Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | The Already Grouchy 2016


I got a bunch gardening books out of the library to jump-start my garden planning a bit.  My weekends seem to be packed with tasks, which has resulted in any thinking about the garden falling by the wayside.  I haven't even put in my seed order yet, or even cracked open a seed catalog.  The situation is getting critical as there are a few plants (like onions) that I should really start in February.

This was a week of gorgeous skies.  The configuration of the clouds and other atmospheric conditions I suppose helped put on a show that was fantastic to catch although I didn't always get great pictures. The world is beautiful, even in winter.

This is the worst pic but hard to capture when traveling 70 mph down the highway. The sky was tangerine

The Narcissus bloomed!


I'm in a pretty wicked reading slump at the moment and perhaps it is a topic for the "Watching, Reading and Blogging" segment, but it is quite tied up with life so it's going here.  I think it is the result of a few things: 1) I'm not reading anything that is really knocking my socks off, 2) I am really stressed and overwhelmed by work currently, and 3) I've stumbled upon a pretty good run of TV shows lately.  It's a disheartening way to begin the reading year.

I think the major factor is work stress.  I have so much on my plate right now that I have to do some work on the weekends and I still feel like I am behind on everything.  This is pretty standard this time of year but it seems particularly bad this year. I thought I was handling it relatively well until I realized that all I want to do when I'm home is lay on the couch and watch The IT Crowd reruns.  I also tend to handle my stress by becoming a grouchy pants and every time I snap at someone for just know...there, I hate myself a little more.  It's partially why I committed to the 365 grateful project; to exercise being a little more mindful and in the moment so that my stress wouldn't just boil over me unawares and turn me into a mega bitch.  It is obviously not working very well at the moment and I need to focus a little bit better.



As I mentioned above, leisure wise, I've been doing more watching than anything else.
  • The X Files:  We got two new episodes of The X Files, which prompted me to watch "live" TV for the first time in forever.  If I'm being honest the episodes, especially the first one, were very disappointing.  Seriously, with a 14 year break you think they might have had some interesting, original ideas but no dice.  I give it a pass though, simply because I love this show and these characters so much.  
  • When Calls The Heart, Season 2:  This is a show on The Hallmark Channel that is so hokie, sickly sentimental and cliched that I am heartily ashamed to admit that I watch it and even more so that despite it all I kind of love it.  I think it is a sign that my heart so yearns for a Anne of Green Gables/Little House on the Prairie type show that I risk severe eye injury from the number of times they get rolled per episode.  The good news is that the CBC has announced that they will be producing a new Anne of Green Gables mini-series to air in 2017 which I am both nervous and excited about.  Excited for obvious reasons, nervous because who will they find to play Anne and Gilbert who will not pale in comparison to Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie?
  • The 100: This show got on my radar screen because of the recent publicity for the start of season 3.  I was getting it mixed up with The 4400, which I had tried to watch and couldn't get into.  When I realized it was different and the premise sounded cool (Dystopia, Human kind living in a space station above a radioactive Earth, in desperation send 100 teenage prisoners down to the ground to see if the atmosphere is still toxic), I started it on netflix and was kind of blown away.  For a CW show aimed at teens, it is pretty dark, doesn't pull it's bunches and features some very complex characters and relationships.  It's so heavy in fact that I had to kind of back off for the moment with work craziness but I'll definitely be diving back in.  It has also made me question whether I am really happy with influence that George R.R. has had on storytelling but that's a topic for a full post, methinks.


Finished Last Week: 

  • The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson #1) by Rick Riordan:  I've been wanting to read this for a long while.  I love Greek mythology and obviously this series is extremely popular.

Currently Reading:

  • 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.
  • A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2) by Soman Chainani: This is a super fun middle-grade series and is one of the series I identified as one I'd like to put in the finished column.  
  • One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein: A gardening book about maximize food production in a small space.  An ARC from Netgalley (though I think it's an older title).   

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!




  • SUNDAY: Review of The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater.
  • TUESDAY: TOP TEN TUESDAY hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. The topic this week is pretty cool - it's all about favorite time periods for books to be set in, whether that be historical or futuristic.  I have lots of feels about this topic!
  • WEDNESDAY: Review of Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare or Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Or maybe something else:0).  
  • THURSDAY: Parent of Virtues - Week 5

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Parent of Virtues - Week 4

Another week.  Things are getting very hectic and overwhelming at work. I find myself being less attentive to the world around me and the moments.  I have to resist posting/picking a photo of one of my sweet dogs every day because every day I am so grateful for their furry snuggles.  Despite all that, I was still able to find something each day that was good and worth recognizing.

January 21, 2016
January 22, 2016
January 23, 2016
January 24, 2016
January 25, 2016
January 26, 2016
January 27, 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY | My Favorite Slow-Burn Couples

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 is a freebie!  I adore a good slow-burn, long developing romance so I thought I would list out some of my favorite couples that took FOREVER to get together:0). It might be surprising that none of the books on the list could be clearly classified as a Romance but it makes sense.  Romances rarely have the leisure to let a love develop or reveal itself in its own sweet time.

One  thing I should note is that this list feels pretty spoilery because a lot of times the best slow-burn romances are so subtle you're not entirely sure of things until the moment of truth so beware, I suppose?


1) Francis Crawford of Lymond and Philippa Somerville | The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

This series...this SERIES.  Six books long and it takes Lymond four of them to realize his feelings for Philippa.  And the moment he does is the most stunning romantic moment I've ever read and it's totally quiet and subtle. Sigh.....
All that he was not. He looked at her. The long, brown hair; the pure skin of youth; the closed brown eyes, their lashes artfully stained; the obstinate chin; the definite nose, its nostrils curled. The lips, lightly tinted, and the corners deepened, even sleeping, with the remembrance of sardonic joy... The soft, severe lips.
And deep within him, missing its accustomed tread, his heart paused, and gave one single stroke, as if on an anvil.
2) Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy | Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

So it's not too slow on Darcy's side but it still takes these two lovebirds a good long while to come together. Perhaps the original slow-burn romance?

3) Harry Dresden and Karrin Murphy | The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

I'm on book 15 and this relationship is still up in the air - talk about slow-burn!  It's only fair to say that I am one of the few readers of this series that is actually in favor of these two getting together.

4) Snow White and Bigby Wolf | The Fables Series by Bill Willingham

In the Fables series, the Big Bad Wolf falls in love with Snow White as soon as he sets eyes on her. From that moment on. he changes into his human form and quietly helps her as she manages Fabletown until she's ready to notice him as a romantic interest.  It's super sweet.

5) Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe | Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery

Who doesn't love a really well done friends to lover story and Gilbert and Anne are one of the best examples of this particular kind of slow-burn romance.

6) Lucy and Nicholas | Drake Chronicles by Alyxandra Harvey

This is probably my favorite YA couple I've encountered in recent times probably because it is another slow burn friends to lovers couple.  It's like Gilbert and Anne, if Gilbert were a hot teenage vampire and Anne was a spunky, sarcastic hippie girl.

7) Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart | Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

This is definitely my favorite Urban Fantasy couple and they take three books to finally get together.  The great thing is they still work as well once they are a couple.  And yes, Curran is a were-lion.

8) Marco and Celia | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I got so completely wrapped up in their story.  They fall into the category of star-crossed lovers. They fall in love quite quickly but can't really be with each other so it feels like a slow burn.

9) Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler | Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

If there's one thing you can say about Scarlett and Rhett it's that they are passionate.  And kind of messed up but SO glorious to read about.  In this couple, Rhett knows what he wants from the very beginning while Scarlett doesn't figure it out until too late.  Sigh.....


I think that's all I can think of for books at the moment.  Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester might have made a good addition but I actually don't love Mr. Rochester. Please don't throw fruit.  I will distract you with a list of some of my favorite slow burn romances from television.

Mulder and Scully | The X Files
Sam and Jack | Stargate SG-1
Buffy and Angel | Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Kaylee and Simon | Firefly  (Mal and Inara are pretty great too but Kaylee was my fave...)
John Crichton and Aeryn Sun | Farscape
Aang and Katara | Avatar The Last Airbender
The Doctor and Rose Tyler | Doctor Who

I'm sure there are many more but those will do for now.  So how about you?  Who's your favorite couple that takes their time getting together?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

REVIEW | The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Publication Year: 1980
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: The Morland Dynasty #1
Awards: NA
Format: Audio (from
Narrator: Christopher Scott

WHY?:  I heard about this series on the Shelf Love blog and it sounded like a brilliantly fantastic idea for a book series; that idea being to follow one family through history starting in the late 1400s and ending in the present day.

SYNOPSIS: Eleanor Courtney, who is of noble blood and secretly in love with Richard Duke of York, is against her will, forced to wed Robert Morland, a wealthy sheep farmer's son.  This marks the beginning of the Morland Family dynasty, as Eleanor's intelligence, ambition and flat-out snobbery push the family to greater and greater respectability and prominence.  The Morland family's story starts at the beginning of the War of the Roses in England when civil war and political unrest were almost a constant in England.  The book ends as Eleanor, still a force to be reckoned with at the age of 70, dies quietly in her bed.

The reading of this book took me forever and involved long hiatuses.  It didn't capture my attention and interest as much as I'd hoped but I did still feel determined to finish it even though I have no qualms about dropping a book I'm not enjoying.  It was one of those reads I struggle to rate because there are things I really liked about it and other things that drove me up a wall.  As I mentioned in two previous posts this week, (Into The Wilderness, Cast in Shadow) this is the third book I've read recently that had me so conflicted and a lot of that had to do with how the characters were written.

Let's start with the positive, shall we?  I do love historical fiction for the unique view it can give you of historic events, usually from the perspective of the "little people".  Harrod-Eagles placement of the Morland family was perfect.  Not too high that their experiences are what we already know from historical texts but high enough that they are involved with and affected by the big events of the day. Not only do we get schooled in the political machinations surrounding the English Monarchy but also the book provides a view of women's life during that period and the politics and vagaries of marriage. Because the character of Eleanor is so strong and her husband rather weak, it is possible to see that, at least for the more well-to-do, women weren't always powerless.  This is mirrored in larger events by the influence the Queens of the time had on events.  The book also touches on commerce at the time since the Morland's are in the clothing business.

I also like the perhaps more historically accurate portrayal of certain very famous historical figures. For example, Richard III is a very different person than the greedy, usurper who stalks the stage in Shakespeare's play not to mention the bloody child-killer that he seems to be when the Princes in the Tower controversy is discussed. The image of Richard that has popularly come down to us is propaganda from the Tudors who took the throne from him, possibly illegally, so they needed to paint him a villain.  Harrod-Eagles portrays him as a sensible and intelligent man who had no ambitions for the crown but reluctantly took it when his brother was killed and it was revealed that the son on the throne was a bastard.  It was nice seeing Richard being treated a bit more kindly.

Despite all that, I still had a lot of trouble getting into the book.  Eleanor is definitely the central character but it does jump around quite a bit in time and among characters.  There were long vignettes with other characters that I would start to get interested in and then... they would die or the book would jump ahead 4-5 years and we'd never get back to that character.  It was hard to get invested, especially since I did not engage with the character of Eleanor who I found arrogant and selfish.  Even though she is the central character she was also not very deeply developed.

Eleanor wasn't the sole reason the book dragged for me however.  The book straddles the line between history text book and historical fiction.  Focusing on a single family to portray the events in England during the War of the Roses should have been an effective tool for making the history more personal. The balance between the factual history bits and the fictional story can be hard to achieve and my personal preference is for the story to be tilted more towards the personal stories and dramas. This book leans a little more heavily in the direction of a more technical recounting of historical events, taking frequent asides to just lay out what is happening when there is a crucial battle or other turning point. At the same time there is not enough of an overview of the historical context so if you are not already familiar with the history of the time period, it's confusing. I am not familiar with English history during this time period so I didn't have that to lean on.  My constant vague confusion about who was doing what, also served as a barrier to engaging with the story.

Listening to the book rather than reading it exacerbated the confusion  - I could have used a chart showing all the characters and their relationships.  There are so many characters both fictional and historical and they all have very similar names, particularly the men (Edward, Richard, Tom, Henry).  If I had been reading I don't know that I would have had a problem but I found the audio hard to follow.

There are also a number of other things, added to the above, that ended up creating a good bit of distance from the narrative.  The book's internal narration is 3rd person omniscient which keeps things very impersonal. The characters, because there are a lot of them, are not developed very deeply, not even Eleanor.  I didn't care about any of them.  Finally,the narration. I don't think the narrator is bad per se but I found him irritating, particularly how he read the women.

This book was a bit of a struggle but despite that I am somewhat interested to continue with the series.  I am much more familiar with the history of Tudor England so I'd like to see where she goes with the family during that time period.  This was a very early book for the author as well so maybe the writing style and character development improves?  If you've read this series, let me know what you think!

FINAL VERDICT: This book is the start of a Historical Fiction series with an interesting premise that doesn't quite work as executed.  I wanted a more personal narrative and characters to get into and this didn't quite provide that.  3 out of 5 Stars.

Other Opinions Are Available: Burton Book Review | Starting Fresh

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | I Want to Believe


The last couple weeks Winter kind of woke up and remembered he had a job to do:).  It's been cold, and we've gotten a little snow here and there.  So.  Normal. And it's been enough for me to focus on my indoor plants.
My Narcissus bulb is growing well and is on the verge of blooming after maybe 3 weeks in water? It's roots look like worms or little tentacles reaching out into the water - It's cool to have the underground perspective.
My Meyer lemon plant has contracted a case of scale and has needed some doctoring.  I wanted to do something natural and saw that Fish Emulsion is often recommended as a foliar spray.  Hoo boy, is it stinky but lets hope it helps.  It looks like I also need to wipe the leave with alcohol.  I hope it works because the scale is nasty and I want lemons!!


A short week but an overwhelming one at work.  January -April tend to be my busiest months of the year and it seems like no matter how organized, focused and productive I am, there is just too much to do in a 40 hour week.  Do you ever feel like this?  Do you take your work home with you?  I get all in a muddle about it because I'm more productive when I take a break.  It ends up being a kind of stressed if I do, stressed if I don't sort of situation. Blergh.



I finished the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which had a whopper of an ending. WOW.  So now I get to wait a few months for season 3 to get to Netflix. Schm!*rgh#%.

Good news is that I jumped right into iZombie which is Rob Thomas' (creator of Veronica Mars) new show.  It is utterly delightful and awesome as I would expect anything to come out of Rob Thomas' head to be.  Okay technically it is based on a comic created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred so I can't give all the credit to Rob Thomas.

Finally, have you heard?!?  We're getting new episodes of The X-Files this Sunday!!!!  I am super excited about this, obviously, but am in a quandary because I don't normally watch "live" TV, mostly because I don't have cable and I get terrible reception.  I think Fox may be one of the channels I get pretty well though so I think I'm going have to try.  Because Scully! Mulder! Nonsensical alien plots! Trust No One!  Meep!


Finished Last Week: 

Currently Reading:

  • 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.
  • The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson #1) by Rick Riordan:  I've been wanting to read this for a long while.  I love Greek mythology and obviously this series is extremely popular.
  • A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2) by Soman Chainani: This is a super fun middle-grade series and is one of the series I identified as one I'd like to put in the finished column.  

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!




  • SUNDAY: Review of The Founding by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. 
  • TUESDAY: TOP TEN TUESDAY hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. It's a freebie week so I think I am going to talk about some of my favorite slow-burn couples. 
  • WEDNESDAY: Review of The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater.
  • THURSDAY: Parent of Virtues - Week 4
Have a great week and remember, The Truth Is Out There!

Friday, January 22, 2016

REVIEW | Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
Publication Year: 2005
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Chronicles of Elantra #1
Awards: NA
Format: Audio (from
Narrator: Christine Hvam

WHY?:  I accidentally bought book 8 (Cast in Peril) in this series when it was on sale and I am a stickler about reading things in order so back to book one I go.

SYNOPSIS: Kaylin is an orphan who grew up on the mean streets of Elantra until a horrible event caused her to flee and be taken in by the Hawks.  The Hawks, are actually that - humanoid hawks, and they keep the peace in Elantra. They train Kaylin to serve on the force and are also protecting her from a terrible truth about herself.  When serial murders, very similar to those which drove her from her life on the streets in the first place, begin to happen again, Kaylin is determined to stop them this time. The only problem is she will have to accept a friend from her past and a dragon as her unwelcome partners.  Through the investigation, she will begin to find out who she really is, DUN dun DUN!

As you can see by my synopsis devolving into smart assery there at the end, the overall arc of this book and the character of Kaylin are not terribly original.  In fact, as I was writing the synopsis I realized that Skye from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which I have been watching lately is the exact same archetype.  Thankfully the book distracts from the predictable character arc by creating a rather unique world and mythology.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my review of Into the Wilderness this is one of the books that I really struggled with recently.  It had a ton of potential and many things I liked but it had an equal number of issues that made me a little crazy.

To start with, it took me a while to get into the book.  Sagara goes for the "throw-the-reader-in-the-middle-of-things-with-no-explanation" technique and it takes a LONG time to pay off.  I can say with confidence that if I hadn't paid for the book or been listening to it, I would have DNFed it.  There are so many names and places and gibberish words and I had no idea what any of it meant or how it fit into a whole.  It does come together to reveal a unique and interesting setting and I did eventually get sucked into the story.  However, patience was definitely a virtue that was required.

Once I had muddled my way through and things finally started to click, it became clear that this is a mystery and has the flavor of an Urban Fantasy though set in a completely different universe than our own.  I'm not sure I could even tell you what or who in the end was committing the murders but the heroine was in the center of it and the show down at the end was exciting.  Getting more back story on Kaylin and her childhood companion Severn, helped me be more engaged, and the upshot of that backstory wasn't what I expected.  Nice to find a book that keeps you guessing!  Problem is?  It made me hate Kaylin just a little more.

Because that was the second real issue I had with the book - Kaylin.  She pushed so many of my rage-inducing buttons.  She's a special snowflake. She's a rebel without a cause, bucking society norms just 'cuz.  She's always late.  She's judgmental, easy to anger, abrasive and sees the world in black and white.  And everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY adores her.  They all would give their lives to protect her.  And it's that which bugs.  Not the flaws, but that nobody seems to notice or care about them.  I like that she's flawed, even if some of those flaws are traits that really bug me personally in a character, but flawed people, people with strong personalities - are not universally loved people. So this smacks of an author who is blind to her character's reality who developed her character and how people react to her in isolation. Yes I know, "BUT she cares for the orphans, Stephanie." Well good for her, I'm glad that under her layers of false bravado and quick temper she has a heart, but even folks with good intentions are not universally loved if their outward personality is repellent or particularly strong.  I'd like to know which world I could go to and be completely disrespectful to all and sundry and everybody just think me a peach.   The trauma she has as a child should have made it impossible for her to make friends or trust anyone, or at least that would have been more interesting, but she's got plenty of friends and a completely normal social life.  I think I was supposed to sympathise with her but why?  Her life is pretty great especially considering where she started.  So yeah.   I would have found her much more interesting if she had been written with a tad more attention to reality.

The thing is that even though I've spent much of this review pointing out what was the wrong with the book, I feel drawn to picking up the next book in the series.  The world of the story was super interesting and I liked the element of mystery and police drama in a fantastical setting.  I liked a number of the secondary characters and would like to find out more about the other races that make up society.  Maybe Kaylin gets better as the series goes along?  We'll see. I'm on the fence.

FINAL VERDICT:  It took a while to get into and the protagonist pushed all my buttons but I am intrigued enough by the story structure and world created that I may continue on with the series.  3 out of 5 stars.

Other Opinions are Available: Jule's Book Reviews | The Geek Girl Project

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

REVIEW | Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
Publication Year: 1998
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Series: Wilderness #1
Awards: NA
Format: eBook (from Library)
Narrator: NA

WHY?:  I forget exactly where I saw this book recommended but I was so excited about it, I immediately put it on hold at the library.  Even though it was published 18 years ago I had to wait for months to get it.  I speculate that it's current popularity is related to it being compared to Outlander, which is having a very hot moment indeed.

SYNOPSIS:  Elizabeth Middleton travels from England to join her father in a small town he founded in upstate New York, circa 1790. She is 29 years old, a spinster and her dream is to start a school in the town.  Her plans quickly become much more complicated when she makes the acquaintance of Nathaniel Bonner, a widower and self-sufficient homesteader who lives a life somewhere between the world of the European Settlers and the native peoples of the area.  She feels drawn to him and when she gives into temptation it sets her on an adventure through the American wilderness.

This book took me forever to read.  It weighs in at 878 pages so it is an official chunkster but it should not have taken the month and a half that I ended up needing to get through it.  Part of the reason it went slowly was a quirk of mine that has popped up in a few books lately and that makes it hard for me to decide whether I liked the book or not.  The problem lies primarily with the female protagonist because I am decidedly choosy about female characters.  Whether this choosiness is from some anti-feminist bias that I have internalized unconsciously or whether I just demand, what I deem to be, realistic portrayals of female characters, I don't know, and is probably fodder for another post.  The bottom line is that I don't connect with the main female character and this fact ends up casting a pall over what is otherwise a pretty fantastic book.  I have run into this in two other books lately (Cast in Shadow, and The Founding) and I aim to review both of them this week too.

However, I need to back up and say a little more about Into the Wilderness.  This book and its series frequently gets compared to the Outlander series and even features a cameo from the two main characters from Outlander.  There are other similarities as well and I think if you are a fan of that series, Into the Wilderness is worth checking out.  It's historical fiction, heavy on the romance but it can't really be called a historical romance.  The plot and setting are too much front and center to put it into the romance genre.

The historical details and ambiance were the biggest strengths of the book for me.  Donati is able to relate a wealth of information about the time period and the culture of the time without it ever feeling like she is imparting the information. If you are history buff with an eye for accurate details, it may not stand up but if you are just interested in feeling a historical setting you should be pleased by Into the Wilderness.  Nathaniel and his father, though they are of European descent, have close ties to the native peoples in the area and this gives Donati the ability to present the world through the lens of both.  It all feels very authentic and easy to sink into.  As a Wildlife Biologist, I particularly enjoyed that the book touched on the hunting of game, even introducing the seeds that would give birth to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. [ASIDE: In simple terms the European model is that the landowner owns all the game on his land and sole hunting rights vs. the North American Model where the hunter owns the game (as long as he isn't trespassing etc...) - i.e. the game is not "owned" but belongs equally to all who wish to pursue.  The seven tenets of the NA Model are called the seven sisters and they are quite shockingly socialist and beautiful...and also the cause of a lot of debate.]

The story is epic and full of complications and adventure.  It's a soap opera but without all the negative connotations that description might bring.  It's emotional, suspenseful, exciting and romantic.  When I sat down to read, I would easily get sucked in and it kept me up past my bed time a couple nights.   If you have any interest in this time period, in stories that take place in the wilderness or on a frontier, I think you will really enjoy this book.

So why am I only giving the book 3 out of 5 stars?  I think because of those quirky personal preferences I mention above and which I will try to describe clearly below so that if they are things that bother you too, you can be at least prepared.  I think it's important to point out, to offset what may turn out to be a bit of a rant below, that even with the mediocre rating and my issues, I am very interested in continuing on in the series and reading other books by Sara Donati.

A lot of my issues center around the character of Elizabeth.  She and Nathaniel are the perspective characters for much of the book but she is much more its main character.  On the surface she is a great female role model character - independent, strong willed, tough, brave, feminine and smart. And she ended up annoying the crud out of me.

Some of the irritation surrounds the romance.  I generally enjoyed Nathaniel and Elizabeth as a pair and I liked them together but their "courtship" feels a lot like insta-love. They spend perhaps 12 hours total in each others company before she chucks everything, betrays her family and they run off together.  So much for the independent spinster.  I am inordinately fond of a slow-burn romance and hate when things happen so fast.  I would have much preferred if she had resisted the attraction a little longer out of loyalty to her independence and perhaps a little emotional fear. Or perhaps you keep the quick marriage but make it one of mutual benefit and not emotion and have the love develop after?  This would have allowed the plot to follow the same path since the quick marriage is key to the plot. As it was, I couldn't help getting a little gleeful with every conflict the two have after they are married usually because Elizabeth realizes she doesn't really know Nathaniel or anything about him.

I also had a hard time not seeing Elizabeth as selfish and disloyal when she screws over her father to run off with Nathaniel.  Sure her Dad kind of deserves it but his main failing is that he is weak-willed, ineffectual and a product of his time; he is not evil or cruel so it doesn't quite sit right and doesn't reflect well on her that she just turns her back on him for a man she's known for only a few weeks.  Honestly I would've been more engaged by her if she had been a little more outwardly and admittedly selfish which she could have later regretted and tried to fix, but in fact she's pretty self-righteous about it all and the story backs her up. Blergh.

In the end, I just didn't believe in Elizabeth and thought Donati made her a little too extraordinary.  She's super smart and well educated, she adjusts to hard hiking in the wilderness in the span of 3 days even though up to this point she has been a pampered English miss, she's a perfect judge of character who always knows just the right thing to say.  She defies Nathaniel when she should and it only makes him love her more.  As does everybody who is good in the book.  They all adore her.  It's not fair to call her a Mary Sue as she is too fleshed out but she is definitely just a little too unbelievably talented at and right-minded about everything.  So of course I found her boring at best and annoying at worst.  She was not relatable.  To be fair, Nathaniel also is a bit too unbelievably wonderful.  I would have liked and been interested in them more if they had some real and believable weaknesses and more interesting personalities.

FINAL VERDICT:  A fantastic historical setting and wilderness adventure story that I would have liked better with more interesting characters.  3 out of 5 stars.

Other Opinions are Available: Susie's Blog | Outlandish Observations

A couple of additional random notes:
  • I frequently found myself thinking that Nathaniel reminded me of Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans.  In fact, his father "Hawkeye" is meant to be the older Daniel Day Lewis character from the movie, making this professional movie fan fic:).
  • How do I think this compared to Outlander?  I have tried getting through the first book in that series twice and have abandoned the book twice halfway.  So, for me, this book was superior:). 

Monday, January 18, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY | My Newest Bookish Acquisitions

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.

I'm going a little off script this week. The actual TTT topic is...
Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR (inspired by Jamie's New To The Queue posts)
I already list books I've added to my TBR as part of my Saturday posts so I thought I would mix it up a little and list the ten most recent books I've acquired.  Here goes....

1) The Snow Child BY Eowyn Ivey 

2) The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Gamache #5) BY Louise Penny

3) Wicca BY Scott Cunningham

4) Rebel Buddha BY Dzogchen Ponlop 

5) Empire of the Summer Moon BY S.C. Gwynn

6) The Watchmaker of Filigree Street BY Natasha Pulley

7) The Fold BY Peter Clines

8) Earthrise BY M.C.A. Hogarth

9) A Quiet Life in the Country BY T.E. Kinsey

10) Zodiac Station BY Tom Harper


Most of these were from, some of which were part of their New Year's self improvement sale:0).   Do you have any new acquisitions that you are particularly excited about?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saturday in the Garden | Reading Log Jam


It's a three day weekend, because of a federal holiday on Monday, and I think I'm going to take advantage of the extra down time to start my garden planning.   Seed Savers is currently having a bit of a sale so it would be a good time to order seeds etc... I also have a copy of One Magic Square to dig into and a little indoor gardening to do.  There's my weekend happily sorted:0).  Plus, the high temperature tomorrow is supposed to be -3 Fahrenheit so I don't plan on spending much if any time outdoors.


As I've mentioned a couple times, I am going to try to keep up with a 365 grateful project this year.   The idea is to be more mindful and record at least one thing each day that brought you joy in some way, that made you feel gratitude. I wanted to do this because while my higher mind recognizes how truly fortunate I am with the life I have been given, my more emotional brain doesn't always appreciate this.  I also want to train myself to be less absent, floating through my days in the haze of the to do list. I've posted my first and second week thus far and am really enjoying the process.  There has definitely been a day or two when I have not paid enough attention to the world around me but on those days the project has forced me to reflect in the evening on the good stuff that happened during the day.   Overall, I am really pleased with the first couple weeks and hope I have the will to keep it up all year.  My favorite thus far:



I have continued watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and am a smidge over halfway through season 2. I really got into the second half of season 1 and have been less engaged with season 2 though the show is doing some interesting things. I hate Skye a little less but still prefer the other female characters on the show; May, Simmons and now Bobbi.  The male cast is a little less charismatic for me - none of them are that interesting.  Anyway, if you like this sort of thing - superhero adjacent, international spy law enforcement show - it is worth picking up.  I am not a big Marvel fan girl and I certainly miss some of the connections the show has to the bigger Marvel universe but it hasn't really impacted my watching enjoyment.

I finally finished Into the Wilderness, which has been acting a bit like a log jam to my reading.  I felt like I couldn't move on until I had completed the darn thing, so I hope, now that it is done, I will be able to read more. *fingers crossed*

Finished Last Week: 

  • Into the Wilderness by Sarah Donati:  I am finally done with this book!  It took me FORever to read.  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?   Set in the American frontier circa 1790.

Currently Reading:

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!



And at first sight.  R.I.P. Colonel Brandon.

Friday, January 15, 2016

REVIEW | Still Life by Louise Penny
Still Life by Louise Penny
Publication Year: 2007
Genre: Mystery
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1
Awards: NA
Format: Hardback from Library
Narrator: NA

WHY?:  Introduced to me by a good friend when exchanging mystery recommendations.

SYNOPSIS: The quaint Canadian town of Three Pines is rocked when one of its most well-loved and seemingly innocuous citizens is found dead in the woods, shot with an arrow.  Was it a hunting accident or something more sinister? Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec brings his team to the sleepy town to find out.  He immediately spots that it is a special place but he also suspects it is hiding some secrets that may have led to murder.

I think it's in our DNA that we all long and are looking for community; a tribe we can bond with, which has our backs when things are rough, and accepts us for who we are.  Still Life is "just" a mystery, first in a series in fact, but Louise Penny does such a brilliant job capturing this idea and she writes a community that I for one would jump at the chance to be a part of.  The town itself is tucked into a beautiful slice of nature and is made up of quaint cottages with well tended but slightly messy gardens.  Among the residents are the brilliant but "starving" artist couple, the former big city therapist who fled to run an overflowing cozy bookstore with a fireplace, the middle aged son of the deceased matriarch of the town who doesn't have to do anything but be good-natured, the gay couple who runs the B&B and a gourmet restaurant/French bakery and the spinster lady who is everyone's best friend and a secret artist. For sure, the characters are all a bit stereotypical but Louise Penny does a good job of giving most of them an inner life and complexity so they don't feel too pastiche.

Of course this is a murder mystery so Penny sets out to undermine and surprise the community; show it for the human constructed thing it is.  Thankfully because Chief Inspector Gamache in charge, with his calm and rather zen-like confidence and compassion, the community emerges relatively unscathed if not stronger.  Gamache is a a fantastic lead detective and I immediately liked him.  He's smart and observant and his life is pretty well in order, unlike many of the police detectives that show up in mysteries today.  He's a great perspective character but one of the strengths of the book was that the perspective is handed off to some of the other citizens of the town which gives the whole story, and the characters, depth.  I found the characters as a rule fantastic and interesting with a couple of exceptions where Penny seemed to go a little overboard; for example a newbie police woman who was so socially illiterate it was a little unbelievable.  Not that people like her don't exist but that she somehow got through her training to be a police officer and got assigned to what has to be a coveted post.

The tone of the book was difficult to categorize.  It borders on the cozy and has an easy, clever humor throughout.  There is also the fact that many of the characters, at least in outline, fit the quirky villagers trope that is often found in a cozy.  I think a cozy mystery lover would, in fact, like this book but it takes it up a notch by giving its characters and the community a deeper feel of reality, however idyllic, that a cozy lacks.  It was an unusual and well written atmosphere and I really loved it.

It wasn't all perfect of course.  I guessed the murderer very early on and the reveal and motive is a little underwhelming. Also, I kept getting a little distracted by the police's dithering about whether it was an accident or a murder when, DUH!, you're in a murder mystery so of COURSE it was murder :0).  I realize that allowing that to distract me is more my problem than the book's but there you have it.   In some ways, the book was less about the mystery and more about the lives of these people and community and I was totally down with that.

FINAL VERDICT: A well crafted and highly enjoyable exploration of community and oh yeah there's quite a fun murder investigation thrown into the mix! Great characters and a unique voice in the mystery genre. 4 out of 5 Stars.

Other Opinions are Available:  The Book Stop |  Stainless Steel Droppings