My Review of The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst

36315937

Info from Goodreads:

(My review follows)

The natural magic of the classic The Island of the Blue Dolphins meets the danger and courage of The Hunger Games in this dazzling, intricate stand-alone fantasy novel set in award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst’s beloved world of Renthia.

Life is precious and precarious on the islands of Belene. Besieged by a capricious ocean full of malicious spirits, the people of the islands seek joy where they can. Mayara, one of the island’s fearless oyster divers, has found happiness in love. But on the day of her wedding to the artist Kelo, a spirit-driven storm hits the island with deadly force.

To save her loved ones, Mayara reveals a dangerous secret: she has the power to control the spirits. When the storm ends, she is taken into custody by the queen’s soldiers and imprisoned with other women like her.

They vary in age and social status, but to many they are heroes who will aide the country or witches that will sacrifice themselves trying. No matter who they are, the women are sent to a terrifying place—an island filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits, and left without food, water, shelter, or any tools except their own instincts and magic. Whoever survives the Island of Testing will be declared heirs to the queen. But no matter if she wins or loses, Mayara knows that the life she dreamed of is gone.

368 pages – Published March 19th 2019 by Harper Voyager

My Review of The Deepest Blue

3/5 stars

It was very difficult for me to rate this book. In part because I’m a fan of this author and her Queens of Renthia trilogy as well as her book Lost (unrelated to this world or series). I think reviewing a book is made even more troublesome when you’ve been anticipating its release and it doesn’t live up to your expectations. That’s what happened here.

While I enjoyed the story, and I already enjoy spending time in Renthia, there are a number of things that felt superficial and missed their mark. I liked the main character Mayara. She’s tenacious and brave, and full of love for the people she cares about. The book opens beautifully on Mayara and Kelo’s wedding day. Right off the bat we get a taste of why Mayara’s family sometimes calls her reckless. We know this protagonist is going to take us on an adventure. For the most part the opening to this story was spot on. There is some spoiling that goes on in the rest of this review, not in detail but enough detail to spoil the story some or a lot.

via GIPHY

But then there were things that started to get to me. For instance, mentioning repeatedly how Mayara gets ready for a deep dive, how she compares so much to getting ready for a deep dive and every time she takes deep breaths we have to remember that that’s what she does when she’s getting ready for a deep dive. *Sigh.*

A major pet peeve of mine when it comes to reading in general, and something I’m trying to remember as I write my own book, is opportunistic writing, as I like to call it. I don’t like when characters are just made to fit because you need them to. Or turns in the story just go that way because the author needs them to, not because they flow naturally. In the case of this story, Mayara’s new found friend Roe has apparently been studying in secret and yet she seems to be no better at controlling the spirits than Mayara? How and why? In this case, if you’re going to make your character be awesome, more awesome than they should be, then build that case for us please. Don’t just say yup there you go, that’s how it is, Mayara is just a natural. Break some scenes down for me. Don’t just tell me oh yeah she’s not so good but then, she’s still got this. What does she figure out that helps her that she didn’t know before? How does she break through what she doesn’t know? Don’t just keep reminding me she’s not practiced but then showing me she’s plenty capable. Show me something in Mayara’s character that makes her special with regard to the scene. Other than her ability to swim and dive. Expand on these things.

via GIPHY

Again, these are notes to myself as I write and to all of us writers in addition to critique of this story. Remember show-don’t-tell is a relevant, worthwhile piece of advice. Even if it’s just a little scene or a little tidbit or even something that isn’t obvious, put it in there to show us this character has an edge. Show me, don’t just tell me they do. And don’t keep telling me about the same quality, that’s not enough to carry me through believing and rooting for her. Yes she’s brave and fearful and that’s real, but go deeper please. Show me how it comes to be that she navigates through these murky waters (pun intended) instead of expecting me to roll with it because she’s the main character, and ya know, that’s how it goes.

The author constantly tells us that Mayara likens every challenge to a deep dive and here’s the ritual that precedes it (please no more). Give us more of her inner character and how she breaks things down to get through them, but please know that once you’ve told us a couple times you don’t have to spell the same thing out every time thereafter. (Have I done it enough with regard to this detail? That’s how it felt reading.) It was things like that by the way that made me wonder if Mrs. Durst wasn’t getting confused with her art of writing middle grade. I’m probably reading into that since I know she writes in different age groups, nevertheless, that’s how I felt, that she at times forgot she was writing for adults.

Back to what I was saying: she tells us about getting ready for deep dives. (OMG, this again, really eLPy?) Tell us more about what’s happening that makes her capable of handling the spirits when, in this part of the world, girls hide their affinity for fear of being found out and sent to the island for testing. They don’t get to explore their affinities on their own or often. And maybe expand on this especially for those of us who have read the other series. What did Mayara miss by not being able to study her affinity? What does everyone miss? Don’t spend so much time on the same elements of love and Kelo and her family. Now she’s face to face with this affinity that she’s had to hide, how does she face it? What does that feel like for her to confront this?

It’s fair to say that we know from the start that this girl is going to be our hero, she’s going to go to the island. But what happens once we get there and even the immediate lead up to their departure feels so forced! She just so happens to be the last girl and now they’re off? So everyone else got to train for some undisclosed amount of time and she’s just shit out of luck? I know I’ve already given some spoilers here but I don’t think they’re too consequential however I won’t go into much detail in terms of other incidences that bothered me once they got to the island. All said and done for me it felt like the author tried too hard by not being creative enough to make Mayara the heroine. How? Why? How? There’s a lot that was opportunistic. Put her in a desperate situation because that’s what these stories do. Right? NO, don’t do that! I mean do it but show us readers how and why, not just because that’s what you think the story needs. Build us a sand castle but show us the tools, the methods, the failed attempts, the learning curves, the successes. Show us that the “it-just-so-happened-that” moments are realistic in your story, they don’t just happen. They happened. Don’t remind me I’m reading a made-up story.

Things like: so and so got injured so ya know, it’s all up to Mayara. Really? I mean, really? How perfect that our heroine has to do it on her own instead of someone more qualified with the spirits. Really? The whole scene on the island was tied up like a bow and way too neat. And I’m sorry but I was really hoping for the diversity of spirits that we saw in the previous trilogy. It’s really an inconsequential thing but I got sort of bored with the spirits seeming to be of the same five or so forms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a fan of Sarah Beth Durst and I will continue to read her work. I do hope she continues in this world, in fact, I hope she explores the entire world, that whole darn map she drew for us! But please don’t sew them all up so nicely. I love happy endings, I’m not saying leave us with some sour bitter ends, but don’t make the bow so damn perfect!

There were some nice twists in this story, some conclusions that were satisfying but the end result as a whole was very disappointing because it was SO similar to another book she wrote. How did Mayara with her supreme lack of experience and training with spirits wind up in THAT position? I was left shaking my head going “REALLY! HOW?!” At least in one of the Queens of Renthia books the character built up, and worked up to her position. It didn’t “just-so-happen”. There are what should be deep emotional conversations that fall flat and/or feel like they’re written for a younger group. Then these violent scenes that are like whoa, was that for shock and awe, oh yes this is for young adult/adults. All in all, perhaps this book was rushed. It missed its mark for me. I don’t dislike Mayara or the other characters but I’m not connected to her. Do I want to see her again? Meh…sure? But give her some more meat please, more emotion, more depth.

via GIPHY

While you may think I’m a jerk and mean and all that fun stuff at this point – that’s fine – I will say I very much enjoyed the sociopath we met in previous books, Lady Garnah. She is a well-developed character who is both loathsome and likable in the strangest way. I dare say I had to root for her a few times. This character has had time to marinate and she works. She exhibits the difference between rushing a character and/or forcing their story to your will and allowing them to be who they are in the story. She was a welcome surprise and an A+ for me.

At the end of the book Durst explains that she wanted to write a book about someone growing and strengthening from love, not just pain. In her personal experience she grew a lot from her love for her husband and her family. I respect and admire her making this attempt to approach this from a different angle. That said while she didn’t completely miss the mark she kind of did because for me she tried so hard to stay on the love page that it felt like she may have deliberately avoided character and story development that leaned too much towards pain and hardship. I hope if we see Mayara again we get a full pallet of the colors of her personality and a deeper look inside.

via GIPHY

And it is with a heavy heart I give this book 3/5 stars. I have to be review with integrity so there it is. Sarah Beth Durst keep going, I can’t wait to read more, but this one I think IMHO needed more time in the oven especially given the deep philosophy behind what you were attempting.

via GIPHY

Note to myself and all authors, not every main character should be a queen.

Here’s What’s Up: March TBR Additions

Hello friendly blog readers and bloggers! How are you all doing? Was this a good reading month for you? Are you reading more, less, the same? Any new books you just have to share? What’s happening with your March TBR additions, I know you’ve got some!

via GIPHY

I’m taking advantage of this Saturday being the last one in March and using it to post March TBR Additions as a Here’s What’s Up for Book Lovers Saturday series! Let’s dive in.

This is a monthly TBR wrap-up post. It’s simple, I tell you what I added to my TBR at the end of the current month! There’s my TBR (on Goodreads, 231 as of today) and my 2019 TBR (42, as of this second). I will also have seasonal TBRs, like Spring 2019 TBR. If I add new books to any of these specific lists I’ll let you know, otherwise assume they’re just being added to my general TBR, as in sometime in my life maybe I’d like to read this.

Here’s what’s up: In March I added 39 books to my TBR thanks to multiple sources, from podcasts to other book bloggers. I will give credit where credit’s due when available. Some books I just found.

via GIPHY

The following list is the books I’ve added to my TBR starting March 1st. If available, the source of the referral follows the title and author.

Okay so wow, there you have it. Just when you think you’re set on finding anymore books – which let’s be honest I’m just saying that because you never think that – you run into lists, posts, podcasts, and interesting covers, let’s not get started on series.

Are you reading any of these? Maybe you already have or want to? Let me know, I’d love to hear what we have in common or not. Don’t be afraid to tell me if you think any of these books are crap. I’m not afraid of opinions that are other than I LOVE THAT BOOK. Stay tuned for more information on some of these books and what made me add them to my list. Of course these list change and depend on my progress with reading and writing.

What do you think?

via GIPHY

Shelf Control – Wednesday, 27 March, 2019

This Wednesday bookish meme is hosted by BookShelf Fantasies. Thank you for letting us join in this fun!

From the host’s page:

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

My Shelf Control

The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

33571231

From Goodreads:

Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. According to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence.

In The Genius of Birds, acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores the newly discovered brilliance of birds. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research–the distant laboratories of Barbados and New Caledonia, the great tit communities of the United Kingdom and the bowerbird habitats of Australia, the ravaged mid-Atlantic coast after Hurricane Sandy and the warming mountains of central Virginia and the western states–Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are shifting our view of what it means to be intelligent. 

Consider, as Ackerman does, the Clark’s nutcracker, a bird that can hide as many as 30,000 seeds over dozens of square miles and remember several months later where it put them, or the mockingbirds and thrashers, species that can store 200 to 2,000 different songs in a brain a thousand times smaller than ours. 

But beyond highlighting how birds use their unique genius in technical ways, Ackerman points out the impressive social smarts of birds. They deceive and manipulate. They eavesdrop. They give gifts. They kiss to console one another. They blackmail their parents. They alert one another to danger. They summon witnesses to the death of a peer. They may even grieve. 

This elegant scientific investigation and travelogue weaves personal anecdotes with fascinating science. Ackerman delivers an extraordinary story that will both give readers a new appreciation for the exceptional talents of birds and let them discover what birds can reveal about our changing world. Richly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures. From the Hardcover edition.

Paperback, 340 pages – Published April 11th 2017 by Penguin Books (first published April 12th 2016)

via GIPHY

How & When I Got It:

I don’t know. To be honest, it feels like I’ve had this book for a long time. When I found it lingering in my house late last year I assumed it was a book I’ve had for years because I’ve always loved birds. Then I saw the date of publication, and well, that solved some of that. Pretty sure I got this at a book store.

Why I Want to Read It:

I love birds.

Birds have always fascinated, since I was a girl. The start of spring is a great time to bump this up my TBR. You’ve heard it here now, a change to my Spring 2019 TBR & the first hint of my April Plans. And a sneaky addition to today’s WWW Wednesday. 😉

My favorite sign of spring is the growing sound of bird songs. I remember a couple weeks ago, even before the spring equinox, I stepped out my front door and immediately to my left in the shrubs was a pair of Robins. My heart joined them in their fluttering wings and feathers. I texted people close to me announcing what I’d seen. This was a beautiful sign for me. Regardless of the mess of the big world, in my small world, the Robins had arrived. I always wonder what’s happening inside the world of birds, especially since I live with two Parrots. When I was a little girl one of my favorite books was my first guide to bird watching. It was a thin hard cover, I still own it though the dust jacket is long gone. I drew pictures of Birds of Prey and put them in my bedroom windows to keep birds from flying into the glass. All things birds were cool with me. You can bet I will write about them one day.

I can’t wait to see what’s happening on the forefront of birds and their lives around the world. Hopefully you’ll join me.

via GIPHY

How do you feel about birds? Or what do you think about birds? Let’s talk!

via GIPHY

Spring 2019 TBR

Thank you Destiny @ Howling Libraries for your Spring TBR post. You inspired and motivated me to break my 2019 TBR down further into seasonal TBRs. It seems a strange thing to say this but gosh it’s almost hard to pin myself down, to commit to reading certain books within a certain time! Most of the time I base what I’m reading off spontaneous thoughts and feelings. I see a book, on my shelf or a shelf (or in my Kindle), and say okay that’s next or that’s now.

However as a book blogger and a blogger period I do think it helps to let my audience know what’s coming up in case you want to read along with me or follow me to stay tuned for a review. First I broke my Goodreads TBR down to my current 2019 TBR. And now I’m going to break that down to this here Spring TBR, in no particular order. Which, disclaimer, may be subject to change. 😉 Feel free to post your comments at the end. Thank you!

38207146

This first title, Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, is a book I found at Books and Tea with Brittany. Brittany is an Australian blogger I just found and mentions this book is by Aborginal authors. It sounds really interesting, a woman has died and her father a detective is the only one who can see her and together they work to solve a mystery. Follow the above link to read the full synopsis on Goodreads.

36315937

The Deepest Blue By Sarah Beth Durst JUST came out, and I even more JUST got my copy. This is a standalone continuation of the Tales of Renthia. Prior to this book there was the Queens of Renthia trilogy that I read and enjoyed very much last year. So it’s with great joy I heard about this from Mrs. Durst’s page, a story set in another part of the same world. Yeah!

Oh and I read the book Lost and loved it by this author but the rest of the trilogy apparently isn’t forthcoming after all. However we may have reason to believe that series will be put to TV or movie. Oh my gosh, let’s hope so! That was a great book and I really wish they would have published the rest of the trilogy/series.

11559200

Another trilogy I’m very happy to be reading. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness is the second in the All Souls Trilogy. The first was A Discovery of Witches. Kind of a big book but it was well worth it. In fact I just lent the book to my Great Aunt, let’s see if she likes it! I’m not a Twilight fan so if you also aren’t don’t get worried when I say witches, vampires, daemons and more. We’ve got ancient magic, a witch discovering her powers and why is everyone so obsessed with her? There’s some romance here – not a romance reader myself – and it works for me, well at least the first book. This is also a book that they’re going to be reading in the Goodreads’ group Bookworm Bitches in April. I’ll be reading this along with them.

25659467

If you’ve read any of my other posts yet you might know I’m going to be reading this very soon, like this week. The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan is the third book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I recently finished The Tropic of Serpents #2, click to learn more. Imagine reading a journal of sorts about a woman in a different, though similar, world long ago studying dragons around the world. You can bet I’ll be reading this entire series (I think there’s five total.) I’ll also be following the author in the future.

25266688

The Honours by Tim Clare is a fantasy book I just started, well like a week ago. I follow his podcast about writing, Death of A Thousand Cuts, and wanted to give his writing a shot. This is the first book, a sequel is to follow this May. My plan is to finish this, hopefully love it, and pre-order his second book, The Ice House, and provide a fellow author the much-needed support.

30038654

Binti – Home by Nnedi Okorafor is the second book in this trilogy. This science fiction story started with Binti (my review here) which was a short and great read about a young lady leaving her home for a distinguished university on another planet. But of course, it’s not that simple, things go real wrong. Original, creative, beautiful story. Can’t wait. This one’s a little longer but 176 pages, not long. I’ve also read – forget I read it years ago and re-added to my TBR – Book of Phoenix by Nnedi and became a fan of hers then. You can expect to hear about more from this author.

34386617

The Night Masquerade is the final book in this trilogy. Little big longer than the first two but still short at about 200 or so pages. Definitely plan to finish this series this spring.

22892738

Women Wartime Spies by Ann Kramer is a book I’ve had in my personal library for a LONG time. I wrote about this and other such books in the post Here’s What’s Up: Rediscovering Books. Check it out.

17737025

I’m currently reading My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel. This is a sort of academic non-fiction that I’m slowly picking my way through. It’s very interesting and well-researched. He not only shares his own experience with mental illness but looks into the history and research surrounding anxiety disorders. Check it out if you’re curious.

26114130

Yes I’m still reading this. Ugh, these last few weeks have not been good reading weeks. But Everfair by Nisi Shawl will hopefully be finished this week. I’m including it here because it’s spring and I’m currently reading this, so I think it makes sense to add it to my Spring TBR. I will say if you haven’t read it here already, I’m not loving this book and have fought to finish instead of DNF. Stay tuned for my review.

26068050

Yes I will be re-reading this as I recently realized that I have in fact read this book a couple years ago. Imagine that. That means I came across Binti having forgotten I’ve already read from this author! Lol, oh dear. I do remember that I really liked this book and I think I owe it a re-read even though reading books more than once is not really my thing. But The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor is an awesome book.

6360868

Another book my from Here’s What’s Up: Rediscovering Books series. The Greek Poets – Homer to the Present is a behemoth I will start reading this spring, maybe I’ll finish or maybe I won’t until summer. Either way I’m going to pick at this slowly with no rush to finish.

25733983

Here we have another from Here’s What’s Up: Rediscovering books. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren has been sitting on my shelf for a couple years. It’s about time and perfect for the season to read about a woman in science with a love for plants. Right up my alley.

Wow, I feel so limited to have to stop and yet I’m not a fast reader! When I think about how much time I actually have, what with work and writing my novel, this is an ambitious list for the next couple of months. I want to add more just because I get excited thinking about reading books but I have to be realistic. Besides, I’d rather be like oh my gosh people, I read alllllllllllllll those and here’s another. LOL! Or maybe they’ll bleed over into summer. Whatever the case, this is going to be a good season for bookish adventures.

Stay tuned for my more detailed April plans or go back and check out March Plans, whatever makes you happy.

I’d love to know if you’re reading any of these books or plan to. Now don’t go spoiling anything for me but I still want to hear your thoughts. What about your Spring list, are we similar? Not at all, no way? Do you think I’m crazy for trying to read all these or maybe you’re more crazy than me? Come on, comment, let’s share notes.

Please like and comment if you enjoy my posts. Absolutely please do follow me if you want to keep up and stay tuned. I post reviews shortly after I finish books and I’m posting monthly plans so you have a better idea of what’s coming up.

Here’s What’s Up Book Lovers!

via GIPHY

This Saturday’s installment for Here’s What’s Up is bookish. The theme is re-discovering books. By this I mean books I’ve had for a long time just chilling on the shelf.

via GIPHY

While packing and unpacking a recent move I encountered books that had long become decorative pieces that made up those things called bookshelves. It’s easy to get on a kick about a certain subject, author, theme, you name it. You pick up some books. You put them on the shelf then stand back in awe of the beauty they’ve added to your collection. Ah if only you could read faster and read them all this week, or this month perhaps. Sigh.

via GIPHY

Then life does that thing it does and makes a turn, a hard turn sometimes at that. You forget all about how hard-pressed you were to read your entire library, new and old. How you’d just found this new author and picked up two of their 15 books with the promise to read them all. Those new books on your bookshelf fade into the background. They become a piece of decorative wall art. That one you started with the cool new bookmark gets buried on your desk or permanently lodged in the bag you were always carrying before time changed. Your books are now in the ether of dreams. Fear not! Here’s what’s up with those books (well mine).

via GIPHY

As I unpacked my books I sorted them. These are going to be sold or given away. Those are going to be packed and put in the attic (until a new bookshelf magically appears). And these, yup these right here, are going to be put somewhere nearby and added to my TBR. The books I mention here are books of different origins and eras (in my life) that I will add to my 2019 TBR. They are all over the place in genre and decade, as well as condition. Most I’ve not read. So I thought it would be fun to share some of my new old stock with you for this week’s Here’s What’s Up Book Lovers: Rediscovering books.

via GIPHY

OH bonus for this post is the fact that this first book fits right into Women’s History Month, which is right now, March, in case you didn’t know. And let’s just say all the books I add written by women count because well they’re history, they’ve already been published. 😉

Women Wartime Spies by Ann Kramer

Synopsis from Goodreads:

22892738

From Mata Hari through to Noor Inyat Khan, women spies have rarely received the recognition they deserve. They have often been trivialized and, in cinema and popular fiction, stereotyped as vamps or dupes. The reality is very different. As spies, women have played a critical role during wartime, receiving and passing on vital information, frequently at considerable risk. Often able to blend into their background more easily than their male counterparts, women have worked as couriers, transmitters and with resistance fighters, their achievements often unknown. Many have died. Ann Kramer describes the role of women spies during wartime, with particular reference to the two world wars. She looks at why some women chose to become spies, their motives and backgrounds. She looks at the experience of women spies during wartime, what training they received, and what skills they needed. She examines the reality of life for a woman spy, operating behind enemy lines, and explores and explodes the myths about women spies that continue until the present day. The focus is mainly on Britain but will also take an international view as appropriate.

Hardcover, 171 pagesPublished 2011 by MJF Books

Here’s what’s up with this book:

Yes it was a bargain priced book at Barnes & Noble that pushed me to buy this book. But what really made me reach for it is the fact that my late Grandmother was a W.A.S.P., a Women’s Airforce Service Pilot. These women were trained pilots who tested and ferried aircrafts in addition to training other pilots during World War II. Their existence meant that more men were freed up for combat. Despite the courageous work they did they had no military standing. In fact, they didn’t receive veteran status for their World War II service until 1977. Then in 2009, President Barack Obama signed the WASP Congressional Gold Medal bill into law. My Grandmother was lucky enough to live to see and attend that day. She was a brave, adventurous woman who continued to fly until old age deemed it unsafe. I’ll never forget the story of how she applied to fly for a commercial airline as a young woman but was turned down. They said she was over-qualified for the job but would not be hired because she was a woman.

Hats off to you Grandma! Thank you to all the WASPs and to all the vets everywhere. My Grandfather is also a WWII vet. So this book drew my interest for personal reasons, though neither of them were spies. I hope to read it in April.

via GIPHY

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (Book #1) by Carlos Castaneda

Synopsis from Goodreads:

78250

The story of a remarkable spiritual journey, the first awesone steps on the road to becoming “a man of knowledge,” the road that continues with A Separate Reality and Journey To ixtlan. Includes The Teachings and A Structural Analysis.

Paperback, 288 pages – Published 1983 by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster (first published 1968)

Here’s what’s up with this book:

To be honest I don’t remember exactly how and why I have this. I kind of know why. It’s a book I’ve heard of before and thought eh, let’s see what this is all about. Seemed up my ally. And when I open the cover of this used, I’d say worn paperback, I find I wrote my name and 07/06′. There ya go, I got this in 2006 either at a garage sale (maybe) or used book stand/store.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Synopsis from Goodreads:

25733983

Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more. 

Lab Girl
 is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

Hardcover, 290 pagesPublished April 5th 2016 by Knopf (first published March 1st 2016)

Here’s what’s up with this book:

This book as you see above is about three years old, which is probably how long I’ve had it. I like science and I love plants. This book was 20% off in Barnes & Noble and therefore out on display. The cool cover and the title drew me in like fish on a line. And come to find out, it was nominated for a whole bunch of awards! This is right on time for Spring TBR.

The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present, edited by Peter Constantine, Rachel Hadas, Edmund Keeley, & Karen Van Dyck

Synopsis from Goodreads:

6360868

This landmark volume captures three millennia of Greek poetry—more than 1,000 poems and 200 poets. From the epics of Homeric Greece to the historical and erotic ironies of Cavafy, from the romances, hymns, and bawdy rhymes of Byzantium to the innovative voices of a resurgent twentieth century, this anthology brings together the diverse strands of the Greek poetic tradition. The favorites are all here—raging Achilles, restless Odysseus, strong-hearted Penelope—but The Greek Poets also presents neglected eras, from the rise of Constantinople to the end of the Ottoman occupation. In offering canonical poets such as Sappho and Pindar, and the modern Nobel laureates Seferis and Elytis, the renowned editors give us their new translations and bring together other masterful translators, including Robert Fagles, James Merrill, and W. S. Merwin, along with a younger generation that includes Anne Carson, Paul Muldoon, and Alicia Stallings. This is an essential companion to the Western literary tradition.

Hardcover, 736 pages – Published December 14th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company

Here’s what’s up with this book:

This behemoth was a gift. I believe at the time I got this book (not when it was published) I was in the midst of or had already published my poetry book. It was an interest (and still is though it’s a bit side-lined) of mine to read more poetry especially classics such as these. So a family member found this book and wah-la! It joined my shelf…

Let me be candid in saying I didn’t request to read the Greek Poets specifically (don’t give me that kind of credit) and I did take Intro to Mythology in college but by now, these will be new adventures all over again, and just new period. I’m actually kind of excited. 😉

Of course given what it is, this is a big book. And because it’s a compilation, I don’t feel pressure to read it in one take all on its own. Phew. This is a book I will pick at, reading some here and there with the goal to finish this spring (deadline: summer equinox).

via GIPHY

As I wrote this I decided that Here’s What’s Up: Rediscovering Books will be ongoing until announced otherwise. I’m going to stop this post at four books though there are many others that I have rediscovered. I think I’ll pop in every so often and update or add to these ongoing discoveries. You’ll find books like Dana Stabenow’s Liam Campbell & Kate Shugak series, as well as books I’ll be reading for research for my novel, and a number of non-fiction books. This series of posts will probably extend to titles that come to mind as I travel down the rabbit hole of the past and authors I used to read.

Of course when I finish a book I’ll have something to say about it. I mean that’s the point of a book blog right? So stay tuned for my progress on these books, reading to start in April. Which also means you should stay tuned for my April Plans post and an update to March Plans, progress report or something to that effect.

Now it’s comment time! Are you familiar with any of these books I’ve posted here?

What do you do when you “re-find” old books? After reading this consider going back to your older bookshelf and browsing for new old finds. If you decide to do a similar post please link back to me here and post your link in my comments. This could be a fun book meme! And of course tell me about your rediscoveries!

via GIPHY

March Plans

via GIPHY

First week of March is over already? Oh dear, I guess my hopes that time would slow down now that we’re almost out of winter won’t be realized. Bummer. That said, March as we all know is home to the spring equinox, and spring is the kick off to lots of activities. Yard work, house work (remodels, repairs, flips, rentals), exercise (sure this is a year long thing but ya know, gotta get ready for summer), bonfires, BBQs, outdoor adventures, gardening perhaps. So so much to do with those long days.

All this activity means sitting around reading will be a bit more difficult. However, it’s not impossible especially when reading is kind of a priority, although writing is a greater priority. (Beware writers, reading is an excellent EXCUSE not to write. Lol.) This is one reason it’s a great idea to lay out some March plans. I’ll be creating a lot of plans for a lot of different things but not sharing them all here. What I will share here, right here right now, are my reading and writing plans for March.

While browsing the world of Book Bloggers I found an interesting post, well two, about book blog post ideas. It’s a collaboration between two book bloggers, one posts 10 ideas then links to the other who shares another 15. Interesting post and really cool idea and execution of a collaboration. You can find these lists at Elated Books by El and 10 more from Maggie at Dreaming of Guatemala. I’m mentioning this now because as you might know I already have a 2019 TBR page. However, what I’ve not done is told you guys what I’m about to read and why. I just listed all the books I’m so far planning (read: hoping) to read in 2019.

Their list inspired me be more interactive with my TBR. This means my March plans will include specific books, the order I will read them, why I have them in the first place, why I’m reading them now, and if applicable how I heard of the book. This way you know in advance what I’ll be talking about and maybe you can read along with me. It might be difficult for me to make these March plans, as I like to choose the books I read spontaneously. But I’ve been planning my reads in advance more often. With so many books to read it helps to have some kind of method for choosing.

What am I talking about? Well for example, I finished Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker earlier this year. Last year I started the series with Borderline. Having finished Phantom Pains rather quickly (for me) I thought it best to start Impostor Syndrome sooner than later so my connection to the story would be current. It was nice to have read #2 & 3 closer together than #1 & 2.

Also, I read Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons quite a while ago. I shelved it on Goodreads back in 2015 and apparently never wrote a review. Eh… of course I enjoyed it, I’m going to read book 3 this month! I read The Tropic of Serpents (Lady Trent #2) last month. Just like with The Arcadia Project, I want to read #3 closer to having read the last one. This is a great segue into my March plans for reading!

via GIPHY

March Plans for Reading

At present I’m reading three books; Gutshot by Amelia Gray (a collection of short stories), Everfair by Nisi Shawl (alternate history/historical fantasy/steampunk novel), and My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel (non-fiction). The first two I will finish by the end of this weekend. The non-fiction I will finish in the next two weeks (that’s the deadline I’m going to give myself).

26114130

I have been reading Everfair for quite some time now. To be honest I’ve come really close to DNFing it. Nisi Shawl is clearly a talented writer however I’m not a fan of her style of writing and I’m leaning towards the idea that I’m also not a fan of this genre. I’m more than 3/4 of the way through this book and I still can’t get into it, it’s like there’s no solid story to grab hold of even though this is an alternate telling of history, so there’s a real life story under there!

22237153

Gutshot is my first collection of short stories in a long time. While I would like to read more collections than I do now this one isn’t turning out to be my cup of tea or coffee. In my most humble opinion, there’s not a lot of meat on the bones of these stories. I’m sure they’re the type to read in between the lines with deeper meanings and all but that’s not the type of story I want to read. I’ll go to poetry for that. It’s a short book so DNFing isn’t necessary, I’ll see it all the way through.

17737025

No need to go into my feelings about My Age of Anxiety now, it’s a non-fiction so it’s going to take me a little longer and I’m not even halfway through. Instead let’s go back to March plans for reading!

After I finish the first two, the fiction books, I will start on The Honours by Tim Clare in Kindle format and The Voyage of the Basilisk (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan in paperback format. So I will start these on the 10th or 11th if not a little sooner.

The Honours by Tim Clare

25266688

The Honours is written by the podcaster Tim Clare. I’ve been listening to him using the app Podcast Addict for a little under a year now. I do enjoy his eccentric nature though some of his rants get a little long. That said he has a new book coming out in May, The Ice House, a sort of sequel to The Honours. He’s hoping to get enough pre-orders to make it on a best seller list. I haven’t read The Honours already because I’m not entirely sure it’s my kind of story but it’s good to support fellow writers you enjoy if you can. So I’m going to give his book a shot and now so if I do enjoy his writing I can pre-order The Ice House.

The Voyage of the Basilisk (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan

25659467

The Voyage of the Basilisk is the third book in this series and seeing as I liked the first two naturally I’m going to go ahead and continue reading this series. I don’t recall how I found this series and this author in the first place. It was probably a random find for me, meaning no one suggested it to me, just sounded interesting. I also plan to read more books by Marie Brennan.

26068050

If I finish these two fiction books before the end of March then I will start on The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor. Here’s some fun irony… I can’t remember exactly how I found this book, either from an Amazon recommendation or just a random. But I have had it for some time. Fast forward to the present. Browsing Book Outlet for something interesting I found Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Ordered it. Got it. Read it (click the link above to read my review) and loved it. That led me to look for more work by the author. Naturally I added the Binti sequels to my TBR (probably will make my April plans for reading) but I also saw other books that looked interesting. This book stood out, I knew I’d seen it before but where? I then looked around for how best to get the book.

Don’t you know I forgot I already had it? Yup. Yup. Guilty. But it kept nagging at me that I was aware of the book prior to reading Binti. So here I’ve read Binti, became a fan of Nnedi, while sitting in a stack of books in my dining room was The Book of Phoenix waiting for me. My dining room table is tall, think bar stool tall with storage underneath, part of the reason I chose it. Naturally books dominate this storage. So a couple weeks ago I was sweeping and bent down to fill the dust pan. This particular sweeping event had me facing some of the books under the table and BAM! Hey I know that book! The Book of the Phoenix is now out and visible and stands out even more due to this series of events. Strange right?

Okay this post is super long, they won’t all be but since March plans are my first in this “series” it’s naturally a little longer. But there you have it, hit me up if you plan to read any of these or if you have (do not leave me spoilers!). Stay posted for reviews and thoughts on the books I finish and updates for when I start the new ones.

Check out my 2019 TBR to see what else I want to read this year. If there’s something you’re dying to read or hear about let me know because you never know, I might push it up my list just for you. 😉

via GIPHY

Review of The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2) by Marie Brennan

22238179

From Goodreads:

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, in which she lost her husband, the widowed Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the savage, war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell – where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

Published February 17th 2015 by Tor Books (first published March 4th 2014)

My Review

4/5 stars

It’s been a while since I read the first in this series so I couldn’t remember just what I was in for or wasn’t. At times I wished the story itself would pick up and I really wanted to read more about dragons than anything else. All in all though this book ended really well, so if you’re feeling a little dissatisfied, hold on I think you’ll appreciate finishing it.

This book is not a bad book, it’s written well, simply put it’s just not your average story. Imagine dragons are real but they haven’t been well studied, if much at all. Now go back in time, let’s say like early 1900s, and imagine a woman scientist, naturalist whose life revolves around dragons. She’s a young woman, in her 20s, with a young son this time around. She’s very likable, an adventurer who doesn’t always make the best choices, and she’s dedicated to dragons, their well being, and her study of them. While she’s always pushing the boundaries she has to live within the restrictions of a world that doesn’t encourage women in science (she had to publish her work under her husband’s name) let alone trousers. This is a story about her adventures and studies so it’s not always exciting but IMHO it’s very interesting. Reading it I felt like I could very well be reading a real memoir, it was fun to imagine and helped me get through the slower parts of the story. And it’s not even that this is a slow story by any means, every chapter is full of a new development, I’m just pouting because I wanted more dragon time. That said the people of the Green Hell, the swamp of Mouleen, are themselves quite interesting. I think it’s fair to say this story has a long lead up to a great conclusion.

If you want to read about a world with dragons from a natural history perspective, that includes all aspects of such expeditions to study them, then you’ll really enjoy this. There’s a lot more than dragons going on here and they’re not the same dragons you read about in all the other fantasy stories you’ve come across. Again, think real world dragons. One of the best parts, I think, is that this is a world with dragons across the globe in all kinds of environments. There’s different species of dragons, not just the one kind like we’re used to hearing about. Most other stories treat dragons like there’s only ever one kind of dragon. That is not the case here.

I’ll be starting the next The Voyage of the Basilisk sooner than later because I’d like to stay in the vein of this kind of writing, this book ended with an excerpt from the next, and I already have it in my possession. 😀 Check my 2019 TBR for Voyage of the Basilisk and more!

via GIPHY

For more of my reviews CLICK HERE!

Adventures in a Bookish World

On Goodreads you can sign up for the annual reading challenge and create your personal goal. Last year I didn’t read as much as I would have liked so this year I set my goal low, 20 books. So far I’ve read five! That’s awesome if you ask me. 😀 Now I have to admit two of those I started at the end of 2018 and finished in 2019, so they count but they’re right on the line. At this rate I’m going to kick butt. I just finished “Semiosis” by Sue Burke, great book, I gave it 5/5 stars. I do recommend it. Book two is expected out this year so we’ll see.

At present I’m reading three books. One non-fiction, “My Age of Anxiety”, a steampunk novel, “Everfair”, and “The Five Times I Met Myself”, just started it yesterday. I have a page for my 2019 TBR, CLICK HERE. The list is and will be subject to change, that I can promise you. I’m excited to see where they take me, non-fiction and fiction alike. I’m excited what this reading will do for my writing, for me, heck for you and the blog.

Where do you find your books? Podcasts, websites, magazines, newspapers, friends, family, the bookstore? How do you pick them? How do you prefer to read, physical or electronic? Or perhaps both? Who are your favorites? Why? What kind of books are you looking for? What are you willing to give a shot to? Wondering about fantasy? Want some science-fiction? What tickles your fancy?

via GIPHY

I find books ALL OVER THE PLACE. For real, everywhere. I like to visit book stores. I love books, the way they feel, look, and smell. Some of my most fond memories from school involve books, namely the Book Fair. OH MY GOD I loved book fair. A beautiful way into the bookish world. They bring their shelves on wheels in to school and fill up the library with loads of new books. Just looking at them I got excited. I knew then that reading and books were an unstoppable love. Stories are infinite. The variety astounded me. I was especially fascinated seeing series. How could I ever get through them all? Come back in a few weeks for my post about the books I read as a kid, many I got from these book fairs.

Book Stores

Of course book stores are like Christmas while Book Fair was an event. Bookstores are an all the time bookish world. Places where all the world can go and take their pick, much like the library. So how do you pick them? Do you go to the bookstore only when you have a specific book in mind, or particular author? Or are you like me and you’ll go just to find something? I mean of course I go in search of a target book or author, but I think I’ve gone more and found books at random. I’ve definitely picked books from their titles and/or covers. Read the blurb or back matter and make your selection. That leads to pulling out books around the other ones you’ve found. Or turning to the shelf behind you. Do you ever smell books in the store? Yup. (Hand raised.)

via GIPHY

Other People

Sometimes I get recommendations from people for books though most books I find myself. Perhaps you have a certain person who’s always giving recommendations? I like to exchange ideas with people and make some notes wherever I can from their suggestions. The funny thing about recommendations is that there are SO MANY books I find it near impossible to even take book suggestions. I always find something interesting so I don’t always like getting books that are widely popular. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t read them; I’m a fan of Jodi Picoult and she’s a widely read author. Maybe if you read in the same circles you always take suggestions from your friends? I don’t know, tell me about it, how do you do it?

Podcasts & BookTube

My newest methods for finding books, over the last year or so, is through podcasts and sometimes BookTube. I have found a number of books and authors through the people I follow. BookTube is kind of controversial. It appears there’s a lot of drama behind the scenes with a lot of people getting paid to read and review books. No one should be surprised that people make videos about the books they’ve read in hopes they’ll get loads of followers and maybe make some money. Some people do, but what then of integrity?

Eh, another day… but wait! I have thanks to a BookTuber I found Book Outlet. Great source for bargain books. (Follow this link to the left and I’ll get some points for referring people. Thank you! And no that’s not WHY I’m referring you there, I really do like shopping at Book Outlet. I just got a new shipment, nine books for $42!) I’m all for buying local but if you can save some money on some books, why not? You see, Book Outlet gets overstock or damaged books from bookstores and other suppliers. This allows them to reduce the prices significantly. They don’t have every book you can think of, their selection is limited. So, my strategy? Find what books you can on Book Outlet and the rest you get from book stores. ;D Simple!

The podcasts I follow are all writing and/or reading related, always trying to keep writing on my mind. “Life Inside My Mind”, a collection of personal essays by 31 authors, I heard of through the podcast “Writing Excuses”. Podcasts are a great source for books. Almost all the ones I listen to are centered around some kind of interview with an author. It’s great to hear the author in their own words (as if their writing isn’t their own!) their background, the background of their story and their writing career, their thoughts on writing, their process, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You can check out the podcasts I listen to by clicking here.

Goodreads

Of course there’s Goodreads, a great big community of readers. Goodreads is its own bookish world. There are innumerable ways to connect with other readers, authors, and books on there. You could just post books on your shelves, leave ratings and reviews, browse recommendations. Or you could link up with like-minded people, follow authors, ask them questions. Then there’s groups, oh Lord there are groups! I’m not a big group person though I’ve joined some. This year I’ve joined some great reading challenges. Should be fun. Groups are an interesting place to see just how much we do or do not have in common. One more testament to just how many books there are out there. I’ll post more on Goodreads later this spring.

And to think I’ve not even mentioned the free books I’ve gotten through Amazon. They used to offer you one free a month, granted from four pre-selected books. Now they offer two I think it is of early reader copies, again from pre-selected books. I’ve only read a couple of the free ones I’ve chosen and I have to be honest, I don’t know who selects them or how but they need a new job…enough said, though I may elaborate at a later time.

Libraries

To think I haven’t mentioned libraries. Oh dear…admittedly I don’t go to the library much. Not because I don’t like to or I’ve got anything against library books, I just don’t. But libraries are fabulous. They are the epicenter to our bookish world at large! They’re way more dangerous than bookstores because you have to buy books to leave the store with them and that means emptying out your wallet if you love books like I do. Whereas once you’re all signed up and happy with your library card it’s all you and the books. When I go to the library I kind of lose my mind, completely awestruck. I just want to walk around and look at all the books. That said, I am not so good at returning things…that is a problem. But we’ll make a trip to the library soon and share my adventure here. 😉

This has been a taste of life in my bookish world. Be sure to come back soon as I’ll be adding a new post every week. Don’t forget to check out my TBR list and let me know if you’re planning to read any of them. Or maybe you plan to read a book by the same authors? Do you have other means for finding books? I’d love to hear how you find yourself in a bookish world. For now happy writing, reading, and exploring. And should you be so lucky to be in the frigid cold, stay warm and safe. Protect those you love.