Sunday, April 30, 2017

Turning the Page on April 2017

april collage

-As you can see, I didn't do a whole lot in April besides work and hang out with Alohi. We've finally gotten into a good rhythm and she's been a pretty good girl lately. We're navigating the adventures of teething (which are a bit bloodier than I expected!) and she's doing as well as could be expected. We also started a puppy training class at Petco, and we're continuing to take her to their Saturday puppy playtime, which she loves. She absolutely adores everyone -- human, dog and cat alike. It's been so fun to watch her grow; at her last vet appointment she weighed 21 pounds (and I'm sure she's more now) -- almost four times bigger than when we brought her home at the beginning of February!

-My hours at work changed the last week of April, and now instead of working three 8-hour shifts a week I'm working four 6-hour shifts. It doesn't sound like a huge difference, but I think it'll be a very positive change. Since I won't be taking a lunch, I'll be getting home three hours earlier (3 p.m. instead of 6, 4 p.m. instead of 7). That's great for me, but it's also good for Alohi because Jarrod's schedule is about to change, too. He's been working 4 a.m. to noon (which means he was home in the afternoons with her) but starting May 1 he'll be working noon to midnight (blah!).

-I'm continuing to watch "This is Us" on the DVR -- I'm through the Thanksgiving episode now. What an awesome show! I'm so glad I decided to record it. And together we've been watching "Survivor," "Designated Survivor," "Elementary" and, now that the new season's begun, "Deadliest Catch." We also finally finished season 1 of "House of Cards" on Netflix and started season 2. Movie-wise we watched several decent DVDs: "Fences" (depressing), "Lion" (sad), "Moonlight" (sad), "Moana" (fun to watch while living in Hawaii!) and "Doctor Strange" (so weird to hear Benedict Cumberbatch speak with an American accent).

april books collage

Books read: 10
"The Weight of Feathers" by Anne-Marie McLemore (for book club; 2 stars)
"Sputnik's Children" by Terri Favro (4 stars)
"The Dry" by Jane Harper (4 stars)
"Swimming Lessons" by Claire Fuller (4 stars)
"March" volume 1 by John Lewis (4 stars)
"Gone Without a Trace" by Mary Torjussen (2 stars)
"Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid (4 stars)
"Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World" by Nell Stevens (3 stars)
"A Terrible Beauty" by Tasha Alexander (Lady Emily #11) (4 stars)
"March" volume 2 by John Lewis (4 stars)

Currently reading: "A Conjuring of Light" (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

Favorite read: I enjoyed "The Dry" by Jane Harper -- it'd been a while since I had read a good, classic mystery (as opposed to the now-ubiquitous psychological thriller). And I was also really impressed with the "March" graphic novels, about Congressman John Lewis's participation in the Civil Rights Movement.

Biggest let-down: This was definitely not a banner month for reading; I read two 2-star books (and while we're on the topic I've yet to read a single 5-star book in 2017)! But I'd have to say the biggest-let down was "Bleaker House" by Nell Stevens. I'd been anticipating it for so long and totally expected to love it, but it turned out to be just-ok.

May release I'm most excited about: Tough choice! There are so many great-sounding books coming out in May. Maybe I'll go with "

Book I'm most looking forward to reading in May: Another tough choice! I've hit the jackpot with library holds, and I've got some great reads coming up: "A Conjuring of Light" by V.E. Schwab (the conclusion of her Shades of Magic series), "American War" by Omar El Akkad, "America Gods" by Neil Gaiman. And I'm finally going to read "Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear. I'm excited about all of them!

Books added to to-read list: 17

Most intriguing TBR addition: "The Immortalists" by Chloe Benjamin. (Out next January.) From Goodreads: "If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present? It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone their date of death. In search of one thing they can know for sure, the Gold siblings -- four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness -- sneak out to hear their fortunes. Their prophecies inform the next five decades. Golden boy Simon runs away to San Francisco, where he lives a life of decadence and unmitigated sexuality; chameleonic Klara becomes a magician obsessed with blurring fantasy and reality; Daniel, a natural leader, rises in ranks as a prestigious military doctor; and shy, bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immorality."

Favorite bookstagram: I finally bought a couple succulents! And I love the muted color scheme of the photo below, the first picture I took featuring one of my new purchases. Plus, I almost never get cold drinks at Starbucks, so that was a change. (Find me on Instagram @knittinglindsay!)


I didn't have a ton of time for crafting in April, but I did work just a bit on the Newt Scamander scarf I'm knitting for a friend (Alohi likes to "help" me knit, so that severely decreases my knitting opportunities!). I also ordered three embroidery starter kits from Etsy and I hope to get to work on one of those soon. I did do some crafting at work, though! I made a huge April Showers Bring May Flowers display with giant paper flower and clouds, and I also crafted a pretty wreath out of leaves made from paper grocery bags.

paper leaf wreath memoir display

Favorite post: 12 Magical Harry Potter Items on Etsy. I had a lovely time looking back through my favorite items -- and, of course, adding a few more!

Book reviews:
Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro
The Dry by Jane Harper
Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Bleaker House by Nell Stevens

Friday, April 28, 2017

Book Review: Bleaker House by Nell Stevens

"Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World" by Nell Stevens
First published in 2017
241 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:
Oh golly. It's such a bummer when a book you've been anxiously awaiting turns out to be just-ok!

The Long Of It:
Grad student Nell Stevens gets a fellowship to go anywhere in the world for three months, all expenses paid, to work on her novel, and she chooses the remote, frigid Falkland Islands, just north of Antarctica, where sheep and penguins far outnumber humans. This sounds 100% like a book I'd love, and I was practically counting the days to its release! I love memoirs, I love books set in cold places, I love books about books and writers, I love penguins... and that cover! But, sadly, it all fell a bit flat for me.

Toward the end of the book when Nell realizes her novel is just not going to work out and she decides to turn her experience in the Falklands into a memoir instead, she lists for readers a few of the journal entries from her trip. For instance:

"Wednesday 7th August: Today my eyes are heavy and tight, and I'm listless, and suddenly so frustrated to find myself on a small island, surrounded by snow, cut off from the rest of life. I got up and did my exercises just the same, and sat in the sunroom and stared at the patch of world outside -- snow, geese, red-roofed sheds -- and imagined all the things I want to do next, all the places I want to go..."

This is what I was expecting to get with "Bleaker House": an adventure book, a depiction of life completely alone on a tiny, weather-beaten island with just enough food to get by and unreliable, painfully slow internet service.

There was a little bit of that, but mostly it was about the process of writing and about self-introspection. The book also included several chapters of Nell's work (and not just from the novel she was trying to write on Bleaker Island), and that felt off to me. While some of the snippets actually were interesting -- and Nell is a good writer -- they felt misplaced here, randomly inserted between of chapters about Bleaker Island without preamble; plus, some of them ended without any kind of resolution. Too, some of the stories Nell writes about her life and past experiences felt a little... dangly? I was sometimes left wondering, so what was the point of including that?

I liked Nell, and her voice did shine through, but it just didn't seem like she had enough material for a memoir. And I was hoping for an overwhelming sense of atmosphere and place -- the idea of spending several weeks, much less an entire lifetime, in the Falklands fascinates me -- but it just didn't come through. Some photos would've been lovely, and I would've enjoyed reading more in-depth details about the locals Nell met in the Falklands. Why do they choose to stay? What's it like living in such a tiny, isolated community?

The book did have its share of redeeming qualities, though, and I hate to sound like I'm bashing it -- and Nell -- too much. It was plenty readable, and, as mentioned, Nell is a decent writer. I'd be intrigued to read a novel of hers, if she ever does publish one. Perhaps the penguin on the front and the blurb misadvertise the book a bit, and because of that my expectations were out of sync with what actually lay between the covers.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

20 Intriguing May 2017 Book Releases

intriguing may 2017 book releases

Spring is in full bloom, and with it comes a new crop of book releases! May will see new releases from many popular authors, some of whom I've mentioned below (those I didn't list include Rick Riordan, Jo Nesbo, Michael Crichton, Nora Roberts, Haruki Murakami and David Sedaris) as well as some exciting debuts! All book descriptions are adapted from Goodreads.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins: (From the author of "The Girl on the Train.") A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman: One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, Lilian Girvan is just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed. At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks -- like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. After recruiting her kids and sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover -- with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners -- is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn: England, 1815: Two travelers arrive in a field, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. They are not what they seem, but colleagues from a technologically advanced future, posing as a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team of time travelers, their mission is the most audacious yet: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen.

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig: After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her. Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape. Because something happened, a long time ago -- something that only Ginny knows -- and nothing will stop her going back to put it right. A fiercely poignant and inspirational story a lost girl searching for a place to call home. Ginny Moon will change everyone who spends time with her.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan: A debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past, between displacement and home. On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Salt Houses is a remarkable novel that challenges and humanizes an age-old conflict we might think we understand -- one that asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again.

The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey: (From the author of "The Girl With All the Gifts.") Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy. The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world. To where the monsters lived.

The Best of Adam Sharpe by Graeme Simsion: (From the author of "The Rosie Project.") On the cusp of turning fifty, Adam Sharp likes his life. But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been: his blazing affair more than twenty years ago with an intelligent and strong-willed actress named Angelina Brown who taught him for the first time what it means to find -- and then lose -- love. How different might his life have been if he hadn’t let her walk away? And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

The Leavers by Lisa Ko: One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind. Set in New York and China, "The Leavers" is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging.

Cutting Back by Leslie Buck: At thirty-five, Leslie Buck made an impulsive decision to put her personal life on hold to pursue her passion. Leaving behind a full life of friends, love, and professional security, she became the first American woman to learn pruning from one of the most storied landscaping companies in Kyoto. "Cutting Back" recounts Buck’s bold journey and the revelations she has along the way.

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker: A gorgeous, deft literary retelling of Charlotte Bronte's beloved "Jane Eyre" -- through the eyes of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself. Faithful in every particular to Bronte's original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember "Jane Eyre."

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh: The untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo. Few details are known about Bonnie's life prior to meeting her infamous partner. In "Becoming Bonnie," Jenni L. Walsh shows a young woman promised the American dream and given the Great Depression, and offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon -- and turned to crime herself.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is fine. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except sometimes, everything. No one’s ever told Eleanor life should be better than fine. But with a simple act of kindness she’s about to realize exactly how much better than fine life can be.

Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor: Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Tuesday's Promise: One Veteran, One Dog, and Their Bold Quest to Change Lives by Luis Carlos Montalvan: In this spectacular follow-up to "Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him," (a book I LOVED!) Luis and Tuesday rescue a forgotten Tuskegee airman, battle obstinate VA bureaucrats and bring solace for troubled war heroes coast-to-coast. All this, while Luis' personal battle intensifies; while Tuesday has helped him make immense mental strides, the chronic pain of his injuries threaten to leave him wheelchair-bound. In a grave decision, Luis opts to amputate his leg, and learn how to live with a prosthetic. As Luis regains his athleticism, 10-year-old Tuesday enters a new phase in life; due to his growing age he will soon need to retire. Together, these two friends begin the tender process of welcoming a new puppy into their pack.

A Dog's Way Home by W. Bruce Cameron: (From the author of "A Dog's Purpose.") Lucas Ray is shocked when an adorable puppy jumps out of an abandoned building and into his arms. Though the apartment he shares with his mother, a disabled veteran, doesn't allow dogs, Lucas can't resist taking Bella home. After Bella is picked up by Animal Control because pit bulls are banned in Denver, Lucas has no choice but to send her to a foster home until he can figure out what to do. But Bella, distraught at the separation, doesn't plan to wait. With four hundred miles of dangerous Colorado wilderness between her and her person, Bella sets off on a seemingly impossible and completely unforgettable adventure home.

The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable: Physician Bess Codman has returned to her family's Nantucket compound, Cliff House, for the first time in four years. Her great-grandparents built Cliff House almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Though she's purposefully avoided the island, Bess must now pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave. "The Book of Summer" unravels the power and secrets of Cliff House as told through the voices of Ruby Packard, a bright-eyed and idealistic newlywed on the eve of WWII, the home's definitive guestbook, and Bess herself. Bess's grandmother always said it was a house of women, and by the very last day of the very last summer at Cliff House, Bess will understand the truth of her grandmother's words in ways she never contemplated.

How to be Human by Paula Cocozza: On leave from work, unsettled by the proximity of her ex, and struggling with her hostile neighbors, Mary has become increasingly captivated by a magnificent fox who is always in her garden. First she sees him wink at her, then he brings her presents, and finally she invites him into her house. As the boundaries between the domestic and the wild blur, and the neighbors set out to exterminate the fox, it is unclear if Mary will save the fox, or the fox save Mary. In this masterful debut, Paula Cocozza weaves together a penetrating portrait of marital breakdown, a social novel of wit and nuance, and an obsessive love story that crosses new boundaries.

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan: A man and a woman revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left. After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world. As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation -- but who will take it?

The Reminders by Val Emmich: Grief-stricken over his partner’s death, Gavin sets fire to every physical reminder in the couple's home. A neighbor captures the ordeal on video, turning this unsung TV actor into a household name. Now, Gavin is fleeing the hysteria of Los Angeles for New Jersey, hoping to find peace with the family of an old friend. Instead, he finds Joan. Joan, the family's ten-year-old daughter, was born with the rare ability to recall every day of her life in cinematic detail. Joan has never met Gavin until now, but she did know his partner, Sydney, and waiting inside her uncanny mind are half a dozen startlingly vivid memories to prove it. Gavin strikes a deal with Joan: in return for sharing all her memories of Sydney, Gavin will help Joan win a local songwriting contest she's convinced could make her unforgettable. The unlikely duo sets off on their quest until Joan reveals unexpected details about Sydney's final months, forcing Gavin to question not only the purity of his past with Sydney but the course of his own immediate future. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

"Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid
First published in 2017
231 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A totally unique book worth a read despite a few flaws.

The Long Of It:
I was instantly intrigued when I heard about "Exit West" a few months before its release: a love story set in an anonymous Middle Eastern country on the brink of war... plus a dash of magical realism?! The book didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it was refreshing to read something so different, both in plot and in writing style.

"Exit West" is a multi-faceted story. On the one hand, it's about a young couple with a fledgling relationship at a time when their country is becoming increasingly dangerous. It's illegal for them to hold hands walking down the street, to say nothing of the music they listen to, the drugs they do and the intimacy they share.

On the other hand, it's about a phenomenon that changes the world: certain random doors, rather than letting one into the next room, suddenly open up in a wholly new country. By traveling through the right doors, a person might escape her war-ravaged city and wind up in England, or America, or Rio de Janiero.

This is the fascinating backdrop for the Saeed and Nadia's relationship, and it raises all sorts of interesting questions, many of which Hamid attempts to answer. How do better-off countries deal with a sudden influx of thousands of migrants from third-world and war-torn countries? How do those countries' residents react? What kind of living conditions and jobs do the migrants find on the other side of the door? How does this affect local and world government? And on a smaller scale, how does Saeed and Nadia's love story stand up to the test of all this change and tension?

In addition to the unique plot, the writing was a style all Hamid's own. The book features some really delightful, beautiful turns of phrase, but Hamid's ridiculously long run-on sentences took a bit of getting used to. In contrast to his wordy writing style, the intriguing premise of the doors could easily have turned into a thousand-page epic, but Hamid pared it down to just over 200 pages. I'm one of those readers who appreciates lots of detail and explanation, and at times I definitely did want more information on the doors. (Why did they start popping up? How do they work? Are they finite or will there be doors forevermore?) But overall, I enjoyed the brevity -- it fit with the story.

I do agree with other reviewers who said the first part of the book was better-done than the latter portion. It started off so strong; I enjoyed meeting Saeed and Nadia during such a tenuous time, and traveling with them through their first door. The last third or so was not nearly so captivating, and it was much more forgettable. I still recommend this original, thought-provoking novel, though -- and it's quick enough to read in a day!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ten Things That Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is the opposite of last week's, where we discussed things that'll instantly make us want to read a book. Now we're talking about things that turn us off. Below are 10 things that'll instantly cool my interest in a book:

1. An ugly cover. For instance, Elena Ferrante's series. The covers are so absolutely horrific that I just can't bring myself to muster any interest in the books.

2. I can be into a premise until I read those death knell words: short story. I've never read a short story collection that I've enjoyed anywhere near as much as a novel.

3. Writing that's described in a blurb or review as "poetic" is usually a turnoff for me, as is 4. "lyrical." The irony is that I myself have used those words positively in reviews of my own... but too often they really just mean the writing is going to be pretentious.

5. After finally coming to terms with the fact that YA and I just don't get along most of the time, I avoid it like the plague. I've often been disappointed when I'm really intrigued by a blurb or cover, only to look the book up and discover that it's young adult.

6. If a book catches my interest and then I see it's over 500 pages, I'm a lot less likely to add it to my to-read list. There are some exceptions to the rule, to be sure, but unless it's a book I was already dying to read, I tend to avoid chunksters.

7. Christian fiction. I'm not religious, so I avoid most books advertised with the words like "faith" and "inspirational."

8. Dysfunctional families have turned out to really not be my jam -- at least when the characters are dysfunctional to the point where they're impossible for me to connect with. (See "Dead Letters.")

9. I like paranormal books to a degree (I love Anne Bishop's The Others series!), but I don't really care for stories that feature psychics or characters who can communicate with the dead. I just had a nasty surprise when it turned out that a book I'd been looking forward to, "A Bridge Across the Ocean" by Susan Meissner, featured just that -- and it was never even alluded to in the description. The times I've encountered these types of characters, they've just feel hokey.

10. I do read and enjoy them from time to time, but for the most part I avoid coming-of-age stories. Too much like YA -- I guess I want to leave my teen angst in my past!

Bonus! Some random phrases that've turned me off lately:

"minimalist and unsentimental"
"an engrossing meditation on grief and survival"
"poetic liberties"
"battered idealism and resistant hope"
a triumph of language and allegory"
"ambitious novel about grief and tragedy"
"hallucinatory prose...raw poetic talent...wild, plangent and revealing" (WTF does "plangent" even mean? I shouldn't have to pull up my dictionary app just for the blurb!)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: Well, it was another week in the same vein as all the rest of the weeks the past couple months: it was full of puppypuppypuppy, work, a bit of reading, and desperately trying (and, of course, failing) to keep on top of the housework and errands.

Alohi has been going to puppy playtime at our local Petco the past few weeks and, since they were having a special, we decided to sign her up for some puppy training classes there. Saturday was our first hour-long session, followed by half an hour of puppy playtime. Alohi is the most exuberant, enthusiastic, sociable dog and she will go-go-go, but the second we got into the car she was out like a light, as you can see here:


Reading: I finished the first volume of "March" and started the second. It's a graphic novel trilogy written by Georgia Congressman John Lewis about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s and the books are fantastic! (I do have to say, though, that the only other graphic novels I've read are the Saga series, and I miss having color illustrations; March is just black and white.)

Then I read "Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid (part Middle East country on the brink of civil war, part love story, part magical realism), which turned out to be a lot different than I had expected but still decent. Then I read the memoir "Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World," a book I'd been anticipating for months, but it was kind of a let-down. Reviews to come soon for both of those.

Now I'm just beginning "The Wanderers" by Meg Howrey, about the first manned mission to Mars.

Crafting: No time this week for knitting, or for trying out one of my new embroidery kits. :(

Watching: We watched "Fences" this weekend. I was impressed with the acting, but the story was so sad and depressing. And I didn't love seeing Denzel as an unlikable character! I also watched two more episodes of "This Is Us," including the Thanksgiving episode. It made me nostalgic for the holidays!

Eating: Every time I go into Starbucks the cheese danishes in the pastry case catch my eye, and I finally decided to whip some up myself. I used the cheater version with Pillsbury crescent roll dough and they came out ok... I'm not a huge fan of crescent rolls, so I should've known they wouldn't be quite as good.

Making: This pretty wreath for my new rotating genre display for work. The wreath was made out of paper bags, paint and hot glue, and I'm so pleased with the way it came out! The whole display turned out just about how I had envisioned it, which is such a wonderful feeling! Even my very-amateur hand-lettering looks ok. Every month we'll highlight a different genre, and the genre is written in chalk so it should be easy to change. I had SO much fun researching and brainstorming memoirs to display; I was especially interested in including some that wouldn't just be in biography section. Now I'm thinking about what to do next... it could be as broad as mysteries or as specific as WWII novels. We shall see!



Looking forward to: Afternoons free! Starting today, my schedule at work is changing. Instead of working three 8-hour shifts, I'll be working four 6-hour shifts. I'll be getting off at 3 or 4 instead of 6 or 7, and it'll be so nice to have some time in the afternoons to get stuff done! Plus, Jarrod's schedule is about to change too and it would've meant a lot more time in the crate for Alohi. This way, she'll still only be by herself for a few hours a day.

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: The Wanderers

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

I recently picked up "The Wanderers" by Meg Howrey at the library and I'm so looking forward to reading it! The blurb likens it to "Station Eleven" plus "The Martian," and it's about the first humans headed to Mars. Can't get more up my alley than that! It'll be a bit before I get to it, though, and in the meantime I thought it'd be a great time to do a cover battle. 

U.S. // U.K.

This is an easy-peasy choice for me: I choose the U.S. cover hands down, a million times over! I love covers that feature starry night skies, and covers that have a pop of red. It's gorgeous! The U.K. artwork, though... ugh! If you cover up the bottom half, the top really isn't horrific. Maybe if the ombre title were on a different background I could get behind that part, but as a whole there's nothing that draws me to this cover. The lurid colors remind me of some clothes I wore as a kid in the early '90s, and what is with that random digital-graphic house?

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book Review: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

"Swimming Lessons" by Claire Fuller
First published in 2017
350 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A well-written, character-driven novel about the life and death of a marriage.

The Long Of It:
Despite being a sort of quiet, understated novel -- not to mention character-driven as opposed to plot-driven, something I struggle with at times -- "Swimming Lessons" grasped hold of my attention and wouldn't let go.

Fuller is a talented writer, which I knew from her first novel, "Our Endless Numbered Days," but her second effort is even better. And the book has several things I like in novels: an English coastal setting, an author, books, letters and a relatable protagonist, plus it's told in dual-narrative format.

On the surface, the novel details the inner workings of an ill-fated marriage between a professor and his student, a girl who all-too-quickly becomes a mother, and who eventually vanishes and is presumed drowned. There's so much more going on, though. It's about love, motherhood and sisterhood, betrayal, grief, regrets, whether it's better to know the awful truth or to be left with a chance to hope, and that shocking revelation we get as we become adults ourselves that our parents had lives completely apart from being Mom and Dad. There's some levity and quirkiness, to be sure, but don't let the artsy, bright cover fool you -- this is not a particularly happy story.

"Swimming Lessons" is told both in present-day as the now-elderly Gil -- professor turned famous author -- is in the throes of illness, and through letters secretly written by Ingrid, his wife, in the early 1990s just before her disappearance and tucked in some of the books in Gil's massive collection. The modern-day chapters introduce us to their adult daughters, free-spirited Flora and uptight Nan, and I enjoyed getting to know them. But it was Ingrid's beautiful, raw letters -- for Gil to maybe find one day or not -- that carried the novel for me. Her letters detail her marriage from the moment she met her husband and explain to readers how everything went so terribly wrong. Ingrid is quite flawed, but so very real.

This is not an action-packed thriller, and there's not even much of a mystery. Instead, it's a beautiful, sad portrait of a family, and every member has his or her own issues to conquer. It's a good choice next time you want a contemplative, well-written story. It won't have you on the edge of your seat, but it'll get you thinking nonetheless.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Release: Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

"Gone Without a Trace" by Mary Torjussen
First published April 18, 2017
352 pages
My rating: 2 out of 5

*I received a free advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Short Of It:
Another run-of-the-mill, predictable psychological thriller. Blah.

The Long Of It:
I've finally come to terms with the fact that, with the exception of a few standouts like "Gone Girl," thrillers are just not for me (so if you typically adore them, you might want to disregard my review). They're so often formulaic: someone goes missing or is killed, there's some build-up, and then comes the inevitable plot twist -- often in the form of an unreliable narrator. After I cottoned on to the formula, it's been hard for me to enjoy these books because they're so darn predictable -- plus, good writing is pretty important to me, and in this genre it typically takes a backseat in favor of fast-paced action.

"Gone Without a Trace" fell short in quite a few ways for me, right down to to the repetitive, uninspired writing. There was so little actually going on that I skimmed nearly the entire thing and read it in a day. I felt zero connection to our protagonist, thirty-something Hannah, who comes home from work one day to find her boyfriend has vanished and erased every part of himself from her life, even going as far as deleting pictures of himself from her phone and taking every single one of his possessions. Hannah becomes obsessed with tracking him down and discovering why he left her -- and alternately wanting to give him an earful and hoping he'll grovel to come home. After the "twist," I liked her even less.

I do have to give props to Torjussen for one thing: the vanished person is a man! So many of the thrillers I've read involve a kidnapped child or a missing woman. Unfortunately, though slightly fresher than normal (and I do admit, the initial premise was intriguing), the story was kinda weird and just didn't work for me.

Another random issue: the cover. The artwork looks to me like a woman walking down a path to the sea... but I don't remember the ocean ever once being mentioned.

So, yeah, if you've got thriller-fatigue like I do, definitely skip this one. But if the genre is your thing -- and it is for a lot of readers -- you may like it much better than I did.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

10 Things That Make Me Instantly Want to Read A Book

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is a pretty open-ended one: what qualities make us instantly want to pick up a book? (Or at least look it up to check reviews, or add it to my to-read list.) My list is pretty random, but below are 10 things that never fail to make me take a look at a book!

1. A pretty cover. Oh yeah, I'm a cover-judger. I'm a very visual person and a beautiful cover will always get me to pick up a book and read the blurb. I especially love covers with illustrations (as opposed to pictures of real people) and pops of bright colors.

2. Books about books/libraries/bookstores. What reader doesn't appreciate a good bookish book?! Books are one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, and it's nice to read a book once in a while in which the main character is just as much of a bookworm as me. (Some favorites: "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin, "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield, "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.)

3. Set in England, France, Ireland, Scotland or Russia. These are all places I desperately want to visit, and usually books set in these locales are imbued with a wonderful sense of atmosphere! (Some favorites: anything by Kate Morton and Tasha Alexander, "In the Woods" by Tana French, "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles, "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon, the list goes on and on.)

4. Set in Colorado or Hawaii. Because it's fun to read books set in places you're familiar with, and these are the two coolest places I've lived! (I've only come across a couple, so I'd love some recommendations!)

5. WWI/WWII. Despite my husband's military career I'm a bit of a pacifist, so I don't know what it is that draws me to war novels, but some of my all-time favorite books have been set during the world wars. Maybe it's that most of the stories feature themes of courage, strength and perseverance. (Some favorites: "All the Light You Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, "I'll Be Seeing You" by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan, "Letters to the Lost" by Iona Grey.)

6. Dogs. I'm a dog mama, and books about dogs (or with a dog on the cover) will always catch my eye. (Some favorites: "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein, "Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him" by Luis Carlos Montalvan, anything by W. Bruce Cameron.)

7. Sci-fi/fantasy. It's funny, a few years ago I'd probably never picked up a book in one of those genres, but now they're quite possibly my favorites and I actively seek them out. Any well-recommended sci-fi or fantasy novel (especially if it has to do with something like magic or time travel) catches my interest. (Some favorites: "Red Rising" by Pierce Brown, "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik.)

8. Set in a cold place. This gets me every time! I love reading books that take place in locations like Alaska and Antarctica! I wouldn't actually want to be one of the book characters freezing my butt off in rugged remoteness, but I definitely enjoy living vicariously through them. (And I do totally want to visit Alaska and take an Antarctica cruise one day.) (Some favorites: "To the Bright Edge of the World" by Eowy Ivey, "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple, "Burial Rites" by Hannah Kent.)

9. Recommended by a trusted fellow reader. I have a couple friends (plus my mom) and follow of a few bloggers who have pretty similar reading tastes to me. And if they love a book, I'm 100% going to check it out.

10. 4+ stars on Goodreads. If I type in the title of a book that intrigued me and it pops up with a rating of over 4 stars, it almost definitely goes on my to-read list. Of course I don't always agree with other readers, but generally a rating over 4 stars means it's going to be well-liked by almost every type of reader.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: Just another blur of a week here! Saturday we took Alohi to her weekly puppy playtime and signed her up for some training classes that begin next week. And she had her first trip inside Lowe's!

Did you do anything for Easter? Usually we at least make a ham and some yummy sides (and up until last year I made Jarrod color eggs with me) but Easter totally snuck up on me this year and we didn't do anything Easter-y at all. We did take a couple fun pictures of Alohi in an Easter hat during her first trip to Petco when she was just eight weeks old and teeny-tiny (she had her four-month birthday yesterday; where does the time go?!), which I had planned all along to save and share for Easter. Meet Alohi-Bunny!

alohi bunny

Reading: I finished and enjoyed the Australian mystery novel "The Dry" (review) and I was excited to see that it's going to be a series! The main character was a dynamic detective I could get behind and I'm looking forward to having a new series to keep up with! (I'm good at reading newer series as the books come out, but I have a terrible time reading all the books in older series.)

After that I read "Swimming Lessons" by Claire Fuller. I really liked Fuller's first book, "Our Endless Numbered Days," and while the plot of her new novel is very different it's just about as dark. Don't be fooled by the cheerful cover -- it's mostly about the inner workings of a failing marriage, which doesn't sound like something I'd normally pick up but Fuller is a talented writer and it definitely held my interest.

Then I plowed through the psychological thriller "Gone Without A Trace," which releases tomorrow. I saw going in that it had mixed reviews and, since thrillers have not been my thing lately, I would've skipped it if I hadn't committed months ago to reading an ARC. Sadly, this book continued my downhill streak with thrillers and -- unless you really, really enjoy the genre -- I wouldn't recommend it. (Uninspired writing, formulaic plot, predictable, weird...)

Yesterday I started the first book in the graphic novel series "March," about the civil rights movement, by Congressman John Lewis. It's a super-short book and I should be done quickly; then it's on to "Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid, a new book I've been looking forward to for a while!

Crafting: I didn't do any knitting this week, but I did start on a project for work, a wreath made out of paper leaves.

Watching: We finally watched "Moana" and it was so cute! Definitely fun to see while living in Hawaii. We also watched this week's "Designated Survivor" and an "Elementary" from a couple weeks ago. And while Jarrod was at his Saturday-night poker game, Alohi got her first introduction to Harry Potter! I've been craving a Potter movie and I chose "Half-Blood Prince" because I've seen most of the others more recently. If Alohi were under the Sorting Hat, I'm 100% positive she'd be put in Gryffindor!

I'm excited to start watching "The White Princess" on Starz, based on Philippa Gregory's book. I haven't read the novel (I haven't picked up anything by her in a few years) but I loooooved "The White Queen" miniseries and I'm excited to watch the sequel.

Listening to: "In Cold Blood" by alt-J.

Looking forward to: Beginning an embroidery project! The three kits I mentioned on my MM post last week arrived and I'm excited to choose one and get started.

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

"The Dry" by Jane Harper
First published in the U.S. in 2017
326 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A solid mystery novel. I enjoyed the Australian setting!

The Long Of It:
Crime fiction has been inundated with psychological thrillers the past couple of years, and it's been a while since I've read a good, straightforward contemporary murder-mystery. "The Dry" fits the bill and managed to skirt the formulaic storyline mysteries sometimes fall into. I was pleasantly surprised that I was never able to guess whodunit, and that the richly described setting (rural Australia) played an important role in the story.

Aaron Falk works for the federal police in Melbourne as a financial investigator and it's been years and years since he's been home to remote Kiewarra. He has no choice but to go back, however, when his childhood best friend, Luke, commits a heinous crime. Of course, all is not necessarily as it seems, and these horrific current events may be linked to a dark time in Luke and Aaron's past -- the reason Aaron and his father left Kiewarra and why the townspeople are none too happy to have Aaron in their midst once again. Really, readers get two mysteries in one -- and you'll be guessing the whole time whether there's a connection between the past death and the present ones.

The story was intriguing and I really liked Aaron as a person and a detective. He was investigating off-duty in this novel, but I was excited to see there will be another book -- presumably with Aaron officially on the case -- next winter. I also appreciated how much Australian feel was woven into the book, both in the dialogue and the setting, and how Harper conveyed the rugged vastness of the bush, the agonies and benefits of small-town life, and an overall feeling of hardship and loneliness. If you're curious about the title, it's called "The Dry" because Kiewarra is suffering from a terrible drought -- a disaster that's got everyone in town on edge.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Release: Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro

"Sputnik's Children" by Terri Favro
First published April 11, 2017
360 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

*I received a free advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Short Of It:
A unique, quirky story involving a comic book writer, parallel universes and growing up in the time of the atomic bomb.

The Long Of It:
Debbie Reynolds Biondi grew up in a version of Earth very similar to ours, with one key difference. In Atomic Mean Time, WWII never really ended and the world is trapped in a nuclear arms race, with mutually assured destruction a daily threat.

Now Debbie resides in Earth Standard Time, our version of the world, and she makes a living as the author of the popular "Sputnik Chick: Girl With No Past" comics, which feature an ass-kicking heroine. The thing is, Sputnik Chick is based on Debbie's own experiences -- and the time has come to finally tell her origin story.

Though her flashbacks, we learn how Debbie was tasked with saving the world from nuclear free-for-all and imminent catastrophe, all while navigating life as a teenager in the 70s. She's from a small industrial town called Shipman's Corners in Canusa (the area around Niagara Falls, sort of its own nation in Atomic Mean Time) where the military-industrial complex is in full swing. Bomb manufacturer ShipCo has its hands in ever facet of the town, right down to the special calming grapes used to make ShipCo wine (helpful in keeping everyone's minds off the horrors of nuclear war).

"Sputnik's Children" is in large part a coming-of-age story; Debbie matures from a child into a woman over the course of the book, but I'm pleased that it didn't come across at all YA-ish. I especially enjoyed her teen romance with John Kendal (and her reaction to the flak they got over their interracial relationship in a time when it was taboo). And Favro paints an fascinating picture of what it'd be like to grow up when the world could literally end any day at the push of a few buttons.

Favro also creates a wonderful sense of time and place in her novel. She makes it so easy to picture Shipman's Corners, and there are plenty of fun '70s references. I also loved all the little details that set Atomic Mean Time apart from the world as we know it.

I've read a few other books dealing with parallel universes lately ("Dark Matter," "Maybe in Another Life," "All Our Wrong Todays") and, like those, this one feels wholly original -- and it's also got plenty of fun and quirk mixed in with the serious bits (you know, saving humanity from itself). That said, I did have a couple gripes. It was a bit draggy at times, and I desperately wanted to know more about adult present-day Debbie and more science-y details about how exactly she went about saving the world. Still, this genre-bender is definitely worth a read!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

10 Of The Most Unique Books I've Read

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is unique reads. The books below are unique for various reasons -- format, plot, narrator -- and for the most part they're all novels I'd recommend. What's the most unique book you've read?

unique books

1. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders This much-hyped new book is unique in two ways. The plot, which is about a grieving (and haunted by the war) Abe Lincoln visiting his son Willie's grave, involves a bunch of wacky ghosts stuck in purgatory. And the format is by far the most unconventional I've encountered. Chapters with dialogue are written almost like a play script, and other chapters are full of excerpts from primary sources (like other books, first-hand accounts, etc.) -- except some of them are made up, and there's no way to tell which are true and which are fiction!

2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi "Homegoing" was my favorite book of 2016 and I urge you to read it! I really enjoyed the format of this generational saga. The first two chapters introduce readers to two half-sisters (unaware of each other's existence) in 1700s Ghana. One is captured into slavery and the other is forced to marry a white man. The subsequent chapters alternate between each sister's descendants, with one chapter each per generation -- basically, vignettes that capture a moment in time for each family. It's a bit hard to describe, but it just worked so well and was so perfect for the (amazing) story Gyasi was trying to tell. (my review)

3. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins Weird, weird, weird -- but fascinating -- plot! Definitely not your typical "librarians"! (my review)

4. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal I've never read a novel before in which the story main character is not the focus of the book. Only one of the eight chapters is written from her perspective; the rest are told by people around her. Definitely a unique way of telling a story, and I enjoyed it. (my review)

5. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey Along with "Homegoing," this was one of my favorite books last year. It's about an expedition to Alaska in the 1800s and told in journal entries, articles and letters between Lt. Col. Forrester and his wife, who's back in Washington state having adventures of her own. Bits of Native American mythology is woven into the tale, which was interesting, and the book also featured a handful of photographs and illustrations, which is always a delightful enhancement to the story. (my review)

6. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
Gods Apollo and Hermes make a bet about whether animals given human intelligence could possibly die happy, and the story follows the fifteen dogs kenneled at a Toronto vet who are the subjects of the bet. It's told from the suddenly-much-smarter-dogs' perspectives, and as a dog owner I found it to be fascinating! (my review)

7. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
"A Monster Calls" is about a teen boy coming to terms with his mom's breast cancer with the help of a monster who takes the form of a yew tree. It's an illustrated novel (not a very common thing!) with pictures every few pages and the black and white artwork perfectly complimented the sad story. It's illustrated by Jim Kay, the artist behind the new illustrated Harry Potters, so it's no surprise that the artwork makes the story. I know I wouldn't have liked it nearly as much without the pictures. (my review)

8. Boo by Neil Smith Eighth-grader Oliver "Boo" Dalrymple is at his locker one minute, and the next he wakes up in "Town," a quirky version of heaven just for 13-year-old Americans. This is a totally under-read book -- it's funny, it's sad, it's wholly original! (my review)

9. Room by Emma Donoghue I'm sure, between the book and the movie, most of you are familiar with the plot of "Room." What made it special for me was that it's narrated entirely by a young child, and Donoghue somehow managed to make that work.

10. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs The reverse of creating illustrations to compliment the story, this eccentric book is based around actual old, strange photos the author collected. (my review)

Honorable Mention:
11. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (epistolary novel + aliens!)
12. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (alternate-universe travel!)
13. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (graphic novel + star-crossed lovers + interplanetary travel + an adorable little girl + lots and lots of wonderfully bizarre stuff!)
14. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (the first book I ever read narrated by a dog)
15. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (addicting + creepy + short enough to read in one sitting; not my favorite, but must be mentioned when talking about unique books!)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: I had a busy week at work getting things around for the April/May wall display in the kids' section. It's April Showers Bring May Flowers and I made a bunch of big paper flowers, paper clouds and a grass border. It's mostly done; I just need to add some paper butterflies, bumblebees and ladybugs at work today. (Not-great picture below that I snapped in a hurry right before close Friday. I'll post nicer ones once I get it totally finished.)

Otherwise, it was puppy, cleaning, errands, a bit of reading... Alohi got to go on a few car adventures this week. Thursday night after work we decided to go to one of our favorite places for dinner, but then we just couldn't bear to put Alohi back in her crate so we ordered it to go and took her with us to pick it up. She's not spoiled at all! ;)


Reading: I had just started "The Weight of Feathers" this time last week; I had to read it for the adult book club I co-host at the library where I work. And ugh -- I hated it! The plot, which is can be summed up as blood feud + traveling performers + star-crossed lovers + magical realism, sounds like it might have potential but... it was painfully slow-moving, I didn't feel the slightest bit connected to the characters, the plot was a weird and the writing was overly ostentatious, like the author was trying way too hard to write a "beautiful" novel. When I went to rate the book on Goodreads (2 stars for me, by the way), I was shocked to see how many of my GR friends had marked it to-read. I'd say pass!

At the end of the week I finished up my advance copy of "Sputnik's Children" (out tomorrow), about a comic book author, alternate universes, growing up in the '60s and '70s under the threat of mutually assured destruction via nuclear weapons, and saving humanity. It was a fun, quirky read, and I'll have a review up this week.

Now I'm reading "The Dry" by Jane Harper, a mystery set in Australia. I'm about 100 pages in and so far, so good! It's a fast read, and the mystery is intriguing -- I've got no idea yet whodunit!

Knitting: I worked a little bit on the Newt Scamander scarf this week, but I'm really itching to dive into a more interesting project and I've got my eye on a sweater pattern that I saved a while back. Maybe I'll do a little online yarn browsing this week.

Buying: One of my goals for 2017 was to take up a new hobby and, after being inspired by friends on Instagram, I'm going to try embroidery! I ordered three kits from Etsy; two are regular flat embroidery (a colorful puffin and a cheerful fox) and the other is a little stuffed raccoon. I'm soooooo excited for the kits to arrive in the mail!

(From Etsy)

Watching: We finally saw "Passengers" and, while it was ok, I'm so glad we didn't spend money to see it at the theater. It wasn't nearly as intense or mysterious as the preview made it seem. I also watched an episode each of "Grey's Anatomy" and "This Is Us" from the DVR, and we're caught up on "Designated Survivor."

Listening to: "Year Zero" by Moon Taxi, a new addition to my playlist thanks to Discover Weekly on Spotify.


Looking forward to: Memorial Day? I could desperately use a three-day weekend! (Also, it's kinda crazy to note that Memorial Day is actually less than two months away already!)

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Lincoln in the Bardo

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

I read the much-hyped "Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders a couple weeks ago, and I haven't yet written my review (and maybe won't ever get around to it) because I haven't quite sorted out my feelings about the book. On the one hand, I totally appreciated the VERY unique and creative format once I finally got used to it, and the story was interesting, but I was sorta left wondering just what I was supposed to get out of it. Definitely a different kind of book, and really a reading experience. But would I recommend it? I'm not entirely sure. What I can talk about with some authority, though, is which cover I like better!

U.S. // U.K.
Holy cow, I think we have one of the rare instances in which I actually like the U.S. cover better than the British one! I often gravitate toward botanical covers, and I don't dislike the U.K. version, but I do find the bright green to be slightly incongruous with the sepia portrait of Willie Lincoln. It's like it's both too busy and too bland at the same time: the tilted "Lincoln" and the vines going every which way make it look a bit messy, but then nothing really catches the eye either. I also don't love the mix of serif and sans-serif fonts here. (I will say, I have a feeling this one might be better-looking in person than it is on the screen.)

On the other hand, the U.S. cover is much more visually appealing to me. I like the teal tones and the eye-catching white handwriting-style font, which is a bit more clean-looking than the U.K. font. The only problem I have is that the cover gives you no idea whatsoever what the book is about. What is that scene, even? It sure doesn't look like a cemetery in Washington, D.C. However, on aesthetics alone, I'd definitely be more likely to pick up the U.S. book.

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?
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