Wednesday, May 31, 2017

10 Things... I'm Looking Forward to This Summer

10 things i'm looking forward to this summer

Welcome to a new occasional feature on the blog, 10 Things! I'm sure you're realized by now that I love lists -- to-do lists, book lists, bucket lists -- and I figured, hey, might as well add one more! 10 Things will be just what it sounds like: me listing off 10 things on a given topic. Tomorrow is June 1 -- the unofficial start of summer -- so I thought to start I'd list some things I'm looking forward to in the next couple months. What are you looking forward to this summer?

1. "Game of Thrones" comes back on in July!

2. Taking Alohi to the beach for the first time.

3. Jarrod's work schedule evening out after a few months of craziness. He should be on a fairly normal Monday through Friday schedule and be home for dinner every night. Can't ask for more than that!

4. Getting to the beach more; I've only been once since we got Alohi at the beginning of February! Now that she's a little older, I don't feel quite as bad abandoning her in her crate for a couple hours to get in some beach time.

5. 4th of July fireworks!

6. Trying more pineapple recipes. I've added a few to our regular dinner rotation and I want to find some more -- we have two years left to eat all the island-fresh pineapple we can!

7. Reading more backlist and books I own -- hopefully this'll help me get my first 5-star read of the year! I've resolved to take a break from new releases during the month of June... we'll see if I can stay strong and resist temptation.

8. Casting on for my So Faded sweater, as well as finally trying out one of the adorable embroidery kits I ordered from Etsy a while back. (Which to do first? Puffin, fox or raccoon? Decisions, decisions!)

9. Getting new neighbors! We happen to have the least sociable bunch of neighbors on the planet -- despite living in military housing -- but our next-door neighbors just moved out! Fingers crossed that the new people at least feel like chatting once in a while. Bonus if they have a dog to make friends with Alohi!

10. Snorkeling and hiking! We've been back in Hawaii a year now and haven't done either -- which is just nuts!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

8 Exciting Books Coming in the Second Half of 2017

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is about the book releases we're looking forward to for the rest of 2017. I had a shockingly hard time putting this list together; apparently many of the books that caught my interest came out in the first half of the year -- though I did mange to come up with a list of 8. There are a few more books that've caught my eye enough to land on my maybe-to-read list, but since this was a TTT about our most anticipated releases, I decided to stick with the ones I'm actually really looking forward to and will definitely be reading. What books are you looking forward to the rest of the year? (Can you believe 2017 is almost halfway over already?!)

June 6: I've been interested in this historical fiction novel since I first spotted that gorgeous cover months ago!

From Goodreads: Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, "The Essex Serpent"has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way. They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners' agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

August 22: "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" was one of my favorite books of 2014. Zevin's new book sounds extremely different from the charming, bookworm-friendly "Fikry," but intriguing nonetheless.

From Goodreads: The book's heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss ‑‑ who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married ‑‑ and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. A novel about a world that continues to want to define what women are and what they can, and cannot, do, "Young Jane Young" follows three generations of women, plus the wife of the Congressman. Told in varying voices through e-mails and even a Choose Your Own Adventure section, it captures not just the mood of this particular, highly charged moment but is an accessible, witty, smart take on the double standards that are alive and well and waiting to trip up ordinary and extraordinary women alike.

September 12: I liked Ford's "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet," but maybe not enough to make a point to read his other books. The blurb for his new novel, however, hooked me instantly at "Seattle's epic 1909 World Fair"!

From Goodreads: For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World's Fair feels like a gift. But only once he's there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off -- a healthy boy to a good home. The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam's precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known -- and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he's always desired. But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.

September 26: I know, I know, Dan Brown is looked-down-upon in the book blogging community. But I, for one, enjoy his Robert Langdon adventures, and I'm excited to take the next one!

From Goodreads: (The least-informative summary ever...) In keeping with his trademark style, Dan Brown interweaves codes, science, religion, history, art, and architecture into this new novel. "Origin" thrusts Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon into the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earthshaking discovery that will answer them.

October 3: I found Doughty's first book,  her memoir "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Creamtory," to be fascinating, informative and thought-provoking. If you want readable nonfiction, check her out!

From Goodreads: Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, "From Here to Eternity" introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning -- including a glowing-Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre -- and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.

October 10: I've read every one of Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily historical mysteries, and I'm really looking forward to the 12th installment because it's set in Russia! Over the past year or so, I've gotten much more interested in reading books set there, and I'm always excited to meet back up with one of my favorite literary heroines.

From Goodreads: When the body of a prima ballerina is discovered in the snow, Lady Emily races through Saint Petersburg to solve the murder, while a ghostly dancer appears to take the lost ingenue's place.

October 24: Joe Hill has recently become one of my favorite authors! I don't usually read short stories or novellas, but I'll definitely be checking this book out -- and it comes at the perfect time for some spooky fall reading!

From Goodreads: A collection of four novellas (Snapshot, Rain, Loaded, Aloft) tells stories involving shards of sharp crystals that inexplicably begin to fall from the sky, a parachuter suddenly marooned on a solid cloud, a mentally unhinged security guard, and a camera that erases memories.

November 14: I've been looking forward to another book by Andy Weir since I read "The Martian" years ago! His new book sounds more like a traditional sci-fi novel, which I'm thrilled about now that I've become a big fan of the genre.

From Goodreads: Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: My week was ok. I stayed home from work on Monday because Alohi had diarrhea and I just couldn't bear to put her in her crate knowing she'd be sitting in her mess for over six hours, then Tuesday and Wednesday I had all-day training for work. Thursday and Friday I spent the workday getting my big volcano wall display ready to put up later this week before the summer reading kickoff (it's a STEM theme this year, and the volcano ties into both science and Hawaii).

Reading: I actually had a fairly productive reading week. I finished "American War," read the non-fiction book "The Stranger in the Woods" and Paula Hawkins' new much-anticipated new release "Into the Water," then started "A Twist in Time," the second book in a historical mystery/time travel series.

"American War" and "The Stranger" were 4 star reads, and I'm still deciding whether to give "Into the Water" 3.5 or 4 stars. After seeing so many mediocre 3-star ratings, I was worried I'd hate it -- I assumed it would fall into that formulaic psychological thriller category -- but I was actually pleasantly surprised to find it was much more of a straight mystery than a thriller.

Knitting: I whipped up a hat for a going-away present for a friend who's (sniff, sniff) moving away. It's the Slouchy Copy Cat Hat pattern, and I used Malabrigo in the hollyhock colorway.


Watching: After checking it out three separate times from work, I finally watched "The Light Between Oceans," and I was kinda disappointed. I remember loving the book, but the movie was a bit of a snoozefest. On a more positive note, we watched "Hidden Figures" and I loved it! I kept getting indignant on behalf of the ladies (out loud! -- poor Jarrod!) but it was such an inspirational, well-done movie.

Also, Jarrod went on a deep-sea fishing trip on Saturday morning, so I turned Harry Potter Weekend on and Alohi and I tuned in throughout the day. Some of the scenes got me brainstorming how I could do up the big display wall for Halloween at work. I even looked up a DIY for making giant pumpkins like the ones around Hagrid's hut in "Azkaban."

Monday Musings
12 Books Perfect For Your Beach Bag

Looking forward to: My day off today! Jarrod is at work, but I'm still looking forward to getting some stuff done around the house, reading and taking it easy!

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

12 Books Perfect For Your Beach Bag

Memorial Day weekend -- and the unofficial start of summer -- is just days away! Appropriately, this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a summer reading-related freebie. I decided to go with 12 books I've read in the last year or so that'd make good beach reads.

Living in Hawaii, I do a lot of beach reading -- and I take whatever I'm currently immersed in to the beach with me. But I can tell you, the best books for the beach are easy, absorbing, fast-paced reads that don't require tons of concentration and can handle frequent distractions and interruptions. A beach (or pool or lakeside) day is not the time to finally haul out "War and Peace"!

Below are 12 decent (or fantastic!) books in a variety of genres perfect for your beach bag.

books for the beach

In no particular order:

1. Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: This is a women's fiction take on the parallel universe theme and I absolutely loved it! The protagonist's life splits off into two versions -- told in alternating chapters -- following a seemingly innocuous decision. It was thought-provoking and touching and fun -- and the epitome of good beach reading! (4.5 stars, review)

2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: This genre-bending sci-fi thriller (which also deals with the idea of parallel universes) had me on the edge of my seat, and I blew through it in two days. One of my favorite reads of 2016. (4.5 stars, review)

3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I devoured this delightful fantasy novel it in record time and loved every minute! Also one of my favorite reads of 2016. (5 stars! No review, but just read it!!!!)

4. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh: I'm pretty disillusioned with the psychological thriller genre, but this fast-paced read is worth (some of) the hype. (3.5 stars, review)

5. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel: This sci-fi novel, the first in a trilogy, deals with ancient aliens and is written in an easy-to-devour epistolary format, in journal entries and transcripts. A totally accessible book for non-sci-fi enthusiasts. Bonus: the second book just came out, so you don't have to wait a year to find out what happens next! (4 stars, review)

6. November 9 by Colleen Hoover: A fun, well-written contemporary romance with plenty of bookish references! I don't read much in this genre, but I did enjoy this one. (4 stars, review)

7. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn: This is is the first book in Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell historical mystery series. The second book came out this year, and Veronica is now cemented as one of my favorite heroines! She's a charming butterfly scientist/badass amateur sleuth, and the books are so much fun to read! A friend described the series as "comfort food" and I couldn't agree more. (4.5 stars, review)

8. The Royal We by Heather Cock and Jessica Morgan: You will be totally wrapped up in the romance and tribulations of regular-girl Bex and prince Nick -- loosely based on Kate and Will, complete with roguish brother Freddie/Harry. I'm hardly a "royal watcher," but I couldn't put this book down! (4.5 stars, review)

9. The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth: One half of this story is about two patients with early-onset Alzheimer's falling in love in their care facility, and the other half is told from the perspective of the facility's chef, who has problems all her own. Endearing, heartwarming, sad and poignant. (4 stars, review)

10. Written in Red by Anne Bishop: This is a fantastic entree into the world of urban fantasy (think shapeshifters and vampires)  -- and it comes with this delightful sense of cozy atmosphere and great worldbuilding. It's fun, it's addicting, you'll love it! (4.5 stars, review)

11. June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore: Gotta have some historical fiction on the list -- and this book is set during summer! It's a past/present dual narrative set in a small Ohio town in the '50s (when a movie set comes to town) and in present day when down-on-her-luck Cassie inherits her grandmother's crumbling mansion. (4.5 stars, review

12. You by Caroline Kepnes: Joe Goldberg, stalker extraordinaire and star of Kepnes' entrancing thriller, will keep you fascinated amidst any and all beach distractions (though it also may make you want to hold off posting those beach selfies to Facebook...). (4 stars, review)

Bonus: The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel: I just started this last night but I wanted to tack it into the list in case you're craving some non-fiction! It's a fast-paced, short and totally interesting read!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: A bit of a crazy week here... Jarrod's work has been doing an exercise (military speak for practice disaster) and he worked some insane hours that got progressively worse over the week (i.e. 13 1/2-hour shifts for several days straight, including the weekend). Today should be the last day, thank goodness! It's not been great for Alohi; she had to spend 6 1/2 hours in her crate without a break Thursday, Friday and likely today, the longest she's ever been in there. And not fabulous for our waistlines either -- we picked up dinner three nights last week!

I've been busy at my work getting things around for my next display on the big wall in the kids' section. Our summer reading program starts in just under two weeks and the theme this year is STEM, so I'm making a giant volcano with books spewing out the top. It's science-y, plus Hawaii-related. I've also been doing some research for my little "In the mood for..." book display, which currently features memoirs. The next theme will be recent and upcoming book-to-movie-and-TV-show adaptations. (In the mood for... reading before you watch?)

Reading: I finished and "The Lost City of Z" (review) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I really need to make a point to read more non-fiction!

Then I read book 2 in Sylvain Neuvel's popular sci-fi series. I liked last year's "Sleeping Giants," and "Waking Gods" was a page-turner as well. I really like the epistolary format the author uses. And now I'm a little over halfway into "American War" by Omar El Akkad, which envisions America's second civil war a few decades from now, the catalyst for which was the prohibition of fossil fuels. The protagonist is one of the most interesting I've encountered lately and I'm definitely liking the book so far.

Next up will either be another non-fiction book, "The Stranger in the Woods," or the new Paula Hawkins, "Into the Water." Sadly, I haven't read any glowing reviews of her second effort. I knew it was too much to wish for another "The Girl on the Train," but I was still kinda hoping...

Resolving: To not request any more new releases from the library for the rest of May, so in June I can focus solely on reading backlist and my own books! I have a no-shit addiction to that library "request" button, so this might be a little hard for me. (I'll just have to go on a backlist-requesting spree!)

Knitting: The absolutely beautiful yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts for my So Faded sweater arrived this week -- I was so excited to see the package in my mailbox! -- but that project will just have to wait a bit. Right now I'm working on a surprise hat for my work BFF who's moving away (the joys of military life!) in the purply-pinkish Malabrigo in the picture below.


Watching: I watched and totally loved "The Edge of Seventeen," which stars Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. I probably wouldn't have picked it up if it hadn't been recommended to me, but it was just a pleasure to watch -- by turns funny and serious and nostalgic. We also watched "The Free State of Jones," the new-ish Matthew McConaughey Civil War movie (it was kinda weird to be reading a book about the imagined second civil war while watching a movie about the first!) and I liked it better than I expected. I also watched a few episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and we finished out this season's "Designated Survivor."

Eating: I had a chocolate craving so I whipped up my favorite brownie recipe (Best Cocoa Brownies from Smitten Kitchen). Mmmmm... so rich and delectable!

Still loving: My Roomba! That thing has been a lifesaver the past couple of weeks! We still need to figure out the perfect name for it.

Monday Musings
Book Review: The Lost City of Z
I Judge Books By Their Covers: The Wages of Sin
Book Review: Unmentionable: A Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners

Looking forward to: Three-day weekend! And Jarrod will be home! I'm really hoping we can finally go see "Guardians of the Galaxy 2," and I would love to go to the beach. I've only been once in the last three and half months -- craziness!

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

"Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners" by Therese Oneill
First published in 2016
307 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:

An interesting book, but the writing style got a bit grating.

The Long Of It:
Like most fans of historical fiction and period dramas, I've occasionally wished I could travel back to the 1800s. Oh no, not permanently, just for a couple days; I know enough about history to realize things were pretty shitty for women back then. And I've got a particular affinity for long, hot showers, flush toilets, and the ability to speak my mind.

And that's pretty much what Oneill is getting at with her book: real, actual life in Victorian times was not quite the rosy, romanticized version we see in "Pride and Prejudice" or read about in a woman-as-amateur-sleuth novel. Instead, it was filled with filth, neverending boredom or neverending hard work depending on your social class, and lots and lots of men who thought they knew everything there was to know about women.

The book, which is divided into chapters about such topics as wardrobe and the wedding night, is written in a very sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek tone as if to a time traveler from the 21st century heading back to the 19th. It's also got lots of lots of pictures that were of varying degrees of interest to me, all complete with snarky captions. I kind of liked the tone for the first couple dozen pages, but it never let up, and before long it became a bit irritating.

Oneill also frequently uses extreme examples, and I suspect she picked the most polarizing quotes from primary sources she could find to illustrate her points. "Unmentionable" was an enjoyable read at times, and I did learn a few things, but I suspect there are better books along the same lines -- minus the snark. (One that's been recommended to me is "How to Be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman.) 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: The Wages of Sin

I haven't read "The Wages of Sin" by Kaite Welsh -- it's on my maybe-to-read list -- but I couldn't help noticing how vastly different the cover versions are! Here's an abbreviated version of the synopsis on Goodreads:
Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh's medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself. Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.
Definitely sounds interesting, and I love reading books set in Scotland!

U.S. // U.K.

Well, this cover battle is easy-peasy for me -- I almost always go in for the illustrated, artsy covers and the U.K. cover is lovely! I like it all -- the colors, the blood spatter, the font, the graphics. The pretty artwork combined with the bottle of laudanum and the skull and crossbones definitely pique my interest. The only thing I'm not totally sure about is that phrase: "For Sarah Gilchrist, even medicine can be deadly." I don't like sentences that start out with "For so-and-so," and it doesn't really make sense either. Of course medicine -- or practicing medicine in a historical mystery novel -- can be deadly. I wish the tagline had been left off altogether -- I think the cover is eye-catching enough that it's not necessary to have one.

The U.S. cover isn't horrible, and I do like the cityscape at he bottom. But I'm not a fan of the silhouetted woman or the plain-Jane white font. Booooring. It also doesn't give prospective readers much idea what kind of book it is.

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

"The Lost City of Z" by David Grann
First published in 2009
321 pages (plus bibliography, etc.)
My rating: 4 out of 5

"The Lost City of Z" is a fascinating reads-like-a-novel non-fiction book about an ill-fated Amazon expedition in the 1920s.

The book centers on well-known British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett, who had made several successful trips to the Amazon -- a place where pretty much everything is out to kill you -- in the early 1900s. He became convinced of the existence of a place he identified only as Z, ruins of a large, sophisticated ancient civilization. If he was right, the discovery would turn everything scientists thought about the Amazon (like that the natives were hopelessly primitive, and that the harsh environment couldn't sustain a large population) on its head.

In 1925 he mounted a small expedition with his son, his son's best friend and a few guides to search for Z, but he vanished in the forest with barely a trace. His disappearance has been a source of fascination, speculation, and many deadly treks into the Amazon to search for answers over the decades since.

I enjoy reading books like this because it's fun to be transported back to a time when parts of our planet were still undiscovered, still a mystery. And, for the same reason I like books set in cold, rugged, miserable climates, I like books set in the jungle. I sure wouldn't want to BE Percy Harrison Fawcett -- or even the author, David Grann, as he made his own trek just a decade ago -- but it's exciting to live vicariously thorough them as they battle starvation, deadly mosquitoes, hostile natives, piranhas, poison dart frogs, elephantiatis and plenty more on their adventures.

In addition, Grann gives readers a brief history of Amazonian exploration, mapmaking, archaeology and anthropology, especially around Fawcett's time. "The Lost City of Z" was just the kind of non-fiction book I love: informative and educational while also fast-paced and captivating.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: We had a pretty good week here. It included a yummy dinner out, macarons, bubble tea, Starbucks, a rainy afternoon, puppy playtime and puppy snuggles and a puppy bath, nice clean floors, a rainbow, ribs from Jarrod's smoker, and happy mail. It also included the single worst poop disaster in Alohi's crate I've come home to yet, but we won't get into that.

Reading: I finished both "Maisie Dobbs" (review) and "Umentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners." Both were decent reads, though I wasn't quite as impressed with "Unmentionable" as I'd hoped; the constant sarcastic tone got a bit grating. "Maisie" was good -- though a bit more historical fiction and less mystery than I expected -- and I'll be continuing the series.

Now I'm reading "The Lost City of Z" by David Grann and I'm really enjoying it. It's non-fiction that reads like a novel, which is always a plus in my book, and it's about an ill-fated expedition to the Amazon in the 1920s, something that always fascinates me. I can't imagine living in a time when parts of the world were still a mystery. I wouldn't want to be one of the explorers (it seems they died more often than not!) but I sure do like reading about them.

Watching: I finished "This Is Us" and, ohmygod, what a phenomenal show!!! We also watched a movie from the '90s, "Primal Fear," which my boss at the library recommended. It stars Richard Gere as a defense attorney, a very young Edward Norton as his client, and a very young Laura Linney as the prosecutor (and Richard's character's former lover and protegee). All is not as it seems, of course, and I was glued to the TV! THIS is the kind of thing I hope for every time I open up one of the ubiquitous (and inevitably formulaic and predictable) psychological thriller novels. Do you have any favorite '80s and '90s movies? I'd love your recommendations!

Listening to: "Crazy" by Seal. I heard this song for the first time in ages on TV last week and just had to pull it up on Spotify!

Buying: Yarn! I totally splurged and ordered a kit of five skeins of gorgeous hand-dyed yarn from Tanis Fiber Arts to make the So Faded sweater. I can hardly believe I spent so much money on yarn, but we all deserve to treat ourselves once in a while, right?

(Picture from Tanis's Etsy shop.)

Loving: My Roomba! It arrived last Tuesday and I'm pretty sure it'll go down as one of the best purchases I've ever made. The floors are SO CLEAN! And I have done ZERO WORK to make them that way!

Also loving: The absolutely gorgeous orchid my grandma sent me for Mother's Day! (I'm only mom to people with four paws, so it was so very sweet of her to think of me on Mother's Day.) I've always wanted an orchid but I'm really super great at killing plants and they're kind of pricey and not very hardy, so I've never gotten one. Any advice on orchid care would be appreciated!


Looking forward to: Memorial Day weekend! I could use an extra day off!

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

"Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear
First published in 2003
294 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

Favorite Quote:
"The feeling inside that she experienced when she saw the books was akin to the hunger she felt as food was put on the table at the end of the working day. And she knew that she needed this sustenance as surely as her body needed is fuel."

The Long Of It:
I'd been meaning to start the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series for years, and I finally read the first book after a friend mentioned she was reading the newest installment and we got to chatting about the series. It was not as heavy on the mystery as I expected, nor was it as cozy and lighthearted, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and I'll definitely be reading book two of the now 13-book series.

There is indeed a bit of a mystery to solve, but the focus is on introducing the reader to Maisie, a private investigator with an endearing rags-to-riches story. Much of the backstory focuses on Maisie's enlisting as a nurse in WWI -- something that does eventually tie into the case she's working on.

I felt like I was reading historical fiction more than historical mystery quite a bit of the time, but I didn't mind; I appreciated all the background on Maisie and I imagine the future books will be more mystery-oriented. Maisie's led a fascinating, tragic and wonderful life in her first three decades and I enjoyed getting to know her. Some reviewers complained that Maisie was "too perfect," making her feel cold and difficult to connect with, but to each her own... I prefer protagonists who are strong, smart, independent and brave -- basically, women I wish I were more like. And I sure wouldn't mind being like Maisie (she's pretty, too)!

I also enjoyed the historical British atmosphere, both in the 1910s and in 1929 when Maisie is working as an investigator. I look forward to traveling through the '30s and into the start of WWII with her. Another plus was the lovable supporting characters, from Maisie's costermonger (vegetable seller) father to her brilliant mentor to her exuberant university roommate.

One gripe I had was that the writing felt a bit uneven at times. The first section of the book takes place in 1929 and some things were referenced that didn't really make sense until reading the middle portion -- Maisie's backstory. I didn't really love the book's construction either -- I think I may have preferred just diving into Maisie's childhood and WWI experience right off the bat instead of starting with the mystery, then abandoning it entirely for 150 pages, then suddenly picking it back up. Or perhaps this would've been an appropriate time for alternating chapters, so both the past and present stories unfold simultaneously. I was also a little irritated by inconsistent use of capitalization and quote marks around certain phrases. But this was the author's first book, so I expect these small issues to disappear by later installments.

And I will most definitely be reading those later installments; I think Maisie is a character I can get behind for the duration of a series, and I'm looking forward to more adventures with her.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Exit West

"Exit West," while not quite what I had expected going in, was one of the most unique books I've read so far this year, combining Middle East conflict, magical realism and a romantic relationship. (Here's my review.) Which cover do you like better?

U.S. // U.K.

The U.S. cover is so pretty! I love the shades of blue and purple and the almost finger-painted look of the font. And the slanted words convey movement of some sort, which does tie into the story. But... it doesn't really have anything going on. There's no picture, no indication whatsoever of what the novel is about. And, while gorgeous, the blue shades remind me of outerspace -- not a civil war in an unnamed Middle East country.

The U.K. cover is kinda bland at first glance, but gets more interesting the more you look at it (not necessarily a good thing for a book cover -- it needs to catch the eye immediately). That geometric font, though -- I love it! And I like the pop of red, though perhaps it would be more visually appealing if the background were black instead of that taupe-y color. I also like the suggestion of a doorway that also looks like a piece of paper being pulled back -- again, something that fits with the story.

This is a tough choice as neither cover is hideous but neither is really just right either. However, if we're going just off which one would most grab my interest on a bookshelf, I'd have to choose the U.S. cover.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

11 Things On My Reading Wishlist

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is about things on our reading wishlists -- what we'd like to see more of in books. This was a hard list for me to come up with, and there very well may be tons of books featuring the items on my list. It's really more of a list of things I like in books and am often seeking out. Any recommendations would be welcome!

1. Fiction inspired by real people. I'd love to read more books like "The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain, "The Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore and "Euphoria" by Lily King, all fictionalized accounts of real people's lives.

2. Books set in European countries besides England and France. Don't get me wrong, I'm a total anglophile and francophile, but I enjoy traveling vicariously to all of Europe!

3. Books set in the '80s and '90s. I'm an '80s baby and it's always fun for me to read books set during the time I was growing up!

4. Books set in cold places. Oh, how I love a good rugged, frigid, icy setting!

5. Non-formulaic thrillers. I've all but given up on the thriller genre after reading disappointment after disappointment. They all claim to be for fans of "Gone Girl" and "The Girl on the Train" -- both of which I loved -- but they never hold a candle to the originals.

6. Books set during the Napoleonic Wars. There are plenty of novels set during WWI and WWII, but sometimes I'd like to go a little further back in time. I enjoyed reading "His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik and watching the new BBC "War and Peace" miniseries last year and I want more!

7. Books set in the Middle East, especially Iran. (And also, tangentially, North Korea.) Life in these places is so very different from life in America, and I'm fascinated by these disparate lifestyles, as well as the idea that we're all united by our humanity and, while we're very different, we're also very much the same.

8. Fun adult fantasy, a la V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic series and "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik. I've gotten more and more into the fantasy genre over the past few years and, while I do enjoy epic fantasies, I also enjoy these delightful lighter fares!

9. Books set in Australia. I've hardly read any books set Down Under -- I can only think of two off the top of my head ("The Dry" and "The Forgotten Garden") and I'd love to read more, especially since we'll be going on a vacation there sometime before we leave Hawaii.

10. Books featuring female scientists. Once science became math-based in school, I pretty much lost interest, but I really enjoy reading about women who are good at science. "Lab Girl" was a wonderful non-fiction selection, and I liked "The Atomic Weight of Love," "The Other Einstein" (although that was a little more math than science) and my favorite lepidopterist, Veronica Speedwell!

11. Parallel universes. I've read a few books featuring parallel universes in the past year ("Dark Matter," "All Our Wrong Todays," "Sputnik's Children," "Maybe in Another Life") and they were all fantastic! And while they all revolved around the same plot device, they were all so clever and imaginative and fresh!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: Jarrod started new hours at work (noon to midnight 5 days the first week, 2 days the second week), so Alohi and I spent a lot of quality time together. I admit a small part of me thinks about how much reading, knitting, DVR watching, cleaning and organizing I could be getting done during all those nights when Jarrod's at work if it weren't for a certain puppy needing constant attention, but I wouldn't give my crazy, sweet girl up for anything. On one of Jarrod's two days off we took Alohi to the dog park for the first time and she had a blast!

At work I got to do something new this week. We had a group of 52 first-graders come in as part of a field trip. Their teachers had chosen a book for us to read to them ("Waiting" by Kevin Henkes), then we asked them some questions, did a couple activities and gave them a library tour. It was organized chaos most of the time, but I was so impressed with how intelligent, imaginative and well-behaved these kids were! I got to be the book reader, which was so much fun. I love kids' picture books and part of me thinks I'd enjoy being a children's librarian. I've never been "in charge" of a group of kids before, so I was a bit nervous, but I think it went pretty well!

Reading: I finished "A Conjuring of Light," the finale to V.E. Schwab's wonderful Shades of Magic series, and loved it! It was long, at over 600 pages, but it's the best book I've read this year, hands down. (Although it's been a pretty rough reading year for me, so, sadly, it hasn't had much competition.)

Then I read the latest volume of "Saga," and now I've just started a fun non-fiction book called "Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners" by Therese ONeill, as well as "Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear. I've been wanting to start this historical mystery series forever and I was so excited to finally dive into book one.

Watching: I'm continuing to work my way through "This Is Us" on the DVR and I'm just loving it more and more. Only a few episodes left to go! As for movies, we watched "Sing" this week and thought it was super cute.

Listening to: "Sign of the Times" by Harry Styles. I was decidedly not a One Direction fan so I never would've sought this song out, but it popped up on my Spotify and I'm glad it did!

Eating: I baked a yummy recipe my mom shared with me from Pinterest called apple fritter bread. I thought it was more reminiscent of a coffee cake than a bread, but either way it was delicious! (I skipped the glaze because I didn't have powdered sugar on hand, but I thought it was plenty sweet without it.)

Monday Musings
10 Beautiful Night Sky Book Covers
I Judge Books By Their Covers: Shades of Magic Series

Looking forward to: Maybe, possibly, perhaps going to see "Guardians of the Galaxy 2." We never made it to "Beauty and the Beast" and I feel like it's been forever since we've seen a movie at the theater! Also, my Roomba gets here tomorrow!

Can't have a Monday Musings post without a puppy picture!

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Shades of Magic Series

I just finished reading the conclusion to V.E. Schwab's delightful Shades of Magic series, so what better time to compare covers? I must say, if you haven't read the series yet, you should definitely check it out. It's fantasy, but it's super fun and accessible; it'd appeal most readers -- even if you don't typically read the genre. It's got magic, amazing worldbuilding, great characters, edge-of-your-seat moments.... Plus books are just fun, easy reads. Now, time to get down to business!

 U.S. // U.K.

U.S. // U.K.

U.S. // U.K.

Holy guacamole, this is a hard decision! I love both sets of covers, and I think it's fun to pick out all the similarities and differences. I adore the black, white and red color scheme, the maps, the fonts and the graphics! I think it's rare to find a series whose covers perfectly fit the story as well as these do.

Perhaps my favorite thing about both versions is that each book depicts one of the three main characters: Kell on book one, Lila on book two and Holland on book three. I do have to say, though, that the U.S. versions make it much clearer which male is Kell and which is Holland than the U.K. covers do. And while I do like the large silhouettes of the U.K. covers, I think I prefer the more detailed, almost geometric, depictions on the U.S. covers.

I really have nothing bad to say about the U.K. covers -- both sets are true works of art. But I think the U.S. version squeaks by for the win; it's just something about those illustrations, and the way the maps are incorporated. I also like that the background color is a sort of cream rather than a true white.

Do tell: which covers do you prefer? Have you read the series?
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