Saturday, April 27, 2013

Book Review: "The Casual Vacany"

"The Casual Vacancy" by J.K. Rowling
First published in 2012
503 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5
(image source)

I never thought J.K. Rowling's first adult book to be anything like the Harry Potter series -- which I adore and will never grow tired of -- but I didn't expect it to be the polar opposite either.

Set against a backdrop of small-town politics (snore), "A Casual Vacancy" features just about every negative, depressing plot point you can imagine: drug addiction, poverty, child abuse, infidelity, mental illness, bullying, rape, self-mutilation, death, and the list goes on... and on.

There are several main characters, and they're all horrible people -- a toxic mix of cruel, manipulative, dishonest, petty, weak, spineless, cowardly and clueless. I had a hard time muddling through the book because I did not like or sympathize with one single character. In fact, when I finally got a bit into the story, it was mostly because I wanted to see everyone get their due. Many times during the book, I thought that if the entire town of Pagford jumped off a cliff, the world would be a better place!

The Harry Potter books were inspiring, with good ultimately triumphing over evil. Friendship, forgiveness and teamwork were common themes. The only message I got from "The Casual Vacancy" was that there are no truly good people in the world. Everyone is harboring a secret, or is really just a bad, worthless or screwed-up person underneath their public veneer.

And yet. And yet this book was kind of real. Life is not a storybook romance with every problem resolving in a happy ending. Nobody is perfect -- perhaps we're not all as vile as the population of Pagford, but everyone has flaws.

However, though "A Casual Vacancy" reminded me a bit of the sick, twisted and somewhat similarly themed bestseller "Gone Girl," it was certainly not as good. The main plot of Rowling's novel revolves around the opening of a spot on the Pagford parish council following a council member's sudden death -- so boring, so irrelevant. And in "Gone Girl," my allegiance alternated between the two main characters, whereas in "A Casual Vacancy" I couldn't care less about any of those morons. When you're disgusted by everyone in the book, what motivation do you have to keep reading?

If J.K. Rowling's goal was to set herself apart from the whimsical wizarding world she created, she definitely succeeded. If she wanted to prove she knows all about heroin and morbid obesity and sexual fantasies and swear words, she succeeded. But I think she also succeeded in disappointing a lot of devout, built-in fans who would give any book of hers a try. I was reluctant to read "The Casual Vacancy" after seeing the hideous cover art and reading the snooze-fest of a blurb, and I'm not sure I'll even bother to pick up whatever she publishes next. If I want to be that depressed, I just need to turn on the Dayton evening news!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Furry Friday

Happy Friday! It's kinda fun -- after not experiencing seasons at all in the past three years -- to live in a place where April showers really do bring May flowers. We've gotten plenty of rain lately, and now everything is green and blossoming. I absolutely love this gorgeous pink tree in our front yard!

My best friend Katie and her furry baby, Ruby, were just here for a week-long visit. Conan and Ruby became instant best friends!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Etsy Wish List: April

As usual, I've had no trouble finding things to drool over on Etsy this month! Here's what's at the top of my wish list:
Etsy Shop: Palomaria
I absolutely love this bright, bold clay necklace and it seems like it would go with so many different things.

Etsy Shop: The Fysh Store
These vintage spoon garden markers would be perfect for the mason jar window herb garden I'm planning to make.

Etsy Shop: Nevastarr
How adorable is this fishy windchime made from old spoons and a fork?

Etsy Shop: Blue Room Pottery
I'm definitely thinking about buying this gorgeous (and useful) yarn bowl.

Etsy Shop: Amber Alexander
This fox watercolor print is so whimsical and fun!

Etsy Shop: B.W. Barkery
This is one of several collars on Etsy that I'm considering for Conan. It's hard to find cute collars appropriate for boy dogs, but I've come across a handful that I really like and now I can't decide!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Springtime Wreath With Felt Flowers and a Mossy Letter

When I was at Michael's recently, I spotted a roll of burlap. I'd never seen anything like that at the (rather pitiful) craft stores in Hawaii and I just had to grab it. I decided to turn it into a wreath, adorned with a moss-covered letter a la Pinterest and a bouquet of felt flowers.
There are two kinds of moss available and I would recommend going with the overpriced version with a mesh backing -- which, unfortunately, I was too cheap to pay for. I ended up with the crazy-messy version but I think my S still turned out ok, and I was pretty happy with the finished product. It looks nice on the front door of our new home!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Furry Friday

We've been in our new home a little over two weeks now and it's safe to say both Conan and Lily have given their seal of approval. Conan loves the backyard, which is perfect for playing Frisbee, and Lily enjoys looking out all the huge windows and warming her paws by the fireplace.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: "The Age of Miracles"

"The Age of Miracles" by Karen Thompson Walker
First published in 2012
269 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

Julia was in sixth grade when "the slowing" started. She and her family and everyone else on the planet woke up one Saturday morning to learn that the earth's rotation had suddenly begun to slow, and the day grew by 56 minutes overnight.

There's no end in sight to the slowing -- and the number of hours in each day is constantly increasing, eventually rising to 30 and 50 and higher. That soon means daytime is not necessarily light and nighttime is not necessarily dark because the movements of the sun and moon don't always coincide with the 24-hour clock that most everyone is still trying to live by.

With the slowing, gravity becomes gradually stronger and many -- including Julia's mother -- experience debilitating gravity sickness. Weather, tides, crops, birds and whales and dogs and cats are affected. The most dependable thing about human life -- the rising of the sun in the morning hours and the setting of the sun in the evening hours -- is forever changed.

I was fascinated by the premise of this apocalyptic novel. How will the characters and the world at large cope with the lengthening days, and how long can they survive these new conditions before life is simply no longer sustainable on Earth?

The slowing has so many indirect effects -- Julia sees this in her friendships, her family life, her neighbors and how they all react to the world's drawn-out demise. This story of the earth's slowing rotation also includes secrets, lies and all the drama of middle school. Life goes on, even though no one has any idea how much longer they'll be alive.

"The Age of Miracles" was a quick and easy read, and I was hooked on the plot instantly. However, I felt the author fell a bit short in character development. Julia was ok, she was fine, but I didn't really care what happened to her -- I was really just curious to find out what happens to Earth. Still, I thought it was a good move to make Julia, our narrator, just a child when the slowing begins. Her innocence gives a much more dynamic perspective of the gradual end of the world than if she were an adult or even a teenager.

While this wasn't the best book I've read this year, I know I won't soon forget this novel about the day the earth slowed donw!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha from Ohio! We're having some absolutely gorgeous weather this week and I've spent so much time outside, enjoying the first signs of spring and actually going around barefoot for the first time since we left Hawaii in January! It's been so nice to skip socks and jackets and mittens for a few days, though I know a cold front is headed our way starting tomorrow. Still, I've loved the past few days and I'm looking forward to more springtime weather -- it's not too cold, not too hot, not too dry, not too humid, no mosquitoes to fight off, and daffodils and hyacinth are popping up left and right.

As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to share my outfits. I will most certainly enjoy my "What I Wore" Wednesday -- it's supposed to be 79! -- and I hope you do too!

pleated poppy

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: "Quentins"

"Quentins" by Maeve Binchy
First published in 2002
436 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

"Quentins" didn't blow me away with awesomeness or make me want to recommend it to everyone I know, and yet I still totally enjoyed it. I guess this story, which mostly centers around a Dublin restaurant called Quentins, had kind of an understated charm.

I'd been wanting to read something by Maeve Binchy, an Irish author, for a long time. Not only do her quaint but modern themes and Irish setting appeal to me, I loved the based-on-the-book movie "Circle of Friends." Binchy's novel explores themes of love, friendship and family -- but not in a cheesy way. This is definitely not a romance novel -- it's more of a real-life tale with heartbreak, hard times and people to pick you back up when you fall down.

The crux of the novel is a documentary film to tell the stories behind Quentins, one of the most popular and yet unpretentious restaurants in Dublin. There's a main character, Ella Brady, whose love affair with a married financier ends in disaster. But there are also vignettes about several other more minor characters, which kept the story moving along and made things interesting. In the end, the entire cast comes together at -- where else? -- Quentins.

I really enjoyed the Irish atmosphere and phrases and names in the novel. I could definitely picture real-life Dublin and made-up Quentins in my mind. I love reading novels set in England, Scotland and Ireland because it's fascinating how we can speak the same language but use totally different words. Binchy had several fun turns of phrase that stuck with me and I can't resist sharing:
*silly bowwows (talking about a certain type of dog)
*I was just having a grumble
*I'm as cross as a bag of weasels

I'll definitely read more of Maeve Binchy's work, which is more hefty than chick-lit but still easy and enjoyable. When I went to the author's website to get a picture of the book cover, I saw that Maeve passed away last year. Apparently she had just finished a new novel before she died, and it's due out this spring.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha and happy Wednesday! We've been so busy with our house closing and getting moved in that I've spent most of the past two weeks in sweats and a hoodie (which happens to be what I'm wearing right now!). I did get dressed on a few occasions, although looking back through the pictures I realized I wore the same sweater twice, the same belt three times and the same brown boots in all of the outfits!

As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy for What I Wore Wednesday.
 I absolutely adore this pashmina Jarrod brought back from his deployment to Afghanistan. It's cashmere and soooo soft, not to mention gorgeous, and I think of him all day when I wear it.
 I feel so dumb for jumping on the bubble necklace bandwagon last year and then never actually wearing my necklace. This was the first time I've worn it since last summer! I guess it just feels to fancy for running to Target or going to the movies. I wore this outfit for Jarrod's birthday dinner at Texas Roadhouse.
 Here's a look at our backyard and the little nature preserve beyond. It's so nice to have some space, and to look out the window and see birds and squirrels aplenty. (And the previous owners said deer frequent the yard.) I love it now, and I know it'll be even more lovely in a few weeks when everything turns green! 
pleated poppy

Happy (Belated) Easter!

Was your Easter filled with candy eggs, bright colors and Conan Cottontails? Ours was! We headed two hours west to spend Easter with some of my relatives in Indiana -- my grandma, aunt, uncle and cousins. It was the first holiday we've spent with family in over three years, since before we moved to Hawaii, and it was so nice!
I love our new front porch -- so many decorating opportunities! The movers just delivered our stuff Wednesday afternoon so I couldn't put out much for Easter, but I did get to show off my colorful new doormat from Target, my clearance egg wreath from JoAnn, and the adorable turquoise bunny I got for a steal at Pier 1 in Colorado last summer. (His name is Frederick Bun Sushi, by the way.)

In case you were wondering what I meant by "Conan Cottontail," here he is in all his miserable glory.

Ohio is different from Hawaii in many ways, but they both have gorgeous sunsets! I couldn't resist snapping a picture of the beautiful sky as we were driving home.
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