Wednesday, August 31, 2016

7 Intriguing September Book Releases

sept books

So, I live in Hawaii. Fall is decidedly not in the air here, so please enjoy the crisping weather and the changing leaves for me! Ohio had gorgeous falls and I enjoyed all three we spent there; it was such a treat to curl up with a blanket, a book and some hot chocolate and be able to look out our huge set of living room windows at all the beautiful fall colors.

While September does not mean fall in Hawaii, it does mean a new crop of book releases, and there are a couple that have caught my eye. What September releases are on your radar?

Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell
Release date: September 6

From Goodreads: Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful sculpture that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.

At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the centuries old mask-making atelier where the sculpture was created. With the help of a passionate sculptor, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offer insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire uncovers the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to discover secrets -- and a new love -- of her own.

My thoughts: I love letters, I love books about Paris and I love this pretty cover, so this one's a no-brainer for me! (Though I do have to say the dual narrative historical fiction plot involving long-buried family secret is getting just a wee bit overused.)

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black
Release date: September 6

From Goodreads: We never saw them coming. Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it -- until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth. But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.

My thoughts: I'm getting more and more into sci fi and fantasy, and this debut -- told from multiple perspectives -- definitely piqued my interest. Other than "Ender's Game" and a YA book I didn't like, I haven't read any books about aliens, so I'm interested to try out a different type of post-apocalyptic novel.

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders
Release date: September 13

From Goodreads: Mrs. Laetitia Rodd, aged fifty-two, is the widow of an archdeacon. Living in Hampstead with her confidante and landlady, Mrs. Benson, who once let rooms to John Keats, Laetitia makes her living as a highly discreet private investigator. Her brother, Frederick Tyson, is a criminal barrister living in the neighboring village of Highgate with his wife and ten children. Frederick finds the cases, and Laetitia solves them using her arch intelligence, her iron discretion, and her immaculate cover as an unsuspecting widow.

When Frederick brings to her attention a case involving the son of the well-respected, highly connected Sir James Calderstone, Laetitia sets off for Lincolnshire to take up a position as the family’s new governess -- quickly making herself indispensable. But the seemingly simple case -- looking into young Charles Calderstone’s “inappropriate” love interest -- soon takes a rather unpleasant turn. And as the family’s secrets begin to unfold, Laetitia discovers the Calderstones have more to hide than most.

My thoughts: I'm all about mysteries set in Victorian England, and Laetitia Rodd sounds like just the kind of sleuth I could get behind! This is the first book in a new series.

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein
Release date: September 13

From Goodreads: "Children of the New World" introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago. "Children of the New World" grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society.

My thoughts: I'm fascinated by how technology and social media has so completely altered the world we live in -- and oftentimes not for the good, it seems -- so "Children of the New World" seems right up my alley.

Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Release date: September 13

From Goodreads: The Atlanta police department is forced to hire its first black officers in 1948. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers and their authority is limited: they can’t arrest white suspects; they can’t drive a squad car; they can’t even use the police headquarters and must instead operate out of the basement of a gym. When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up fatally beaten, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust the community has put in them, and even their own safety to investigate her death.

My thoughts: I've not been feeling contemporary mysteries and thrillers lately, but this unique-sounding historical mystery caught my eye. I'm intrigued, too, by the race dimension. I just read the amazing "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi, and one of the vignettes was about a black man who's sent to do hard time in a coal mine just for looking at a white woman the "wrong" way in Alabama in the late 1800s (something that doubtless happened too many times to count, but that I had never thought about before), so I'm interested to see Mullen's take on white officers being forced to work with black ones. (Granted, the stories are separated by several decades, but I don't think a whole heck of a lot changed as far as race relations in the South go during that time.)

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Release date: September 20

From Goodreads: Nina Redmond is a librarian with a gift for finding the perfect book for her readers. But can she write her own happy-ever-after? In this valentine to readers, librarians, and book-lovers the world over, the New York Times-bestselling author of Little Beach Street Bakery returns with a funny, moving new novel.

My thoughts: Any novel that involves books, libraries, bookstores or publishing companies instantly catches my interest, and this one sounds like a delightful, feel-good story akin to "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry."

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Release date: September 20

From Goodreads: An idealistic young student and a banished warrior become allies in a battle to save their realm in this first book of a mesmerizing epic fantasy series, filled with political intrigue, violent magic, malevolent spirits, and thrilling adventure.

Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow. But the spirits that reside within this land want to rid it of all humans. One woman stands between these malevolent spirits and the end of humankind: the queen. She alone has the magical power to prevent the spirits from destroying every man, woman, and child. But queens are still just human, and no matter how strong or good, the threat of danger always looms.

My thoughts: This sounds a little bit reminiscent of "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik, one of my favorite reads this year. And that cover... every time I see it, it just sucks me in!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Required Reading Done Right: 11 Books I Read for School and Actually Enjoyed

In honor of back-to-school, this week's Top Ten Tuesday list (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is a school-related freebie. We often remember required class reading with a groan, and while I did read many, many dull and pointless books, I also read quite a few good ones in high school and college. I'm positive there were more books I enjoyed at the time than just these 11, but the fact that they've stuck with me for over a decade is proof that I found them to be genuinely good reads. (A slight note on the "pointless" reads -- I think schools would benefit so very much from incorporating more modern books into their English curriculums. Most of the books on my list that I read in high school are likely still required reading and probably were for decades before I read them. Maybe my post today should've been on that!)

Anyway, I'd actually like to do a re-read of a few of the books on my list, especially "Jane Eyre" (which I read way back in my senior year of high school) and "1984," which my husband has never read but which I know he'll love (and I thought maybe we could read it together).

There are also some books I didn't like the first time around that I'd like to give another chance, now that I have plenty of worldly years between me and high school, like "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood and anything and everything by Nathaniel Hawthorne (I chose him for a year-long author project in high school and ended up hating every single thing he wrote). I also remember thinking "The Hobbit" was just ok (perhaps because we read it out loud as a class -- snore) but I have a feeling I'd enjoy it much more now. I also read "To Kill a Mockingbird" in high school and I know I definitely didn't dislike it, but I sure didn't feel the need to name my pets and children after it either, so it's on the re-read list too.

What required reading books made an impact on you? Which ones do you remember loving and hating years later?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
1984 by George Orwell (love this cover!)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
//The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japaenese by Elizabeth M. Norman

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Musings


My week:
We finally got to the beach this week -- twice, in fact! Jarrod had Friday off, so we checked out a beach we hadn't been to before fairly near our house (above) and on Saturday we braved the crowds in Waikiki so Jarrod could go surfing.

Reading: I have been a reading machine lately; Goodreads tells me I'm six books ahead of schedule to meet my 2016 goal of 70 books (which probably means I have way too much free time on my hands at the moment). I finished up the fun fantasy novel "The Invisible Library" by Genevieve Cogman (review), plowed through "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi (review) -- which turned out to be my favorite read of the year so far! -- and then read the thriller "I Let You Go" by Clare Mackintosh, which was decent (review to come).

Now I'm reading "The Things We Keep" by Sally Hepworth, which I'm loving so far. It's set in a residential care facility and our protagonists are an early-onset Alzheimer's patient and woman beginning work as a cook at the facility after a scandal caused her entire world to come crashing down. The chief subject matter -- getting Alzheimer's at 38 -- is sad, but the book has plenty of lighthearted moments to counteract the hard stuff. I especially love Clementine, the chef's adorable 7-year-old daughter.

Knitting: Not a thing. I've been putting off re-starting the cardigan that I (very rashly) ripped out last week. I'm planning to cast on again in the next few days.

Watching: I watched two more episodes of the "War & Peace" BBC miniseries and I'm still enjoying it. The costumes and the settings are just so rich and vivid! I only have two episodes left to go and I'll be sad when it's over. Jarrod and I finally got around to watching the movie "Concussion" this week and I was pleasantly surprised; I didn't realize it was mainly a bio-pic about the Nigerian-born doctor/scientist/forensic pathologist who first discovered the link between football concussions and the early deaths -- and shocking personality changes -- of several NFL players and the fight he had to get his research heard. It was surprisingly good!

Listening to: I'm so ashamed to admit it... but I actually like a Britney Spears song. I never thought she'd manage a comeback, but this song is on trend and it's so catchy!

Eating: We ate lunch at one of our favorite Hawaii restaurants, La Tour Cafe, yesterday and I bought one of their absolutely amazing chocolate almond croissants, which I'll split and have for breakfast today and tomorrow. Soooo good. They put every other chocolate croissant I've had to shame.

Blogging: I decided at the last minute to participate in the Bout of Books read-a-thon this week, but I just didn't get what the fuss was about. Maybe it's because I don't use Twitter, but I didn't find the read-a-thon to be particularly interactive; I didn't meet any new bloggers and I didn't read any more than I would've read anyway. This is exactly what I was worried would happen, and it's why I've never participated before. Why is this event so freakin' popular? What am I missing?

Looking forward to: Jarrod has a four-day weekend for Labor Day and I foresee more beach time in our future!

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

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

"Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi
First published in 2016
300 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
Quite possibly the best book I've read so far this year. Such a good story -- but important and timely too.

The Long Of It:
I am in awe of Yaa Gyasi and her masterful novel, "Homegoing." The creativity, the storytelling, the characters, the beautiful writing and the way she so deftly -- almost subtly -- captured the issue of race in America captivated me.

The novel opens with twin stories of a pair of half-sisters hailing from two different villages in 1700s Ghana; they share a mother but they're unknown to each other. One sister, Effia, is married off to a powerful Englishman involved in the slave trade, while the other, Esi, is kidnapped into slavery and crammed on a ship bound for America.

In alternating chapters -- interconnected vignettes, really -- about 20 pages each, Gyasi tells the stories of Effia's and Esi's descendants, spanning all the way from the eighteenth century to present day. Effia's line stays in Ghana, weathering tribal wars, fights with the British, the slave trade, years of bad harvests, ostracism, and cruel missionaries. Esi's descendants grow up in America with hardships of their own: slavery, racism, drugs, broken families. Too, though, they all persevere, they live, they love, they grow. Meanwhile the historical backdrop evolves around our characters in both settings.

Gyasi shows off some awesome writing chops with her debut novel. The format of the story is unique and clever -- and it totally could've gone wrong if not done with such a skilled hand. Two dozen pages is typically not enough time to tell a detailed story, much less make readers fall in love with a character. But Gyasi imbues each chapter with so much voice and all the right snapshots of a life that I felt like I really knew each of the 14 protagonists at the end of every chapter. And then she weaves bits of the previous generation's story into the next one, so we find out how each character fared through the eyes of their children.  I loved the idea of taking two women -- whose lives started off much the same but diverged so completely -- and giving the reader side-by-side accounts of the generations to come. It invites us compare and contrast, and while there are shocking differences there are also surprising similarities between these two families an ocean apart.

So many important issues are covered in "Homegoing" -- but so organically, tucked so neatly into Gyasi's enthralling stories, that I barely noticed I was getting a lesson on African history and culture, on U.S. history, on slavery, on the very troubled history of race relations in America, and it's all so very relevant considering what's going on in our country these days. Gyasi's novel has many other themes running through it too, and the one that interested me the most was identity. What shapes an identity? Your gender, your skin color, the way you talk, your beliefs, the way you're perceived by your community? What happens when your identity doesn't fit neatly into a box? What happens when who you know you are is different from the way society sees you?

I'd say "Homegoing" is a must-read. It's a gorgeously written, fascinating, one-of-a-kind book that I just could not put down. It's a damn good work of literary fiction, but it's also educational and current -- an important contribution to the conversation our country is having about race right now. When we talk about the lack of diversity in books, this author and this novel are exactly what we should be pushing for. I know it's one of the very best books I'll read this year.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Book Review: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

"The Invisible Library" by Genevieve Cogman
Book 1 in the Invisible Library series
First published in the U.S. in 2016
330 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
This was such a fun, quirky page-turner! It's the first in a new fantasy series, and I'm looking forward to reading book two when it comes out next month. The lighthearted, oddball, action-filled plot reminded a bit me of V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic series.

The Long Of It:
I'm pretty sure I've found my dream job: I want to be a Librarian at the Invisible Library. A typical workday includes hopping to one of many, many alternate versions of the world, possibly assuming a disguise or fake identity, and obtaining (by whatever means necessary) a particular book for inclusion in the Library's collection.

Irene is a junior Librarian just back from a successful mission when she's saddled with a trainee, Kai, and hustled off on an assignment to retrieve a special version of Grimm's Fairy Tales from an alternate London. Easy enough, she thinks, until the mission turns out to be much, much more difficult and dangerous than she anticipated. Not to mention, it seems Kai may be no ordinary trainee. Adventure, magic, close calls, attack alligators, evil rogue Librarians, meetings with Fae and trips to the British Library ensue.

"The Invisible Library" was action-packed, creative and entertaining. The alternate worlds feature a varying blend of science, magic and supernatural creatures, and things like ray guns, automatons, mad scientists, vampires, zeppelins, secret societies and sorcery are all in play in the alternate where this book is set, which was a pretty cool place that I wouldn't mind hopping on over to. I grew fond of the characters too; I liked Irene, and I loved Kai and a Sherlockian detective named Peregrine Vale and I can't wait to re-join their adventures.

I also enjoyed the bookish-ness that oozed through these pages, and I know most readers will appreciate it too. Books are at the core of Irene's life; her upbringing, her work and her leisure time revolve around books. Here's one of many readerly quotes I liked: "The atmosphere of the place soothed her automatically; the rich lantern-lights, the sheer scent of paper and leather, and the fact that everywhere she looked, there were books, books, beautiful books."

My main complaint was that I found the worldbuilding, the time period and the specificities of the Library to be a bit confusing. The alternate London visited by Irene and Kai sounds like a version of Victorian England, but it's never explicitly mentioned, nor is whether the Librarians are traveling in time as well as space. I'm also a bit miffed as to why I keep seeing the Librarians described as spies in other blurbs and reviews. Maybe they do some spying in the second book, but in the first novel they're mostly just clever thieves. I'm hoping all these details will be hashed out further in the next installment, which is coming up fast. Book two, "The Masked City," is set for release in September, the third book, "The Burning Page," is out in December, and book four is in the works, according to Cogman's website.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner

"The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir" by Ruth Wariner
First published in 2015
342 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
The author's story of growing up in a Mormon polygamist colony was fascinating, disturbing and surprisingly well-written for someone who's not an author by trade, but I was left with many questions that I wished she had answered, and I wondered what exactly she hoped readers would take away from the book.

The Long Of It:
A shack in a dusty, impoverished rural Mexican settlement. No electricity or running water. Beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dozens of half-siblings. A mom who willingly shares her husband with several other wives. An abusive step-father. Religious fanaticism.

That's how Ruth Wariner grew up, in a tiny house full to bursting with nine of her full- and half-siblings in the Mormon polygamist settlement of Colonia LeBaron in Mexico, not far from the U.S border. Ruth's memoir details her unusual and hardship-filled upbringing -- as well as her escape from LeBaron at age 15 -- with honesty and aplomb, and her story makes for reading both interesting, heartbreaking, unsettling and infuriating.

The book is narrated by Ruth's childhood self, starting around age 5 and continuing up through her flight from LeBaron with her three young sisters in tow at 15. Telling a story from a child's perspective can be risky, but it really works here, and it was interesting to see how Ruth's views toward her family's lifestyle evolved as she matured.

What was missing for me was more insight into Ruth's thoughts now, decades distant from her terrifying run from LeBaron and her despicable step-dad, Lane. The book concludes with an epilogue and briefly mentions the fates of Ruth and her close siblings, but I wanted to know more about her views on religion and polygamy. At least one of her brothers carried on the polygamist tradition and I'm dying to know how she feels about that, and I want to know if she's still a member of the Mormon church (it's obvious from the epilogue that she's religious). I'm also very curious whether she thinks she would've left LeBaron at all if it weren't for Lane, his abuse and the way the colony reacted to it.

Despite the lingering questions I had, I enjoyed Ruth's memoir and found it to be well-written and gripping. And it gives readers an unflinching inside look at a polygamist sect, something we probably all wonder about when Mormon polygamists occasionally pop up in the news. What would it be like to share a husband? What on earth do the women get out of the arrangement? Why does the church encourage polygamy in the first place? How are all those babies taken care of? What would it be like to grow up in polygamist colony? (Many of the answers to those questions horrified and disgusted me.) "The Sound of Gravel" is about a lot more than that exposing the inner workings of Mormon polygamy, though. Things like survival, overcoming odds, courage, perseverance, forgiveness and love are the paramount themes in Ruth's tale, and I'm glad she decided to tell it.

P.S. There's an awesome photo gallery on Ruth's website that is super-helpful for putting faces to names.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bout of Books Sign-Up + Days 1 & 2 Challenges

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 22nd and runs through Sunday, August 28th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 17 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

So this Bout of Books thing... I always seem to miss the ball on it, and I've been hesitant to participate since it seems to be fairly Twitter-centric, and I don't use Twitter. But I've -- a bit belatedly -- decided to finally take the plunge and sign up for this week-long read-a-thon!

Since I'm not working yet (for those of you who are new here, my husband is in the military and we recently moved to Hawaii) and I have a major backlog of library books (I had SEVEN holds come in at one time and I've got four left to get to), I thought this was the time to jump in if there ever was one! The library books are all ones that I desperately want to read, and they almost all have requests so I'll be unable to renew them. Hopefully Bout of Books will give me the motivation to read my butt off this week.


Yesterday afternoon I finished "The Invisible Library" by Genevieve Cogman, a super-fun fantasy novel that's the first in a series about alternate-world-hopping Librarians, and I'll be starting "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi today. My goal for Bout of Books is to get "Homegoing" and one other book completely finished, and be at least midway through a third by Sunday night. We'll see how the week goes!

One of the fun things about Bout of Books is the daily challenges. I'm already too late to link up for a prize in the Day 1 challenge, but it's a fun topic so I'll participate anyway.

Day 1: List your favorite and least-favorite book-to-movie adaptations. (Hosted by Writing My Own Fairytale.) This is a toughie! Even though they're often poorly done, I love seeing the movie versions of the books I've read!  I've learned to not watch the movie too soon after reading the book, which helps me avoid picking the film apart. I can't say definitively that these are my absolute favorites and least-favorites -- this post is pretty last-minute and I'm going off the cuff here -- but they fall squarely into the categories of really good and really disappointing.

Great Book-to-Movie Adaptations:
(The Swedish film version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.")

Painful-to-Watch Book-to-Movie Adaptations:

Day 2: Mix 'n Match. Pick out 10-15 books from your shelf, any genre, any language, and any length. In each book, flip to a random page and pick the 1st word (articles such as "the", "and", "an", "or", etc. don't count as the 1st word). Use all these 1st words to try to create an actual sentence.


My words:
-oil-smeared (The Invisible Library)
-pivoting (Morning Star)
-maze (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)
-breakfast (84 Charing Cross Road)
-fucked (The Girls)
-grass (Meadowland)
-read (Allegiant)
-garden (Life After Life)
-only (The Likeness)
-thought (The Language of Flowers)
-all (The Art of Racing in the Rain)
-licking (Homegoing)

This was rather difficult with the above words and my wacky sentence makes zero sense, but here goes:

Licking breakfast in the garden while reading, the grass was pivoting, only it was an oil-smeared maze! All she thought was, "I'm fucked."

10 Books I've Been Meaning to Read For Over 5(!!!) Years

 The topic for this week's Top Ten Tuesday list hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is one that may be a bit of an embarrassment for some bloggers (like me): 10 books that've been on our to-read lists since before we started blogging. I wrote my first blog post in 2011 (May 14th, to be exact) and I didn't even HAVE a formal to-read list until I started using Goodreads regularly in the fall of 2013.

But I've been intending to read all these books for years, and in some cases years and years, and there's no particular reason they've remained unread. In fact, I fully expect to love most, if not all, of these books! (On second thought, I do see what the problem is: I own the majority of these books, and for some reason I have a ridiculously hard time choosing books already on my shelves over library books! It's a problem.) Have you read any of them? Is there one that deserves to be bumped up to the top of my to-read list?

A note on "A Dog's Purpose": This was a fantastic Christmas gift from my mom one year, and I was so excited to read it -- but then I never did. And of course when I finally did pick it up, it was exactly the wrong time -- when our beloved boxer dog, Conan, was battling cancer. I read one chapter and knew it was NOT the right book for that time period. And after he passed away, I couldn't bring myself to read another dog book until a few months ago, over 2 years later.

A note on "A Short History of Nearly Everything": My sophomore year of college I took a chemistry class that was geared toward liberal arts folks, and I had the coolest teacher ever: a wacky and brilliant elderly gentleman with flaming red hair whose hobby was sword- and fire-eating. He taught us stuff like how a car engine works and the science of laundry detergent. And Bill Bryson's "A Short History" was our textbook, but we were never tested over it and I had so much else going on -- not to mention I had no idea who Bill Bryson was at that point -- that I never read it. I kept it anyway, and ever since I read my first Bill Bryson book several years ago I've been meaning to finally give "A Short History of Nearly Everything" a try. (Though I do have to say, at almost 550 pages it's not exactly "short.")

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Musings


My week: It was a pretty quiet week here. I read, knitted, baked cookies, sat outside, cleaned, finished the last bit of unpacking, ran some errands... On Saturday we ate a really late lunch and then, while out shopping, we had an amazing little impromptu dinner of malasadas (one of the best things about Hawaii -- I posted a picture of a haupia-filled malasada on Instagram a few weeks ago, which you can see and drool over here) and Starbucks. Pretty much the world's least-healthy dinner, but soooo good. We had planned to go to the beach yesterday, but Jarrod was on call at work and -- of course -- he got called in around lunchtime. Sigh.

Reading: I finished the dark Southern crime thriller "Redemption Road" by John Hart (review) and found it to be just ok -- too much going on to be realistic, in my opinion. Then I breezed through the fascinating and disturbing memoir "The Sound of Gravel" by Ruth Wariner, about her experience growing up in a polygamist Mormon colony in Mexico.

And now I'm reading a fun fantasy novel called "The Invisible Library" by Genevieve Cogman. It's about Librarians who retrieve certain books from alternate worlds, some of which are magical, some of which have creatures like vampires and Fae, and others that are very technologically advanced (think cyborgs and such). I've never read a steampunk novel before, but I think this would qualify, especially as most of the settings referenced seem to be odd versions of Victorian-era England. I'm enjoying it, but at 100 pages in I'm still grasping around for a handhold in this strange universe and I have a lot of questions that haven't even been broached yet. Hopefully they will be!

Knitting: I made some great progress on my Earnest cardigan -- which you can see in the photo with Lily above -- and then I ripped the whole damn thing out. In hindsight, I think that was a bit rash and I'm regretting it now, but starting over will give me a chance to fix the little errors that were bugging me (this cardigan has been unusually fraught with problems!). First I need to find a solution to my yarn problem. I didn't have quite enough yarn so I bought some from a fellow Ravelry user, but unfortunately the yarns are from very different dyelots. The two new skeins are MUCH lighter than the yarn I already had and I'm struggling to figure out a way to work it in. I really need to use it -- even with the extra skeins, I might only have enough for 3/4 sleeves.

Watching: I watched the first four episodes of the new BBC "War and Peace" miniseries. I've never read the book, and I don't know if I ever will, but I'm definitely enjoying the show. It stars some actors I love: Rose from "Downton Abbey," Sydney Chambers from "Grantchester" and Professor Slughorn from the Harry Potter movies. The story features three main characters -- all members of the Russian aristocracy -- during the Napoleonic Wars and has a little bit of everything: war, friendship, romance, angst, opulence, inheritance, manipulation... kind of like an early-1800s soap opera (though I suspect that's more the miniseries than the book).

Listening to: "My Number" by Foals.

Eating: The grocery store had strawberries on sale, so I decided to make strawberry shortcake (with homemade whipped cream, of course). Yum! Honestly, between the coconut cookies, the malasadas and the shortcake we haven't had a very healthy eating week!

Blogging: This week I started a new series on the blog called Book Chat, which will feature book-related discussion posts. I've been meaning to do this forever and I finally sat down and brainstormed some topics recently. My first entry is about favorite genres and why I don't really have one anymore. I'd love for you to read and comment on your favorite genre here!

Looking forward to: My mom is coming to visit in October and last week I reserved a beach cottage for us on Kauai for two nights during her trip! Kauai is our favorite island and my mom hasn't been there yet, so I'm excited to show her why we love it so much. The oceanfront military cottages where we're staying are amazing. There's nothing like falling asleep to the sound of the waves and waking up on a huge, pristine expanse of beach. Now if only we could fast-forward the next six weeks or so... My days are ridiculously boring and repetitive right now, and I could definitely use a little getaway (and a visit from my mom!).

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