Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review: The Scribe of Siena

"The Scribe of Siena" by Melodie Winawer
First published in 2017
450 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A promising story of time travel to medieval Italy but way too long.

The Long Of It:
After her historian brother's death, New York City neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato travels to Italy to continue his controversial research into the Black Death and why it hit Siena so much harder than anywhere else. But Beatrice continues her journey much farther than she intended, right back to 1347 Siena on the eve of the plague that would wipe out half the world's population.

Romance, intrigue and introspection follow as Beatrice -- put to work as a scribe thanks to her helpful ability to read and write -- discovers that she feels more at home in the 14th century than in the 21st. She knows, though, that there's a very good chance in just a matter of months all her new friends will be dead. On top of that, and unbeknownst to her, Beatrice becomes swept up in a terrible conspiracy -- the very same one her brother had been researching in 2017.

If a book blurb says "time travel," I'm sold; maybe it's because, as a history and historical fiction lover, I find it fun to imagine myself in another time (though I wouldn't actually want to do it -- I'm just fine here in the good ol' 21st century). Some time travel books are definitely more well done others, though, and while "The Scribe of Siena" was ultimately a decent read, it could have been executed better.

For one thing, it was way too long! It was 450 pages but easily could've been 300, and I found myself skimming over entire paragraphs of extraneous detail. The first half seemed to drag on and on. And, despite the author's attempt to create a medieval atmosphere, I never really felt like I was there; contrast that with, say, "Outlander," where I was totally and completely wrapped up in 1700s Scotland right along with Claire. I also felt like there were a few too many historical inaccuracies that took me out of the story -- the way Beatrice talks would never fly in the 1300s.

All that said, it wasn't a bad book, and I still enjoyed my romp to the 1300s with Beatrice. There are better time travel books out there, though, if that's what you're craving. (One of my favorites is "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway!)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

10 Novels That Feature Smart Women

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie of sorts -- 10 characters who X. I had initially planned to list characters who like science, but that morphed into a list of smart female characters -- many of whom happen to be good at science. Math and science were not my favorite subjects in school (not surprisingly, given that I have a book blog and work at a library, I always gravitated toward English and history) but I'm in awe of people who are very good at those things, so that's mostly the kind of "smart" that's here on my list.

I threw this post together rather hastily and I'm sure I've left some brilliant fictional ladies off my list, but I can say I've read and enjoyed all of these books. Do you have any recommendations for me that feature smart women?

smart women

1. The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church: This beautiful book is about an ornithologist whose career aspirations are wrecked when she follows her husband to Los Alamos, New Mexico, for his work on the atom bomb.

2. To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey: One of my favorite books last year, "To the Bright Edge" is an epistolary novel set in the late 1800s about a man on an Alaskan expedition and his wife, who stays behind in Washington state and has adventures of her own.

3. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King: Oxford student Mary Russell is at least as smart as her mentor, Sherlock Holmes.

4. A Discovery of Witches: Before she gets wrapped up in a world of witches, vampires and daemons, Diana is a brilliant academic.

5. My Last Continent by Midge Raymond: Scientist Deb spends several months each year in Antarctica studying penguins.

6. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nuevel: Protagonist Rose is a physicist at the top of her field in this first installment of a series about ancient aliens.

7. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict: Was Albert Einstein's wife just as smart as he was? In her based-in-fact novel, Benedict asserts that Mileva was a genius mathematician in her own right.

8. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn: Good ol' Veronica Speedwell is a naturalist as well as an amateur sleuth. (I kept my phone by me the whole time I was reading this so I could Google all the butterflies mentioned!)

9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Claire is a nurse, and later a doctor, and she manages to use her medical knowledge to her benefit many times over in 1700s Scotland.

10. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain: Beryl Markham, the protagonist of this based-in-fact novel, was a fascinating woman wholly ahead of her time -- and she was also the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Bonus: Non-Fiction

11. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren:
Hope is a brilliant scientist who studies botany, among other things, and I thoroughly enjoyed her memoir!

12. American Eclipse: The Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World" by David Baron: I'm reading this book right now and one of the main characters is Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer is the U.S. (and also a professor at Vassar).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monday Musings

I looove my new white watch! And my new orange pillow. I don't normally gravitate toward orange, but I recently got some new couch pillows that are mostly beige with orange accents and I adore them! When I saw that little pumpkin-spice colored one at Pier 1 this week I just had to grab it!

My week: It was a pretty quiet week here. At work I was busy getting things around for my big Halloween bulletin board. I feel like I just got the AzkaBANNED Prison banned books board up; I can't believe it's almost time to take it down!

Reading: It took me a while, but I finished the time travel (to 1300s Italy) novel "The Scribe of Siena" by Melodie Winawer on Friday evening. It had taken me all week to read the first 200 pages, and man did they drag, but the second half picked up and I read/skimmed the last 250 pages in a few hours.

Now I'm reading "American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World" by David Baron, which is a readable and fairly short (just over 200 pages) non-fiction book about the total solar eclipse of 1878. I've learned a ton already, and though it's a little to dry to read non-stop, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I had it from the library in time to read it during all the eclipse fervor last month (even though we didn't get to see it here in Hawaii) but I just didn't get around to it.

I also started "Himself" by Jess Kidd, an Irish mystery-ish novel (with a tinge of magical realism -- the protagonist can see dead people) I've been looking forward to for ages -- my library finally got it in! I'm not too far in and it's not quite what I expected, but I'm definitely liking it. If you need a good October-ish book (because October starts in just a few days, if you can believe it!), I'm thinking this is a good choice!

Watching: Jarrod was back to working ridiculous hours this week, so we didn't have much time for movies and TV (plus football is on all weekend in our house this time of year thanks to my football-obsessed husband). We did watch a few more episodes of "Orphan Black" -- it's getting pretty hokey and, while I do love the show, I think it's probably a good thing this is the final season.

Baking: Pumpkin cookies with maple cream cheese frosting. Mmmmm.

Cleaning out: My Goodreads to-read and maybe-to-read lists. When the combined total of those lists hit 900(!!!!!!) I knew it was (well past) time. I culled about 200 books -- most of which I had no recollection of whatsoever --  but I could definitely chop more. Sometimes I think about deleting the lists entirely and starting from scratch. How do you handle your to-read list?

Lusting after: The new Harry Potter collection from Pottery Barn Teen! I totally want that glow-in-the-dark Marauder's Map pillow (and pretty much everything else)!

Putting out: Fall decorations! It was quite an endeavor because the under-stairs closet where all the holiday decor is stored became kind of a catch-all this year for puppy-proofing and everything else, so there was a lot of stuff to sort through before I made it to the fall boxes. It allllmost wasn't worth it, but now that I'm surrounded by pumpkins I'm glad I did it. And now the closet is organized!


Monday Musings
My Fall 2017 To-Read List
10 Things I'm Looking Forward To This Fall
Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Looking forward to: We're taking professional family pictures with Alohi on the beach this week for our Christmas cards, and while I'm honestly sort of dreading the photo shoot (Alohi is sure to be a total maniac) I'm excited to see the results!

Also, fall TV starts back this week! I'm especially looking forward to "This Is Us" and "Poldark," and I'm going to give the "Will and Grace" revival a try. What shows are you excited about? Are you going to watch any new ones?

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

"Good Morning, Midnight" by Lily Brooks-Dalton
First published in 2016
253 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:
Such a promising premise, but not the story I expected.

The Long Of It:
Sully is an astronaut returning from a trip to Jupiter when her ship permanently loses communication with Earth; Augie is an elderly astronomer in the Arctic who decides to stay and finish out his days with his telescopes when the rest of the base is evacuated. Both know something horrible has happened, but they have no idea what disaster has befallen their planet and no clear way of finding out.

The library sticker on my copy of "Good Morning, Midnight" proclaims it to be science fiction and I was pumped for a fast-paced post-apocalyptic thriller, but it should be billed as literary fiction -- it's really a quiet novel about human connection. The possible end of humankind had both characters -- neither particularly likable -- doing a lot of soul-searching and cataloging their many, many regrets -- and me doing a bit of yawning.

There was an interesting twist at the end, but by then the book had mostly lost my interest. About a third of the way through I had the sinking feeling that the actual nature of the apocalypse wouldn't be revealed -- the what and how and why wasn't necessary to the character-driven story -- but I still had hope. Nope, Brooks-Dalton never expounds of the topic.

The book was well-done for what it was, and I really liked the author's idea -- two lost souls coming to terms with the fact that something awful has likely wiped out everyone and everything they've ever known -- as well as reading about life on a spaceship, but it was a totally different novel than I had in mind. I wanted something like "Station Eleven" or even "The Fireman," but I got a rather depressing and cerebral story instead.

Friday, September 22, 2017

10 Things I'm Looking Forward to This Fall

10 things fall

1. A family visit! My mom and brother are coming to Hawaii in October.

2. Dressing up at work for Halloween. I haven't decided if I want to wear my Hermione costume again or come up with something new.

3. TV shows coming back! I'm especially looking forward to "This Is Us" and "Poldark." "Stranger Things," too.

4. Pumpkins! Those jolly orange squashes make me so happy.

5. Going to the University of Hawaii vs. Colorado State (my alma mater) football game.

6. Baking apple dumplings from my grandma's delicious recipe. Plus pumpkin desserts galore!

7. Trick-or-treaters! We had TONS of kids last year. I love seeing their costumes.

8. Seeing the results of our family photo shoot (with crazy puppy) on the beach. I'm not exactly looking forward to doing the shoot next week, but I'm so anxious to see how the pictures turn out!

9. Starbucks pumpkin scones. I don't usually splurge on pastries with my coffee, but those scones are so good. I tried to make a copycat recipe a couple years ago, but they didn't come out the same.

10. Finally getting to see "Wonder Woman" and "Guardians of the Galaxy 2." We wanted to see them in the theater but it just didn't happen (if you can believe it, we haven't been to the movie theater since "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"), but we'll be able to watch them on DVD soon!

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Fall 2017 To-Read List

It's nearly the official first day of autumn! This will be my second fall back in Hawaii, and man, do I ever miss my favorite season! Please enjoy crisp air, crunchy leaves, stunningly colorful foliage, apple cider, sweaters and sitting by the fireplace for me! We'll have one more fall to spend in Hawaii after this one, and while there will definitely be things I miss about living here, I'm crossing my fingers that we head someplace with seasons!

I really cannot believe it's nearly October (my favorite month of the year, by the way). Time has just flown, and now we only have a few months left to cram as many books as we can into 2017! As I've said, it's been a kinda mediocre reading year for me, and I'd love to finish it off on a high note. So tell me, what's the single best book you've read so far this year? And your favorite 2017 release?

I've got a pretty ambitious fall to-read list, and I know I won't get to all of these books. I didn't even read half the books I talked about in my summer to-read post. But I'm gonna give it my best shot -- and hopefully some of these will blow me away! What are you excited to read this fall? (I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish to share my list for Top Ten Tuesday.)

fall 2017 to read list

1. Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller: This novel has to do with the Sioux Nation, and it sounds a little intense. It also has very mixed reviews, so we shall see! It has the least priority among my current library books, and I won't be totally heartbroken if I have to return it unread.

2. Himself by Jess Kidd: "Himself" is a mystery set in Ireland and I've been looking forward to it for months! My library finally got it in and I'm so excited to dive in. I love books set in Ireland.

3. The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne: I've pretty much given up on the thriller genre, but I'm going to give this one a try. It seems to have tinges of one of my favorite 2016 books, "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis.

4. American Eclipse: A Nations's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron: I meant to read this non-fiction book around the time of the eclipse, which has come and gone. Oops.

5. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan: I stumbled across this book while browsing online and the cover caught my eye, then I saw it has really good reviews!

6. Artemis by Andy Weir: The second book by the author of "The Martian," which I loved, and it's set on the moon! I can't wait for this one!

7. From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty: I loved the morbid and educational and thoughtful "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," Doughty's memoir about working in the funeral industry. Her second book sounds just as interesting!

8. Strange Weather by Joe Hill: I've read all but one of Joe Hill's books and, though I don't normally like short stories, I'm going to give Hill's a shot!

9. Origin by Dan Brown: For some reason, book bloggers seem to look down on poor Dan Brown, but I enjoy his Robert Langdon page-turners!

10. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz: This seems like the perfect book for October!

11. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I really liked "Maybe in Another Life" and I want to read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid's work! This is her newest release and has to do with a classic film actress -- different from her other stuff, but I'm intrigued.

12. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: That cover totally sucked me in! The plot sounds good too, so I asked my boss at work to order it for the library.

13. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: This is a 2017 release everyone seems to love, so of course I have to jump on the bandwagon!

14. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: This is a carryover from my summer to-read list. Another book that should be a perfect fall read, and then I can go see the movie.

15. The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh: This book has a hideous cover and a kinda weird-sounding plot, but I saw several people raving about it online so I decided I want to give it a shot.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: Wow, what a crazy week here! I actually worked six days in a row, and the above picture of Alohi (while taken on Saturday) is a pretty accurate representation of me yesterday! Zzzzzz.

We're quite short-handed at the library right now so work was pretty busy to begin with, and on top of that I had my 4th and 5th grade book club meeting on the same day a co-worker and I put on preschool storytime -- something I've never done before (though it was actually pretty fun). It was a busy, busy week!

Reading: I didn't have much time for reading this week, but I did finish "Good Morning, Midnight" by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It's a novel set around the apocalypse told from the perspectives of a researcher stranded in the Arctic and an astronaut on a return trip from Jupiter; being so isolated, they don't know what has happened to the planet, only that something has. Sounds absolutely fascinating -- but it was far from the action-packed page-turner I expected and was a lot more... existential. It wasn't a bad book, but right now I'm in the mood for (and need, really) a more fast-paced, unputdownable book.

Yesterday I started "The Scribe of Siena" by Melodie Winawer, which involves a modern-day neurosurgeon time traveling back to 1300s Italy in the midst of the Black Death plague. The writing feels slightly off to me for some reason, but I'm definitely intrigued by the plot so far!

Watching: We started watching the newest (final) season of "Orphan Black." We also watched a really good movie called "Gifted," which I had never heard of until three separate people recommended to me. It's about an absolutely adorable little girl who's a math prodigy, and the battle over how to handle her genius -- keep her living a normal little-girl life, or send her straight to university and beyond. It stars Chris Evans (a.k.a. Captain America) and Mckenna Grace, who simply stole the show.


Looking forward to: My day off Wednesday! I plan to read and relax and maybe do a little shopping and possibly even get a massage!

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My Favorite Books Published 10 Years Ago

November 2007.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a throwback freebie. It can be anything that involves not-so-recent books, and I decided to look back 10 years (10 years?!?!) to books published in 2007 and 2008. I would have really loved to make a post of favorite books I actually read 10 years ago, but sadly I didn't keep good track of my reading back then.

In 2007 I got engaged, graduated college, moved to Florida, got a job at a newspaper, and brought home our first boxer, Conan. In 2008 I got married, moved to Texas and learned to knit. My life has changed a lot since then, and I'd love to see how my reading tastes have changed as well (they definitely have).

I know I went through a Philippa Gregory phase around that time, and I also read all the earlier James Patterson books, and I've since grown out of both those authors, as well as others I used to enjoy like Jennifer Crusie and Sophie Kinsella. I do still love Dan Brown, though -- I distinctly recall devouring "Deception Point" and "Digital Fortress" in college, and I'm anticipating his new book next month!

So, without further ado, lets' take a walk down memory lane and look at 10 books I enjoyed that were published in 2007 or 2008 (some I read back then, others I read much more recently).

2007 books

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (5 stars)
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (4.5 stars)
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (5 stars)
4. The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton (4.5 stars)
5. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (4 stars)
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (4 stars)
7. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (4.5 stars)
8. Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls (5 stars)
9. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir (5 stars)
10. In the Woods by Tana French (4 stars)

Bonus! Here are five 2007/2008 books on my to-read list -- ones that I'd really like to get to sooner than later.

2007 tbr

1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
2. The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
3. Sarah's Key by Tatiana DeRosnay
4. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
5. City of Thieves by David Benioff

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: We spent the weekend on Kauai, which, though a very quick little trip, was still rejuvenating and relaxing. We like to stay at some military beach cottages on the far west side of the island. They're pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but we enjoy the seclusion. And without all that light pollution, the night sky is absolutely stunning! Plus we love falling asleep at night to the sound of crashing waves. We sat on the beach, did a waterfall hike and ate some delicious food. It was fabulous.

I was a little worried about leaving Alohi for the first time, but we had a friend dog- and house-sit for us, so Alohi got to spend the weekend with her new BFF. As much as it was refreshing to have a break from my wild and crazy puppy -- I wrote this entire blog post without her stepping all over me, pressing a squeaky toy against my face or scratching to go out -- I missed the crap out of her!


Reading: Alert the media: it's finally happened! I have given my first 5-star rating of 2017! I absolutely loved "Red Sister" by Mark Lawrence, and I can't wait until the second installment of this fantasy series comes out in April! I told a friend that it was sort of like a mix of "The Queen of Blood" and "Harry Potter" and assassins. If you like fantasy, READ THIS ONE! (P.S. I personally think this cover is horrible -- see the much prettier U.K. one in my cover battle post here!)

I finished "Red Sister" Friday night after we got to Kauai, and then I read "James and the Giant Peach" for the September meeting of the kids' book club at work, which is this Wednesday. I've never read Roald Dahl before -- somehow he escaped my voracious childhood reading -- and I don't think I've ever seen any of the movies either. The book was ok... cute and zany, but I didn't really get the point of the story.

Now I'm reading "Good Morning, Midnight" by Lily Brooks-Dalton, which is a post-apocalyptic thriller set partly in the Arctic Circle.

(I'm still reading "One Summer: America, 1927" by Bill Bryson, but I was so wrapped up in "Red Sister" that I didn't read much non-fiction this week.)

Checking out: Once again, way too many library books. I had four holds to pick up from the public library on the same day I brought home the next six books for the kids' book club!

Watching: I squeezed in one episode of "Outlander" season 2, and we watched the last couple episodes of the most recent season of "Homeland."

Making: My AzkaBANNED Prison bulletin board -- and the accompanying Azkaban wanted poster photo board -- are finished! It was a labor of love, as all these boards are, but I really like the way this one came out! And it's been gratifying to see people reading it, getting all afluster that books they love are on the wall (many people apparently don't know books are challenged and banned!), and checking out books from the pile I've set out.


Eating: All our favorite restaurants on Kauai (including our favorite burger place, which uses local beef, and kalua pork tacos and teriyaki chicken tacos from our favorite taco restaurant). We also had the best fried Brussels sprouts -- they were mixed with jalapenos, raisins and pepitas, and topped with a delicious jalapeno honey vinaigrette. And I got my first salted caramel mocha and pumpkin scone of the season from Starbucks.

Monday Musings
I Judge Books By Their Covers: Red Sister
Book Review: The Essex Serpent

Looking forward to: The weekend! Even though our trip to Kauai was relaxing, it wasn't the same as having a normal weekend, and I'll actually be working quite a bit more than usual this week to help fill some gaps at work (who knew September would be the random crazy month of everyone needing time off while we're also down an employee?!). I'll also be helping out with preschool storytime for the first time ever, on the same day I have the 4th and 5th grade book club. I'm going to be so happy when Friday night rolls around!

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

"The Essex Serpent" by Sarah Perry
First published 2017
418 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A lovely historical fiction novel that started out strong but fell a bit flat for me in the latter half.

The Long Of It:
"The Essex Serpent" is a quiet story set in the late 1800s about an English village terrified by a sea serpent, the contrariety of reason and religion, and an unlikely friendship between a vicar and a very unusual woman.

After the death of her abusive husband, Cora Seaborne is happier than she's been in years. She's free to wear men's clothes, travel where she wishes and pursue her naturalist instincts. Her search for fossils takes her to the Essex shore where rumors of an evil serpent have wracked the hamlet of Aldwinter, and there she befriends William Ransome, the local vicar. Though the two disagree on much, they instantly form a near seamless meeting of the minds.

Meanwhile, a surgeon ahead of his time is in love with Cora, his best friend is in love with Cora's companion, Cora's odd son Francis gets even odder, and eerie things are happening in Aldwinter -- blamed, course, on the serpent.

The first part of the novel completely sucked me in -- I enjoyed the gorgeous prose, the unique cast of characters, and the letters sent between them scattered throughout (I do so love epistolary novels, and this one had just the right of good old fashioned snail mail tucked between chapters). And I was fascinated by the idea of the malevolent Essex serpent that had Aldwinter and the surrounding towns all in a tizzy -- something that could easily have happened a century and a quarter ago.

But there really wasn't very much action -- it turned out to be a much more character-driven novel than I expected, and eventually it started to feel a little boring. And, too, some of the characters I really liked ended up doing things that disappointed me.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and I'd say it's worth a read, but don't expect an action-packed romp. This is a more subtle, atmospheric story, so save it for a time when you can sit down and savor it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I Judge Books By Their Covers: Red Sister

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

Right now I'm reading "Red Sister," the first in a new fantasy series by Mark Lawrence, and it's soooo good! When I was grabbing the cover image for the blog, I noticed the U.K. cover was quite different -- perfect time for a cover battle!

U.S. <---------------------------> U.K.

It may not be a ridiculously easy cover battle for you, but it is for me. I almost always dislike fiction covers that have realistic pictures of people on them, and this is no exception. The color scheme is nice and I do like the red smears, but overall -- the U.S. cover is totally not my cup of tea.

On the other hand, I really do like the U.K. cover. If you read these posts regularly you'll know I'm a big fan of pops of red. And I'm drawn to anything that says "cold weather," as well as illustrated, artistic covers. This fits the bill for all of those! I'm not even quite a third of the way into the story, but I can say the ice is relevant and that the girl in the U.K. cover is dressed the way I've been imagining the protagonist (she's at sort of a convent/training school for people with special abilities). I could do without the tagline above the title, but other than that this cover is right up my alley!

Do tell: which cover do you prefer?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Monday Musings

We stumbled across this awesome mural while running errands Sunday.

My week: It was a pretty quiet week here. My alarm either didn't go off one day or I turned it off and went back to sleep with zero memory of doing so, so that was fun! We had an afternoon of pouring rain with a bit of thunder and lightning, which is super-rare for Hawaii, and that actually was fun. College football started back over the weekend and I'll now be a football widow for the next several months. On the plus side, Hawaii plays my alma mater Colorado State in a couple weeks and we'll be going to the game!

Reading: I'm continuing to read "One Summer: America, 1927" in 25-page chunks, though I admit to skipping a couple days last week because I didn't have as much time to read. (I'm thoroughly enjoying it, though, and I've learned a ton!) I started "The Essex Serpent" last Monday and finished it on Friday; I loved the first half but the second fell a bit flat for me. Still, I gave it 4 stars.

Now I'm reading "Red Sister," the first in a new fantasy series. I grabbed it when I saw it at the library because I remembered it was on my to-read list, but I had almost no recollection what it was about and I decided to just dive in without reading the blurb. I'm a little ways in and it's really good so far -- and I'm intrigued by the wholly new world it's set in -- but I really couldn't say yet what it's about! (A young girl who gets rescued from the gallows to become a nun/assassin maybe?)

Watching: The "Game of Thrones" season finale, "Homeland," season 2 of "Outlander." We didn't watch any movies last week.

Buying: Some new pillows for the couch! I splurged and bought some big, fancy ones from Pier 1 and then found two complimentary pillows at Target. I'd been wanting to change out the pillows -- we still had the same ones that came with the couch four years ago --  and I love how such a small change can just brighten up a room!

Making: It's time to change up my giant bulletin board in the kids' section at work again, and this time it's Banned Books Week-themed. I (with help from a fabulous co-worker) have been working on "AzkaBANNED Prison." It features books behind bars (with speech bubbles saying why they're banned or challenged -- i.e. "Diary of Anne Frank" tells people "I'm too depressing."), and when it's done it'll have a dementor and an Azkaban wanted poster photo board for patrons to take pictures with. I'll post pictures when it's done -- I really need to do a wrap-up post of all the boards I've put up since I took over bulletin board duties in March!

Monday Musings
11 Hidden Gems on My To-Read List
Book Title Book Tag
15 Intriguing September 2017 Book Releases
Turning the Page on August 2017

Looking forward to: Our weekend getaway to Kauai! I'm a little nervous about leaving Alohi for the first time -- she is probably going to drive the friend who's house/dog-sitting for us absolutely crazy -- but I'm sooooo ready for some rejuvenation and relaxation on our favorite island!

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Turning the Page on August 2017

august 2

I'm happy to say that August was a vast improvement on the rest of the summer! We had some misadventures with attempting to leave Alohi our of her crate when we're gone as well as a walk-in vet visit, but overall it was a pretty decent, fairly quiet month. Jarrod and I took a couple days off work and spent them hiking (the puppy's first hike), trying a waterside tiki restaurant we'd been meaning to get to, and snorkeling.

We didn't watch many stand-out movies this month, though I did really love the hidden gem The Sapphires. TV-wise Jarrod and I have been watching the latest seasons of Game of Thrones and Homeland. I watched the first couple episodes of Outlander season 2, after finishing the book at the beginning of the month.

august books

Books read: 11
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #2) // 4 stars
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #1) // 3.5 stars
The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies (for kids' book club) // 3 stars
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (Monsters of Verity #1) // 3 stars
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel // 4.5 stars
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood // 4.5 stars
O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King (Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes #5) // 2 stars
Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn (Lady Julia Grey #2) // 4 stars
Dangerous Minds by Janet Evanovich (Knight & Moon #2) // 3 stars
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (Temeraire #2) // 3.5 stars
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry // 4 stars

Currently reading: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. I'm reading it slowly in 25-page chunks, but I'm thoroughly enjoying this look back at a fascinating few months in America's history!

Favorite book: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Interesting and timely story, impossible-to-resist characters, and good writing.

Biggest let-down: O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King. The Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series has been hit-or-miss for me, and unfortunately this installment was incredibly tough to get through. It was so bogged down in unnecessary details and historical info that there was barely a mystery to speak of, and I finally gave up and skimmed the last third.

September release I'm most looking forward to: Dan Brown's new Robert Langdon book, Origin.

Book I'm most excited to read in September: Himself by Jess Kidd! This Irish mystery came out last year and I've been waiting and hoping and wishing for the library to get it -- and it finally came in! I have it on hold ready to pick up.

Books added to to-read list: 11

Most intriguing TBR addition: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, which comes out in January. From Goodreads: Five women. One question. What is a woman for? In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Favorite bookstagram: Find me on Instagram @knittinglindsay!

I took this picture on an evening just as cozy as you might think. After work I had to go grocery shopping in the pouring rain, and after a somewhat rough day I decided to treat myself to a grocery store cinnamon roll. I came home, put on comfy yoga pants and my favorite t-shirt, made coffee, heated up my cinnamon roll, lit a candle and sat down with "The Essex Serpent." And all the while it was gushing down rain outside, a treat both because it's been really dry here lately and because there were a few claps of thunder and flashes of lightning -- something we almost never get in Hawaii!


Favorite post: Book Title Book Tag! The tag entailed answering prompts with book titles and it was so fun to put together!

Book reviews:
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Friday, September 1, 2017

15 Intriguing September 2017 Book Releases

It's almost fall -- a great time for new books each year! Often when I put together these monthly lists not many of the books are on my absolutely-positively-must-read list, but several of these are! I will most definitely be reading "The Salt Line," "Little Fires Everywhere," "Origin," "Dear Fahrenheit 451," "The Last Castle" and "Sleeping Beauties" and I would love to get to all the others too!

What September releases are you looking forward to?

(All blurbs adapted from Goodreads.)

intriguing september 2017 book releases

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi's past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. "Sing, Unburied, Sing" grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family.

The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Matthews: June 1939. Francis Dempsey and his shell-shocked brother Michael are on an ocean liner from Ireland bound for their brother Martin's home in New York City, having stolen a small fortune from the IRA. During the week that follows, the lives of these three brothers collide spectacularly with big-band jazz musicians, a talented but fragile heiress, a Jewish street photographer facing a return to Nazi-occupied Prague, a vengeful mob boss, and the ghosts of their own family's revolutionary past. From the smoky jazz joints of Harlem to the Plaza Hotel, from the garrets of artists in the Bowery to the shadowy warehouses of mobsters in Hell's Kitchen, Brendan Mathews brings prewar New York to vivid, pulsing life, while the sweeping and intricate storytelling of this remarkable debut reveals an America that blithely hoped it could avoid another catastrophic war and focus instead on the promise of the World's Fair: a peaceful, prosperous World of Tomorrow.  

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones: In an unspecified future, the United States' borders have receded behind a salt line--a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what's left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife. Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks -- and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan: Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it. Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up. When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter: For readers of "The Nightingale" and "Brooklyn," an exquisitely moving novel about friendship, love, and redemption in a circle of immigrants who flee Europe for 1930s-era New York City. On the eve of World War II Egon Schneider--a gallant and successful Jewish doctor, son of two world-famous naturalists--escapes Germany to an uncertain future across the sea. Settling into the unfamiliar rhythms of upper Manhattan, he finds solace among a tight-knit group of fellow immigrants, tenacious men and women drawn together as much by their differences as by their memories of the world they left behind. They each suffer degradations and triumphs large and small. But their spirits remain unbroken, and when their little community is faced with an existential threat, these strangers rise up together in hopes of creating a permanent home.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford: A powerful novel, inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair. For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World's Fair feels like a gift. But only once he's there does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off -- a healthy boy "to a good home." The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam's precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known -- and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he's always desired. But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love. Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle's second World's Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned -- from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren -- an enigmatic artist and single mother -- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town -- and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz: "Autonomous" features a rakish female pharmaceutical pirate named Jack who traverses the world in her own submarine. A notorious anti-patent scientist who has styled herself as a Robin Hood heroine fighting to bring cheap drugs to the poor, Jack’s latest drug is leaving a trail of lethal overdoses across what used to be North America -- a drug that compels people to become addicted to their work. On Jack’s trail are an unlikely pair: an emotionally shut-down military agent and his partner, Paladin, a young military robot, who fall in love against all expectations. Autonomous alternates between the activities of Jack and her co-conspirators, and Joe and Paladin, as they all race to stop a bizarre drug epidemic that is tearing apart lives, causing trains to crash, and flooding New York City.

The Man From the Train by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James: Using unprecedented, dramatically compelling sleuthing techniques, legendary statistician and baseball writer Bill James applies his analytical acumen to crack an unsolved century-old mystery surrounding one of the deadliest serial killers in American history. Riveting and immersive, with writing as sharp as the cold side of an axe, "The Man from the Train" paints a vivid, psychologically perceptive portrait of America at the dawn of the twentieth century, when crime was regarded as a local problem, and opportunistic private detectives exploited a dysfunctional judicial system. James shows how these cultural factors enabled such an unspeakable series of crimes to occur, and his groundbreaking approach to true crime will convince skeptics, amaze aficionados, and change the way we view criminal history.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King: In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men? In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?

Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens by Alison Weir: The story of England’s medieval queens is vivid and stirring, packed with tragedy, high drama and even comedy. It is a chronicle of love, murder, war and betrayal, filled with passion, intrigue and sorrow, peopled by a cast of heroines, villains, stateswomen and lovers. In the first volume of this epic new series, Alison Weir strips away centuries of romantic mythology and prejudice to reveal the lives of England’s queens in the century after the Norman Conquest. Much more than a series of individual biographies, "Queens of the Conquest" is a seamless tale of interconnected lives and a rich portrait of English history in a time of flux. In Alison Weir’s hands these five extraordinary women reclaim their rightful roles at the centre of English history.

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky by Christopher Meades: Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age. But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret -- one that could grant Hanna the freedom she's known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she's ever known? Or is there another option -- one too fantastical to believe?

Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian's Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence: Librarians spend their lives weeding -- not weeds but books! Books that have reached the end of their shelf life, both literally and figuratively. They remove the books that patrons no longer check out. And they put back the books they treasure. Annie Spence, who has a decade of experience as a Midwestern librarian, does this not only at her Michigan library but also at home, for her neighbors, at cocktail parties -- everywhere. In "Dear Fahrenheit 451," she addresses those books directly. We read her love letters to "The Goldfinch" and "Matilda," as well as her snarky break-ups with "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Dear John." Her notes to "The Virgin Suicides" and "The Time Traveler’s Wife" feel like classics, sure to strike a powerful chord with readers. Through the lens of the books in her life, Annie comments on everything from women’s psychology to gay culture to health to poverty to childhood aspirations.

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home by Denise Kiernan: From the author of "The Girls of Atomic City" comes the fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore -- the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States. The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. The Last Castle is the unique American story of how the largest house in America flourished, faltered, and ultimately endured to this day.

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard: In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney -- a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it. Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.
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