Thursday, January 29, 2015

4 new-to-me authors I plan to read this year and 4 favorite repeaters

As much as I try to stretch out of my box occasionally, I always like the warm comfort of favorite authors! Here's the authors that will be new to me, and old favorites revisited in 2015! If anyone has any suggestions in the "new to me" category please tell me!

New to Me
Graham Greene - I have said I'm going to read "The Quiet American" for 2 years and haven't done it.Is this the year? (Shoulder shrug)
Arthur Conan Doyle - I think I've only read "Murders at the Rue Morgue". That's not nearly enough for a man of his catalog volume.
Diana Gabaldon - I bought "Outlander" to read on the plane ride to Europe this summer! I need big fat books for distraction (and to weigh down my carry on apparently). Hooray for paperback versions of things!
Elizabeth Gilbert - I put "Eat Pray Love" on the All Lady July calendar. Is it worth the hype? We shall see! I'm only a few years late on this one.

Repeat Offenders 
Mary Roach - I unapologetically love Mary Roach. "Gulp" is also on the All Lady July calendar. She made it on for "Spook" last July.
Willa Cather - Willa, my favorite member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. She ALSO will be represented during All Lady July with her classic "O, Pioneers!" And she ALSO made it for last July with "My Antonia". So yes, I play favorites.
Philip Kerr - I put if off as long as I could, but I finally read the last of his Bernie Gunther novels. I'm assuming there's more in the pipeline for the future. (There better be!)
Jen Hatmaker - Jen speaks to my soul. Her book (that I got the kindle version of for $1 which enabled me to get off the massive wait list at my library!) "Interrupted" will be going up on the blog during Holy Week.

Are any of these authors your favorites? Any recommendations?

Review and Screencaps: ‘Outlander’ Episode 1X01 ‘Sassenach’!  I think we ALL wanted to volunteer! Ep1

I volunteer but can you wash your face real fast?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb (HFVB Tours)

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Camille lives in suburban France with her family. Her mother (who she clashes with constantly) wants her to be a respectable woman and find someone to marry and settle down. However all Camille can think about is sculpting. She has great potential and has a tutor but to really succeed she feels like she needs to go to Paris to learn. It's tough for a woman to be taken seriously as an artist and she knows that if she wants to succeed she will have to silence a lot of critics and work incredibly hard.

She goes to art college, experiences nude models for the first time, and kind of struggles with independence and relying on her family for money for everything. She has some success and gets some good buzz about her work, but everything changes when she meets Auguste Rodin.

Their relationship is complicated and long and rotates between love/hate/utter devotion/despair and just about every other thing in between. It's also complicated by the fact that Rodin has lived with the same woman for decades who is also the father of his nearly grown son. They inspire each other and make each other better artists but outside forces, her family, her volatile nature and a lot of other things keep things from ever being really quiet and orderly with their life together!

Here's the hangup for me. Camille is hard to like sometimes and I don't understand her occasionally. At the beginning her family agrees to move to Paris but her mom's condition is that she gets to set her up with suitors. Camille totally agrees to it but when it comes to the suitors she completely resists. And I get that she doesn't want suitors, but you made a deal, honor the agreement.Towards the middle of the book, she was like "oh my gosh I kissed a stranger at a party when I was drunk" but doesn't really have qualms about having a sexual relationship with Rodin. Like kissing a stranger was far more scandalous. Having said all that I was glad that Jessie totally calls her out on being a crummy friend and kind of an overly abrasive person so I was glad she played the role of Greek chorus for me! Though as the book progresses you kind of understand why she might be acting that way.

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Advanced Praise for Rodin’s Lover

“Rodin’s Lover is a textured historical novel that captures the indomitable spirit of artist Camille Claudel, a woman whose mighty talent was nearly eclipsed by her potent love for fellow artist Auguste Rodin. Can two passionate, creative talents thrive together or will one flame inevitably consume the other? Webb gracefully explores this ignitable relationship while illuminating Claudel’s untold heartbreak and evocative artwork. A story of human emotion, once raw and malleable, now preserved to lasting stone.” ~ Sarah McCoy, New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author of The Baker’s Daughter

“Rodin’s Lover is the story of Camille Claudel–one of history’s boldest and most brilliant artists. Forced to choose between a torturous love affair and the art that consumed her, Claudel is an audacious and authentic character who deserves to be remembered. RODIN’S LOVER is epic and unflinching–a book you won’t soon forget.” –Deanna Raybourn, NYT bestselling author and Rita Winner of City of Jasmine waltz
“Rodin’s Lover is an evocative portrait of the talented and explosive Camille Claudel who struggled between passion as the lover of Rodin and recognition as an innovative sculptor in her own right. From smoky cafés to clay-streaked ateliers, Heather Webb has created a vivid picture of Belle Époque Paris.” –Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“Dazzling!….. In Rodin’s Lover, author Heather Webb brings to life, with vivid detail, the story of brilliant and tormented sculptress Camille Claudel and the epic love affair with the legendary sculptor who worshiped her. Deeply moving and meticulously researched, this book will capture your heart, then hold it tightly long after the final page.” –Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso

“A rich, sensuous novel…[was] written with great empathy for the very human Rodin and his lover, this novel of the visceral world of the 19th century Paris ateliers, of clay-stained dresses and fingernails, lithe models who vow to remain and then go, family love which stays through all difficulties and talent which endures, comes vividly to life.” –Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet
“Rodin’s Lover is a taut and engrossing look at sexism in the arts through the eyes of a lesser known figure, Camille Claudel, inspiring the reader to examine what’s changed and what hasn’t.” –Julie Kibler, bestselling author of Calling Me Home

Buy the Book

About the Author

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing. Her debut, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, released January 2014 from Plume/Penguin. Her forthcoming novel, RODIN’S LOVER, will release in winter of 2015.
When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.
For more information, please visit Heather’s website. She loves to chitchat on Twitter with new reader friends or writers (@msheatherwebb), on Facebook, or via her blog. Stop on by!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Sharing some excitement!

I have some non-blog related excitement to share with you! (But if you want someone who does have blog related excitement, did you see Andi got mentioned in the WSJ? Holla!)  Well, I mean, it's exciting for me, not for anyone else necessarily but you'll be seeing me talk about it on the blog so here it is! My sister Quinn (of "I'm turning 30 so let's go to Mexico this past August" fame) and I just book a European river cruise!

I'd been saving for the better part of 2 years to get back to Europe this year. The savings took a hit when we went to Mexico, but MANATEES  and time with two of my favorite people so no regrets. I had a couple of ideas about what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go, whereas Quinn had none because she's never been to Europe. I said "I have to see Prague, we work everything around that". And we did.

Quinn was the one who mentioned river cruising, I hadn't really thought about it but she brought up the totally valid point that with her job she basically lives in and out of a suitcase. So if she could go on vacation, see a lot of places and unpack a limited amount of times, she was all about it.

So after a ridiculous amount of research and picking people's brains and talking to experts we picked this cruise! The map below is our route! Our boat that we will be on will be brand new, it's first sailing is in May!

We go in June, so there's plenty of time to panic about what to pack, how I medicate myself to deal with a 9 hour flight, and does mascara count as a liquid? Does it have to go in my quart size container if I don't check it in my bag? (This is a constant question for me, I don't know why this flummoxes me so much but it does). So happy I don't have to be packing carry on only!

If anyone is like "Wesley do you hate your husband? Why do you only travel with your sister?" Josh is not a great flier, and our anniversary trip to Mexico 2 years ago was his first time out of the country. We are working up to a Josh and Wesley europe trip. He wants to go to Ireland and I'm all about it! So someday ")

So, if you

A: have been to any of these places and have suggestions about wonderful things to see or stupid things to skip

B: have any advice on river cruising (I've only done an ocean cruise)

C: are a Polyvore expert (I have questions! Can you import things? Can you share your list without publishing it?)

please pass them along to me, I (we) would love to hear your words of wisdom! 

Back to book content tomorrow :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book review: "Hold the Dark" by William Giraldi (or "When a book blurb lies to you and it turns out okay anyway")

Have you ever read a book description and you think to yourself "well, that sounds enjoyable" so you put it on your TBR and you read it and the book is NOTHING like you thought it was going to be? That was totally my experience with this book. Here's the blurb from goodreads:

"At the start of another pitiless winter, the wolves have come for the children of Keelut. Three children have been taken from this isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old boy of Medora and Vernon Slone. Stumbled by grief and seeking consolation, Medora contacts nature writer and wolf expert Russell Core. Sixty years old, ailing in both body and spirit, and estranged from his daughter and wife, Core arrives in Keelut to investigate the killings. Immersing himself in this settlement at the end of the world, he discovers the horrifying darkness at the heart of Medora Slone and learns of an unholy truth harbored by this village.

When Vernon Slone returns from a desert war to discover his son dead and his wife missing, he begins a methodical pursuit across this frozen landscape. Aided by his boyhood companion, the taciturn and deadly Cheeon, and pursued by the stalwart detective Donald Marium, Slone is without mercy, cutting a bloody swath through the wilderness of his homeland. As Russell Core attempts to rescue Medora from her husband s vengeance, he comes face to face with an unspeakable secret at the furthermost reaches of American soil a secret about the unkillable bonds of family, and the untamed animal in the soul of every human being."

I always try to guess what a book is going to be about before I actually get to the reading, and I was all kinds of wrong. I thought it was going to be like, a weird group of men go off in the woods to find justice for these kids but then they find out things about themselves and each other in this brutal wilderness and some people die, blah blah something something like that. So basically like The Grey without the airplane crash or Liam Neeson. (Funny story, suggested this movie to go see with a group of friends thinking that it would be a typical Liam Neeson kicking ass saving the day kind of movie, and then it turns out to be all cerebral and psychological and deep. Though there was ass kicking. But when it was over everyone looked at me like "what was that all about?" It was good, just wasn't what anyone was expecting.) Anyway, that's not what this book is like, not a wolf hunting/self exploration thing. No.

I can't really say much about the book because what makes it great is that there's all these crazy twists and turns that make it really fantastic. The first one takes a bit of time in coming and then they come in a little more rapid succession.

I don't want to give away too much of the book so I will give you some key thoughts and hopefully that and the fact that I give it 4 out of 5 stars will be enough for you to pick up this short, scary, intense book: murder most foul, lots of guns, ancient lady spewing nonsense, people with nothing to lose.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Did Not Finish Review (?) - "Bonita Avenue" by Peter Buwalda

I think that this is my first DNF post here on the ol' blog. Look at us, experiencing new things on the blog together.

So this book is originally Dutch, it's been translated into a whole bunch of languages and is a bestseller all over the world. I got a lovely hardcover from Blogging for Books and was ready to get into it.

The story is about a Dutch family of 4 (sometimes 5, depending on who you're counting) that has some complicated family relationships and some urge control issues. The narration jumps between almost all of the family members, plus one or two more. It goes from the late 90s up to the 2000s. There's a fireworks factory explosion that almost levels a neighborhood, an (early) internet discovery that no dad would want to make about his little girl, bastard children with a ferocious criminal record, and a dating couple who seem to hate each other but are still together.

Here's my problems with this book:

I generally don't have a problem with a bouncing around timelines or switchings between narrators. However, some of the narrators would talk in the first person, while others would not. It was never immediately clear who was talking, sometimes it would take me a few pages before I'd figure it out. It would switch in the middle of chapters so it's not like you could have a heading with the chapter number with the narrator's name.

I think there is a  translation issue. If you look at the goodreads reviews, almost all of the highest reviews are Dutch readers, while the English speakers who read it rated it consistently lower. I don't know if that means anything but just kind of a trend I saw.

I was about 300 pages into to this approximately 520 page book and realized that I was kind of dreading keeping on with it. I'm still a bit interested in just exactly how everything unravels but not enough to burn 3 hours of reading into it. There was one kind of gross incident with the Dad that I was like, okay, I'm a little grossed out and this was already barely keeping my interest so I think we're going to be done with this.

Of course, just because I don't like it doesn't mean that you won't like it! Check around, read other reviews, and if it still sounds good to you, do it! And if you get to the end message me and tell me the general idea of what happens after page 319 :)


* I recieved this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books. We kept it honest today, for realsies*

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: "What If? Serious Scientific Answer to Absurd Hypothetical Questions" by Randall Munroe

I had never heard of Randall Munroe or his webcomic xkcd before I picked up this book. And honestly I don't remember how I picked up this book, but when I generally don't remember that means it was a goodreads recommendation.

The book is simple. People have asked this former NASA scientist insane questions and he tries his best to answer them in a logical, scientific way.No matter how ridiculous the question he has equations and graphs and what not to help come up with an answer.

The questions are wide ranging. Here are a couple of the topics that they cover:swimming in a spent nuclear fuel pool, jet packs made from machine guns, time travel forward in backward and more.

There was one question that there was no answer to, that kind of made me die inside. "Would it be possible to get your teeth to such a cold temperature that they would shatter upon drinking a hot cup of coffee?" Ahh! Heebee jeebees officially activated.

This is kind of a short review because it's pretty self explanatory. Silly questions, serious questions, funny stick figure comics. Feel smarter and laugh! I give it 3.5 stars out of 5!


Friday, January 16, 2015

GN review: "The Undertaking of Lily Chen" by Danica Novgorodoff

In my continued effort to read more graphic novels I bring you today's review. It's going to be a short one because it's not a 1000 pager by any means.

Wei is the second son in a Chinese family. Tragedy strikes his older brother and he is burdened with a strange task, finding him a corpse bride.

He only as a short time frame to get find one, so he immediately sets out towards the countryside. He has to tread carefully because there are people looking for him from his job, and because the corpse bride concept is an old one and is shunned in many places.

On his journey he finds Lily. Lily is beautiful but she's also impulsive, loud, not very careful and sometimes gets him in trouble.Sometimes meaning always. And though he's falling in love with her he knows he has to kill her.

I thought this was a fun read. Fast, interesting, and a bit of a love story! 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Also, do I love this cover? Yes, yes I do.