sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

January 13, 2017

not cinderella, russian christmas, and warm evening
posted by soe 1:35 am

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. Macy’s has updated their store windows to feature mannequins sporting formal wear fit for inaugural balls. Two nursery minders walk past with a half dozen of their three-year-old charges. The male caregiver points to the jauntily clad male dummy and firmly tells the kids, “That’s me dancing with …” The children scream with laughter and shout “No!” in unison.

2. We host a dinner party to celebrate Russian Christmas and Rudi gets to make foods he grew up with — borscht and pierogis. Friends add a Ukranian cabbage pie and Russian tea cookies and drinks, and we have a very festive evening.

3. Today’s weather was unseasonably warm, so I head outside for the evening and read in just my sweatshirt. (It snowed last weekend and is forecast to again Saturday.)

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

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January 12, 2017

mid-january yarning along
posted by soe 1:27 am

Mid-January Yarning Along

Reading and knitting continues apace. Dear Data is one of the print books I’m reading. It’s thematic postcard-based data visualization — two women agreed on weekly themes of things in their lives to count (beauty projects, compliments, times they looked at their phones) for seven days and then come up with their own unique way to represent that information visually, which they drew on postcards and sent to each other (and then compiled in a book). It’s interesting, but very dense, and I have a hard time focusing on it if I read more than a few weeks’ info in one sitting. I find it a lot like visiting a museum: I read every word until I discover I’m not reading any of them.

I’m currently listening (as in, I put it on pause to write this post) to Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, a YA novel I saw on a lot of best-of lists. A teen girl’s widowed father gets remarried to a stranger, moves her across the country, and enrolls her at a new school with her step-brother, who’s also a junior. She starts getting anonymous emails from a guy at school offering to help her navigate the new scene and decides it can’t hurt to accept the offer. I’m only five chapters in, but am thoroughly enjoying it so far. It feels not dissimilar to To All the Boys I Loved Before, if you liked Jenny Han’s book.

I’m hoping to finish a few knitting projects in the upcoming days (I’ve got two three-day weekends coming up), so I’m showing you some of the new yarn my folks gave me for Christmas. It’s going to start becoming the Partridgefield Cowl just as soon as I get a couple things done this weekend. (Sorry for the dark exposure. Cats were occupying my two good photo shot spots and my phone was on low-battery mode, which meant I couldn’t use a flash.) There are five skeins of plum yarn and one red. Mum tells me the pattern looks like it’ll make good tv knitting, which I appreciate, particularly since I’m looking at trying a new knitting group next week.

Yarning along with Ginny at Small Things.

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 3 Comments.

January 11, 2017

a girl and her cat
posted by soe 1:51 am

A Girl and Her Cat

A Girl and Her Cat

A Girl and Her Cat

A Girl and Her Cat

Jeremiah and me, New Year’s Day 2017
(He’s a goofball.)

Category: cats. There is/are 6 Comments.

January 10, 2017

top ten tuesday and bout of books wrap-up
posted by soe 2:00 am

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is near and dear to my heart (and my library checkout/holds lists):

Top Ten 2016 Releases We Meant to Read But Didn’t Get Around To (But TOTALLY Plan To):

  1. Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star (in progress)
  2. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Gemina (on hold at the library)
  3. Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch (own it)
  4. C.B. Lee’s Not Your Sidekick (in progress)
  5. David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite (checked out)
  6. Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte (checked out)
  7. Eliot Schrefer’s Rescued (Christmas present)
  8. Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (audiobook on hold)
  9. Zadie Smith’s Swing Time (checked out)
  10. Ta-Nehisi’s The Black Panther (on hold)

How about you? What new books did you not quite get to this year that you hope to tackle in 2017?

Bout of Books 18

Finally, I just wanted to give a final tally for Bout of Books 18. In addition to the three books I finished and reviewed last week (the first two were already in progress, so it’s really less impressive than it sounds), I also made progress on two other books, Jay Asher’s What Light, another of my Christmas books, and my current non-fiction read, Dear Data, by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec.

Clearly, the reading portion of my goal-setting was a success. I didn’t visit anyone else’s blog, only gave a couple updates, and only participated in the one challenge, in addition to doing the Twitter chats, so the social aspect of my goals left something to be desired. However, I did actually post reviews of the completed books, so I’m not considering it a total washout.

Category: books. There is/are 9 Comments.

January 8, 2017

into the stacks 2017: week 1
posted by soe 2:05 am

I find when I get a huge backlog of books to talk about that it becomes very daunting to get caught up. So I’m going to try to set aside Saturday to post about what I’ve finished during the week in an attempt to stay on top of my reviews. Hopefully, that’ll mean that even if I miss a week I’ll only have a couple books to post about.

That said, of course, this week I finished three books, having finally found my reading mojo once more:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill
In this middle-grade fantasy novel, on the edge of a bog a solitary, downtrodden town filled with downtrodden people offer up an annual tribute of the youngest baby to the local witch in exchange for her not destroying them all. Or, at least, that’s the story the town government tells everyone. In reality, they do it as a way to control the population, leaving the baby to be eaten by wild animals. Except, of course, there is a witch, Xan, who isn’t evil at all, but compassionate, picking up what she believes is an abandoned baby every year and taking it to a home elsewhere in the land where it will be loved.

But one year, the mother of the youngest baby, an amber-skinned girl with a moon-shaped birthmark on her forehead, refuses to willingly give up her baby. Guards forcibly separate the two, and take the woman off to prison, where she goes “mad.” And that same year, the witch accidentally feeds the baby magical moonlight instead of nourishing, but benign starlight, imbuing the child with witchy powers of her own. Aware a magical child will have special needs, Xan decides to bring the baby, whom she names Luna, home and raise her as her grandchild. But all does not go according to anyone’s plan.

The story also features a poet swamp monster named Glerk, a very small dragon with a very big heart, a convent of assassin nuns, and a boy from the town who regrets the part he played in Luna’s removal from her mother’s care and, years later, takes action to right this wrong from his past.

Highly recommended for lovers of fantasy novels, particularly those who enjoy a tinge of politics in their stories. (Also, it’s been optioned to become an animated film, so if that’s your bailiwick, read this now to be prepared.)

Pages: 388. Library copy.

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron
As I mentioned the other day, this was my audiobook for December. This historical fiction, the 12th in a series of mysteries featuring the British author as an amateur detective, takes place in 1814, with Jane having recently finished Mansfield Park and now at work on Emma. Jane, her mother, and her sister all travel to her childhood home to spend the holidays with her minister brother (clearly the author believes him to the model for every boorish clergy member Jane has ever written) and his family. A friend invites the entire Austen clan to spend several nights at her estate, and during their tenure there, a man is found dead. But worry not: Jane is on the case.

Set in the Hampshire countryside, the story features a game of charades that goes awry, a doll with a better wardrobe than you probably have, and a 12th Night masquerade, as well as spies, flirting, and intrigue relating to the War of 1812 and the French Revolution.

I listened to this book, which I think made the slow sections of the story less noticeable, because I’ve definitely gotten bogged down in details in a couple of the earlier books in the series. Also, because of the biographical elements of the story and its historical setting, there are way more details than normal in most cozies. So, while I recommend the book, particularly for those looking for a holiday-themed mystery or for Austen lovers, I recognize it will not be a hit for everyone.

Pages: 336. Library audiobook copy, via Overdrive.

A Seaside Christmas, by Sherryl Woods
So, this book. It’s the one I mocked the other day, unsure of whether I’d be able to get past the opening chapter, which induced a lot of eye-rolling. Apparently I was in a particularly impatient mood earlier in the week, because this is certainly no worse than several of the holiday films I streamed on Netflix this year (and better than a couple I’ve seen in the past).

Jenny, a top-notch Nashville songwriter, has returned home to Chesapeake Shores, Maryland, after many years away to contribute songs to her aunt’s holiday theater production. While she’s home, her aunt hopes she’ll mend the ties with her mother, with whom she’s been distant since her remarriage and the birth of Jenny’s half-brother. She’s also hoping to finish getting over her ex, Caleb, who broke her heart a couple years earlier during a bout with heavy drinking, but that’s going to be more challenging than expected, because Caleb, now as reformed as the Winter Warlock in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, has followed her there, with the intention of winning her back.

Oh, and did I mention that the entire town is pretty-much populated by its single founding clan, the O’Briens (to which both her aunt and her step-father belong)?

This is definitely a light and frothy (and very white, middle class) romance, but it’s not terrible. It’s a perfectly fine way to pass the time, particularly at the holidays, even if I don’t think I’ll be reading any of the other 12 books in the series, most of which seems to follow equally predictable story lines if their Goodreads descriptions are any indication.

Pages: 280. Library copy.

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January 6, 2017

cheerful venue, tradition, and golden ticket
posted by soe 1:45 am

Three beautiful things from the transition between 2016 and 2017:

1. I did not get the majority of my Christmas cards out before the 25th, as I’d hoped, but finished them instead in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, which I justified as being part of the Twelve Days of Christmas and therefore perfectly fine. (I’m happy receiving mail at any point of the year. I’m trusting my friends and family are, too.) In need of a change of scenery, I packed up my stationery and relocated to a nearby cake shop. They had Christmas-themed cupcakes, a friendly barista who told me not to waste my money on their hot chocolate, comfy armchairs, a gigantic coffee table to spread my stuff out on, and a Christmas tree and other holiday decorations. (Also, when they forgot anyone was left upstairs, they switched to a very loud and upbeat playlist.) It was the nicest belated card-writing venue I could have asked for.

2. Sarah, Rudi, and I spent our traditional New Year’s Eve out at the movies. We had a pizza supper, walked over to admire the City Center Christmas tree, and watched Rogue One (a fine addition to the canon with a talented and diverse international cast), La La Land (ear wormy soundtrack, great costumes, and excellent cinematography), and Hidden Figures (phenomenal! a rare combination of a well-crafted script and gifted performances deserving of all the awards it should garner) over the course of ten hours. As always, it was a low-key, but special way to turn the page on the year.

3. Two of the three orchids my uncle sent me for my birthday four years ago are still alive, and, when I left for the holidays, there were buds on both. The nicest part of returning to work on Tuesday was discovering two of the buds on the yellow orchid had blossomed:


My uncle died three years ago this month, and I like to think the orchids blooming around Christmas — which he loved and for which he always provided a goodie bag to us, complete with scratch-off lottery tickets — are his way of making sure I have a nice holiday.

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

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