Friday, May 31, 2013

Furry Friday

I am in love with this picture! Handsome Conan in the front, lovely peonies in the back: perfection!

Conan likes to stop and smell the flowers.

Here we have Lily stalking a chipmunk on our deck. Too bad she's terrified of going outside... And I think the chipmunk knew this, because it just sat there eating it's snack and staring right back at Lily without a care in the world.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books On My To-Read List

I recently stumbled across a great book blog, The Broke and the Bookish, and I'm excited to participate in my first Top Ten Tuesday link-up. I guess I get off easy this week because the topic was "freebie." I thought this would be a fun opportunity to share with you 10 books I'm looking forward to reading soon. Some are older and some are recent, but they're all new to me and they all promise to be enthralling reads!

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Cozy mystery; first in series.

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Historical fiction; first in series.

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Post-apocalyptic fiction.

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Cozy mystery; first in series.

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Historical fiction; first in series.

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Historical fiction.

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Post-apocalyptic fiction; first in series.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: "The Art Forger"

"The Art Forger" by B.A. Shapiro
First published in 2012
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
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In this page-turner that blends fact and fiction, Claire Roth is a struggling Boston painter who's been blackballed by the local art community because of an incident with her famous artist ex-boyfriend. Claire makes a living by painting reproductions of famous works for an online vendor and she specializes in the masterpieces of Edgar Degas.

Claire is approached by an acquaintance, art gallery owner Aiden Markel, who asks her to secretly copy a painting in exchange for her own show at his gallery, a large sum of money and a chance to do some "good," and despite her reservations she can't refuse.

When it turns out the Degas painting Claire is to copy is one of 13 works of art that were stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990, Claire has a slew of second thoughts. But though Claire earns a living by masterfully replicating the works of others, she's an extremely talented artist in her own right and she knows a one-woman gallery show is the best shot she has at salvaging her career.

Ultimately, she accepts this "deal with the devil" and immerses herself in her craft -- stripping an old canvas and beginning her forgery (and it is a forgery, because Markel intends to sell it to a black market buyer as the original and anonymously return the stolen Degas to the museum). It's fascinating to learn the pulled-from-fact methods and techniques Claire employs so the new painting will pass for a century-old original when it's authenticated. But of course things don't ultimately go according to plan, which is no surprise when dealing with a piece of one of the largest unsolved art heists in history.

I was thoroughly engrossed in Shapiro's novel and I learned a lot about the art world while devouring the book. Shapiro, who is obviously passionate about art, did a great job melding the real and not real in her novel. While several works by Degas were stolen in the real-life Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, the Degas painting in the novel -- the fifth in his After the Bath series -- was fictitious. Still, I Googled Degas' other works so I could create an image in my head of After the Bath 5, which Shapiro writes about so vividly and Claire copies so lovingly.

"The Art Forger" was a good literary novel, with hints of suspense, romance and history, and it would make an excellent summer read. Grab the book and a glass of lemonade and transport yourself to an artist's studio in Boston!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Etsy Wish List: May

After being visited by some religion peddlers and a newspaper salesman, I determined that we need a "No Soliciting" sign. This is the top contender.
Etsy shop: lisabees, $13.50

How fun are these hand-sewn Harry Potter-themed bookmarks?! I especially like "Make Love, Not Horcruxes."
Etsy shop: Bakarasz, $8

Now that we have a massive garden to weed, I've really come to dislike dandelions in their literal form. But these earrings are super cute! I also love the hand-stamped metal bookmarks this shop has.
Etsy shop: MauveMagpie, $9.27
I've been a Julia Child fan ever since I read "My Life in France." And this quote is so true! Plus I like that the graphics colors are customizable.
Etsy shop: Coleandco, $12
These turquoise glass earrings are lovely.
Etsy shop: paulbead, $17
This metal sign is so fun and bright, and it would be great for the kitchen or the patio. There are a few different fruits to choose from, but raspberries are my favorite.
Etsy shop: BainbridgeFarmGoods, $34.95
This recycled metal creation is the most fun bird feeder I've ever seen!
Etsy shop: Junkfx, $50

This pretty handblown glass hummingbird feeder is made from recycled wine bottles.
Etsy shop: SageStudios, $35

Friday, May 17, 2013

Furry Friday

 Conan befriended a caterpillar this week.
 I love that scrunched-up look of contemplation.
Our handsome boy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: "The Fault In Our Stars"

"The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green
First published in 2012
313 pages
My rating: 3.75 out of 5
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"The Fault In Our Stars" automatically won some points with me simply because it's a wildly popular young adult book that doesn't involve supernatural beings or post-apocalyptic societies.

Instead, this book is about a teenager living with terminal cancer.

Cheerful, right? John Green's novel is definitely tragic -- I mean, it's obvious from the outset that one of the two cancer-ridden main characters is going to die at end -- but it was also clever and funny and sarcastic and thoughtful and very real. Green gives Hazel, our narrator, such a strong and believable voice that reading the book is like listening to Hazel tell her story -- in her own words -- inside your head.

That said, while I liked "The Fault In Our Stars" I'm not as obsessed with it as many readers seem to be. I'm not rushing out to buy John Green's other books, I'm not desperately seeking information about the movie version, and I definitely don't think it's the best book I ever read. It appears, though, that I am firmly in the minority here.

While I really liked and admired Hazel and her boyfriend Augustus, I don't think we would have been friends as teenagers. They're just a bit too... existential and philosophical and self-possessed, which is quite possibly an inevitable side effect of having cancer at 16. But I think that's part of the reason the novel didn't resonate with me as much as it did for others. This is the kind of book that demands to be cried over, but I didn't feel the slightest hint of a tear despite the fact that I read nearly the entire thing sitting next to my beloved dog -- who also has terminal cancer!

Still, "The Fault In Our Stars" is worth a read -- and judging by the myriad positive reviews from critics and readers alike, there's a decent chance you'll think it's the best book ever!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Review: "The Beekeeper's Apprentice"

"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Laurie R. King
First book in the Mary Russell series
First published in 1994
346 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
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Sherlock Holmes is graying but just as sharp as ever in 1915 when our protagonist, Mary Russell, literally stumbles across his path in a Sussex field.

Mary, at 15, possesses a brilliant mind and she and Holmes become fast friends, the latter taking Mary under his wing and gently honing her skills at logic and deduction. Before long, Mary becomes Holmes' unofficial apprentice and, though Holmes is not technically an active detective any longer, he's asked to consult on a case he can't refuse.

"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" is a unique look at Sherlock Holmes, told through the eyes of a young female narrator who at just 15 is Holmes' near mental equal. This book takes place during and just after WWI, years after the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, and Holmes is a somewhat different man by this point. I liked that King wasn't trying to re-tell the originals, but instead invented new mysteries and gave Holmes a completely different kind of sidekick -- or, rather, partner.

The book was cozy, it was fun, it was full of disguises and ruses and bees and meat pies and long hours spent in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Mary Russell is a very likeable tale-teller and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with a cup of tea and discovering the new world of Sherlock Holmes with her. I will most definitely read the rest of Laurie R. King's Sherlockian series.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Furry Friday

Happy Friday! I couldn't resist sharing this picture from the other day, in which Conan and my husband devised a doggie monk disguise using my brown sweat pants.

And here's Conan last night after getting chased around by a mama duck protecting her slew of ducklings before the whole gang waddled off into the tall grass. "But... but... where'd my new friends go, Mom?" Conan seemed to be asking.

Can you spot the cat among all the dog toys? Lily loves all the huge windows in our new house and spends a lot of time keeping an eye on the backyard wildlife.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday

It's Wednesday again! It's been a few weeks since I've done a What I Wore Wednesday post -- we've been busy with everything that comes with moving into a new home in a new state, plus my best friend's visit, a job interview and a visit to Indiana to see my grandma. In light of all that -- and the fact that it was kinda nice not to have to haul out the tripod every day or pester my husband to take pictures of me -- I think I'm going to make my WIWW posts more of an end-of-the-month recap of my favorite outfits rather than a weekly thing from here on out.
 These outfits are in chronological order, and it gives a good idea of how much the weather in Ohio apparently fluctuates in the spring. It's 80 and sunny one day, rainy and low 50s the next. I don't mind, though -- the sunny days are fantastic and the rainy days make the flowers bloom!
These are my very most favorite jeans -- they're soft, they're comfortable and they fit perfectly. And you know what? Thanks to the garage door and perhaps my own stupidity, they now have a three-inch rip near the pocket! I was depressed about it for a week! :(

Sweater: Macy's
Jeans: 7 For All Mankind
Boots: Payless
Shell necklace: craft fair on Kauai

Ruffles AND polka dots?! I know I'll be wearing this new Target tank top all summer!

Sweater: Target
Jeans: 7 For All Mankind
Necklace: The Pleated Poppy

pleated poppy

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Spring: Flowers, Fro-Yo and Frisbee

It's SPRING! I can't say I don't still miss Hawaii's 80-degree weather, shave ices and sandy beaches every day, but I'm definitely finding spring in Ohio delightful! It rains all the time and flowers are popping up everywhere, which is especially fun since we have no idea what the previous owners have planted in the landscaping. It's a mystery!

My favorite thing in our yard is this little tree with its bright pink flowers.

Apparently we have rose bushes! Roses have never been my favorite flower (I prefer the more whimsical daisies and violets and peonies) but I'm kind of excited to see what kind of roses these guys produce.

These white lilac bushes smell soooooo good!

Spring means sitting outside while enjoying frozen yogurt for dessert! We visited my grandma in Indiana last weekend and initiated her into the frozen yogurt trend.

And spring means long sessions of Frisbee with Conan. A tired dog is a happy dog! (Just look at that tongue! It's perfect for giving slobbery kisses!)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Book Review: "The Light Between Oceans"

"The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman
First published in 2012
343 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
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Janus Rock is a small, desolate island off the coast of Australia, uninhabited except for the lighthouse operator, Tom, and his wife Isabel. The only contact they have with other humans comes with the supply boat every three months, and the shore leave Tom is granted every few years. But Tom and Isabel are young, happy and in love on the lonely island at the confluence of two oceans.

Except they're not entirely happy. Tom, a decorated WWI soldier, is haunted by the horrors he witnessed and the guilt that comes with surviving what so many of his comrades did not. And Isabel wants more than anything in the world to be a mother, but instead she's sufferred through three miscarriages on Janus Rock.

Shortly after Isabel's third and most heart-wrenching miscarriage, a dinghy lands on the beach of Janus Rock carrying a dead man and a crying infant. Isabel begs Tom to keep the miracle baby, to not report the mysterious boat, and Tom reluctantly concedes to his wife's wishes. Baby Lucy thrives on Janus Rock, under the watchful eye of her doting Mamma and Dadda, and quickly grows into a cheerful toddler. But Tom and Isabel's actions have consequences they cannot predict, and in time their happy idyll on Janus Rock will falter.

"The Light Between Oceans," M.L. Stedman's debut novel, is about the decisions we make and how we deal with the effects of our choices. It's about the meaning of family and parenthood, love and marriage, morality and guilt. Stedman's post-WWI story is well-written with some quotable quotes and, though not at all cheesy or overly sentimental, its themes that may inspire readers to do some introspection.

I'll end with my favorite quote from the Stedman's work, which embodies the novel and which I sure wish I could take as my personal mantra:

"You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things. I would have to make a list, a very, very long list and make sure I hated the people on it the right amount. That I did a very proper job of hating, too: very Teutonic! No, we always have a choice. All of us."
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