Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden - The Terrifying Squirrels of Halloween

October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween! I have long since given up on costumes and parties but I do still have a mighty liking this holiday.  Maybe it's all the candy.  That said I just bought a pumpkin about an hour ago (noonish) and it has yet to be transformed into a Jack-O-Lantern.  I better get on that with a quickness since trick or treating is a little less then 3 hours away!

I am happy to report that the while my yard is a death trap for rabbits, it is a paradise for squirrels.  Having grown up with petite little gray squirrels back in Virginia, I am always a little jolted, even after living here for 10 years, with the ginormousness of the Fox Squirrels here in Iowa.  And the grandaddy of them all may be living in my yard - he's huge and obviously not inclined to take any of my or Rudy's guff.  What do they say?  Familiarity breeds contempt?  This fellow (or gal) has oodles of contempt radiating from his bushy orange tail.
You filthy big red dog! I spit at you! (Said in an over the top french accent. Cause all fox squirrels are french.)

So you can't really tell how large this squirrel is but trust me, he's a monster.


It feels so ridiculously fantastic to have a crazy week of work behind me although I do wonder at the wisdom of wishing away time.  I can't help it though.  I contemplate the several days of stress and hard work to come and just want it behind me already.  I wish I could learn the knack of valuing all of life's moments, even the hard ones.  However, even better than having the crazy week behind me is looking forward to a week that is almost completely open.  No meetings, no deadlines, only a few difficult tasks.  Sigh.... Sounds like heaven but of course that's an illusion because days where everything goes wrong?  Happen whenever and not just in the middle of stress.  Meanwhile, I am trying to do as little as absolutely possible this weekend.


The Murdoch Mysteries watching still continues and I just last night moved into a new season that I hadn't yet seen before.  Seriously, if you like cozy historical mysteries, you will love this show.  It's adorable.  And has 7 seasons available on Netflix.

So I think I can officially declare that I am in a massive reading slump.  I finished only 3 books in the month of October. Ugh!  Lots of books sound good but I am just not making any time for reading.

Finished Last Week:

  • Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson:  Book 5 in the Gaslight Mystery series. This one was good though I need to take a little break from the series as I was having too many moments of wanting to hit the characters over the head for missing obvious clues.  I knew who the murderer almost as soon as we met them so it's frustrating when the characters are clueless.

Currently Reading:

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: So maybe some day I'll pick this up again?  Until then it will sit here on the currently read and look encouraging.
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty #1) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: This is the first book in a series that follows a single British family through numerous generations into modern times.  This first book takes place in the early 15th century.  This is such a fascinating idea and I have high hopes but I have to say the characters in this first book are shallow and are doing nothing for me.
  • Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak:  Despite the presence of pirates it is not making me happy mostly because of deficient humor and boring main characters. 
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: Space Opera!
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling:  Continuing my re-read of the series! I am very close to being done with this one.  The "unfortunate event" just took place.
  • The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon: This is another favorite historical mystery series that is definitely NOT cozy and is set in colonial era New York.
  • Beastly Bones by William Ritter: The follow up to Jackaby which I read and loved earlier this year!  


Added to the TBR:

This is kind of a new thing I may try, listing books that get added to my Goodreads TBR list each week.  Maybe it will help burn them into my mind a little bit better, get them on some other folks TBRs and it will give me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!
  • The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James:  A recommendation on A historical paranormal story about a woman in the 1920s assisting a ghost hunter. 
  • Winterwood by Jacey Bedford:  I learned of this book from a cover reveal post on Fantasy Cafe.  Historical fantasy with pirates and a romance and a lady-dressed-as-a-man protagonist. Sign. Me. Up.  Looks like a blast and Fantasy Cafe is also hosting a giveaway.  Not out until 2016.
  • Black Hat Jack by Joe R. Lansdale:   This is a western novella that got a five star review from Patrick Rothfuss on Goodreads this week even though it is not an SFF title. I love Westerns and if Pat says it's good, I'm guessing it's pretty good.  What's up with all the novellas lately?


So I am also in a bit of a blogging funk.  As I mentioned above it was a crazy week at work with a couple of 15 hour days so I just didn't really have the energy.  Hopefully, I'll be more inspired this week.




SUNDAY:  A book review hopefully.
TUESDAY:  This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is featuring debut authors whose second books we are looking forward to the most or whose second books we really enjoyed.  This is an interesting topic but not sure I have ten since I'm not always a very up to date reader.   
THURSDAY: A book review TBD, hopefully.

 “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”
Allen Saunders

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden - Autumn Invasion

October 24, 2015

We finally got some rain this week after a relentlessly sunny and spectacular early October.  I don't know if you can see in the above header picture but I have a few sugar snap pea plants on the left that are racing against the onset of too-cold weather to produce a few peas.  Every day I am in nail-biting suspense when I check the plants to see how close they are, lol.  There is one pod that will hopefully plump up in time and about 6 blooms.  Ahhhh...the agony of snap pea vs. Iowa Fall.
Oh baby sugar snap, grow with all your might!
You may also notice that there is a pile of empty pots and such scattered about my patio.  The biggest item on my to do list is to clean out my tiny garage so that I can squeeze in all the pots and the grill and other outdoor stuff.  I clean the garage every fall and by the next fall it is again stuffed full of things. I don't know where they all come from!  I'm procrastinating doing it though it usually feels really good once everything is tucked away for the winter.  It's a fall ritual that is dreaded and satisfactory all at once.

Finally, I had a little bit of fun zoning out at work watching a Box Elder Bug navigate my desk.  It's the time of year when many kinds of wildlife find their way into buildings looking for a comfy place to spend the winter.  I've been called upon to remove two baby Brown Snakes (Storeria dekayi) from the office in the last 2 weeks.  They were pretty much the most adorable snakes ever, only about 6 inches long and smaller around then a pencil.  I hope they find a good hibernaculum outside.  Even the Box Elder bug was pretty fun to watch as it explored my desk in a way that you or I might explore the moon.  For a while he traveled along my monitor cord like he'd finally found a nice smooth trail.


Next week is going to be a doozy at work.  Super busy, nerve-wracking and demanding.  So I find myself feeling like I really need to make this weekend count, lol.  I'm not even sure what that means.  I believe I just want to end the weekend fully refreshed, relaxed and at peace ready to tackle the week with a clear and calm mind.  Ummmm.... I think it will take more than a weekend for that!  I think I had a clear and calm mind once, 17 years ago on a Tuesday:0). Maybe.  Anyway, I am tackling this by getting my errands out of the way early and leaving the rest of the weekend open for.... whatever.  While I don't want to spend the weekend in hard labor I think being productive (like cleaning out the garage and putting some things away) will actually help me feel ready for the week.  Also getting the house clean and as organized as possible.  We'll see...

So my question is, what do you do to prepare for an especially crazy week?  Anything specific you like to do or is it just business as usual around your house?  


I haven't really made much progress reading BUT I have been in a very intense podcast mood of late.  I have a couple more to recommend if podcasts are a thing you like:
  • Kumail Nanjiani's The XFiles Files:  I am a huge X-Phile and this podcast warms the cockles of my huge fangirl heart.  Nanjiani is apparently a semi well-known comic? But more importantly he's a huge geek fan boy of the X files and has guests on with him to discuss select episodes.  I LOVE it!
  • Rum, Rebels and Ratbags: This is a show about the more colorful side of Australian history, which considering that the proper side of Australia's history is already pretty colorful, this show is fascinating and fun if you like history at all. 
  • Welcome to Night Vale:  I know, I know! I am WAY late to this party and I did give the show a shot about a year ago and didn't get into it.  This time It clicked. *shrugs*  A fictional radio broadcast from the strange town of Night Vale which is beset by many weird and eerie happenings.
Still enjoying a re-watch of Murdoch Mysteries leading up to two newer seasons I have not seen.  The first two seasons of this show are totally delightful.  Season three is a bit irritating but I still really like it.

Still struggling a bit in a reading slump as a result of some particularly severe reading-related moodiness.

Finished Last Week:

Nothing, though I am about 20 pages away from finishing the Victoria Thompson book listed below.

Currently Reading:

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: So maybe some day I'll pick this up again?  Until then it will sit here on the currently read and look encouraging.
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty #1) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: This is the first book in a series that follows a single British family through numerous generations into modern times.  This first book takes place in the early 15th century.  This is such a fascinating idea and I have high hopes but I have to say the characters in this first book are shallow and are doing nothing for me.
  • Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak:  Despite the presence of pirates it is not making me happy mostly because of deficient humor and boring main characters. 
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: Space Opera!
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling:  Continuing my re-read of the series!
  • Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson:  Book 5 in the Gaslight Mystery series. It's still fulfilling my cozy mystery craving.
  • The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon: This is another favorite historical mystery series that is definitely NOT cozy and is set in colonial era New York.
  • Beastly Bones by William Ritter: The follow up to Jackaby which I read and loved earlier this year!

Added to the TBR:

This is kind of a new thing I may try, listing books that get added to my Goodreads TBR list each week.  Maybe it will help burn them into my mind a little bit better, get them on some other folks TBRs and it will give me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!

  • A Quiet Life in the Country (The Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1) by T.E. Kinsey: Historical British Mystery = I am ALL over it.  Turn of the 20th century. 
  • Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis:  Interesting looking mystery that takes place in Montana.  Not sure where I heard of this one. 
  • White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black:  After I posted my review of The Darkest Part of the Forest earlier this week this series got recommended to me all over the place.  
  • Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White:  Described as Downton Abby meets Cassandra Clare.  I'm pretty down for that.
  • The Corpse with the Silver Tongue (Cait Morgan #1) by Cathy Ace:  This is yet another historical mystery series that I read about on the blog Hidden Staircase.  The reviews for the series look mixed but it still sounded appealing enough to try.
  • Blood Ties (Blood War Chronicles #1) by Quincy J. Allen:  Weird Western. I'm in.
  • Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson:  Saw a review on River City Reading.  It looks like a fascinating and creative mix of historical fiction and Sci-Fi/dystopian fiction.
  • Wolf by Wolf  (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin: I can't remember where I heard of this book but it is YA and an alternate history set in a 1956 Europe after Germany has won World War II.
  • Lost Stars by Claudia Gray: A YA Star Wars book which looks pretty fun and like it might be an okay place to dip a toe into the Star Wars books.  I learned of this one in a convoluted way by someone else I don't know thanking Mogsy from Bibliosanctum on Twitter for recommending it. 
  • The Tea Rose (The Tea Rose #1) by Jennifer Donnelly:  More historical fiction.  It is kind of apparent where my reading mood is leaning.


SUNDAY: Review of The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.  I liked it!
TUESDAY: Top Ten Tuesday:  Wishes for the Book Genie.
THURSDAY:  Mini Reviews | Middle-Grade Mayhem: Cathrynne Valente, Maryrose Wood, Michael Ende.  These are some mini reviews for the first book in The Fairyland series by Valente, three of the books in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood, and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.


SUNDAY:  A book review TBD
TUESDAY:  This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a Halloween freebie.  Not super excited about this topic so may just be a a book review TBD. 
THURSDAY: A book review TBD.

That's it for me.  I hope everyone has a lovely week ahead of them!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

MINI-REVIEWS | Middle-grade Mayhem - Cathrynne Valente, Maryrose Wood and Michael Ende

At the very least, the three Incorrigible Children books could have used their own post but I am so far behind on reviews and practicing brevity in writing is probably a good thing. Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne M. Valente
Publication Year: 2011
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Series: Fairyland #1
Awards: Locus Award for Best Young Adult (2012), Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF&F (2012), plus many nominations
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Cathrynne M. Valente

I have to say this book didn't initially grab me. It felt like a cold and poetic recitation of imaginative wonders with no heart and I wasn't terribly engaged with it through the first third of the story.  At some point though, it totally crept up on me and clawed its way into my heart. Gruesome imagery but it explains the effect perfectly and is a nice tribute to A through L, a wyverary (half Wyvern, half Library) and magnificent friend to the protagonist in the book.  I just listened to part of an interview with Valente where she mentioned that A through L is probably the most beloved character she's ever created and I believe it!  September, the protagonist, is always trying to gently suggest to him that it is highly unlikely that his father is, in fact, a library but A through L steadfastly ignores all hints:).  He's adorable. 

The basic story follows a young Midwestern girl named September who is whisked away to fairyland by a Green Wind.  Once there she meets many unusual folks and creatures and sets herself a task which leads to her circumnavigating Fairyland.  It read very much like an Alice in Wonderland type of adventure with very strange folk and happenstance around every corner.   

It’s a prodigious display of imagination, which I found charming, confusing and, at first, a little boring all at the same time.  Valente just seemed to be biding her time, stretching her imaginative muscles, in preparation for taking the story in the direction she wished.  Some of the seemingly random, confusing happenings in the first part of the book become integral parts of the plot at the end.  It’s neatly done and awesome.  As September develops friends and more direction to her time in Fairyland, I quickly became more and more absorbed until I was quite sad to see it end and subsequently am excited there are more of September's adventures to come!  This was one of those books that is a lesson to me that it can be worthwhile to stick through slower parts and give a book a chance.  I just wish there was a formula for figuring out which books are worth it and which…aren’t.

FINAL VERDICT: Imaginative and sharp, scary and charming.  It started off a little slow for me but was ultimately extremely satisfying and I will definitely be continuing with the series! 4 out of 5 stars.

o - O - o

Publication Year: 2010, 2012, 2013
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Series: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #s 2, 3 and 4
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren

The fact that I have read three more books in this series without reviewing them on the blog is evidence that I have not given it it's well deserved praises.  I absolutely ADORE this series of books.  Probably my favorite middle-grade series that I've read in a long time.  I wish I knew kids in the correct age group on which to force the whole series.  It is, in a word, delightful.  Or maybe a better word is charming.  It’s both – It is whole barrels full of delightfully charming.  I will now proceed to overuse these words, shamelessly, throughout this review.

The general premise of all the books is of a young charming governess, Penelope Lumley, who comes to a manor house in Victorian England to take charge of three children who were raised by wolves; Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia Incorrigible.  There is a big overall mystery that runs through the whole series about Penelope and the Incorrigibles' origins and there are also several smaller mysteries that are explored. The Hidden Gallery has Penelope and the Incorrigibles in London meeting new friends, attending a show about pirates and discovering a Hidden Gallery in a museum that is chock full of clues.  The Unseen Guest sees Penelope's employer's widowed mother coming to Ashton Place with a new suitor and an Ostrich. The Interrupted Tale is probably my favorite and follows Penelope and the Incorrigibles to Penelope's Alma mater, The Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females.  

The books are laugh out loud funny with a mix of hilarious hijinks and sly wit, puns, AND plays on words.  Every ridiculous thing you can think of happens; there are orphans, pirates, chickens that dance, cannibalism, conspiracies and intrigue all told with an aim to poke gentle and affectionate fun at the literature of the Victorian era. The books also aim to do some education in the most entertaining way possible.  As Penelope teaches her pupils, the target age group (and let's be honest, I) learn some delightful concept that Wood has chosen to focus on in each book.  For example in The Interrupted Tale, poetic meter, particularly Iambic Pentameter, is being taught to the Incorrigibles and it is brought up regularly throughout the narrative and ends up being key to the plot's progression.   It's completely charming.

While the books themselves are delight incarnate, credit and praise must be heaped on Katherine Kellgren.  Her narration of these books is nothing short of a masterpiece.  She captures the purposefully over-the-top tone of the books just perfectly.  Her voices are magnificent, her singing is fantastic, I’m pretty sure she could walk on water if she tried.  Seriously, she’s amazing and, if at all possible, I recommend consuming these books on audio.  You can listen to a sample of the audio at this link.

FINAL VERDICT: These books are the very epitome of delightful and charming and Katherine Kellgren's reading is the big honking cherry on top. 4 out of 5 Stars.
o - O - o
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Publication Year: 1979
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Awards: Some German Awards
Format: Audio (from Audible)
Narrator: Gerard Doyle

The Neverending Story is a classic book of fantasy written by a German author.  It must have been an immediate smash hit because within 5 years of the book's release an English speaking film was produced.  I was at the perfect age to encounter and ADORE the film.  And the song by Limahl.   Seriously you should click that link - the video is pretty hilarious and Mr Limahl probably looks back at it in embarrassed horror - but also there is a 2 second clip of Atreyu screaming Artax's name as the horse sinks into the swamp and it totally made tears spring to my eyes.  2 seconds. It's heartbreaking.  Anyway, this is my first experience of the book.

Sadly, I really did not love it.  I think in the end my feeling is that the book probably works for its target age group but it did not work for me as an adult. The movie only covers the first half of the book and for good reason.  The second half features Bastian becoming a horrible person and was ruined for me by the heavy-handed moralizing about how great power corrupts.  The whole book is incredibly imaginative but it also felt very cold.  Basically it struck me the same way as the first third of The Girl Who Circumnavigated... which I discussed above but unlike that book the characters never developed and never became real for me.  So, I dispassionately marveled at the use of imagination and the vivid pictures that are created by Ende's descriptions but found the characters not very interesting and the plot rather plodding.  It felt like an overly long Aesop's Fable with the characters being solely representative and never feeling real.  The plot is often explained in plodding expository dialogue where (usually) Bastian or Atreyu ask lots of questions which are answered by another in-the-know character.  The cardboard characters and spelled out exposition would likely not bother a 8-12 year old but I was pretty bored.   

FINAL VERDICT:  I was sadly pretty bored by this fantasy "classic".  I am still pretty sure that I love the movie though!  2 out of 5 Stars. 

So I'm sure there are a LOT of folks out there that will disagree with me on The Neverending Story, so let me know where I'm wrong:)!  Any other fans of The Incorrigible Children series?  Have you read them with any appropriately aged children and what did they think?  How goes the rest of the Fairyland series - better or worse than the first?  Lots of questions for which I need answers!

Monday, October 19, 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | Your (Bookish) Wish is My Command

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists. It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is an exercise in imagining a perfect bookish world?  The folks at The Broke and Bookish have gifted us with a genie...A beautiful bookish genie!
10 Wishes I'd Ask The Book Genie To Grant Me (a new book from a certain author,  a reading superpower, a library that is your absolutely #librarygoals, a character to come to life, to met a certain author etc. etc.) YOU DREAM IT AND THE BOOKISH GENIE CAN DO IT.
o -  O - o

1) I Wish...That authors would never die young. 

Obviously I would wish this for every living creature but since this is only a bookish genie I will focus on authors.  The two that immediately come to mind: Jane Austen which I suspect needs little explanation, I would love a few more Austen novels; and Kate Ross who was the author of a historical mystery series set in Regency era England which is one of my favorites.  I would have loved to see where this book series would have gone.

2) I Wish...That I could read more books.

It's the heartbreak of all readers....we'll never get to all the books we wish to read before our reading days are over.  How awesome would it be to fix this unfortunate situation! This wish could come in many forms, any of which would be satisfactory: I could be transformed into a faster reader, more hours could be added to each day, or I could be become fabulously wealthy so I wouldn't have to spend a pesky 40-60 hours of the week working.

3) I Wish...To travel back in time to solve the Shakespeare mystery.

There is some uncertainty about whether all the plays attributed to William Shakespeare were really written by one man of that name.  I'd love to go back and see once and for all who wrote the plays (My bet and wish would be that it was all W.S. himself), maybe catch a performance at the globe theater and maybe even have a short meet and greet with Queen Elizabeth I.

4) I Wish...That there was a really fantastic media tie-in book series for all my favorite TV shows.

I really enjoy books series that enhance or continue a TV show.  Most recently I've enjoyed a number of the Doctor Who books and the two Veronica Mars mysteries.  My number one wish for books that don't exist (or exist in a less than satisfactory way): a series that continued Stargate SG-1 or The X-Files.

5) I Wish...That George R.R. Martin would finish A Song of Ice and Fire within the next six months

A tired wish to be sure but seriously. Please.  I've been reading these books since they came out in the mid-90s and I would love to see the saga finished with the web of plots resolved.  Perhaps the most fantastical wish on the list....

6) I Wish...That all the series which fizzled out or became horrible after the first few brilliant books...ummm...didn't. 

Sorry that is so very awkwardly worded.  Do you know what I mean though?  You start a series and love the first 2-3 books and then book 4 isn't quite as good and then book 5 makes you weep quietly because it is such a disaster. The one that comes to mind immediately is Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series which was fantastic for the first 4-5 books and then became completely unreadable for me.

7) I Wish...That the book I picked up at any given moment was the exact right book for my mood.

I am an incurable mood reader and I hate picking up a book I am excited about and which I can recognize as a book I should be enjoying but am just feeling so not in the mood for it.  Grrrrr.... I hate setting a book aside to come back to it later. But I hate also feeling meh about a book that at some other time I would have loved. IT'S A DILEMMA!  That the genie could fix!

8) I Wish...That the world of Harry Potter was real and I was a witch.

Because...I mean...of COURSE I do.  If I was going to wish any bookish thing was real it was going to be Hogwarts and Albus Dumbledore. 

9) I Wish...That my holds at the library would not all become available at the same time.

Okay, sure, I could learn to exercise some self-restraint and not place holds on 10 books at a time but it would be much easier if the genie just fixed this for me.  It would also help if wish #2 was also granted.

10) I Wish...That I knew of more good books featuring genies.

I find genies or Djinn and the culture they are a product of quite fascinating and I don't read enough books featuring them.  I'd really like to delve into more books with genies particularly if something unique and interesting is done with them.  Any Suggestions?

o - O - o

Well that was fun!  Indulging one's wishes is always a blast.  What would be your #1 wish?  How about your most ridiculous wish?  Let me know!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

REVIEW | The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Series: NA
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang

Why?: I run into mentions of Holly Black all over the blogosphere and her books are recommended by a number of bloggers I trust.  The Darkest Part of the Forest was most prominent on my radar, I guess because it's her newest book and because it has a really interesting premise.  I was intrigued by the idea of a sleeping fairy prince with horns and a human community that lives in uneasy co-existence with the fairy world and as a result is a tourist spot.

I knew this book featured a brother and sister but in many ways this story is almost entirely a story of siblings.  There are three pairs; all of them unusual and all with tight but somewhat strained bonds of love.  Hazel and Ben, Carter and Jack, and Severin and Sorrow.

Ben and Hazel are at the center of the novel with Hazel being the main Point of View character.  Ben is the older and he is more sentimental and less daring than his sister.   He is looking for true love and has poured his heart out to the sleeping prince in the woods lying in his glass coffin.  Hazel is tough and brave and all she wants is to keep the people of Fairfold safe by hunting down and slaying some of the more sinister fairy folk in the woods. With her brother.  And there's the rub.  Ben very quickly lost the stomach for slaying monsters, or perhaps he never really had it, and Hazel desperately misses the closeness of their slaying days.  At ten years old, with very little knowledge of people and life, she tries to recapture the glory days by doing something very very stupid which then has repercussions for many years to come.  I really adored Hazel and Ben.  There is so much love and friendship between them but also so many secrets and more than a little jealousy.  The protectiveness they have for each other is equal parts frustrating and admirable.  It definitely made me wish I had a sibling that I was that close to and really sympathise with their situation.

The story picks up speed and complexity as the fairy prince, Severin, inexplicably awakes and bad things start happening to the residents of Fairfold.  Fairfold's residents, who have always had an uneasy truce with the fair folk, focus their blame on Jack who is in fact a changeling that his human family kidnapped and have raised along with their natural son Carter.  The whole town is in an uproar with Hazel, Ben and Jack in the middle of things for different reasons but still all connected. 
A surface, newspaper headline description of the story might read "Scary fairies meet their match in feisty, emo teenagers" but that only makes it sound mildly interesting. I found the book to be MUCH more interesting and complex than I was expecting. I was completely sucked in from page one and found each of the characters and the twists and turns of the story continually surprising me.  Really all the stuff about fairies and their unusual relationship with the town felt like flavoring while the meat of the story was about the characters and the secrets and hidden dysfunctions of their relationships. 

I was honestly very surprised by how much I loved this book.  There’s a group of young(ish) YA authors who all seem to be friends; Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Libba Bray, Laini Taylor. They all kind of swim together in my mind but not in a bad way.  I’d read something by all of them but Holly Black and they are all competent to quite good writers that I generally like but their books do all hover on the line of YA that annoys me.  So I was expecting more of the same and instead I hardcore adored this book. A lot. I had resisted reading Black because I read many descriptions of her as a “dark” writer which doesn't usually float my boat.  This book felt grounded and real, surprising when one considers it is about a clash between fairies and humans, but not really dark.  Not in the way I was imagining at least. There is nothing truly disturbing here but there are also no purely good  nor purely bad characters.  I liked that Jack is perhaps less "nice" than he at first appears.  That there is a real current of bitter jealousy that flows along with the love between Hazel and Ben.  That Severin in ignorant cruelty had ruined his sister's life though even that story is not entirely clear cut.  Basically, the book gave me more depth of character than I expected paired with a modern day fairy story.  I loved almost every minute of it!

It wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, of course. I didn’t love the ending.

FINAL VERDICT:  A story ostensibly about fairies in conflict with the human world but which is really about the nature of siblings.  It was fantastic!  4 out of 5 Stars.
OTHER OPINIONS: The Book Smugglers | Smart Bitches, Trashy Books | The Guardian

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden | The Circle of Life

October 17, 2015

It was all death and circle of life in my little yard this week.   The dogs caught and killed a rabbit or at least scared it to death - I didn't actually see it all go down, just heard it and then saw the aftermath.  I find it very interesting that our most trusted and loved animal companions are predators.  I guess when we were forming that ancient bond, dogs and cats were useful. Also, to be a successful predator they have to be smart which gives them personality.   Anyway, this is the second rabbit they have killed in the few years I've lived here and this incident had some interesting timing because I've actually been thinking of getting a pet rabbit.  A sign to tell me just how very bad of an idea that is?  Probably. Sigh....

It has just started to get serious about being cold here so the garden's days are numbered.  This weekend, I'll harvest most everything that hasn't yet and prep an area for planting garlic.  Today, I was able to gather a pretty respectable pile of carrots, a couple of beets, tomatoes and peppers.


This!  Sometimes life is completely encapsulated by a Shakespeare quote.  But also this:


I am definitely in a cozy mystery sort of mood so I've drifted into watching one of my favorite historical mystery shows, Murdoch Mysteries.  It's a charming Canadian production about a  scientifically minded police detective in turn of the century Toronto.  It's totally goofy with scenes where Murdoch tries coffee as a "new phenomenon" and declares it terribly bitter and that it will never catch on. Ha, Ha, Ha.  There are some truly funny moments too which keep it light and the mysteries are really quite fun and interesting. One of my favorite things about the show is the character of Dr. Julia Ogden.  A love interest for Murdoch but more importantly a kick-ass feisty lady pathologist with an open mind who often challenges the otherwise progressive Murdoch.


I ran across this wonderful conversation between President Barack Obama and author Marilynne Robinson.  It's wonderful because they have very different viewpoints about the things they discuss but it is an intelligent, curious conversation.  I swear.  If Obama wasn' know...busy I totally think he'd be a book blogger:).

Finished Last Week:

  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik: This was a fine original fairy tale story but I didn't love it as much as many folks did. 
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater:  This second book in the Raven Cycle was pretty good and I am looking forward to moving on to the third book in the series.  Maggie Stiefvater has definitely secured my affections.
  • Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson (Book #4): As I said above, I am in a cozy mystery kind of mood and this historical mystery series set in turn of the century New York fits the bill very well. 

Currently Reading:

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: So maybe some day I'll pick this up again?  Until then it will sit here on the currently read and look encouraging.
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty #1) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: This is the first book in a series that follows a single British family through numerous generations into modern times.  This first book takes place in the early 15th century.  This is such a fascinating idea and I have high hopes but I have to say the characters in this first book are shallow and are doing nothing for me.
  • Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak:  Despite the presence of pirates it is not making me happy mostly because of deficient humor and boring main characters. 
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: Space Opera!
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling:  Continuing my re-read of the series!
  • Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson:  Book 5 in the Gaslight Mystery series. It's still fulfilling my cozy mystery craving.
  • The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon: This is another favorite historical mystery series that is definitely NOT cozy and is set in colonial era New York.

Added to the TBR:

This is kind of a new thing I may try, listing books that get added to my Goodreads TBR list each week.  Maybe it will help burn them into my mind a little bit better, get them on some other folks TBRs and it will give me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!

  • Moonshine (Zephyr Hollis #1) and The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson:  The first book looks like an interesting vampire YA and the second a Summer King type story.  The tip for these books came with a recommendation of the author as a good diverse YA writer by Heather at Based on a True Story...
  • The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig: A historical romance set in 1920's Britain. From a review on You Book Me All Night Long
  • School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough:  A middle-grade book about a superhero school.  Not sure where I heard about this one but it looks kind of fun.   
  • Under the Dragon's Tail by Maureen Jennings:  # 2 in the Detective Murdoch series that the TV show Murdoch Mysteries is based on (see above).
  • A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley: Margaret of Ashbury #1 - this is a historical fiction series that recommended to me. 
  • Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell:  A fairy tale re-telling recommended to me by Selah from A Bibliophile's Style.
  • The Stowaway Debutante by Rebecca Diem: #1 in the Tales of the Captain Duke. A steampunk adventure recommended on Bibliosanctum.  
  • Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer:  I can't remember where I heard about this one but it's a historical paranormal fantasy set in San Francisco.  It's the first in a series.
  • The Case of a Little Bloody Slipper (Spindle City Mysteries#1) by Carlie St. George: A noir, fairy tale inspired mystery series.  This is a a short story/novella being published by The Book Smugglers which is where I heard about it. 



SUNDAY:  Re-read of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Thoughts on the book and it's movie after a second reading.
TUESDAY: Top Ten Tuesday |  Author Pairings and so much more.  The topic was to list which authors you'd like to see write a book together.  I listed a couple of those and then picked and chose from TTT topics from the last couple months.
THURSDAY:  Review of This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart. This was my first foray into Marry Stewart's Romantic Suspense novels and it was great.  This was also my 500th post!


SUNDAY:  A book review.  Likely The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.
TUESDAY:  This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is about what wishes you might want fulfilled by a bookish genie! 
THURSDAY: Book Review probably of Cold Days (Dresden Files #14) by Jim Butcher.

That's all for me.  I wish everyone a fantastic week!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

REVIEW | This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
Publication Year: 1964
Genre: Mystery Thriller, Romance
Series: NA
Awards: Edgar Award Nominee, 1964
Format: Paperback
Narrator: NA

WHY?:  Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard said good things! Plus I am a super fan of what I think are Mary Stewart's most famous books, her Arthurian legend series (The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills most notably). 

Ahhh... those swinging sixties.  It's not an era I have a lot of interest in and therefore I haven't read a lot of books set in this time period.  It's also a big departure from what I am used to from Mary Stewart since all I've read is her Arthurian legend stories.  I should have known that she would easily make a more modern story and setting work equally as well as Arthurian England, because she is a fabulous writer.

The story takes place on the island of Corfu, which some believe may have been the real life model for Prospero's island in Shakespeare's The Tempest.  A young theater actress, Lucy Waring, is visiting her sister on Corfu and is thrilled to learn that one of the three houses on her sister's estate is being let to the Laurence Olivier-esque Julian Gale. She is less thrilled when she meets Julian's rather unfriendly and over-protective son Max who seems to pop up and plague her whenever she is least expecting it.  Things turn tragic quickly in the book when one of the servants on the estate is killed in a boating accident coupled with several other mysterious occurrences.  Lucy becomes entangled in the mystery and is determined to figure out what exactly is going on.

I completely inhaled this book and if time had allowed would likely have been happy to take it all in, in one sitting.  Lucy Waring is totally charming, self- sufficient, feisty, resourceful, brave and she pretty much saves the day.
“As I put the car into gear, I saw him usher the silent girl through her mother’s door as if he already owned the place. Suppressing a sharp – and surely primitive – envy for a woman who could have her problems simply taken out of her hands and solved for her willy-nilly, I put down my own independent and emancipated foot, and sent the little Fiat bucketing over the ruts of the drive…”

As you can tell from the quote, there is plenty of wry humor in the book but no real cynicism, at least from Lucy.   She is incredibly compassionate and has a strong sense of what is right and just.  I loved that it is these qualities that finally drive her more jaded love interest to declare his romantic feelings. 
“Why did one always feel such a fool when it was a matter of kindness- what the more sophisticated saw as sentimentality?”
Because, oh yeah! The correct descriptive term for this story is "romantic suspense" and I think this represents my first read in this sub-genre.  It's got a mystery/thriller type vibe but also a lovely romance story line.  I really liked it!  There was never very much suspense about who Lucy would end up falling in love with but the development of the romance was a nice enrichment to the overall plot nonetheless.

The setting, besides making me dearly wish for a vacation, added a good bit of flavor to the story as well especially with Corfu's status as a candidate as the island in The Tempest. The portrayal of the people of Corfu is perhaps a little Anglo-centric but it’s not too bad and in many ways they reflect the characteristics of the heroine – resourceful and self-sufficient. I especially appreciated the inclusion of just a whisper of the spiritual; the Festival of St. Spiridion and both Lucy and another character's somewhat miraculous deliverance from the sea adds some magic and hooks the story back into The Tempest.

Mary Stewart is also a terrific writer who produced paragraphs of transporting descriptive prose. Describing a ride on a motorcycle with a young greek youth:
“…[the road] swooped clean down the side of Pantokrator in a series of tight-packed hairpin bends which I suppose were steep and dangerous, but which we took at a speed that carried us each time to the very verge, where a tuft or so of daisies or a small stone would catch us and cannon us back onto the metal. The tyres screeched, the god shouted gaily, the smell of burning rubber filled the night, and down we went, in a series of bird like swoops which carried us at last to the foot of the mountain and the level of the sea.” 
She would also occasionally include thoughtful passages that provided something a little more to chew on than you might expect in a confection such as this. 
“It seems to me you can be awfully happy in this life if you stand aside and watch and mind your own business, and let other people do as they like about damaging themselves and each other. You go on kidding yourself that you're impartial and tolerant and all that, then all of the sudden you realize you’re dead and you’ve never been alive at all. Being alive hurts.” 
I don't think Stewart is advocating poking your nose into everyone elses' business, by the way, I think she is arguing for a need of more compassion towards and solidarity with our fellow humans and to stay involved and make sure to connect.  Or she could be arguing for interfering in everybody elses' life - who knows! See! It makes you think!

FINAL VERDICT:  I am certainly very happy to have discovered this "other side" to Mary Stewart.  This was also my first romantic suspense novel but it certainly won't be my last.  Stewart spins a fast moving and action packed tale in an exotic setting with down to earth characters.  4 out of 5 Stars!

Other Opinions: The Bookwyrm's Hoard | Leaves and Pages | She Reads Novels

Monday, October 12, 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | Author Pairings and So Much More!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists. It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

It has been so long since I've participated in the fun that is TTT that I'm not sure what to even do with myself so I'm going to break all the rules.  I'm usually a total goody goody rule follower...disgustingly so, really... but a) this week's topic was really hard for me and b) I've missed the last couple of months of topics because of travel for work resulting in generalized internet limbo.  And there were lots of good topics I missed!

Here's the plan.  I'm going to list two items from this week's topic which is:
Top Ten Author Duos You'd LOVE To See Write A Book Together (aka my (Jamie's) world would explode if Gayle Forman and Jandy Nelson wrote a book together) -- might be hard to come up with 10 but still would be fun! Bonus points if you tell us what kind of book you'd like them to write!
Then I am going to list two picks from four of the TTT topics I missed while I was roaming around.  If all goes well it should add up to ten! Fingers crossed!


Author Duos 

1) Jim Butcher and Sarah MacLean 

These are fantasy pairings right? So it's okay if there would need to be flying pigs before they wrote a book together? Yes? Good! I'd like for these two authors to collaborate on an Urban Fantasy with a strong romance element.  Basically I'd like MacLean in there to balance out Butcher's Dude-Bro tendencies and to contribute a non-teeth grinding romance while Butcher throws in all the action packed scenes he is so fantastic at writing.  They both have pretty great senses of humor too so I think this book-of-my-wild-deluded-imagination would also be hilarious.

2) Bill Bryson and Mary Roach

I love both these writer's approach to non-fiction and think it would be fun to see them collaborate on some obscure science topic.  Like the history of the field and the scandalous dramas that have plagued paleontology.  Yep.  Now I really want that book written by either one of them really.  I won't force them to work together, even.  I'm that magnanimous.

o - O - o

Ten Books To Read If You Like This Super Popular Book/Author

3)  If you like Maggie Stiefvater you might try Lydia Netzer

Stiefvater is primarily a YA author and I've just discovered her through her Raven Cycle series.  There is something about her writing style and the way she blends reality and uncanniness effortlessly that reminds me of another newish favorite author Lydia Netzer.  Both of Netzer's full length novels have been for an adult audience.  They both write characters that are odd but also completely familiar and recognizable at the same time.  I'm not explaining it very well but whatever it is that they do, they do it well and I love it and their books remind me of one anothers.  They also both live in VA.

4) If you like Harry Potter you might try the Akata Witch Series by Nnedi Okorafor

I just recently read Akata Witch (my review) and loved it.  It shares a lot of tropes and themes with Harry Potter but has it's own unique mythology based in African folklore.

o - O - o

Autobuy Authors
5) Lois McMaster Bujold

I discovered Bujold a few years back and couldn’t believe I had never even heard of her considering she writes in two of my favorite genres (SF&F) and her books have been nominated for and won numerous awards. However it is fun coming to an author late because you have backlist just sitting and waiting for you. I’ve read all of the major novels in the Chalion fantasy series and am maybe a book behind in her Vorkosigan space opera series. I’ve also read at least one stand alone. She has one other series that I haven’t picked up (the Sharing Knife) because I’d heard some things about it that made me think I wouldn’t like it BUT I just broke down and bought the first book in that series. As well as a just released novella in her Chalion series (Penric’s Demon which Bujold adorably gave a 3 star rating to on goodreads – I guess she’s a bit self-critical:0). Basically I am interested in anything she writes. It has not all blown me away but a good bit of it has and I know her books will almost always feature characters that will interest and engage me.  

6)  Mary Roach

I'm putting her on here twice. Why not?  She's probably my favorite non-fiction author still publishing (i.e. not dead) and I have sucked down every book she's written.  She tackles topics that are unexpected but always completely fascinating and she's an incredibly engaging writer to boot. 

o - O - o

Characters I Didn't Click With 

7) Clair from the Outlander Series

I feel like I am the only person in the whole wide world that doesn't get along with this series and it is all about Clair for me.  I have tried reading the first book in this series 3 times and each time get halfway through and have to stop.  I do not like her at all and I'm not sure, without trying to read the damn thing a 4th time, I can explain exactly why.  

8)  Devil Cynster from Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens

To even the scales, I figure my second choice should be a male character and I have no trouble singling out Devil. He is the Alpha male "hero" in a regency romance and boy did I really hate him.  He's pushy, and super macho and autocratic and lord I wanted Lady Honoria to dump his ass. Spoiler! She doesn't. I have yet to read a romance where the happy ending involves "dumping his ass."

o - O - o

Bookish Things I Need/Want to Quit

9) Starting Series!

I LOVE series but don't they say that too much of anything will be bad for you?  In this case the problem is that when you start a series, you inevitably end up being in the middle of a series and soon those series you are in the middle of become more numerous than stars in the universe and I CAN'T REMEMBER ALL THAT!  I've been making a concerted effort to catch up/finish series that I am in the middle of but I have not been curbing my habit of starting series so I don't think I am making any progress.

10) Procrastinating Writing Reviews!

I have so many books that I want to review on the blog/goodreads and am seriously far behind!  I have a backlog of 40 books that I haven't reviewed *gulp*.  They are not all worthy of a review or of a stand alone review but a majority of them are! I need to get some down time that I can devote to catching up!

So please weigh in on any or all these topics!  I'd love to hear which characters you hate and which authors you'd like to lock in a room together with paper and pencil and nothing else! Let me know!