Dear Sunday: Turning 25

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

me and a bridge (squint real hard and you'll see it)
This is sort of a weird title to have, considering my birthday was actually a week ago! But since I was busy traveling to California a week ago, I thought I might as well mention that I apparently turned a quarter of a century. 

Every birthday is different, and this one featured an abundance of physics and a sad lacking of cake. Considering that I once had like four cakes for one birthday I suppose it all averages out ;) 

Anyhow, I'm writing this while taking a brief break from studying for my exam on Monday-- I missed four classes going to that conference and now I have to do ALL THE STUDYING. Luckily this week's posts are scheduled (I'm on a roll!) so rest assured they will go up even if I accidently get buried in my notes. 

  • Top Ten Tuesday: 5 books I wish I could reread for the first time 
  • Thoughts from places: San Franciso
    • in which I shameless steal John Green's 'thoughts from places' idea and write all about how I felt about San Fran. Warning: it's not pretty. 

That's all for me! I'm back to memorizing as much as possible before the day of reckoning  my exam on Monday. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Looking to travel to Medieval Italy? | Mini-review of The Scribe of Siena

I'm a sucker for time-slip romances. You know, the books where a character is thrust out of their modern, comfortable life into an impossible past, full of antiquated customs and a lack of medical knowledge. And all seems crazy and horrible but at the same time irresistibly interesting and other and then they meet a significant other who, even though they are from such a foreign time something ethereal seems to transcend the time barrier.


The Scribe of Siena is one of those time-slip romance novels; a neurosurgeon finds herself in Siena, Italy right before the Plague-- yes the Plague-- is going to deal its horrible blow. I called this a mini-review not because I'm 100% certain of my shorter review theory but because I honestly don't have much to say about this novel.

It felt extremely well researched, but the problem is that sometimes it came across as a dry info dump instead of an engaging narrative. It had technical success-- interesting plot, interesting characters-- but it lacked a soul. And since soul-searching is such a personal endeavour, I can not say that someone else wouldn't just adore the novel, not seeing any of the holdups I experienced.

I was disappointed by the way the author decided to deal with the Plague-- after all, that was the main reason I picked up the novel; such an interesting, horrible time period to write about!

Even with the tendency of info-dumping, it was not a difficult read; sure it was a bit slow at times, but the plot did keep moving. Overall, it was an interesting novel with a cute romantic plot and while it didn't exactly live up to my high standards, it was an enjoyable read. 

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Anticipated books that were a let down

This post brought to you by the Top Ten Tuesday series over at its new location at That Artsy Reader Girl

This week's prompt-- books I'm no longer interested in reading-- didn't really strike a chord with me. When I put books on my TBR list they tend to stay there indefinitely, or until I actually read them but who are we kidding there are books that have been there for years. I don't remove them, even if I doubt I'll ever read them because I love having a list of books to reference. Maybe one day I'll just be craving a classic murder mystery and I'll finally pick up The Mysterious Affair at Styles, one of my oldest on my list.

So this week I'm taking a little different spin on the prompt and telling you about exciting books that were on my TBR list that when I actually read them...were a bit of a let down.

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia : Atmospheric, La Belle Epoch, and magic? Sounds amazing! In reality, while the writing was at times beautiful, the plot dragged on, and the magic was horribly underutilized.

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber: WWI-era murder mystery by the author of one of my favorite murder mystery series? Sign me up! ...that is, until I read a story with slightly flat characters and one-too-many plot twists that left me mostly confused and let down.
2818632228510550The Vigil by Angela Slatter: What I was hoping for-- innovative urban fantasy a la American Gods. What I got: traditional fantasy with a little flair and a book that was like 100 pages too long.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn: A murder mystery novel featuring a spunky female scientist by the author of one of my favorite murder mystery series? Sounds great, right? The novel was alright but featured an almost silly cloak-and-dagger plot.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: Ahh now we have the lowest rating I've ever given on Goodreads. What I wanted out of this book: an intelligent, fun adaptation of a literary great. What I got: characters that made NO SENSE, an inconsistent ability to translate the story into modern times, and problematic passages regarding transgender characters (but they lied to me because the gender they were performing was different than a sexual category they were assigned at birth!). One of the biggest disappointments I've had regarding books in a long time.

Annnd on that cheery note I have reached the end of my list! Let me know: have you read any of these books? Were you let-down or did you love them? What is your biggest reading let down? 

Dear Sunday: Sunny California

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.This week I'm also doing a brief Stacking the Shelves and have also linked up with  tyngas reviews 

As you read this post, I will be in California attending a conference! It is my first official/relevant conference in graduate school so it is at once exciting and nerve wracking. It'll be super fun to hear about the cool things going on in the field of biophysics, but also this is also an important time for me to network and plan out future job applications so there is that.

This past week has been busy, preparing for the conference (I'm doing a poster presentation), trying to work ahead/stay on top of things for my class (I'm missing four lectures AND there's an exam right after I get back), and cleaning the church since I'll be away for so long (till mid this week).

That all being said I have scheduled this week's posts (I KNOW who am i) so stay tuned! Also I should be posting some cliche California pics on my instagram (which you can see on the sidebar to the right!) so check back for that.
I realized that February was quickly slipping away and I hadn't started my nonfiction read of the month! So after conferring with my library's online catalogue (oh modern society how do I love thee?) and my Goodreads TBR list, I decided on The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks  where a cookbook author teaches everyday women how to have confidence in the kitchen. Thus far I'm really enjoying it!

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Books That Were a Let Down
    • this is a spin on the prompt books you no longer want to read in that these are books that I really wanted to read and wasn't overwhelmed when I actually read them
  • Review: The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer 

Well that's it for me! I hope you all are having a wonderful week :) 

Discussion: The shorter the better for reviews?

If you have been in the book blogging community for any amount of time you will have probably noticed three things about us: (a) we love our lists, (b) we love our reviews, (c) it seems like readers much prefer lists to reviews.

I have read many blog posts pondering the lack of engagement on slaved-over review posts. It would appear, across the board, that review posts get fewer views and fewer comments than lighter, perhaps more fluffy posts (like those list ones we all love and adore).

But why? And perhaps more practically, is there any way we bloggers can change our reviews to reach a larger audience? Review posts, perhaps more than any other type of posts, are kind of the reason I started blogging about books. I loved books and when I finished one all I wanted to do was talk to my friends endlessly about the characters or the plot or the infuriating lack of historical inaccuracy-- but of course even the best friends tire of hearing un-requested book reviews, so I turned to the internet.

And when my review posts got the least engagement (sort of like my poor put-upon friend whose eyes start to glaze over after 10 min of book-opinion-outpouring) I began to wonder why. Were my reviews boring? Too general? Too specific? Not about the latest-greatest-shiniest book? ((to be fair I have held back from writing a review about one of my favorite books because not only is it impossible to find online it also isn't in most libraries and that just seems like a self-indulgent thing to write about!))

Of all the myriad of possibilities I would like to put forth one possibility: are my reviews too long? Are shorter reviews 'better' ones? Should my reviews fit in a succinct paragraph?

One of the reason that I myself don't read every review on my favorite blogs is because I am very specific about how much information I want to know about a book before I read it. In fact I would rather know next to nothing about the specifics of a novel-- I just want to know what genre and if it was well-written. Many reviews (rather reasonably) talk about the plot or character developments.

But if I see a post that is a paragraph long-- if I know that the blogger only has a super limited space to talk about this book-- then most likely the review focuses on the large picture things (amazing character development, poetical writing, stunning imagination), aka the things I'm most interested in.

My conclusion (shorter reviews are better because they are almost guaranteed to be spoiler free) is based off of one data point (me!) so help me out here! Let me know what types of reviews you prefer-- do you love sinking your teeth into an essay-length piece or do you prefer zoomed-out summaries? Do you want to know what happened in the book or how it made the blogger feel? Inquiring minds need to know. As you can see my theory is still hazy and incomplete-- help me out in the comments below.

TTT: 5 novels with beautiful relationships

This post brought to you by the Top Ten Tuesday series over at its new location at That Artsy Reader Girl

It's mid February which means it is time for the obligatory romance-y post so this week I'm bringing you five of my favorite romance novels! 

1096472854 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Years ago I decided I wanted to read a romance book--but a good one. So I googled 'best romance novel' and Outlander popped up and man was I not disappointed.

876361Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati: This is a beautiful atmospheric novel set in the wilderness of New York in the late 1700s and I just adored it and the two main characters (who of course fall in love because have you read the title of this post).

The Stars for a Light by the Morris people: I have mixed feelings about this series. Yes the plots can be cliche, yes it is a little predictable, yes they refused to even look at a map when they wrote the one that took place in Arkansas. However there is something to be said about watching a romance evolve between two people over like fifteen books. It isn't drawn out (miraculously) and I just love getting that long-term view of characters.

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord: Was this a bit derivative? Yes. Was it a bit predictable? Sure. Did I adore almost every minute of the relationship between the two characters? YES.

The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Clarke: This is a beautiful, heartbreaking novel featuring a beautiful, heartbreaking relationship.

That's it for me! What about you? What are you favorite bookish relationships??

Dear Sunday: the most exciting eARC ever

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.This week I'm also doing a brief Stacking the Shelves and have also linked up with  tyngas reviews 

Last week was: worrying about ice and snow, taking my first graduate level biochem exam, acing my first graduate level biochem exam, work, more work, and spontaneously getting back into watching Star Trek Discovery! I have so many opinions about that show I'm planning on writing a spoiler-free discussion post in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

The photo on the left is my first foray into grinding my own flour-- I know, it sounds super crazy and hippie but it's actually really easy! Maybe I'll include bread making as one of my how-to-hobby series which I swear will actually start sometime relatively soon. Maybe.

33019790I have two very exciting additions to my electronic bookshelf this week! First I received literally the most exciting eARC I probably ever will get. You see, years ago I got into the Lady Darby mystery series-- so much so that I actually bought one of the books when it was released (I never buy books until they are at the Dollar Tree...). Flash forward to a couple days ago when I learned that the latest book in the series is actually on Netgalley! And I got approved! I'm so excited to read it :)
Annnnd my next addition to my shelf is Milk and Honey. I've mentioned wanting to read it on my blog before, but I hadn't gotten around to checking it out at my library. Well, I was navigating to my Amazon Prime photo account when I stumbled upon Prime books-- books that are free with a Prime account, and this is one of them!! So if you, like me, got sucked into a Prime account, be sure to check their book section.

  • Like for real these will happen
    • I'm doing that whole scheduling-posts-thing instead of a we'll-see-what-happens mentality
      • yay!
  • Top Ten Tuesday: My favorite bookish relationships 
  • Discussion: Are shorter reviews 'better'? 
    • please check back this Thursday for this post! I'd love to hear some feedback 

Okay, that's it for me! I hope you are having a great ice-free week (is it summer yet?); see you this Tuesday for a mandatory cheesy Valentine's themed post :)

Dear Sunday: Welcome February!

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

I write this as I take a break from studying at my local library. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my library? It has been far too long since I've been here; it's actually been far too long since I last read a real life paper book. And owing to convenience and lack of time it might be awhile longer before I can get back to the smell and feel of a book ((or maybe I'll make this break even longer by wandering around the library and grabbing a title!)) . Last week was: checking out a Christian grad student group on campus for the first time ((really interesting! how have I not heard of them in the past three years I've been here?)) long hours at work, and cat yoga-- and no that doesn't mean I held a cat while also doing yoga as my friend imagined. A local animal shelter does cat yoga once a month where cats who need adoption wander around the room where someone is leading a yoga class and it was AWESOME. 

  • Top Ten Tuesday 
    • okay to be honest I might skip this week's TTT because the prompt (books that have been on your TBR list) is basically the same as what I talked about last week.....
  • Maybe another post! Hopefully another post! I have a couple of drafts started we'll see how busy this week gets....

Okay that's it for me-- back to studying for my exam Monday! Thanks for stopping by :) 

Review: My Life in France by Julia Child

If you're like me, then your first introduction to the cooking legend that is Julia Child was through the movie Julie and Julia. All I knew about her was collected from my dusty memories of the movie-- something to do with France and cooking and an adorable mariage.

5084Those hazy and incomplete memories prompted me to pick up my first nonfiction book of the year, My Life in France, an almost autobiography of Julia Child. Her grandnephew interviewed her to write the book, drawing on old letters sent across oceans to flesh out her life.

Julia met her husband while working overseas for what would later become the CIA. Her husband Paul kept working for the CIA, which meant that they were at the mercy of government officials, never knowing how long a posting would last, and never knowing what country they would be sent to next. They took it all with good charm and were constantly starting over, in Paris, in Marseille, in Germany, the US-- though of course the country that charmed her the most was France.

I don't read many biographies but this one kept my attention--- it never felt like a chore to pick up, to see what happened next. Julia talks about her life and her cookbook-- almost synonyms, considering the years and years of labor and cooking and experimenting and tasting that went into the behemoth.

Interspersed in the text are dozens of photographs that Paul took-- he was a skilled ameratur photographer. I loved seeing the black and white windows into their lives, be it the market or the many Valentines cards they designed.

Overall I highly recommend this book to anyone with a passing interest in Julia Child or French cooking! What I really want to do now is go back and rewatch Julie and Julia, to see what they left out, to see how they imagined Julia's life.

Even though this is a book blog and not a cooking blog I feel obligated to end with Julia Child's signature ending--

Bon appetit! 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I can't believe I haven't read

This post brought to you by the Top Ten Tuesday series over at its new location at That Artsy Reader Girl

I'll admit that this week's prompt stumped me. books you can't believe you have read. There aren't really any books that looking back I can't believe that I read! Sure there might be one tragically bad book that I really should have just put down and not soldiered on to the end, but one book does not a list make.

I had resigned myself to just skipping this week's prompt and waiting till next week when I came across I Wish I Lived in a Library's post. She decided to interpret the prompt with books she can't believe she hasn't read yet-- and when I saw that, I realized it was the perfect interpretation of the prompt for me! So thank you to Katherine and without further ado I will shamelessly use her interpretation:

2827366425489134The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden : I've talked about wanting to read this book so often on my blog I'm almost sick of it. And somehow I haven't managed to read it? I'm 75% sure that I have a hold on the ecopy of this book at my library so maybe one day it will magically appear on my tablet and I will finally read it.

1113816054217The Trespasser by Tana French: When I first saw this book on my TBR list on Goodreads I was like 'oh no that must be a mistake how can there be a Tana French book that I haven't read??' BUT turns out I haven't read it?!? Tana French is perhaps my all time favorite mystery author so this whole situation needs to be remedied quickly.

248483The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness: The reason I'm surprised I never read this is because I devoted like three weeks of my life to reread the second book in preparation for reading the end of the trilogy. However the second book was so obnoxiously long I was sick of the story by the end and never managed to pick up this next book....

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis: One of my favorite authors, a seminal book on Christianity, and somehow I've never managed to find the time? This will be a perfect read for my nonfiction reading challenge!

Austenland by Shannon Hale: Okay so I admit this book doesn't have the highest ratings on Goodreads per se. However it looks right up my alley. It's the sort of book that really could go either way-- interesting homage to Jane Austen, or a cheesy annoying ploy. Only time will tell!

That's it for me! Thanks again to I Wish I Lived in a Library's post for the inspiration for today's post :)
What about you? What are the books you can't believe you haven't read yet? 

Dear Sunday: Unexpected Warmth

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series.

This past week was:

  • brownies, birthdays, and bowling with my church group
  • a day so preposterously warm I pulled my rusty bike out, dusted it off, and took off down the trails. The trail was muddy and my tires were underinflated which meant it was a far more intense workout than I was expecting but it was a beautiful surprise considering that it is still January. 
  • I finished my first non-fiction book of the year! If you recall, I'm doing a nonfiction reading challenge with the goal of one nonfiction book a month (I'm barely squeaking by this month!). Look out for a review of Julia Child's My Life in France coming soon to a blog near you! (this blog. it's coming soon to this blog)

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can’t Believe I Read
    • (I haven't decided how I'm going to interpret this yet...)
  • Review: My Life in France by Julia Child
That's it for me! I have a busy week ahead of me-- mostly due to fun social stuff, but I also have my first biochem exam looming closer and closer so there is that. Hopefully I'll have time in between frantic studying to both blog and visit everyone else's blog!