. The Martian by Andy Weir
I can't rave about this book enough! It's an edge-of-your-seat tale of ingenuity and survival. Astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars and is completely alone with limited resource and no communication with Earth -- but he is determined to keep on living and find a way home. He's the most likeable character I encountered this year and I'm looking forward to seeing Matt Damon portray him in the movie.

1. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
No review, but here's what I had to say about "A Discovery of Witches."
"A Discovery of Witches" and "Shadow of Night," the first two installments in this trilogy, were amazing and "The Book of Life" was a fitting and fantastic conclusion. This series has it all -- supernatural characters, history, science, romance, time travel!

1. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
I loved this novel, which is just what the cover proclaims -- a tale of romance and time travel. There's mystery, intrigue, and a secret time-traveling guild. I devoured this captivating story and I've got my fingers crossed for a sequel!
1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
I did a buddy read thing on Goodreads this summer in which my partner and I had to select a book we both shared on our to-read lists and read it together. If there was ever a good book to read and dissect with a friend, this is it! It's a dark, complex and fascinating tale of a religious zealot who drags his family to the Congo for missionary work. Disaster ensues. But in a beautifully written way!
7. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
I absolutely loved "Me Before You," and I loved "One Plus One" too but in a totally different way. This is a much more lighthearted story with laugh-out-loud scenes and lovable characters.

8. Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere! Reichl paints an amazing picture that got my mouth watering almost instantly. This is a delightful story of food, friends and finding yourself.

9. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Zombies! But wait -- these aren't your run-of-the-mill undead. Melanie, our wonderful protagonist, is a zombie in possession of a genius mind and a big heart. In fact, she has no idea she's a zombie and could pass for any other child -- except for the fact that her meals consist of live maggots and she lives in a cell in a government research facility. I enjoyed this interesting take on the zombie theme.

10. Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
Well, I'm not sure the general reading population loved this book as much as me, but I found the third Bridget Jones story to be absolutely wonderful!

What were your favorite books of 2014? Have you read any of my picks? Do tell! And be sure to check out all the other best-of-the-year lists at The Broke and the Bookish!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: "Pen & Ink: Tattoos & the Stories Behind Them"

"Pen & Ink: Tattoos & the Stories Behind Them" by Isaac Fitzgerald and Wendy McNaughton
First published in 2014
144 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

I spotted this awesome little book while processing new materials at the library. I'm fascinated by tattoos, and I frequently find myself trying to decipher all the images on that guy's arm sleeve or staring at some girl's foot, attempting to make out the script inked there. Out to eat a few months ago, I saw a husband and father with his entire face completely tattooed and I desperately wanted to ask him about it -- and get a closer look at what images he deemed important enough to become his new visage. So after a co-worker raved about "Pen & Ink," I knew I needed to bring it home with me!

It's everything you'd think it would be from looking at the cover -- a drawing of the tattoo on one page and the owner's explanation of the ink on the facing page. The authors compiled tattoo stories from a wide variety of people, from writers and musicians to average joes. Cheryl Strayed, author of "Wild," penned the introduction and also has an entry in the book.

Some of the stories are serious, some are lighthearted, some are mementos and some consist mainly of "I was drunk one night..." But they're all interesting! And I absolutely loved that the tattoos were drawn rather than photographed. That facet really made the book for me. Whether you're a tattoo enthusiast or you just wonder what on earth would persuade someone to permanently add a picture of a pizza to his body, this is the book for you. It's short, sweet and fun, and it was perfect to read on my breaks at work.

Do you have a tattoo? Why did you get it? What's your story? Here's mine!

I got this star tattoo my freshman year of college while visiting my best friend at her university over spring break. I was going through a rebellious phase, and in the previous six months had gotten a nose ring and a belly-button piercing. I've had my star for over 10 years and I still love it because it reminds me of when I was young and spontaneous, enjoying my first taste of freedom. I've gotten more conservative with age and I'm happy I have a little reminder of my wild side.

I've been pondering another tattoo for a while now, but I'm still searching for that perfect image. It needs to have more meaning and significance than my star. I've thought about a single word, a mini version of Conan's pawprint, or something like mountains or a sea turtle that would reflect my love of nature and the places I've lived. And there're always literary tattoos to consider as well. I'm also torn on the placement. I'm very drawn to the idea of a tattoo on my inner wrist, but my forearm is one of the few areas of my body that's still creamy white, smooth and completely unblemished. The tattoo would have to be something really important to me to be placed in such a spot of honor! Whenever I do get another tattoo, you'll be the first to know! ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

More 2015 Releases On My Radar

A couple weeks ago, the Top Ten Tuesday prompt was about books coming out in 2015. (Here's my post.) Despite scrounging lists online, I could only come up with five... and two of those were sequels to books that were just ok -- novels that I'll read to continue the series, but not ones I'm genuinely excited about.

Fast forward to today at work... the library was painfully slow (guess everyone was out Christmas shopping) and I had plenty of time to peruse the latest issue of Library Journal. And wowza, did I add a lot of books to my to-read list! Among the finds were several 2015 releases that sound quite intriguing, and I wanted to share them with you!
War of the Encyclopaedists by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite
Releases May 12
From the Goodreads summary:
Best friends Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy had planned to move together to Boston for graduate school, but global events have intervened: Montauk has just learned that his National Guard unit will deploy to Baghdad at the end of the summer...As their lives move further away from their shared dream, Corderoy and Montauk keep in touch with one another by editing a Wikipedia article about themselves: smart and funny updates that morph and deepen throughout the year, culminating in a document that is both devastatingly tragic and profoundly poetic.
My take:
This book sounds awesome! I keep saying that, as a military spouse, I want to read more Iraq/Afghanistan war fiction and this fits the bill. Plus, keeping in touch via a Wikipedia article sounds like a modern take on the epistolary novel.  

The Death's Head Chess Club by John Donoghue
Releases May 12
From the Goodreads summary:
A novel of the improbable friendship that arises between a Nazi officer and a Jewish chess player in Auschwitz.

My take:
This reminds me ever so slightly of the Colin Firth movie "The Railway Man," in which a WWII POW confronts his captor years after the war is over, but without the years of obsession in between. I like the chess element, which will maybe set this apart from other WWII tales. It promises to be a hard-hitting, depressing read at times, but I have high hopes for this novel.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Releases January 1
From the Goodreads summary:
On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that's going stale and his wife Miranda, who he's sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start -- he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit -- a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliche. But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she's done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, "I'd like to help." After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse.
My take:
I actually didn't get this recommendation from Library Journal but from a co-worker who read an advance copy. She raved about it and I'm totally intrigued by the premise!
A Paris Affair by Tatiana deRosnay
Releases May 5
From the Goodreads summary:
From the internationally best-selling author of "Sarah's Key" comes an irreverent yet heartfelt collection that examines our most intimate and forbidden desires
Does a fruit taste its sweetest when it is forbidden? Is that which is prohibited always the most pleasurable? In this passionate and perceptive collection, Tatiana de Rosnay paints a portrait of the most forbidden of loves, in many different shades -- sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartfelt, always with a dry wit and an unflinching authenticity.

My take:
I don't read short stories very often, but these sound interesting. I've heard amazing things about "Sarah's Key" (and that it requires copious tissues) and I've been meaning to check out deRosnay for a couple years now. This might be a good place to start.
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Releases December 30 (close enough!)
From the Goodreads summary:
Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But she’s still uneasy at Khattak’s tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her to look into Christopher Drayton’s death. Drayton’s apparently accidental fall from a cliff doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and Khattak’s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

My take:
I'm itching to read a good detective novel, and the Bosnian war element makes it something totally unique for me. I enjoy books where I can learn something while being completely enraptured!
Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen
Releases January 6
From the Goodreads summary:
Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months...but when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it's more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.
Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name.
In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of "Downton Abbey," Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them.

My take:
"Death" sounds like it's written in a very similar vein to the Lady Emily mysteries by Tasha Alexander, some of my favorite books! I love this time period and you can't go wrong with a good mystery. Plus the "Downton Abbey" comparison totally grabbed my attention!

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Releases April 14
From the Goodreads summary:
When the moon blows up, the earth’s atmosphere is predicted to go through changes that will eventually lead to a Hard Rain, a meteorite storm that could last for thousands of years, rendering the earth’s surface uninhabitable. In preparation, the nations of the earth send an ark of humans to an International Space Station. But the Station isn’t immune to the galactic catastrophe and many of its people are lost, mostly men. When stability is reached, only seven humans remain, all of them women. Jump forward thirty thousand years. Two peoples exist: those who survived on Earth, living rustic, primitive lives; and those who derived from the Seven Eves of the space station, affluent, sophisticated, organized sects looking to colonize the surface of earth. Stephenson’s next novel is an epic potboiler, with political and military intrigue, and plenty to say about evolution, genetic engineering, and civilization as we know it.

My take:
I've never read Neal Stephenson before and I don't read a lot of sci-fi, but this book sounds captivating! It's a whopper of a book at over 1,000 pages, but I'm going to give it a shot!
I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter
Releases May 19
From the Goodreads summary:
"I, Ripper" is a vivid reimagining of Jack’s personal story entwined with that of an Irish journalist who covered the case, knew the principals, charted the investigation, and at last, stymied, went off in a bold new direction. These two men stalk each other through a city twisted in fear of the madman’s blade, a cat-and-mouse game that brings to life the sounds and smells of the fleshpot tenderloin of Whitechapel and all the lurid acts that fueled the Ripper headlines. Dripping with intrigue, atmosphere, and diabolical twists, this is a magnificent psychological thriller from perennial "New York Times" bestseller Stephen Hunter.

My take:
A few years ago, a patron at my library in Hawaii recommended Hunter's Bob Lee Swagger books (which inspired the movie "Shooter" with Mark Wahlberg). I never got around to reading those, but this Jack the Ripper tale promises to be riveting!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Book Review: "The Girl With All the Gifts" by M.R. Carey

"The Girl With All the Gifts" by M.R. Carey
First published in 2014
407 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image from Goodreads)

This post-apocalyptic novel features flesh-eating undead, the race to find a cure, and savage bad guys -- kind of like your typical zombie book or show. But a few things set it apart.

Melanie, our main character, is a "hungry" but she is completely ignorant of this fact. Instead, she believes herself to be a regular 10-year-old girl. All she knows of life is her daily existence; she wakes up in her windowless cell, is strapped down in her wheelchair by armed men, taken to a windowless classroom with the other children for school, then returned to her cell for the night. On weekends the children have shower time (a dousing of chemicals) and meal time (a bowl of live grubs a piece). As far as Melanie is concerned, this may be how all children live now that the world has fallen to pieces.

Melanie is really in a government research facility, at the mercy of scientists studying the pathogen that creates the hungries. They've captured a select group of high-functioning zombies -- hungries who could pass as regular children, sentient beings still in full possession of their minds. Melanie is one of these special hungries -- and in fact has a genius-level IQ. Because of Melanie's apparent partial immunity and extraordinary intelligence, head scientist Caroline Caldwell believes Melanie's brain will be the key to finding a cure and saving humanity.

But just as Caldwell is about to saw open Melanie's skull -- without anesthesia, of course -- and remove her brain for study, all hell breaks loose. And what happens next will alter the fate of mankind.

If you're into the zombie thing, I'd definitely recommend checking out "The Girl With All the Gifts." From the immensely likable child-zombie main character to the fungus that's ruthlessly turning the world's population into hungries, Carey has written a slightly new take on the tried and true undead tale. This was a page-turner that kept me hooked until the end!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Review: "Delicious!" by Ruth Reichl

"Delicious!" by Ruth Reichl
First published in 2014
400 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
(image from Goodreads)

"Delicious!" was a delightful read that combined all of my favorite things into one book: food, a magazine, New York City, a cool old mansion, letters, WWII historical tidbits, a dog who loves smoothies, libraries, a little romance, and even some serendipity.

Billie has just relocated from California to New York, hoping to bury the difficult events of the past year and start afresh. She's hired as an editorial assistant at legendary food magazine "Delicious!" and meets a wonderful cast of lovable characters. Billie settles right in and explores all the scrumptious food New York has to offer, takes a weekend job at a lovely family-owned deli and before long she's writing lengthy pieces for the magazine. But things go south in a hurry when the corporation that owns "Delicious!" suddenly announces that it's shutting down the beloved magazine.

Billie has lost her anchor, but she may find it again buried in the secret library of the mansion that housed "Delicious!" for so many years. At its heart, this is a tale about a girl who is lost finding herself, coming to grips with the past and discovering her true calling.

"Delicious!" wasn't a perfect book, but I had to give it a high rating because it was such an enjoyable read. It's charming without being too cheesy (though there is plenty of cheese in the book -- mmm, Parmesan!) and features a fantastic group of characters and soooo much mouthwatering food. And it comes with a recipe! :) If you're a foodie and/or like books with a cozy, wonderful sense of atmosphere, this charming novel is for you!

Monday, December 1, 2014

2015 Releases On My Radar

(After discovering lots of other 2015 releases, I added another post on this topic here!)

Hello, book friends! It's time for another Top Ten Tuesday list (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), though I didn't quite make it to 10 this week. The prompt is:

Top 10 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2015

Even after browsing the internet and checking out other bloggers' winter TBR lists, I haven't found that many 2015 releases that I'm excited about. I'm sure they will come -- inevitably, in a far higher quantity than I could ever read -- but for now, here's what I've got:
1. Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich
I've been looking forward to the third installment of Janet Evanovich's Wicked series for a couple years now. I'm not crazy about her other new series, and as much as I love Stephanie Plum those books are definitely getting tired. But I really enjoyed the first two books in the Wicked series. They were a bit silly, sure, but they made me laugh out loud. Sometimes you just need a fun, kooky read!

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I'm hoping this psychological thriller will have me on the edge of my seat!

3. Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
A woman in her 80s decides she wants to see the ocean before she dies, so one morning she gets up and starts walking there. I'm not sure if the tone will be serious or quirky or both, but it looks like it'll be a really good read. At the very least, the cover has my attention!

4. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
I thought "The Bone Season" was pretty good and I'm planning to check out the sequel.

5. "Lair of Dreams" by Libba Bray
Ditto above. "The Diviners" was a decent read and I'll continue with the series.

And one that doesn't have a cover yet:
6. The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
I absolutely loved the post-apocalyptic zombie tome "The Passage," but somehow I went a whole year without reading the second book! The final book releases this summer and I will definitely be ready for it!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Top 10 Books On My Winter To-Read List

Happy Tuesday, book friends! I love doing these quarterly TBR lists with The Broke and the Bookish, particularly as I've actually started referring to them as a guide for what to read next (which is probably the whole idea in the first place, duh!). I did really well with my Fall TBR List -- of the 14 books I mentioned I read nine of them, and I have one checked out and two on request at the library. Not too shabby!

There are tons of books I want to get to this winter, but only one winter 2015 release so far. I'm sure I'll be adding to my to-read list after looking at other bloggers' posts!

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
From the Goodreads summary:
An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse.
*It sounds like this will be a unique take on an apocalyptic plot. And the cover is gorgeous! I'm really excited to read this one.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
From the Goodreads summary:
A debut psychological thriller about a woman who becomes emotionally entangled in a murder investigation because of something she witnesses on her daily commute.

3. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
From the Goodreads summary:
Choose correctly and you’ll find fame, fortune, and true love. Choose incorrectly and you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a guest stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. All this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures from your time as a child actor, and even a closing song. Yes, if you buy one book this year, congratulations on being above the American average, but make that book Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography!
*I don't read a lot of celebrity memoirs, but this is such a clever "why didn't I think of that" format that I can't resist!

4. Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre
From the Goodreads summary:
It’s the rule -- always watch your fives and twenty-fives. When a convoy halts to investigate a possible roadside bomb, stay in the vehicle and scan five meters in every direction. A bomb inside five meters cuts through the armor, killing everyone in the truck. Once clear, get out and sweep twenty-five meters. A bomb inside twenty-five meters kills the dismounted scouts investigating the road ahead.

Fives and twenty-fives mark the measure of a marine’s life in the road repair platoon. Dispatched to fill potholes on the highways of Iraq, the platoon works to assure safe passage for citizens and military personnel. Their mission lacks the glory of the infantry, but in a war where every pothole contains a hidden bomb, road repair brings its own danger.

5. The Forger by Bardford Morrow
From the Goodreads summary:
The rare book world is stunned when a reclusive collector, Adam Diehl, is found on the floor of his Montauk home: hands severed, surrounded by valuable inscribed books and original manuscripts that have been vandalized beyond repair. Adam's sister, Meghan, and her lover, Will -- a convicted if unrepentant literary forger -- struggle to come to terms with the seemingly incomprehensible murder. But when Will begins receiving threatening handwritten letters, seemingly penned by long-dead authors, but really from someone who knows secrets about Adam's death and Will's past, he understands his own life is also on the line -- and attempts to forge a new beginning for himself and Meg.

6. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
From the Goodreads summary:
Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation….What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion.
*I need more thrillers and more series in my life. This fits both bills!

7. Neverhome by Laird Hunt
From the Goodreads summary:
An extraordinary novel about a wife who disguises herself as a man and goes off to fight in the Civil War.

8. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
From the Goodreads summary:
The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.
*Must read more classics! I'm so intrigued by the plot, which is about a society in which books are forbidden (gasp!).

9. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
From the Goodreads summary:
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.
*I'm finally going to start this series!

10. The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant
From the Goodreads summary:
An inspiring story of survival and our powerful bond with man's best friend, in the aftermath of the nation's most notorious case of animal cruelty.
*"The Lost Dogs" is the first book on my Goodreads to-read list and I'm tired of looking at it every time I access my list. Plus it sounds like a great story. Grr, Michael Vick, grr!

Monday Musings 2

Do you ever have weeks where you're just in a funk? Where you're in a perpetual state of grumpiness, you feel like crap mentally and physically, everything seems just... blah, everyone you know gets on your nerves, and you just feel burnt out on your day-to-day life? Where you're fully aware that you're acting like a total bitch, yet you can't stop? That was me last week.

Here's hoping I can leave my melancholy mood behind and enjoy Thanksgiving week! For now, here are some of the good things that happened to me while I was busy being a grouch:

I spent Monday morning doing this:
Snow day! We had 3-4 inches of snow from Sunday to Monday and I got to go into work 2 1/2 hours late. And what better way to spend a snowy, cold morning than work on my Gryffindor scarf while watching "Harry Potter"?!

These arrived:
I've had my eye on these teal pointy-toe flats from Old Navy forever, but I never saw them at the store and I didn't want to pay $7 for shipping. Finally they went on sale -- and there was free shipping! You can bet I snatched these puppies up. How sweet are these shoes?!

I wore this:
I wear jeans a lot. Like, almost every single day of the year regardless of the season. They're my daily uniform. But this summer I bought a couple skirts hoping to branch out a bit. This one was too short to wear to work without something under it, but it looks pretty awesome with leggings. I took a step out of my comfort zone with this outfit and was rewarded with several compliments. Woo hoo!

We bought these:
Florida Georgia Line, baby! We went to see them with Jason Aldean in Columbus back in September, but it was a total clusterfuck getting into the concert and we missed half of FGL! This time they're going to be right here in Dayton and I couldn't be more excited to have a second chance to see my favorite country group!

I whipped this up:
That is one badass pom-pom, if I do say so myself! :)

We saw this:
It was really good, though I wasn't quite as blown away as I was with "Catching Fire." I'm already looking forward to the conclusion next year. I wonder what they'll do about Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character, or if they'd already done most of the filming before he died? If you've already seen "Mockingjay," what did you think? Ooh, and I really loved that Lorde song that played during the credits, "Flicker." Look it up if you like Lorde!

I discovered this guy:

I first heard "Take Me To Church" a few months ago (which is not actually about going to church at all, but rather more of a political commentary) and finally listened to Hozier's whole album on Spotify. What a gorgeous, soulful sound he has!
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