The Monday Check-In ~ 12/10/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Quuen by Tamora Pierce: I read both books in the Daughter of the Lioness duology. Sadly, a fairly weak story in the world of Tortall, which I really struggled to get through. My thoughts are here.

 

 

 

I also posted wrap-ups of two series that I loved:

Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi


Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce

In audiobooks, I listened to two terrific Audible Originals:

Check out my review of both, here.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 404, “Common Ground” (aired 11/25/2018) – my reaction post for the 4th episode is here.
Episode 405, “Savages” (aired 12/2/2018) – my reaction post for last week’s episode is here.
Episode 406, “Blood of My Blood” (aired 12/9/2018) – my reaction post for last night’s episode is on the way! I was too tired to stay up late enough to finish… so watch for my post later Monday or early Tuesday.

Fresh Catch:

Two new science fiction books arrived this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Library Book by Susan Orlean: I’d been wanting this book… and then a wonderful family member gave it to me for Hanukkah! I swear, I did NOT drop any hints. I’m just getting started, but loving it so far.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: I got this from the library on a whim, while waiting for something else to come in. I’m just starting it today — wish me luck!

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — getting close to the end for both!

  • Classic read: Middlemarch by George Eliot — we’ll be done in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon — just a few chapters still to go!

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 12/3/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate! It seems so early this year, and I’m not ready! Luckily, with an 8-day holiday, there’s still time to get my act together, get the gifts wrapped, and get in the spirit.

What did I read during the last week?

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty: Not the best by this author. My review is here.

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren: Another winner from this author duo! My review is here.

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson: More light, fun fiction! My review is here.

The End of All Things (Old Man’s War, #6) by John Scalzi: I finished the series! A series wrap-up post is on the way…

In audiobooks:

Lady Knight (Protector of the Small, #4) by Tamora Pierce: Finished with this quartet! I loved these books — and main character Kel — so much! I’ll be writing a series wrap-up post for this one too, eventually.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 404, “Common Ground” (aired 11/25/2018) – my reaction post for last week’s episode is here.
Episode 405, “Savages” (aired 12/2/2018) – my reaction post for the newest episode is here.

Fresh Catch:

I had a gift card, and immediately bought myself some gifts:

Yippee! Lucky me!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Trickster’s Choice (Daughter of the Lioness, #1) by Tamora Pierce: Yes, I’m continuing my journeys through the land of Tortall! Now that I’ve finished the Protector of the Small quartet audiobooks, I’m continuing straight onward with the Daughter of the Lioness duology. HOWEVER… after listening to the first couple of chapters, I decided to switch to the print version. For some reason, this book was particularly hard to follow via audiobook — too many new names and places right up front! And this way, I can refer back to the maps at the beginning of the book whenever I get lost, which seems to be happening constantly.

Now playing via audiobook:

Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets: An Audible original about secrets and scandals in the Victorian era. Seems totally charming so far.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — getting close to the end for both!

  • Classic read: Middlemarch by George Eliot — we’ll be done in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon — we’ll be done in mid-December.

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/26/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

In adult fiction:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: An excellent look at the Trojan War from the women’s perspective. My review is here.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan: Sweet, romantic, escapist fun. My review is here.

Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren: Funny, sexy, modern romance. My review is here.

In young adult/middle grade:

The Agony House by Cherie Priest (illustrated by Tara O’Connor): A clever ghost story that incorporates a comic book into the narrative. My review is here.

In audiobooks:

Squire (Protector of the Small, #3) by Tamora Pierce: I adored book #3 in the Kel quartet. What an ending!

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4… but was too tired last night to finish up the most recent episode and put any coherent thoughts together. So, stay tuned for Episode 404, “Common Ground” (aired 11/25/2018) – my reaction post for last night’s episode will be up later today.

Fresh Catch:

So yeah, I guess my Tortall obsession is getting a bit out of control… Couldn’t resist adding these two to my growing Tamora Pierce collection.

And look! My awesome hubby got me an early Hanukkah present:

So excited! Now I just need time to settle in and read it… all 700+ pages!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty: I’ve read about 200 pages so far, and I still have no idea where this book is going and what it’s trying to be. Not that I’m not enjoying it — just feeling a little puzzled.

Now playing via audiobook:

Lady Knight (Protector of the Small, #4) by Tamora Pierce: This series is amazing. And if you want to know more about Tamora Pierce and why women of all ages love her books, check out this piece from Tor.com.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — getting close to the end for both!

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week, aiming to finish in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jojo Moyes, and Jennifer Weiner, a moving, laugh-out-loud novel—with recipes!—about a young woman who begins her life anew as a baker in Cornwall.

Amid the ruins of her latest relationship, Polly Waterford moves far away to the sleepy seaside resort of Polbearne, where she lives in a small, lonely flat above an abandoned shop.

To distract her from her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, and the local honey-courtesy of a handsome local beekeeper. Drawing on reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes . . . and discovers a bright new life where she least expected it.

This is my third Jenny Colgan book — and in each, the pattern seems to be: Young woman, beat down by city life, escapes to a remote, quaint location, and discovers joy and meaning in her new life. Plus a dreamy, hot love interest. And hey, it may be a pattern, but it works!

In Little Beach Street Bakery, Polly and her grumpy ex have been driven into bankruptcy by the failure of their graphic design business (he’s the designer, she handles the office). With no money, the relationship in tatters, and no place to live, Polly chances upon a flat for rent in Mount Polbearne, a location she remembers fondly from childhood field trips. Polbearne is an island attached to Cornwall by a causeway that’s only accessible when the tide is out. The town features a fishing fleet, a pub, some worn-down local businesses, and for Polly, a place of refuge to lick her wounds and retreat from the world.

It’s Polly’s love of bread that finally draws her out of her shell. The one and only bakery on the island is run by a grumpy old woman, Polly’s landlady, who makes atrocious bread but refuses to allow anyone to sell anything else. Polly starts baking as a hobby, to relieve her own stress and anxiety, but as her baking becomes popular with the local fishermen, she starts to find a place for herself in this isolated community.

Little Beach Street Bakery is quite a fun read. Polly is a relatable young woman, who has been through tough times but still maintains enough hope to start rebuilding. She’s goofy too — after rescuing an injured puffin, she develops a quirky relationship with the bird and the two become inseparable. (Side note, I’ve only just discovered that the author has written some children’s books about Polly and Neil the Puffin — how adorable is that?)

The love story in this book takes a while to build, and Polly makes a big mistake along the way. (Not her fault — he didn’t tell her he was married! Ahem.) But eventually, she realizes who it is that she really loves and wants, and after a prolonged period of misunderstanding, there are fireworks. (Yes, there really are fireworks!)

Along the way, we meet a host of quirky locals, get immersed in the battle between newly arrived trendy folks who want to modernize and the old-timers who want to keep things as they are, experience the trauma of waiting for the fishing fleet to come home after a storm, and get to know a beautiful little corner of the world. It’s no wonder Polly loves it there!

This is pure escapist delight. Who wouldn’t want to run away to a remote, gorgeous location and find true love, friendship, and a way to turn a favorite pastime into a successful and fulfilling career?

I had a lot of fun reading this book. Sometimes, light and frothy is just the right choice! Once again, many thanks to my book group for picking this book for discussion. After a bunch of heavier reads, it’s nice to turn to something that just feels good.

A note on the covers: The image at the top of this post is the cover of the Kindle edition, which I find a little funny, since Polly is a bread baker and never once mentioned baking cupcakes. The audiobook image — with loaves of bread, a jar of honey, and a view of the sea — is a much better fit for the story, in my humble opinion. And just yummy.

And a final comment: There are two follow-up books, Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery and Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery. I’m not planning to read them immediately (SO much else to read right now!)… but I’ll definitely keep them in mind for when I need a nice little reading getaway.

 

 

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_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Little Beach Street Bakery
Author: Jenny Colgan
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: March 13, 2014
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Purchased

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/19/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Still in the midst of family stuff, but all is well. How’s that for vague? The upside of the semi-craziness of the past week is that I ended up with a lot of sit-around-and-wait time on my hands, which of course translates to sit-around-with-a-book time for me.

What did I read during the last week?

The Human Division (Old Man’s War, #5) by John Scalzi: This is a set of interconnected stories rather than a novel, but it’s still set in the Old Man’s War universe and quite fun. I have one more book left in the series, and then I’ll write up some thoughts to wrap things up.

Pulp by Robin Talley: A terrific YA story set in both contemporary and historical time periods. My review is here.

Elevation by Stephen King: A surprisingly moving novella. My thoughts are here.

In graphic novels:

Saga, volume 9: Wow, this one really hurt me. That ending! And I’m more than a little heart-broken that the creators are taking a one-year break before returning to the story. I need more Saga, now!

Runaways: Best Friends Forever: The new Runaways run, written by Rainbow Rowell, continues to be light and fun.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 401, “America the Beautiful” (aired 11/4/2018) – check out my thoughts here.
Episode 402, “Do No Harm” (aired 11/11/2018) – my reaction post is here.
NEW: Episode 403, “The False Bride” (aired 11/18/2018) – my reaction from last night is here.

Pop culture goodness:

I saw TWO movies this weekend!

Quick take: I loved the music and the performance scenes, but wish there’d been more actual insight into Freddie as a person. A lot, whether about Freddie himself or Queen as a band and family, felt too surface-y. Actually, this movie made me realize that I’d be perfectly happy with a 2-hour long movie of Queen’s performances! *scurrying off to watch Queen videos on YouTube*

Quick take: Hmm. Quite a lot of spectacle, but I’m not sure what the movie was hoping to achieve. It’s pretty dark, losing most of the quirkiness of the first Fantastic Beasts movie in favor of dark-wizard doings. My copy of the screenplay book arrived this week, but I didn’t want to read it until I’d seen the movie. And now that I have, I’ll pick up the book and see if reading the story gives me a different feeling. Overall, my issue with the Fantastic Beasts franchise is that they’re kind of kids’ movies (or so it would seem), but since all the characters are adults, we lose the sense of wonder that the Harry Potter films provided as we saw this incredible world through young, unjaded eyes. The Hogwarts scenes in this new movie stand out as lovely little moments, but they’re really just minor snippets. (But hey, it was fun to see a different take on Hogwarts robes!) Overall, the movie is very dark and crowded, and definitely the middle of a story that’s still has plenty left to unveil. Maybe it’ll take a repeat viewing to find the charm that must be there.

Fresh Catch:

This week’s new book arrivals:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: I’m at about the half-way point. It’s fascinating to read this book about the Trojan War so soon after reading The Song of Achilles.

Now playing via audiobook:

Squire (Protector of the Small, #3) by Tamora Pierce: I do most of my audiobook listening while out walking, and there just hasn’t been much of that this past week… hence a lack of any real progress with this book, despite loving it. I hope to get back to it this coming week.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — getting close to the end for both!

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week, aiming to finish in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December.

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 11/5/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak: Sadly, I did not love this new novel by the author of The Book Thief. My review is here.

Someone Like Me by M. R. Carey: Just finished last night! Review to follow.

In audiobooks:

First Test (Protector of the Small, #1) by Tamora Pierce: I’m back in Tortall! I finished listening to the first book in the Protector of the Small quartet. So much fun.

Outlander returns!

Outlander is back! Season 4 premiered last night, and the first episode was amazing. The show feels like it’s opening a whole new phase, and I’m so excited to see where it goes. I’ll be doing reaction posts for each episode, as I did last season. Stay turned for my episode 1 post, coming today or tomorrow.

Elsewhere in pop culture:

The big entertainment events for me this week:

I saw Waitress, and loved it! Now I need to go back and re-watch the movie version.

It was the final Rick Grimes episode on The Walking Dead last night. That ending. Whoa.

Fresh Catch:

The library’s Big Book Sale was this week, and I went — twice! I wrote about my first trip here… and then I went back and came home with yet more books. Here are my two book hauls from the sale:

And hey, that’s not all! I won a giveaway of The Astronaut’s Son by Tom Siegel, courtesy of Jennifer – Tar Heel Reader, and the book (plus some extra goodies) arrived this week.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Wild Dead by Carrie Vaughn: I’m so excited for this book! It’s the sequel to Bannerless, which I loved.

Now playing via audiobook:

Page (Protector of the Small, #2) by Tamora Pierce: Really enjoying this quartet!

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week, aiming to finish in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/29/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This month’s book group book! My thoughts are here.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult: My review is here.

The Walking Dead, volume 30: New World Order: The newest trade paperback volume in the Walking Dead series. Even though I don’t retain much from one volume to the next, these books are always a good time.

In audiobooks, I finished my re-read/listen of Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn. My original review from when I first read the book is here. The story really holds up, and I enjoyed the audio version very much. Can’t wait to read the sequel!

Fresh Catch:

I bought myself a present!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak: The public library comes through for me again! I started this book with very high expectations… but unfortunately, as of about 50%, it’s just not working for me. I’ll continue, but it’s feeling like a slog.

Now playing via audiobook:

First Test (Protector of the Small, #1) by Tamora Pierce: Back to Tortall! I’m diving into Tamora Pierce’s next quartet of books. I do love the worlds she creates.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Slow but steady!
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

My Thoughts:

I read Little Fires Everywhere all in one sitting (on a flight from east coast to west), and that may not have been the best approach. I tore through the book to see how it would all work out, but didn’t give myself much breathing or digesting room. That said, Little Fires Everywhere is an absorbing read. I wouldn’t describe it as action-packed by any means — it’s really a character study, looking at families and neighborhoods and the strange and unintended dynamics that can overtake people and change their lives.

The story is a little too scattered for me to fully embrace. I would have liked to understand the characters better, especially the members of the Richardson family, but some of them are presented as sketches rather than fully formed people. This felt particularly true with Izzy — we only see her sporadically throughout the book, and I never felt that I truly had a sense of her as a person. Mr. Richardson is basically absent from the story, which maybe is indicative of his traditional father role — his realm is outside in the world, rather than in the domestic life of the family. Even Trip and Moody, the two Richardson sons, felt vague to me. I would have needed to know these characters in a more meaningful way to fully embrace the story and care about them.

On the other hand, I did really enjoy the parts of the story more focused on Mia Warren. Her backstory was the most interesting part of the plot. However, the adoption/custody battle seemed an odd choice as the event that divided the neighborhood and the families.

All in all, I did enjoy Little Fires Everywhere, especially the depiction of suburban life in the 90s — but the scattered feeling of the story and the lack of deeper character development keep me from calling this a five-star read.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Little Fires Everywhere
Author: Celeste Ng
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication date: September 12, 2017
Length: 338 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Purchased

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/22/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

I read three library books — ones YA, one middle grade, and one picture book. My wrap-up post for all three is here.

Zoe’s Tale – book #4 in the Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi: Another great volume in a terrific sci-fi series. Review to come.

In audiobooks, I finished listening to The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Simply beautiful.

Fresh Catch:

One new book! Of course, I should probably read the first book (Akata Witch) before reading the sequel…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: I was really tempted to just keep going with Old Man’s War… but my book group discussion of Little Fires Everywhere starts this week, so I’d better get moving!

Now playing via audiobook:

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn: I read this book last year (review) — but I was about to start the sequel, and realized I needed a major refresher! I’ve just started the audiobook, and I’m liking the narration so far.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Slow but steady!
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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The Monday Check-In ~ 10/15/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

One Day in December by Josie Silver: A bit of romance, to break up my sci-fi heavy week. My review is here.

Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi: I’ve made it halfway through the series! My thoughts so far, here.

Pop culture goodness:

I saw this:

And now I’m obsessed with this song:

Fresh Catch:

Bookish goodies! I treated myself to the Subterranean Press edition of one of my very favorite novellas by Patricia Briggs, Alpha & Omega.

I also picked up these two used books, which just happened to catch my eye:

 

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Pride by Ibi Zoboi: The public library comes through again! Hurray for my hold request getting processed in record time — I’m so happy to be starting this Pride and Prejudice retelling.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: I LOVE this — but I’m getting super frustrated by how long it’s taking me to get through it. My week has been crazy, with so little listening time. Must correct that this coming week!

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week. Slow but steady!
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon. An ongoing group read, two chapters per week — we’ll be finished in December. Want to join in? Ask me how!

So many books, so little time…

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