Saturday, July 30, 2016

2015 Travel Recap: Colorado Part 2: Rocky Mountain National Park

Aloha and welcome to part six of my 2015 travel recap! It was a fabulous year of travel for us and I'm excited to share it all with you -- even if we are now rapidly approaching a year overdue!

You can see the previous posts here: Hawaii, Gettysburg, New York City, Tennessee/North Carolina, and Colorado Part 1.

Last September Jarrod and I traveled to my home state of Colorado for a beautiful autumn visit -- the first time I had been back in the fall since 2009! We had a wonderful time with my family and took every opportunity we could to get outdoors. We took an overnight getaway to Rocky Mountain National Park and were lucky to see the aspens already beginning to change in the higher mountain climate. We also did two lovely hikes and saw tons of elk!

The timing of our trip was ridiculously fitting. Jarrod and I met in college, and the first weekend of October 2005 we took a weekend getaway to Rocky Mountain National Park to celebrate our 1-year dating anniversary. Almost exactly 10 years later, we headed back -- and we even did the same waterfall hike, Alberta Falls, that we did that very first time. It was even more beautiful than I remembered, and Jarrod brought his new fold-up fishing pole and was thrilled to catch a rare brook trout above the waterfall.

The second day of our trip was a full one! In the morning we did a gorgeous though somewhat strenuous (at least when you're not acclimated to above-sea-level air!) hike to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Emerald Lake. Then we took the easy path around Bear Lake, which is right next to the trailhead for the three lakes.

The lakes: (top right) Bear Lake; (middle left) Nymph Lake; (middle right) Dream Lake; (bottom right) Emerald Lake.

After lunch we did one of our favorite RMNP activities: the drive up Old Fall River Road (a one-way 11-mile gravel road that quickly takes you up and away from traffic and tourists) to the Alpine Visitor Center and back down Trail Ridge Road. We saw two black bears cross the road right in front of us toward the start of Old Fall River Road, but we weren't fast enough to get a photo. That's the first time I've seen a black bear in person in Colorado -- all my previous sightings have been in Tennessee!

I absolutely LOVE the landscape surrounding Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road. The end of the road is above the treeline and the alpine meadows are stunning. It's also cold -- there are patches of snow up there all year round, and the roads are closed during winter.

I'm a little bit obsessed with yellow-bellied marmots -- I think these groundhog cousins are just the cutest things -- and one was waiting for us at the visitor center. After I told him I'd make him famous on my blog, he was more than happy to pose for some photos before scampering off.

Friday, July 29, 2016

I Judge Books By Their Covers: "Burial Rites"

 I'm Lindsay, I'm a bookaholic, and I absolutely judge books by their covers. 

Today we're comparing covers for "Burial Rites," a beautiful novel I recently devoured and awarded 5 stars (review). It's about a woman facing the possibility of execution after being accused of a terrible crime, and the author vividly depicts the harsh and weather-worn Iceland of 200 years ago. Which cover do you prefer?

U.S. hardcover // U.S. paperback

 U.K. hardcover // U.K. paperback

I think the U.S. hardcover -- the book I read -- is actually my least favorite of these four options. I love the large calligraphic text, but the image of a woman in profile clutching a shawl doesn't do a lot for me. Likewise, I'm not a fan of the bright blue cover on the U.K. paperback.

I like the U.K. hardcover, with it's simple lines and just a pop of color in the raven feather. It conveys the starkness of the setting, 19th century northern Iceland. But if it were side by side with the U.S. paperback, I think that's the one I would be more likely to grab. Overall, it's more pleasing to my eye, and it also makes clear that it's a historical fiction novel, whereas the U.K. hardcover could easily be anything from gothic to crime thriller. I love the rugged, beautiful scenery in the background and I'm intrigued by the rather foreboding image of three ravens circling overhead. The colors are subtle but eye-catching. I appreciate how the artwork manages to convey so much -- a historical setting, cold weather, a dismal atmosphere, a female main character -- without feeling overwhelming.

My winner: U.S. paperback

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

"Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent
First published in 2013
319 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:

Haunting, beautiful and devastating. I loved this novel set in early-1800s Iceland about the fate of an accused murderess.

The Long Of It:
"Burial Rites" has a lot going for it, but my favorite aspect of the novel was the stark, rugged, hardscrabble setting of rural Iceland in 1829. It's cold, it's dark, it's brutal and I would absolutely not want to live there (despite the glaciers and the Northern lights), but I was more than happy to travel there through Hannah Kent's masterful writing.

The atmosphere is made all the more grim by our protagonist, a beautiful, mysterious and fiery woman named Agnes Magnusdottir, an accused murderess awaiting execution for a brutal crime that she may or may not have committed. As the story unfolds, we learn that her past has been maligned by the worst of luck and the hardest of circumstances, from her very first days on earth to the stabbing and fire at the farm where she was employed, for which she stood trial.

With her execution looming -- though the date is uncertain -- Agnes is moved from the atrocious conditions of the Stora-Borg prison to live out her remaining days with a district officer and his family on their country farm. As she regains a sense of normalcy in day-to-day tasks like churning butter, knitting and helping with the harvest, Agnes slowly reveals her story to the reverend who has been assigned to bring her soul up to snuff before the ax hits her neck.

I enjoyed "Burial Rites" for so many reasons: a unique inspired-by-true-events plot; stunningly beautiful writing; a vividly depicted setting; a glimpse into Icelandic culture, history and language; and a flawed but mesmerizing main character whom I grew quite attached to. The book also features two things I love: a map and a pronunciation guide for the unfamiliar Icelandic letters.

This is not a cheerful story, but there are cozy moments and kind moments and redeeming moments mixed in to this bleak and moving tale, and I know it's one I won't soon forget. I highly recommend "Burial Rites" for the lovely, rich, simile-filled writing alone. With passages like, "Up in the highlands blizzards howl like the widows of fishermen and the wind blisters the skin off your face. Winter comes like a punch in the dark. The uninhabited places are as cruel as any executioner," everything else is a bonus!

*Another bonus: Agnes and I share a birthday (almost 200 years apart, but the same day!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

10 Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do

Oh, books, I do so love you. And one of the reasons I love you is all the crazy and/or enriching things you inspire me to do! The week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is about just that.

1. Travel.
One of the best things about reading is getting to travel the world vicariously through our protagonists, and I have added so many places to my bucket list because of books: Antarctica, Santorini, the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, Bali, the list goes on and on.

After reading "The Devil in the White City" by Erik Larson, a non-fiction book about a serial killer striking Chicago at the same time the 1893 World's Fair took over the city, I dragged my husband to the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, so we could see the gardens at designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (he also designed the landscaping in Central Park), and I would love to visit The Rookery in Chicago, designed by the architects from the book, Burnham and Root.

And when we were stationed in Hawaii last time around, I read the novel "Molokai" by Alan Brennert, and my husband and I actually flew to the island of Molokai and did a mule ride tour down the cliffs to Kalaupapa, the real-life leper exile colony from the book.


A couple photos from our mule ride to Kalaupapa. I won't lie, there were a few white-knuckle moments when I was gripping the saddle horn for dear life!

2. Eat.
Chocolat chaud, clotted cream, a full English breakfast, butterbeer and so very much more. Books have inspired me to try or made me hope to one day sample so many different foods. After reading Julia Child's autobiography "My Life in France," I was inspired to bake her Queen of Sheba cake for my birthday that year. (Her book also inspired me to finally buy a mortar and pestle.)

Holy shit, I can't believe this was almost 5 years ago!?

3. Become fluent in another language.
I've always loved languages, and I did really well in my high school French and college German classes, though I've forgotten a lot over the years. There are many reasons I'd love to become fluent in another language, and the reading-inspired reasons are three-fold:
1. I just really, really love words. And the root of so many of our words and phrases is in Latin. Plus, I'd love to know the exact meaning of all those Latin phrases I come across reading!
2. Every time I read a book set in another country (especially one I'd love to visit) I think about how nice it would be to actually be able to converse with the locals in their language when I travel there.
3. When I read books that have been translated from their original language, I always wonder what nuances and subtleties got lost in the switch to English that would make for such a richer reading experience in the author's native language.

4. Buy Carlton Ware egg cups.
Several years ago (maybe way back in college?) I read the Jennifer Crusie novel "Fast Women," and the main character collects Carlton Ware egg cups. As is typical when I encounter something unfamiliar in a book, I just had to Google them -- and they turned out to be so delightfully quirky and kitschy that I decided I just had to have one, or many. For months I cruised Ebay in search of the perfect one to buy but I never took the plunge.

5. Have a natural burial.
Caitlin Doughty's fascinating memoir of working at a crematory, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory," really got me thinking about what I'd want to happen to my body when I die -- something I hadn't given all that much consideration. Caitlin's book answers all your morbid-curiosity questions about the funeral industry, but it also asks why we feel all those practices are so necessary now when they weren't 100 years ago; how has our society become so distanced from death? I really didn't know what went into preparing a body for a traditional funeral and quite honestly, I was horrified. I don't want to be pumped full of chemicals or have my mouth wired shut to keep from offending anyone with my dead tongue. I'm not religious, and I like the idea of giving back to nature -- a part of this world that has given me so much joy. I'd prefer a natural burial, maybe in one of those new pods that uses your remains to nurture a tree, or just directly into the earth. And it's thanks to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" that I started thinking about these (rather important) issues in the first place.

6. Have an apiary.
Thanks to the semi-retired Sherlock Holmes in Laurie R. King's mystery series (plus getting the best honey I've ever had at a small apiary in Tennessee and following a knitter/farmer on Instagram who keeps bees), I have decided I would love to take up beekeeping one day!

7. Train guide dogs.
I've read two wonderful memoirs about the life-changing marvels that are guide dogs, "Until Tuesday" by Luis Carlos Montalvan, about a dog saving a former Army captain from debilitating PTSD, and "Thunder Dog" by Michael Hingson, about a seeing-eye dog who helped his owner escape the World Trade Center on 9/11. My husband I adore dogs and are constantly commenting about what remarkable creatures they are, and training guide dogs seems like such a fabulous way to make a difference in the world -- while getting our canine fix.

8. Download a dictionary app for my phone.
I'm obsessed with looking up everything I see or read that I don't know. What kind of flower is that? Where have I seen that actor before? What the heck is furikake? And I loooove words, so reading inspired me to download a dictionary app on my phone so I always have the ability to look up new-to-me words I encounter reading. Most recently I looked up polymath: someone who knows a lot about many different things.

9. Watch '80s movies.
"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline is a delightfully immersive dive into '80s pop culture seen through the lens of a dystopian future. Since I was born in the mid-'80s, I missed out on a lot of movies made during that decade, and after reading "RPO" I added some of the movies from the book to my to-watch list. So far, I've only seen "Ladyhawke," which was, admittedly, kinda weird.

10. Be more conscious about my social media postings, check my privacy settings and make stronger passwords.
One of the most memorable books I've read this year is "You" by Caroline Kepnes, about America's favorite sociopath stalker/bookstore employee, Joe Goldberg. And the ease with which Joe does his spying -- by reading text messages on a copied phone and tracking social media posts -- is downright terrifying.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Musings


Highlights of the week: The two non-fiction books I ordered from Book Depository arrived. I'm just in love with both of those covers! And, as we know, book mail is the best mail! ;)

On Thursday I headed over to the beach on base with my chair and my book for an hour or so. Between the planes taking off and the playing kids, it was too noisy to get much reading done, but it was nice just to stick my toes in the sand. We've been in Hawaii for two months now and I've spent so much time inside (between staying in base lodging and then moving into our house with no stuff for two weeks, and then unpacking) that I feel like I could be anywhere! (Granted, since this is our second time around living here, we've already done all the touristy stuff so there's no rush to get to a luau or check out every beach. We already have our favorites. But still -- I need some sunshine and crashing waves in my life!)

Reading: I finished "The Fireman" by Joe Hill (loved it -- review) and read the memoir "When Breath Become Air" by Paul Kalanithi, a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer (also an amazing read -- review).

Then I started "Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent, which is on track to be my third 5-star read in a row! It's set in early-1800s Iceland and our main character is Agnes Magnusdottir, an accused murderess sentenced to death. But did she do it? The writing is stunning and the setting is vivid and I'm so glad I finally picked this title up after it languished on my TBR list for years. Plus it's kinda fun to read something that takes place in a polar opposite setting from perpetual-summer Hawaii.

Knitting: I'm almost done with my Cap Sleeve Lattice Top! Last night I finished the last couple rows of the bottom ribbing, and now it's time to finally learn mattress stitch so I can seam up the sides. I'm really pleased with the way it came out -- it looks like it'll be something stylish enough that I'll actually wear it. So this week I'll sew up the sides and block it and then... I'll hopefully have a handmade sweater fit for Hawaii!

Watching: We watched the season finale of this season's "Game of Thrones" on Saturday night and ooooh, what a revelation! I think it was something that readers of the books may already have known, but it was sure fascinating to me! We also watched the dramedy "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" starring Tina Fey, about war reporting in Afghanistan, based on the memoir by Kim Baker ("The Taliban Shuffle"). I haven't read the book, but I thought the movie was just-ok.

Listening to: "Fast Car" by Jonas Blue and Dakota.

Buying: The entire downstairs of our new house is faux tile (aka linoleum) and the hard surface has been killing my feet, not to mention it's the world's biggest pain in the ass to mop. This weekend we finally decided on and brought home a rug for the living room. It's actually a bound 12x15-foot berber carpet remnant from a flooring store. It's perfect and it was a great deal, and I wish we would've come up with this idea sooner rather than spending weeks and weeks scouring stores and the internet looking for the right area rug.

Eating: Chocolate chip banana bread, as seen in the above photo. Yum!

Dropping: For the first time I can ever remember, I dropped an egg on the floor! It happened during the making of the aforementioned banana bread, which, for being a simple thing I've made a million times, was unusually fraught with problems!

Enjoying: A thunderstorm! I wrote last Monday that I was craving a thunderstorm, something Hawaii rarely gets. Apparently Mother Nature reads my blog, because last night Tropical Storm Darby actually brought us some good hard rain and a bit of thunder and lightning!

Looking forward to: Getting our patio set up this week! Now that our sod is looking great and the raised garden bed is built (though not yet filled) we can finally get to work cleaning up and arranging the patio. We bought a fun outdoor rug and some patio lights, and I've been fantasizing about a fountain. I'm so excited to sit out there and read! (Though first we need to deal with the ants and mosquitoes...)

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman by Joe Hill
First published in 2016
747 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:

A completely unputdownable apocalyptic thriller told in Joe Hill's distinctive voice. I loved it!

The Long Of It:
Fire has been a particular fear of mine since I was a little kid, so the premise of Joe Hill's latest novel is basically my worst nightmare: not only has an apocalyptic plague struck the world, but the fungus, nicknamed Dragonscale, causes its victims to spontaneously erupt in flames and burn alive -- which in turn causes uncontrollable fires that reduce parts of the planet into a toxic wasteland. The horrors only multiply with the formation of Cremation Crews, vigilante posses who hunt down and viciously slaughter "burners." Yikes!

But sometimes unthinkable disasters make for the very best reading, and "The Fireman" was utterly enthralling! At almost 750 pages, this sucker is long -- and yet it was so addicting that I annihilated the entire thing in just over three days. This is the second fairly long book I've read by Hill, but he has a talent for making the pages rush by. It never felt draggy or dull.

Our protagonist is school nurse Harper Grayson, a lovable (if somewhat overly cheerful) Mary Poppins-esque young woman. In the midst of the crisis, she helps treat hundreds of Dragonscale patients before finally coming down with the fungus herself -- and this is when her world comes crashing down, betrayed by the person she trusted the most.

To her rescue comes the titular Fireman, a gawky but adorable British science professor dressed in a fireman's suit who seems to have tamed Dragonscale, even corralling his internal flame to his advantage. He takes Harper to a small community of folks who may have figured out the secret to keeping Dragonscale in check -- i.e. not going up in flames -- but Harper's journey is just beginning when she arrives at this supposedly safe harbor.

It's a little bit "Lord of the Flies," a little bit "Station Eleven," and an entirely unique take on the apocalypse novel. Hill does a masterful job creating a rich and terrifying end-of-the-world atmosphere while imbuing the story with a bevy of characters both wonderful and horrifying, as well as plenty of thrill and drama. "The Fireman" will have you losing faith in humanity and then thinking there's hope -- that good people might still exist in the world after all -- then losing it all over again. It was an intense, terrifying and fun ride and I thoroughly enjoyed it! This is my third Joe Hill book and with "The Fireman" he has reached the upper echelon's of my must-read authors!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Book Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

"When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi
First published in 2016
228 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
I recommend this memoir to everyone. Written by a courageous, compassionate and brilliant neurosurgeon, it's about doctors, it's about dying, and it's about the quest to discover what makes a life meaningful. Paul had firsthand experience with all those things because, at just 36, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.

The Long Of It:
Like most readers, I had never heard of Paul Kalanithi until I picked up his posthumously published memoir, but now I will never forget him.

Paul didn't set out to become a doctor; his bachelor's degrees were in English lit and human biology. But life pulled him in the direction of his family's legacy, and he made the decision to attend medical school. Then -- because he wanted to challenge himself and he sought the best opportunity to confront philosophical questions about death and what gives life meaning -- he pursued the twin fields of neurosurgery and neuroscience.

At 36, Paul was quickly approaching a peak in his career -- graduation from the neurosurgery resident program at Stanford -- when, despite exercising regularly and never smoking, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. "When Breath Becomes Air" was composed as Paul was dying, and it's about discovering what matters in life, it's about bravely making peace with death, it's about the role switch from doctor to patient, and it's also about Paul's journey to become the best physician he could be.

I'm not a crier, but I held back tears as I read the conclusion of "When Breath Becomes Air," mourning the loss of a such a great and brilliant man with so much potential to actually change the world, in immediate ways as a compassionate and devoted physician, husband and father, and on a global scale as a brilliant scientist and researcher.

Every doctor should read this book as an example of how to achieve excellence in not only the medical aspect of the field but, as Paul says, the human relationality aspect. He was devoted to slowing down, listening to his patients and treating them emotionally as well as physically and always with compassion, and seeing them as human beings instead of problems to be solved. "Here we are together," he writes, "and here are the ways through -- I promise to guide you as best I can to the other side."

Every person should read this book because, there's no way around it, we're all going to die. It's the nature of life. And Paul shows us how to meet death with respect and bravery instead of fear and devastation. He was a truly Great Man with important ideas -- a thinker, a philosopher, a man constantly pondering the human condition -- and through his chosen profession he impacted so many lives.

"When Breath Becomes Air" is not a happy book, but it has a positive and inspirational message, as well as an eye-opening glimpse into the grueling life of a doctor in the 21st century. I urge you to get to know this wonderful man through his elegant writing.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New Release: Everything I Don't Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri

"Everything I Don't Remember" by Jonas Hassen Khemiri
First published in the U.S. in 2016
Originally published in Sweden
My rating: 3?
Image from Goodreads

Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Short Of It:
What a strange and unique and ultimately unsatisfying story. If you don't mind ambiguous endings, this might be for you; otherwise, it's probably not worth it.

The Long Of It:
I can't remember ever having such a tough time deciding on a rating for a book, but "Everything I Don't Remember" is not like any other book I've read.

Samuel, a young Swedish man, dies in a terrible car wreck, and the novel is an attempt by an unnamed writer to piece together what really happened: was it an accident, suicide, or something more nefarious? The writer interviews several people in Samuel's life: his best friend, his roommate, his ex-girlfriend, his mother and his dementia-addled grandmother, and the story is basically a transcript of these conversations. It's quickly apparent that every person remembers things -- and Samuel -- quite differently, and that there was a lot going on in Samuel's life at the end.

Far more interesting than the story is the way the book is written, in very brief, alternating snippets of conversation from the interviews. There are no quote marks, no introduction to who is speaking, and segments of the conversation -- the unnamed writer's questions -- are left out entirely. It was initially confusing, but once I adjusted I really enjoyed this unconventional and creative format for storytelling. The characters have pretty distinct voices, and it was usually fairly easy to distinguish who was talking, though I admit I did have to double-check a few times. Overall, it was a pretty easy read, and I was anxious to find out what happened.

Then came the big problem: I felt the story barreling toward an explosive, revelatory conclusion -- and then, nothing. The book ends without really answering any questions or giving any concrete information, leaving the reader to puzzle out what she thinks happened. Except that I was so put off by the conclusion -- and honestly, I never really bonded with any of the characters -- that I hardly even bothered trying to decide what to make of it. I closed the back cover and already, a day later, I can feel the story slipping from my mind.

It was innovative and gripping, but it was also unmemorable and ended with a fizzle instead of a bang. I guess the book makes points about the larger topic of memory as well as a handful of completely different subjects like friendship, cultural assimilation and the treatment of refugees, but this straightforward and simple-minded reader just wanted to know what the hell happened to Samuel and why, as well as the identity of the writer with a mysterious interest in Samuel's death. I'm typically not a fan of vague, confusing and/or philosophical endings in novels (all of which describe the conclusion of "Everything I Don't Remember"), so I was left feeling like the entire book was rather a waste of time. However, if that type of ending doesn't bother you, the book does have some things going for it and it may be worth checking out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yarn Along: "When Breath Becomes Air" and Cap Sleeve Lattice Top

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

yarn along 072016

Reading: I'm a little ways into "When Breath Becomes Air" by Paul Kalanithi, a memoir written by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer at only 36. Paul is so much more than a doctor; he's a writer and a philosopher and a scientist and a general thinker of big ideas, and his take on finding meaning in life -- even when death is imminent -- is poignant and interesting. It's a pretty short book so I'm sure I'll be done soon.

Next up will be "Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent, a book I've been meaning to read for years. It takes place in 1800s Iceland (which, coincidentally, fits perfectly with my Top Ten Tuesday post from yesterday about books set outside the U.S. You can see my whole long list of suggested reads here!).

Knitting: No surprise here, I'm still chugging along on the Cap Sleeve Lattice Top by Purl Soho. Now that unpacking is winding down and my husband will be working some odd hours for the next couple weeks, I anticipate getting lots of knitting done. All that's left is endless rows of stockinette, which makes for perfect (if a bit dull) TV knitting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wonderful Worlds to Explore: Great Reads Set Outside the U.S.

One of the very best things about reading is getting to travel through time and all over the world without ever leaving the comfort of your sofa/bed/beach chair/hammock. Reading has introduced me to so many different cultures and even the fluffiest historical fiction novel has something to teach me about the past. One of my favorite little sayings is "books are full of wonderful worlds to explore," and that fits just perfectly with this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, books set outside the U.S.

It's no big secret that I'm a bit of an Anglophile, but I do admit I was a little surprised browsing through my past reads to put this post together: England is rapidly gaining on America when it comes to my most-read book settings. That's 100% fine with me, but I am looking forward to browsing some other blogger's lists and broadening my horizons a bit -- or maybe just discovering some more fantastic books set in England!

What's your favorite non-U.S. book setting?

Books Set in England:
england collage
Just a small sampling of some wonderful books set in England!

Books Set All Over the World:
(locations below)
international collage
Row 1: Afghanistan // Africa // Africa // Australia
Row 2: Australia // France // France // France
Row 3: France // Germany // Guernsey // Iraq
Row 4: Ireland // Ireland // New Guinea // Norway
Row 5: Quebec // Scotland // Scotland // Sweden

Books on My To-Read List:
(locations below)
international collage 2
Row 1: Africa // Antarctica // Antarctica // Australia
Row 2: Australia // Canada // Croatia // Egypt
Row 3: France // Galapagos Islands // Haiti // Iraq
Row 4: Mexico // North Korea // Pakistan // Peru
Row 5: Peru // Russia // Scotland // Sweden

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Musings

I didn't do anything particularly interesting this week, so I'm sharing this hilarious/horrifying picture of Lily mid-yawn from the other day. Check out those vampire fangs!

Highlight of the week: It was a pretty quiet week around here. I worked some more on getting everything set up in our new house and we really don't have all that much left to do. We bought a lovely potted palm tree from a Facebook yard sale page (a new-to-me way of shopping). I picked up my Hallmark ornament order and excitedly unwrapped the Harry Potter-themed ones (the only reason I bothered to do a pre-order). I got a coconut boba tea and a raspberry mocha, and I desperately wanted one of those new coconut mocha macchiatos from Starbucks, but they were "temporarily out" (sob). We bought some wood to make a raised planter bed in our backyard. I watered and watered and watered our sod. I snuggled with the cat. I ate about 2/3 of the berry pie I made last Sunday all by myself. We had a visit from a Hawaiian centipede (evil things). I survived my blood test. That's about it.

Reading: I finished the "NOS4A2" by Joe Hill (review) and cruised through an advance-read book from NetGalley called "Everything I Don't Remember" by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, a Swedish author. It was a decent -- if strange -- read, but the vague ending kinda spoiled it for me. Now I'm absolutely annihilating Joe Hill's latest, an apocalyptic thriller, "The Fireman." It's really quite long at almost 750 pages, but I cannot put it down. It's different from his other books, but I think I may be enjoying it even more. I hardly ever manage to read two (or more) books by the same author in any close time frame anymore, and I didn't plan to read two Joe Hill book in the same week, but I'm glad it worked out that way. He's such a talented, immersive writer!

I read "Written in Red" by Anne Bishop (review) a couple weeks ago and I am positively itching to get back to the series in a way I haven't been since "The Hunger Games." I have two more books checked out from the library and one ARC that must be read soon, and then I'll be checking out book 2 in The Others series!

Knitting: I made a little progress on my Cap Sleeve Lattice Top. With unpacking winding down and Jarrod about to start some odd hours at work, I'll probably be doing quite a bit of knitting this week.

Watching: We watched two movies this week, "13 Hours" about the Benghazi attack (much better than I expected), and "The Big Short," about the housing bubble and the economic crash of 2008, which I enjoyed even more the second time around. We also watched a couple more episodes of this season's "Game of Thrones." Only one more to go... I don't want it to be over!

Listening to: "Sucker for Pain" from the "Suicide Squad" soundtrack. Strangely addicting! My favorite line is about eating peanut butter and jellyfish on toast.

Eating: We substituted a fresh Maui Gold pineapple in this recipe from Pinterest for spicy pineapple chicken kebabs, and I'd say it was a winner!

Buying: I hardly ever buy books (I'm a library gal!) but I ordered two books from BookDepository earlier this week. I saw a book called "Meadowland" by John Lewis-Stempel, a non-fiction book about a year in the life of an English meadow, on a blog and decided I had to have the original British version (which just so happened to have a cover in my favorite color). I also ordered "84 Charing Cross Road," an epistolary book I've been meaning to read for ages. I love letters, and I'm 1 trillion percent sure I'm going to love this book! It was on sale and I really liked this cover version, so into my cart it went!

Craving: A good ol' thunderstorm. It very, very rarely ever storms here in Hawaii and I'm jealous reading about the thunderstorms everyone else is having!

Looking forward to: This afternoon, as a reward for getting some more stuff done with organizing and sorting and unpacking, I'm going to close the blinds, curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch the Nicholas Sparks movie "The Choice." I don't read many Nicholas Sparks books anymore, but I still love the movies (except the ones with gratuitously sad endings; please tell me "The Choice" isn't a weepy!).

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

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Book Review: Written in Red by Anne Bishop

"Written in Red" by Anne Bishop
Book 1 in The Others series
First published in 2013
433 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
This was one of those books that sucks you into a richly detailed fictional world and makes you want to stay there forever. I am totally in love with Meg and all her (mostly supernatural) new friends at Lakeside Courtyard, and I'm excited to dive into the second book in the series!

The Long Of It:
I would never have picked up "Written in Red" on my own, but I saw it on so many other blogs that I decided to give it a try -- and I am SO glad I did!

"Written in Red" is our world reimagined, where humans live in a perpetually tenuous relationship with the Others -- supernatural beings like shapeshifters, vampires and Elementals who can control things like water and air. On a cold and snowy night, Meg Corbyn is on the run -- and her saving grace is a flyer advertising a job for a human liaison to work in Lakeside Courtyard, the part of town run and occupied by the Others; it's a place where human law doesn't apply and she knows she'll be safe from her pursuers there.

What she doesn't count on is making such instant friendships with the Others -- and they don't expect to befriend her either, but there's something different about Meg from other humans. Meg also never imagines that working as a human liaison -- which mainly consists of taking deliveries and distributing mail -- would provide the perfect opportunity for her to find herself and discover an identity she's never been allowed to know. When Meg's dark past catches up with her, the residents of the Courtyard -- whose friendliness with Meg belies their inherent power, danger and dislike of humans -- must band together to protect a human they now consider one of their own.

"Written in Red" has a cozy small-town atmosphere to it and the setting was so incredibly immersive. Bishop is masterful at worldbuilding; it's been a while since I've read such a richly imagined and detailed novel. I have a terrible memory and often start forgetting the details of a book the second I close the back cover, but two weeks later I still remember everything about Meg and all the other residents of Lakeside Courtyard.

I loved getting to know the Wolves, Hawks, Crows, Owls, Bears, vampires and other inhabitants of the Courtyard. Simon Wolfgard is Meg's boss and runs the Howling Good Reads bookstore, and Tess -- an Other whose hair changes color with her moods -- owns A Little Bite Cafe. Erebus is an extremely old and scary vampire, head of the Lakeside Sanguinatis; he takes a rather surprising to Meg, who cares enough to hand-deliver the old movies he receives in the mail. Henry Beargard is the Courtyard's spirit guide as well as a woodworker with a shop next to Meg's office. And Jester is a Wolf who runs the stables and cares for the weather ponies (a delightful aspect to the story!). The Lakeside Courtyard is its own little snug and safe community and I'd love to switch places with Meg for a bit -- though I definitely wouldn't want her special power or the terrible past she escaped from.

My only complaint about "Written in Red" is that the writing could've been a tad stronger. It was hardly unreadable, but I'm a stickler for things like word choice and sentence structure and there were a few times I wanted to bop the author over the head with a thesaurus. And, while adequate, there was really nothing special about her writing. That issue is the only reason I didn't give the book 5 stars, and it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the story because the plot is so fantastic. There are three more books out and a final one to come in March, and I will most definitely be reading them all! I'm reading something else right now, and it's good, but I find myself wanting to get back to Lakeside and Meg and the wonderfully eclectic and dangerous Others.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

"NOS4A2" by Joe Hill
First published in 2013
686 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:

"NOS4A2" was an enthralling and utterly wacky fantasy-horror-fiction blend and I loved it!

The Long Of It:
Christmasland is a magical place populated with happy children who open presents every day, feast on cocoa and candy canes, and ride the Sleighcoaster to their heart's content. Sounds delightful, right?

Not exactly. Those kids just so happen to be kidnapped children who've literally had the soul sucked right out of them, possess mouths full of row upon row of hook-like teeth and play super-fun games like scissors-for-the-drifter.

Charles Talent Manx III is the creator of this veiled world where it's Christmas every day, and he has a very special 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith -- with the license place NOS4A2 -- that he uses to transport his children/victims to Christmasland.

While Charlie Manx uses his special talent for evil, Victoria McQueen, just 8 years old when the story opens, uses her unique gift for good: to locate missing items, like her mother's bracelet or the neighbor's cat. She rides her bike over the no-longer-in-existence Shorter Way Bridge and out the other side, where whatever she seeks will be -- no matter the actual distance. That's how Vic crosses paths with Manx the first time; she rides across her bridge in an anger-fueled fit looking for -- hoping for -- trouble and pops out at Manx's Sleigh House thousands of miles away in Colorado, a folly that nearly costs Vic her life.

Now Vic is a messed-up adult, plagued by memories of her childhood trips across the Shorter Way and her brush with Charlie Manx -- which were obviously hallucinations and coping mechanisms... right? She's been in and out of mental institutions and sought peace in drugs and alcohol to no avail. When Charlie Manx appears in her life once again, -- and whisks the person she holds most dear in the world off to Christmasland -- Vic must confront her past and call back the Shorter Way Bridge, because she may be the only person who has the power to stop Manx from continuing to kidnap and suck dry children for all eternity.

Joe Hill is such a talented writer. I loved the richly drawn characters in this novel, from Maggie, a extremely eclectic Scrabble champion librarian from Iowa, to despicable and disgusting Bing Partridge, Manx's sidekick. Hill's settings are vivid, he's a master of the written word, and he possesses a creative mind capable of thinking up all kinds of crazy and terrifying things -- just what a horror writer needs.

The book got off to a slow start for me, but once I got into the story I was hooked. It's a long book at almost 700 pages, and certainly some of that could've been trimmed off, but somehow it never really managed to feel draggy. A bonus is the wonderful illustrations throughout; I especially love the flyleaves! I saw that AMC is planning to turn "NOS4A2" into a TV show, and I will definitely be tuning in for that.

There were a couple fun library quotes in the book (obviously they came from the parts featuring my favorite character, Maggie the librarian) and I'll leave you with those:

"Vic smelled the vast vault filled with books before she saw it, because her eyes required time to adjust to the cavernous dark. She breathed deeply the scent of decaying fiction, disintegrating history, and forgotten verse, and she observed for the first time that a room full of books smelled like dessert: a sweet snack made of figs, vanilla, glue and cleverness."

"No one looks to closely at a librarian. People are afraid of going blind from the glare of so much compressed wisdom."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New Release: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

"The Last One" by Alexandra Oliva
First published July 12, 2016
302 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Short Of It:
This was a fast-paced apocalyptic thriller that combines a worldwide plague, woodland survival, and an inside look at the filming of a "reality" TV show. It was unique and gripping!

The Long Of It:
I will never be able to watch "Survivor" again without thinking back to "The Last One," an innovative book that meshes a hard-core survivalist reality show with an apocalyptic disease outbreak.

The book is told in intertwining narratives, and the first is a third-person perspective of the filming of "In the Dark," a reality show that centers on outdoor survival, though in a rather more extreme way than the shows we're used to. After some time as a group, the contestants separate for solo challenges that involve trekking alone through the woods for days. Unlike many reality shows on TV today, "In the Dark" has a super-fast turnaround time that insures viewers are watching in nearly real-time.

This half of the story was fascinating to me; it was a sort of behind-the-scenes look at all the manipulation and unreality that goes into filming a "reality" TV show. We all know by now that they're somewhat -- or completely -- scripted, and if you've ever suspected the producers of manufacturing drama and characters ("the villain," "the dumb blonde") by showing viewers specific clips and editing soundbites together in a deceptive way, you would be right -- at least according to "The Last One."

The other half of the novel is narrated by Zoo, one of the contestants on "In the Dark." We meet her when she's well underway on her solo challenges, and isolated in the woods she has no idea that disaster has befallen the world around her. Because she has no reason to suspect an apocalyptic event, she explains away every odd occurrence as part of the show, which is set up in part to test the contestants' mental and emotional fortitude. Zoo is determined, intelligent and capable, and she refuses to give up on what she thinks is still "In the Dark," trial after harrowing trial. Her sections of the novel are part psychological profile, part adventure story and part outdoor survival guide. And it is through Zoo's eyes that we understand the destruction the plague has wrought, though she believes it's all staged for the show.

Zoo, a cheerful and friendly woman who works at an animal rehabilitation center, sounds as though she'd be a pretty likeable character, but I had a hard time warming up to her. I just never felt that connection, maybe because Zoo's continued denial of circumstances eventually became irritating. And, despite being a devoted wife and generally nice person, she's kinda self-centered. I was also a little disappointed in the vague ending, which can be interpreted based on whether you're a pessimist or an optimist. I would've liked a more concrete resolution to Zoo's (physical and mental) journey. Another small gripe I had is that the characters are referred to by their typecast nickname in the chapters about the filming of the show ("Zoo," "Exorcist," "Carpenter Chick," "Black Doctor") and their real names in Zoo's sections, which added a bit of unnecessary confusion (though I can see why Oliva chose to do that, because it does add to her point about the artificiality of reality TV).

The publisher's blurb compares this book to "Station Eleven" and "The Passage," two books that I loved -- and while I enjoyed "The Last One" I didn't find that it had the beauty and magic of "Station Eleven" or the zombies, adrenaline-fueled plot and awesome writing of "The Passage." But, like both of those novels, "The Last One" is a intriguing twist on an apocalypse thriller and the unique storyline had me hooked from page 1. Definitely not the best novel I've read this year, but it was still a page-turner that'd be perfect for beach, pool or hammock reading this summer!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Meet the Blogger: 10 Facts About Me

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is 10 facts about me. There are lots of ways bloggers could take this topic, and I decided to focus on 10 get-to-know-you biggies that often come up in first conversations. Booknerd is obviously a huge thing, but you all know that already! ;)

Hi, I'm Lindsay. Nice to meet you!
I'd love for you to leave a fact about yourself in the comments!

1. I'm an Air Force spouse (and I grew up an Air Force brat).
My dad was in the Air Force until I was in high school, so in some ways it was a natural transition for me to marry an Air Force guy. There are a million highs and lows to being a military family. Moving every three years means life is a constant adventure, but it also means missing out on family events, leaving good jobs and good friends, and never being able to have nice thing without worrying about them being broken in a move (something we're dealing with right this very minute, in the middle of unpacking from our move from Ohio to Hawaii).

2. I'm from Colorado.
pikes peak 2
My Dad's job took us to Colorado in 1997 and that's where my parents settled down. While I can't say I'm a Colorado native, it's where I attended middle school through college and it's where I call home. I can't help telling everyone I meet how amazing Colorado is. I love hiking and photography and mountain drives and plentiful sunshine and gorgeous seasons and Colorado is the place to be for all of that! Go Broncos!

3. My other big hobby besides reading is knitting.
I taught myself to knit (with the help of the internet) in 2009 while Jarrod was attending some military school and I was between jobs and needed something to do. Now it's one of my biggest passions! I love creating things, and many knitters find the craft to be incredibly soothing and relaxing. After all those years I finally knit my first sweater last year (of course, it's a long-sleeve, thick wool cardigan that I won't have a single use for in the next three years), and I'm working on another one right now -- a short-sleeve cotton top that'll be suitable for Hawaii.

4. My last two jobs were at libraries...

...and I hope to be working at one again soon. One of the hardest things about leaving Ohio was saying goodbye to my lovely library and awesome co-workers. Working at a public library can mean some crazy and irritating experiences (you should look up Librarian Bingo if you haven't seen it; here's one version!) but it was so nice getting to share my passion for books with patrons and my co-workers all day.

5. I'm single-handedly keeping the post office in business.

In a time when so much of life is conducted online, it's such a wonderful treat to find something fun and personal waiting in the mailbox! I send cards for every holiday, plus letters to friends, family and penpals (as in strangers I've never met in real life!). I also participate in postcard swaps through my favorite knitting website, Ravelry, as well as Postcrossing, a super-fun international postcard exchange. I've received some absolutely gorgeous postcards from all over the world!

6. We have a kitty named Lily, and we miss our furbaby boxer, Conan, every single day.


We added Conan to our family right after we moved to Florida following college graduation -- before we even had a sofa! He was our baby, our joy and the completion of our little family, and we were absolutely devastated to lose him to lymphoma two years ago. We also have a kitty cat, Lily, whom we adopted last time we were stationed in Hawaii. Hawaii has tons and tons of feral cats, and she part of a litter of feral kittens up for adoption. She's adorable and sweet, but she pretty much hates anyone but me.

7. I collect things.
When I was a kid, it was pencils and postcards and rocks, in high school and college it was paper coasters from restaurants, and at the current moment it's Starbucks You Are Here coffee mugs (among other things, like pressed autumn leaves, seashells and Harry Potter books!).

8. I'm an introverted homebody...


9. ...but I love to travel!

lost lake 
I love adventuring and exploring, especially to beautiful natural wonders. One of my life goals is to visit every U.S. national park, and I think about 2/3 of my bucket list involves travel. I'm lucky to have a willing (and way more competent than I am) travel buddy in my husband. In the last year or so, we visited Gettysburg, New York City, Tennessee with a little jaunt to North Carolina, Colorado, Cleveland, Niagara Falls, back to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and Florida. Now that we're in Hawaii our travel will be much more limited, but of course we'll visit the other islands, and I have plans for an Alaskan cruise and a big trip to Australia and New Zealand.

10. I love watching (and going to!) the movies, and, while I don't watch a ton of TV, there are some shows I adore.

Because what better way to break the ice than to discover you share a fandom?! Some of the shows I love are "Downton Abbey," "Game of Thrones," "Sherlock," "The Walking Dead," "Orphan Black," "Elementary," "Outlander," "Homeland," "Mr. Robot," and my guilty pleasure, "Switched at Birth." I'm also totally pumped for the "Gilmore Girls" revival, and I like (or want to catch up on) everything on PBS Masterpiece (I loooove historical dramas!).
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