GENRE REVIEW: MYSTERY, SUSPENSE, THRILLER

Since my reading journey began about a year ago, I’ve read nearly 30 books that can be classified into the genres of mystery, suspense, and/or thrillers. I have started to notice trends in terms of my likes and dislikes when it comes to the structure and plot of stories in this genre. To be a stand out, 5 star read for me personally, quite a few boxes need to be checked. In this post, I want to explore those requirements and highlight the books I’ve read that have that specific component in the plot or the structure of the book.

If I’ve rated a book in this genre 5 stars, it’s likely have 3 or more of the following features, listed in no particular order:

1 | a diverse and interesting cast of characters

I want 5+ characters, multiple likely suspects, unique and well developed characters, unreliable witnesses

2 | various timelines

I want to be transported between the past and the present, but I don’t want to be too confused by it

3 | unique story structure and elements

I want a story told in reverse, a book within a book, podcast transcriptions, hand written letters, phone conversations, chat room exchanges, photocopies of classified evidence

4 | multiple unanswered questions

I want to be following bread crumbs, I want to get frustrated and confused trying to keep track in my head the clues laid out by the author, I want the bait n’ switch

5 | my visceral, physical response

I want a literal jaw dropping moment, I want genuine fear, heart pounding anxiety, I want to gasp out loud, I want to be afraid trying to fall asleep that night

6 | health, wellness, medical

I want chronic illness and disease, I want medical representation, medical terminology, I want mental health rep, psychosocial disorders, psych wards that remind me of my own place of employment

7 | atmospheric setting

I want descriptive language and imagery, I want creepy houses, islands, forests, and backdrops for crime and murder

Can we see why Home Before Dark is literally my perfect and favorite thriller of all time? It checks 6 of the 7 boxes, it’s basically perfection. I don’t know that there is a book or story out there that will tick all 7 boxes, but you bet I’m going to spend the rest of my life searching for one (recommendations welcome).

What you’ll notice is missing from the titles above are domestic thrillers. Ehh, they just aren’t my jam. In my experience with the books I’ve read in the past year, often times domestic thrillers involve emotional, physical, sexual, and verbal abuse and I just don’t love reading about vulnerable women being harmed by people they know, love, and/or trust.

Here’s a few of my most anticipated books in this genre I hope to get to this year!

Until next time, Meryn


HOW I ACCIDENTALLY TRAINED FOR A HALF MARATHON DURING A PANDEMIC

I don’t know why I’ve been dragging my feet on writing and posting this blog. It’s been 5 months since I ran my first half marathon. Let’s get into it.


Let me preface this by saying: I had literally no idea when I set off on a run on April 24, 2020, that I’d be running a half marathon 6 months later.

What started as just exercise and healthy movement quickly become therapy as our world began to change as the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

So here’s what happened.

In the month of May, I ran six times: 3 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, 4.26 miles, 1 mile, and 1.25 miles. At the time, not really concerned about speed or progressing in distance, just hitting the pavement, moving my body. [And taking ridiculous, post-workout mirror selfies, see below. Embarrassing, but I’m glad I have them to look back on. Because what I see now is progress, joy, and happiness]

Then in June, pretty much the same with 6 runs: 2.33 miles, 3 miles 2.14 miles, 3 miles, 1.14 miles, 1.5 miles, and 1 mile. Nothing crazy, not even anything over 4 miles yet. At this point, running is an excuse to get out of the house and to enjoy some fresh air.

Now July, the dead of summer, at 6 more runs: 2 miles, 3.1 miles, 2 miles, 1.1 miles, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, and 1.5 miles. Shorter distances overall, but who can blame me? It’s freaking hot in July. At this time, I was spending more time doing full body workouts inside with just a yoga mat, couple of kettle bells, and a medicine ball.

In the month of August, 11 runs, now we are getting somewhere: 1.65 miles, 0.5 miles, 2.05 miles, 1.05 miles, 3.2 miles, 1.05 miles, 1.10 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile, 2 miles, 1.75 miles, 1.25 miles, 4 miles, 3.41 miles, and 3.81 miles. See that 4 miler in there? That’s the run were I started to wonder, if I can run 4 miles, maybe I can run 5?

On to September, summer heat is starting to fade into fall, 12 runs: 1 mile, 1 mile, 4.4 miles, 5 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile, 3.1 mile, 6 miles, 7 miles, 1 mile, 3.5 miles, 4 miles, and 3 miles. Once I hit the 5 mile mark I thought hey, that wasn’t so bad. What’s 1 more mile? So then I hit 6 miles, and then I hit 7 miles. It was the 7 mile mark I knew a half marathon was on the horizon.

And finally October, fall has definitely arrived with crisp, cool afternoon and evening weather, perfect for building distance, 8 runs: 8 miles, 2.1 miles, 1 mile, 10 miles, 1 mile, 1 mile, 1 mile, 5.11 miles, 2 miles, and then of course, 13.1 miles!

And that’s how it happened. Honestly, my toxic, type A, perfectionist personality took over. I couldn’t help but just add one more mile. One more mile was progress. One more mile was advancement. One more mile was achievement.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t set out to run a half marathon. I set out to challenge myself, to become a better person, physically and mentally. For me, that was just tacking on one more mile. 4 miles became 5 miles, which became 6 miles, then 7 miles. 8 miles, 10 miles, then 13.1 miles.

And through this process, I learned:

Running is freedom

Running is therapy

Running is euphoria

Running is power

Running is clarity

October 2020 was the hardest month of my life. I lost 9 residents to COVID-19 in less than 2 weeks. The only thing keeping my head above water was running. Running became my escape. Running still is my escape.

Until tomrrow, Meryn


Additional relevant blog posts:
HOW I LOST 15 POUNDS AND 5 INCHES DURING COVID-19 QUARANTINE linked here
WHY I RUN linked here
WHY I RUN: FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE linked here

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 5

A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Publication Date: November 2016
Genre: nonfiction, history, science
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: A quick read exploring the lives of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden and their contributions in the field of mathematics and physics while working at Langley Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia. I would agree that this book is quite dry. Many reviewers say that movie is much better with more charm and focus on the 4 leading women’s personalities, sacrifices, and achievement. It’s definitely on my list of movies to watch!
This book proved to be a great refresher on the timeline of important historical events, weaving together aeronautics, war, and race. While the discussion on the speed of sound was brief, it had me doom spiraling. Does everyone understand that bullets fire at the speed of sound? At roughly 760 miles per hour? Or was that just my dumbass who didn’t understand this concept? Also, did we learn this in grade school? Because I feel like if children would have learned that bullets leave the barrel of a gun at 760 mph, there’d be less accidental gun injuries and deaths. But maybe that’s just me. This nearly insignificant scientific anecdote led me to MythBusters videos about the speed of sound and sparked very interesting discussion between me and my partner regarding gun violence and gun safety.
Women’s History Month selection

Grace Hopper: Computer Scientist
Author: Jill C. Wheeler
Publication Date: September 2017
Genre: nonfiction, biography
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

Review: This is a biased review because I whole heartedly love and am endlessly inspired by Grace Hopper. With good reason as I am (partially) named after her – it’s a long story. For that reason, I’ve always been intrigued by Hopper and I’m so glad I picked this book up from the library to read for Women’s History Month. I already knew I liked Hopper from the basic level research I’d done throughout my lifetime, but I was amazed to learn how many similarities we shared. From the influence of her parents and their high academic standards, to her hobbies as a child (disassembling and reassembling clocks, sewing, cooking, knitting, needlework, embroidery, tending a garden), to her fascination with Stonehenge. Hopper kept a clock in her office that ran counterclockwise as a reminder that there was more than one way to do any job, and I just love that with my entire heart and soul. I am likely one of a handful of people who will give this a 5 star rating. I’m not embarrassed to admit I cried at the end.
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”
Women’s History Month selection

The Time Traveler’s Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publication Date: 2003
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: Beautiful, heart felt, touching, poignant, real, messy. People talk about beautiful writing in books and I’ve never really felt or experienced that, until now.
Going in, I knew the general premise of this story. It was a love story with a time traveling main character, obviously we can expect high and lows of love and romance. What I didn’t expect was the connections I felt in the last quarter of the book as main character Henry’s health deteriorates. We had accurate and positive acute physical therapy rep, insight into life following amputation, body dysmorphia, grief about loss of physical and functional health – topics and feelings I work with every day as a physical therapist. I felt connected to this book, connected to Henry. This doesn’t often happen for me. I don’t often relate to characters in books. My tendency is to be engaged while reading, finish, move on and never give characters a second thought. But Henry, he sticks with me. And this is, at it’s core a love story, and yet my lasting impression is so unrelated to the romantic love the main characters share. I’m realizing now this is exactly how I felt reading In Five Years. Where I thought I was getting a romance, but almost felt tricked into reading a book about grief. But I’m not mad about it. I actually really appreciate it, so thanks.
Unpopular opinion: I liked this so much more than The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Buzzword Readathon: March selection

A Brief History of Time
Author: Stephen Hawking
Publication Date: April 1988
Genre: science, nonfiction
Method: audiobook and paperback borrowed from TPL

Review: While I’ve taken numerous physics courses in my lifetime, I definitely didn’t read this to refresh on the context of astrophysics and cosmology, though I found it to be approachable, interesting, and enlightening. This book does not claim to be about Stephen Hawking himself, but I very much enjoyed the personal stories regarding how his life and learning changed after acquiring his motor neuron disease in 1963 at only 21 years old. What is marketed as a nonfiction, scientific text of sorts, I read almost as an academic memoir. As a physical therapist, what Hawking was able to accomplish after his ALS diagnosis is astounding and endlessly inspiring.
Buzzword Readathon: March selection

The Survivors
Author: Jane Harper
Publication Date: February 2021
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: I need a thriller to have a couple things to be a winner: 1. a diverse and interesting cast of characters, 2. an engaging, paced plot, 3. various timelines, and 4. unanswered questions along the way to keep my mind guessing and flipping the page.
The cast of characters were great with their overlapping histories, so much so I was formulating venn diagrams in my head to understand how they connected to one anther. Having said that, I still don’t know how I feel about a character with dementia being used as a plot point. Personally, I love working with individuals with dementia. This patient population brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction as a nursing home physical therapist. This can be an underserved and misunderstood patient population and time and time again, their diagnosis is exploited as a means to drive plot lines in novels. And I just don’t know how that sits with me. Maybe if I knew that the author had a personal connection with dementia or had adequately studied the diagnosis, I’d feel less icky about it.
Even so, this book came close to having it all, but fell just shy of a 5 star rating. I didn’t get the visceral, physical response I want out of a great thriller. I want a literal jaw dropping moment, I want genuine fear, heart pounding anxiety, I want to gasp out loud. This book didn’t get there for me, but I’m definitely interesting in reading more from this author.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


LIFE UPDATE: WE’RE QUITTING OUR JOBS + TAKING THE GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP

If I’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that life’s too short.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s true.

I’m quitting my job in 3 months and Kyle and I are hitting the road for a 10 week road trip covering 17 states and 23 national parks.

What started out as a dream is quickly becoming reality.

It’s now or never.

We are so excited for what adventures lay ahead on our great American road trip!

Tentative Itinerary

St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis - Wikipedia

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City 2021: Best of Kansas City, MO Tourism - Tripadvisor

Lincoln, Nebraska

5 Reasons You Should Move to Lincoln, Nebraska | Nebraska Realty

Scotts Bluff National Monument

Cheyenne, Wyoming

ALTA Survey Cheyenne WY | ALTA Survey Cheyenne | ALTA Land Survey

Grand Teton National Park

Best Photography in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park: Peace, nature and wildlife | Visit The USA

Helena, Montana

Helena 2021: Best of Helena, MT Tourism - Tripadvisor

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, Montana Project Center - IQP | Project Centers |  Global Project Program | Project Based Education | Project Based Learning |  WPI

Spokane, Washington

Spokane - STRATA

North Cascades National Park

Is North Cascades National Park Worth Visiting? - Van Life Wanderer

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is Beautiful : Washington

Olympic National Park

Epic Olympic National Park Itinerary of the Best Things to Do

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon Vacation Ideas | Visit The USA

Salem, Oregon

Weird and wonderful Salem, Oregon | Get Your Travel On | syvnews.com

Eugene, Oregon

BW Travel Zone Leisure Travel | 48 Hours in Eugene, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park

Explore Crater Lake National Park, Oregon's Mountain Jewel | Hertz

Redwood National Park

A Guide to Redwood National Park | RVshare.com

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park | Visit California

Reno, Nevada

Reno/Lake Tahoe, Nevada Disinfection Service

Carson City, Nevada

Carson City, Nevada | LinkedIn

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park Guide - Sunset - Sunset Magazine

Sequoia National Park

See the Best of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Kings Canyon National Park

Here Are the Best Trails for Hikers in Kings Canyon National Park - Golden  State

San Diego, California

Flights to San Diego | Air Transat

Joshua Tree National Park

Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park | Visit California

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park | park, California-Nevada, United States |  Britannica

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

Zion National Park

The Ultimate Zion National Park Travel Guide | Outside Online

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park | Utah National Park Trips

Capitol Reef National Park

Roads - Capitol Reef National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

Moab, Utah

Best Places to Eat in Moab - A Foodie's Guide | Discover Moab

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park Train Vacation | Amtrak Vacations

Arches National Park

Plan your trip to Arches National Park | Roadtrippers

Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado - Wikipedia

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

7 Reasons Why Visiting Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park Is Worth  It Red Around the World

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado - Outdoors Geek

Great Sand Dunes National Park

10 Things to Know Before Planning a Trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, CO - 4word

Garden of the Gods

Around Town: Flavor of Pueblo and Garden of the Gods Hiking

We are so excited for this adventure and the start to the next chapter of our lives together after we get back to Ohio! Be on the look out for more road trip planning and preparation content in the next few months.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


CURRENTLY // MARCH 2021

Reading

Planning

Logistics of quitting our jobs in July, our 10 week, cross country, Great American Road Trip starting in August (blogs to come)

Watching

Chef’s Table with Ana Roš (season 2, episode 5), movie I Care a Lot starring Rosamund Pike, March Madness basketball games

Cooking

Homemade meatballs, chicken salad, quick and easy weeknight meals, mini ground chicken meat loaves

Eating

Panda express, Jolly Pumpkin in Detroit, Bon Bon Bon, Delanie’s Grille

Drinking

Starbucks new spring drink iced brown sugar oatmilk shaken espresso, personalized non-alcoholic cocktails at Sugar House, craft cocktails at Cleveland Speakeasy

Creating

Starting and updating my reading journal, book cover collages, bookstagram content

Going

Detroit, Livonia, Garden Harvest, neighborhood runs, Defiance stops for spring cleaning

Loving

Running outside, I feel like a different, better human being returning to running outside! The Toledo Public Library, I don’t think I can express how much I love requesting and borrowing books from the library (21 of the 24 books I’ve read this year were library books!)

Dreaming

Of the satisfaction that will come from pushing send on my resignation email to my regional managers, of the amazing collection of postcards I’m going to gather during our trip to make the post amazing keepsake and conversation piece

Feeling

Beyond frustrated with the headache that is managing my health insurance coverage with my company (long story short, they had my hire date incorrect so I was uninsured in the month of February which left me to cover the cost of a pelvic US and f/u appt to check my IUD placement)

Conflicted about having a hand in getting a boss fired *grimacing face emoji*, equal parts excited and scared for the unknowns that come with quitting a stable job to spend 10 weeks on the road, supported by friends and family regarding our GART plans

Listening // Books

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Listening // Music

Of Monsters and Men’s My Head Is An Animal album, my 2020 Half Marathon Jams playlist, Justin Bieber’s new album Justice (favorite songs include As I Am, Holy, Unstable, Ghost)

Celebrating

Kyle’s 1000th transport, National Meatball Day, daylight savings time aka day light at 7:30PM, Women’s History Month, BFF’s bachelorette party in Ann Arbor at Vinology followed by Blank Slate ice cream, the joy of running 5 miles, $1,400 stimulus check, country wide vaccinations!

Learning

Life’s too short, it’s now or never to explore the country while we have so little responsibilities in terms of pets, home ownership, and no children

Buying

Bath and Body works hand soaps, Wax Buffalo candles – hummingbird and oatmeal stout, bachelorette lingerie from Aerie for a BFF, Osprey pack from REI

Monthly Mood Board

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // FIRST QUARTER UPDATE

And just like that, we’re already a quarter of the way through the year! In this blogpost I’ll be sharing facts and figures from the past 3 months, reflecting on my 2021 reading goals and intentions, as well as my 30 book 2021 TBR!

Facts and Figures

Non-fiction: 9
Autobiographical: 4
Feminism: 1
Race: 1

Fiction: 15
Crime, suspense, thrillers: 6
Fantasy: 1
Fiction: 4
Historical fiction: 1
Romance: 1
Science fiction: 2

Physical books: 14
Audiobooks: 10
Library books: 21


Book of the Month purchases: 1
Buddy reads: 3
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 7
2021 releases: 1
2020 releases: 4
5 star reads: 6

Reading Goals + Intentions

1 | Backlist titles from 2020 favorite authors: Goal met
In this goal I specifically called out The Ghost Bride and Everything I Never Told You, both of which I read this first quarter of the year.

2 | 2021 releases from 2020 favorite authors: No progress
Haven’t been able to check any of these books of the list yet. Of the 4 titles mentioned, none of them have released yet this year.
☐ Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens, to release June 1st
☐ Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop, to release June 1st
☐ Riley Sager’s Survive the Night, to release July 6th
☐ Paula Hawkin’s A Slow Fire Burning, to release August 31st

3 | New to me authors: Ongoing
Of the 8 authors listed, I’ve only read from Fredrik Backman so far this year, but that should change in the next 3 months. My reading plans for the #buzzwordathon challenge should have me knocking off Leigh Bardugo and Stuart Turton by next quarterly update.
☒ Fredrik Backman
☐ Leigh Bardugo
☐ Alice Feeney
☐ Lisa Jewel
☐ Lars Kepler
☐ Jo Nesbø
☐ Stuart Turton
☐ Ruth Ware

4 | Author diversity and inclusion: Ongoing
Excellent progress thus far, if I do say so myself. I specifically mentioned wanting to read from more BIPOC and queer authors. Of the 24 books I’ve read, 12 are titles by BIPOC authors and 1 identifies as queer. I specifically mentioned four BIPOC mystery/thriller authors I wanted to explore:
☒ Oyinkan Braithwaite
☐ S.A. Cosby
☒ Eva García Sáenz
☐ David Heska Wanbli Weiden

5 | Genres and reading format: Ongoing
The genres I mentioned wanting to explore more in 2021 included comedy, poetry, memoirs, non-fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. So far, the genres I haven’t hit this year are comedy, poetry, and memoirs. In this goal I also made the intention of reading more audiobooks and there’s no doubt I’ve met that goal. Of the 24 books I’ve read so far this year, 10 I read as audiobooks!

6 | Buddy reads: Ongoing
For buddy reads with my brother, I mentioned 3 books, Recursion, which we read, Let My People Go Surfing which we are currently reading, and Atomic Habits, which I’m sure we’ll get to sometime in the year.

For buddy reads with my BFF, we’ve read and discussed My Sister, the Serial Killer and I’m currently holding us back from discussing Homegoing because she’s finished it and I just haven’t prioritized it yet. Strike me God if I haven’t finished Homegoing by the next update.

7 | General goals: Ongoing
☐ 24 books (goal 60 books)
☐ 7,491 pages (goal 20,000 pages)
☐ 1 book about race/racism (goal 5 books)

To Be Read List

Of the 30 books on this list, I’ve managed to knock off 5 of them, which is only 16.66%. But in my defense, 4 of them haven’t even been published yet. Of what’s left, I own 8 of them, 1 I have requested from the library and I’m first off the list once I unfreeze my hold (The Midnight Library), and another I can borrow from a friend. When looking at the list, the only book I’m not really interested in is American Dirt – I’ve read some mixed reviews and critique related to cultural appropriation. Other than that, this entire list excited me and I’m excited to chip away at it more and more this year!

Overall I’m happy with what I’ve read so far and the progress I’ve made towards my goals and intentions. I need to slow down on the library books and really get to the books I own on my bookshelves and the books lent to me by friends, but I just love the Toledo Public Library so much, it’s hard to stay away.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


Original blogpost READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021 linked here
Recent BUZZWORD READATHON READING CHALLENGE 2021 – FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here

BOOK REVIEW: THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY BY EVA GARCÍA SÀENZ

The Silence of the White City

White City Trilogy, Book 1
by Eva García Sáenz, translated by Nick Caistor
Publication date: July 28, 2020

Goodreads synopsis:

A madman is holding Vitoria hostage, killing its citizens in brutal ways and staging the bodies. The city’s only hope is a brilliant detective struggling to battle his own demons.

Inspector Unai López de Ayala, known as “Kraken”, is charged with investigating a series of ritualistic murders. The killings are eerily similar to ones that terrorized the citizens of Vitoria twenty years earlier. But back then, police were sure they had discovered the killer, a prestigious archaeologist who is currently in jail. Now Kraken must race to determine whether the killer had an accomplice or if the wrong man has been incarcerated for two decades. This fast-paced, unrelenting thriller weaves in and out of the mythology and legends of the Basque country as it hurtles to its shocking conclusion.

Personal review:

Fantastic and fascinating. Intricate and immersive. I loved this book, without a doubt. This came highly recommended by Abby of Crime By The Book and it delivered. I really enjoyed and appreciated the Spanish and Basque culture, history, folklore, and mythology embedded throughout the story. I had fun defining and building a glossary of the unfamiliar Spanish and historical terms sprinkled throughout. I loved spending time researching and learning about the various days of celebrations that drive the plot of the story. It was fun to stop mid paragraph and look up a term and either hear the pronunciation or flip through a couple images e.g. before reading this book I definitely didn’t know what a dolmen was, and now I know.

Glossary:

acolyte noun // a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession

akimbo adverb // with hands on the hips and elbows turned outward

anthophila noun // scientific term for bee

apoplectic adjective // overcome with anger; extremely indignant

avarice noun // extreme greed for wealth or material gain

brachycephalic adjective // having a relatively broad, short skull (usually with the breadth at least 80 percent of the length)

conciliatory adjective // intended or likely to placate or pacify

corbel noun // a projection jutting out from a wall to support a structure above it

corbel verb // support (a structure) on corbels

cuadrilla noun // gang; a matador’s team of assistants, including picadors and banderilleros

dolmen noun // a megalithic tomb with a large flat stone laid on upright ones, found chiefly in Britain and France

esplanade noun // a long, open, level area, typically beside the sea, along which people may walk for pleasure

esoteric adjective // intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest

eguzkilore noun // flower of the sun in Basque (eguzki = sun and lore = flower)

garrote verb // kill (someone) by strangulation, typically with an iron collar or a length of wire or cord

gravid adjective // pregnant; carrying eggs or young; full of meaning or a specified quality

hermetic adjective // (of a seal or closure) complete and airtight; relating to an ancient occult tradition encompassing alchemy, astrology, and theosophy

Isotta Fraschini proper noun //  Italian luxury car manufacturer, also producing trucks, as well as engines for marine and aviation use; founded in Milan, Italy, in 1900

scabrous adjective // rough and covered with, or as if with, scabs; indecent; salacious

torpor noun // a state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy

Days of Celebration in Basque and Spanish Culture:

Celedón – a man wearing a floppy beret who represents the Álavan people, descends from the tower of San Miguel Archangel Church on his umbrella and crosses the sky via a system of pulleys. This event is followed by the lighting of the chupinazo rocket signals the start of las Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca

La Fiesta de la Virgen Blanca – beginning in 1884 and held on August 5th, but the celebrations begin the day before on August 4th and end on August 9th, honoring the patron saint of the city, and features a program of special events, activities and free open-air concerts. The actual festivity starts at six in the afternoon with the chupinazo and Celedón’s descent. Once Celedón reaches the balcony of the Church of San Miquel, Celedón greets the crowds below and wishes everyone a happy celebration
Rove.me article linked here

El Dia de la Blusa – festival held on July 25th, also known as “garlic day”. The morning festivities begin with the long-held tradition of buying a string of garlic, which people wear around their necks on the way home. Garlic day is a kind of prelude to the festivals of the Patron Saint of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the festival of the Virgen Blanca (White Virgin), held on August 4th through 9th
Basque Country Tourism article linked here

El Dia de Santiago – annual Feast of Saint James takes place in Santiago de Compostela on July 25th and is a public holiday in Galicia. The celebration begins the evening before with the Fuegos del Apóstol (“Apostle’s Fire”) at midnight, a special fireworks show that takes place near the St. James Cathedral. On Día de Santiago, many devoted Christians and admirers of the patron saint walk the St. James hiking trail in Spain. This trail is called the Camino de Santiago (“Way of St. James”), and this is considered a lugar de peregrinación (“place of pilgrimage”), leading to Santiago de Compostela.
Spanishpod101 article linked here
Spanish Fiestas article linked here

The Water Rituals

White City Trilogy, Book 2
by Eva García Sáenz
Publication date: March 30, 2021

Goodreads synopsis:

How do you unmask a killer who’s spent years preparing to hunt you down?

A pregnant woman has been murdered in a brutal, ritualistic way: burned, hung, and then placed upside down in a Bronze Age cauldron. When Unai “Kraken” Lopez de Ayala discovers the victim is his first love, Ana Belén Liaño, memories of their time together come flooding back, and with them reminders of a dark secret long buried. Then the killer strikes again, enacting the same ritual against a second expectant parent. Kraken knows he must confront his past in order to unmask this fiend. And there’s no time to waste, because Deputy Superintendent Díaz de Salvatierra has just found out she’s carrying a child. And the father could very well be Kraken himself…

Additional Resources:
1 | Behind The Basques: The Most Misunderstood Culture in Europe
Orge Castellano article linked here

2 | AUTHOR Q&A: EVA GARCÍA SÁENZ, AUTHOR OF THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY
Crime by the Book article linked here

3 | BOOK REVIEW: THE SILENCE OF THE WHITE CITY BY EVA GARCÍA SÁENZ
Crime by the Book article linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BUZZWORD READATHON READING CHALLENGE 2021 – FIRST QUARTER UPDATE

I can confidently say this challenge has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into some books I never would have read otherwise *cough, cough* Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic and A Brief History of Time. No duds in this first quarter of the challenge and happy to report two 5 star reads in February! Excited to see what I get into in the next quarter of the challenge.

January – “dream”

Big Dreams, Daily Joys by Elise Blaha Cripe
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

February – a colour

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune
The Silence of the White City by Eva García Sáenz

March – “time”

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking


What I’m planning to read in the next 3 months:

April – space/galaxy terms

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
The Martian by Andy Weir

May – “house/home”

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

June – name/title

Deacon King Kong by James McBride
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


BooksandLala blogpost linked here
Goodreads group linked here
Introduction blogpost linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 4

A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: April 2012
Genre: fiction
Method: audiobook and paperback borrowed from TPL

Review: Reading this story felt like divine intervention, like this story found me at a time when I needed it most. I started this book just a few days after Ash Wednesday and this is the first year in my life that I had no recognition for the Lenten season, no intention to celebrate in the Catholic traditions and teachings leading up to Easter. I find the timing serendipitous – at the time I find myself stepping away from the Catholic church, I immerse myself in a story centered around an overhearing Catholic patriarch who exploits his power and control over his wife and children by way of manipulation through the guise of organized religion.
This work of fiction is an excellent example of how every reader will walk away from this novel with a different appreciation and critique. This could have been a story about hope and redemption, about self acceptance and love. Despite there being beautiful and touching moments, I found myself fixating and focusing on the exploration of male abuse of power through the vehicle of religion and holiness. I loved this book for the way it made me think and reflect, both heart-breaking and thought provoking.
Buzzword Readathon: February selection

The Wife Upstairs
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publication Date: January 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Review: I feel like this book got a lot of hype as it was marketed as a gothic retelling of Jane Eyre. As someone who’s never read Jane Eyre, I was intrigued. It was good, it was fine. Like always, I enjoyed the various POVs and multiple timelines. The book overall was fast paced with it’s short, quick chapters. Some surprising moments but nothing jaw dropping. I would have liked more character development for main character, Jane. I love thrillers, don’t get me wrong, but I just need to step away from the domestic thrillers for awhile. They just aren’t that different from one another, at least the ones I’ve been picking up.

The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Publication Date: June 2018
Genre: romance, contemporary, fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: I was browsing popular audiobook on the Libby app when this one caught my attention. I’ve seen such high praise for this book all over booktube and bookstagram. First a foremost, damn does this get steamy, and quickly. I listened to this while driving between my buildings for work and kept thinking how I’d likely die from embarrassment if someone overheard one of these sex scenes. What to love: disability representation, laugh out loud funny, smart and witty statistical and mathematical references, the career-based gender swap as the female lead is the money maker working in STEM and the male character is the starving artist, creative type. What didn’t work for me: the big reveal regarding main character Michael’s hatred for his father was so underwhelming. I can’t be the only one who expected something much worse given how much Michael despises his deadbeat dad.
And the one true reason this could never be a 5-star book: misrepresentation of the field of physical therapy. After Evie proudly recognizes herself as a physical therapist, her mother remarks, “Why couldn’t you be a doctor, then, E? All I wanted was doctor in the family, and not one of you could do that for me.” Given this book was published after 2009, Evie’s approximate age, and location in California, I can assume she holds a clinical doctorate degree in physical therapy, and professionally can be considered a doctor. I would know, I have the degree myself. This is the exact battle my entire profession is facing. The general public denounces our professional titles and disregards our level of education, because of misinformation in stories like this. For a book boasting a female main character who is at the top of her profession in a male dominated STEM field, who then takes charge of her sex life like a badass independent woman, to misidentify a supporting female character and reduce her professional status is appalling to me. Unacceptable.

Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Publication Date: August 2011
Genre: science fiction, fantasy
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Review: Started the audiobook on a whim and was immediately hooked, grinning ear to ear. I would catch myself at the end of my work day feeling giddy knowing I was about to hop in the car with this story waiting for me. Wil Wheaton was an excellent and iconic selection for the audiobook narrator, it elevated the reading experience for me. Also had to chuckle when his own name surfaced in the story.
A limited list of what I loved: the OASIS world building, endless 80s references, dystopian vibes, all incredible. This story gave me a sense of nostalgia that I’ve never experienced before while reading. Beyond the wonderful 1980s references, many of which went directly over my head, Wade himself as a main character was just so relatable and enjoyable to follow. I also was once an overweight, shy, lonely teenager who didn’t feel like they fit in at high school, who felt self-conscious about their body, social and popularity status, and felt isolated and abnormal for not having a boyfriend/girlfriend experience. That poignant monologue in chapter one about death and the afterlife shook me to my core, so well executed. I don’t know if reading those paragraphs with my eyes would have had the same impact but listening to those words left me with a pit in my stomach and full body chills.
If I happen to stumble upon a used copy one day, I can definitely see adding this to my collection. I’d like to lend it to my dad to read one day, I feel like he’d really love being transported back to the 1980s and reminisce on a time in his life when he was in college, collecting and tinkering with hundreds of computer parts as a bachelor, kicking at home.

A Deadly Inside Scoop
Author: Abby Collette
Publication Date: May 2020
Genre: cozy mystery
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Review: I promise I wanted to love this book. A black female author writing mysteries set in Cleveland, Ohio. Could there be a more perfect book? I didn’t think so. However, there were multiple points where I considered DNF’ing. The dialogue was painful – repetitive, bland, boring, flat, simple. It’s hard to judge this book as a stand alone because it’s the first in a series, so while I understand the emphasis on developing the backstory and really diving into the main characters, it just felt 100 pages too long. I just don’t know that I’m enticed enough to keep reading. I’d never read a ‘cozy mystery’ before and I’m certain now I am not the ideal demographic for this book, which I now learned is woman over the age of 40. Nonetheless, I loved the representation and diversity amongst characters, loved the Chagrin Falls, Ohio setting, felt very nostalgic and at home. Yeah, cozy, okay I get it now.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


WHAT I’M READING FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Happy International Women’s Day!

I went a little wild borrowing works of nonfiction, biographies, and children’s books from my local library to enjoy throughout the month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month

Grace Hopper: Computer Scientist

by Jill C. Wheeler

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

by Laurie Wallmark (Author), Katy Wu (Illustrator)

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

by Margot Lee Shetterly (Author), Winifred ConklingLaura Freeman (illustrator)

Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space

by Margot Lee Shetterly

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

by Grace Bonney

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

Women in Art: 50 Fearless Creatives Who Inspired the World

by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

by Rachel Ignotofsky

Resources:
1 | 11 History Books That Every Woman Should Read
Refinery29 article linked here

2 | 17 books that are essential reading for Women’s History Month
CNN article linked here

3 | 25 Must-Reads for Women’s History Month
Barnes & Noble article linked here

4 | Books to Read During Women’s History Month
Read It Forward article linked here

5 | Power, Sister! 20 New Books on Women’s History
Goodreads article linked here

Until next time, Meryn