Reviews

The Clockmaker’s Daughter // Kate Morton

I’ll make this short and sweet.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is not a groundbreaking novel, but it is a good one. It features many of the elements that I’ve come to expect and enjoy in a Kate Morton novels – multiple timelines, intricate mysteries, and an evocative location.

The summer of 1862 is a pivotal year in the life of Birchwood Manor. A group of artists plan to use the house to explore their creativity and find inspiration, but by the end of the summer, a woman is dead, another is missing, and a priceless heirloom has been stolen. These events reverberate across time, influencing the new residents of the house in unexpected ways.

Although the novel perhaps had one time period too many, Morton did an excellent job of wrapping things up. Like all of her novels, it was an immersive, satisfying reading experience. You can’t go wrong when a novel has a ghost, an archivist, and a beautiful house on the Thames.  Have you read any Kate Morton novels? My favorite is The Forgotten Garden.

*I received a review copy of this novel in exchange for my opinion (thanks, Netgalley!).

Personal

Lately

Making: Green Chili Chicken in the slow cooker.
Drinking: Ice water.
Reading: I just finished The Clockmaker’s Daughter, another good one (but not the best) by Kate Morton.
Organizing: Travel plans. We’re heading to Campobello Island in Canada soon. It should be cold… But fun, right?
Coveting: This bag from Josefina. Not a practical price point.
Listening: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett.
Watching: Outlander is back!
Wishing: I was better about organizing my photos. I take so many, but don’t take the time to organize them as well as I should.
Loving: The fall weather. As I get older, I have not enjoyed the heat as much (unless I am by the water).
Adoring: That my children have turned into such little bookworms as of late. My oldest is now at the age where we can really discuss books we enjoyed reading. The latest was Holly Black’s Doll Bones.
Accomplishing: I’m almost back to posting regularly, and yes, it feels like a huge accomplishment.
Needing: To find a website/program to create good graphics that does not charge me a monthly fee. Does such a unicorn exist?
Feeling: Exhausted! I’m never going to change this answer. Well, maybe when the baby is five.
Wanting: To grow my Instagram following (it seems so insecure to even type this), but it seems like an insurmountable feat at the moment. I’m open to suggestions. I participate in prompts, I comment and post regularly, I use hashtags, etc.
Wondering: If Allbirds and/or Rothy’s are worth all the hype. Anyone care to chime in? In lieu of spending gobs of money, I just bought driving mocs in a lovely marigold yellow (for $11) and they’re like wearing slippers to work.
Thinking: About Instagram, Bookstagram, and the idea of developing a brand. It sounds ridiculous in my case, yet I admire the people that accomplish it. Did you see the vicious article on Vulture?
Lamenting: My inability to watch The Haunting of Hill House. I just finished the book in September, but I tried watching it alone and then couldn’t sleep…
Celebrating: I just passed the one year anniversary at my new (now not so new) job. It’s been a really good change.

How are you fairing these day? I was pleased by some of the election results and disappointed in others (my county voted down an increase in school funding AGAIN).

(Image via pinterest, Greer Garson and Eleanor Roosevelt on the set of Sunrise at Campobello)

Like This, Read That

Like This? Read That.

This is, by far, the week I am most excited about for Nonfiction November – pairing a non-fiction book you love with a fiction book of equal measure (I have a whole feature dedicated to the idea of “Like This? Read That.”). Nonfiction November is run by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and this week in particular is hosted by Sarah and Sarah’s Book Shelves.

The exploration of America’s last great frontier, Alaska. Tip of the Iceberg flips between author Adams’ modern adventure and Edward Herriman’s 1899 exploration (accompanied by John Muir, among others!), while To the Bright Edge of the World // Eowyn Ivey focuses on one couple’s separation in the Alaskan wilderness in winter of 1885 and The Great Alone // Kristin Hannah focuses on a modern family’s homesteading experience.

Pirates. Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates // Eric Jay Dolin and Cinnamon and Gunpowder // Eli Brown. My recent fascination with pirates can be directly attributed to Black Sails. It was excellent, if you were on the fence about watching. Blag Flags, Blue Waters focuses on the golden age of American piracy, spanning the late 1600s through the early 1700s. Dolan depicts the “roguish glamour and extreme brutality” rather wonderfully, as does Eli Brown in his novel. Cinnamon and Gunpowder is the tale of Mad Hannah Mabbot, a pirate under siege by a privateer and undermined by a saboteur. It’s also an excellent bit of foodie fiction. 

Raging rivers. The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon // Kevin Fadarko tells the terrifying, true story of the “fastest boat ride ever, down the entire length of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, during the legendary flood of 1983”. The epic flooding nearly caused the most catastrophic dam failure in history (with the Glen Canyon Dam). Not everyone loves the Glen Canyon Dam, as is illustrated by Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, where the main plot consists of  four radical environmentalists attempting to blow up the dam (as well as wreak havoc on America’s industrialist ambitions). The Emerald Mile also pairs well with The River at Night // Erica Ferencik, a novel featuring a well-intentioned, but ill-fated rafting trip down an isolated river in the Maine wilderness.

Botanical exploration. The Discovery of Jeanne Baret // Glynis Ridley and The Signature of All Things // Elizabeth Gilbert. In the 1765, Jeanne Baret disguised herself as a man in order to be brought on board a expedition (as a botanist) that planned to circumnavigate the globe. Eighteen months into the voyage, a curious Tahitian exposed her as a woman. Baret’s recently discovered journal sheds like on her expertise as a scientist, the extreme difficulties she faced on the journey, and the thousands of specimens she collected, all while essentially being forgotten by history. The Signature of All Things follows Alma Whittaker, a gifted botanist, who travels the globe. From London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, the novel is well researched and easy to read (despite the length).

Mixtapes

Literary Mixtape | The Library at Mount Char

As an alternative for a review, synopsis, or anything of the like, I decided to create a soundtrack for the book. Please note that quite a bit of this is intended to be playful and irreverent. I’m rarely serious and this post is no exception.

The Library at Mount Chair by Scott Hawkins is an…unusual book. It doesn’t defy explanation, exactly, but it’s pretty close. I feel like anything I say about the novel would be a disservice. Here’s a quick synopsis, just know that the book is much better than I make it sound.

Carolyn is a librarian. Not the kind you’re thinking of. She and her siblings were adopted by Father when they were quite young. Now Father is missing, and it’s up to her and her fellow librarians to find him. But there’s no need to worry, Carolyn is a planner. She has plotted for just such a contingency, if only she could remember what it was like to be an actual human.

I know I haven’t really told you anything, and I’m not going to. If you enjoy an odd novel, give it a go. I absolutely adored it.

01. One is the Loneliest Number // Three Dog Night.

“Carolyn rose and stood alone in the dark, both in that moment and ever after.”

02. Stranger // Devil Makes Three

“The moon was still up, still full. Americans called this time of year “October” or, sometimes, “Autumn,” but the librarians reckoned time by the heavens. Tonight was the seventh moon, which is the moon of black lament. Under its light the shadows of bare branches flashed across her scars.”

03. I Think I’m Paranoid // Garbage

“That’s the risk in working to be a dangerous person,” she said. “There’s always the chance you’ll run into someone who’s better at it than you.”

04. All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands// Sufjan Stevens

“No real thing can be so perfect as memory, and she will need a perfect thing if she is to survive. She will warm herself on the memory of you when there is nothing else, and be sustained.”

05. Holocene // Bon Iver

“As the days and weeks and seasons wore on he found himself repeating this nothing, not wanting to. Gradually he came to understand that this particular nothing was all that he could really say now. He chanted it to himself in cell blocks and dingy apartments, recited it like a litany, ripped himself to rags against the sharp and ugly poetry of it. It echoed down the grimy hallways and squandered moments of his life, the answer to every question, the lyric of all songs.”

06. Black Hole Sun // Soundgarden

‘”How long before he’s the sun?

“I’m not sure. At least a couple of hours. I’ll come back and fix the orbits later. Can’t have these wee little marbles bumping into one another, can we?”

Steve, who was a plumber, spoke through dry lips. “No, I guess not. When does he turn bright and yellow?” Her face fell a little. “Well…he doesn’t.”

“What do you mean? He’s going to stay like that? All black, like?”

“Yeah, It’s a plane-of-anguish thing.”‘

07. Salute Your Solution // The Reconteurs

“Before I move closer towards my vision of the Buddha, I would respectfully plead that you adopt a stance of compassion towards the small things of this world.”

08. Seashore // The Regrettes

“Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans called Highway 78. Most of the librarians, Carolyn included, had come to think of this road as the Path of Tacos, so-called in honor of a Mexican joint they snuck out to sometimes. The guacamole, she remembered, is really good.  Her stomach rumbled. Oak leaves, reddish-orange and delightfully crunchy, crackled underfoot as she walked. Her breath puffed white in the predawn air. The obsidian knife she had used to murder Detective Miner lay nestled in the small of her back, sharp and secret.

She was smiling.”

09. Raise Hell // Dorothy

“For all intents and purposes, the power of the Library is infinite. Tonight we’re going to settle who inherits control of reality.”

10. The Sky is a Neighborhood // Foo Fighters

“It’s the notion that the universe is structured in such a way that no matter how many mysteries you solve, there is always a deeper mystery behind it.”

Anyone read The Library at Mount Char? Anyone love it as much as I did?

Miscellanea

My Year in Nonfiction | Nonfiction November

It’s Nonfiction November! I am so excited to be participating for the first time. Life is typically too hectic for me to feel like I can meaningfully join in, but this November looks to be quieter than usual. It’s an entire month dedicated to the celebration of nonfiction. I’ll be discussing a new topic each week, based on the prompts provided by the hosts. Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness is hosting week one.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors.

”I do not so much seek anything as allow the world to come to me, allow the days to unfold as they will, the dramas of weather and wild creatures. I am most at peace not when I am thinking but when I am observing. There is so much to see, a pleasing diversity of landscapes, all of them always changing in new weather, new light, and all of them still and forever strange to a boy from the northern plains. I produce nothing but words; I consume nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being virtually useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.”

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

For nearly a decade, I was a botany librarian. In 2017, I took a new position as a more general science librarian, but for years, I read mostly nonfiction dealing with the natural sciences. This included botanical exploration, climate change, drought, birds, trees, etc. You might think now that it’s no longer required as part of my job, I would’ve branched out, but…nope. The wilderness keeps calling. So aside from I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and Black Flags, Blue Water, I’ve read exclusively nonfiction about the natural world. I am nothing if not a creature of habit.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

This depends on the context. In my personal life, I’ve recommended Fire Season and John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire quite a bit. Professionally, I really push Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks.

“This is what we can promise the future: a legacy of care. That we will be good stewards and not take too much or give back too little, that we will recognize wild nature for what it is, in all its magnificent and complex history – an unfathomable wealth that should be consciously saved, not ruthlessly spent. Privilege is what we inherit by our status as Homo sapiens living on this planet. This is the privilege of imagination. What we choose to do with our privilege as a species is up to each of us.”

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

To answer the first question, I’m not sure. Because I don’t read much in the way of nonfiction, I am not quite sure what I’ve overlooked. This leads me to the second question. I am hoping to get the lay of the land, so to speak. To find out what other people recommend, how they pair fiction and nonfiction (perhaps I can work backwards and select a new to me nonfiction book based on a novel I enjoyed), and what I’ve been missing.

 

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