Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Top Ten Recommended Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme featured at The Broke and The Bookish

Ten Books I've Read Because of a Recommendation
I have decided to use the term "reccomendation" rather loosely to include personal reccomendations, books that I feel are generally favored in the blogosphere, and even a book that was read by one of my favorite TV characters.

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany
This book was recommended to me ages and ages ago by a friend of mine, while we were watching the movie it is loosely based on, Simon Birch.  I loved it.

2. Not that kind of girl
I chose to read this book after reading one of those "10 books to read in your thirties" kind of thing.  I honestly wasn't super fond of it and enjoyed "How to be a Woman" MUCH better.

3. One for the Money
Strangely enough I got into the Stephanie Plum books not through my Mom or female friend, it was actually when I was staying with a friend of mine (who happens to be a guy and an avid reader).  He had quite a few of them stored in a box under the futon, while many other books were on his copious public book shelves.  It kind of gives me a kick to think of him reading Stephanie Plum in secret, but I am sure we all have certain books we are less keen to display to the public eye.

4. The Likeness
This was a recommendation/gift from the same friend who introduced me to Stephanie Plum.  I believe this one is on display, and it is fantastic.

5. Howl's Moving Castle
This book seems to be greatly loved by the blogosphere, but I have to admit I wasn't blown away.

6. The happiness project
Maybe the book that got me into reading more non-fiction, "The happiness project" was recommended to me by a co-worker and fellow graduate student.  We were both struggling a bit with the grad school experience at the time, and while I'm not sure if the book made me happier, it certainly got me thinking more about the subject and one I would recommend as being entertaining and well researched.

7. Don't die my love
Also recommended by the same childhood friend who told me about "A Prayer for Owen Meany", but unlike the former book, which took me over 20 years to read, this books, and others like it, filled many an angsty childhood weekend and probably at least partially account for my desire to work on translational research to help sick children.

8. My man Jeeves
"Recommended" to me by Rory Gilmore, when she mentions reading the "The whole PJ Wodehouse collection" on Gilmore Girls.  Quite entertaining.

9. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Mentioned on the blog "You Think Too Much", Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is not necessarily the first book I would normally pick up but I loved it.  I have pages of quotes in a notebook for such purposes such as "If I am a maple key falling at least I can twirl"  I highly recommend it.

10. The Book Thief
This amazing book was chosen for a book club I was part of in graduate school.  I believe the person who chose it may have already read it so I am counting it as a recommendation.  I think it is wonderful and deserves all the hype.  Although I have to admit I did not like  "I am the Messenger" half as much.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Lovely Cozy Mystery set in Rhode Island

A Gilded Grave (Newport Gilded Age, #1)Hi Everyone,

Blogging has been quite slow lately.  Zman and I are in the process of packing up our lives and moving back to New England, so my life right now is boxes and planning and trying to get as much done at lab as possible before I leave, so that my work may one day (sooner rather than later) be published.  Therefor I picked something sweet and easy for a RNE challenge update.  I am quite far behind now, but I hope to pick back up soon.  Things should calm down in a couple of weeks, and there will be lots of reading time while we wait for the moving truck to bring us our stuff. (Really, 4-10 days is as accurate a prediction as you can give us moving company!)  Right now I am contemplating what my Massachusetts pick should be.  Maybe something to do with the Salem Witch Trials...

Anyway, A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont is a lovely cozy mystery set in Newport during the Gilded Age.  It features a young female protagonist with progressive ideas of how a woman should behave who sticks her nose into the untimely deaths of two maids from the household of her friend. One of my favorites in the cast of characters is Gran Gwen, the grandmother of her once-intended Joe, who lives a bit scandalously and does as she pleases, but is available for wise counsel when needed. There is a setup to what may turn out to be a nice romance and they mystery was enjoyable if a bit formulaic. If you enjoyed this book I would recommend the Gilded Newport Mysteries by Alyssa Maxwell which is set in the same time period and also features a progressive female poking her nose into things she shouldn't.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Facts About Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme featured at The Broke and The Bookish

Today's Top Ten Tuesday theme is top ten facts about me.

1. I am a cell biologist.
2. I live in Ohio but am from New England.
3. I have two cats.
4. I really want a dog but the landlord will not allow it.
5. I love to contra dance and west coast swing dance.
6. I was once featured in YM magazine.
7. I have traveled to Mexico, Russia, Prague, Vienna, Krakow, New Zealand, Canada, Argentina.
8. My favorite thing to cook right now is fish and veggies steamed in parchment paper.
9. I do not like tuna fish.
10. I love to read.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

RNE Nonfiction: Retired men walking the Appalachian trail

A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson)

Bill Bryson A Walk In The Woods.jpgMy first pick for the Reading New England Nonfiction book selection is"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson.  I am a little hesitant to list it as a New England book, as quite a bit of the book takes place on the southern part of the Appalachian Trail.  However,a good deal of the book takes place in NH and along the Appalachian trail both in and out of New England. This book has some lovely things to say about New England, and the Appalachian Trail.  It also has a terrific dry sense of humor throughout.  If I knew how funny this book was I probably would have picked it up long before I did.  In fact, my sister pressed it upon me a couple years ago, but due to the phenomena of not reading books on my shelf it took me ages to get to it.  In this book, Bill Bryson discusses the history of the Appalachian trail and also describes some of the wacky people he meets on his walk.  For me, the funniest bits of the book were when he describes his experiences walking the trail with his larger, less experienced friend who at one point throws out a great deal of their food in order to lighten his pack resulting in some hilarious senarios.

Walking to VT (Christopher W. Wren)

Christopher is a retired war correspondent for the New York Times, and he decides to walk from Times Square to his house in Vermont.  Part of his trip takes place (by necessity) on roads, and part of it is on the Appalachian Trail.  An interesting aspect of the Appalachian Trail brought up in this book is the concept of trail names such as "Old Rabbit" and "Flash".  When you are on the trail you cease to be known by your job, or by your status, or even by your given name.  You are just who you are.  Although in large part I enjoyed this book, I found that the flow of the walk was broken by occasional flashbacks to the author's previous life as a war correspondent.  These memories, presented in a more fleshed-out manner would probably make a good story, but stuck into the story of the walk as they were, I just found them annoying.

Wandering Home (Bill McKibben)

Bill McKibben is an environmentalist, and thus brought to my attention not only the challenge and fun of walking the Appalachian trail, but also how important it is that there is an Appalachian (and Long) trail and enough trees to have a magnificent forest.  In this book he walks from Vermont to upstate New York, and discusses the similarity and differences between the two landscapes.  Along the way he walks with a variety of other people, most of them also concerned about the environment, such as a bee keeper, owner of a winery, and a man that lives in a cabin completely off of the grid.  I found this book to be both immensely pleasurable, and also informative.  After reading I wanted to go right out and plant some trees.  The setting of this book is also close to my heart as I went to college in upstate New York and have spent a great deal of time in Vermont.

Together these books paint a compelling picture of the Appalachian Trail.  Take just what you can carry, walk as long as you can, unplug. Sweat. Enjoy the kindness of strangers (trail magic) and enjoy the eccentricities of those you meet along the way.  Dream of cheeseburgers and chocolate cake.  Discuss pack weight and camp stoves.  Cherish the landscape.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Big Library Read

I decided to participate in the big library read on Overdrive this month.  The big library read is billed as "the first global eBook club through your library".  The basic idea is that everyone on Overdrive can read the same book at the same time without any waits or holds.  Previous books include American Sniper which I wasn't personally that interested in reading.

However, this month's choice was a time travelling mystery which is right in my wheelhouse.  A murder in time (Julie McElwain) is an engaging procedural mystery set in the 19th century.  I found the mix of procedural mystery and time travel a refreshing twist.  The main character, Kendra Donovan is an FBI agent who gets sent back in time while trying to enact (unsanctioned) revenge upon a man who was responsible for the death of half of her team on the FBI during a raid gone wrong.  While fleeing in the aftermath of her attempted revenge, she finds herself transported back to the 19th century and is assumed to be a lady's maid.  Soon after her arrival there is a suspicious death and she is able to insert herself into the investigation, using her 21th century FBI profiling skills to help solve the murder.

I found this book to overall be very engaging.  There is a great cast of characters, a light romance which promises to escalate in the next installment of what looks to be a series, and a compelling mystery.  My only complaint would be that it took way to much time to get to the time travel/mystery part of the book.  The beginning drags on a bit as Kendra's life in the FBI and raid-gone-wrong is described.  I also found the descriptions of her childhood, the product of two highly intelligent people who believe in eugenics to just not be very believable. It was used to set her up as a kind of lonely isolated character, but it could have been done better.  However, overall this book kept me up late reading to get to the end and I found it very enjoyable!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Vacation reading queue

The bf and I are going on vacation next week.  I am super excited as the last time we went on a vacation that did not involve either someone getting married or a national holiday was when I was still in graduate school.  Of course vacation means lots of time to read, so I have been preparing by loading up my kindle and scouring my to-read shelves.  I wanted to share with you some of the books I have decided to add to the queue.  I tried to pick books in a mix of genres and also books that leaned more toward wanting to read than "should" read, but I also often find vacation a good time to read books that are on my list, but I might otherwise not pick up.  I'm sure I will not get through all of them, but it is nice to have something available for whatever my reading mood may be!

The picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) - This book has long been on my literal to-read shelf and vacation seemed like the perfect time to pick up this classic.

Food matters (Mark Bittman) - I love to read books about health and eating philosophies.  I have also lately been a bit of an environmental kick.  This book combines the two.

The sparrow sisters (Ellen Herrick) - Long been on my to-read list.  Described on goodreads:   "With echoes of the alchemy of Practical Magic and the darkly joyful wickedness of the Witches of Eastwick".

Absolutely positively (Heather Webber) - A light, lovely cozy mystery.  Heather Webber is great.

A curious beginning (Deanna Raybourn) - A historical mystery that I've seen positively reviewed on multiple blogs.

Faithful place (Tana French) - Next book in the Dublin murder squad series.  I loved The Likeness so I can't wait to start this one.

Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery) - A much loved childhood favorite.  Hoping to enjoy it as much the second time around.

Howl's moving castle (Diana Wynne Jones) - YA fantasy novel that is much loved in the blogospere and sounds pretty great with witches and wizards and castles.

Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov) - Another classic.  Described on goodreads as "an unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion, and lust."

Landline (Rainbow Rowell) - I absolutely loved Eleanor and Park so am excited to try something else by Rainbow Rowell.

Since you've been gone (Morgan Matson) - YA contemporary to round things out.

Adventures in yarn farming (Barbara Parry) - Inspired by RNE and my love of crocheting. (Assuming I get to the library to get it before I leave!)

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Swing by Philip Beard is a lovely story of family, baseball, and Pittsburgh.  However, you don't need to be a Pirates fan, or even a baseball fan to enjoy this book.  (Personally I am a go to a game or two a summer kind of girl.) Furthermore, although I do love Pittsburgh, you don't have to be familiar with the city to enjoy the novel.  He gets the tone of the city just right.  I particularly enjoyed this description of coming out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel:

"When the city bursts into the sudden silence at the far end, it is as if it is coming into existence in that very instant, and it seems impossible that every car coming behind will get to experience the same miracle:  the shock of the first sight of the city"

Swing is first and foremost a story of family.  It parallels the life of young Henry, falling in love with baseball in the era of Roberto Clemente as his family life crumbles apart, with the life of adult Henry, dealing with more adult family problems.  Although Henry is the heart of the story, his friend John in the pulse.  Ten year old Henry meets John on his way home from a baseball game and it appears to Henry that John grows right out of the ground.  This is because John has no legs, and has to swing himself onto the port authority bus with his hands.  Henry and John develop a life-long friendship initially based upon their mutual love of the Pirates.

All the characters of this book are lovely and flawed and real.  It was a beautiful and poignant story of the power of friendship and love and family.  I highly recommend it.