Wednesday, December 30, 2015

REVIEW | Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23719378-girl-waits-with-gun
Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
Publication Year: 2015 (September 1st)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime/Thriller
Series: NA (though I have hopes for a series, Pretty Please!!)
Awards: None
Format: Hardback from Library
Narrator: NA

Why?: I think I first heard about it on Book Riot's All The Books podcast and was interested based on my undying love for historical mysteries.

Three sisters living in rural New Jersey in 1914 have their quiet lives shaken when they have a vehicle accident with the wrong man.  The story is told from the perspective of the oldest sister Constance as she stands up for her family and discovers her own strength and a hidden talent for law enforcement.  Author Amy Stewart, who has also written a number of well-loved non-fiction books, based the story on actual contemporary news clippings about the harassment of the Kopp sisters and how they responded in a way that was not common from women of that time.

First of all I have to gush at what a great job Stewart does at re-creating the nineteen-teens in America.  It's not the glamorous or big picture view but is focused on everyday life. It's immersive and not flashy and I wanted to hug it to myself.  There is one scene where all three of the Kopp sisters, who live very simply and frugally on a farm, are taken ill and are confined to their beds.  Without someone to keep the stove stoked or go into town or prepare food, when Constance is the first to rouse the house is freezing and there is literally no food to be had easily.  It made me think about what life was truly like without the modern conveniences and everything at one's fingertips.

Notice above that what drew me initially to the book was an impression that it is a historical mystery.  It's more of a crime/thriller in actuality but it does contain some elements of a mystery in the secondary story lines.  The mash-up of genres really worked for me and I wasn't sorry at all that it was not a classic historical mystery.  Though I wouldn't call it a traditional page-turner, I became completely immersed in the story whenever I sat down with the book and became really invested in Constance, Norma and Fleurette's lives.  

My impression at the start of the book was of an idyllic early 20th century family.  Three affectionate sisters living on a farm and a caring brother who lives in town but who wants to look after them.  The mother of the family has recently died and the women's futures are somewhat in question but they seem to be well-equipped and capable.  As the book progresses and more pieces of the family puzzle get dropped in, a more realistic picture of a rather dysfunctional family emerges just as the situation with their harasser, Mr. Kaufman, deteriorates and becomes more dangerous.  This is not the story of a family falling apart however, it is of a family finding new energy and coming together with a purpose.  The three sisters are so different from one another and they get on each others nerves but that doesn't stop them from loving and depending upon each other quite fiercely.  It's a lovely portrait of a real family.  
Despite the rather dire plot and some heavy content and themes, the book has such a wry, funny tone and stays pretty light throughout.  I love when an author is able to strike that balance and deliver substance without making me feel weighed down with it.  I think Stewart gets it just right.  

Finally, I have to take a moment to shine a light on Constance, and all the characters in the book.  Constance is so fabulous.  She's a spinster at the age of 35 and very tall and strong for a woman.  When she first appears she is reveling in the freedom that has come with her tyrannical mother's death but is also feeling a little lost.  She wants to preserve she and her sister's independence but they don't have much money to live on and their brother is pressuring them to come live with him.  Constance rebels against becoming the spinster Aunt whose only purpose in life is serve in her brother's household but she is also unsure how to be anything else.  The horrible situation they find themselves in, helps her find her courage, her fierceness, and emboldens her to pursue a new path.   I was also intrigued, though this is a bit of a MILD SPOILER, by what I interpreted as romantic tension between Constance and the Sheriff.  The Sheriff is married and nothing comes of it, which made me wonder why Stewart included it or if I was misinterpreting.  I don't think I was misinterpreting.  It makes me hope that this may turn into a historical mystery series??!!  I would be super ecstatic and 120% behind this decision.  There is a ton of potential.

The Prose:
Being the tallest girl in the class, I was once dressed as Uncle Sam and was placed in the center of the stage while forty-five girls, each portraying a different state, danced around me. Norma refused to choose a state.  Wyoming was forced upon her. She wore a linen dress the color of sand and spread her arms wide to convey the vastness and futility of a place she could not imagine and did not wish to.

This quote is perfect because it helps characterize Constance and her sister Norma (who is ornery and a homebody) and also illustrates the dry humor and tone of the book.

FINAL VERDICT:  This book has many levels and worked so well on all of them.  Immersive historical fiction with a gripping crime plot, terrific characters, heart and a great sense of humor.  I loved it.  4 out of 5 stars.
Other Opinions are Available: Washington Post | The Book Stop | Broken Teepee

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Imaginary Friends | Favorite Characters I Met in 2015

One of the the things, if not the thing, that I love most about books is being able to to be immersed in other peoples' lives.  Am I nosy?  Hell yes.  Am I trying to get away from my own life for a bit? Sometimes.  These things are true but the real value for me is what I learn from these imaginary people.  I learn that I am not alone, I learn a different perspective, I am inspired and every once in a while I gain a little crumb of wisdom. 

The list below are some of the imaginary people I learned the most from this year and that I was most pleased to meet.  They are in no particular order except that I do think Gus was my absolute favorite this year.

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Augustus "Gus" McCrae
From: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Gus is a famous retired Texas Ranger who runs a somewhat lackluster cattle operation with his partner Woodrow Call.  Saying that he runs the cattle operation is an exaggeration - Call does all the work and Gus adds....color. And signage. When you first meet them, Call seems to be the one who has it together and all figured out but it quickly becomes clear that it is Gus who is the wiser of the two.  And definitely the funnier.  I can in no way do him justice without going on for pages.  He is one of my favorite characters of all time.  


Penryn Young
From Angelfall, World After and End of Days by Susan Ee

One of the dangers of reading YA literature as an adult is that it can sometimes be impossible to connect with the teenage protagonists, so when one comes along whom I love, it is something of which I take special note.  Penryn had to grow up way before her time and not because she grew up an orphan or some other fantastical trope but because her mother suffers from a severe mental illness and she has a disabled younger sister who she feels like she has to shield.  So when Armageddon is laid on her plate, Penryn faces it.  She is not particularly heroic - her aim is the survival of herself and her family - but she manages to be both bad-ass and believably 17. Gave me Buffy feels. 

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache 
From Still Life by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the primary detective in this Canadian based mystery series and unlike the many jaded sleuths that have come before him, he is incredibly well-adjusted and down-to-earth.  He's the type of person that I think everyone would wish for as their mentor and/or boss - demanding but also genuinely nurturing and caring.  Thoughtful and very smart, he is able to  delve deep into the people he investigates while still managing to have faith in the world and mankind. 

Walt Longmire
From Cold Dish and Death Loves Company by Craig Johnson

Walt Longmire, also the primary detective in a series of mysteries, is quite different then Gamache but equally interesting to know.  He's more cynical about people and prone to moodiness but he keeps things rolling with a clever sense of humor and a belief in the role he serves as Sheriff of Absaroka County, WY.  I met Walt on the page but also on the small screen in the TV show Longmire and the two versions of him are not quite the same but I loved them both. 

Constance Kopp 
From Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Constance is the oldest Kopp sister in this wonderful historical crime novel set in 1914 that fictionalizes the historical events leading up to her being named one of America's first female deputy sheriffs.  All three of the Kopp sisters are great but Constance is special.  Or she's not special.  She's very ordinary.  But when a circumstance comes along that threatens their independence and even their lives, she refuses to be bullied.  I would love to hang out on the Kopp farm and learn about self-sufficiency and how to stand up for myself from Constance.

Jackaby
From Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Jackaby can best be described as the possible product if Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor (Doctor Who) ever had a child together.  Given this description it is no surprise that I loved him.  I am always attracted to the absent-minded professor type characters -  a scattered and goofy personae that conceals a keen observer, a brilliant mind and unsuspected wisdom.  Jackaby is definitely of this type and I am envious of Abigail who gets to be his assistant.

Penelope Lumley

Penelope is what I imagine Mary Poppins may have been like as a young governess just starting out at the age of 15.  Plucky, nerdy, nurturing and stern in equal measure, and unflappably practical in the face of any crises.  She's also charming and delightful with her child-like adoration of her Alma Mater's founder, Agatha Swanburne whose quippy sayings help guide her and her pupils.  Sayings such as: “To be kept waiting is unfortunate, but to be kept waiting with nothing interesting to read is a tragedy of Greek proportions.”   You said it, Agatha!

Sunny Nwazue
From Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is a twelve year old, albino witch (aka leopard person) living in Nigeria.  She has many admirable qualities; she's tough, brave and clever.  What I love most about her, however, is that she is a rule follower.  Oh, she'll break the rules when it's important and she gets in trouble but she is not a rebel without a cause.  Her instinct is to be a good citizen and defying her parents does not make her happy.  Since I too grew up (and still am really) a goody two shoes, I really identified with her and appreciated the fact of her sheer normal-ness. 

Tara 
From Three Parts Dead  by Max Gladstone

Tara is the quick thinking, endlessly adaptable heroine of the first book in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence.  I think hanging out with Tara would make me feel incredibly uncool but I definitely wouldn't mind indulging in a little heroine worship. After standing up to a bully of a teacher and getting thrown out (literally) of her Craft school she tries to blend in with society and live a normal life but her love of the Craft is just too strong and she jumps at the chance to start a career.  Her first on-the-job test is to resurrect a god, so, no biggie.  I enjoyed her character so much that I'm bummed that the nature of how this series is structured means that at least two of the next four books will not include her.  :(

Nimona
From Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

I wasn't quite as crazy about this graphic novel as most folks were but I did like it a lot and was especially fascinated by the character of Nimona who is very hard to pin down.  In the guise of  a young girl she presents herself as a sidekick candidate to the resident Super Villain Lord Balister Blackheart.  Soon it becomes clear that despite her innocent appearance Nimona is much better at being evil than Lord Blackheart.  I don't want to say much more in case you haven't read it yet but it's safe to say that Nimona is a super interesting character.


Lady Philippa Marbury 
From One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Lady Philippa Marbury is my favorite romance heroine certainly of the year if not of all time.  The blurb on the book begins by describing her as odd and MacLean delivers on that promise.  Philippa is a science nerd who loves dogs and has trouble feeling comfortable in a ball room all of which is decidedly odd for a lady in Regency Era England.  I like her for those things alone but I love her for her forthright, very scientific exploration of love, her dry sense of humor, and the awkward things she says without thinking.  I would definitely enjoy hanging out with Philippa and geeking out over plant breeding.

Tyrannthus Slaughter
From Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon

Tyrannthus Slaughter is not a man that I ever want to meet or even be on the same continent with for he is intensely, disturbingly, deliciously evil.  It's the kind of evil that hides itself behind a sheen of false charm and good manners and is augmented by a massive amount of brains.  He is almost supernatural in his abilities and the battle of wits and brawn between he and series' protagonist Matthew Corbett is epic.  By FAR, the best villain I've encountered in a very long time!

Sunny Mann 
From Shine, Shine, Shine by Lydia Netzer

Sunny is a deeply strange and unique woman trying to mold herself into the very picture of normality in Shine, Shine, Shine.  A series of life events cause her to come to terms with how much she no longer cares about fitting in with "normal" suburban life.  Her liberation prompts the revelation that no one is truly "normal" and that everyone is hiding something about themselves.  Riding along with Sunny on her journey back to her own unique weirdness was one of my favorite rides of the year.

Source
The Disreputable Dog 
From Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix

The Disreputable Dog is the only non-humanoid on the list and considering how much I like dogs as a general rule it is not surprising to find her on here.  She is not, strictly speaking, a dog but that is her form and most of the time she acts very much like a dog.  A wise, loyal, goofy, brave, loving dog and while I really enjoyed meeting Lirael as well, it was The Disreputable Dog I was most sad to say goodbye to at the end of Abhorsen.

***************

Interestingly, to me at least, quite a few of these books' covers feature a picture of the main character highlighting that character is a very important element in these books. I guess it is not surprising that I found myself caught up in these imaginary peoples' lives!

What are some of the fictional people you most enjoyed meeting in 2015? What made them so special?

 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saturday in the Garden - More Light!

December 26, 2015 - Everything turns to slush
OUTSIDE

Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us Upper Midwesterners in the U.S. and decided at the last minute to grant a White Christmas.  Saucy Minx.  I am not generally a fan of the white stuff but at Christmas it is acceptable, even desired.   Thanks Mother Nature and Happy Winter Solstice to all in the northern hemisphere!  Longer days from here on out.  
 
 


LIFE

I have the next week off from work which is very exciting.  My plans are to: 1) Read, 2) Cook a bunch of food for the freezer, 3) Read, 4) Watch the first three Star Wars movies on my VHS tapes if I can remember how to work the VCR and then go see The Force Awakens, 5) Catch up on the blog and reviews, 6) Catch up on everybody elses blog posts, 7) Read, 8) Winterize and clean the house really well, 9) Do a jigsaw puzzle which I haven't done in like 15 years and forgot how addictive it is, 10) Read.  Should be a really nice break (even if one of the jigsaw pieces has already fallen on the ground and been ever so gently chewed upon by a curious golden retriever)!


I also stumbled across this lovely blog post entitled How To Be a Ladyperson at the Holidays which made me giggle so I thought I'd share the mirth.  I have also been a little obsessed with this acapella Star Wars parody about how science is awesome, entitled Science Wars.  You're welcome.  Unless you've already seen it a hundred times like I have, in which case sorry for the ear worm.

WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Watching 

I've still been making my way through Agatha Christie's Poirot Mysteries on the BBC and am finally getting to some episodes which I haven't seen or at least not 100 times like most of the others.  David Suchet really is the perfect Poirot in my mind.  I can't imagine anyone else doing the character justice - he captures the ridiculous aspects of Poirot as well as the bad-ass crime solving, super smart aspects.  He's actually great to watch when you are perhaps feeling a little squirelly in your own skin because he so completely embraces himself and all his eccentricities. 

Reading

Finished Last Week: 

  • Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare:  Every time I mention that I love Sarah MacLean, everyone tells me I must read Tessa Dare.  So I read Tessa Dare and it was great! Thanks everyone!  It's the first in the Castles Ever After series and involves the impoverished daughter of a well-beloved author and a blind Duke. 
  •  Heartless by Gail Carriger: I finally got it back from the library and was finally able to finish it!  The 4th book in the Parasol Protectorate series. Carriger had way too much fun with an 8 months pregnant Alexia.  
  • Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart:  This is a mystery/crime novel set in the early part of the 20th century and it is so good.  It is apparently the fictional account of (mostly) actual events leading up to the hiring of one of America's first female Deputy Sheriffs.

Currently Reading:

  • Into the Wilderness by Sarah Donati:  Historical fiction/romance (different actually then just a historical romance) I had to wait behind 6 other patrons on the hold list to get this from the library despite the fact it was published in 1998.  Not sure why - maybe because it gets compared to Outlander and that's big right now?  Even though I did not like Outlander, I am liking this so far.  Set in the American frontier just pre or post revolution period (somewhere between 1750 and 1800:).
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater:  The third in the Raven Cycle books.
  • Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley:  The 5th book in the Flavia DeLuce mystery series featuring a chemistry and poison loving 12 year old in 1950s England.
  • Steal the Sky by Megan O'Keefe:  An ARC and the first in a new science fiction series that sounds Firefly-esque.  Publication: January 5th, 2016.

Added to the TBR:

This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!
  • The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis: I came across this book on the Tenacious Reader blog.  Described as an apocalyptic tale narrated by a young girl traveling with a man who she is beginning to suspect may be a serial killer.  Sounds like an interesting character piece.
  • Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal: Also from Tenacious Reader.  I'm not sure what's up with this novella as it says it was originally published in 2013 but it is being re-released in 2016.  I like Kowal's books so would like to check this out.  
  • Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen:  As happens so many weeks, The Bibliosanctum brought this book to my attention.  Set in a fantastical world based on the American wild west and featuring a cross dressing heroine, there is no doubt that I will be reading this book.  Mogsy gave it a great review as well!

Blogging 

On the BLOG LAST WEEK:

On the BLOG NEXT WEEK:

The Top Ten Tuesday post this week (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is the books we are most looking forward to in the first half of 2016 and my reading brain doesn't work like that so I don't think I will participate.  However, I have a couple of end-of-year posts like my favorite characters of 2015, the dangers of being a series addict, and a 2015 wrap up post.  I also, as stated previously, want to catch up with reviews so hopefully will sneak one of those in.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

REVIEW | Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter by Marissa Meyer
Publication Year: 2015 (November 10th)
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Fairy Tales
Series:  Lunar Chronicles #4
Awards: None
Format: Audio (from Audible.com)
Narrator: Rebecca Soler

Why?: Because this is the concluding volume in the Lunar Chronicles which has been more fun to read than playing with a barrel full of monkeys.

It seemed appropriate to publish my review of Winter during the week of the Winter Solstice.  If you've seen my list of the favorite books I read in 2015, then this review will have very little suspense.  I enjoyed Winter very, very much.   One of my favorite things about this series has always been that Marissa Meyer obviously had a well laid plan for the whole series from the very beginning.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in Winter where she has to pull together and tie up all the strands from the first three books as well as weave in a new pair of characters and their fairy tale.

At the start of Winter, Scarlet is in prison on Luna, and the rest of the gang (Cinder, Thorne Cress, and Wolf, Kai) are on the Rampion making a plan to rescue her and overthrow Levana.  In Cress, we met Jacin, one of Luna's elite guards, and very briefly Levana's step daughter Winter but they are really introduced and developed in this book.  Winter is the most beautiful girl on Luna but she is also a bit mad, having refrained from using her lunar gift since she was a child.  She and Jacin have been friends since childhood and though their feelings for each other at this point are much more than friendly, Jacin keeps a distance between them.  When Cinder and her crew arrive, smuggled aboard Kai's ship which is arriving on Luna to resume wedding preparations between Kai and Levana, Winter and Jacin are pulled into a revolution to place Cinder on the Lunar throne.

I do want to pause and point out that I did not make it through Fairest which would have provided more detail about Winter's childhood and origins.  However,  reading only the first 20% or so of Fairest did not keep me from being able to follow Winter's story or figure out the relationships. 

Now, with the plot synopsis out of the way lets get down to it.  I want to revisit my comment above that Meyer is a master at balancing and planning out her narrative.  In Winter, she has the unenviable task of managing four - count 'em - FOUR romances.  Two are pretty settled at the start - no more will-they-won't-they - and two still have obstacles, including the "star" of this particular book, Winter.  Meyer has to develop Winter, her story and her romance with Jacin all while concluding the series.  She does a hell of a job with it though it is sometimes easy to see the mechanics of how she is managing things.  For example, she is careful not to have too many of the couples together all at the same place at the same time.  It helps to ensure that the romances stay the B stories and don't completely overtake the plot.  It's kind of crazy how she manages it all and I am totally in awe.  It's a lot of romance balls to keep in the air; keeping up the tension and evolving the relationships and characters while also propelling a semi-complicated plot forward.

Another way she manages to keep the plot moving is by not bogging it down with too many complications.  For example, the revolution on Luna is unrealistically easy to get started. When refuge is needed, Wolf's mother is still living in the same childhood home and takes the gang in without any issues.  These things do niggle a bit but I think streamlining those elements of the plot, keeps the story moving and focused on the more interesting developments.  I was completely sucked into the story and was wanting to read this more than a Harry Potter book I was re-reading at the same time!  So, yeah.  I was into it.  I also thought the pacing was perfect.  I never got bored with one story line before she switched to another and all the story lines had me pretty equally enthralled. An impressive feat indeed!

Once again I love how Meyer has adapted the fairy tale, in this case Snow White. She adds in little details that echo the original story sometimes obviously, sometimes not. Winter is known for her incredible beauty of which her stepmother Levana is very jealous.  Royal Lunar guard Jacin is the fierce hunstman who fakes Snow White's death. Winter has a menagerie which echoes the Disney version of the tale with Snow White and all her woodland friends.  Then she joins the rebels and if you include Kai, they number 7 - Kai, Cinder, Iko, Cress, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorn.  It's not heavy handed but also not so obscure that you can't have fun picking at all the little details. 

I wasn't sure at first how I was going to like Winter but as she is developed, I liked her more and more.  She is perhaps a little reminiscent of Cress in her innocence and sweetness but she is even less functional and self-sufficient.  She's incredibly kind-hearted, and also mentally unstable because she refuses to use her Lunar gift and totally hilarious. She and the stern Jacin make a nice pairing.  She develops a lovely friendship with Scarlett as well which is pretty perfect.

Also, I love how all the romances are brought to conclusion. They are not the picture perfect endings, happily ever afters of the Disney versions of these fairy tales and they are better for it.


The audio version of the book was absolutely fantastic.  The narrator has the perfect voice for all the characters without it being too voice-y.  She also has a number of accents to do and she does them with flair.  I loved especially how she reads Iko, Winter and Scarlet.

I feel like I have a lot of other rather incoherent things to say, like how much I love Iko and hope we get another novella that tells the hate-to-love romance of she and the too pretty guard Kinney.  How pleased I am by the diversity in the books and that it's not really a thing, it just is.  How I wish Marissa Meyer (along with J.K. Rowling) would give some lessons in series planning to George R.R. Martin and Chris Carter (creator of The X-Files).  Lots of love for this book!

FINAL VERDICT:  Meyer has really been so incredibly thoughtful in her creation and it truly is a lovely masterpiece of storytelling. It hasn't changed my life and isn't particularly profound but it has been such an enjoyable series to dive into and Winter is a great ending. 4 out of 5 Stars.
 
Random(ish) Sampling of Other Reviews: Vilma's Book Blog | Curiouser and Curiouser | Publisher's Weekly

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Saturday in the Garden - Gigantic Bunnies and Murderous Dogs

December 20, 2015
OUTSIDE

At home, I got my bird feeders up this week.  It finally got cold enough to feel a bit like winter so I figured the critters could use some supplemental food.  There hasn't been a ton of activity yet except from the monster squirrels that inhabit the yard.  I wish my dogs could keep the squirrels at bay though I suppose squirrels have to eat too.  I just wish they weren't so greedy or so competent at putting away pounds of seed in a very short time.

One critter my dogs are good at controlling is rabbits.  They killed a third rabbit in the back yard this week.  Whenever an incident like this occurs, I always look at the dogs anew, surprised to be sharing my home, and snuggles, with a couple of ruthless predators.  Silly me.  Lately, I have been yearning to get a pet rabbit.  I want one of the giant ones like a French Lop who would live both inside (free range) and outside (in an elaborate hutch).  I've not pulled the trigger because a) I need another animal to take care of like I need another hole in the head, b) I don't yet know enough about rabbits and their care and c) my dogs like to kill rabbits without remorse.  I've been telling myself that when Rudy joined the household I was able to train him quite quickly to ignore the kitty instead of staring hungrily at her but a part of me worries that cats and rabbits are just enough different.... The other piece of logic I've been using is that French Lops are huge (10-15 lbs) and could give the dogs enough of a whopping to put them in their place. 
Look at those back feet! Source
LIFE

It was a busy and sort of crappy week involving an upsetting dust up at work, becoming a board member for a non-profit organization, my sister's birthday, my birthday and then trying to wrap up all the Christmas shopping.  Yesterday, I got a new radio put in my car (Happy Birthday to me! Now I can listen to digital audio books:) and finished my Christmas shopping in the morning, met for lunch with one friend, then happy hour with another and then went to dinner at a thirds.  I was home for all of three hours yesterday which is why this 'Saturday' post is a 'Sunday' post this week.  This is NOT normal in my life, so my introvert self is feeling pretty ragged today.  Only three more days of work, in which I hope to accomplish about a week's worth of tasks, and then I'm taking a nice stretch of time off.

WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

Watching 
I've been watching some Poirot (Agatha Christie, BBC Mysteries) in a lackluster sort of way.  Otherwise, nothing.  I did receive a BBC Sherlock adult coloring book for my birthday from someone who knows me quite well:). 

Reading

Finished Last Week: 

  • Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara: I'm pretty conflicted on this one.  Ended up enjoying the story well enough but being extremely annoyed by the main character.  
  • The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell:  This is a short and funny collection of essays more or less about being a geeky history and politics buff in the United States. 

Currently Reading:

  • Heartless by Gail Carriger:  I'm was listening to this 4th book in the Parasol Protectorate series.  Carriger was having way too much fun with an 8 months pregnant Alexia.   ON HOLD because I was forced to return it to the library. Grr....
  • Into the Wilderness by Sarah Donati:  Historical fiction/romance (different actually then just a historical romance) I had to wait behind 6 other patrons on the hold list to get this from the library despite the fact it was published in 1998.  Not sure why - maybe because it gets compared to Outlander and that's big right now?  Even though I did not like Outlander, I am liking this so far.  Set in the American frontier just pre or post revolution period (somewhere between 1750 and 1800:).
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater:  The third in the Raven Cycle books.
  • Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart:  This is a mystery set in the early part of the 20th century and it is so good.  It is apparently the fictional account of some actual events. 
  • Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare:  Every time I mention that I love Sarah MacLean, folks tell me I must read Tessa Dare.  So I'm reading Tessa Dare!   It's the first in the Castles Ever After series and involves the impoverished daughter of a well-beloved author and a blind Duke.

Added to the TBR:

This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!
  • The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah:  This is a historical fiction novel that has been a bestseller and been on a number of best of... lists.   It deals with the Nazi occupation of France and has a 4.53 out of 5 star rating on Goodreads with over 90,000 ratings.  Wow.
It's odd that only one book made it onto my TBR considering it was TTT's Best Books of 2015 week but I blame it on being busy and distracted.  

    Blogging 

    On the BLOG LAST WEEK:


    On the BLOG NEXT WEEK:

    I'm not sure what this week will bring but hopefully some reviews.  I have a couple of other reading year reflection posts percolating but I may actually save them for next week.  The Top Ten Tuesday post this week (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is books we'd like Santa to bring which is not a list I feel very inspired by so I'll be happy if I get couple reviews posted!

    Unless you're a Rabbit.



    Monday, December 14, 2015

    TOP TEN TUESDAY | The Best Books Ever Read by Me in 2015

    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.

    The best books of the year lists are what book bloggers live for so I'm not sure it requires a fuller description but the one The Broke and the Bookish is instructive:
    Top Ten Best Books I Read In 2015 (you can do it by only 2015 releases,  overall , by genre (top ten fantasy books I read in 2015), etc. however you choose to make your BEST list)
    I will be choosing my 10 from all the books I read this year so no genre restrictions and not limited to 2015 releases, just straight up the ten best books I read this year. It will not include re-reads though or the list would be mostly Harry Potter books, lol.

    ********************

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/256008.Lonesome_Dove
    Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

    General Fiction. Western. The rest of the list may be in no particular order but this one is listed first for a reason.  It was my favorite read of the year.  It could be considered a modern classic and I would not argue with that status. It has the perfect blend of great storytelling with characters that I will not soon forget. Gus McCrae in particular has been added to my all time favorite characters list. FINAL VERDICT: "If you enjoy humor, character-driven fiction and compelling storytelling than you owe it to yourself to read this book as soon as you possibly can.  I can't imagine another book that could unseat this one as my favorite read of 2015. 5 very enthusiastic stars out of 5."  My Full Review

    Nonfiction. This was the best discussion of the issues of the modern workplace and gender equality that I have read.  It's very readable, thorough and thought-provoking.  The final verdict on my review - "This is a wonderfully succinct and thoughtful book for anybody interested in feminism, work-life balance or America's work culture." My Full Review.

    Jackaby by William Ritter

    Young Adult Fiction. Historical. Paranormal. This book goes on the list for pure reading fun.  Definitely my favorite YA read of the yearFinal Verdict:  "I could probably go on gushing for pages but that would get boring.  I hope I’ve gone on just long enough for you to be convinced about how lovely this YA book is.  Most of the criticisms I’ve read accuse the book of being unoriginal.  *shrugs* I personally don’t get too caught up in how original a story is or isn’t as long as it is done well and in my opinion this was." My Full Review.
     
    The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Series by Maryrose Wood

    Middle Grade. Historical. It's a little odd to include a whole series but I just really had fun with all the books this year.  They are delightfully charming and hilarious.  The Interrupted Tale has been my favorite thus far perhaps we finally get to visit Penelope Lumley's Alma Mater, The Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females.  Final Verdict:  Find every 10-14 year old child you know and insist they read these books.  And read them yourself.  You'll laugh a lot and be charmed into a puddle.  My Full Review.


    Winter by Marissa Meyer

    So this one may have snuck on here because I just finished it a couple weeks ago and at the finish I wanted to stand up, alone, in my living room and give Marissa Meyer a big round of applause. It would have been quite weird but I felt like it deserved it because she had so many loose ends to be tied, so many balls in the air and a couple new characters to introduce and she manages it all like a boss.   I have often mentioned that I so appreciate a series author with a plan and this series was such a perfect example of this.  It was a great final book in a very fun series.  I haven't written a full review yet but it will definitely one where you should expect a lot of gushing.

    Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon

    This is one of my favorite historical mystery series, set in colonial era America.  Mister Slaughter is the 3rd book in the series and by my reckoning was the best.  Tyrannthus Slaughter is a terrifically sinister character and I really enjoyed the growth of the protagonist of the series, Matthew Corbett.   My Full Review

    Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

    This was the best Mary Roach book I'd read since Stiff and that's saying something considering the books she's written since are pretty great.  This one was particularly well written, funny and informative. I didn't even know I was interested in the digestive system but Roach showed me the error of my ways right quick.  If you haven't experienced Roach's science writing, you owe yourself to pick up one of her books immediately and I highly recommend this one.  My Full Review
     
    One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

    I read this book twice this year that's how much I loved it.  My favorite of the Sarah MacLean books I read this year and I really enjoyed all of them. In fact, Sarah MacLean has vaulted to the top of my favorite historical romance writers list.   My Full Review.
     
    Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

    Not only did I really enjoy Turn Coat, and it is one of my favorite of the series, but this is included to represent the fun I had catching up with the Dresden Files this year.  My Full Review.

    Death Without Company by Craig Johnson
    This is the second book in the Longmire series of mysteries which I fell in love with this year.  Johnson is a great writer and has created memorable characters and I love how Durant feels like a community straddling the the wild west and the modern day. My Full Review.

    ************** 

    That's it for my top ten and while I loved every single book on this list it feels a little underwhelming.  Lonesome Dove is really the only book on here that could be legitimately called a great book.  Unfinished Business is an important book.  All the rest are on here for sheer enjoyment value. There's nothing wrong with that of course but it is a little surprising to me.  It's felt like a bumpy reading year even though I feel like I handed out more 4 and 5 star ratings than usual.  Looking over this list and my full reading list, I think the summary is that I didn't read a lot of books that will truly stick with me in the long-term but I did read a lot of books I enjoyed.  That's enough.

    Another thing the list does a good job of illustrating is how non-specific my book tastes are:

    2 Non-fiction, 1 science, 1 social justice
    3 Mysteries (if you count Jackaby)
    4 Fantasy (if you count Jackaby a second time), 1 more Sci-Fi, 1 Urban Fantasy, the other 2 vaguely paranormal
    1 Western
    1 Romance
    7 Adult
    2 Young Adult
    1 Middle-grade

    What were some of your favorites this year?  How would you characterize your reading year? 

    Sunday, December 13, 2015

    RE-READ | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/136251.Harry_Potter_and_the_Deathly_Hallows
    My epic re-read of the Harry Potter series has come to an end!  I'm not sure what about it was particularly epic but it just sounds good and the books are pretty epic.  It was a really rewarding experience which has convinced me that I need to take more time for re-reading. 

    This was only my second time through the series and I found that my opinion about several of the books changed radically.  Also there had been enough time since I'd read them, that while it wasn't like coming at them anew, I had forgotten a LOT and they did still feel very fresh.

    Speaking of forgetting, I think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows wins the award for the book I had forgotten the most about.  I remembered very little of this book.  I had vague memories of endless camping, Dobby dead on a beach, a visit to Luna's father (though I remembered it incorrectly) a final showdown at Hogwarts where some very beloved people died.  To sum up, in my mind this book was one long angsty camping trip where nothing happens followed by lots of people dying. That. Was. It.  Seriously.  The first several chapters of the book were completely wiped from my mind which is a shame because there is lots of good stuff there and a more careful reading would have likely helped with some of my bad attitude moments later in the book.  I had no recollection of the raids on the ministry of magic and Gringotts, them spending any time at Grimmauld place, the wedding at the beginning, Ron being a jerk once again and leaving.  Nada.  So it was truly almost like a whole new book:).

    Unfortunately what I remembered most clearly was why I was so disappointed in the book the first time around.  I thought it was too long and that about 200 pages of the endless camping could have been cut and I was super duper frustrated that Harry and the gang would not bring in the adults and enlist their help.  Probably the most notable thing about this re-read was that those things?  Didn't really bother me a bit this time.  I still didn't love it as much as all the rest of the books but the reasons why I felt that way were very different and it was definitely better than my poor memory of it.

    Some random thoughts:
    • I mentioned above how first time around I was really frustrated with the threesome not consulting any of the adults.  Someone who might you know, KNOW something.  I think during the first reading I was too focused on Harry's "but Dumbledore didn't say to tell anyone else" and would roll my eyes. However there is more to it than that and it is all set up quite well in the first part of the book if I had paid closer attention.  The adults are not helpful. None of them.  Lupin lights into Harry for not killing an innocent person (an Imperiused Stan Shunpike during the chase).  This is pretty out-of-character for Lupin (Sirius sure, but Remus no) but it does illustrate that the adults are approaching this whole situation very differently than Harry.  There is also a lot of infiltration into the adult community by Deatheaters while they pretty much ignore the kids.  In short, it makes sense that they would keep their distance and be a little wary.  
    • The goodbye to Privet Dr. scene is very bittersweet and just as it should be, with Dudley's change of heart unlikely but still a sweet note.  Again showing how the young people may have more wisdom in this particular world than the adults.
    • Ron again annoys, this time with his overbearing brother routine.  And then with the immature abandonment.  Good for Hermione not immediately forgiving him even if his insecurity made him more susceptible to the Horcrux's influence - he was still an ass.  That was a pretty major change this second read through.  I really don't like Ron very much.
    • So I had this revelation.  I think the reason I loved Avatar, The Last Airbender so much is that it is quite similar to HP!  Right about now you are saying "Uh...Stephanie?  You do realize that the "chosen one" child hero vanquishing evil with his band of friends is like the biggest trope out there?"  Yes, of course, but HP does it so well and so does Avatar with a few other similarities too.  Harry and Aang are very similar in a deeper way - both are pacifists at heart.  They both have one girl and one guy friend in similar roles (Katara/Hermione both uber-talented, mature, a little up tight and much more concerned with the rules and Sokka/Ron as the goofy pal that keeps things light and contributes quite a lot despite not being particularly talented). The dynamic is different because Katara and Sokka are siblings so the romance is between Aang and Katara.   They also reject the help of the adults in their lives and for pretty good reasons.  The both have an enemy who ends up being an ally. 
    • I don't know if it is because I am listening rather than reading but the camping portion of the book does not feel needlessly long this time around.  Besides the format change, I think I am also a bit more interested in the angsty bits of the whole series this time around.  Harry's petulance no longer really bothers me.  I get his total frustration with Dumbledore.  Not the "Why didn't he tell me everything about himself" part but definitely on the "why the hell didn't he give me a little more guidance on what the hell I'm supposed to do" part.  I also recognize that this bit is like The Empire Strikes Back - it's taking our heroes down to the very bottom so that when they vanquish it feels that much more triumphant. 
    • Other important things I had no memory of: Harry's wand breaking, the talk with Ravenclaw's daughter's ghost and the search for the Diadem.  The existence and participation of Aberforth.  Basilisk fangs from the chamber of secrets - brilliant and lovely continuity!  Seriously did I even read this book? 
    • Harry to Ron and Hermione during their smooch fest:  "could you just hold it in until we've found the horcrux?"  Hee! and poor Harry. 
    • SPEW continues not to be resolved and it almost seems like the whole business was orchestrated so that Ron could finally say something decent about the house elves that would push Hermione into his arms.  I'm guessing that now that Hermione has demonstrated that even Kreacher can change perhaps Harry and Ron really will put a little more effort into the movement now that Voldemort's kaput.
    • These books really are a pretty vociferous criticism of government. The Ministry at its best is rather inept and at its worst is corrupt and evil.  That's politics for you:/.  As a government employee myself I struggle with how hostile Harry is to the government though his animosity is completely understood. I could probably write a whole treatise on this but I'd demand some sort of degree if I spent that much time on it so that's all I'm going to say on it.
    • I love when Harry ultimately realizes the kinship between he, Snape and Voldemort - three boys who spent a childhood unloved and for whom Hogwarts was the first home that felt like home.  The two people he has despised so much for all the books - for him to realize and embrace this kinship is quite lovely.  Interesting also that all three took different paths - had different responses to their childhood.  Voldemort chose and embraces unremitting evil and selfishness.  Snape is horribly bitter but eventually chooses to do the right and brave thing, because of love. And guilt.  Harry's hardships have made him rebel against the unkindness shown him as a child and be that much more kind and humble.  
    • Speaking of Snape:).  One wonders how different he might have turned out if Lily had loved him back and if she hadn't instead loved the person he least liked in the world.  I didn't remember just how single-minded Snape was.  He really was horribly bitter and he really did not like Harry - for him it was 100% about Lily.  It's amazing that that was enough to sustain him and make him put up with what must have been a mostly miserable life.  Love this character so much.  
    • I thought it was interesting to delve a little more into the politics of the wizarding world - the dynamics between non-human magical creatures and the wizards and witches. I'm glad Rowling included this in the books.

    • The Epilogue -Ugh. So bittersweet. I hated it the first time around and it didn't really improve this time.  Essentially, I apparently hate being an adult because the message of the epilogue feels very much like the adventure is just starting for their kids while it's over for them.  And that makes me sad.
    The reason this book doesn't quite rank with the rest is simply that I miss Hogwarts and all the characters that we encounter there.  I think this book does what it needs to quite well but it just feels so, so dark and dreary with almost no humor and light.  This change in tone is entirely appropriate but it's also depressing and makes the book a slightly less enjoyable read for me.

    FINAL VERDICT:  While it doesn't quite get full stars, this is an impressive and appropriate end to the Harry Potter story.  4 out of 5 Stars






    MOVIE(s)

    Deathly Hallows was very intelligently broken into two movies so they are much more able to represent the events of the books.  I don't love the last-book-into-two-movie trend with other series, which just seems like a money making ploy, but here it is completely warranted and they honestly should have considered doing it for books 4-6 as well. 

    Here are my notes for Parts I and II:

    Part I

    The movie starts off with a bang.  I thought the description of what Hermione does with her parents was extremely sad in the book but the visual representation of her obliviating them was even more emotional for me.  The death eater meeting at the Malfoys is extremely sinister and disturbing (Alan Rickman's portrayal of Snape is fantastic). On a different note the scene with the 7 Harrys is appropriately fun.

    I've never been a big fan of Harry and Ginny and unfortunately I don't really think Daniel Radcliffe and the actress who played Ginny have much chemistry.  On the flip side, Rupert Grint is doing a very convincing job illustrating that he's pretty smitten with Hermione at this point:). The movie also does a better job showing how Ron could be insecure about Hermione and Harry's relationship especially when wearing the horcrux.  I like the decision to introduce the radio show earlier  - the staticy broadcast is the perfect background to the stress and distress the three friends are feeling.  The addition of the dance scene with Harry and Hermione is awesome as well - so awkward at the beginning but then dispelling briefly the miserable tension between them only to have it descend again at the end of the song.


    The choice of locations for the camping is very effective and well done and it also does a good job illustrating the crushing boredom and anxiety.  There are a number of other visual effects that really caught my eye. The apparition effect is awesome.  When Harry and Hermione come out of the Horcrux to taunt Ron they look unreal - cold and cruel - they look like themselves but not.  It's well done.  I love the cartoon illustrating the Deathly Hallows story.  It's a particularly lovely piece of artistry.


    Movie Part 1 was excellent - the best of the series and supporting my feelings that at least for the last three books the problem with the movies was too short a running time.

    PART II

    Again there are some really lovely visual and sound effects that work so well. The ominous music at the beginning is almost horror movie quality signalling that we are in a very dark place indeed. The multipying treasure at Gringotts is awesome.  The stone knights which McGonigle brings to life are awesome.  The whole battle for Hogwarts is very visually intense, chaotic and stunning.  It looks epic.

    There are also many sad and emotional character moments.  The Weasley family gathered around Fred in the great hall with George inconsolable.  In fact, as soon as Fred and George appeared on screen I got teary-eyed and again when they share a quiet moment on the ramparts before the battle.   Snape's death is really effective - they do it on the other side of an opaque pane of glass so we can't see Nagini attacking him (I think it would have been too disturbing for the PG13 rating) but we can hear it and see the pane jump as Snape flinches against the glass.  Very effective and Alan Rickman rocks Snape's last scene as well as the scene where he cries over Lily in his memories. He had some fantastic moments in these final two movies.  Daniel Radcliffe does a great job displaying how he is feeling with his face when he realizes the need for his death.  The half hug Voldemort gives Draco as Draco crosses over is creepy and awkward and awesome.  Luna sitting next to Neville and eyeing the sword of Gryffindor and then eyeing Neville and Neville grinning all proud - it's adorable. And awkward.  So many great moments that the movie and actors capture perfectly.

    There were a couple of changes from the book. Hermione instigates the ride on the dragon out of Gringotts instead of Harry and I'm not sure why they made that change.  Also Harry doesn't have all the angst at everybody coming to Hogwarts for a final showdown - the movie glosses over his mixed feelings which I think was a good call.  McGonigle orders all the Slytherins to be taken to the Dungeon which seems a little out of character but the Slytherin dorm is in the dungeon so maybe it's not meant as punishment:).


    Finally, I love the final image of the three friends standing on the bridge to Hogwarts holding hands in the sunshine.  We'll just gloss on by the epilogue:). 

    FINAL VERDICT:  I think this pair of movies are definitely the strongest in the series.  Prisoner of Azkaban is perhaps more visually creative but these two deal with the content of the books really well and give scope to the actors so they can create those moments that are really important in the books.  4 out of 5 stars.

    Well that wraps up my Harry Potter re-read and re-watch.  I'm quite sad to be saying goodbye to it once again for a time but I did break down and buy the Illustrated copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone!  It is as gorgeous as everyone says and I think I will spend some quality time with it over the holidays. And of course there are the upcoming movies.... So maybe it's not quite over yet....

     

    Saturday, December 12, 2015

    Saturday in the Garden - December in La La Land

    OUTSIDE
     
    I feel pretty lame about it but I have to talk about the weather because it's just so bizarre.  It is nigh on mid-December and the average temperatures have been in the upper 40s to mid 50s...in the UPPER MIDWEST for goodness sake.  Seriously, I'm so used to hiding in my house shivering by this time of the year that I really don't know what to do with myself.  I'm not complaining  - if it were up to me it would be like this all winter with maybe an occasional drop in temperature for a snow storm which stick around for a a couple-three days and during which everybody would get time off and world peace would erupt because everybody had enough and was content in the simplicity and joy of life.  ***sigh*** Sometimes it's fun to visit la la land.  What would be your perfect winter?

    There is still some green and growth in the world too.  Some radishes which I planted as seed back in August and which never really produced...well...radishes is still green and perky.  Radish iS one of the crops popular as a cover crop.  Cover crops are planted to hold the soil (prevent erosion) over winter when the ground would usually be bare, and then it can be harvested or planted over and left to rot in spring providing the soil with natural nutrients like compost. All right, it's way more complicated than that but that's the gist. I don't really need erosion control in my tiny raised bed in the middle of town but I'm kind of tickled at the idea that I'm utilizing cover crops.  Hee!

    My unintentional "cover crop"
    Moving indoors, my Meyer Lemon tree is having a blooming bonanza! This is by far the most it has ever bloomed in the three years I have had it (I counted at least 49 blooms or buds!) and I have grand hopes for lots of lemons. The blooms smell heavenly.  To get lemons I will need to hand pollinate as the flowers open.  Unfortunately, I believe it's also infested with scale - lots of sticky honeydew on leaves and branches and it was infested last winter.  Last year, I only discovered the problem right before it went outside so I just let it go but this year I'm going to try and get rid of it with some organic recipes I found online, including some fish emulsion.
    Acting like a pollinator
    Pollen
     



    LIFE

    Tis the season to be reflective.  I'm not sure if it is like this for everyone because for a lot of folks it seems to be the season for running around like headless chickens but for me it's relatively quiet.  I took a few days off from work around the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and it once again reminded me how beneficial taking time like that is, not just for me on a personal health level but in improving my enthusiasm for and productivity at work.  Again I don't know whether it works that way for everyone but for introvert me it's the best medicine I can take - a few days to get my house in order both literally and figuratively.

    One thing I saw recently that really caught my imagination, though I think it is an old story was about the 365grateful project.  if you are unfamiliar the basic idea was that an Australian woman took a picture every day for a year of one thing or experience that she was grateful for that day.  The act of being more mindful and focusing on the positive every day is really something I feel like is sorely missing from my life.  My life is amazing and I am so incredibly fortunate and yet I feel like I waste so much energy being grumpy, stressed, worried and resentful about things.  While in some ways a project like this feels a little self-indulgent and perhaps very "first world problem" oriented, I actually think it may help me to more fully realize how totally blessed my life is and open up some room to be more compassionate towards everyone. So I'm going to contemplate this a little more and then try something at the start of the year or thereabouts. If I had to pick something I am grateful for today my cup would be overflowing.  I am grateful for my Meyer Lemon tree blooming its little heart out and me getting to act as pollinator.  I also am grateful to have discovered that a local friend of mine is a closet artist and a really good one and I got a bunch of Christmas shopping done at a homegrown craft and art show just outside of town. 


    WATCHING, READING and BLOGGING

    Watching 
    I watched the final two Harry Potter movies the last couple nights to wrap up my HP re-read and re-watch and holy buckets are they good and SO emotional.  I was sort of mentally exhausted after watching part two last night.  I crawled into bed at like 9:30,lol. 

    Reading

    Finished Last Week: 

    Currently Reading:

    • Heartless by Gail Carriger:  I'm was listening to this 4th book in the Parasol Protectorate series.  Carriger was having way too much fun with an 8 months pregnant Alexia.   ON HOLD because I was forced to return it to the library. Grr....
    • Into the Wilderness by Sarah Donati:  Historical fiction/romance (different actually then just a historical romance) I had to wait behind 6 other patrons on the hold list to get this from the library despite the fact it was published in 1998.  Not sure why - maybe because it gets compared to Outlander and that's big right now?  Even though I did not like Outlander, I am loving this so far.  Set in the American frontier just pre or post revolution period (somewhere between 1750 and 1800:).
    • Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara:  I've gotten a little farther into this one and am not sure what I think of it.  It's very immersive but not in a good way - in a "what the hell is going on" way.  I'll stick with it for a while and hope it reveals itself.
    • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater:  The third in the Raven Cycle books.

    Added to the TBR:

    This is a list of books that I have added to my Goodreads TBR list this week.  It helps to burn the books I want to read a little more firmly into my mind, maybe get them on some other folks TBRs and gives me a chance to recognize a lot of the awesome bloggers that add stuff to my TBR!

    • The Secret River by Kate Grenville:  A historical fiction novel that takes place in the early days of Australian settlement by the British.  I found this title on The Book Stop.
    • The Viscountess of Vice by Jenny Holiday:  I read the first two books in this Regency Romance series and noticed a third is coming out.  I really liked book one in the series and was a little underwhelmed by book two but I'm willing to give the series another try.
    • Love by the Letter by Melissa Jagears:  From a TTT list on Reading is my Superpower. Romances set in the Western Frontier.  My impression is that it will be a relatively clean romance.
    • The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall:  The start of a Regency era romance series.  From a TTT list on Reading is my Superpower and again I suspect this is Christian Fiction so relatively clean.  Christian fiction is not normally my thing but I have read one or two books and they were fine.  As long as the religious message isn't too overpowering, I'm generally okay with it.
    The next three are all by Debut Authors in 2016 and all came by a TTT list on The Bibliosanctum:
    • The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky:  Pitched that it will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoyed American Gods or Percy Jackson.  I'm so there.
    • Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto: Saloons and six-shooters feature prominently in the description and I can not resist a Weird Western, no way, no how.
    • The Dragon Round by Stephen Powers: Pitched for "fans of Scott Lynch and Naomi Novik",  Sounds good.  Basically there are ships powered by sails and there are dragons - I adore both.

        Blogging 

        On the BLOG LAST WEEK:



        On the BLOG NEXT WEEK:

        I will start with a re-read post on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Sunday, participate in The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday which is the favorite books of the year post, and then hopefully have a review of Magic Slays with a side of Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews.  If inspiration and motivation align I may try to squeeze in another TBD review, but that's probably me just being silly.

        That's it for me this slightly overcast Saturday.  How's things for you?  Are you finding your holidays reflective or hectic or perhaps a little of both?

        I do Captain Jack. I totally do.