Monday, August 31, 2015

10 Book Characters I Just Didn't Click With

Today for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, we get to talk about characters we didn't get along with. What a lovely opportunity to vent some of my dislike! When I was looking through some past reviews to compile this post, I noticed two things: I have a hard time clicking with characters in YA books, and I really overuse the word "likeable"!

Do tell, are there any characters you had a hard time connecting with?

From my review: "I found Allyson to be kind of annoying, needy and weak-willed throughout pretty much the entire book... not to mention clingy and obsessive and extremely naive. I had to keep reminding myself that the point of the book was Allyson's revolution -- she had to recognize and shed those traits to become a new person in the end. But really, I spent most of the book just wanting to take her by the shoulders, give her a good shake and tell her to let Willem go!"

From my review: "So why on earth should we feel sorry for Allison? I could not relate to Allison's decisions, and because she was so gratingly whiny and full of excuses and convinced that she was the only one competent enough to manage everything, I wasn't able to muster any empathy or compassion for the hole she dug herself into."

Ugh. I hated everyone in this book! As a military spouse, I was completely disgusted by the reactions the main character's family had to her deployment to Iraq. "Not clicking" is an understatement!

From my review, on the 12-year-old daughter: "At the beginning of the book she passionately pleads with Jolene not to humiliate her by going to her school's career day. Throughout the book, Betsy persists with this kind of maddening behavior. I call BS."

From my review, on the (total ass of a) husband: "Jolene's husband has never supported her military service, feels emasculated by her strength and independence, is not proud of her for serving her country, is angry at her for deploying and leaving him to care for their two daughters, and is complete jerk about the whole thing. Apparently, her continued service has caused him to fall out of love with her, and he tells her so right before she heads off to spend the most dangerous year of her life in Iraq. " 

Apparently I hated everyone in this book too!

From my review: "I didn't really like Cadence, with all her whining and naivete. I didn't really like the snobbish, over-dramatic and petty nature of the old-money Sinclair family. I didn't really like the annoying made-up names like Mirren and Taft. I didn't even like Gat, the only down-to-earth character."

From my review: "Despite the fairly interesting story, the fascinating Civil War atmosphere and the stellar writing, I had a really hard time connecting with Constance. Even though she was admirable in many ways, Constance wasn't very likeable. And I never really cared what happened to her; the most I could muster was mild curiosity over whether she'd make it home alive or not."

We get to know Manon, the main character's former lover, through her journal entries. I despised this selfish, have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too character. We can't all be wild and free and follow our heart's every whim regardless of who we hurt. What makes her so special?

From my review: "Even Laura herself comes off as whiny, mean and obstinate, especially in her younger years, and it was hard to muster sympathy for our main character, despite her pitiful lot in life. Doctor Howe was the worst, written as a misogynistic, egotistical jerk whose real interest in Laura was as a religious experiment in his fight against Calvinism."

From my review: "'At times I had trouble identifying with Alice -- she was just so incredibly naive! And Alice's extremely rapid descent into addiction seemed a bit unrealistic to me -- as did certain plot elements, like Alice peddling LSD to a 9-year-old."

I don't remember exactly why I had a hard time relating to June, but I do know I never really warmed up to her.

From my review: "Something about Jio's writing style bothered me, and I also didn't love June, our protagonist. It reminded me a little bit of 'You've Got Mail,' but not as good."

From my review: "While I really liked and admired Hazel and her boyfriend Augustus, I don't think we would have been friends as teenagers. They're just a bit too... existential and philosophical and self-possessed, which is quite possibly an inevitable side effect of having cancer at 16. But I think that's part of the reason the novel didn't resonate with me as much as it did for others."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Monday Musings


Highlight(s) of the week: We were still on vacation in the Smoky Mountains the first part of last week and it was absolutely amazing! We've never had a bad trip there, but this one was especially great as we got to see two black bears! (Our first encounter was almost a little too close! We were hiking back down from a waterfall and turned a curve in the trail -- and there he was, right smack in the middle of the trail! He even gave us a small hiss/growl warning. Eek! I was kinda nervous, but luckily I have a husband who never gets frazzled and knew exactly what to do!) The first bear is the one we saw on our Rainbow Falls hike, the second we glimpsed while driving through beautiful Cades Cove.

bear collage

Reading: I finally finished "The Little Paris Bookshop" (it seemed to take me for-ev-er to read this little book) and started "The Book of Speculation" by Erica Swyler. By page 5 I was already way more interested in this book than I ever was in "Little Paris." The book itself is beautiful, the writing is great and the plot is intriguing so far! I'm also continuing to listen to the audiobook of "Storm Front," the first Harry Dresden novel by Jim Butcher. I'm a little over halfway done and enjoying it.


Knitting: I haven't made much progress on my sweater lately since we were on vacation, but the other day I had a chance to finish the i-cord bind-off along the front and bottom. I'm hoping to star the first sleeve today! It's coming along. :)


Watching: Hardly anything! We took a couple movies along on our trip and we didn't have a chance to watch any of them. My guilty pleasure, "Switched at Birth" on ABC Family, started back last week and I'm excited to watch it on the DVR soon.

Eating: Homemade refrigerator pickles. Jarrod and I turned some of our cucumber bounty into some quick and delicious pickles!

Looking forward to: My trip home to Colorado to visit my family and take in some Rocky Mountain air! Just a few more days. How lucky am I that I get to experience two stunning and very different mountain ranges in less than two weeks?!

Not looking forward to: My dentist appointment this afternoon. Ugh!!!

Quotes of the week: "If you want to be worshipped, go to India and moo!" -- Herbie Stempel to his wife in the 1994 movie "Quiz Show," which I just finally got around to watching. I thought that was a pretty good zinger!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Monday Musings

Bristol 130

Highlights of the week: Holy cow, this week was totally awesome! There was a highlight on every day:

Monday: My husband is in the Air Force and we'll be moving to a new base this winter. The assignment list with all the possible jobs for Jarrod's rank and career field was released Monday, so now we know what our potential living locations might be! There were some not-so-great places but some exciting ones too, like Colorado, California, Seattle, Alaska, Virginia, Florida, Germany and England. Now Jarrod has to put together his top-20 list and we'll find out this fall where we're moving. (There's NO guarantee whatsoever that he'll get anything he wants -- it hasn't happened yet! -- so we'll just have to wait with bated breath!)

Tuesday: We went to see the Broadway show "The Book of Mormon"! It was written by the creators of "South Park" (Colorado natives -- woo hoo!) and it was absolutely hilarious. I fully recommend it! Even Jarrod was laughing out loud, and that never happens.

Wednesday - Thursday: My best friend Katie was in town for her brother's wedding and we got to hang out in the middle of the week. Katie lives in Dallas and I hardly get to see her, so any day we spend together is a great one!

Friday: We set off for Tennessee and Jarrod's 30th birthday gift from me, the NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Saturday: The race! It was my first-ever NASCAR race and it was so much fun. A lot of people say, "Why would you want to watch cars driving around in a circle?" and I admit that I usually read or knit while my husband watches races on TV, but in person it was a totally different experience! The vibration in my seat, the smell of rubber, the incredible noise! It was a blast!

Sunday: We visited the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, which was just gorgeous. The Vanderbilt residence, finished in 1895, is the largest privately-owned house in North America with 250 rooms and situated on 8,000 beautiful acres. Not surprisingly, my favorite room was the library. And the gardens were totally stunning -- they were designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted, landscape architect of Central Park and the Chicago World's Fair, who was featured in a great book I read a few months ago, "The Devil in the White City." After touring the Biltmore, we headed  back to Tennessee and made our way to our cabin in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg. The Smokies are one of my favorite places on the planet. So incredibly peaceful and relaxing.


Also: Our veggie garden is doing awesome this year, as you can see below. And our mini pumpkins have exploded. Fingers crossed for a bumper crop -- I love pumpkins!


Reading: I'm still working my way through "The Little Paris Bookshop." It seems like it's taking me forever to read this short book! I think it has something to do with it being translated; the writing just doesn't always flow that well for me. I also started the audiobook of the first Harry Dresden novel by Jim Buctcher, "Storm Front." I'm enjoying the narration so far, and the story is intriguing.

Eating: Tons of barbecue! We ate at Ridgewood Barbecue near Bristol and Moe's Original Bar-B-Que in Asheville, and we'll be eating at Calhoun's and Hungry Bears BBQ here in Gatlinburg. Also, Krispy Kreme donuts! We have a tradition of always getting a box of fresh  Krispy Kremes when we arrive in Gatlinburg. We accidentally attracted a bear to our cabin with our empty Krispy Kreme box the first time we came here together two years ago (blame the cabin owner for not having a fully bear-proof trash can) and now we get Krispy Kremes as our bear-sighting good luck charm. Hasn't failed us yet!


Looking forward to: Spending the next couple days in the enchanted forest that is the Smoky Mountains!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Mini Reviews: "Armada" by Ernest Cline and "Someday, Someday, Maybe" by Lauren Graham

"Armada" by Ernest Cline
First published in 2015
349 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

I pretty much knew from the first page -- on which our main character spots a flying saucer through the window of his math classroom -- that I was going to like this novel.

I read and loved "Ready Player One" back in March and I was really looking forward to Ernest Cline's sophomore effort, "Armada." It was such a fun story and -- other than being what I call "sci-fi lite" -- the plot was totally different from "RPO." It wasn't quite as creative, but the writing was a little better. Both books are awesome and you should read 'em!

Zack Lightman of "Armada" is a totally likeable high school senior who lives with his single mom (his dad died in a workplace accident when he was just a baby) and is obsessed with his favorite video game, "Armada," a flight simulator that involves fending off alien invaders. But it turns out that the weapons, the aircraft and the aliens in the game might not be so fictional after all!

Don't be put off if science fiction isn't your usual thing -- both "Ready Player One" and "Armada" are accessible to all readers. There were a couple references (like "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" ) that went over my head, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story. And both of these books made me feel like being a major geek is the coolest thing ever. They made me want to time-travel back to the 1980s and visit an arcade, have Atari marathons, listen to '80s rock and wear acid-wash jeans!

(P.S. Don't miss the special touch Cline added in the back of the book. Throughout the story, Zack talks about his dad's "Raid the Arcade" cassette tape full of '80s songs, which has become Zack's playlist for gaming. Cline included the list -- on a photocopied Maxwell cassette tape track list -- so readers can listen to all the awesome '80s rock themselves!)

"Someday, Someday, Maybe" by Lauren Graham
First published in 2013
Audiobook read by the author
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

"Someday, Someday, Maybe" was a cute, chick lit-y read about a 20-something aspiring actress living in New York City in 1995 (there's perhaps a little something autobiographical going on here). If you know Lauren Graham from "Gilmore Girls," you'd agree her main character Frannie Banks is exactly the type you'd expect her to write -- funny, self-deprecating, a little naive, full of gumption and kinda kooky, probably a lot like a young Lauren Graham.

I was so glad I decided to listen to the audiobook -- Graham's voice perfectly fits Frannie's character -- and I highly recommend going that route. I liked the story well enough overall, and I definitely enjoyed the 1990s setting with relics like cassette-tape answering machines, pagers, chunky Doc Martens, pantyhose and cash-everything.

However, the plot was predictable in the extreme -- from the love triangle to the fiasco of hiring an agent to the conclusion -- and the writing was alright but not great. But obviously Graham is an actress first and writer on the side, so I didn't expect to be blown away by a literary masterpiece. If I hadn't listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author herself, I would've given it 3 stars for an ok read. The extra half-star is for the personality and sense of character imbued by listening to Lauren Graham's narration.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

15 Auto-Read Authors

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today's topic for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is our top 10 auto-buy authors. Seeing as I work at a library, I seldom buy books, especially brand-new ones. But there are some authors who, when they have a new book coming out, I'm always scrambling to be the first person on the holds list.

These are my auto-read authors. Who are yours?

 Jojo Moyes // Tasha Alexander
 (I'm gradually working my way through all of Jojo Moyes' books. So far I've read three, but eventually I'll read all of them!) 

 Donna Andrews // Janet Evanovich

 Ernest Cline // Paula McLain

 Laura Hillenbrand // Gillian Flynn

 W. Bruce Cameron // Emily Giffin

Pierce Brown // Samantha Shannon
(Along with Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily mysteries, these are my favorite ongoing series -- and I will read anything these authors write after their series are over. That'll be a while for Samantha Shannon as her series still has five books to go, but the final book of the Red Rising trilogy comes out next January.)

 Deborah Harkness
(I'm anxiously awaiting Deborah Harkness's follow-up to the All Souls trilogy!)

And these authors have only written one book so far, but I will definitely read whatever they put out next!
 Andy Weir // Bee Ridgway

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Musings


Highlight of the week: Eating tons of tomatoes fresh from the garden!

Reading: I finished and totally loved "Armada" by Ernest Cline (review to come!) and I finished up the audiobook of "Someday, Someday, Maybe" by Lauren Graham. It was perfect to listen to while knitting and I enjoyed hearing Lauren read her own novel. I started "The Little Paris Bookshop" a couple days ago but I've hardly read any at all! I've been so busy doing other stuff this week (gasp!). I also have "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" on my iPad and ready to start listening to. Kinda sad to be on the last Harry Potter audiobook. I've enjoyed listening to them so much!

Knitting: I'm absolutely loving my BlueSand Cardigan! This picture was taken a whole week ago, and I've made a good amount of progress since then. I'm almost done with the ribbed border that goes all along the front. After that's done, I do an i-cord bind-off along the entire thing (which will probably take forever!) and then the only big thing left will be the sleeves. I'm totally in love with the striped pocket linings.


We watched the season finales of "Poldark" (really good!) and "True Detective" season 2 (blah) this week. I'm so glad that "Poldark" is coming back for an even longer season of 10 episodes next year. "True Detective," on the other hand, was a huge disappointment -- nowhere near as good as season 1. We also went to see the new "Mission Impossible" movie and enjoyed it (and the fact that we got a free popcorn!).

Trying: Hair chalk! As you can see in the top picture, I had a pinkish-purple streak in my hair on Friday. I love working at a place where we get to put colored stripes in each other's hair! :) And I also really, really liked my pink streak. I'm thinking about making it permanent!

Eating: I finally found an awesome baked bean recipe that we both agreed was a keeper from the first bite! (Patio Pintos via Taste of Home)

Following: hotdudesreading on Instagram. One of my friends at work told me about the account, and god bless her for it ! ;)   

Looking forward to: Oh my goodness, this next week is going to be totally awesome! On Tuesday we're going to see "The Book of Mormon," Wednesday and Thursday I'll get to hang out with my best friend who will be in town for her brother's wedding, and then we head off to the Smoky Mountains!

Quote of the week: "With all due respect, what you read is more important in the long term than the man you marry, ma chere, Madame." -- Monsieur Perdu in "The Little Paris Bookshop" by Nina George

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My 10 Most-Read Authors

Today the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish have asked us to talk about the authors we've read the most. My top 10 is going to be a bit misleading, but I decided to do it anyway because, well, it's hard to resist making lists! As I've mentioned before, since I started blogging and working at a library I'm far less likely to read a whole slew of books by the same author. This is not a good thing and I'm trying to rectify it!

What that means is that I started reading every author on this list before I started blogging four (!!!) years ago. A few, like Tasha Alexander, Janet Evanovich, Emily Giffin, Dan Brown and Donna Andrews are auto-reads for me, but I've either grown out of or neglected some of these authors for at least a couple years! So, while this list is indeed the authors I've read the most, it's not an entirely accurate representation of the authors I've read the most lately. So, without futher ado:

Janet Evanovich: 28+ books
21 Stephanie Plum books
3 between-the-numbers Plum books
3 Lizzy and Diesel books
1 Fox and O'Hare book
a few pre-Plum novels like "Motor Mouth"

Donna Andrews: 18 books
18 Meg Langslow mysteries

Rick Riordan: 10 books
5 Percy Jackson and the Olympians books
5 Heroes of Olympus books

J.K. Rowling: 9 1/2 books
7 Harry Potter books
"The Tales of Beedle the Bard"
"The Casual Vacancy"
half of "The Cuckoo's Calling"

Tasha Alexander: 9 books
9 Lady Emily mysteries

Philippa Gregory: 8 books

Sophie Kinsella: 7 books

Emily Giffin: 6 books
(still need to read "Baby Proof")

Dan Brown: 6 books
4 Robert Landgon books
"Deception Point"
"Digital Fortress"

Jodi Picoult: 4 books
I feel like I must have forgotten at least one or two, though, because I could swear I've read more.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Musings


Highlights of the week: Jarrod was still gone last week (he's home now, yay!) and I was getting pretty lonely with just the cat for company! I did enjoy several evenings of reading in the hammock and basking in the absolutely perfect Ohio summer weather we've had lately. It's hard to beat 80 and mostly sunny. Also, I ate an entire bag of popcorn for dinner one night, which was pretty awesome. This is what happens when I'm left to my own devices!

Reading: This week I finished "See Also Murder" by Larry Sweazy (review) and "In the Unlikely Event" by Judy Blume (review). Both were ok -- though the Judy Blume book was a much better form of "ok" than the mystery. On Saturday I started "Armada" by Ernest Cline, his follow-up to "Ready Player One," and I'm really enjoying it so far. It was tough to decide what to read next -- as you can see, I had quite a fabulous selection!


Knitting: Still hard at work on my BlueSand Cardigan. It's coming along wonderfully! I'm having so much fun knitting my first sweater that I've already selected a pattern for sweater #2! I'll post progress pictures of my sweater on the blog soon.

Watching: One of my goals for Jarrod's two weeks away was to get a whole bunch of stuff from the DVR watched -- and I was terrifically successful on that front (not that it was that hard, let's be honest)! I'm now totally caught up on one of my guilty pleasures, the ABC Family show "Chasing Life," and I started season 1 of the Masterpiece Mystery series "Grantchester." A cute WWII soldier turned vicar (i.e. nice guy!) who solves murders and drinks too much? Count me in!

I also watched "Out of Africa" with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.  I was inspired to watch it after reading Paula McLain's new book, "Circling the Sun" (review). Young Meryl Streep is absolutely stunning!

Trying: Aztec Secret bentonite clay mask -- supposedly works wonders on skin! And Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pens, my first-ever fountain pens.

Looking forward to: Now that Jarrod's home, we can see the new "Mission: Impossible" movie! And -- one week from today -- the assignment list for our move comes out! We won't find out where we'll be stationed next until October but this is the list of all the open jobs for Jarrod's rank and career field -- and one of them will be his! Fingers crossed for some awesome locations!

Quote of the week: "Once you have a wonderful dog, a life without one is diminished." So true. We miss our dear, sweet Conan so much!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Book Review: "In the Unlikely Event" by Judy Blume

"In the Unlikely Event" by Judy Blume
First published in 2015
397 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads


*The plotline of three planes crashing in the same New Jersey town in the early 1950s is not as crazy as it sounds. Judy Blume actually grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, site of three plane crashes in 8 weeks the year she was 15.

*I loved the 1951-52 small-town New Jersey setting. It's fun to be transported back to a time when girls wore skirts and dresses every day, soda fountains were a thing, and everyone got their news from an actual newspaper. The historical fiction aspect of the book was great.

*Speaking of newspapers,  I really enjoyed the newspaper "clippings" at the beginning of every chapter. The colorful and rather biased reporting was apparently true to form, as Blume says in the acknowledgments section that she used some wording from actual newspaper stories covering the plane crashes. It added another level of interest to the story.

*This is marketed as an adult book, but I thought it was more of a a teen coming-of-age story that, oh, just so happens to have a handful of horrific plane crashes thrown in. Judy Blume is famous for her kids' and young adult books, and I felt like this was really just a YA book with a few adult characters stuck in as an afterthought.

*Continuing that thought, the plane crashes -- the focus of the first half of the book -- really don't have anything to do with the underlying storyline, which takes the lead in the second part of the book. I expected the crashes to have more of an impact overall. Otherwise, what was the point of making them the star of the novel?

*There were way too many points-of-view. Perspectives changed multiple times in every chapter, and some of the characters were totally unnecessary to the story. It was a bit hard to keep the minor characters straight and I wish Blume had cut them out and let us hear more from some of the people we actually cared about (like the compelling Rusty, our main character's single mother, who got pregnant at 18 out of wedlock at a time when that was a cardinal sin -- and still managed to eke out a pretty good life for her small family).

*The main narrator, Miri, is only 15. I'm sure I was naive about plenty of things at that age, but Miri is painfully and irritatingly so. Sometimes I yearned to give her a good, hard shake on the shoulders. In fact I felt all the young women in the book were completely in the dark about so many things -- especially sex. No, you cannot get pregnant just from being touched down there, ya dummy! (Thank god we live in the 21st century where I'm pretty sure no high school seniors could possibly think that. Blume put quite a bit of teen sex talk in the book [my this-is-a-YA-book-in-adult-clothing warning bells are going off here!] and I was pretty disgusted by the misogynistic and sexually repressive culture of the '50s -- really not all that long ago.)

This book wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it could've been better. If it had been more adult-oriented I probably would've given it 4 stars. Still, I was really intrigued by the based-in-fact plane crash plot... it's nuts to think our author lived through that terrifying time herself!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Book Review: "I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson

"I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson
First published in 2014
371 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short of It:
This book was awesome. Read it.

The Long of It:
Other than the Hunger Games trilogy, I don't think I've ever awarded 5 stars to a YA book. Young adult books usually just aren't my thing, and I often tend to be particularly harsh when reading overly hyped ones. But "I'll Give You the Sun" transcended all that. It was not a typical YA book. In other words -- I loooooooved it!

"I'll Give You the Sun" is a story of secrets and lies, guilt and grief, love and forgiveness and family, art and creativity -- and most importantly, about figuring out who you are, flaws and all. Its real, raw themes are relevant to people of all ages, and the brilliant, lovely, metaphor-filled writing is so incredibly readable and complex that it'll appeal to everyone. Sorry here, YA superfans, but seldom do young adult books possess the depth of plot and skilled writing that adult books often have (which makes sense, because they're for teenagers), but Nelson didn't dumb down anything for her audience.

So what's it about? Jude and Noah are twins, nearly inseparable from birth to age 13, despite their differences: Jude is beautiful and popular and full of daring, and Noah is artistic and quiet and a little odd. But during their 13th summer, everything changes. Bit by bit, their relationship devolves until, at age 16, they barely speak to each other. The story alternates between age 13 and age 16, with Noah telling us the story of their 13-year-old selves and Jude narrating three years later.

I can't remember the last time a book got at my emotions like "I'll Give You the Sun" did. I gasped aloud, I smiled, I cringed, I chuckled. Nelson crafted two extremely lovable, extremely imperfect characters and you'll be rooting for them -- and for their relationship with each other -- the whole time.

I highly recommend this book for teens and grown-ups alike. The broad themes are ones everybody can relate to, and the writing is wonderful. Let the beautiful cover draw you in, and then get lost in the story of Jude and Noah.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review: "See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery" by Larry Sweazy

"See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery" by Larry Sweazy
First published in 2015
250 pages
My rating: 2.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short of It:
The unique main character and setting held promise, but the murder-mystery fell completely flat for me. Interesting story, terrible mystery. (I do love the cover, though!)

The Long of It:
As far as amateur sleuths go, Marjorie Trumaine is one of the most novel I've read about. In 1964, she lives with her husband, Hank -- who is paralyzed from the neck down after a hunting accident  -- on their rural North Dakota farm. To make extra money, she works as a professional indexer, creating indexes for the backs of nonfiction books, a perfect task for a booklover with an organized and analytical mind. Life has thrown a lot of challenges Marjorie's way, and her perseverance and take-it-as-it-comes attitude are admirable.

When her friends at the neighboring farm are horrifically murdered -- their throats slit while they slept -- Marjorie gets drawn into the into the investigation when the sheriff asks her to look into an element of Norse mythology found at the scene. Eventually, realizing she's the only person with all the pieces to the puzzle, she knows it's up to her to find the killer.

Interestingly, Marjorie creates an index to organize her thoughts when the time comes to solve the murder, which was completely new to me. I also liked that the book was set in a rural location in the '60s -- post-horse-drawn carriage and telegram, pre-computer -- which added an element of interest to the story. In this age of smartphones, can you imagine making a phone call on a party line where any of your neighbors could be listening in, with the quality of the call subject to the wind's swaying of the phone lines?

Unfortunately, despite the clever characterization and choice of location and time period, I didn't love this mystery in the end -- because the mystery didn't seem to be the focus of the story. It was like: meet Marjorie, indexer, farmer and wife to an invalid husband who, oh, just so happens to solve a string of grisly murders in her quiet North Dakota town. Hardly any detective work happened. And, once all was revealed, the killer's motive was barely explained and rather confusing. I didn't feel I got a satisfying conclusion to the mystery at all. I learned a lot about Marjorie, but not what drove a person to commit several murders.

I had a hard time choosing a rating for "See Also Murder." On the one hand, the writing was better than adequate (though there were a few times I was irritated by clumsy sentences or repetitive wording), Marjorie was an interesting and likeable main character, and the setting was unique. And I even learned something -- I really had no idea what goes into creating back-of-the-book indexes (and the author himself is a professional indexer by trade). But this book is advertised as a mystery -- it says so right in the title -- and I was wholeheartedly disappointed in that aspect.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I Judge Books By Their Covers: "The Bookseller"

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

Confession: I always judge books by their covers. A book's appearance -- from the artwork to the font to the colors to the texture to the weight and cut of the pages (I like the ragged-edged ones) -- is very important to me. And there are certain kinds of covers I like and certain ones I'd never pick up unless I was already planning to read the book. It's fascinating to see how covers change between editions -- hardcover and paperback, or U.S. and international. I'm always discussing book covers with my co-workers at the library, so I thought it would be fun to share some beautiful -- and awful -- covers here!

The cover on the left is the U.S. edition, the right is the U.K. version.

 The German version with the title "When I Woke Up."

As I mention in my review, half the reason "The Bookseller" caught my attention is that it's got the word "book" in the title and features a book on the cover. (The other half of the reason is that it's set in Colorado, my home state, in the '60s.) I wasn't overly wowed by Swanson's novel, but I thought it would be fun to compare covers.

Out of the three options, the U.S. cover is the one most likely to cause me to pick up the book and read the blurb if I saw it sitting on a shelf somewhere -- but it really doesn't do anything to tell the reader what the book is about. The main character owns a bookstore, but other than that books don't really come into play at all.

The U.K. cover gives the best idea of what the story is about -- the same woman living two very different lives. I don't hate the artwork, but it doesn't do much for me either. The vintage coloring conveys the appropriate time period, but it's not as aesthetically pleasing as the U.S. cover. I think it just needs more of something. (Or less of something? Maybe that bright aqua stripe down the front is distracting.)

The German cover -- WTF, Germany? I have absolutely no idea what any of that has to do with the story. A cityscape, some brightly colored polka dots, birds, flowers? However, the title (can someone tell me why they change these things?!) actually fits the story far, far better than "The Bookseller." It translates to "When I Woke Up," and it's fitting because the main character of the book is living in two worlds, a dream world she visits at night and her real life. On top of that, she's eventually "woken up" -- snapped out of the fog she's been living in.

I wish the book had the German title and some cross between the U.S. and British artwork. Mish-mash all three and you'd actually have a beautiful cover that gives the reader some clue as to what lies on the pages within!

Winner: ?
A cross between all three would be ideal.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Musings


Highlight(s) of the week: Jarrod was gone for work this week and I definitely made the best of having the house to myself. Of course I miss him, but I did enjoy finally watching all of last season's "Downton Abbey" (can you believe there will only be one more season? Sniff, sniff...) and spending a shameful number of hours outside reading in my hammock.

I also did some online shopping this week and ordered this awesome Hermione Granger shirt that says, "When in doubt, go to the library." Is there a more perfect shirt to wear to work at the library? And I also ordered some Pilot Varsity fountain pens. I've been wanting to start writing my letters with a fountain pen for a while and I'm told these disposables are perfect starter pens.

Thinking: Can you believe it's August and that the summer is 2/3 over already? Ohio had such a cool, rainy start to the season and it's only now feeling like actual summer. I'm definitely enjoying the blue skies and copious sunshine -- and I wish we could just press pause! We have a busy month and a half ahead of us and before we know it, it'll be fall. This is our last summer in Ohio before we move to parts unknown next winter. I love Ohio summers and I'm trying to enjoy the mild nights, bountiful fireflies, beautiful wildflowers and all the sweet corn and delicious ice cream cones I can handle!

Reading: As I mentioned, this was a banner week for reading. I finished up the audiobook of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (I can't say enough about the awesome HP audiobooks!), finished "The Kill Artist" by Daniel Silva (ok), read "The Bookseller" by Cynthia Swanson (meh) and blew through "I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson (surprisingly phenomenal). Now I'm reading "See Also Murder" by Larry Sweazy, set in the 1960s and about an indexer (literally, a woman who makes indexes for the back of books) and a murder mystery.

Knitting: Still working on my BlueSand Cardgian. It was coming out way to small so I ended up ripping the entire thing out and starting over last Monday. I was devastated, and I almost shed a tear over the whole fiasco! But now I'm back on track and almost caught up to the place I had been before disaster ensued.

Watching: I watched all of last season's "Downton Abbey," which was totally awesome, as well as "The Longest Ride," which was surprisingly good for a Nicholas Sparks movie. Not only was it the best Sparks movie I've seen (and, yes, I think I've seen them all), it was the best movie I've watched in a while. After I finished "Downton" I watched the first episode of another PBS series, "Mr. Selfridge." I wasn't totally hooked, though, so I'm not sure if I'll continue. I also watched "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" since I just finished the audiobook and was reminded of how different the movies are from the books. Ugh!

Last week I mentioned that I made these blackberry cheesecake bars from the Pioneer Woman to take into work. Well, I saved a few for myself and I ate them alllll week. And they only got better with time. I highly recommend this recipe!


Quote of the week: "Books were my transport to the larger world, even though I'd castrated more hogs than I would like to admit, pulled weeds until my hands ached well into winter, and withstood the fickleness of North Dakota weather like every other farmer's wife I knew. Farm work was in my blood, but books had always been my first true love. They were my magic carpet ride to a normal life; my sanity." -- Marjorie Trumaine in "See Also Murder" by Larry Sweazy
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