sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

August 19, 2016

against the odds, snack time, and improvement
posted by soe 9:38 am

I had plans to record this week’s three beautiful things after Rudi went to bed last night, as is my wont, but then I got so busy finishing books and making knitting progress that I didn’t next recall that plan until after I was in bed. I gave a brief thought to getting up and rectifying the situation, but as both laptop and phone were in the living room, I decided to stay where I was.

So here we have three slightly late beautiful things from my week past:

1. Twice over the weekend, we saw plants that were growing out of cracks in the sidewalk. Not just crab grass or weeds, but a tomato plant and petunias.

2. The organization I work for is looking to make some changes, so they’ve been requesting a lot of feedback. To bribe folks to fill out a survey, they promised a treat if we hit a certain percentage of responders, and we did. Yesterday they delivered with hand-made ice cream sandwiches from the local cookie truck.

3. Rudi had surgery on Monday to remove the hardware he had put in when he broke his leg two years ago. He’d been in a lot of pain lately, and although the first 12 hours post-op were unpleasant (apparently the drugs they used burn as they leave your system), he’s been feeling far less these past few days and has cut his pain prescriptions back significantly. He’ll still need another surgery, probably in the next year to replace his hip, but it’s really nice to see him feeling better for however long that lasts.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world lately?

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are 2 Comments.

August 18, 2016

mid-august yarn-along
posted by soe 2:16 am

Mid-August Yarn-Along

It’s been a busy week here at the Burrow, with friends in town, Rudi’s first surgery, Olympic coverage, a minor kitchen plumbing issue, and a summer cold-cum-sinus infection, in addition to the normal array of work deadlines, volleyball games, and heat waves.

Not pictured here is my Hitchhiker shawlette, which is at its final row, waiting to be bound off. I felt confident I had enough yarn until I wound the tangled remains of the yarn into a ball, wherein I realized there was clearly not the 6 grams of yarn the pattern recommended remaining. My kitchen scale today confirmed I was somewhere between 2 and 3, and I’m currently mulling options: tink back a row (or possibly two) to bind off with the yarn I have or chance it and most likely need to add in some leftover red yarn I have not yet located from a pair of socks a few years ago. Does anyone have experience adding in yarn in the bind off? Big deal/not a big deal? That said, I’m really happy with how it’s turned out and look forward to sharing photos with you over the weekend.

This means I’m back to my vanilla socks. I remain confident that I can finish these before the end of the Olympics/Ravellenic Games, since I’m halfway through the heel flap on sock #2, and there’s no patterning to worry about. Plus, the heat is supposed to break, which should mean I’m less grumpy about knitting outside.

While there was lots of time for knitting in the waiting room (there were unannounced and unrelated-to-us delays on both end of the surgery), there’s been less time or concentration for reading. I’ve currently got five books going: The Rabbi’s Cat, set in 1930s Algeria, is a graphic novel I saw at the local comic book shop and requested from the library. The current audiobook is Vivian Apple at the End of the World (not pictured), about what happens when a series of worldwide disasters lend credence to a cult leader and his predicted Rapture seems to happen as scheduled. Vivian’s parents leave behind matching holes in their bedroom ceiling, and the daughter who refused to adopt the antiquated gender norms that would make her a candidate for salvation. When things get violent and dangerous in their hometown of Pittsburgh, Vivian, her best friend, and her crush take off on a cross-country trip in search of answers. Ruby Lee and Me and Connect the Stars (also not shown) are the two kid-lit novels I’m reading, and Elizabeth Strout’s latest rounds out the selection.

We’re down to the final eight days of the summer reading program at my library, and I’m way behind where I’d wanted to be (and my numbers for last summer), so I’m pulling out all my books-in-progress, graphic novels, and short reads for the next week to see if I can boost my numbers. (I mean, I already finished the required bits and picked up my burrito voucher, but the top readers get tickets to the library’s literary gala later this fall, and I’d like to go.) We’ll see how I do, but given I’m only at 18 completed books for the past 11 weeks, I’m not thinking I’ll score the golden ticket in the final days.

What are you working on these days?

Yarning along with Ginny.

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 2 Comments.

August 16, 2016

top ten tuesday: settings i’d love to visit
posted by soe 12:23 am

The Broke and the Bookish ask us today to consider our top ten books with X setting. It’s been a long day and I still have to write a blog post for work (well, first I need to finish researching it, and then I need to write it, so I’m procrastinating by writing here, of course), so I’m stealing TBatB’s interpretation of Top Ten Books with Settings I’d Love To Visit, but specifying it has to be a place I haven’t visited yet:

  1. Prince Edward Island/Anne of Green Gables: Karen and I were just contemplating a trip to PEI as something we could manage, but then we looked at how much it would cost us to get there, and we decided we’d have to back-burner it for now.
  2. North Carolina Coast/anything by Sarah Dessen: I like, but don’t love her books, but they all take place in the same (or the ones I’ve read all just seem the same?) small beach town off the Carolina coast. I’d prefer NOT to visit during hurricane season, though.
  3. Yorkshire/The Secret Garden: I want to hear the wind howling through the moor.
  4. Florence/Love and Gelato: I just read this one this summer (which you’ll hear about when I get to my June reviews). The area sounds lovely. Or maybe just the gelato. Hard to say…
  5. Guernsey/The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Definitely not during wartime, and probably also not immediately afterwards, but otherwise it does sound like a very nice place to visit.
  6. Melbourne/Cocaine Blues: Okay, so I get that this may be more influenced by the imagery of the tv series, than the book itself, but still…
  7. Yorkshire/The Secret Garden: I want to hear the wind howling through the moors.
  8. The Luberon/A Year in Provence: I’d prefer not to visit when the Mistral is blowing, but any other time seems like a good time to play boules or walk amongst the grape vines. (This is very nearly cheating, since I did visit Aix and Avignon in Provence because of their proximity to the book’s location. Shhh! Don’t tell Rudi that’s why I suggested them!)
  9. The North Pole/The Polar Express: Wouldn’t you like to see Santa’s village, particularly on Christmas Eve? Also, I’d like to drink hot chocolate on the train.
  10. Hogwarts/The Harry Potter series: Just because it doesn’t exist on any map I’ve seen doesn’t make it any less appealing. In fact, it’s probably exactly the opposite. Do you think the Knight Bus stops in the U.S.?

How about you? Where would you like to visit (that you haven’t yet), based on a book you’ve read that was set there?

Category: books,travel. There is/are 8 Comments.

August 12, 2016

visit, clear, and the games
posted by soe 3:49 am

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. Grey Kitten and his husband came to town for a few days and we all got to spend some time together visiting bookstores, eating meals, and touring museums.

2. We did a lot of cleaning in preparation for their visit, and this included washing the windows, which, because they’re below ground in a window well, were filthy. I can’t believe how much more light gets in now.

3. I enjoy watching the Olympics from the artistry and culture of the opening ceremonies to the individual sports (particularly volleyball). I’ve spent a lot of time in front of the tv this past week. (Bonus: climbing down into the window well to wash the windows meant I was able to make a more drastic change of angle to the antenna we have outside, so NBC is coming in better than it did on Friday.)

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world this past week?

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are 4 Comments.

August 10, 2016

ten most anticipated releases for the second half of the year
posted by soe 2:42 am

Since today was both National Book Lover’s Day and a freebie for The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, I thought I’d answer one of their topics from earlier this summer that I’d missed:

The Ten Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of the Year:

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling: This script was my most anticipated book of the year, so I picked up a copy at a local bookshop the night it was released. Keeping in mind that it’s not a novel, I really enjoyed it.
  2. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson: I liked Brown Girl Dreaming and would like to revisit Woodson’s past.
  3. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Illuminae branched across the novel format (epistolary, ephemera, verse, space, dystopian, mystery, romance), and I’m excited to see how the second book in the series stacks up.
  4. The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: I loved the first Dash and Lily book, and, frankly, anything Christmassy is likely to get my nod.
  5. What Light by Jay Asher: As I said. This one’s about a girl whose family runs a Christmas tree farm.
  6. Bandette, Vol. 3: The House of the Green Mask by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover: The greatest thief in Paris is back with another comic collection!
  7. Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly: The second book in a contemporary caper series.
  8. Teddy & Co. by Cynthia Voigt: I loved Voigt’s books, especially the Tillerman books, as a teen. I’m excited she’s writing a kid’s book featuring lost toys. Obviously I’ll need to preview it before giving it to every child I know this holiday season.
  9. The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary by John Simpson: Written by the former editor of the OED.
  10. The Cat King of Havana by Tom Crosshill: It’s about a guy whose made a fortune by posting cat videos to the internet, a trip to Cuba, and romance. I haven’t heard any buzz, but how can you resist that combo?

How about you? What new books are you looking forward to?

Category: books. There is/are 4 Comments.

August 6, 2016

into the stacks: february 2016, part 2
posted by soe 12:53 am

Back in March, I shared half the books I read in February and then neglected to circle back around to share the rest (even after I shared my March reads). I’d like to get caught up on book reviews now that we’re into the second half of the year, so let’s get going:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
If you’ve heard anything about this award-winning book, you’ve heard it described as adorable, charming, and life-affirming. It is all of those things.

Simon is 16. He’s been having an anonymous and covert online correspondence with a boy known to him only as “Blue,” on whom he has a crush. But he forgot to log out of a school computer and now a classmate knows he’s gay and has threatened to out him to the school if he doesn’t help the guy get a date with Simon’s pal Abby.

As Simon struggles with Martin’s demand and the other day-to-day hardships of being a high school junior, he takes solace in continuing to email with Blue, opening up in ways that he doesn’t feel he can with the people he knows in real life. And Blue replies, charmingly and grammatically, but seemingly without interest in meeting up in real life. For a while that’s enough, but Simon is starting to wonder if things need to change.

There’s high school drama (literally! they’re putting on a show!). There are questions of self-identity and bullying. There’s social media fun and abuse. (There are Wesleyan mentions!) And there are Oreos. Lots and lots of Oreos. Buy yourself a bag, procure a copy of the book, and start reading now. You won’t regret it!

Pages: 303. Library copy.

Murder Most Unladylike, by Robin Stevens

Historical fiction for the middle-grade mystery series fan. It’s 1934 and Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are classmates at a British boarding school, where, to pass the time, they’ve set up their own detective agency. Daisy, one of the most popular girls in the school, sets herself up as Sherlock, and tasks Hazel, her best friend and a recent transfer student from Hong Kong, with taking on the Watson role. Now they just need something to investigate.

When Hazel discovers their science teacher lying dead in the gym but the body is gone minutes later, the girls know they have their first real case. Who would have wanted to kill a teacher? It was someone savvy enough to hide the body and then author a fake, but convincing resignation letter to their headmistress. Was it another teacher? A student? The ghost of the girl who’d died in the same spot last year? We don’t know yet, but as long as Wells and Wong can put their power struggles aside long enough to work on the case together, we know they’ll figure it out.

Recommended for those who enjoyed the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer or The Mysterious Benedict Society or who want something Nancy Drew’ish, but with younger protagonists.

Pages: 324. Owned.

Trombone Shorty, by Troy Andrews
An autobiography by a phenomenal young jazz artist out of New Orleans, this picture book was named a Caldecott Honor book. It also won a Coretta Scott King Award for its illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier who combines collage and watercolors. The book focuses on Andrews’ youngest years growing up in the impoverished Tremé neighborhood, where he and his pals would make instruments out of whatever they could find lying around and how he took up the trombone at the age of four. By the age of six, he had his own band, by twelve, he was touring, and at 19, he joined Lenny Kravitz’s band. He’s all of 30 this year. The book is joyful to read and to look at, with its photograph-like artwork and a balloon theme running throughout. I do think this is the sort of book that would have benefited from an accompanying album, but maybe in an era of digital media that just doesn’t happen anymore. Anyway, if you read this book (with or without small people), I’d suggest playing some of his music as an accompaniment.

Pages: 40. Library copy.

Love Letters, by Katie Fforde

I really enjoyed one of Katie Fforde’s light romances last year as a Valentine’s Day read, so I decided to pick another one up this year. Love Letters focuses on Laura, who works in a bookshop that’s closing when its owner retires. Having handled author events for the store, she is asked to join a committee of people putting together a new music and literature festival. When a potential patron of the festival offers to foot the cost if they’re able to get his favorite reclusive author to be a part of it, Laura must head to Ireland to see if she can convince him to attend. Dermot Flynn is a crank, but a gorgeous and talented one (and one of Laura’s literary heroes), who hasn’t published a word in years and who hates to leave his hometown. But when Laura asks him to appear at the festival, he agrees to if she’ll sleep with him. When she wakes up early the next morning in his bed, she has no recollection of the night before. Fully horrified at her drunken behavior, she does a runner before he awakes, leaving only questions in her wake. What, exactly, happened that night? Will Dermot show up at the festival as promised? And what will Laura do after the festival is over?

Fforde’s books are fluffy and formulaic, but sometimes you just need a cute romance to get you through a dark day. Pick the occupation of the protagonist you like best and off you go!

Pages: 400. Library copy.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein

Kyle, Miguel, Sierra, and Akimi are heading back to the stacks in the sequel to Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. After their team wins board game creator Mr. Lemoncello’s challenge at the opening of their town’s new (and fabulous) library, complaints rain in from all quarters: essentially, they claim, this group of kids wouldn’t have won if WE’d been allowed to participate! So, Mr. Lemoncello decides to hold a rematch of sorts. The hometown team would face off against regional teams comprised of the best seventh-graders those areas had to offer, as winnowed down by local librarians, in a weeklong library dodecathlon. It is no surprise that the teams include some of those vocal critics.

While Kyle is fending off challenges from the likes of Marjory Muldauer, who has memorized the Dewey Decimal System to at least four places and who likes libraries qua libraries, Mr. Lemoncello is fighting off a league of concerned citizens who want to take over the running of the library and eliminate all the fun, wonderful features and remove any book they deem unsuitable. At the head of the league? None other than the mother of the sore loser from Book 1.

Will Kyle and his friends get lucky again, or will they be outmatched by their new opponents? And will Mr. Lemoncello hold on to the control of his library long enough to hand out the final medals (and full college scholarships)?

If you enjoyed the first book, The Greenglass House, The Book Scavenger, or The Westing Game, I recommend you pick this up at your earliest convenience. A must-read for fans of middle-grade books about books. (As an aside, or maybe not, if you have an upper-elementary school bookworm you need to buy gifts for, I’d totally suggest that group of books. They’re the sort of book I would have (and still will, even as an adult) read a bunch of times.)

Pages: 288. Library copy.

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