Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: The week started off on the chaotic side as my husband gave me 24 hours' notice that we'd be hosting a bunch of people for a cookout on Monday night. On the plus side, a handful of them were from the Australian military here for the exercise my husband's work was doing (the cookout was to celebrate the end of it!) and we got two packages of TimTams out of the deal.

Work was busy as the time had come to take down my huge summer reading volcano bulletin board (and I do mean huge -- the board is 13x9 feet) and put up a new one, Swim Back to School, which has an underwater scene with a school of fish at the center. I keep meaning to do a post of all the bulletin boards I've done so far -- maybe next week. This isn't one of my favorites, but I'm already thinking about September and Banned Books Week. (I might go for the cliche but fun "AzkaBANNED Prison" idea.) I also got my genre display at work changed from readable science books to books set in England, which I'd been wanting to do ever since I happened upon a book languishing back in the nonfiction stacks with a brilliant cover called "The A303: Highway to the Sun." Sure enough, it got checked out the first day my display was up!

The weekend was fun but went by way too fast. Saturday afternoon we went to the beach and Jarrod surfed while I read, and Sunday we took Alohi to the beach for the first time! We went up to the North Shore and then got ice cream at our favorite shop there afterwards.

Reading: I'm nearing the end of "Dragonfly in Amber," the second Outlander book! At almost 950 pages, it's one of the longest books I've ever read and I'm feeling rather accomplished! I'm not finding it to be quite as absorbing or immersive as the first book, but I'm really enjoying it nonetheless. (Though I keep thinking about all the other books waiting in the wings: six library books, an ARC, and the August book for the kids' book club at work!)

Watching: Same as the last few weeks: "Grantchester," "My Mother and Other Strangers," "World of Dance." Hoping to start "Game of Thrones" soon! Movie-wise the only one we got to was "Central Intelligence," which made me laugh a few times but overall was pretty dumb.

Listening to: "Redbone" by Childish Gambino.

Eating: So much food. Jarrod had to work late several days this week and we ended up eating out once and picking up dinner twice. And then on Monday for the get-together we had three kinds of smoked meat (Jarrod loves his smoker), buffalo chicken dip, dill french onion dip, pineapple, hashbrown casserole, baked beans, and two types of dessert, the leftovers of which we've been eating all week.

Buying: Some clothes! It's been a while since I've been shopping at my leisure, but I finally made it to the Gap Factory Store on Wednesday and left with a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, some yoga pants and several tops.

Monday Musings
Intriguing August 2017 Book Releases

Looking forward to: Finally getting to watch "Outlander" season 2, now that I'll have read the book. It's been on my DVR for months, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how some aspects of the book are portrayed on screen! I guess if I want to read "Voyager" before season 3 comes on, I better get on that...

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Intriguing August 2017 Book Releases

intriguing august 2017 book releases

Lots of interesting books coming next month! The ones I'm most looking forward to are "The Luster of Lost Things," "Young Jane Young" (I hope it's as good as "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry"!) and "How to Find Love in a Bookshop," which is a bit out of my normal wheelhouse but sounds utterly charming. What August releases are you excited about?

(All summaries adapted from Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.)

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives // A witty, urbane, and sometimes shocking novel, set in a hallowed New York museum, in which a co-worker's disappearance and a mysterious map change a life forever. "Impossible Views of the World" is a dazzling debut novel about how to make it through your early thirties with your brain and heart intact.

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley // In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness. "The Bedlam Stacks" is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

Brave Deeds by David Abrams // "Brave Deeds" is a powerful novel of war, brotherhood, and America. Spanning eight hours, the novel follows a squad of six AWOL soldiers as they attempt to cross war-torn Baghdad on foot to attend the funeral of their leader, Staff Sergeant Rafe Morgan. Moving, thoughtful, funny, and smart, "Brave Deeds" is a gripping story of combat and of brotherhood, and an important addition to the oeuvre of contemporary war fiction.

Morningstar: Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood // A memoir about the magic and inspiration of books from a beloved and best-selling author. In her admired works of fiction, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these works of fiction.

The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose // Lee Cuddy is seventeen years old and on the run. Betrayed by her family after taking the fall for a friend, she finds refuge in a cooperative of runaways holed up in an abandoned building they call the Crystal Castle, but the fa├žade of the Castle conceals a far more sinister agenda, one hatched by a society of fanatical men set on decoding a series of powerful secrets hidden in plain sight. They believe Lee holds the key to it all. Aided by Tomi, a young hacker and artist with whom she has struck a wary alliance, Lee escapes into the unmapped corners of the city, but the deeper she goes underground, the more tightly she finds herself bound in the strange web she’s trying to elude.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt //  In this riveting debut novel, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka // When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched -- not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters -- Cameron, Jade, and Russ -- must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker // Since the death of Ragnvald Eysteinsson's father in battle, he has worked hard to protect his sister Svanhild and planned to inherit his family's land when he comes of age. But when the captain of his ship tries to kill him on the way home from a raiding excursion, he must confront his stepfather's betrayal, and find a way to protect his birthright. It is no easy feat in Viking-Age Norway, where a hundred petty rulers kill over parcels of land, and a prophesied high king is rising.

The Lauras by Sara Taylor // I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong. As we made our way from Virginia to California, returning to the places where she’d lived as a child in foster care and as a teenager on the run, repaying debts and keeping promises, I learned who she was in her life-before-me and the secrets she had kept – even from herself. But when life on the road began to feel normal I couldn’t forget the home we’d left behind, couldn’t deny that, just like my mother, I too had unfinished business.

The Address by Fiona Davis // Fiona Davis returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City's most famous residence.With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives -- and lies -- of the beating hearts within.

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber // "Serial" meets Ruth Ware’s "In A Dark, Dark Wood" in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case -- and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor // Hazel Gaynor turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. 1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: The True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies by Jason Fagone // Joining the ranks of "Hidden Figures" and "In the Garden of Beasts," the incredible true story of the greatest codebreaking duo that ever lived, an American woman and her husband who invented the modern science of cryptology together and used it to confront the evils of their time, solving puzzles that unmasked Nazi spies and helped win World War II. Blending the lively pace and compelling detail that are the hallmarks of Erik Larson's bestsellers with the atmosphere and intensity of "The Imitation Game," "The Woman Who Smashed Codes" is page-turning popular history at its finest.

The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller // Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wearer of high-tops. A maker of croissants. A son keeping vigil, twelve years counting. But he wouldn’t be able to tell you. Silenced by his motor speech disorder, Walter’s life gets lonely. Fortunately, he has The Lavenders -- his mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing -- except for his lost father. So when the Book at the root of the bakery’s magic vanishes, Walter, accompanied by his overweight golden retriever, journeys through New York City to find it -- along the way encountering an unforgettable cast of lost souls.

The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet by Henry Fountain // In the tradition of Erik Larson's "Isaac's Storm," a riveting narrative about the biggest earthquake in recorded history in North America -- the 1964 Alaskan earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and obliterated the coastal village of Chenega -- and the scientist sent to look for geological clues to explain the dynamics of earthquakes, who helped to confirm the then controversial theory of plate tectonics.

The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester // During the dangerous days of World War II, Honey Deschamps is spending her days transcribing decrypted messages at Bletchley Park, when she starts to receive bizarrely coded packages. When everyone is keeping secrets, who can you trust?

The Education of a Coroner: Lessons in Investigating Death by John Bateson // In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job -- from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides. Complete with poignant anecdotes, "The Education of a Coroner" provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry // The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart.

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis // Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is. Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again. Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn't seem so lonely -- until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne // From the author of "The Boy In the Striped Pajamas," a sweeping, heartfelt saga about the course of one man's life, beginning and ending in post-war Ireland. In this, Boyne's most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. "The Heart's Invisible Furies" is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin // Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss -- and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics. She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up -- an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: It was an ok week here. Jarrod's work was in the midst of their 14-day exercise so he worked an absolutely nutty number of hours, and the puppy and I didn't see too much of him. I spent a couple afternoons hanging out with a good friend who's moving away, but then had to say a sad goodbye. (These two things above -- two of the hard parts of military life!) Saturday I went into work for a few hours to help out with the summer reading program finale party, which included raffles, pizza and a magician.

Reading: This time last week I was between a third and halfway into "Just One Damned Thing After Another," the first in a series about time-traveling historians. And not long after that, the book just lost me. The book zigged from where it first started -- a good thing -- but then it zagged to a weird place and I just totally lost interest. The writing was only so-so, and I wasn't particularly attached to the characters, so I gave up on it -- continuing my discouraging string of partially-read books.

"My Not So Perfect Life" saved the day! I haven't read Sophie Kinsella in years, though I had been meaning to read this new book of hers at some point because the plot intrigued me. On a spur-of-the-moment decision, I grabbed it off the library shelf while tidying last Tuesday morning. It was light and fluffy and timely and, for a chick-lit book, I really enjoyed it. I read it in two days and it definitely saved me from sliding into a full-blown reading slump. (Here's my review.)

Now I'm reading the second Outlander book -- years and years after I meant to! I'm reading it along with a friend (the aforementioned friend who's moving) who's just starting the series; hearing her talk about the first book gave me the push I needed to finally make a point to read "Dragonfly in Amber." It's really good, but really looooong! I have a tiny little mass-market paperback (with tiny little font) and it's 947 pages! I recorded the second season of the show when it aired but I've been waiting to watch it until I read the book. I see a fabulous binge-watch in my near future!

Watching: "Grantchester," "My Mother and Other Strangers," (a pleasant new Masterpiece period drama), "Turn: Washington's Spies," "World of Dance" (I'm not huge on competition shows, but I am addicted to this one!).

Eating: I tried a yummy new mac and cheese recipe this week that's definitely a keeper (here), which I served with a tasty blueberry feta spinach salad (here). I also made chocolate chip banana muffins, which I took into my work to share.

Listening to: "Feel It Still" by Portugal. The Man.

Monday Musings
10 2017 Releases I Enjoyed and 10 I Hope to Read Soon
I Judge Books By Their Covers: Darktown
Book Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
A to Z Book Tag (Revisited)

Looking forward to: August. Still August. (It's almost here! Goodbye, shitty July!)

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A to Z Bookish Survey (Revisited)

I love all things list-y and survey-ish and when Barb of Booker T's Farm (fellow boxer mom!) posted this book tag last week I knew I'd have to participate. This fun survey originated with Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner way back in 2013.

ETA: Turns out I actually DID the survey in 2013 -- you can see that one here. It's funny how some things have changed in four years and others haven't changed at all. For instance, I styled it almost exactly the same, and both my answers for Glad You Gave This Book a Chance include, "I don't read a lot of YA, but..."

Author You've Read The Most Books From:
Probably Janet Evanovich. I've read all the Stephanie Plum books and dabbled in her other series.

Best Sequel Ever:
I thought "The Bone Season" by Samantha Shannon was fine, but I looooved the sequel, "The Mime Order." I'm still waiting for my library to get in book three, which came out in March.

Currently Reading:
"Dragonfly in Amber" by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #2).

Drink of Choice While Reading:
A Starbucks white chocolate mocha.


E-Book or Physical Book:
Physical book all the way! The only time I ever read e-books is from NetGalley for review, and I hate it!

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School:
Mark Watney from "The Martian" as a teenager. Nerdy, funny and cute!

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:
"I'll Give You the Sun" by Jandy Nelson. I don't read a lot of YA but I saw this one recommended over and over on book blogs and eventually decided to give it a try. I devoured it and completely loved it.

Hidden Gem:
"The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis. Absolutely fabulous post-apocalyptic thriller/character study. Read it! Also, "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway, which involves time travel back to the early 1800s.

Important Moment in Your Bookish Life:
My younger neighbor telling me I just had to borrow these books that she loved -- the first three Harry Potters. That was in 2000, shortly before "Goblet of Fire" was released, and my wonderful mom took me to buy it the morning it came out. Of course I spent the entire day inhaling it. (The receipt for the purchase is still tucked inside the book!)

Just Finished:
A reading slump, thanks to the light and fun "My Not So Perfect Life" by Sophie Kinsella.

Kind of Books You Won't Read:
There's no genre that I absolutely refuse to try, but I seldom read romance.

Longest Book You've Read:
Since I've been keeping track on Goodreads: "1Q84" by Haruki Murakami (925 pages). A huge commitment for a book I didn't end up loving!

Major Book Hangover:
"The Fifth Season" by N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth #1). It was such an immersive story with fabulous worldbuiling and I kept on thinking about it afterward. (It was December, and it probably didn't help that I followed it up with a cheesy, rather disappointing Christmas novel.)

Number of Bookcases You Own:
Five, of various sizes, though one is mostly filled with photo albums. I bought some unfinished crates to stain and put together as another bookshelf, but a certain puppy has kept me from getting around to that little project. I do really need another place to put my books, though -- I've got books piled up at random on my existing shelves.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:
"1984," in high school and in college. It's time for another re-read I think! My husband has never read and it and I know it's right up his alley, so I'm hoping I can convince him that we should read it together. (He's not much of a reader, sadly.)

Preferred Place to Read:
On the couch under a blanket with a dog or a cat curled up nearby.

Quote that Inspires You: "Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." (I'm not sure about inspires, exactly, but I do love this quote and it definitely suits bookworms!)

Reading Regret:
Not going to Pierce Brown's book signing in Cincinnati the winter before last (we lived in Ohio then). I had a friend visiting and it was right near Christmastime and it was a pretty decent drive, but still! I should've gone.

Series You Started and Need to Finish:
So, so very many! This year I'd really like to finish Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes trilogy. I read and loved the first book, but I keep getting sidetracked from picking up the other two.

Three of Your All-Time Favorite Books:
This is tough -- I don't really have particular books that are my ALL-TIME best-ever favorites. Here are three I know I'll still be recommending years from now: "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes, "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand and "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr.

Unapologetic Fangirl/Fanguy For:
Harry Potter! (I'm a Ravenpuff, by the way.)


Very Excited For This Release:
"Iron Gold" by Pierce Brown, "Artemis" by Andy Weir, "A Treacherous Curse" by Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell #3). Can't pick just one!

Worst Bookish Habit:
Always reading library books instead of the books I actually own.

X Marks the Spot (27th book from top left of shelf):
"The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (as yet unread -- see above).

Your Latest Book Purchase:
A Book Depository order of "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" and "Pride and Prejudice" (which I've somehow never read, even though I love the movies!).

Zzzz-Snatcher Book That Kept You Up Late: Most recently: "Silent in the Grave" by Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey #1). It was a fairly lengthy book at over 500 pages, but I read it in just over two days. I could not put it down!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

"My Not So Perfect Life" by Sophie Kinsella
First published in 2017
434 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5 (3.5 + .5 for being the right book at the right time!)

The Short Of It:

Cute, fun, easy read -- and definitely current.

The Long Of It:
It's been years since I read a Sophie Kinsella novel, but her fluffy British book candy saved me from the horrifying precipice of a reading slump! I had started and put down three separate books before diving into "My Not So Perfect Life," which I blew through in two days.

Cat Brenner's not-so-perfect life is the subject of this story. She's a junior employee at a branding company in London. She can't get her boss-from-hell to notice her or call her by the right name, she makes a pittance, her commute is ridiculous, she hasn't really made any friends in London, she shares a tiny flat with two kinda-weird roommates, and she feels guilty for moving so far away from her dad and their farm in the country. She's just a little bit miserable, and she lusts after everyone else's seemingly perfect lives, especially that of horrible boss, Demeter. You'd never know that from her fabulous Instagram feed, though.

Things are about to change for our endearing protagonist in several ways, and her adventures are funny, sweet, relatable, and a bit romantic. Kinsella's book is also a much-needed reminder that no one's life is perfect -- those edited, filtered, lovely photos our friends and enemies post on social media only show one small slice of a life. And, too, while you may be pining after someone else's "perfect life," it's quite likely that someone else is looking jealously at yours.

The whole "grass is greener" thing is something I struggle with a lot as a military spouse, and it always does me good to be reminded that, while I'm envious of my friends who have "real" jobs, tons of friends and get to see their families whenever they want, there are surely friends of mine who have all that and wish they could work part-time and live in Hawaii like me. It's all a matter of perspective.

Back to the book, next time you need a little chick-lit pick-me-up, "My Not So Perfect Life" is a perfect (tee hee) choice! It's utterly predictable and a little silly, but it was also a fun, lighthearted page-turner and sometimes that's just what's needed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Darktown

"Darktown," the first in a newish historical mystery featuring Atlanta's first black police officers, is on my to-read list and I hope to get to it soon. I recently came across the U.K. version and I thought it'd make a fun cover battle! (The second book in the series, "Lightning Men," comes out in September.)

<< U.S. // U.K. >>

These covers have a lot in common. They're both very moody and stark with no real color other than brown/sepia. The title font is similar and I think the author font is the same, just bold and not bold. Not having read the book I can't say for sure, but I have a feeling they both fit well with the story, which surely deals with  the solving of a grisly crime as well as race relations in '40s Georgia.

I'm not gaga for either cover, but I do think they're both perfectly fine. Something about the U.S. version really draws the eye in -- maybe it's the white from the headlights? It guides my eye right to the title every time, whereas on the U.K. cover I always look first at that large building toward the bottom. However, overall, I think I prefer the U.K. version aesthetically. It's more interesting; I like the sideways vintage cityscape, the white/black theme going on, and the sepia tones.

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

10 2017 Releases I Enjoyed and 10 I Hope To Read Soon

Right now I'm a self-imposed ban(-ish) from reading new releases. July is to be (almost) entirely devoted to reading older books, preferably pre-2016. The reason for that is it's really not been a steallar reading year for me -- and I think that's partly because I've read almost all new books. I decided it was time to focus on some backlist that I'd been meaning to read for ages -- and that I felt sure I'd like (and so far I have). The other day, though, I was in a list-y mood and I jotted down a handful of newer books I want to request from the library after my ban is over, and I figured I might as well turn it into a post!

First up we have 2017 releases that I thought were decent (and trust me, I read a few that I did not think were decent). I left off series continuations and only listed standalones or first-in-series. After that is a list of already-released 2017 books I'm looking forward to diving into come August!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What're your favorite new books for the first half of 2017?

2017 releases i enjoyed

(links go to my reviews)
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik (3.5 stars)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (4 stars)
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller (4 stars)
The Dry by Jane Harper (4 stars)
The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo (4.5 stars)
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (4 stars)
Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro (4 stars)
American War by Omar El Akkad (4 stars)
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (4.5 stars)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (4 stars)

2017 releases i want to read

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
The Fact of a Body by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
The Confusion of Languages by Siobahn Fallon
Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Musings

alohi reading 

My week: It was an ok week here... because of stuff going on at Jarrod's work, I hardly saw him at all this week (and he worked all weekend til late in the evening); this week will be more of the same. Wednesday was my first time helping out with the 4th and 5th grade kids' book club the library offers (we read "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech) and that went well enough. On Sunday I met up with my co-workers at a hibachi grill restaurant for a going-away luncheon for a co-worker (who is also a friend and I'm so sad she's leaving, but such is military life). I was bummed that Jarrod couldn't come since it's a place we've been wanting to try -- not to mention I hate driving in downtown Honolulu!

Reading: I spent the first part of the week reading "Three Times Lucky" by Shelia Turnage, the book for next week's 4th and 5th grade book club meeting (there are two different groups who each read one book a month), and it was pretty cute. It reminded me a bit of a kids' version of Janet Evanovich, with a crime to solve, an intrepid -- if a bit goofy -- protagonist and her sidekick, and a wacky band of supporting characters.

I spent the second part of the week floundering around trying to find the right thing to read. I'm not usually a "mood reader" -- I typically just pick up the book that's due back at the library soonest. But this week nothing struck my fancy. I tried "First Grave on the Right" by Darynda Jones and the writing style totally turned me off. Then I tried "O Jerusalem," the fifth book in Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series and the story started off so slow and kept -- literally -- putting me to sleep. (Though I will get back to both of those books soon.) I thought about picking up Bill Bryson's "One Summer: America, 1927" and even read the first few pages, but I wasn't feeling non-fiction either.

Finally I got to the very last library book I have checked out -- "Just One Damned Thing After Another" by Jodi Taylor (first in the Chronicles of St. Mary's series, which features time-traveling historians) and it stuck! The writing is not perfect but it's an easy read and the story is intriguing enough to hold my apparently fickle interest. Plus, it started off going in one direction (reminding me a lot of the Invisible Library books by Genevieve Cogman) and then took a surprising turn, which saved it from feeling like something I've read before. While I'm chugging along with it, it's still not what I really feel like reading -- and I'm not sure what on earth that is! I sure hope I'm not headed for the dreaded reading slump...

Watching: "Grantchester," "World of Dance," "Deadliest Catch." I also watched the first couple episodes of the new Masterpiece show "My Mother and Other Strangers," which is set in Ireland during WWII. Movie-wise, I watched "Fifty Shades Darker" the other night and thought it was surprisingly good.

Listening to: "Whatever It Takes" by Imagine Dragons.

Baking: Maple walnut blondies. It was actually my first time ever eating a blondie, and it was passable (I mean, it's hard for me to dislike something maple-flavored!) but I don't think I'll be giving up chocolate brownies anytime soon. Plus, (and I'm slightly ashamed to say this) I think I would've liked them better if they'd been made with maple flavoring instead of real maple syrup -- it made them so sickly sweet, like guzzling straight out of the syrup bottle!

Craving: A thunderstorm (not likely -- we very seldom get storms in Hawaii). Any rain at all would be appreciated. I've seen so many thundercloud and rain pictures posted by friends this week and I'm jealous!

Buying: Another bookish t-shirt. I couldn't resist when I spotted it in an e-mail from Groopdealz! It basically sums up my life philosophy. ;) Can't wait for it to arrive!

Monday Musings
Book Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (4.5 stars)
I Judge Books By Their Covers: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Looking forward to: Same as last week -- August!

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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

I haven't read the newish release "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" yet, but it sounds intriguing and I've got it on my to-read list. I had only seen the U.S. cover until the other day, and when I happened upon the U.K. version I knew it was time for a cover battle!

Here's a quick synopsis of the book in case you haven't heard of it:
"Smart, warm, uplifting, the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open her heart."

U.K and Canada hardcover // Canada paperback

U.S. hardback

Ok, so I haven't read the book yet and I have no idea which cover relates best to the book -- quite possibly not the cover I like best -- but this is a hands-down easy-peasy winner for me: I like the cover with the leopard (cheetah?) and the flamingo, duh! (As best I can tell, this cover is the Canadian paperback, but I'm not 100% sure on that.) It fits my cover-preference bill exactly: pretty colors, artsy rather than realistic, with an eye-catching pop.

The other two covers are fine -- I slightly prefer the U.K. over the U.S.; I like the simplicity of the white, the creativity of the matchsticks, and that awesome font. I'm a bit surprised that one takes second place since I usually gravitate toward illustrated covers over realistic ones. The U.S. cover is just a little less appealing with its kinda-boring writing and dehydrated-pee yellow and poo-brown color scheme (though I do like the blue and the fact that it looks like a painting).

So to sum up, it's the blue cover adorned with pretty writing and animals all the way for me! Which cover do you like best?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Book Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

"Silent in the Grave" by Deanna Raybourn
Lady Julia Grey #1
First published in 2007
509 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5

I love Deanna Raybourn's Veronica Speedwell series, and recently reading the second installment inspired me to finally pick up "Silent in the Grave," the first book in Raybourn's other historical mystery series. And I have to say, despite its length -- over 500 pages! -- I blew through the first Lady Julia Grey book in just over two days. I simply could not put this book down!

Set in 1886 London, the central puzzle is the suspicious death of Julia's young husband, who collapses in the middle of a party and perishes shortly after. Julia quietly enlists the help of private investigator Nicholas Brisbane -- mysterious, temperamental and darkly handsome.

A lot of time was spent bringing to life the setting and the characters -- a somewhat quirky cast -- and less on the actual sleuthing than I expected, but I found that I actually really enjoyed that. I never once found myself saying, "Gosh, just get me back to the mystery already!" In fact, I was utterly engrossed in the story: the detecting, the hint of romantic tension, the intelligent protagonist. I really liked Lady Julia, flaws and all.

The writing itself was good, and the story obviously kept me flying through the pages, but there were just a few things that held me back from awarding the book 5 stars. For one thing, Brisbane was a little too Holmesian for me -- nothing against Sherlock whatsover, but his character felt slightly derivative. And when the answer to the mystery was finally revealed, it just felt a bit gimmicky to me. That is not to say I didn't love this book -- I devoured it! And it's been a while since I've been this excited to pick up the next book in a series; lucky for me, there are four other books and a few novellas just waiting for me to get my hands on them!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Musings

grandma collage

My week(s): It's been a rough couple of weeks around here. My grandma passed away just over a week ago, only a few days after she was diagnosed with stage IV bladder cancer. We were pretty close -- we e-mailed each other every single day (well, I may have missed a few but she never did) -- and it was very tough being so far away that week. She lived in Indiana, and I'm so very grateful for the three years we spent in Ohio when she was just a two-hour drive away. I'm also thankful that the entire rest of my family was there at the end, and that I was able to say goodbye via Facetime. Oh, but I do miss her!

In addition to all that, Alohi was spayed a little over a week ago (which is kind of a major procedure!) and our "bouncy" puppy (the vet's kind way of describing our insane little Energizer Bunny) was almost completely immune to the sedatives we were given. Keeping her quiet and still for 10 days proved a total impossibility. And while we were struggling with that, she managed to get a bee sting in her mouth and her face swelled up horribly.

Too, I had some frustrating, hectic days at work, Jarrod has been working absolutely insane 12 to 13+-hour days for the past few weeks, and he had to work at least part of every day over the holiday weekend. And the 4th was bittersweet this year, because it would've been my grandma's 80th birthday.

Things will not get better anytime soon because Jarrod's work is about to start another exercise, and he'll be working 12-hour days for 14 straight days (including the next two weekends). We are all looking forward to August in my house!

On the plus side, we did take Alohi to an old baseball field to run to her heart's content on Saturday, and we spent a few hours at the beach on Sunday.


Reading: It took me several attempts to read more than a handful of pages of "News of the World" at a time, but when I finally got into it, this charming little Western flew by (it's readable in a day if you don't dilly-dally with it like I did). I also finally finished "Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction," which was a fascinating, quick non-fiction book and I have no excuse for the insane amount of time it too me to read it. Next I read "Vision in Silver," the third book in The Others urban fantasy series. I was craving something light and fluffy, and it fit the bill! I just finished "Silent in the Grave," the first in Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey historical mystery series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's just over 500 pages, but I blew through it in just over two days! I'm looking forward to reading book 2 soon, though my track record with continuing series is not so good...

I also read "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech, and I'm currently reading "Three Times Lucky" by Sheila Turnage, for the 4th and 5th grade book club I'll be helping out with at work. I have to come up with discussion questions and brainstorm an appropriate craft for two books each month. I have to say, coming up with the crafts is harder than I thought it would be!

Watching: "Grantchester," "The White Queen," "World of Dance," "Deadliest Catch," "Turn." Movie-wise, we watched "Hell or High Water," which for some reason I thought was a Western but was actually a movie about two brothers who rob a string of banks in West Texas. Not bad, but not fabulous either. "Patriots Day," about the Boston Marathon bombing, was better than I expected, and we FINALLY got to watch "Beauty and the Beast"! It was cute, though a little more musical-y than I thought it would be.

Listening to: "Attention" by Charlie Puth.

Monday Musings
The Best Books I've Read So Far in 2017
10 Intriguing July 2017 Book Releases
My July 2017 Reading List
5 Mini Reviews: My Last Continent, The Queen of Blood, The Likeness, News of the World, and Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction
This or That Book Tag

Looking forward to: "Game of Thrones" starting back! And, as mentioned, August!

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

This or That Book Tag

A couple weeks ago Grace at Rebel Mommy Book Blog did this fun book tag and I couldn't resist participating! I do so love a good questionnaire. The tag was originally created by Ayunda at Tea and Paperbacks.

Reading on the couch or in bed?
If I'm home by myself then the couch. I love snuggling up under a blanket (even here in Hawaii) with a snack next to me. If hubs is home, then I'm happy when the time of night rolls around to go up and read in bed because it's nice and quiet (he's a TV-on-for-background-noise person).

Male or female main character?
I mostly read books with female main characters, but I really do enjoy male protagonists. What I don't like, though, is when a male author has a female main character or a female author has a male main character.

Sweet snacks or salty snacks while reading?
Can I just say yes to snacks in general!? ;) I guess it depends on what I'm drinking. If I'm drinking coffee or hot tea, I'll usually want a sweet snack. If I'm drinking water, iced tea, juice or anything like that, it's salty all the way.

Trilogies or quartets?
Trilogies, though that's not saying much since the only quartet I can think of off the top of my head is Twilight while a ton of trilogies come to mind. A better question might be series or standalones, to which I would have to say standalones. I love getting into a series and the opportunity for depth of world, plot and characters, but I have SUCH a hard time keeping up with them!

First person POV or third person POV?
It's not a huge deal to me, but I slightly prefer third person.

Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?
Definitely books that make me laugh! I'm not much of a crier and I'm not a big fan of books that set out to "wreck me."

Reading at night or in the morning?
Afternoon and night for sure. A bookish friend of mine wakes up early so she can read before work every day but that is not something I could ever do. I'm much more likely to stay up too late reading.

Libraries or bookstores?
Well, seeing as I work in one, libraries! I'm utterly baffled by people who buy every single book they want to read. Libraries are free! If you don't like a book, you're not out a cent. I do have a few bookshelves filled with books -- mostly secondhand -- but clutter makes me stressed and I can't imagine owning 1,000+ books like some of my friends (both in real life and on social media) do.

Character-driven or plot-driven stories?
A couple years ago I would've said plot-driven for sure, but after my falling-out with the thriller genre I've reconsidered. My problem with those books is that they're usually 100% plot-driven and often lack any character development. But sometimes character-driven novels can feel slow and pointless, so I really like a nice combination. I guess I'd go with plot-driven with a healthy dose of characterization and atmosphere.

Black covers or white covers?
White (or cream) for sure, especially with a little pop of color.

white covers

Thursday, July 6, 2017

5 Mini Reviews: My Last Continent, The Queen of Blood, The Likeness, News of the World & Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction

June was a topsy-turvy month and I didn't get a whole lot of reading done, much less get around to writing up reviews. I read a slew of 4-star books and I wanted to make sure they got mentioned here on the blog, so I decided to combine them into a mini-review post. The books below run the gamut of genres from fiction to mystery to fantasy to non-fiction, and they're all ones I'd recommend.

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
First published in 2016
306 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

Penguins, icebergs and complicated love story, oh my!

I've got a major soft spot for books that take place in cold, rugged places, so a novel set in Antarctica -- with a penguin researcher as the protagonist -- was a must-read for me.

This is definitely a character- and setting-driven novel, and I enjoyed getting to know naturalist Deb and learn more about research in Antarctica. (There are plenty of penguins in this book, by the way.) But there is some action in the form of a shipwreck, which we know is coming from the very first chapter, and the anticipation will keep readers turning pages.

"My Last Continent" is an intriguing story of a woman who escapes to the ends of the earth for several months of the year, and it'll satiate all your cold-book-setting cravings!

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
Queens of Renthia #1
First published in 2016
350 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

"The Queen of Blood" is a solid start to a new adult fantasy series that would appeal to fans of Naomi Novki's fantastic novel, "Uprooted."

As in "Uprooted," there's a strong tie to nature, the protagaonist (in this case, Daleina) is sent off to learn to use her powers, and there's an epic battle brewing that'll pit the spirits of the natural world against humankind.

For the most part I liked Daleina, and I really enjoyed Durst's worldbuilding. I'm excited to continue the adventure and learn more about the world of Renthia in book 2, which was just released.

The Likeness by Tana French
Dublin Murder Squad #2
First published in 2008
466 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

If you enjoyed the first book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, "In the Woods," you'll be happy to learn that Cassie, the secondary character from that book, is the star of "The Likeness."

Cassie draws on her skills as a former undercover officer after the dead body of her doppelganger -- who also happens to be using the alias Cassie had while undercover -- is discovered in the Irish countryside. Lexie lived in a grand old mansion with four other university graduate students and it's quite possible one of them might be her murderer. Up against a severe lack of leads, Cassie's old boss convinces her to go in undercover as Lexie in hopes of getting one of the (most peculiar) group of housemates to spill. Cassie resists at first, but once she's inside it doesn't take long for her to grow all too comfortable with her alter ego and her newfound BFFs.

It seems to be almost unanimous that "The Likeness" is the best book of the series, but I don't think I liked it quite as well as "Into the Woods," which really kept me on the edge of my seat. I felt the set-up of "The Likeness" took too long -- it was 100 pages before Cassie even went into the house as Lexie. Things picked up for a while, but then I actually ended up skimming the last bit. And French's writing can be rambly and choppy at times, which I noticed moreso in book 2. Still, it was overall a good read and I'll definitely continue the series. 

"News of the World" by Paulette Jiles
First published in 2016
209 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

This charming little Western is going to be made into a movie starring Tom Hanks, and I think it'll be a fabulous film. The book is a slim 200 pages, but it'll be stunning visually and viewers -- and readers, of course! -- are sure to fall in love with kind, wise and slightly cantankerous 71-year-old Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and his charge, bold, stubborn 10-year-old Johanna.

Just after the Civil War, Johanna's family was slaughtered by Kiowa Indians and she was taken captive. Four years later, she found herself ripped away from her Indian parents and thrust into the hands of Captain Kidd, who was persuaded to take on the task of returning her from North Texas to her aunt and uncle in San Antonio.

The journey turns into quite the adventure, the characters are impossible to dislike and the setting is richly described. Plus, you can read the book in just a day or two!

Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-Extinction by Helen Pilcher
First published in 2016
280 pages plus sources
My rating: 4 out of 5

"Bring Back the King" is one of those rare gems that's both a fun read and a non-fiction fount of information. You'll chuckle, and you'll learn an awful lot about DNA, cloning and extinct animals ranging from the t-rex to the fascinating gastric-brooding frog (which actually nurtures tadpoles inside it's own belly, then belches them out). And did you know a company in South Korea will actually clone your pet for you?!

This was a readable, fascinating, quick book that taught me quite a bit and it's a good choice for those craving interesting non-fiction.
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