ARC Review: Sing a New Song

Genre: Christian devotional
Expected publication date: October 31st 2017

I've always had a soft spot for the Psalms. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes dark, always lined with the silver edge of hope, I don't know why I've never actually sat down to study them in any significant way. 

So when I came across this gorgeous devotional on the book of Psalms on NetGallery, I knew I had to request it. And, in some fluke, NetGallery accepted my request and a digital copy magically appeared on my e-reader. 

Sing a New Song has commentary for each Psalm, breaking it down in sections. It talks about the theme, then it talks about how that psalm fits into the entire book in a section called harmony. The next section, singing in tune, has a verse-by-verse breakdown on the psalm. Musical notes shows how God's grace is seen in the psalm and sing the song gives suggestions on related scripture and practical application. 

Books are personal, but devotional books are even more so-- thus, I won't be writing a review per se because everyone is looking for drastically different things in books like these. 

What I liked: these devotionals were easy to read, and motivated me to start working my way through the Psalms. I loved being given additional scripture to read that related to the psalm. 

What I didn't like: On a small note, it was kind of annoying that the actual text of the Psalms weren't included in this devotional. It's not difficult to also have my Bible open while going through this devotional, but that was something that surprised me when I first started reading the devotional. Also, the Psalms can be difficult and dark and that's something that I felt like the devotional didn't always tackle. I mean yes, we can see God's grace and mercy through each Psalm but something we also see righteous anger which can be more difficult to understand. This devotional tended to stick to the easier things. 

Overall, I am grateful for this devotional book because it has motivated me to start studying and reading each Psalm. The accompanying text for each Psalm is quick enough to read that I've actually kept up with doing a Psalm every night before I go to bed. 

What about you? What's your favorite devotional book? I don't read nearly enough, so please leave your recommendations in the comments below! 

ARC Review: The Medievalist

The Medievalist by Anne-Marie Lacy
Genre: Historical Fiction, Time-slip, Romance
Rating: 7/10
Expected Publication Date: Oct 31st 2017

"I nodded, pretending to agree with him, but it was too cold and unforgiving to be beautiful."

The Medievalist is a time-slip novel, featuring a historian who gets what every historian secretly dreams of-- she gets to go back in time and meet the man she has studied for years: Richard III. (If you have no clue who that was, never fear, neither did I!) She is ripped out of the twenty first century and wakes up surrounded by the mostly gritty sometimes beautiful trappings of the 1400s. 

The Medievalist is a good novel, featuring a well-researched plot line, and a main character who grows and learns as the novel progresses. Character development might sound like a given, but believe me, it is not. A couple reviews ago, I complained about the romanticized version of the past in The Secret. The Medievalist does not suffer from this fault; it does not shy away from the dangers that women faced in this time period. Women could gain status from birth, marriage, or being the mistress of a powerful man, but without men, for the most part, they lacked power and protection. Jayne is thrown from a world of academia, into a cut-throat world where she must decide what she is willing to do for that protection. 

The chapters oscillate from being told from Jayne's perspective to King Richard's perspective-- something that I could have done without. The Jayne chapters were written well, but Richard's suffered from a stilted voice that never quite sounded right. 

Parts of this novel dragged, and sometimes I couldn't convince myself to care about the plight of the characters. However, parts of the novel flew by as I flipped the pages, eager to find out what happened next. Inconsistency, and the 'romance' kept this novel from being better. The author wrote lust better than she wrote love, which left me with two characters who did not have any reason to love each other-- there had been no time or space for a relationship to develop-- so lust was thrown in as a proxy.

I don't know much about the 1400s, but this novel felt well researched and believable-- which you kind of have to do if you make your main character a historian whose area of research was the 1400s. That being said, I might have enjoyed this novel more if I knew anything about King Richard III before going in. Even so, I was never overly confused about the political intrigue.

The Medievalist was a good--not great, but enjoyable, novel that fans of the time-slip genre should try. If you enjoy well researched historical fiction, then you might like The Medievalist.

What about you? Have you read the Medievalist? What is your favorite time-slip novel??

TTT: 3 books that feature BA real life women adventurers

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

When I first saw the prompt for this week, I was stumped. The theme is books that contain characters that have something in common-- be in in their hobbies or their personalities. After reviewing the books I've read on Goodreads and looking for common links, I had a flash of inspiration.

Why not talk about books that feature real life super cool women adventures? I rarely read nonfiction but when I do, I love reading travel logs from amazing women. You might notice how short this list is-- leave any recommendations in the comments below!

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
I've mentioned this book on my blog before, but Isabelle is this crazy cool lady who traveled through Colorado primarily on horseback during the late 1800s. She is part insane part brave and her story was an interesting glimpse in a world totally different from present day US. 

 The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark
This book is great. Freya traveled through the Middle East in the early 1900s, and this book is a compilation of her travels and adventures. She traveled alone, hiring local guides as she went. She spent an entire page deriding the horrible practice of grave robbing that some locals did, while in the next paragraph describing the grave that she located and plundered. In her mind, the historical documenting she did and her plan to sell the artifacts to reputable sources erased any guilt. It was such an unusual book featuring such an unusual journey! 

Now on to present day! I've actually reviewed this book on my blog. This massive tome chronicles the journey of three best friends as they travel around the world for one year. It was a fun, yet real read of the joys and difficulties of bouncing around the world for one year. 

That's it! I could only think of three travel books written by women...I am looking forward to read Marianne North's books-- she was a botanist who traveled the world in the late 1800s. Other than that I don't know of any other cool women adventurers!

What about you? What are you favorite travel reads?

Dear Sunday: Dollar Tree Finds

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

Hello everyone! There is no exciting news to detail, no changes in my life as it quietly hurtles itself through the semester. I'm excited it's almost October mainly because the temps here have been solidly unabashedly summer temperatures, not the beautiful temperate chill that fall promises. 

I've also kind of sort of decided to officially do NaNoWriMo this year! National Novel Writing Month takes place every November where the goal is to write 55,000 words in one crazy caffeine-fueled fourth-wall-destroying month. I did it all through high school but went on a wise hiatus through college. Last year, a couple weeks before November, I had all but forgotten about NaNo until a blogger announced she was going to do it and suddenly it hit me. I have way more free time in grad school than in college-- and what else to do with that free time but clean cook write a blog  watch YouTube write a novel?! I won last year and I'm looking forward to participating this year! It's still a bit early but I really need to get some planning done. Are you doing NaNo?? If so be sure to befriend me and maybe we can cheer each other on :) 

This year will mark ten years since my first NaNo and my first novel! Like...what?! 
The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas
I picked this up when I was in my local Dollar Tree buying more candles that I'll never light (but they're just a dollar!). The cute cover drew me in and the cute story made this an enjoyable read. Stay tuned for my review! 

  • Top Ten Tuesday 
  • ARC Review: The Medievalist 
  • ARC Review: Sing A New Song 
That's it for me! How was your week? Do you want to write one novel in one month?? Join me in my craziness :)

Review: A Curious Beginning

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

I'm a little bit behind on the times, y'all.

When I saw that the author of one of my favorite murder mystery series (Lady Julia Grey) was publishing book three of a series I hadn't even heard of, I scrambled to get the first in the series at my local library.

I knew from the premise that it would be slightly different than her Victorian-era murder mystery series I had previously read, but I was excited for a change of pace.

A Curious Beginning is a fast-paced, mostly enjoyable, novel which features a brutally honest, stunningly intelligent main character whose is faced with a plot so preposterous is borders on silly. The books starts with some major cloak and dagger-- which I am perfectly fine with. However, the cloak and dagger extends way too far until things just magically happen because mysterious reasonnsss and everything feels very deus ex machina.

That being said, I was charmed by the Victoria Speedwell, who unabashedly called herself a scientist, and who is part natural disaster and part army general. (see previous post where I talk about how, even after two degrees in physics, I still hesitate to label myself as a scientist) I loved her interactions with the other main character, loved how they played off of each other, and loved the complex pasts hinted at for both of them. I just wish they had been given a better plot.

When I was 81% of the way through the book, things finally stopped feeling silly and actions were given (mostly) logical backing. For me, that is far too late in the game, but I admit that is a personal preference. There are some adventures thrown into the book in a hodgepodge manner, side quests that add nothing to the overall plot, but are cool, so why not? (PSA: just because something is cool doesn't mean it belongs in your novel)

Overall, this was an easy to read mystery novel with a bold, unabashed feminist character who was interesting enough for me to look past the qualms I had regarding the plot. I will be picking up book number two at my library (here's to hoping for a slightly improved plot).

What about you? Have you ever read A Curious Beginning? If so, what did you think? Did you love the cloak and dagger plot?

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week for Top Ten Tuesday, I have four books that I'm looking forward to reading this fall. Of course I could have listed like a hundred books here (have you seen my rapidly growing TBR list??) but I wanted to create a more realistic goal for myself. With my plunge into the ARC world, I haven't been reading as many published books as before.

Without further ado, here are four books that I hope to get to this fall.

Reawakened by Colleen Houck

This YA novel caught my eye with its promises of blending Egyptian mythology with a fast paced plot.

My Life in France by Julia Child

How have I not read this yet?? I loved the movie Julia and Julie (the book? not so much) and I'm excited to learn more about Julia Child's life.

Abundant Beauty by Marianne North

I actually heard about this author while reading a different book (A Curious Beginning, review to come!). She was mentioned in the same breath as Isabella Bird, a female author who traveled solo through the American West in the late 1800s. I had just finished Bird's book, thoroughly loving it, and was looking for other amazing female trailblazers both metaphorically and literally. I'm looking forward to checking out this novel about Marianne North, who traveled the world studying botany in the late 1800s.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

This book, inspired quite heavily by the Sherlock Holmes series, features a female Sherlock Holmes and really could go one of two ways. It could be super interesting and well done, or an awkward imitation of a great novel. Either way, I'm excited to give it a go.

And that's it! What about you? What are you fall must-reads??

Dear Sunday: My New Project

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

Hello! This past week has been manic as I decided subconsciously to say yes to all the things and as such my schedule skyrocketed. Luckily for my sanity, all of my new ventures did not pan out so this week will be a bit quieter. But, I do have an exciting new venture to share with y'all! I've opened an Etsy shop (well the opening of the shop isn't terribly new, but putting stuff in it is!) and have listed my first piece, the one pictured on the left! It's a little craft I recently started doing and thought I would give Etsy a go-- I have several really cool pieces I'm working on currently (including one featuring a TARDIS) and I can't wait to list them.

I've tried selling art before on Etsy to mitigated success. If it turns out that no one wants to buy my art then I already have some friends in mind to gift them to. :)

On to the books! Oo...I wonder if I could do some book inspired wire art? Any idea/suggestions?

I've had two more Netgallery wishes get granted! This Side of Murder is by one of my favorite murder mystery authors and The Beautiful Ones looked too interesting to pass up. 

  • Top Ten Tuesday: Fall Anticipated Reads
  • Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
  • .....stay tuned!
That's about it! What about you? Do you/have you ever had an Etsy store? How did it work out for you? 

Review: Eight Hundred Grapes


Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 8/10

“Be careful what you give up...because eventually, you get it back any way you can.” 

In Eight Hundred Grapes we see a family falling apart, a crumbling foundation where the cracks have been growing insidiously, hidden, for years. What seems at first to be a daughter running home to escape her problems soon grows more and more complicated, as secrets come out, and every sure thing seems to falter.

This book oscillated from philosophical to faltering. On one page I wanted to write down certain lines, certain wisdoms that caught my eye. On the next page I wanted to shake sense into the characters, or, at the very least, shake them out of their uncertainty, out of their wavering. Like the main character, I just wanted everything to be fixed, I wanted everyone to be happy. However, one of the main themes of this book is how messy and complicated that happiness can become and how you can search for it in the wrong ways.

This isn't the type of book I typically go for. I like to call its genre literary fiction, even though that's not how the powers that be aka Goodreads, labels it. (they call it chick lit which I think I have a moral objection to, I'll let you know when I decide) Whatever you wanna call it, it is a book focused on relationships and character development over a fast-paced plot. I felt like I should have been bored while reading it, but I never was. The writing won me over, not making me an wildly enthusiastic fan by any stretch of the imagination, but enough of a fan to recommend this book. It has its own quiet beauty, quiet introspective quality that kept me interested enough to finish this book in just a couple days.

I loved the complicated characters, loved how they made the wrong decisions for sometimes the right reasons. I loved that their actions made sense, that they felt real, even if I was frustrated.

While it's not the type of book I would want to pick up next-- I'm a sucker for a fast paced plot and strong characters, call me unrealistic-- it was a nice change of pace. If you like books that focus on relationships, all the ways they can break, and more importantly, all the ways that they can mend, then you should give Eight Hundred Grapes a shot. You might be wooed by its quiet beauty too.

Let me know-- have you read Eight Hundred Grapes? If so, what did you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: 4 Childhood Favorites

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Growing up, I lived my adventures through the flipping white pages of library novels-- the bigger the better. When life seemed boring-- when reality was merely humdrum, literature promised the impossible, a crisp dive into a universe that was refreshingly different.

 Books have unique powers when we are young; they leave impressions on us like marks on drying clay, which, once hardened to adulthood, is no longer so malleable. There is a certain magic to books you read as a kid, so when the folks over at the broke and the bookish listed this week's top ten tuesday as a throwback freebie, I knew I had to talk about a couple books I read and loved as a child.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

When I was a kid, I was browsing books at a local grocery store while my parents were checking out. Out of boredom mainly, I picked up the second book in the HP series, read the first page-- and was hooked. My parents tried to convince me to start by reading the first book but, as I had already seen the movie, I started with the Chamber of Secrets, and only years later went back and read the first one.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

I kept track of how many times I had read this book by making marks on my second grade desk. ((11 times by my recollection, apparently I hadn't developed my aversion to rereading books by this age!)) It was a beautiful heartbreaking book that made me want to go buy two bloodhounds.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

I actually don't remember much about this book, other than how much I loved reading it and the following books.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

This book, about a boy who is stranded in the wilderness and learns how to fend for himself, fascinated me. I dreamed of living off the land like he did, deliberately ignoring the fact that I hate bugs and love indoor plumbing.

What about you? What books stole your imagination growing up? Which ones do you still remember?

Dear Sunday

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

This past week was busy in a good way. I played badminton, ate turtle soup, got really frustrated that you need finesse and not brute strength to win badminton (I have one not the other, guess which), had ARCs granted that I don't remember even applying for, sort of like a genie with amnesia, nearly physically ran into the chair of my department, taught my recitations using a really cool demo that actually worked (this never happens in physics), met some other really cool science grad students (this also never happens in physics), and ran more experiments at work (none of which that have worked because physics)
A post shared by Anna Pittman (@anna2358) on

I've also been thinking of different ways to market my blog. I know sometimes I'll find an amazing blog, but if it's not on Bloglovin' I know I won't keep up with it. I adore Bloglovin' but I know that not everyone uses that to follow blogs. What your favorite way to follow blogs? 

  • Top Ten Tuesday:
  • Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

That about sums it up! This week should be slower for me, which is good because I have some ARCs that I want to finish (nothing like the pressure of giving feedback to motivate you to read, ammiright?). How was your week?

What I Read: August

I'm linking up with The book date and Feed your fiction addiction for this monthly review! 

As you may or may not have noticed, I'm trying a slightly different format for my monthly review. I've become proficient at using Adobe Illustrator through my job, oddly enough, so I thought I would create a layout for the books I read this month! 

Where Two Seas Meet by the Morris people
This is the first book of the second series about the two main characters. The books are always enjoyable; they're like comfort food. If I ever want a nice book to read, I return to this series. 

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain
This is book two in a time slip murder mystery series that I enjoy. I might get around to writing a review for it one of these days....

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Easily hands down my favorite book this month. Click on the title to read more of my fangirling on this second book in the Wayfarers series. 

This was my first ARC (advanced reader copy)! It was an enjoyable lighthearted romance that quickly became my second favorite read of the month. 

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
My review for this novel will be up in a week or so, so stay tuned! In a nutshell, this was an introspective novel that, while more towards literary fiction than I normally read, I enjoyed nonetheless. 

The Secret by Julie Garwood
Annndd for my least favorite book of the month. To be fair, this book was not a bad book; there were parts of it that I definitely enjoyed reading. The characters were cute and the romance was light and fluffy. It was just too difficult to correlate feminist characters (who convince men to give women more rights) and fluffy romances with 12th century Scottish wildlands. 

That about sums it up! I'm pretty happy with my total for the month of August-- not my busiest month but definitely not my slowest month. How was your month? What was your favorite read that I should check out? 

ARC Review: The Woolly Hat Knitting Club

Genre: Romance
Rating: 8/10
Expected publication date: Sept 25th 2017

Dee-- or Delilah if you aren't her friend thankyouverymuch-- is a classic workaholic. She's good at what she does, and she crams work into nearly every hour of every day. But when her little brother breaks his wrists and needs help running his knitting shop, Dee's life starts to change. 

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is a delightful easy-to-read romance novel which, while light on the actual romance, is a funny, enjoyable read. While I wish there had been more time devoted to romantic relationships, I do love the relationships that the book did focus on. Dee is very close with her brother, and I loved seeing their relationship grow and develop. Another relationship that was fun to see was the one between Dee and her highschool mate. How can I complain that time was devoted a female friendship instead of a romantic relationship, when most books are the opposite? 

"If I hear one more investor who's put a million in a tech start-up that they don't really understand use the description, 'It's the Uber of...' I will book myself an Uber to the dark side of the moon and never come back."

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club is very much a book of the now. I rarely read recently published books; most of the books I read wisely avoid any mention of technology in order not to age the book. This novel was the exact opposite, reveling in all of the minute things that make 2017 2017. While it was fun to read something that referenced very relevant things-- such as Instagram and Facebook live videos-- it did make me worry about the shelf life of the story. In ten years, will people remember the pink hats women wore while marching in protest of the Trump presidency? Will people know what Facebook live videos are? It feels almost disingenuous to write a story without reference to the ever-present technology in our lives, but this novel sacrifices some timeless quality by doing so. 

Dee is a feisty independent business woman I instantly fell in love with. Her actions, both good and bad, made sense, because I felt like I understand who she as a character was, which takes talent. I laughed out loud several times while reading this novel and if that isn't a sign of a funny book then I don't know what is. 

Overall, this is a fun, light hearted romance novel. While I did want more of the actual romance, I loved reading this novel. It was also very British and while some of the idioms went over my head, I felt very cool when I understand what they meant when they were 'chuffed' or used other British slang that I've picked up on YouTube.  

What about you? Did I convince you to give this novel a go once it's published? Have you read anything by Poppy Dolan before?

Top Ten Tuesday: 4 Books I did not finish

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

"Life's too short to read a bad book." --James Joyce

For years, when faced with a book that was either not my cup of tea or a verifiably poorly written one, I would either make myself finish it, or feel terribly guilty not finishing it. This is, of course, a silly mentality-- why waste time reading a bad book when there are so many amazing books out there? Why force myself to read a book that I know isn't for me? 

This whole scenario became more complicated when I started to check out ebooks from my library. Now, if I didn't stay on top of a book, if I wasn't motivated to finish it in a timely manner, then the book just disappeared from my e-reader. I no longer had that physical reminder, the book staring at me as I made a conscious decision to stop reading it.

With that being said, I have two categories for books that I did not finish: books that I couldn't finish on time, and books I chose to stop reading.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Hidden Figures by Margot Shetterly

These two books are good books-- but I struggled through both of them. News of the World was more literary than I typically read, and Hidden Figures was a tad bit too dry. Since I already have trouble getting through non-fiction, I wasn't able to make progress on the book before it was automatically returned to the library. I want to try both of these books again in the future!
Reader I Married Him edited by Tracey Chevalier

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

These two books are both books I disliked too much to get more than 50% through. Read, I Married Him is a collection of short stories loosely inspired by Jane Eyre and I didn't like any of the stories. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest was too simplistic of a tale for my taste, and the plot was too predictable. Which is a shame, as the cover was gorgeous! 

What about you? Have you recently given up on a book? Was it a time issue or did you not like it?

Dear Sunday: it's football season y'all!

Dear Sunday is my weekly post participating in the Caffeinated Book Reviewer series. 
I've been so busy watchings Cubs baseball that I somehow managed to forget that while the end of August brings an increase in traffic as students flood back into town, it also brings college football! The college football season is so short as compared to the baseball season; I don't want to miss watching any games my team plays. The Cubs play like a hundred games so if you miss one, more likely than not, there will be another game the next day. 

Picture on the left: My parents and I share an unusual interest in old/historic cemeteries (are we secretly the Addams family? maybe.) They are visiting me for the long weekend, and in between football games we checked out this small cemetery established in the early 1800s. It was interesting, even if most of the headstones were too corroded by time and mold to be legible.

One of my many backup careers (man that topic deserves a post of its own) is a small-town traveling historian. I would travel from town to town, collating data from all available sources to get a feel for who lived where/for how long/etc when the town was first founded. Obviously I would have to marry rich in order for this dream to come true as who in the right mind would pay a physicist to do this? (PS if you're a rich person who wants to give away money, hit me up. jk. but fo real though.)

  • Top Ten Tuesday
  • ARC Review: The Woolly Hat Knitting Club 
  • What I read: August
That about sums it up for me! What about you? How was your week? Be sure to leave links to your Sunday Post in the comments below! 

Stacking the Shelves: My first ARCs!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly series created by tyngas reviews where I talk about the books I've recently added to my ever growing bookshelf.

It's happened y'all.

Ever since I started blogging (many moons aka 3 months ago) I've seen advanced readers copy books pop up on almost every book blog I perused. If you're like me and are slightly out of the loop, ARCs are advanced digital or print editions of books that are sent out pre-publication in order to drum up publicity and awareness. This is helpful for any book but especially for books from small publishing companies or by new authors.

Since I almost exclusively read library books, the idea of getting free books didn't really hold any special appeal, and so I never applied for digital ARCs.

Until now.

Too much free time at work (I'm at a weird point hovering in between projects right now) meant that I finally got around to figuring out how NetGallery (big site to get digital ARCs) worked, and applying for my first ARCs.

And to my massive shock and surprise, I was approved, and several digital ARCs found their way onto my Kindle! Like. What?

A feel good romance featuring a feisty main character and tons of knitting references. I'm enjoying it thus far!

The Medievalist by Anne-Marie Lacy
A time slip novel (aka one of my favorite genres). We'll see if it meets my high expectations. 

Sing a New Song by Lydia Brownback
A Christian study of one of my favorite parts of the Bible, the Psalms! I never read through study books on my own, so I'm excited about this one. Also can we talk about how gorgeous this cover is??

That's it! Since three books magically appeared on  my Kindle (seriously though technology is amazing) AND I still have two library books that need to be read, I didn't pick up any more books.

What about you? Are you a fan of ARCs or like me have just started reading them??