A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie BrennanA Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1
Published by Tor Books on February 5th 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 334
Source: Purchased: ebook
Goodreads

Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.

As part of my Once Upon A Time springtime festival, I decided to finish the Lady Trent series. This has been a favorite series of mine, although I fell behind after the second book. The fifth and final book in the series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, will be released on April 25, which gives me the opportunity to basically read the series right through in the next month.

I started Once Upon A Time by rereading the first book and reacquainting myself with Isabella. A Natural History of Dragons covers Isabella’s childhood and her early obsession with dragons. It is told in retrospect, by Lady Trent as an elderly woman looking back over her life – this one represents the first in her series of memoirs. By the time she is writing this book, she is a grande dame of society, no longer subject to its strictures by dint of her accomplishments.

Brennan does a fine job establishing Isabella’s character as a child who is deeply attracted to biology, to dissection, to “natural history,” which is really the Victorian name for “biology” at a time when society frowned upon girls being interested in intellectual pursuits. While she has constructed an entirely fantasy world, it is firmly based in the history of this one, with Scirling as a stand-in for Britain, with all of the shibboleths of Victorian culture.

One of the complaints that I read in other reviews of this series was that it was slow-moving, and that there weren’t enough dragons. I understand that criticism. If the reader is looking for a series like Eragon, or even Temeraire, where there is dragon/human interaction and overt magical intrusion, this is not that series. Essentially, Brennan has taken a character like Freya Stark or Isabella Bird and transplanted her into a world where dragons are real. This book shares much more with Charles Darwin than it does with Harry Potter.

This first book in the series also describes Isabella’s first adventure to Vystrana, which is Eastern European in custom and description – a place like Hungary or the Czech Republic. Isabella is really hitting her stride during this expedition and maintains her adherence to many of the upper class customs and niceties of Scirling. She is under the protection of her husband, Jacob, and they are newly married, their explorations thus being both draconic and connubial. Isabella is not an easy wife, and Jacob is uneasy in his decisions. As was the case during that era, Isabella went directly from the protection of her father to the protection of her husband, and her unwillingness to be so limited is evident in both of those relationships.

I don’t want to spoiler too much, so I’m not going to say more in this review. Once I get to book 2, the major spoiler of this book will be revealed, but for now, I will leave it at this. This was a 4-star read for me.

Once Upon A Time: A Springtime Reading Festival

For many years, one of my favorite bloggers held a spring-time festival of all things fantasy, folklore, fairy tale and myth. He called it the Once Upon A Time Challenge, and it generally lasted between the first day of spring (the vernal equinox, which is today) and the first day of summer (summer solstice, June 20). Unfortunately, it seems to have gone by the wayside, since I went looking for it today and was unable to find any sign that it’s coming back in 2017! He also had some of the most wonderful images, which I am recycling for this post!

This is a major bummer for me. As fall, to me, is all about gothic literature, supernatural, terror, and crime, spring, to me, has developed into an opportunity to dive into epic fantasy and fairy tales. In spite of the fact that Once Upon A Time has been consigned, apparently, to the past, I’m going to move forward with the quest.

The Way of Kings/Words of Radiance: I’ve been holding off on starting Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive because I know that Sanderson is planning somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 more books, and therefore it will be frustrating, and I will likely shuffle off this mortal coil before he finishes. Nonetheless, the third book is planned for release in November, so I’m going to read the first two books for this project.

Lady Trent: I’m a huge fan of Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series, which is all about combining intrepid Victorian lady explorers in skirts with dragons!. I’ve read the first two books, and the fifth and final book is going to be released on 4/25. I’m going to reread the two first books, and then continue on with the final three to complete this series!

Series Rewatch TBD: I’m vacillating here between Grimm and Once Upon A Time. I’ve watched more of Grimm than OUAT, but I’m way behind on both. I’ll advise once the decision is made. Suggestions are welcome.

Multimedia: I’ve been planning on re-reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell for a while, and while I am at it, I wouldn’t object to watching the companion series.

American Gods: I’ve owned this book for years, and haven’t ever gotten around to reading it. The series begins in April on Starz, and it looks amazing. I need to read this book, and I need to read it soon!

There will be more than this – fairy tales and folklore and fantasy will abound!

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha ChristieThe Secret of Chimneys (Superintendent Battle, #1) by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. on January 1st 1970
Pages: 400
Goodreads

A bit of adventure and quick cash is all that good-natured drifter Anthony Cade is looking for when he accepts a messenger job from an old friend. It sounds so simple: deliver the provocative memoirs of a recently deceased European count to a London publisher. But the parcel holds more than scandalous royal secrets. It contains a stash of letters that suggest blackmail -- and lead to the murder of a stranger who's been shadowing Anthony's every move. Discovering the dead man's identity means retracing his steps -- to the rambling estate of Chimneys where darker secrets, and deadlier threats, await anyone who dares to enter.

You’ve already had the chance to read Obsidian’s thoughts on this Agatha Christie mystery. As she was reading, it was pretty clear to me that she wasn’t loving it, which caused me to try to reach back into my past to the first time I read this book.

Because this is one of my favorite Agatha Christie non-Poirot books, but I don’t think it was the first time I read it. What I like about it is its simplicity, which sounds really strange because the plot itself is quite convoluted. But the premise is simple: mysteriously attractive young man meets bright attractive young woman at beautiful country home, mayhem, murder, hijinks and romance ensue. The rest of it, to me, is just gravy. It is a first class romp, madcap and occasionally harebrained. It’s a grown up Nancy Drew mystery, with Virginia as Nancy and Anthony as Ned Nickerson, wandering about Chimneys in the dark with torches, running into umbrella stands and finding corpses.

I can’t take it seriously, but I can seriously enjoy it. I understand why it isn’t for everyone. Obsidian did such a good with the plot summary and analysis that I’m not going to bother with it myself. My review is about how this book makes me feel. Nothing she said is inaccurate – it is convoluted, obscure, occasionally silly, and the characters behave like ninnies from time to time. Inspector Battle is wonderful, but OB’s dig about his “twinkle” is well deserved.

It took me more than one reading for it to worm its way into my affections, and at this point it is a comfort read of the highest order.

The Secret of Chimneys (Superintendent Battle #1) by Agatha Christie

The Secret of Chimneys (Superintendent Battle #1) by Agatha ChristieThe Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
Published by HarperCollins on June 1925
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 273
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
three-stars

A bit of adventure and quick cash is all that good-natured drifter Anthony Cade is looking for when he accepts a messenger job from an old friend. It sounds so simple: deliver the provocative memoirs of a recently deceased European count to a London publisher. But the parcel holds more than scandalous royal secrets. It contains a stash of letters that suggest blackmail -- and lead to the murder of a stranger who's been shadowing Anthony's every move. Discovering the dead man's identity means retracing his steps -- to the rambling estate of Chimneys where darker secrets, and deadlier threats, await anyone who dares to enter.

I can honestly say that I will probably never re-read this book in the future. It was honestly a trial to get through. The first 50 or so pages made no sense and then things get a bit smoother when Superintendent Battle arrives on the scene. But honestly, he is not even needed in this story since once again another person solves the crimes that are central to this story. I found the ending to be ridiculous and pretty implausible.

The central figure in this story is Anthony Cade. When the book begins he runs into his friend James McGrath and agrees to take on two jobs for him. He is to deliver a memoir from the late King of Herzoslovakia (I never want to read that name again). I was honestly baffled why anyone cared about these memoirs, but apparently they are very important. Anthony is also supposed to return some letters to a woman who wrote them.

Now besides Anthony, we also get several other characters we need to become familiar with. George Lomax who is a British politician, Lord Caterham, who lives at Chimneys,  Virginia Revel, she stays at Chimneys and is related to George, Bill Eversleigh who works for George and also seems to be flirting or something with Virginia and various other people along with Inspector Battle. I can usually keep people straight, but I had a hard time int his book.

I didn’t understand the character of Anthony or Virginia really. Virginia gets blackmailed, realizes the blackmailer made a mistake, but likes the sensation of it so much she decides to not tell him she’s not the woman he’s looking for. Anthony comes across Virginia and moments later is helping her deal with a dead body she finds in her home with no questions asked. I mean there were ludicrous moments dancing through this book, but those two are at the top of my list.

There are other characters in this one, but they are so underdeveloped I just don’t want to get into them at all.

I will say that Battle wasn’t needed in this book. He didn’t do anything and solved nothing.

I really didn’t care for the writing in this one either. Pretty much what I got from it was that Christie thought that all countries should be ruled since people without having a strong ruler would not be better than what they are. Also the racism that was prevalent at the time pops up in the book too. When a character announces he got married, another character freaks out that he may have married a black woman in Africa. And the man who gets married remarks:

“Come, come, it’s not so bad as all that, said (redacted) laughing.

She’s white enough–white all through, bless her.”

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The flow was pretty awful until Battle shows up I thought. Once he arrived, the plot flowed a lot better. But honestly I am still surprised Christie even had Battle in this one. He was not necessary to anything. Anthony keeps going on about how smart Battle is and how afraid of him he was, but really? I didn’t get much from Battle besides how his eyes twinkled. Seriously be prepared to read that a lot, Christie loves that word.

The ending was so random and I actually just shook my head. I was shocked at the surprise marriage between two people who literally just met. And then a random reveal of identities and I was wishing for a Poirot novel before the end.

three-stars

The Burning Wire (Lincoln Rhyme # 9) by Jeffrey Deaver

The Burning Wire (Lincoln Rhyme # 9) by Jeffrey DeaverThe Burning Wire by Jeffrey Deaver
Published by Simon & Schuster on January 1, 2010
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 414
Source: Borrowed: print book
Goodreads
five-stars

Lincoln Rhyme is back, on the trail of a killer whose weapon of choice cripples New York City with fear.

The weapon is invisible and omnipresent. Without it, modern society grinds to a halt. It is electricity. The killer harnesses and steers huge arc flashes with voltage so high and heat so searing that steel melts and his victims are set afire.

When the first explosion occurs in broad daylight, reducing a city bus to a pile of molten, shrapnel-riddled metal, officials fear terrorism. Rhyme, a world-class forensic criminologist known for his successful apprehension of the most devious criminals, is immediately tapped for the investigation. Long a quadriplegic, he assembles NYPD detective Amelia Sachs and officer Ron Pulaski as his eyes, ears and legs on crime sites, and FBI agent Fred Dellray as his undercover man on the street. As the attacks continue across the city at a sickening pace, and terrifying demand letters begin appearing, the team works desperately against time and with maddeningly little forensic evidence to try to find the killer. Or is it killers...?

Meanwhile, Rhyme is consulting on another high-profile investigation in Mexico with a most coveted quarry in his crosshairs: the hired killer known as the Watchmaker, one of the few criminals to have eluded Rhyme's net.

Juggling two massive investigations against a cruel ticking clock takes a toll on Rhyme's health. Soon Rhyme is fighting on yet another front - and his determination to work despite his physical limitations threatens to drive away his closest allies when he needs them most...

Thank goodness “The Burning Wire” rebounded from a lackluster 8th book (The Broken Window). This one is also not as long as previous reads so that was much appreciated. In this 8th book, Rhyme and Sachs get called in when a mysterious figure is set on attacking the people of New York with electricity. No this isn’t Shocker. But honestly, you start thinking of this book that way when you get the POV of the man who is set on killing people due to his obsession with electricity.

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We begin with Rhyme being bored since he has no cases to work on at the moment. Since the last book when we went into Rhyme doing more rehab, he had gained a little bit of movement, but that is it. Rhyme is still focused on catching his nemesis, The Watchmaker (see Cold Moon) so we do get updates about that character via another character this series introduced, Kathryn Dance (also see Cold Moon). When a bus nearby is damaged due to an explosion because of burning wire connected to a plant nearby, Rhyme and Sachs are called in to assist. Due to the NYPD and FBI being afraid of a missed terrorist connection, the clock is ticking for Rhyme and his usual companions to track down the person or persons responsible.
I can honestly say this is the most I liked Rhyme since around the first book. We get his vulnerability when he has a medical setback and also the book does a nice callback to how suicidal Rhyme used to be in The Bone Collector (Lincoln Rhyme #1). Rhyme knows that being able to still work cases and also his relationship with Amelia Sachs is what brought him back to the other side. Rhyme’s encyclopedia knowledge of most things science does not extend much to electricity, so we have to get more information about that via the bad guy’s POV and also what characters tell Sachs.

Sachs besides her POV working the scene here and there we don’t get much time with. I am not complaining though. I think the last book with her and the nonsense with Pammy was a bit too much for me. I do wish we had seen Sachs interact with her mother more though. She’s always this faceless character to me and that’s about it.

We also go to Ron Pulaski’s POV in this one. And either Deaver needs to toughen this character up, or just devote more of the POV to Sachs. I feel like Pulaski has not changed one iota since he was first introduced. I also find it odd that Rhyme’s dream is one day that Sachs and Pulaski run the Crime Scene department or whatever it was referred to in this book. I wonder if Sachs and Pulaski even know about his dream or would agree with it. There was an interesting development regarding Pulaski in this one that I would have been more favorable to if Deaver wasn’t so interested in resolving it by the end of the book. It could have been nice to follow up with it in the next book.

We also get Fred Dellray’s POV which I liked a lot. We get to see him struggling with the changing nature of the FBI and what place if any he has in it anymore.

We also get the bad guy’s POV and his obsession with electricity though seems at odds with his mission in this book. I won’t get into it in the review otherwise I will have spoiled what I considered a great reveal.

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I thought it was interesting in this one that we get a sense of the characters moving on with their lives between books which is nice. We get a reference to Rhyme and Sachs visiting Rhyme’s cousin Arthur (see The Broken Window) who I still don’t care for much. But also we get references to Sachs getting a new car and working on it with her pseudo niece Pammy. We get references to one of the characters still doing his ballroom dancing and everyone else asking about it.

The flow of the book works in this one though once again I have to say the little bits we get about the Watchmaker messes with things. I get why Deaver did that when I got towards the end, but I started to get tired of Dance and Rhyme talking via phone while Rhyme was trying to work the case in New York and another one elsewhere.

The book ends on a good note. Deaver tries to set up another twist but I wasn’t fooled by it for a second. I guess if I was reading this book when it first came out, I would have been worried, but since I know other books follow this one I just went eh interesting.

five-stars

The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1) by Nora Roberts

The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy #1) by Nora RobertsThe Next Always by Nora Roberts
Published by Berkley on November 1, 2011
Genres: Romance
Pages: 353
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
dnf

The historic hotel in Boonsboro has endured war and peace, changing hands, even rumored hauntings. Now it’s getting a major facelift from the Montgomery brothers and their eccentric mother. Beckett is the architect of the family, and his social life consists mostly of talking shop over pizza and beer. But there’s another project he’s got his eye on: the girl he’s been waiting to kiss since he was fifteen.

After losing her husband and returning to her hometown, Clare Brewster soon settles into her life as the mother of three young sons while running the town’s bookstore. Busy, with little time for romance, Clare is drawn across the street by Beckett’s transformation of the old inn, wanting to take a closer look . . . at the building and the man behind it.

With the grand opening inching closer, Beckett’s happy to give Clare a private tour - one room at a time. It’s no first date, but these stolen moments are the beginning of something new - and open the door to the extraordinary adventure of what comes next . . .

I would feel bad about this if I wasn’t prepared for this exact outcome. I was initially going to read this trilogy along with a friend who bought all three books. She’s also the friend who always prods me to keep reading the In Death series that Roberts writes under JD Robb as well. I was worried this book would not work for me (it didn’t) but since I do love reading HGTV Magazine and other magazines dealing with decorating I didn’t think it would be too bad. I was wrong.

I had to stop reading at the 20 percent point when I realized that the majority of this book was just a plug for real life businesses that Roberts own. She owns an inn at Boonsboro and it also sounds like the pizza place and bookstore are also owned by her as well. Which just makes the book a weird brochure to stay at this inn and go to this town to eat at this place and also buy books there. I honestly think this could have worked if Roberts had included pictures of the inn and the pizza shop and bookstore in this book. Or did something like have a character designing a website and talking about setting it up for the inn and then readers could click on it and it would take you to the site. I did like the first page which showed a diagram of the town and the locations of the other places (pizza shop and book store) so I think something like that could have made the book more fun. I guess I am just used to looking at graphic novels and comics on my Kindle Fire now that I am in love with anything that has illustrations these days.

The hero and heroine in this one (Beckett Montgomery and Clare Brewster) were dull as dishwasher. I don’t even know why Beckett was attracted to Clare since there didn’t seem to be anything about her that stood out to me. Roberts depicts Clare as a widow with three young boys and honestly the first thing that stood out for me is that she made her a younger version of the character in Black Rose (In the Garden #2) Rosalind Harper. Rosalind was also a widow with three sons. I also saw mixes of Zoe McCourt from Key of Valor (Key Trilogy #3) as well. I maybe rolled my eyes at Clare being widowed after her husband was killed by a sniper in Iraq. I honestly had to stop reading some of Macomber’s books for a while since every heroine was a widow and her husband died while working for special forces in Afghanistan. My friend who got further than I did let me know that some random dude appears and starts to stalk Clare so I guess that was what Roberts threw in between the long descriptions of rooms, decorations, and how people smelled.

Most of the men in these books fit one of three archetypes (nerdy guy who is deep down a very sexual being though you wouldn’t know it, the guy who is uptight who also may be afraid to commit/is ready to commit, and the bad boy). Sometimes the male characters are all three at once, but not usually. I guess that Beckett (the name alone people) is going to fit archetype #1. I honestly thought he was interested in the owner of the pizza shop first since he had more to say to her and noticed her changing the color of her hair. But when Clare was introduced, I had to go back and double-check she wasn’t the pizza shop owner.

There really wasn’t enough that I read for me to comment on other characters. Beckett is one of three boys so his other brothers Owen and Ryder. Based on the names alone, who do you think is what archetype? Owen seemed humorless to me and Ryder was a smartass. That’s all I got.

The writing was just one big love letter to the inn. Once the ghost entered the picture I was out. Once again, I saw shades of In the Garden and felt too annoyed to go on after that piece. The flow was hampered too since we would just randomly have one character talking about furniture or decorations and my eyes would glaze over.

I have to say though, that starting this book and DNFing it made me think about the In the Garden trilogy which honestly was the last trilogy I really enjoyed. I think I am going to go and re-read that soon.

dnf

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCourWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour
on February 14th 2017
Genres: YA, Glbt
Pages: 240
Source: Borrowed: ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

"You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother."

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

So I fell in love with the cover of this book and decide that was it I was getting this book. I have to remember that a great cover does not always equal a fantastic book. I think I am getting a little burned out by YA books about grief. This book reminded me of all the worse parts of The Square Root of Summer. I get that people respond differently to grief. But I had a hard time with the main character (Marin) shutting everyone away similar to how her grandfather did when she finds out about things he has kept hidden from her all her life. And honestly the flow of this book was pretty bad. I was bored for about a good 3/4 of it. I just felt like the majority of the book was too angsty for me to really get into. I also had a hard time with Marin being able to just quit her life so to speak. I think if we had more developed secondary characters it would have come together to me. But Mabel felt like an archetype and her parents were too perfect to be real. Heck even Marin’s grandparents friends’ were too perfect in their reactions to Marin just ignoring all of them for months. I wanted someone to yell, scream, to call her selfish, to suggest you get counseling, etc.

“We Are Okay” has Marin at her first semester of college. She is nervous because her best friend (Mabel) who she has not seen since the summer is going to come visit her at her dorms in New York (Marin’s dorms). We don’t know why at first that Marin is staying in New York and not going home, but eventually the story starts to unfold and we find out that her mother died when she was 3 and her grandfather died fairly recently.

I guess my main thought is that I don’t think I could have done what Marin did. I don’t think I could run out on my whole life and abandon friends and especially a best friend and just ignore everyone for months. Heck, I wish we had gotten the perspective of Mabel in this one since I don’t get how she was able to persevere and still make sure that Marin saw her after months of silence. I don’t think I could have been that forgiving. I would want to be, but God knows I am not perfect so I would have held a grudge. That said though, I did end up feeling nothing but pity for Marin from the beginning of this book til the end. It is a long meandering story, but eventually you get to see the real grandfather that she had and you realize that she has been cheated of a life where she could have grown up listening to stories about her mother, looking at pictures of her mother, even getting her mother’s hand me downs. A character tells Marin late in the book that she has been betrayed, and honestly she was. There was a scene earlier in the book that I felt was off based on her grandfather’s reaction (he is angry that a nun dares to talk about grief with him over losing his wife and then his daughter) and of course later I get to the reveals and realize why it read as off to me.

But since most of the book is Marin hiding the truth about her life for most of the book until the very end you may get bored and quit before the revelations are brought forth.

Then I think that LaCour made a mistake with her ending. I think since most of the book was in a deep/dark place, to have it change pretty suddenly the way it did, didn’t feel realistic. For me, I wanted someone somewhere to sit down and have a conversation with Marin about her options and how maybe going out of state and spending a crap ton of money on school was not the smartest thing.

I can see how for Marin it may have been easier for her to just go off and pretend to be some other girl, but honestly it strained credibility with me that she would be able to just go off an hide and no one from the police, insurance company, mortgage company for their home/car, etc. would just quietly went away. I mean a freaking bill collector called me the day of my mother’s funeral and did not give two craps about the fact that I was about to head to the Church. Also, Discover, this is why I loathe you to this day.

Anyway, we hear through the whole book about her roommate Hannah and of course Mabel. And I wish that LaCour had added in more information about Hannah. Cause for me, Hannah was the unsung hero in this book. She realized that something awful had occurred with Marin and drew her back into the world. And I smiled at the scene we get of Marin finally decorating her side of the room and texting a picture of it to Hannah who sends back two high fives with a heart in between the high fives. So when Mabel asks Marin about someone else maybe being there that Marin is interested in, my first thought was honestly of Hannah.

I was already guessing where things were going with Mabel, but reading about Marin angsting about it through the majority of the book just left me bored. I will say though that LaCour does a great job of showing that just because Marin wanted to pretend the world stopped that other people had to go on.

The writing I found to be too descriptive though. There’s a lot of commentary about loneliness, ghosts, Jane Eyre, etc. I know as a reader I am supposed to be thinking about how Marin has lived with her mother’s ghost all her life and how she doesn’t even know much about her due to her grandfather not discussing her with him. But by the end of the book we definitely get clued in how a person’s ghost can leave some people gutted past healing.

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LaCour keys you into timelines though cause at the very bottom of a chapter ending in text she will show you the month you are reading about. If there is nothing there though (date wise) just know yo you are back in the present with Marin (December).

The flow was up and down through the whole book and I found some of the chapters choppy.

The setting of New York felt cold, dark, and lonely. I can’t imagine just sitting in a dorm over the holiday break for about a month. Also, am I just too old now, but I recall when I was in school no one was allowed to be in the dorms during the holiday breaks and over the summer.

The ending I know was supposed to leave me warm and happy, but instead my first thought was that someone needs to hog tie Marin and take her back to California.

three-stars

When Your Former Boss Tags You on Facebook…

Yeah I was a bit alarmed at first. But I saw that he tagged me in a New York Times post about their weekly 10 New Books We Suggest This Week:

Not going to lie, I had no idea that the New York Times even does a weekly list like this. Since everyone that knows me, knows that I love to read, I thought it was sweet my former boss tagged me in something that he thought I enjoy. Of course he then pestered me about what books have I been reading (um a lot of romance and crime novels, plus some comic and graphic novels) and then asked me what has been my favorite book this year (I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it much, also it is only March, why would I already know what my favorite book of the year is?)

Here is the list of books for those that are interested:

EXIT WEST, by Mohsin Hamid. (Riverhead, $26.) The new novel by the author of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” mixes global unrest with a bit of the fantastic. Saeed and Nadia leave an unnamed country in the midst of a civil war and journey — through magical doorways — to Greece, England and eventually the United States. Our critic Michiko Kakutani said that Hamid “does a harrowing job of conveying what it is like to leave behind family members, and what it means to leave home, which, however dangerous or oppressive it’s become, still represents everything that is familiar and known.”

A HORSE WALKS INTO A BAR, by David Grossman. Translated by Jessica Cohen. (Knopf, $29.95.) Grossman’s magnificently funny, sucker-punch-tragic novel about a tormented stand-up comedian combines comic dexterity with a Portnoyish level of detail. It offers a rich and complete portrayal of Israeli society through an exploration of humor from the edge of the grave.

ELIZABETH BISHOP: A Miracle for Breakfast, by Megan Marshall. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.) This smooth and brisk presentation by a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of one of America’s most accomplished poets is enriched by recently discovered documents. Interweaving her own experience as a student of Bishop’s in the 1970s, Marshall skillfully discerns echoes between Bishop’s public and private writing.

ROBERT LOWELL, SETTING THE RIVER ON FIRE: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character,by Kay Redfield Jamison. (Knopf, $29.95.) For decades, on and off, the poet Robert Lowell suffered from extreme bipolar disorder; he composed many of his best verses while stark raving mad. This “psychological account,” as Jamison calls it, of the life and mind of a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner is also a narrative of his illness, drawing on fascinating research collected by an authority on mood disorders.

HIGH NOON: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic,by Glenn Frankel. (Bloomsbury, $28.) With a sure ear for anecdote and a good eye for detail, Frankel presents the background and historical context of the timeless 1952 western, whose making was shaped and given meaning by HUAC’s attack on the film community. The conservative Gary Cooper emerges as a hero in life as well as onscreen.

WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE CASABLANCA: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie,by Noah Isenberg. (Norton, $27.95.) Nobody involved with “Casablanca” had high expectations for the picture. In this treasure trove of facts and figures, Isenberg tells the story of its script, casting, production and the inevitable squabbling over credit, all by way of accounting for the film’s surprising and enduring popularity.

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE: Stories,by Mariana Enriquez. Translated by Megan McDowell. (Hogarth, $24.) The girls and women in this collection worry about the usual stuff — their friendships, their figures, their waning attraction to boyfriends and husbands — only to confront the horror that courses underneath it all. This Argentine writer’s stories are propulsive and mesmerizing, laced with vivid descriptions of the grotesque and the darkest humor.

THE WORLD TO COME: Stories,by Jim Shepard. (Knopf, $25.95.) Shepard’s deeply researched tales pack weight and validity, and the collection displays a dizzying range of time and place, from the tale of an auxiliary Roman legionnaire to one set in a British submarine. Whatever the era, his basic point is this: before you ship out (or under), cherish every bit of warmth and respite, every gesture of love.

FLÂNEUSE: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London,by Lauren Elkin. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) Strolling the city isn’t just for men. Elkin, who learned the pleasures of aimless urban wandering in Paris, combines memoir and travel writing with capsule biographies of walking women like Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys and George Sand.

THE NATURE FIX: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier,and More Creative,by Florence Williams. (Norton, $26.95.) The Romantics were right: the virtues of nature provide a strong antidote to the viciousness of industrialization. Williams, a contributing editor at Outside magazine, presents the benefits of spending time outdoors — “the more nature, the better you feel” — entertainingly but with enough scientific detail to satisfy the expert.

Just in case you haven’t get a New York Times subscription! This weekly list is a good way to keep an eye out for new book releases.

Winter is Almost Here…

What Books/Comics Will Keep You Warm During the Winter Storm?

 

I am pretty proud of myself. I had a goal of finally getting through the shameful pile of library books that I have been ignoring for the past couple of weekends. After not being allowed to extend the borrow date anymore, I finally dusted myself off and got through almost all of the books. Thank goodness the remaining three I have are not due until March 22. That should be more than enough time for me to finish them.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock (and apologies if you have) you may have heard about a little winter storm that is about to bury the entire East Coast under snow.

Winter Storm Stella, see the link, https://weather.com/storms/winter/news/winter-storm-stella-blizzard-noreaster-south-snow-forecast-march-2017

Yes a winter storm called Stella. I maybe laughed a few times.

Image result for stella gif

So I will probably be stuck at home tomorrow and maybe even Wednesday. Thank goodness I shop once a month and only had to go to the store yesterday to get some toilet paper and other pantry items. I am sure the grocery stores in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland area are going to be swamped with shoppers.

Due to that, I decided that a smart woman would make sure she had enough books to keep her occupied. I mean I do have enough books all over my house and heck I even have brand new books I haven’t touched yet. Still didn’t stop me from going to the library and putting on hold the following books:

I doubt I will be able to get them before Tuesday since the are print book holds, but still. I do plan on reading and finishing up the following books though:

What books do you all have on hand to get you through the winter storm?

And for those that are bored, have a look at the 10 Facts About Snow That Might Surprise You: https://weather.com/science/weather-explainers/news/ten-facts-about-snow

 

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