Wednesday, June 28, 2017

10 Intriguing July 2017 Book Releases

It's nearly the start of July -- the halfway point of the year! I've had a pretty mediocre (sometimes abysmal) reading year and I'm going to avoid new releases for the next month or two and focus on older books I'm more sure to love, but of course I've still been keeping track of what's coming out. July is a pretty lean month for book releases -- at least, books I'm interested in. A ton of good-looking ones came out in June, and I've already noted over a dozen that come out in August, but July... meh. I think the book from the list I'm most likely to read anytime soon is the non-fiction pick "Beautiful Bodies." I'm super-intrigued by "Gork, the Teenage Dragon," but it seems like it could be either amazing or horrific, and I'll definitely be waiting to see some reviews first.

What new books are you looking forward to in July?

intriguing july 2017 book releases

We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy: The entangled pasts of two ruling class New England families come to light over three summer days on an island in Maine in this extraordinary debut novel. 1964. The Hillsingers and the Quicks have shared the small Maine island of Seven for generations. Though technically family they do not mix. Set during three summer days, Estep Nagy’s debut novel moves among the communities of Seven as longstanding tensions become tactical face-offs where anything is fair game for ammunition. "We Shall Not All Sleep" is a richly told story of American class, family, and manipulation -- a compelling portrait of a unique and privileged WASP stronghold on the brink of dissolution.

Gork the Teenage Dragon by Gabe Hudson: Fans of Harry Potter and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will relish this teenage dragon's spellbinding love story filled with bighearted humor and imagination. Gork isn't like the other dragons at WarWings Military Academy. He has a gigantic heart, two-inch horns, and an occasional problem with fainting. His nickname is Weak Sauce and his Will to Power ranking is Snacklicious--the lowest in his class. But Gork is determined not to let any of this hold him back as he embarks on the most important mission of his life: tonight, on the eve of his high school graduation, he must ask a female dragon to be his queen. If she says yes, they'll go off to conquer a foreign planet together. If she says no, Gork becomes a slave. It is Gork's biggest perceived weakness, his huge heart, that will guide him through his epic quest and help him reach his ultimate destination: planet Earth. A love story, a fantasy, a coming-of-age story, "Gork the Teenage Dragon" is a wildly comic, beautifully imagined, and deeply heartfelt debut novel that shows us just how human a dragon can be.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons: Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor -- someone, or something, to love. In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss.

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave: Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream -- she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor. And then she gets hacked. When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home -- and the estranged sister -- she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life. In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, "Hello, Sunshine" is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

When the English Fall by David Williams: A riveting and unexpected novel that questions whether a peaceful and nonviolent community can survive when civilization falls apart. When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community in Pennsylvania is caught up in the devastating aftermath. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) become more and more desperate, they begin to invade Amish farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the peaceable community. Seen through the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob as he tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos: Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they don’t, can they survive?

Less by Andrew Sean Greer: Who says you can't run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can't say yes -- it would be too awkward -- and you can't say no -- it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world. Question: How do you arrange to skip town? Answer: You accept them all. What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last. Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, "Less" is, above all, a love story.

Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller: A brave and witty examination of how and why we try to control our bodies with food. Like most people, Kimberly Rae Miller does not have the perfect body, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying. And trying. And trying some more. But what is the ideal body? Knowing she’s far from alone in this struggle, Kim sets out to find the objective definition of this seemingly unattainable level of perfection. While on a fascinating and hilarious journey through time that takes her from obese Paleolithic cavewomen, to the bland menus that Drs. Graham and Kellogg prescribed to promote good morals in addition to good health, to the binge-drinking-prone regimen that caused William the Conqueror’s body to explode at his own funeral, Kim ends up discovering a lot about her relationship with her own body. Warm, funny, and brutally honest, "Beautiful Bodies" is a blend of memoir and social history that will speak to anyone who’s ever been caught in a power struggle with his or her own body... in other words, just about everyone.

The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman: On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn't allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She's never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it's for Lilly's own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time -- and sold to the circus sideshow. More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents' estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl. At first, The Barlow Brothers' Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus's biggest attraction...until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly's fate and her family's shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw: Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family's specialty for generations. Greta Helsing inherited the family's highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills -- vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta's been groomed for since childhood. Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.

Bone White by Ronald Malfi: A landscape of frozen darkness punctuated by grim, gray days. The feeling like a buzz in your teeth. The scrape of bone on bone. Paul Gallo saw the report on the news: a mass murderer leading police to his victims' graves, in remote Dread's Hand, Alaska. It's not even a town; more like the bad memory of a town. The same bit of wilderness where his twin brother went missing a year ago. As the bodies are exhumed, Paul travels to Alaska to get closure and put his grief to rest. But the mystery is only beginning. What Paul finds are superstitious locals who talk of the devil stealing souls, and a line of wooden crosses to keep what's in the woods from coming out. He finds no closure because no one can explain exactly what happened to Danny. And the more he searches for answers, the more he finds himself becoming part of the mystery.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Best Books I've Read So Far in 2017

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is the 10 best books we've read so far in 2017, but I'm sorry to say it's been a pretty mediocre reading year for me -- not a single 5-star book in the bunch! I'm currently taking a break from new releases and focusing on backlist (and my own books!) and I'm hoping things will get better from here.

What's the best book you've read so far this year?

best books of 2017 so far

Books read: 45

Fiction: 37
Non-fiction: 8

2017 releases: 24
2016 releases: 12
Pre-2016 releases: 9

4.5 stars:
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab.
The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo

4 stars (in no particular order):
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
All Our Wrong Todays Elan Mastai
The Dry by Jane Harper
My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
March volumes 1-2 by Congressman John Lewis
The Likeness by Tana French
A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn
Saga volumes 6-7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Musings

Puppy class graduation.

My week: Jarrod and I are finally over our colds, and the antibiotics got rid of Alohi's kennel cough -- we're a cough-free household! I got my first-ever facial Thursday night and it was fabulous! I think I'm going to make it a regular monthly treat (the massage alone was worth it!). And we went to the beach Sunday afternoon, which was nice.

Work was busy for me with summer reading program, and in exciting news I'm going to be helping out with the library's 4th and 5th grade book club from now on. I'm glad to be getting some more experience working with kids -- and the best part is I get to come up with the crafts! The first book is "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech and I think I'm going to have the kids make dreamcatchers.

Reading: Not a fabulous reading week for me. I finally finished "The Likeness," the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, on Friday night. It got off to a slow start, though it did eventually pick up and I was totally hooked for a while, but then dragged on a bit toward the end and I actually did a bit of skimming. This seems to be the unanimous favorite of the series so I fully expected to give it 5 stars (what would have been my long-overdue first of the year) but I felt it only earned 4 stars.

I also read some more of "Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction," which I started a couple weeks ago and put aside in favor of some fiction. It's a fun, interesting look at the possibility of de-extincting extinct creatures. And I started "News of the World" by Paulette Jiles at the beach yesterday.

Watching: I'm continuing to watch "World of Dance" on Tuesday nights, and I started watching the new season of one of my favorite shows, Masterpiece Mystery's "Grantchester." Movie-wise we watched "Sully," "Keeping up with the Joneses" and "The Space Between Us" this week and all were decent, though none were rave-worthy.

Listening to: "Wish I Knew You" by The Revivalists.

Making: A snuffle-mat for Alohi! Have you heard of these stimulating dog toys? Basically it's a fluffy mat that you stuff treats down in and the dog uses her nose to sniff them out. I saw a pricey one on Amazon, which inspired me to look up DIY directions. I tied strips of fleece to a dish drainer mat that had a grid of holes in it and it came out pretty well!


Blogging: (totally slacking off blog-wise lately!)
Monday Musings
16 Series I Want to Start

Looking forward to: Alohi's getting spayed on Friday and I'll be glad to have that behind us. Also, 4th of July! Since Alohi will be recovering we probably won't be doing anything major, but we have a fabulous view of fireworks across the island right from our house (even better, our roof) and fireworks are one of my favorite parts of summer.

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

16 Book Series I Want To Start

Ah, book series. I love them! I love building on a story book by book, I love getting to know the characters and setting so well it just feels comfortable -- like you're catching up with old friends -- when you open the cover to the next installment. And because I love series so much, I can never manage to start all the series I want to, or keep up with the ones I've started. Sad news: in 2014 we did a TTT about newer series we wanted to read (here's mine) and I've since only managed to start one! Have you read any of the series on my list?

(Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.)

series collage

In no particular order:

1. Wayfarers sci-fi series by Becky Chambers
2. The Kingkiller Chronicles fantasy series by Patrick Rothfuss
3. Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak mystery series by Ausma Zehanat Khan
4. Harry Hole mystery series by Jo Nesbo
5. A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series by George R.R. Martin
6. Her Royal Spyness historical mystery series by Rhys Bowen
7. Pendergast thriller series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
8. Farseer Trilogy fantasy series by Robin Hobb
9. The Stormlight Archive fantasy series Brandon Sanderson
10. The Checquy Files fantasy series by Daniel O'Malley
11. Lady Julia Grey historical mystery series by Deanna Raybourn
12. The Century Trilogy historical fiction series by Ken Follett
13. Charley Davidson urban fantasy series by Darynda Jones
14. The Queen of the Tearling fantasy series by Erika Johansen
15. Hercule Poirot mystery series by Agatha Christie
16. The Chronicles of St. Mary's fantasy series by Jodi Taylor

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: Ah, what a week. Jarrod and I spent the week battling this mysterious cold(?) that refused to go away -- though happily we are finally both on the upswing. I actually left work early on Friday because I was coughing so hard -- while helping patrons -- that my eyes were watering. Alohi's kennel cough is much better, but we still took her to the vet at the end of last week to get her some antibiotics. Hopefully soon we'll be a cough-free household!

In other news, it was our 9-year anniversary last week! We don't make a big fuss over anniversaries but we did go out to dinner. We're thinking we'll take a fun trip next year for our 10-year. I also got a haircut and highlights (I had let all my highlights grow out, but now I'm starting to get grays -- sparkles, the girl who did my hair called them -- popping up) and we went to the beach on Saturday.

Reading: I finished and really enjoyed "My Last Continent" by Midge Raymond, which is set in Antarctica with a penguin researcher for a protagonist! I thought the author came up with a unique way to utilize the setting and I would recommend it to anyone craving a cold-weather book!

Then, though, I floundered around a bit book-wise. I'm still reading "Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction," which is short and fun and far from being a dry non-fiction tome, but it's not exactly action-packed either and it's not what I'm in the mood for right now. I tried to start "The Anubis Gates," a time travel book a friend loaned me, but I couldn't get into it, try as I might (though I will pick it back up soon).

I figured with being sick and tired and sometimes miserable, what I really needed was an unputdownable page-turner, so on Saturday I grabbed "The Likeness" by Tana French off my bookshelf (yay for reading my own books!). It's pretty engrossing so far!

Watching: I've continued to watch "The White Queen" on the DVR and it's soooo good! I only have two episodes left and I'll be sad when it's over. I'm also still hooked on that "World of Dance" competition show I stumbled upon a couple weeks ago on NBC. DVD-wise we watched "Why Him?" with James Franco and Bryan Cranston, and it was better than I expected -- I LOLed a whole bunch of times! We also tried to watch "Silence," but it was both appallingly depressing and a total snooze-fest, as well as waaaay too long. I gave up on it after an hour.

Buying: I ordered myself a t-shirt that proclaims I'm a "Hogwarts Graduate"!

Eating: We went to Outback for our anniversary dinner and it was delicious! We had cocktails, a bloomin' onion, yummy steaks, and they brought us out a free sundae, which was a lovely surprise. We definitely waddled out of there, but it was a very tasty dinner! (And we had some giftcards to use up, so it was almost free!)

Monday Musings
My Summer 2017 Reading List

Looking forward to: Hopefully going to see "Wonder Woman" at the theater soon. I keep hearing how fantastic it is! And we haven't been to see a movie since "Fantastic Beasts." I had desperately wanted to see "Beauty and the Beast," and then "Guardians of the Galaxy 2," and neither worked out between Jarrod's work schedule and the puppy and various other things. "Wonder Woman," I'm coming for you!

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Summer 2017 Reading List

The official first day of summer is a week away, but to me summer encompasses all of June, July and August, and this seemed a fitting time to share my summer reading plans! In mid-May I made a radical decision to ban myself from requesting or checking out new releases from the library so I could focus on backlist and books I own. I'm still catching up on library books I already had out, but the rest of June and probably July will be mostly devoted to older books. The year's nearly half over and I have yet to read a 5-star book, but I know I'm going to love many of the books on my list.

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish to share my list. What will you be reading this summer?

summer reading list 2017

1-3. The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown: I read and absolutely loved the first two books back in 2015. "Red Rising" is definitely the book I recommend the most. But I have yet to read the trilogy-ender, "Morning Star" (blame our move from Ohio to Hawaii last year) and, after talking to a friend who I convinced to read the series and who, of course, read "Morning Star" before me, I realized I've forgotten a lot of the finer details of the first two books. So, in nearly unprecedented fashion, I am going to re-read a book! Two, actually! And then I'm finally going to dive into "Morning Star." Yay!

4. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: I ordered this a couple months ago from Book Depository because my library doesn't have it, and plus this way I get the gorgeous U.K. cover. I'm really, really looking forward to starting this well-liked sci-fi series!

5. One Summer by Bill Bryson: This book has been on my to-read list since it first came out in 2013! I love Bill Bryson anyway, and this one details a whole bunch of interesting things that happened during the summer of 1927. Fittingly, I'll be reading it during summer 90 years later!

6. The Likeness by Tana French: I read and loved "In the Woods," the first Dublin Murder Squad book, a couple years ago and I've been meaning to read book two ever since. A friend even bought a copy for me and it's just been languishing on my shelf! I'm excited to finally get to it, though. It seems to be everyone's favorite book of the series.

7. The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny: Another mystery series I started and enjoyed and have neglected to continue. This will be my third book in Penny's Inspector Armand Gamache series, set in a tiny town in Quebec.

8. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: I've been meaning to read something by Agatha Christie for at least a decade. The time has finally come! And then I'll be ready to see the movie in November.

9. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik: I read the first book in the Temeraire series (set in an alternate history during the Napoleonic Wars in which dragons are used in battle) last summer and have yet to read the next book. (Are you sensing a trend here about my relationship with series?!)

10. Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole: A WWII novel told in letters is right up my alley, so why has it taken me so long to read this?! My Broke and Bookish Secret Santa bought it for me last Christmas so now I have no excuse.

11. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: Another book I'm fully expecting to love, and another gift from my Broke and Bookish Secret Santa (ahem, the previous year).

12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: I read one Kristin Hannah book and hated it (it involved the military and I took exception with her portrayal) but I'm finally giving in and reading "The Nightingale." Everybody loves it, and I'm hoping to as well.

13. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers: A friend from work loaned me this time travel book (back to 1810 England) and she's about to move away, so I have to get it read before their movers come!

14. My Last Continent by Midge Raymond: I have a total soft spot for books set in cold places, and this one takes place in Antarctica! It came out last June, so it's straddling the line between being backlist and new-ish.

15. News of the World by Paulette Jiles: I discovered this book during the voting for the Goodreads Choice Awards last year and couldn't believe it slipped under my radar. It sounds like a great little historical fiction novel, and Tom Hanks is set to star in the movie version.

16. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich: Gotta have at least one new book in the mix! Plus it meets my neverending goal of trying to read more non-fiction.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Musings

alohi harbor collage

My week: It was an ok week here. Work was busy with the start of summer reading program, and Jarrod and I are both battling colds. Plus Alohi got kennel cough and we had to cancel her first-ever playdate and miss puppy class this week. But we did take her for a walk along the harbor and I think she had fun getting to explore a new place and see a bunch of people. We're also working on teaching her some new tricks to keep her mind working -- she's too smart for her own good! Last week we started learning roll over and turn. Sunday afternoon Jarrod and I had planned to go to the beach but we just weren't up for it, so we stayed home and coughed as a family.

Reading: It was a pretty slow reading week for me. Monday night was devoted to skimming "Maybe in Another Life" for book club at work, and then a few other evenings I (gasp) watched TV instead of reading. More on that below. I did something I rarely do this week: read two books at once! I started and finished (thanks to our lazy Sunday) "The Queen of Blood" by Sarah Beth Durst, the first in a new fantasy series (I gave it 4 stars and I'll definitely read the next book!). I'm also reading a fun and fascinating non-fiction book about the ins and outs of "de-extincting" extinct creatures, "Bring Back the King." Just last night I started "My Last Continent" by Midge Raymond, which is set in Antarctica -- I have such a soft spot for cold-weather books. After that I'll only have one more library book to go ("News of the World" by Paulette Jiles) before I can finally start my summer goal of reading backlist and my own books -- no (or maybe just a very few) new releases for at least a month.

Watching: "The White Princess," and oh my gosh, I love it! I thoroughly enjoyed "The White Queen," so I figured I'd like the sequel just as well. Jarrod had to work a couple nights this week, so I did some binging and watched five episodes. Movie-wise I didn't fare so well this week; we watched DVDs of "Gold" and "Silence" and both completely failed to hold my interest. I also couldn't get over Matthew McConaughey's baldness and belly paunch in "Gold." I get trying to make actors look more like the real people they're portraying, but this was just distracting.

Eating: Blueberries! The grocery store had them on sale this week, so I sprinkled some onto Alohi's kibble and made blueberry pancakes for myself.

Monday Musings
The Last 10 Non-Fiction Books I Added To My To-Read List
Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
I Judge Books By Their Covers: Golden Hill
Book Review: Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (My 1,000th post! I didn't even realize it until I was putting this post together.)

Looking forward to: "Orphan Black" started back this weekend! We recorded it on the DVR and will watch it this week.

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Non-Fiction Review: The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

"The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit" by Michael Finkel
First published in 2017
203 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Short Of It:
An interesting, readable non-fiction story about, as the cover says, a man who very well might be the last true hermit.

The Long Of It:
When he was 20, Christopher Knight decided to leave civilization behind and live in a tent in the woods of Maine. He never lit a fire, he spoke just one word to another human being -- "Hi" -- in nearly three decades, and he subsisted entirely through petty theft.

For years "The Hermit," as he was known, frightened a small Maine community as their homes -- and a summer camp for the mentally disabled -- were repeatedly broken into, with food, clothing, propane tanks, batteries, books, magazines and even mattresses taken. Eventually, in 2013, he was caught in the act, arrested, and forced to give up his seclusion.

The sheer dedication to living a solitary, humanity-free life is astonishing. Knight would literally rather have frozen to death in the middle of a frigid Maine winter than light a fire and risk discovery. Too, he admits to feeling deep shame for stealing, but he continued to do it for years and years and years. I was baffled by his commitment to isolation, and of course I wanted to know why -- and I had assumed that was the whole point of the book. Unfortunately, despite Finkel's best efforts to get that answer, he doesn't really have one and apparently Knight can't articulate it either. It seems likely that he falls on the autism spectrum, or has something called schizoid personality disorder, but that's not exactly a definitive explanation. So, while the story was interesting, it felt a little purposeless -- and like it could've been much shorter than 200 pages.

I can't fault Finkel for this, but I just could not warm up to Knight. He comes off as prickly and arrogant. I couldn't grasp his motivations, and I couldn't abide the decades of theft. Why not hunt or fish or start a vegetable garden? It was sort of like he was cheating at being a hermit, because even though he didn't want to be a part of society he still wanted to partake of its spoils. (I try hard not to be judgy, but I definitely fell short while reading this book!)

And something I was really craving throughout was photos! Photos of the camp, photos of Knight. Of course, I turned to Google, and I think I understand why Finkel didn't include any: when Knight was arrested, he was pale and pudgy with desperately out-of-date glasses -- the same ones he was wearing when he decided to live off the grid in 1986. Then, after months jail -- the chaos of which must have seemed like absolute hell to him -- he's gaunt and has a Grizzly Adams beard. And the fact of the matter is, an old, pasty, balding, sorta creepy-looking guy -- who's also odd and misanthropic -- is a little harder to empathize with.

Despite its faults, "The Stranger in the Woods" is still worth a read -- and it's super-quick. If I hadn't had such a hectic week when I read it, I would've had it done in two days. I did like Finkel's writing, and while I definitely didn't like Knight, his story bizarre was certainly interesting and thought-provoking.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Golden Hill

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

It's time for another cover battle! This time we're comparing "Golden Hill" by Francis Spufford, a novel that came out earlier this month and is set in 1700s New York City. It's definitely on my to-read list! Here's a bit of the blurb:
"New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat pitches up at a counting-house door in Golden Hill Street: this is Mr Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion simmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge amount, and he won't explain why, or where he comes from, or what he can be planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money."

U.S.  //  U.K.

Oh my, what a glorious dilemma: I actually like both covers for once! While they're pretty different overall, they share black, pale blue and golden tones, plus images of people and old buildings. To me, they both look suitably historical, though I do like how the U.S. cover proclaims it "A Novel of Old New York." I also like the three obviously different but still cohesive pictures and the torn-pages look. But... I find the sort of wacky illustration on the U.K. cover so intriguing, and I like the font used for the title (though not so much the boring serif font used for the author's name). Such a tough choice!

In the end, I'm going with the U.S. cover by a nose. It just fits slightly better with the whole "one rainy November evening in 18th century Manhattan" vibe -- it looks like something I'd want to grab a cup of tea and curl up with.

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

"Into the Water" by Paula Hawkins
First published in 2017
386 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Short Of It:
This book was totally different from "The Girl on the Train" and had a few issues, but overall I enjoyed it.

The Long Of It:
With her sophomore effort Hawkins -- wisely, in my opinion -- didn't attempt to replicate the ubiquitous "The Girl on the Train." Instead, "Into the Water" is much more of a traditional mystery -- no unreliable narrator, no big twist at the end -- and that was perfectly fine with me because, with a few exceptions (like "The Girl on the Train" and "Gone Girl"), I've come to terms with the fact that psychological thrillers are usually a disappointment for me.

"Into the Water" is set in a small English town whose central feature is a river -- and that river, wrapped in tales of witches and curses -- has been the site of several suicides and drownings over the centuries. Two women died there in just the past few months, and it is with the potential -- mysterious -- suicide of the second woman that the story begins.

The book is told from several points of view, from the teenage daughter and estranged sister of the dead woman to one of the detectives on the case to the town psychic and more. Slowly, the truth unravels to reveal sinister motives, buried secrets and hidden connections.

There's not really any edge-of-your-seat pages-flying action; it's more of a slow burn of a book -- and as I said, I'd classify it as a mystery rather than a thriller. It reminded me a lot of the British TV show "Broadchurch," which revolves around a small English village and a dead boy found on the beach; in the course of the investigation, it turns out the residents of the quaint little seaside town are hiding all kinds of secrets. (It's a really good show, and it stars David Tenant!)

Something major that was missing for me, though, that "The Girl on the Train" did have, was connection to the characters. I was totally invested in Rachel and, oh my gosh did I tear through that book to find out what happens to her. I think here the story suffers from too many narrators and too little background on each. And the multiple-POVs made the story confusing and hard to get into at first -- I was at least 100 pages in before I really got hooked by the plot, though once I finally was I had a hard time putting the book down.

I had really been looking forward to "Into the Water," but then all the mediocre 3-star reviews started rolling in and I almost didn't pick it up after all. I'm glad I did, though -- it wasn't perfect, and it wasn't "The Girl on the Train," but it was a decent read. I went into it with fairly low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Last 10 Non-Fiction Books I Added To My To-Read List

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a fun one -- the last 10 books of X genre we added to our to-read lists. I read so many different genres of fiction that I'd have had to go back pretty far to get 10 historical fiction, or sci-fi, or mystery, and I've been on a bit of a non-fiction kick lately (or, at least, a kick of adding non-fiction to my to-read list!) so that's what I went with.

Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace and Second Chances by Leland Melvin

Added to my TBR: May 27

How I discovered it: BookRiot non-fiction e-mail -- couldn't resist the NASA portrait with dogs!

From Goodreads: In this revelatory and moving memoir, a former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver shares his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, examining the intersecting roles of community, perseverance and grace that align to create the opportunities for success.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore

Added to my TBR: May 15

How I discovered it: I'd heard of it, but I added it to my to-read list after covering the new copy we got in at the library

From Goodreads: As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive -- until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Added to my TBR: May 9

How I discovered it: it's everywhere!

From Goodreads: Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction by Helen Pilcher

Added to my TBR: May 5

How I discovered it: friend recommendation

From Goodreads: Helen Pilcher is uniquely qualified to explain the cutting-edge science that makes the resurrection of extinct animals a very real possibility, while acknowledging the serious and humorous aspects of giving a deceased animal a second chance to live. If you could bring back to life a person or animal, what would you choose?
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Added to my TBR: April 16

How I discovered it: a friend recommended it while we were chatting about exploration books

From Goodreads: The astonishing saga of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's survival for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas, as Time magazine put it, "defined heroism." Alfred Lansing's scrupulously researched and brilliantly narrated book has long been acknowledged as the definitive account of the Endurance's fateful trip.

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Oppression in the West by Nate Blakeslee

Added to my TBR: April 16

How I discovered it: Library Journal pre-pub e-mail (it comes out in October)

From Goodreads: Before men ruled the Earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West. With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, a charismatic alpha female named O-Six for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world. But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park's stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Added to my TBR: April 11

How I discovered it: added it after deciding to read "The Lost City of Z"

From Goodreads: In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. As the death toll surpassed more than 24 Osage, the newly created FBI took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Added to my TBR: April 7

How I discovered it: I've had this book in the back of my mind forever, but just finally added it to my to-read list

From Goodreads: In "All Creatures Great and Small," we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school. Some visits are heart-wrenchingly difficult. some are lighthearted and fun, and yet others are inspirational and enlightening. From seeing to his patients in the depths of winter on the remotest homesteads to dealing with uncooperative owners and critically ill animals, Herriot discovers the wondrous variety and never-ending challenges of veterinary practice as his humor, compassion, and love of the animal world shine forth.

Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols

Added to my TBR: April 7

How I discovered it: Instagram -- that cover totally caught my eye, plus it was first published way back in 1931 but is still in print!

From Goodreads: "Down the Garden Path" has stood the test of time as one of the world’s best-loved and most-quoted gardening books. From a disaster building a rock garden, to further adventures with greenhouses, woodland gardens, not to mention cats and treacle, Nichols has left us a true gardening classic.

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh by Kathryn Aalto

Added to my TBR: March 19

How I discovered it: shelving books at work

From Goodreads: "The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh" explores the magical landscapes where Pooh, Christopher Robin, and their friends live and play. The Hundred Acre Wood -- the setting for Winnie-the-Pooh’s adventures -- was inspired by Ashdown Forest, a wildlife haven that spans more than 6,000 acres in southeast England. In the pages of this enchanting book you can visit the ancient black walnut tree on the edge of the forest that became Pooh’s house, go deep into the pine trees to find Poohsticks Bridge, and climb up to the top of the enchanted Galleons Lap, where Pooh says goodbye to Christopher Robin. You will discover how Milne's childhood connection with nature and his role as a father influenced his famous stories, and how his close collaboration with illustrator E. H. Shepard brought those stories to life. This charming book also serves as a guide to the plants, animals, and places of the remarkable Ashdown Forest, whether you are visiting in person or from the comfort of your favorite armchair.

Gah! Forgot one! Rather than squeeze it in and delete one, I'll just tack number 11 on the end:

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

Added to my TBR: April 16

How I discovered it: Library Journal pre-pub email (Doughty's first memoir, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory" is one of those books that's really stuck with me!)

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. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. 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 and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: I definitely enjoyed my Memorial Day off work! I took the opportunity to clean out and reorganize my closet. Sometimes purging stuff just feels so good! Wednesday I finally made it to the beach, and it was fantastic and relaxing and much-needed. And Sunday I went hiking with some of my co-workers. It was fun but, as are most Hawaii hikes, pretty muddy!

hike collage

Reading: I finished and enjoyed "A Twist in Time," book two in a time travel/historical mystery series. Plotwise, I liked this book better than the first, and I'll definitely read the third book when it comes out next spring. The books are set in early 19th century England and I love all the historical details the author includes.

Now I'm reading a non-fiction book a friend recommended, "Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction," which is a fun look at the very real possibility of bringing extinct animals back into existence.

I'm also skimming "Maybe in Another Life," the June book club book for work. I read it back in December and really enjoyed it, but unfortunately my book club co-facilitators didn't like it! I sure hope the patrons in the club have more positive reactions.

Watching: We watched "The Girl With All the Gifts" this week and it was decent. I loved the little girl they chose to play Melanie. And I got totally sucked into this new show, "The World of Dance" on NBC. I don't really watch competition shows these days but Jarrod was working the night the premiere came on and I was exhausted and just needed to stare at the TV... and of course, I was hooked and will now be tuning in every Tuesday!

We also watched a random episode of "Full House," which was fun! We always put something on the TV for Alohi when we leave, and Jarrod left the TV on Nickelodeon when we went out to eat the other night. When we came home, "Full House" was on and, oh, the nostalgia! And the '90s clothes!

Making: The new wall display in the kids' section at work. Our summer reading program kicked off on Saturday and this year's theme is STEM, so I made a giant volcano with books spewing out the top -- Hawaii-related, science-y and bookish!


Eating: Chocolate-chip banana bread (literally, right now as I type this!).

Craving: A burger and fries!

Monday Musings
8 Exciting Books Coming in the Second Half of 2017
10 Things... I'm Looking Forward to This Summer
16 Intriguing June 2017 Book Releases
Turning the Page on May 2017
Book Review: American War by Omar El Akaad

Looking forward to: One of my favorite shows, "Grantchester" on PBS/Masterpiece, comes back on in two Sundays!

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Review: American War by Omar El Akkad

"American War" by Omar El Akkad
First published in 2017
333 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

An intriguing premise -- the second American civil war -- and pretty good execution.

The Long Of It:
In 2074, the United States of America looks very different thanks to climate change: parching heat, terrifying storms and rising water levels. Vast swaths of the coast are underwater, Florida is completely submerged, and the federal government has relocated to Columbus, Ohio.

Amid high tensions, the U.S. is about to enter into its second civil war, the catalyst for which is a ban on fossil fuels; a handful of southern states refuse to cooperate, once again pitting north against south. Worse yet, the 20-year battle will be followed by a horrific plague that'll wipe out 100 million citizens.

The vastly changed geographic and political landscape is presented to readers in the very first pages -- complete with a helpful/scary map of the country's new geography. And all that chaos serves as the backdrop for what the book really is: a character study of a fiery protagonist, Sara Chestnut, and how the war shapes her childhood and the woman she becomes. The entire war is seen through the lens of her often horrible experiences and her take-no-prisoners, brook-no-bullshit personality.

Too, the book is not so much about the ins and outs of this war, but war in general -- or even, in an allegorical way, the war we're fighting right now, rife with suicide bombers and homegrown terrorists and the lingering fear of biological weapons. It paints a scary picture of how a person who started off good could be pushed to the edge of doing something unthinkable.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book, but there were also a lot of times I felt the pacing was too slow and I just wanted the book to hurry up and get finished. And I do wish there had been a little more focus on the war itself, because the idea of it is at once fascinating and scarily plausible.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Turning the Page on May 2017

may collage

It was a bit of a hectic month here, mostly due to Jarrod having some crazy ridiculous hours at work, leaving me to entertain a 5-month-old very energetic puppy on my own. Not a lot got done around the house, I'll say that much!

Luckily things finally settled down, and on the very last day of May I made it to the beach for the first time in months! It was warm and peaceful and lovely, and I simply must get back into going every week or two like I did pre-puppy!

may books read

Books read: 9
"A Conjuring of Light" by V.E Schwab (4.5 stars)
"Saga" vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4 stars)
"Umentionable: A Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners" by Therese Oneill (3 stars)
"Maisie Dobbs" by Jacqueline Winspear (4 stars)
"The Lost City of Z" by David Grann (4 stars)
"Waking Gods" by Sylvain Neuvel (4 stars)
"American War" by Omar El Akkad (4 stars)
"The Stranger in the Woods" by Michael Finkel (3.5 stars)
"Into the Water" by Paula Hawkins (3.5 stars)

Currently reading: "A Twist in Time" by Julie McElwain (book 2 in the Kendra Donovan historical mystery/time travel series).

Favorite book: Definitely "A Conjuring of Light." What a fantastic ending to the Shades of Magic trilogy! If you haven't yet met Kell and Delia, I highly recommend this fun fantasy series. (The first book is called "A Darker Shade of Magic.")

Biggest let-down: "Unmentionable" wasn't horrible, and I did learn a few things about Victorian life, but the author's sarcastic, snarky tone started to wear on me pretty quickly.

June release I'm most excited about: "The Essex Serpent" by Sarah Perry.

Book I'm most excited to read in June: So many! June is going to be a month devoted to reading backlist and books I already own -- something that's been sorely lacking this year. I've read almost entirely new releases, and that's probably why I've yet to award any book 5 stars.

Books added to to-read list: 10 (not bad!)

Most intriguing TBR addition: "Artemis" by Andy Weir. I'm so excited to finally read another book by the author of "The Martian"!

Here's part of the Goodreads blurb: "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."

Favorite bookstagram: This picture has some of my favorite things: historical fiction, a cup of tea, flowers, and a yummy dessert (apple cake!). Find me on Instagram @knittinglindsay.

maisie dobbs and apple cake

may knitting collage

I actually did a little bit of knitting this month! My best friend at work is getting ready to move from Hawaii to Virginia (that's the way the military goes -- you make a friend and one of you moves away!) so I whipped up a hat for her as a going-away gift. I used the Slouchy Copycat Hat pattern, which I used once before to make a hat for my Bookish Secret Santa swap partner, and it came through for me a second time. I think this hat looks good on everyone!

I also splurged and ordered a kit of absolutely gorgeous hand-dyed merino wool from Tanis Fiber Arts to knit the So Faded sweater, which I'm hoping to cast on soon!

Favorite post: 10 Beautiful Night Sky Book Covers. I love book covers, and it was so fun looking back through my Goodreads lists to compile the post.

Book reviews:
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
The Lost City of Z by David Grann
Unmentionable by Therese Oneill
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