Reviews

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis {Review}

Cover art for A Madness So DiscreetFrom Goodreads:

Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

This book is a solid ‘meh’ from me. I’m not sure what bugged me specifically, but it was a nagging in the back of my mind. Overall, though, I don’t regret reading it and would probably suggest it to others depending on their reading tastes. I struggled with the more ‘supernatural-ish’ bits in the book and also everyone was just…too progressive for the time. Which is a weird thing to be bothered by, since I agree with all of their views, but it kept pulling me out of the story. There are several relationships that I side eye, as well as character aspects that I have a hard time buying (aka come out of nowhere for no reason). The first two thirds or so of the book are pretty well paced and plotted. I bought a lot of what happened and why it happened, but then that last third kind of came from nowhere and felt overly rushed. It kind of spun away from what I thought was happening. Also, Grace’s actions re: the chemist make me scratch my head…I really want to write a spoiler here, but I won’t. I just didn’t get it, I guess.

But I did enjoy a lot of the book. Grace’s friends in the ethical asylum are a duo that I would love to hang out with. They are bright spots. The text itself is often incredibly lyrical. I can’t find my copy of the book, so I won’t put in an example, but there were many many times where I reread a passage just because it was so beautifully written.

I think my problems with the book are just that, mine. I can definitely see people loving this book so if it seems interesting to you I think you should give it a try.

-S-

Top Ten Tuesday

Books on my Fall TBR Pile

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature currently run by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I’m really excited for this fall’s to-be-read pile, so even though I’m still unpacking from the evacuation, I wanted to be sure I did this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (more than 10, though!). Usually I’d write a blurb about why I want to read the books, but I have so much unpacking/laundry/etc to do I’m just sticking to titles & links.

eARCs (all from NetGalley):

1. House of Ashes by Loretta Marion
2. Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
3. The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston
4. When You Find Me by P.J. Vernon

Everything Else:

5. The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine
6. I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
7. The Darkling Bride by Laura Anderson
8. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

9. All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
10. Snowblind by Christopher Golden
11. The Fireman by Joe Hill
12. Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

13. Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
14. No Doors. No Windows. by Joe Schreiber
15. The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland
16. A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland

I doubt I’ll read half of these, but they’re what I *want* to read. I’m clearly on a horror kick at the moment. If you know of a good horror book I should add to the list, let me know!

-S-

Beach · Life & Family

22 Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to the Beach (feat. Hurricane Florence)

**I didn’t post this week because we evacuated ahead of Hurricane Florence. I had already written this post, so I’m just adding to it before posting.**

I’ve been living at the beach (in a tourist town) for almost 4 months now, so I’m clearly an expert on beach living. I’m kidding, I’m still brand new around here, but I have learned some things and I’d like to share. Also, be aware I make sweeping generalizations & completely make up statistics.

1. Very few people are *from* Myrtle Beach, most people here seem to be from somewhere else.
2. People who are from MB hate the beach with a passion and may go to the actual beach once a year. Maybe.
3. There are distinct ‘tourist’ vs ‘resident’ areas & while residents will go to tourist areas they will complain about it the entire time they’re there.
4. Yes, 501 and 17 are nightmares. Robert Grissom will get you almost anywhere you need to go.
5. 3 out of 5 people here are from New Jersey/New England/Ohio.
6. Those people still drive as if they live in NYC or Boston.
7. A visible majority of year round residents are retirement age or older. Many jobs traditionally held by teenagers are held by retirees – most of the teenagers work on/near the beach.
8. There are more golf courses than should be allowed in one area. Several large roads have golf cart bridges, which will never stop boggling my mind.
9. Myrtle Beach is the land of gated communities. They’re everywhere & don’t mean that the houses are particularly expensive.
10. Real estate is surprisingly reasonable (for the most part). If you want to live on the beach on Pawley’s, you’ll pay a pretty penny but other areas are much more reasonable.
11. The SC State Parks pass is a *must* if you live here – beaches at the state parks are so nice and far less crowded. They let you get into parks & park events for “free” (or at a reduced price) – the pass costs $100, but it paid for itself in the first 4 months we’ve lived here.
12. The “feels like” temperature is often 10+ degrees higher than the actual temperature and jeans will kill you. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe.

Since I’ve written this post my wee family had to flee Hurricane Florence, so I thought I’d go ahead and add 10 things I’ve learned about beach living during hurricane season. Most of the following are based on pre-aftermath, since Florence hasn’t hit MB as of this writing & I probably won’t be able to update it for awhile afterwards. Keeping that in mind, many of the things I’ve learned could be totally wrong and I make no claims that they’re true.

13. Nothing is worth your life. We left a lot behind in our apartment and I get sad thinking that if something happens to the building I’ll lose family heirlooms, my entire book collection, the sweet sweet soundbar in the living room, our nice tv, etc. but Shane and I are safe, sound, and dry with our cats. We’ll all survive the Hurricane and while the blanket chest my grandfather made may be lost, that’s the most important thing.
14. My mind only deals in worst-case scenarios, apparently. It decided that all my belongings were gone the second we left home. Which I guess is okay, since if nothing happens to anything, it’s a happy surprise.
15. Don’t stock up on freezer goods. At least not during hurricane season. Though we are repaying our hosts with lots and lots of food from our freezer, it was very heavy to get in the car & we tossed a bag of fish fillets I was excited about.
16. All diets are off during an evacuation – I’ve eaten more doughnuts in the past few days than in the months before. And I ate peach cobbler. And drank 4 sodas yesterday. I don’t really drink soda except Sprite/Ginger Ale when I don’t feel well.
17. If you have time & it fits in your car, don’t feel bad about bringing it. I packed too many books for our journey into the mountains, but books are easy to pack into small spaces & I didn’t put us in any danger while we were getting ready to leave, so why not bring too many?
18. If you have security cameras, set a couple up to look out of the window. We’ve been checking them periodically to see how the weather/storm is progressing. Right now, it’s a bit windy/rainy, but it’s early yet. I like looking at the two we have set up looking outwards instead of the one facing inside because the action is happening out there.
19. Even if nothing happens, you should probably leave if things look really bad. I guess if your house has lived through 17 Category 1 storms, it’s fine to stay for another one, but if it strengthens to a Cat 2 you should probably get out. There are reasons not to, obviously. Money and employment are the biggies and if skipping a shift will get you fired, I can see needing to weigh that against everything else.
20. Take a pack of cards. Put a pack of cards in your car just in case of a surprise evacuation. They’re super handy to entertain kids and pass some time. Also crosswords or something, if you’re so inclined. The app I use to do crosswords only works when it’s connected to the internet. And if the power’s out, I need to save the battery.
21. Stress is a weird thing. I’m okay, but sometimes I just get really quiet and stare at something. I’m also really really exhausted even though I’m sleeping fine.
22. There is no place like home. Even if it’s only been home for a few months.

-S-

Life & Family

My Fall To-Dos

It’s fall! Kind of. It’s still over 90 most days & over 80 the rest, but I am still looking forward to doing all the Fall Things!

Without further delay:

  1. Go to Medieval Times (aka relive our childhoods).
  2. Have a horror movie marathon.
  3. Go to the Atalaya craft fair/show.
  4. Bake some sort of goodie for Shane’s coworkers.
  5. Make homemade applesauce.
  6. Switch to tea from coffee (again).
  7. Photograph a sunrise on the beach.
  8. Watch all the Harry Potter movies.
  9. Walk by the Intracoastal waterway.
  10. Go to 4 community-type events.
  11. Make apple cupcakes.
  12. Try a new soup or chili recipe.
  13. Read a few creepy crawly horror novels.
  14. Go to the Farmer’s Market.
  15. Drink hot chocolate on the porch after dark.
  16. Start volunteering somewhere.
  17. Make apple cider.
  18. Get a salted caramel mocha and apple cider doughnut from Starbucks.
  19. Buy some new (cozy) leggings.
  20. Make a Christmas wreath for the front door (if I wait until winter it’ll be too late).

I’m really looking forward to my first beach Fall – I can’t wait to have the entire beach to myself to photograph. I love Fall anyway, but being here will be a slightly different experience to living in the Foothills. I’ll check back in in December to see how well I did.

-S-

Writing

Blogging is Weird

Please enjoy my rambles on starting a blog and finding a niche….

Okay, so in my blogging dreams, Thursdays are for book reviews. In my blogging reality, I should have been reading the books I wanted to review before I even started this shenanigan. I am actually in the process of reading next Thursday’s book, so hopefully I’ll actually finish it & write the review on time. Also, I have about 7 NetGalley eARCs (and an eARC from an author on Twitter) to review, so I’m super behind on that as well. I’ll be putting all of those reviews on the blog because I’m not doubling my review-work-load.

I (re)started this blog on a bit of a whim. Even though I had been thinking about restarting it, I didn’t really plan the ‘launch’ particularly well. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about (books & life, primarily) but nothing more specific than that. Everything I’ve read about blogging has basically told me that I’m destined to fail because I don’t have a niche. Putting aside the fact that my failure-bar is if I just randomly quit and not based on if I have readers or not, I’d still like to try that out.

While I’m dedicated to winging it for the next month or two, possibly through December, I’ve been toying with different ideas. I mean, I know it’s going to be books & life, but that’s a huge swatch of topics. I’m definitely not trying to start a lifestyle blog, more just my general life happenings, and I’m not trying to impart deep life lessons (I mean, sometimes I am, I guess) so that’s not going to be a huge focus for the blog. I really just want to post some pictures and recount some life goings-on, to be honest.

As for books, I’m torn. Should I just focus on a genre? Like just YA, fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, horror, romance, etc? Do I have to narrow it down so far? Can I pick 3? Can I just talk about whatever it is I’m reading? My personality is very much the last option. I tend to do things on the fly, but I’m also liking the idea of having a plan, or at least guidelines. Most of the time I’m leaning towards reviewing books from a few genres – it seems like more fun to mix it up some.

I have questions, guys. This post makes it sound like I’m really super worried about this, but it’s more of a pondering on the topic. I promise it isn’t keeping me up at night.

Movies & TV · Top Ten Tuesday

Ten Bingeable TV Shows

Top Ten Tuesday Logo
Top Ten Tuesday is a feature currently run by That Artsy Reader Girl.

There are so so so many amazing shows to watch, this list barely even brushes the surface. I’ve broken it into two parts – the first 5 are shows I’ve binged (more than once in some cases), and the second are shows I’m planning on watching. I kept it to shows that have more than 1 season & had a great time choosing just 10. I know a few of them are over suggested (GoT, I’m looking at you!), but sometimes that’s for a reason.

Shows I Watched & Loved:

  1. Father Brown
    • This is by far the odd man out in the list – I don’t generally go for shows that have anything to do with ‘saving souls’, but I really enjoy this one. It’s your basic 1950s British cozy murder mystery show (my favorite) but the main character is a priest who does a bit of moralizing at least once in every episode. I will say, Father Brown is chill regarding things that the Catholic church is decidedly not-chill about. I wouldn’t be able to watch the show if it wasn’t modernized a bit. Also, Sid Carter is my favorite character in all of television.
  2. Bob’s Burgers
    • I once got incredibly sick and spent days in bed watching tv. This show was my constant companion and to this day I have a soft spot for it. It’s cute, quirky, slightly dumb, but also smart and I love rewatching episodes on bad days.
  3. The X-Files
    • Shane and I watched the first set of seasons together on a computer monitor while in college, so maybe it just has a warm and fuzzy place in my heart because of that. I don’t really know how to describe it, but I love it.
  4. Grimm
    • This is Shane’s favorite show, and I think we’re due a rewatch pretty soon. It’s a retelling of a ton of Grimm’s fairy tales, and can be a pretty dark watch. It gets pretty bananas at some points.
  5. Death in Paradise
    • Another British cozy murder mystery show. Do not go to Saint Marie on vacation, because you will straight up be murdered. It’s present-day, surprisingly non-violent for the most part, and the bad guy is always caught. Can’t ask for more.

Shows I’ve Been Told to Watch & Love:

  1. Game of Thrones
    • I’m currently watching this one! I’m only on episode 5 of season 1 though. I know a lot of what happens over the series (so far) because I spend a lot of time on the internet and I’m pretty excited to see where things go.
  2. The Great British Bake Off
    • This is my next feel-good watch. I’ve heard so many good things about this show I’m excited to see if it’s a good lazy winter day watch.
  3. Vikings
    • This show just looks badass. I can’t wait to watch it obsessively over the course of several weeks.
  4. Downton Abbey
    • I’m legitimately baffled as to how I’ve gone this long without watching Downton Abbey. It covers my (current) favorite period of English history, so it’s definitely on my list!
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale
    • I know why I haven’t watched this one – I read the book at a very charged time in my life and I have lots of feelings about it. I know the show is amazing, and is similar yet wildly different from the book so I’m absolutely up to watching it. I just needed some time before I did.

Enjoy!

Reading · Life & Family

OTSP Secret Sister

Image of wrapped presentsA few years ago I found something called On The Same Page’s Secret Sister Project. Basically, people (I think mostly/entirely women, though men are welcome) send boxes of happiness to someone each month for 6 months while receiving a box from a different person. That sounds confusing…this might be better: Person A sends packages to Person B who sends packages to Person C who sends packages to Person A. Is that any better?

The level of “secrecy” depends on the duo – I had to reveal myself early last round because I moved. I figured she would realize who I was because we follow each other on Twitter. The round before I stayed secret the entire time, which was fun. Some people plan elaborate reveals, or send clues in the boxes to their true identities, and some just write it in a tweet or in a letter.

I think the group is growing exponentially, but I’d still suggest it for people who want to make bookish friends online. I’ve found my people online & OTSP Secret Sister has been a huge part of that. It’s such a cool community and even if you’ve never “talked” to som

eone online/in a letter there’s no issue with just sending a tweet their way. I love being a part of an amazing project that brings people together. Also, you get really cool, really personalized gifts – like the penguin print to the right. I love penguins, so I put this on my wish list & now I have it on my wall!

There’s a bit of an application process, but it mostly boils down to “talk to the hosts and be active on social media.” You don’t have to be a book blogger (or a blogger at all!), but a lot of people are. There are different price levels so if you just want to send letters you can, or if you want to spend as much as you want you can.

 

 

Life & Family

Huntington Beach State Park

Last weekend Shane and I went to Huntington Beach State Park, which has a beach (obviously) but also an amazing marsh. I’ve never really gotten into hiking or other super physical activities, but I can spend hours wandering the park retracing my steps over and over. While I’ll probably never be a bird person (I’m scared of them), I really enjoy taking their pictures – I need a longer range lens, though.

Enjoy a few pictures I managed to snap while getting horribly sunburnt!

My sunburn has gotten to the point it’s unbearably itchy and yet it hurts to scratch, so I’m doing *just fine*. I always forget that my incredibly pale skin needs sunscreen a lot more often than Shane’s darker skin. An odd note – I have a birthmark that has no reaction to the sun and so it’s a patch of stark milky white skin in a sea of sunburn on my stomach.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday

10 Non-Fiction Books I Can’t Wait to Read

TTT-NEWTop Ten Tuesday is a feature that is currently run by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Today’s topic is a back to school freebie, so I picked 10 non-fiction books I can’t wait to read! This week’s post is going to be a little shorter than usual (I got sunburnt and was super slow to get around to everything I needed to do this weekend) – back to normal next week!

1. Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and I really want to read what life was really like at that time. I have ideas from other sources, but this will be the first read that specifically addresses her life.

2. American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent J. Cannato
Everyone should know a little bit about the history of Ellis Island and the country. My paternal forefathers came through Charleston, SC but the stories from Ellis Island are so fascinating.

3. Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph & Frances Gies
I just really like history, especially the history of every day life.

4. Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession by Craig Childs
Archaeology and all its attendant tales are super intriguing to me – it’s what I wanted to do with my life and I’m still endlessly interested.

5. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer
Who doesn’t like an Indiana Jones-style (less the paranormal) rescue of precious knowledge?

6. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
Since this is a list by me, there has to be a true crime book!

7. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
I didn’t know much about Carrie Fisher until she passed away, but the flood of stories about her after her death makes me want to read about her in her own words.

8. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I’m headed to Maine again in Oct 2019 & will probably be in Bangor for a bit and have never actually read a Stephen King book sooooo I’m picking this one!

9.  How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets by Dana K. White
I’m not what you’d call a good housekeeper and neither is Shane, so a little help would be appreciated.

10. The Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku
I love history, but I love technology and futurism so this should be a perfect read to satisfy that interest.

Reading

Breaking my Reading Slump

This week is apparently ‘get Sarah out of her reading slump’ week. The past few years have been stressful in various ways that I’ll not go into here, but resulted in me not doing a whole lot of anything that made me think, feel strongly, or focus on something for longer than an hour or maybe an hour and a half at most. Recently things have settled down and the urge to read has resurfaced. It was touch and go for most of this year, though. Apparently I hadn’t read regularly for so long that starting again was harder than it should have been.

What brought me out of it was a weird combo of following a lot of book bloggers on Twitter, movies being made from books I wanted to read/had read, deciding to start this blog, and accepting the fact that sometimes a romance novel is a perfectly fine reading choice. Sometimes reading 6 romance novels in a row is a fine way to spend a week or two worth of downtime. Even though I am a staunch supporter of the idea that any writing is worthy writing, and I’ve never thought less of anyone reading romance, I always thought I’d be judged for it. My brain works in weird ways. It seems that The fact that since I’m reading one thing I look at other books as a viable option instead of playing 2048 for 3 hours.

Audiobooks have also played a huge part in breaking me out of my slump. I listen to them while driving or cleaning and then I read them (usually in ebook form) when I don’t need to listen. Discovering audiobooks has been a great thing for me. I can’t listen to them while I’m working, but I drive 4+ hours at a time and they keep me entertained. That and Taylor Swift.

I do still have an aversion to reading things I *must* read, which has put a crimp in my reviewing and a Traveling Book project I’m doing. I am nothing if not obstinate.