Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Yarn Along: "Fates and Furies" and Felted Heart Garland

Yarn Along is a wonderful link-up -- hosted by the Small Things blog every Wednesday -- about two of the best things in life: reading and knitting!


Reading: Yesterday I finally finished "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke. After almost 800 pages and two weeks of immersion in the highly atmospheric world of English magic in the nineteenth century, I feel a little bereft without it -- even thought I was soooo ready to be done with the book. Last night I read the first couple pages of "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff, a book I've been waiting to get in from the library for a while. It's gotten so much publicity, and even President Obama loved it. We shall see!

Knitting: The mermaid tail blanket I'd been working on for the past few weeks is finished and I was considering casting on for the little stuffed black bear I mentioned last week. And then yesterday inspiration struck -- maybe, just maybe, the time has finally come to finish a WIP from TWO YEARS AGO -- a felted heart garland meant to be for Valentine's Day (in 2014).

I'm usually pretty good about finishing my projects, but for some reason I knit up nine hearts, then left them in a drawer in the coffee table for two years. Instead of knitting more hearts, I decided to just go ahead and sew up, stuff and felt the ones I already made. I got them sewn and stuffed last night while watching "Downton Abbey" (by myself) and "Straight Outta Compton" (with my husband) and they'll go in the washer for felting today.

ETA: The pattern (here) is Felted Heart Milagros by Mags Kandis.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

10 Gorgeous Book Covers

The week Top Ten Tuesday -- hosted by the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish -- is a dreaded freebie. I hate freebies -- I am apparently not clever enough to think of interesting topics on my own! But, alas, I love lists so much that I endeavored to come up with something, so we have: the 10 most beautiful covers of books I've read the past two years.

I absolutely judge books by their covers and I even have a blog feature comparing a book's various versions of cover art (see my most recent post here or click on the "book covers" label in the sidebar). I like lots of color, bright hues, pretty fonts, paintings/drawings/pictures, and good design, and I enjoy covers that have embossing and/or texture. I don't typically like pictures of real people/photographs on my fiction covers. Looking at the covers below, I think it's safe to say I like a good ol' pop of red!

Do you judge books by their covers like I do? What do you prefer when it comes to cover art? Which of the covers below is your favorite?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Musings


Highlight of the week: I got a new tattoo on Saturday! You can read all about why I chose a seahorse (and see adorable pictures of our dog, Conan, and a real seahorse) here!

Reading: STILL reading "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell." WILL I EVER FINISH THIS BOOK?!?!?! It will NOT beat me!

Knitting: Almost done with the mermaid tail blanket! I just have a few finishing tasks to do and it'll be ready for the mail. (I said the same thing on Wednesday and haven't touched it since. Must get on that!) If you want to see a picture of the almost-finished product, there's one here.

Watching: We only have one episode left of season 3 of "Orphan Black" and then we're going to have to wait for the next season to come on TV. After binge-watching, waiting a week between episodes is going to be excruciating! We also watched "The Intern" with Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro. It was such a cute, happy movie! I liked it more than I expected. AND we watched the "Sherlock" special, "The Abominable Bride." I like how it tied into what has happening when we left off at the end of season 3. Can't wait for season 4!!!

Listening to:

Eating: Copycat Panera Bread broccoli cheddar soup, one of my fave winter recipes! So good with a loaf of crusty multigrain bread for dipping! (Recipe here.)

Looking forward to: Finishing my book and finishing my knitting project and moving on to two brand new adventures!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Seahorse Tattoo!

I spent yesterday morning at the tattoo shop, getting this lovely watercolor seahorse inked on my right wrist! I have one other tattoo, a star outline on my foot that I got when I was 18, and I've long been considering another tattoo -- but this one had to be meaningful. I'd also been thinking lately that I wanted it to have something to do with Conan, our beloved furry baby who passed away about two years ago from lymphoma. I don't think I will ever stop missing him.

And the seahorse is meaningful -- it reminds me of this awesome day at the dog beach on the Air Force base where we lived in Hawaii. The tide was going out and we found this poor beautiful seahorse trapped way too close to the shore. So after photographing him and introducing him to our sweet Conan, we put him back out where he belonged. I love this picture of Conan making friends with the seahorse, and the tattoo is in part a tribute to him. He's the first thing I think of whenever I see a seahorse.

Here's a close-up of the seahorse. Isn't he gorgeous?

The seahorse also brings to mind a really happy period in my life. It was 2012, our last year in Hawaii. Jarrod had gotten home from a 6-month deployment to Afghanistan a couple weeks before and we'd just come back from a 10-day relaxation trip to Kauai, my mom was out for a visit (she took the picture above, on the same day as the seahorse rescue), I had some really good friends and a job I loved, we were busy doing all kinds of fun things (shark cage tour, parasailing, swimming with dolphins, going to the beach all the time) that we needed to cross off our Hawaii to-do list before we moved. Life ebbs and flows, and it'll be nice to have a little reminder on my wrist of one of the great times.

I took this picture to show the placement of the tattoo, but it strikes me that from a distance it kinda looks like the Dark Mark! (Leave it to me to find a Harry Potter reference -- ha!) I initially wanted it to be closer to my wrist, but I'm not sure I could've withstood the pain. This tattoo hurt approximately 1 trillion times more than my star and the lower on my arm the tattoo artist was working the more painful it was. So Dark Mark Seahorse it is! ;)

P.S. If you're curious, I went to John Lloyd at Truth & Triumph in Dayton.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: "November 9" by Colleen Hoover

"November 9" by Colleen Hoover
First published in 2015
310 pages
4 stars
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
I liked the unique premise of this twentysomethings romance novel and the writing was pretty good. Worth a read.

The Long Of It:
This was my second book by popular "new adult" author Colleen Hoover and I was impressed enough that I'll probably check out more of her work when I'm in the mood for an easy read.

"Ugly Love," the first book of Hoover's I read, was just ok -- a little cliched, I thought -- but "November 9" benefited from a more original plotline and characters who were easy to like.

At 16, Fallon's burgeoning acting career was destroyed when she was severely burned in a fire and left terribly scarred on her entire left side. Her self-esteem is utterly shattered right along with her career when, at 18, a chance encounter with Benton Kessler changes her life, and Ben's, in so many ways.

The date is November 9th, the anniversary of the fire that scarred Fallon so badly. Benton drops into Fallon's life totally unexpectedly -- and on the same day that she's taking a flight to New York City in hopes of a fresh start. They only have a few hours to spend together, but the spark between them is undeniable, intense, and deeply personal. Benton is the first person to really look at Fallon, much less make her feel beautiful, since the fire.

Rather than exchange information or vow to keep in touch, they agree to live life, date, and pursue their dreams for a year, then reconnect at the restaurant where they met at a specified time on November 9th of the following year -- and every November 9th for five years. If they're still feeling that insane connection at age 23, after five years of growing, changing and meeting other people, they can pursue a real relationship.

Neither thinks the other will show up that first November 9th -- but they both do -- and the connection is still there, instantaneous, irrevocable and intense as ever. But they've got a lot of living to do over the next four years -- and it turns out that Ben the Writer and Fallon the Transient have not been completely honest with each other. Can their one-day-a-year relationship survive all the joys and challenges life throws their way while they're apart -- not to mention the secrets that threaten to destroy everything?

I really liked the clever premise Hoover created of having our characters only meet one day a year, with no contact otherwise. Realistic? Maybe not. Fun to read about? Definitely! Hoover is a good writer, and "November 9" will make you smile, swoon and even turn pages in suspense. Despite the slightly too-hipsterish names, I felt connected to both our characters and I was cheering for their unconventional romance to succeed.

Readers will appreciate the bookish references, and I was pleased that one of my favorite bands (X Ambassadors) got a mention. Hoover's book is current, fun and easy to read, and I recommend "November 9" next time you want a light-ish, quick romantic page-turner.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2015 Travel Recap: Hawaii

One of my New Year's goals was to be better about posting travel photos on the blog. Last year Jarrod and I were lucky to take several adventures and I thought I'd get started on my resolution by making a short post about each one.

First up is our trip to Hawaii last March. Jarrod is in the Air Force and we lived in Hawaii for three years before Ohio, and we're about to move back for another three year assignment this spring. But long before we knew that, we went back for a 10-day vacation. Our first stop was Kauai, our favorite Hawaiian island, where we stayed at one of my favorite places on the planet -- the military cottages at Barking Sands. A whole 1.5-mile-long beach almost all to ourselves, stunning sunsets every night, and utter peace and quiet. Oh, and monk seals!

After a blissful, peaceful, relaxing few days in Kauai, we went to Oahu, the island where we lived and will live again, to eat at our favorite restaurants (we actually went to our favorite Thai place twice!), see a few friends who still lived there at the time (the joys of the military -- they've moved away and now we're heading back) and snorkel at Hanauma Bay.

Waipo'o Falls in Waimea Canyon.

kauai collage
Top row: the beach outside our hotel in Kapa'a where we stayed our first night; Kilauea Lighthouse; Barking Sands sunset
Second row: Barking Sands -- and Jarrod about to catch some waves
Third row: (a very rough and wet) Napali Coast sunset cruise -- humpback whales and dolphins
Fourth row: more sunset cruise -- totally soaked (that's what we get for taking a cruise during winter); the breathtaking Napali Coast; and Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"
Last row: Kauai's north shore -- Hanalei; beach stroll; chicken on the beach -- only in Kauai!
Not pictured: the hand-carved wooden tiki man we bought, our favorite Kauai restaurant, Island Tacos, all the humpback whales we saw (no camera handy for the mama and baby who put on a 10-minute show for us)

The Windward coast.

oahu collage
Top row: Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach)
Second row: North Shore
Third row: snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
Fourth row: more snorkeling; the last fish is a Picasso triggerfish, my favorite
Last row: Hank's Haute Dogs (one of our favorite restaurants -- that's a sausage wrapped in bacon and fried, topped with mayo, lettuce and tomato, crispy fries with curry ketchup, and a pineapple ice); Diamond Head from Mount Tantalus; a farewell sunset
Not pictured: shave ice, malasadas, lounging on the beach with a book

Since we're moving back to Hawaii this May, you can expect about 70 gazillion more pictures like these. Next trip up: Gettysburg and New York City!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yarn Along: Mermaid Tail Blanket and "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" Part 2

Yarn Along is a wonderful link-up -- hosted by the Small Things blog every Wednesday -- about two of the best things in life: reading and knitting!


Reading: I'm still chugging away on "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" and, as much as I'm determined to love this book, I'm not actually enjoying it all that much right now. I have a feeling it'll eventually pick up and become so amazing that I'll wish it were twice as long... but for now it's sorta putting me to sleep. It's 782 pages and I'm still not even quite halfway done. On the positive side, I absolutely love the writing! It's the very slow-moving plot that has me struggling.

Knitting: The mermaid tail blanket I've been working on for my friend Jaymee's 2-year-old daughter is nearly complete! While catching up on some "Grey's Anatomy" yesterday I finished the decreases and got the tail fin sewn on (rather badly). I need to weave in my ends and tidy up the seam on the fin and it'll be ready for the mail!

I'm not totally happy with it (though I am happy to be done with it) -- it's longer than it probably should be for a 2-year-old and I wish I would've gone with my instincts and made it a little shorter than the pattern called for. And the yarn, especially the white, is already starting to get fuzzy. How is it going to hold up to a toddler if it's already looking messy just from me handling it?!

P.S. Thought my Hawaii coffee mug adorned with surfboards, turtles and fish would be appropriate to accompany the mermaid tail! ;)

Monday, January 18, 2016

The 10 Most Recent Additions To My To-Read List

This week for Top Ten Tuesday the topic is a simple -- and dangerous -- one: the last 10 things we've added to our to-read lists. It's simple because all I had to do was pull up Goodreads and find the 10 most recent things I'd added. It's dangerous because I have a feeling my way-too-big TBR is going to be expanding after I visit other bloggers' posts. I've already got more books on my to-read list than I could read in 7 years, so I reeeeeally probably don't need to be adding more.

Below are the 10 books I've most recently added to my queue (which now has 566 books on it!). Some are older, some are obscure and some are not even released yet. Talk about random! What books have you added to your to-read list lately?

new to queue

#566: A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride To the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard
Where I found it: BookPage browsing at work, I think?
Blurb: A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.

#565: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Where I found it: last week's Top Ten Tuesday
Blurb: 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. In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil -- and the madness that exists in all of us.

#564: The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
Where I found it: last week's Top Ten Tuesday
Blurb: Timely and timeless, this is a dramatic and deeply moving novel about an act of violence in a small Southern town and the repercussions that will forever change a young man's view of human cruelty and compassion.

#563: The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson
Where I found it: Barnes and Noble e-mail
Blurb: In 1995 Bill Bryson got into his car and took a weeks-long farewell motoring trip about England before moving his family back to the United States. Two decades later, he set out again to rediscover that country, and the result is "The Road to Little Dribbling." Nothing is funnier than Bill Bryson on the road -- prepare for the total joy and multiple episodes of unseemly laughter.

#562: You by Caroline Kepnes
Where I found it: blogs, friends
Blurb: When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card. There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight -- the perfect place for a “chance” meeting. As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way -- even if it means murder.

#561: Julian Fellowes' Belgravia by Julian Fellowes (creator of Downton Abbey)
Where I found it: Library Journal e-mail
Release date: July 5, 2016
Blurb: "Belgravia" is the story of a secret. A secret that unravels behind the porticoed doors of London's grandest postcode. Set in the 1840s when the upper echelons of society began to rub shoulders with the emerging industrial nouveau riche, Belgravia is people by a rich cast of characters. But the story begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. At the Duchess of Richmond's new legendary ball, one family's life will change forever.

#560: The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Where I found it: Library Journal e-mail
Release date: March 24, 2016
Blurb: Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter, "The Sunlight Pilgrims" tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, euthanasia has become an acceptable response to economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. But daily life carries on: Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night -- to begin his life anew.

#559: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva
Where I found it: Library Journal e-mail
Release date: March 1, 2016
Blurb: For readers of "Station Eleven" and "The Passage" comes a dazzling and unsettling novel of psychological suspense. In Alexandra Oliva’s thrilling fiction debut, survival is the name of the game, as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself -- and one woman’s mind and body are pushed to the limit.

#558: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
Where I found it: Library Journal e-mail
Release date: June 30, 2016
Blurb: "True Grit" meets "The Road" in this post-apocalyptic psychological thriller narrated by a young girl who has just learned that her adopted father may be a serial killer, and that she may be his next victim.

#557: Monterey Bay by Lindsay Hatton
Where I found it: Library Journal e-mail
Release date: July 19, 2016
Blurb: A beautiful debut set around the creation of the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and the last days of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

Monday Musings

lily fireplace

Highlight of the week: Getting over the miserable cold I had last weekend and the beginning of the week. I went back to work on Wednesday but it was pretty rough. I was so grateful to the gods of tissues and cough drops when I finally felt better on Thursday! The high point of being sick was my wonderful husband driving to the gas station in the freezing cold to get me a slushie to soothe my throat. But he's the one who got me sick in the first place, sooooo... ;)

We've also had some really lovely snow flurries this week. It's been a pretty mild winter up til now and I'm trying to soak in all the good things about the season before we move to Hawaii, where I'll be in perpetual summer for three years. (In my opinion, the very best thing about winter is the sense of coziness you get when you're snuggled up with a blanket, a warm beverage, the fireplace chugging away and a good book while it's cold and snowy outside.)

Reading: I'm almost halfway done with "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell." I can't remember the last time it's taken me more than a week to read anything, but in my defense it's almost 800 pages long and kinda slow-moving. I love the writing, though, and I'm excited to see where the story is headed.

Knitting: No surprise here, I'm still working on the mermaid tail blanket for my friend Jaymee's toddler. I'm nearing the end -- last night I started decreases for the end of the body where the fin attaches.

Eating: Homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Watching: We continued our binge-watch of "Orphan Black" with the first few episodes of season 3 last week and I am just obsessed! It's action, mystery, drama and sci-fi all mixed perfectly together with awesome characters and an intense plotline. I'm always on the edge of my seat! I also started catching up on recorded episodes of this season's "Grey's Anatomy." Now that I know we're moving in April, I know my deadline for watching the gazillion things I have on the DVR -- and I highly doubt I will be able to get to everything. Must prioritize!

Listening to: Twenty One Pilots.

Mailing: After a rather hilarious conversation with Jarrod about the things we buy that annoy each other (he said my large purchases of stamps and postcards get on his nerves) I realized that I hadn't sent any Postcrossing postcards in a while. So I sent out three -- they went to Russia, Germany and Connecticut. Now I can look forward to finding three fun postcards in my mailbox in the next few weeks. (P.S. If you like sending mail and/or collecting postcards and/or are interested in other countries, check out Postcrossing! P.P.S. Sorry Jarrod!)

Looking forward to: A quiet week. And going to Kohl's to spend my $5 reward! I really need some new Valentine's Day placemats, so that'll be priority one... but of course I'll swing by the clothes. How could I not when my Kohl's time is just as limited as my DVR time, since there are (sad, sad face) no Kohl's in Hawaii!?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Etsy Wishlist: January

It's been a while since I've put together one of these Etsy wishlists, but I did a lot of Etsy shopping for the holidays -- and of course I found some lovely handmade items that I'm lusting after for myself!

Etsy shop: LittleEmmasFlowers
Price: $5
I love this gorgeous print and its sentiment. It's a digital file that you print out yourself, which I've never done before. But the benefit is that you can print out as many as you want to give as gifts!

Etsy shop: TheFoxandTheTeacup
Price: $24+
Fall is my favorite season! How cute would this be in a rustic frame to sit out every September through November?

Etsy shop: FlourishCafe
Price: $45+
I like the idea of buying a set of seasonal prints and just swapping them out of a pretty frame every few months. I've already got two prints from this shop and I can attest to their loveliness!

Etsy shop: AbbieImagine
Price: $9.62+
Story of my life.

Etsy shop: CallMeArtsy
Price: $4 for card
I love this notecard, and so many others that the shop has! (It's a little hard to read in my small image, but it's a J.M. Barrie quote, "Would you like an adventure now, or would you like to have your tea first?"

Etsy shop: IdlewildCo
Price: $18 for 8 notecards
Flamingos! The price is pretty steep, but that doesn't stop me from fantasizing about them!

Etsy shop: happyment
Price: $38.94
 I already have one pair of earrings from this shop and I definitely want more -- I get compliments every time I wear them. Love the subtle ombre effect on these!

Etsy shop: PaperHeartDaily
Price: $12.95
How fun are these earrings? They'd be cute to wear to work at the library.

Etsy shop: PaperHeartDaily
Price: $14.95
I like Snoopy stuff because Snoopy reminds me of our goofy boxer boy, Conan. And obviously I like books, so this necklace is a win-win!

Etsy shop: StudioSeventyNine
Price: $7.50
I just love this little "f-bomb" sign. It's pretty cheap, and I think I'll have to buy it and tuck it on one of my many bookshelves. Hehe.

Etsy shop: Creativewithclay
Price: $45
Not that I need any more mugs, but I love these handcrafted knitting-themed ones!

Etsy shop: Backtozero
Price: $20+
I've been looking at wax seals forever! I need to just buy one already. I've been thinking about a Harry Potter-themed design, but I really like the peace sign. And the teal sealing wax!

Etsy shop: VNLcompany
Price: $3.99+
I recently got a new laptop and I've been thinking about getting one or two vinyl decals for it. This "smile" one caught my eye -- and it comes in a bunch of colors.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: "Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson

"Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things" by Jenny Lawson
First published in 2015
329 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
This book was awesome and it has an ecstatically happy taxidermied raccoon on the front. You can't go wrong.

The Long Of It:
I picked up Jenny Lawson's first book, "Let's Pretend This Never Happened," back in 2012 and I still say it's the funniest book I've ever read. Jenny had a lot to live up to with her second memoir, but she did not disappoint.

"Let's Pretend" was full of hilarious and bizarre anecdotes about Jenny's childhood in rural west Texas, meeting her husband, and having their daughter. It had a few poignant moments, but mostly it was just really freakin' funny.

"Furiously Happy" is written with the same relatable voice, self-deprecating humor, laugh-out-loud moments and wacky stories (like wearing a koala suit to take a picture with a koala in Australia and "midnight cat rodeos" featuring Rocky the raccoon and some very patient cats), but it has a lot more meaning than its predecessor because it deals with mental illness -- what it's like to have it, and the stigma and misconceptions surrounding it.

Jenny suffers from severe depression and anxiety, complicated by other physical and mental health issues, and this book is about the "furiously happy" philosophy that Jenny uses to cope with her illness -- and even to twist it in a way that it enhances her life and fosters beautiful moments that she would otherwise not experience.

One of Jenny's main messages, which applies to each and every one of us, is that one person's happinesses, joys and victories are not another's -- and that's how it should be. It's ok to be you -- whoever you are, whatever drives you, and whatever flaws you have. I particularly liked this quote:

"You learn to appreciate the fat that what drives you is very different from what you're told should make you happy. You learn that it's okay to prefer your personal idea of heaven (live-tweeting zombie movies from under a blanket of kittens) rather than someone else's idea that fame/fortune/parties are the pinnacle we should all reach for. And there's something surprisingly freeing about that."

And this one, which I wrote down in my quote notebook for when my social anxiety tries to get the best of me:

"Sometimes you have to force yourself to leave your house even though every introverted bone in your body wants to secede and make you into a human jellyfish. But I pushed through. And it was amazing. And horrifying. And back to amazing. And weird. And baffling. And fantastic."

Jenny's book should be required reading for everyone. If you battle mental illness, this book will reassure you that you are most definitely not alone. And if you don't, you'll still see some of yourself in Jenny. And "Furiously Happy" will give you so much insight on what it's like to live with depression and anxiety. I know that I've come away from it with much more compassion and understanding for the people I've met who suffer from a mental illness.

"Furiously Happy" is a a supremely personal, honest, soul-laid-bare book full of insight, all wrapped up in a very funny bow. If you haven't read anything by Lawson yet, you're missing out!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Yarn Along: Mermaid Tail Blanket and "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell"

Yarn Along is a wonderful link-up -- hosted by the Small Things blog every Wednesday -- about two of the best things in life: reading and knitting!

yarn along 01-13

Reading: It was a rough reading week for me. I finished last week's Yarn Along book, "What She Knew," and ended up basically hating it (despite the fact that everyone else loved it). I then proceeded to start and put down three more books in as many days. If I hadn't come down with a nasty cold, I probably would've just taken a break from reading, but there wasn't a whole lot else I could do, so I powered through one of the books I had started, "November 9" by Colleen Hoover (not bad, once I got into it).

Not a single thing I have checked out from the library appealed to me, so I decided to take a gander at my own bookshelves and decided on "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell," a book I bought on clearance year and years ago and have never gotten around to, probably because it's almost 800 pages long! It's a little slow-going to start but I think I'm really going to love it; how can you go wrong with historical fiction, magic and England?! The writing reminds of "The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova,  another loooong book which dealt with the supernatural, and I ended up enjoying that one. And "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" was recently made into a miniseries by BBC America, so I can look forward to watching that once I finish reading.

Knitting: You won't be surprised to hear I'm still working on the mermaid tail. Since I've been under the weather, not much progress was made this week. I did some Ravelry browsing the other day and I stumbled across a small project I feel compelled to knit ASAP: the little stuffed black bear by Sara Elizabeth Kellner (pattern). Jarrod and I jokingly call 2015 "The Year of the Bear" because we saw six black bears on our trips to Tennessee and Colorado. And, with the mermaid tail being such a long and rather tedious knit, I'm looking forward to a fun little instant gratification project.

Monday, January 11, 2016

10 New Releases I Hoped to Read In 2015 But Didn't Get To

This week for Top Ten Tuesday the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish have asked us to think about the 2015 releases we really hoped/planned/had the best intentions to get to last year, but didn't. At the expense of my humongous queue of backlist books, it turns out I actually did read quite a lot of new books in 2015 so creating this list wasn't as easy as I assumed it would be.

But, not surprisingly, I did manage to come up with 10 books that I really wanted to read last year and still do. Some of them I even had checked out from the library! I added tons of 2015 releases to my TBR after looking through all the best-of lists and end-of-year wrap-up posts, but those aren't included here. These are all books I've been wanting to read for a while, in most cases since before they even came out.

There are some pretty popular titles here -- have you read any of them? What should I make sure to read and what should I not beat myself up over if I never get to it? What books did you hope to read last year and didn't?

missed in 2015

Monday Musings

Highlight of the week: It's been a pretty uneventful week. But I did buy a much-needed new can opener. And we had our first real snow of the year yesterday.

Lowlight of the week: My immune-system-of-steel husband somehow came down with a cold last week and, despite my best efforts, it had come to visit me by Friday night. I'm staying home from work today, and I'm quite sad that my record of not getting sick in over two years is busted. And, being the weirdo that I am, I'm bummed that I was only about one paycheck away from maxing out my sick hours and work and here I finally had to go and use some! Sigh.

Reading: In my Saturday post I said I feared I was on the cusp of a reading slump -- I didn't feel like completing anything I'd started and nothing else sounded good either. If I wasn't sick, I probably would've just taken a reading break, but I didn't feel like doing much of anything so I plowed through one of the three books I had started, "November 9" by Colleen Hoover. It turned out to be decent, but nothing else I have out from the library appealed to me. So yesterday I perused my own bookshelves (something I never do, despite the vast number of unread books they hold) and selected "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell," a book I've been meaning to read for years. Magic and historical England might be just what I need to get my reading mojo back. And it was recently turned into a miniseries by BBC America, so I can look forward to watching that.

Knitting: Still hard at work on the mermaid tail blanket.

Watching: We're now partway through season 2 of "Orphan Black." I can't stop watching!

Wearing: Sweats, a thermal shirt, slippers and a blanket.

Drinking: All the warm beverages in copious amounts -- coffee, tea and cocoa.

Looking forward to: The only good thing about taking a sick day is that I get to watch last night's "Downton Abbey" this morning!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Is This... A Reading Slump?!


So it's Saturday, it's damp and cloudy outside, and -- for the first time in over two years -- I have a cold. Curling up with a big squishy blanket, a box of tissues, the cat, some tea and a really good book sounds like the perfect way to spend my day... except something strange has happened to me, friends.

Nothing sounds good.

Over the course of three days this week, I've started and put down three books. I considered starting a fourth last night, but I forced myself to read some more of "November 9" even though it's not really what I feel like reading. But the problem is, I don't know what on earth I do feel like reading!

I can't seem to get into anything. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy all three books I started, but they aren't holding my attention just now. Putting one book aside with a mind to come back to it is one thing, but three?!

I've never really been a "mood reader." Sure, sometimes I'll get a craving for, say, a historical mystery and I'll make a note to read one soon, but it doesn't affect my enjoyment of my current read. So this whole "not being in the mood" thing is very unusual for me! Normally I'm a pretty happy, easy-to-please reader. But I fear that I may be starting 2016 off with a (*whispers*) reading slump -- a very scary affliction. Apparently a cold isn't the only thing wrong with me right now!

What would you do in my place? Pick up a fourth book, even though nothing is jumping out at me, in hopes that it'll finally be the one to suit my fancy? Push through "November 9" and hope I've got my reading mojo back by the end of it? Or (gasp) take a break from reading?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Review: "What She Knew" by Gilly Macmillan

"What She Knew" by Gilly Macmillan
First published in 2015
467 pages
My rating: 2 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:

Basically, I hated this book.
ETA: This book is pretty well-liked and, right now, it has a crazy number of 4- and 5-star reviews on Goodreads. Just goes to show not every book is for every reader! If you think it sounds like something you'd like, give it a try and hopefully you'll be in the majority. But if, after 100 or so pages, you feel like I did, put it down because it does not get better.

The Long Of It:
What a bummer. My reading year got off to a fantastic start with a 5-star read ("Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson) and then promptly took a nosedive with the disappointing debut "What She Knew," a novel about the search for an 8-year-old boy who vanished while on a walk in the woods with his mom.

The most glaring problem with the book is that it's billed as a psychological thriller -- and the cover even proclaims that it's as gripping as "The Girl on The Train." But it's really just a straight-up mystery -- and a slow-moving one at that. It didn't have the requisite twists, turns, unreliable narrators and jaw-dropping reveals of a proper psychological thriller. I kept waiting and waiting for the big game-changer and it never came. It was nothing like "The Girl on the Train."

The novel is told from the perspectives of two narrators, the mom of the missing boy and the lead detective on the case, and I didn't like either one. The mom is naive and whiny, and the detective -- whose story is told in the form of forced chats with the police psychologist -- is apparently irrevocably screwed up from working the case, but I never figured out what he was so torn up about because he didn't do anything wrong. Even after sticking with them for almost 500 pages, I never felt the slightest bit connected to either narrator.

I was also irritated by the sub-plot about the public vilification of the mother, which even escalated to vandalism of her property, all because -- after much internal debate -- she let her boy trot ahead a short distance to a specified spot on a path they walked weekly. She's not a neglectful mother who "left her child unsupervised" -- instead (and it pains me to admit this because I disliked her so much) she's a good mother who takes her son on weekly outings where he gets exercise, fresh air and exposure to nature, things kids these days are in dire need of.

Hand-in-hand with the over-the-top defamation of the mother online, by the media, and even by the police were the online news articles inserted every few chapters, complete with the most stereotypical reader comments imaginable. There was the religious zealot, the complete imbecile, the jerk using the anonymity of the internet to write nasty things he'd never normally say, and of course the brilliant folks whose posts are full of grammatical errors and horrendous misspellings -- but they were almost all united in hating the "bad mother's" guts. Reading comments online in real life makes me question the state of humanity, and the last place I want to encounter them is in the escape of a novel. The news-plus-comments sections of the book, while an attempt a realism, felt contrived and forced, and I didn't think they really added to the story.

Just two more points before the bitch-fest is over! The circumstances surrounding the disappearance itself bothered me. The way the child vanished didn't make sense -- I even interrupted my husband's TV-watching to rant about it, and he was kind enough to agree with me even if he wasn't really listening -- but I can't say more without spoilers.  Also, the writing lacked polish and the editing could have been much tighter. Not to mention the book got off to such a slow and boring start that I almost gave it up more than once. Chopping 100 or even 50 pages off would help a lot.

I will say that "What She Knew" is rated at over 4 stars on Goodreads, which usually means it's a pretty decent read, but it just rubbed me the wrong way over and over again. If you decide to give it a try, I sure hope you're with the majority of readers who liked it. Reading a disappointing book, especially such a long one, really sucks.
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