Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday Musings

puppy book square

My week: It was a good week here. Wednesday I got a much-needed haircut and highlights. Then my birthday was on Friday and it was pretty great! I had the day off work, and I spent the morning reading and hanging out with Alohi, then Jarrod and I got a couples massage, took Alohi to the dog park, and went out to dinner at a restaurant I've been wanting to try for ages. For my "birthday cake" I got an absolutely divine chocolate souffle (with vanilla bean ice cream and raspberry sauce -- and piping hot out of the oven; this place bakes your dessert when you order it!), the perfect end to a good day!

Reading: I was so very excited to read "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielweski, a book that's supposed to scare the pants off me. But I found it to be odd, boring and ramble-y, so I set it aside for the moment -- I do want to get back to it, though.

Instead I read the new Dan Brown novel, "Origin." Not my favorite Robert Landgon book, but I blew through it all the same.

Then, just as quickly, I devoured "The Alice Network" by Kate Quinn, a dual narrative set in WWI and WWII. It was allllmost a 5-star read. If you like historical fiction, definitely pick it up!

I really should go back to "House of Leaves" now but instead I'm going to read "The Keeper of Lost Things" by Ruth Hogan because it's due back at the library in a couple days. I tried to read it a few weeks ago and couldn't get into the first chapter, but I think I'm more in the right mindset for it now. After two page-turners, I won't be as antsy with a slower pace.

Watching: We watched the movie "Eddie the Eagle" this week; I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting into but it ended up being adorable and inspirational. It's set in the '80s and based on the true story of a quirky British Olympic ski jumper who had a dream and followed through despite the relentless obstacles in his path (helped along by rather dashing ex-jumper-turned-coach Hugh Jackman).

Also, "Stranger Things" season 2, "This Is Us," "Poldark," "Grey's Anatomy."

Eating: Cake!

Baking: Chocolate chip pumpkin bread.

Buying: On my birthday, I finally ordered these bookish earrings from Etsy that I'd been lusting after for YEARS.

(Etsy shop: Coryographies)

Receiving: My Amazon UK order! I really wanted the British version of the illustrated "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," and while I was at it I bought "A Close and Common Orbit" by Becky Chambers (the sequel to "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet," which I loved); the British covers of the Wayfarers series are so much better!

Resolving: To take up scuba diving! It's something I've been tossing around and, even though I'm fairly nervous about it, I've decided that during my 32nd year I'm going to get dive certified. What better place to start diving than Hawaii? Also, I've made birthday goals to straighten my hair more often, start jogging, and get up early enough on workdays that I can walk (jog?) Alohi before I have to leave. We'll see how all that works out -- but, hey, I have a whole year to get it right! ;)

Monday Musings
11 Book Titles That Totally Grabbed Me
2017 Releases I REALLY Want To Read By The End of the Year
Non-Fiction November 2017 + Reading Goals
Non-Fiction November Week 1: My Non-Fiction Reading Year So Far + About Me

Looking forward to: Wearing my book fairy Halloween costume to work tomorrow! Also, trick-or-treaters! I love seeing the kids in costume, and we get TONS of trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood.

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Non-Fiction November Week 1: My Non-Fiction Reading Year So Far + About Me

Happy almost-November! This week marks the start of Non-Fiction November, an annual event hosted by several bloggers to include recommendations, discussion and, of course, non-fiction reading! This is my first year participating and I'm so excited! Every week there's a discussion prompt and link-up, and here we go with week 1 (I've decided to publish my posts a day early, each Sunday, since I already have a regular Monday post):

Introductions and Your Non-Fiction Year So Far (Hosted by Julie at Julz Reads)

hiking with alohi

I currently live in Hawaii (for another year and a half) and I work at a library. I love my husband and our puppy and (most of the time) our moody cat, plus a bunch of other stuff like books, knitting, snail mail, baking and traveling. My favorite color is anything in the blue-green family, and my favorite animal is the yellow-bellied marmot. You can find me on Instagram @knittinglindsay.

1. What was your favorite non-fiction read of the year?
I've actually read a surprising 12 non-fiction books this year (woo hoo!) and most of them have been pretty decent 4-star reads. I think my favorites would have to be "One Summer: America, 1927" by Bill Bryson and "Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance.

I also really enjoyed "Lab Girl" by Hope Jahren and "American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World" by David Baron.

2. What non-fiction book have you recommended the most?
The "March" graphic novel series by Congressman John Lewis about his work in the American Civil Rights Movement.

3. What is one topic or type of non-fiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
This year? Probably memoirs, which is normally the type non-fiction I read the most. I've read a lot of history and even some science this year. I could totally do with something light and fun; maybe I'll try to work in "Scrappy Little Nobody" by Anna Kendrick or "Talking As Fast As I Can" by Lauren Graham.

4. What are you hoping to get out of participating in Non-Fiction November?

I'm not exactly hoping for it, but it's inevitable: I know my TBR list will be expanding! And I'm planning to get in a non-fiction book or two in November; you can see a list of my potential reads here.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Non-Fiction November 2017 + Reading Goals

I missed out on participating in Non-Fiction November last year, but I'm on the ball for 2017! Non-Fiction November is a month of discussion, recommendations and reading non-fiction -- a genre I love, but one I sometimes have trouble making time for.

Each week in November I'll be doing a blog post about non-fiction -- you can see the prompts here -- and I'm going to try to fit one or two non-fiction books into my reading queue. I'd love to read more, but as you can see from yesterday's post there are way more 2017 releases I hope to read by the end of the year than I'll ever have time for, most of them fiction.

Here are a few of the contenders (all 2016/2017 releases):

nonfiction nov want to read

1. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

2. The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home by Denise Kiernan

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

4. American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

5. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win WWII by Liza Mundy

6. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir: by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich

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

8. Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian's Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

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

10. Forty Autumns: A Family's History of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

2017 Releases I REALLY Want To Read By The End of the Year

I've read quite a few new releases in 2017 and, unfortunately, a good chunk up them wound of being disappointments. Despite that, there are several more 2017 books that I really want to make an effort to read before the year comes to a close (and preferably before the Goodreads Choice Awards -- I love voting for those!), though there's no way I'll get to them all.

I only included books published before October on my list because I'm putting together a different post featuring October-December releases I'm excited about. Have you read any of these books? Some, like "The Hate U Give," were ubiquitous this year, while others, like "Home Fire," were a little less hyped. I'm looking forward to all of them -- fingers crossed for some 5-star reads in the bunch!

2017 want to read 2

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

11 Book Titles That Totally Grabbed Me

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is about unique book titles. I'll admit I'm a total cover-judger, but occasionally a good title can suck me in just as much. Below are 11 book titles that instantly piqued my interest.

unique book titles

Books I've read:
1. The Alaskan Laundry by Brendan Jones (review)
2. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (review)
3. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (review)
4. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (review)
5. The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church (review)

From my to-read list:
6. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
7. Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
8. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman
9. A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir by Lev Golinkin
10. Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart
11. Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Musings

tantalus square
Since it was a pretty quiet week here, I thought I'd share another picture from my family's visit. My brother snapped this family photo for us on Round Top Drive, which has several pretty overlooks. That's Honolulu, Waikiki and Diamond Head in the background.

My week: It was an ok week here. My mom and brother headed home last Monday night, and Tuesday I was definitely still on vacation brain when I started back to work! We had some ever-so-slightly fall-like weather here and it was a nice treat. It was super windy, a little rainy and a couple degrees cooler than usual.

Reading: I finished "Rabbit Cake" and ultimately was underwhelmed by it. The cover and title are a pretty dead giveaway that this is a quirky book, but it was just a little too out-there for me, and it also felt more like a middle-grade novel than an adult one.

Then I finally finished "One Summer," Bill Bryson's portrait of the 1920s. I realized last week just how appallingly overdue it was and finally got my butt in gear to finish the last 250 pages, which I blazed through in three days. If you like the '20s, read this! It was so interesting and I learned so much, and Bryson's writing style keeps 450 pages of history from feeling dry.

After that I read "Setting Free the Kites" by Alex George. It's not something I'd pick up on my own -- I've learned coming-of-age YA stories are not usually my thing -- but a good friend with similar reading tastes gave it 5 stars earlier this year and I decided to give it a try. I liked that it was set in Maine in the '70s, but it was just a little boring and kind of grim.

Now I'm reading something that should be the opposite of boring -- people say it's terrifying -- "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski. I'm not far yet, and this is a whopper of a book, and an odd and uniquely constructed one at that, but so far I'm very intrigued.

Watching: "Grey's Anatomy." Jarrod had to work until midnight on Friday so I took the opportunity to watch the entire season of "Grey's" so far. It's a show that I've been wishing would just be over already -- but I'll most likely see it through to the end. This season, though, hooked me in right away and I'm actually excited to watch the next episode, something I haven't really felt about "Grey's" in a while. (P.S. Did you know they're making a spin-off of "Grey's" about the Seattle Fire Department? Ben is going to move over to become fireman. I think I'll pass!)

We also watched "The Circle" on DVD. I never got around to reading the book, and I heard mixed reviews about both the book and the adaptation. But I actually liked it well enough. It had a good satirical message about our over-reliance on technology and social media.

Eating: Pumpkin Pecan Cobbler. It's reminiscent of a chocolate pudding cake and super-yummy. I discovered the recipe last fall and have been waiting for a good time to make it again this year!

Making: These adorable ghost lights for Halloween! They're made out of ping pong balls, cheesecloth, Mod Podge and Christmas lights. (Here's the tutorial I worked off of.) They were super-easy -- I threw them together in about an hour late Saturday night. I wanted to take a better picture but I didn't have a chance to hang them up yesterday (I'm hoping to put them on the front porch), but you can get the idea. Does your neighborhood go all-out for Halloween? Mine does, more so than anywhere else we've lived, and I totally feel like we're lacking in outside decor compared to my neighbors with their giant spiders and blow-up pirate ships and scary window decals!

ghost lights

Missing: Drive-thru Starbucks! I met up with two other boxer moms and a co-worker with her two dogs at the dog park after work Friday and on the way home all I wanted in the world -- to accompany my sleepy puppy and peaceful house with a book waiting for me -- was an iced caramel macchiato! But I was not about to leave Alohi in the car by herself, and the only drive-thru Starbucks here is across the island. So... no iced coffee for this dog mama. Please enjoy your drive-thru Starbucks for me. And your pumpkin scones, too. The Starbucks here never have them in stock!

Monday Musings
Half-and-Half: 5 Books About Food and 5 Books That Made Me Hungry
Book Review: Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
Non-Fiction Review: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Looking forward to: My birthday is this Friday! And "Stranger Things" starts back that day! I'm also expecting a package that day from Amazon UK with the British version of the illustrated "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," plus the sequel to "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet." (The British cover is so much better!) Birthday + good show + book mail = happy day!

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Non-Fiction Review: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
First published in 2013
456 pages (plus bibliography)
My rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Short Of It:

If you're interested in the 1920s, this book is for you!

The Long Of It:
"One Summer" transports readers back to the Roaring '20s in Bill Bryson's signature fascinating and accessible writing style. This narrative non-fiction book is far from dry -- Bryson manages to dig up the juiciest, most interesting long-forgotten tidbits -- but it's also extremely educational and I learned a ton about a time in history that's always captivated me.

While the title mentions 1927, and Bryson definitely covers all the events, large and small, that happened that summer, the book is really about the '20s as a whole -- an era, we learn, that really helped shape America into what it is today.

Aviation and baseball are themes woven throughout the entire book, and Charles Lindbergh and Babe Ruth are perhaps Bryon's "main characters." In the summer of 1927, Babe Ruth was on his way to a home run record that would stand for decades, and Charles Lindbergh became the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic and spent the summer on a tour of America.

We learn about Hollywood and the transition from silent movies to talkies. We learn of the rather shameful history of eugenics in America (Charles Lindbergh was a big supporter, incidentally). We learn about the rise of the sport of boxing, the use of the electric chair for executions, the creation of Mount Rushmore, oddball president Calvin Coolidge and hardass future president Herbert Hoover, the "sash weight murder" that enthralled the nation in 1927, the secret meeting of four world finance leaders that precipitated the stock market crash, the great Mississippi River flood, Sacco and Vanzetti, and so very much more.

Bryson includes so much interesting information in his book that, towards the end, I wished I'd started taking notes in the beginning so I could easily look back on everything I'd learned. There were several passages that so intrigued or surprised me that I had to read them aloud to my husband. And though the events in "One Summer" happened 90 years ago, many things are quite relevant to current issues in our country at this moment. Talking bad about the U.S. -- to say nothing of kneeling during the national anthem -- was a highly punishable offense under the Sedition Act of 1918. And many Americans back then despised not only blacks but Jews, Italians, Irish, Asians, Eastern Europeans and Catholics. We tend to think of the U.S. as the savior of the Jews in WWII, but Jews were highly discriminated against in America, too. With the tense political and social climate of 2017, it's interesting to look back and see how far we've come in equality and acceptance -- though, obviously, not far enough.

The first half of the book moved a little slowly for me and I actually set it down for several weeks; perhaps I just wasn't in a non-fiction mood. But when I picked it back up, I blew through the last 250 pages in three days. I was completely enchanted by Bryson's immersive and extremely well-researched portrait of 1927. If you're interested in American history or the 1920s, or you'd like to find out how our summer in 2017 compared with the summer that happened exactly 90 years ago, I highly recommend "One Summer"!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

"Rabbit Cake" by Annie Hartnett
First published in 2017
327 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Short Of It:
After reading a few reviews, I was really expecting a hidden gem, but, while charming, "Rabbit Cake" was not quite what I was hoping for.

The Long Of It:
The narrator of "Rabbit Cake" is spunky, intelligent 11-year-old Elvis Babbitt, whose mother recently died by drowning while sleepwalking. Now her family is in a bit of a shambles: her sister is sleep-eating the eggs from the neighbor's chicken coop and her bereft father is walking around in her mother's lipstick and bathrobe.

There's no shortness of quirk here: there's a psychic, a parrot who speaks in Elvis's mother's voice, and a rabbit-shaped cake pan that plays a very important role in the story. Underneath all that is a theme about grief -- why do our loved ones die? How do we come to terms with it? Family is a big theme as well, as we see how Elvis and her eccentric family make it through a year and a half without their cornerstone.

The thing is, while the book was charming and unique, the quirkiness was to the point of unbelieveability. And I really had an issue with the parts of the book where Elvis is working as a teen volunteer at the local zoo -- the things they let her do are just completely out there for an 11-year-old, even a smart one like Elvis. And, though I liked Elvis, I never really became invested in her as a character, and I didn't like her sister and dad all that much. Some of the minor characters, like Miss Ida the psychic and Ms. Bernstein the guidance counselor, were downright irritating.

I also felt like, though this is technically an adult book, if you took out a few things it would really be a middle-grade novel. It reminded me a bit of "Walk Two Moons" by Sharon Creech with it's quirky characters and plot about a child making peace with the death of a parent, and I think, with a bit of editing, that's the age it should've been geared toward.

"Rabbit Cake" was a fast and easy read, but it had an 11-year-old narrator who felt 11, which is not always what I'm looking for in an adult novel, and the nuttiness factor was just too high for me. I was hoping for a delightful 5-star read but found it to be just-ok.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Half-and-Half: 5 Books About Food and 5 Books That Made Me Hungry

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about one of my favorite things: food! I divided my list into two parts: the first is about books that mention a certain yummy food over and over, to the point where you just need to have some! The second half of the list is books I enjoyed in which food plays an important part in the story.
food books 1

1. Cocoa from "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield
2. Cinnamon rolls from "Maybe in Another Life" by Taylor Jenkins Reid
3. Lemon bars from "Aunt Dimity Digs In" by Nancy Atherton
4. Snack cakes from the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich
5. Pancakes from "Agnes and the Hitman" by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
food 2

1. "My Life in France" by Julia Child: the famous chef's memoir of her time in France.
2. "Kitchens of the Great Midwest" by J. Ryan Stradal: the story of a chef told through vignettes in which she is a minor character.
3. "Delicious" by Ruth Reichl: a young woman moves to NYC and gets a job at a struggling food magazine.
4. "Sweetbitter" by Stephanie Danler: a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a New York restaurant.
5. "Quentins" by Maeve Binchy: set around an Irish restaurant.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Musings

Maunawili Falls hike.

My week: My mom and brother got here on Tuesday for a visit and we've had a fabulous time! We went hiking, we rented a boat and went out to a sandbar, we went to Iolani Palace and the beach and the North Shore and a luau. It's been so nice to have the week off work, play tourist and, of course, spend time with my family -- and we took Alohi us as much as we could. She went on her first long hike (and was a total champ) and on her first boat ride, where she tried (and hated) swimming for the first time. My mom and brother fly out tonight, but it's been such a treat having them here!

Reading: Not much time for reading this week, but I did squeeze in a little here and there. Monday night I finished "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet" and I absolutely LOVED it. I can't wait to read the second book in the series. Then I started "Rabbit Cake" by Annie Hartnett, which is a quirky book narrated by an 11-year-old. It's a decent and easy read, but it's definitely not sucking me in the way "The Long Way" did.

Eating: Soooo much food! We had malasadas and bubble tea and ice cream (twice) and took my family to a bunch of our favorite restaurants.

Making: The tutu for my book fairy Halloween costume for work. It's a combination of pink, purple, light blue and white, it's ridiculously voluminous, and I love it.

Looking forward to: Watching "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" on DVD. I wanted to see it in the theater but we didn't have a chance, and it's finally come in for me at work!

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

Mom and me!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: Himself by Jess Kidd

Himself by Jess Kidd
First published in 2016
373 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:

A genre-blending novel that was rather different than I expected but ultimately enjoyable.

The Long Of It:
"Himself" is part mystery, part glimpse into life in a small Irish village, part historical fiction (it's set mostly in the '70s) and part... paranormal story? Magical realism?

Whatever you call it, Mahony sees dead people -- he sees all the priests that ever lived at the parish house, he sees the dead paramour of his elderly friend, he sees the girl who was murdered while playing in the woods, he sees the nun who was kind to him at the Dublin orphanage where he grew up.

What he doesn't see is how exactly he ended up at the orphanage. Who were his parents and why did they give him up? A chance to solve that mystery arrives in the form of a letter and a photograph of an infant Mahony with his mother in the tiny Irish town of Mulderrig.

Mahony arrives there to find that his mother, who was just a teen when she had him, was not particularly well-liked at best, reviled at worst. The townsfolk don't know what happened to Orla Sweeney -- just that one day she vanished. Did she run off? Or was the village wild child forcibly removed? As Mahony shakes up the town and its secrets, he makes some new friends, most notably the amazingly quirky, sharp and geriatric Mrs. Cauley -- whom every reader will surely fall in love with.

While there was indeed some levity thrown in, "Himself" was a pretty dark, eerie, atmospheric story. The overall feel of it reminded me a little bit of "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield, while the quaint-town's-buried-secrets aspect felt slightly reminiscent of J.K. Rowling's "A Causal Vacancy." But taken on the whole, the story was remarkably unique and the plot was only enhanced by Kidd's lovely writing. I do wish we could've gotten to know Mahony just a little bit better, but overall this was a great debut and I'll happily pick up Kidd's next novel!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Autumn Aesthetic: 14 Fall-ish Book Covers

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is about fall-ish book covers! I'm a very visual person and I love looking at book covers, so I had fun putting this post together. All the books are ones I've read or have on my to-read list. I will say, it was a little harder than I expected; apparently I'm drawn to winter-themed covers -- I have plenty of those on my lists!

Below are 14 book covers that just say "fall" -- they've got leaves, branches, and autumnal hues of gold, brown, red and orange. Ah, I could just step into a few of them!

  fall book covers

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monday Musings


My week: It was a pretty quiet week around here. We had two rainy days, which was a nice change of pace. Sunday we went to a pumpkin patch/sunflower field on the east side of the island.

Reading: I read "The Marsh King's Daughter" last week and found it to be just-ok. The premise -- the daughter of an abducted woman and her kidnapper is now an adult, and her father has escaped from prison -- was intriguing, but fell a bit flat. It definitely was not what I would call "psychological suspense" as the cover claims.

After that I spent two days trying to get into "The Keeper of Lost Things" -- another interesting premise and a gorgeous cover -- but it just wasn't what I was in the mood for. So I set it aside and did something completely uncharacteristic: despite the pile of library books I have out, I picked out one of my own books that sounded good. I'm not usually a mood reader, and I have the world's worst time actually reading the books I own, so this was a surprise!

And I'm thrilled to say I'm head-over-heels for "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet"! It's a very charming, fun sci-fi book and I'm so glad I'm finally getting to it! I ordered it from Book Depository months ago and I've been looking forward to reading it for much longer than that.

Watching: "This Is Us," "Poldark," "Designated Survivor." We tried the new show "The Good Doctor" last week and we liked it enough to keep watching.

Movie-wise, we finally got to see "Wonder Woman"! It was just as good as everyone said it was.

Drinking: My new favorite coffee: chocolate-coconut flavor. No creamer needed, just a splash of half-and-half!

Making: My book fairy Halloween costume for the library! I'm putting together a no-sew tutu, and I made myself a pair of wings out of cardboard and a book that Alohi mutilated a while back. It took a while to decoupage the wings (something I haven't done in years!) but I'm really pleased with the way they came out. Pictures to come!

Also making:
The Halloween bulletin board at work! I'm telling you, this giant whopper of a board is a commitment! I feel like as soon as I get one month's up, it's time to start working on the next month's. In any case, I really like our Halloween board, and I had lots of help from a wonderfully creative co-worker on this one.

Monday Musings
10 Book Characters Who Are Sexy As Hell In Their Movie & TV Adaptations
Non-Fiction Review: American Eclipse by David Baron
Book Review: The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

Looking forward to: My mom and brother will be here tomorrow for a week-long visit!

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne
First published in 2017
307 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5

The Short Of It:

Interesting premise but a little short on the execution.

The Long Of It:
Helena lived isolated in the Michigan wilderness for the first 12 years of her life with only her mother and father -- a kidnapped woman and her captor -- for company. Now, Helena is married with two daughters and finally feels some semblance of happiness in her life -- until her father escapes from prison and may very well be headed her way.

I started off pretty well invested in this dual narrative, which features Helena both tracking her dangerous father in present day and growing up as the half-feral child of a manipulative murderer and a meek and subservient and unsmiling woman, completely in the dark about her situation. They live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, never leave their marsh, never encounter any people, and survive without running water or electricity. All of this is totally normal to young Helena.

The first half of the book was pretty good. But then about 150 pages in, it suddenly felt tedious and boring and repetitive. I was tired of reading the phrases "my father" and "I didn't know it at the time." And Helena isn't a particularly likable protagonist as a child or an adult. I was invested in the plot, but not really her character.

Another problem I had with the book is that the cover proclaims it to be "psychological suspense." That's really not an accurate description. There's really nothing psychological about it -- no twisty-turny surprises, no unreliable narrators, no dark secrets. And it's not suspenseful either. At no point was I on the edge of my seat, blazing through pages to find out what happened next, and despite Helena's present-day hunt for her father, it never really felt like a thriller. I'd probably just bill it as fiction. Too, the writing was a bit off-and-on and I found a few grammatical errors.

However, I did really like a few things about the book. I thought it was a great decision to tell the story through Helena's eyes, even though she was a bit irritating at times. While she was naive in the ways of the world, she was ahead of her years in other ways and the narration wasn't childlike as in Emma Donoghue's "Room." Too, I enjoyed the setting. I've never read a book set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and I thought the author did a great job imbuing the atmosphere of the place, both the towns of today and the woods of Helena's childhood.

What started out as a fairly promising story ended with a bit of a whimper, and while I won't say that you shouldn't read it, I will recommend a couple other books that fall vaguely along the lines of the story with much better execution: "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis and "Our Endless Numbered Days" by Claire Fuller.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Non-Fiction Review: American Eclipse by David Baron

"American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World" by David Baron
First published in 2017
238 pages (plus bibliography)
My rating: 4 out of 5

The Short Of It:
An easy-to-read non-fiction book that came out at the perfect time, right before the total solar eclipse of 2017.

The Long Of It:
I love reading about science and scientists (and mathematicians, for that matter) -- probably because as soon as science became math-based in school, it was bafflingly complicated to me. Even as the topics fascinated me, I despised chemistry in high school and astronomy was quite possibly my least-favorite class in college.

And something you probably know about me if you read the blog regularly is that I'm from Colorado and like to tell people that at every opportunity -- and I like to read about it, too. So when I saw that "American Eclipse" was a story about scientists flocking to the Rocky Mountains to witness the total solar eclipse of 1878, it immediately went on my to-read list.

Baron's well-researched book chronicles the lives and contributions of three scientists and leads up to their trip to the Rockies and their experiences of witnessing and researching the eclipse. And I must say, after reading the book I've added watching a total solar eclipse to my bucket list. It sounds utterly magnificent -- Baron's descriptions made me feel even more like I was there then the videos and photos that flooded social media after this year's eclipse, plus he provided the scientific reasons for all the unusual things that happen when the moon covers the sun.

The three scientists Baron chose for his book are the ubiquitous Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park; James Craig Watson of Ann Arbor who was in a race with a former friend turned bitter rival to discover and name the most asteroids; and Maria Mitchell, the country's first professional female astronomer and a women's rights activist.

Baron gives us their backstories, providing a glimpse into their achievements and personalities. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographs scattered throughout, which helped put faces with names, and the stories were interesting enough to keep my attention. My favorite part of the book was the final  chapters that told of the scientists' journey to and arrival in Colorado and Wyoming, their often painstaking on-the-ground preparations, and the momentous 3-minute event itself.

I learned quite a bit from reading Baron's book -- about astronomy, about eclipses, about the various faces of late-19th-century science -- and while it was educational it was also fascinating and short enough not to feel boring or tedious. It was interesting to read a book set in a time when there were many more mysteries yet to be solve about our solar system and when some people still thought an eclipse was a sign of impeding doom or apocalypse. And I'd have to say any book that expanded my bucket list is worth a read!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

10 Book Characters Who Are Sexy As Hell In Their Movie & TV Adaptations

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is bookish boyfriends/girlfriends -- i.e. characters we have crushes on. I have an abysmal memory for that sort of thing in books, so I decided to focus on book adaptations instead. These are all book-to-movie or book-to-TV-show adaptations with some very attractive protagonists. These guys are smart and decent (for the most part) and oh-so-sexy.

It's impossible to put them in any kind of order of preference, so they're alphabetical by movie/show. (P.S. I apparently have a thing for Brits and Bostonians and floppy-haired men!)

Jon Snow, "Game of Thrones"
Jon is quite obviously easy on the eyes, but he's also a damn good person. He's intelligent, brave and kind.

Sidney Chambers, "Grantchester"
Sidney is a somewhat flawed but utterly lovable 1950s English vicar who solves crimes and, mmm, does he look good doing it!

Finnick Odair, "Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
Finnick comes off cocky but he's a softie underneath. He's devoted, clever and self-sacrificing.

Mark Watney, "The Martian"
Mark is so very intelligent -- and funny!

Jamie Fraser, "Outlander"
Oh-em-gee, Jamie. He's passionate, smart and as loyal as they come.

Ross Poldark, "Poldark"
Oh, Ross. He's a man who sticks to his word and stands up for what he believes in. He makes mistakes from time to time, but god damn, does he look good doing it.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, "Pride and Prejudice"
 I mean, isn't Mr. Darcy the quintessential book boyfriend!? And of course we have to go with the Colin Firth version.

Sherlock Holmes, "Sherlock"
Let's be honest, Sherlock Holmes would not be a good boyfriend. He's a self-centered, egotistical, impossible jerk. But there's something so sexy about a confident, brilliant man. And if I had to choose one of the many Sherlocks to be my book boyfriend, I'd have to go with the Benedict Cumberbatch version!

Doug MacRay, "The Town" (book title: "Prince of Thieves")
Gotta include a couple of bad boys! Doug is a Boston bank robber trying to turn his life around.

Eric Northman, "True Blood"
Bad boy #2: everyone's favorite vampire/Viking god (with a secret soft side).
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