Sunday, May 31, 2015

What I Read: May

Looking at what I read in May, I love seeing such a variety: mysteries, classics, memoirs, middle grade, etc. This month it seems like I read all of my favorite types of books, but I never felt like I was reading too much of the same thing. I'd like every month to be like that! :) A bonus: I liked nearly everything I read.

I read eight books this month, which isn't quite as good as it sounds when I point out that two of them were barely 100 pages long. :) As always, click on the title to read my Goodreads review.

Paris In Love, by Eloisa James. This is the memoir of a woman who took a year-long sabbatical from her job and moved to Paris with her husband and two kids. It took me a while to get used to the way the book was set up (very brief anecdotes), but it ended up being a light, quick read. It was choppy at times, but overall I enjoyed it.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, by Melanie Dickerson. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with this one. It had potential, but I keep expecting more from this author's books. I received this one to review, so there's a full post on the blog.

A Murder is Announced, by Agatha Christie. So good! I just wish I had read it before I saw the TV adaptation so I would have been more surprised.

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. This was my first Steinbeck, and was good. So depressing but so worth it. I had heard that the ending was tragic, but I managed to go into it not being spoiled about what was going to happen. The writing was incredible. Maybe now I'll be less intimidated about tackling East of Eden?

A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans. I really enjoyed this book. Of course I don't agree with every single thing the author wrote, but it was both funny and thought-provoking. Whether you go into it thinking you're going to agree with her or not, it's still worth reading.

A Love Like Ours, by Becky Wade. A good addition to the Porter Family series, though not quite as emotionally investing as I had expected.

A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Why did it take me so long to read a Sherlock Holmes story? (Other than a rather forgettable brush with him in high school.) I was pleasantly surprised by how readable and amazing this little book was. It was so interesting to compare it with the BBC adaptation. I'm definitely going to be reading more Sherlock Holmes this year. :)

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, by Nikki Loftin. A cute, creepy retelling of Hansel and Gretel. I liked it, but it wasn't anything spectacular.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Summer reading list.

Last year, in an effort to find some good in summer (besides the fact that it's followed by fall, the most glorious time of the year), I made a summer reading list. My list was ambitious and I probably didn't read half of those books, but it was still fun. I decided to do the same thing this year, though with a much more manageable list. Here's what I'm hoping to read in June, July, and August!

Emma, by Jane Austen. Because I've been meaning to reread this one for almost two years now. Oops.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Though I consider this to be one of my favorite books, I've only read it once, back in 2011. So of course I'm overdue a reread, and it works out nicely with Go Set a Watchman releasing in July. To go along with those two, I also want to read a little middle grade book about TKAM called I Kill the Mockingbird, by Paul Acampora.
How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn. I've heard good things about this one. It's about a boy growing up in a mining community in Wales, and it's supposed to be really beautifully written.
The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde. After liking the web series In Earnest and rewatching the Colin Firth film (I didn't get the humor the first time I watched it, four or five years ago), I'm ready to read the play itself. :)
Middle Grade

I love good children's books, especially middle grade ones. I own a lot of them that I haven't read yet, and there's really no excuse for that since they're usually quite short and easy to get through. So I want to tackle a lot of my unread middle grade novels this summer and complete a couple of series.

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, by Liesl Shurtliff. This book sounds adorable. Plus, a spinning wheel!

Wildwood trilogy, by Colin Meloy. I'm carrying this one over from last summer. I really want to read the third and final book, but before I do that, I feel like I need to reread the first two.

A Tale Dark & Grimm trilogy, by Adam Gidwitz. Same thing as the Wildwood trilogy. I've read the first two but want to reread them before getting to the third one.

The Year the Swallows Came Early, by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. A little realistic fiction mixed in with all of the fairy tale/fantasy books. :)


A Bill Bryson book. I like to read at least one travel book each summer. I haven't yet decided between Neither Here nor There (about his travels through Europe), or In a Sunburned Country, which sounds appropriate for summer. Though I know the heat here is nothing compared to Australia. :)

Unsinkable, by Debbie Reynolds. I want to read this second memoir by her while the first one is still somewhat fresh in my mind.

Since You've Been Gone, by Morgan Matson. Maybe I'll finally get around to reading a Morgan Matson book? I've heard this is a good summer read.

Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent. This is supposed to be a darker book, so even though I'm really excited to read it, I'm waiting until I'm in the right mood.

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie. This is one of her mysteries that I'm most excited for, and it's supposedly one of her best.
What are you planning to read this summer?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Love Like Ours.

Having enjoyed all of Becky Wade's previous books, I was excited for her newest one. A Love Like Ours is the third book in the Porter Family series. It's not necessary to read the books in order, but I would recommend it. I like it when authors build a series around a family, because I feel like you get the chance to know the characters better. A sibling might only be an intriguing secondary character at first, but in later books you get to learn their story.

That's definitely the case with this series. I feel like a lot of readers were waiting to read more about Jake, since he's briefly mentioned in the first two books as the brother who came out of the military with PTSD.

I really enjoyed this book. Becky Wade's style is, as always, genuine and realistic. It was a nice touch to have Lyndie and Jake be best friends as kids, and I loved the families that you get to know in this book. While most of the book is on the serious side, dealing with the illness of Lyndie's sister and Jake's struggles, some of my favorite parts involved Amber and Lyndie's dating pact. It lightened the mood and led to some amusing situations.

Honestly, I didn't feel as emotionally invested in this story as I expected to. I'm not sure why, unless it's that I wasn't particularly in the mood for a sappy love story at the time I read it. Anyway, it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book too much. :)

If you liked Becky Wade's previous books, you'll like this one. There is one more Porter sibling left: Dru, and she seems like quite a character, so I can't wait to hear her story!

*Note: I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.*

Friday, May 22, 2015

The bookshelf tag.

I love seeing other people's bookshelves. I'm not a particularly nosy person, but bookshelves grab my attention. I love seeing what books people own, how they organize them, etc. So when I saw Hayden do the bookshelf tag a while back, I knew I wanted to do it, too. I like the idea of talking about books that I don't normally get the chance to talk about (though looking through this post, I'm sure I've written about a lot of these already).
I really want to do a little video of my bookshelves sometime this year (I've been meaning to do that for a couple years now), but here's something until then. I love to talk about books, and I realize this post might make me sound like a complete nutcase...but I think some of you bookworms will understand. :) 

Describe your bookshelf and where you got it from. I have four bookcases at the moment (and sadly, no room for more in my bedroom). They're all those cheap bookcases that you "build" yourself, and it's starting to show...some of my shelves are getting sagged in the middle. My first one came from Walmart, one came from Office Depot, and the other two are from Target. My parents gave me the first one for my birthday about six or seven years ago (upper right above), and a family friend gave me the second one because she worked at Office Depot and got it discounted when they were going out of business (bottom left corner above). Then I bought the third and fourth ones from Target. I actually put the one in the bottom right corner above together myself, which I was really proud of. (I'm the girl who couldn't even build one of those little benches in middle school shop class...I put the screws in crooked and the teacher had to fix it for me.)

Also, I didn't take a picture of it, but my desk has two little shelves that hold about thirty's all Christian nonfiction. Like devotionals, my bind-up of some C.S. Lewis, and a couple of memoirs/autobiographies.

Do you have any special or different way of organizing your books? I've always organized my books in a specific way. Otherwise I don't think I'd be able to find anything and it would drive me crazy. :) First of all, my fiction and nonfiction are separate. The first three bookcases you see above are fiction (actually, the third one is currently only about half full...I'm using the bottom shelf to store some vintage books and old family photos and things). The fourth one is nonfiction.

Within the fiction bookcases, my books are organized in alphabetical order by the author's name. When there's more than one book by an author, they're usually in order of publication if they're stand-alone books or obviously in the correct order if it's a series.

Within the nonfiction, I have them sort-of divided into categories and then loosely in alphabetical order. All of my books about old Hollywood stars are together, then the other biographies and memoirs (roughly the Jane Austen-ish ones, the C.S. Lewis ones, bookish ones), and then all of my travel books are together.

Lately I've been slightly less obsessive about the organization...but only slightly. :) Basically, my goal is to fit as many books as possible onto my shelves (since I don't have room for more bookcases), so sometimes I have to put books in where they'll fit, but they don't stray too far from where they should be. They might be slightly out of order on a shelf, but they're still on the correct shelf. :)

What's the thickest (most amount of pages) book on your shelf? The thickest book I own is the third volume of The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. It's about 1600 pages. I have all three volumes of his letters (this is the biggest, but the other two are also huge), and they're on my "someday" reading list. I do want to read them eventually, but will probably take me years. The thickest novel I have is Bleak House, which is the only Dickens that I've read so far. My copy is nearly 1000 pages long.

What's the thinnest (least amount of pages) book on your shelf? Jane, the Fox, and Me is only 101 pages, but it's a graphic novel so maybe that shouldn't count. My thinnest novel is John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, which is only 104 pages.

Is there a book you received as a birthday gift? Lots, since I usually ask for books for my birthday. :) Here are three that I picked out for my parents to give me last year: Londoners by Craig Taylor, Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, and a vintage copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (you can read my thoughts on that story here). {Edit: I originally wrote this post back at the beginning of April, before my birthday, which is why these are books from last year. One of the books that I received this birthday that I'm really, really excited about is Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent.}

What's the smallest (height and width wise) book on your shelf? Again, Of Mice and Men. It's such a tiny book!

What's the biggest (height and width wise) book on your shelf? Besides coffee table style books (like this one), it's probably The Name Above the Title, by Frank Capra. It's larger than a normal hardback book, and it's pretty thick, too. I don't even know what is happening with that cover, and it's a bit beat-up (I got it at a library sale). Basically, it's one big, ugly book. But I love Frank Capra's films so I have high hopes for this one. :)

Is there a book from a friend on your shelf? I picked a couple of classics (that I haven't read yet) for this one. My friend Carolynn has given me quite a few books, including The Scarlet Pimpernel, which I hear good things about. Also, Natalie once sent me this copy of The Scarlet Letter (it's one of those creepily pretty Penguin editions with the covers illustrated by Ruben Toledo).

Most expensive book? It used to be The Casual Vacancy, which I paid about $23 for and which happened to be one of the most disappointing books I've ever read. Finally I just got rid of it because I knew I was never going to read it again and it made me sick to keep seeing it on my shelf. So I'm not really sure now...I rarely buy new release hardcovers, and when I do, I never pay more than about $15. I'm going to guess that my most expensive book is probably the last Harry Potter book. I bought it the day it released and it probably cost about $20.

The last book you read on your shelf? Of Mice and Men. (I'll write more in my May "What I Read" post, but wow. So good, but so depressing and tragic.)

Of all the books on your shelf, which was the first you read? Probably Sarah, Plain and Tall. I know we had to read it several times in elementary school, and the first time was probably around 1st grade. I still love this book. It's so simply written but beautiful.

Do you have more than one copy of a book? Yes! I've actually done a post about this before. For now I'll just show you my three copies of Jane Eyre, which happens to be one of my favorite books. I used to have another copy but I donated it. So now I have two vintage copies from the 40s (the one on the bottom is my favorite) and a Penguin clothbound edition.

Do you have the complete series of any book series? The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch, the three Al Capone books by Gennifer Choldenko, The Hunger Games trilogy, The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper, the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale, The Charmed Life trilogy by Jenny B. Jones, the Chronicles of Narnia, The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry, the Sarah Plain and Tall series, the Wildwood trilogy by Colin Meloy, the Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis, the Harry Potter series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Wings of Glory series by Sarah Sundin, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Little House on the Prairie books. Whew. I didn't include series that I know aren't complete yet...I have about three of those.

What's the newest addition to your shelf? In an attempt to shrink my TBR, I've only bought about four or five books this year so far. I'm not counting birthday gifts or review books, so my most recent purchase was A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story. I have every intention of reading some Sherlock stories this year. :)

What book has been on your shelf forever? Ella Enchanted. It's one of my favorite childhood books, and I would still consider it a favorite. :) I've owned this copy for probably 13 or 14 years...I got it at a book fair in elementary school.

What's the most recently published book on your shelf? A Love Like Ours, by Becky Wade. I received a copy to review, but it was just released on May 5th.

What's the oldest book on your shelf (as in the actual copy is old)? Most of my old books are from the 40s, but I think this copy of Under the Lilacs is from 1919.

A book you won? I won Unending Devotion by Jody Hedlund in a Goodreads giveaway.

A book you'd hate to let out of your sight (as in, a book you'd never let someone borrow)? I'm sure you saw this one coming. :) It would definitely be my Narnia boxed set. These are my favorite books, and even though these editions are worn and ugly, I am so attached to them. I know I'll have to get a new set at some point, but I'll never get rid of these. Also, they're in the proper order (publication order, not chronological order! The books are so much more magical this way), and all of the new sets are renumbered, which is annoying.

Most beat up book? This particular copy of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a bit shabby (and missing part of its cover).

Most pristine book? Um...any of my unread ones, and there are quite a few of those. I'll go with this lovely edition of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. (I've read the book, but not this copy.)
A book from your childhood? Again, Ella Enchanted. Or maybe Charlotte's Web. I remember my third grade teacher reading us that story.

A book that's not actually your book? These are the only two books on my shelves that aren't mine. My dad bought them when we were on vacation in the Florida Keys several years ago. I grabbed them when I was reorganizing the shelf in the living room (maybe I do have a problem...) because I intend on reading them at some point. :)

A book with a special or different cover? The only ones I can think of are these Penguin English Library editions. They're not really special, but I love them. :) They're like paperback versions of those really pretty clothbound Penguin classics. Honestly, I love the durability of hardcovers and the way they look, but I enjoy reading paperbacks more. Plus, those clothbound classics are expensive. These editions have lovely covers and striped spines. But they're not available in the US, so you have to order them through Book Depository. (They're really reasonable, and they have free worldwide shipping.)

A book that is your favorite color? I say that my favorite color is yellow. So here are three covers with yellow, though I don't particularly like the shade of yellow on any of them. :) I also love blue: especially turquoise or teal, like the cover of The Wilder Life...that's just a very pretty cover in general, I think.

Book that's been on your shelf the longest that you still haven't read? The Golden Prince, by Rebecca Dean. I bought it at Goodwill about four years ago, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. By now I don't even remember what it's about...

Any signed books? I have three. The only special one is A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, because it's personalized and I love that book. The other two just happened to be signed when I purchased them.

If any of you guys want to do this tag, feel free! And be sure to link to your post in the comments, because as I've said, I love seeing other people's bookshelves. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans. This book probably isn't what you're expecting from the the subtitle. :) I picked it up on a whim from Goodwill about a year ago, because it sounded interesting. The author decided to do a year-long experiment to follow the Bible's instructions for women as closely as possible. (Some of those rules are ones that are common among Christian conservative groups, like only wearing skirts and not cutting her hair, but she also follows the stricter rules like covering her head when she prays and remaining silent in church.) I'm really enjoying it! Besides describing her personal experiment, the author also includes short interviews with a variety of women (polygamists, Amish/Mennonite women, etc.) and each chapter ends with a focus on a certain woman from the Bible. A lot of the book is funny, so of course I appreciate that. But one of my favorite things so far is that the author doesn't shy away from discussing some of the harsh Old Testament rules for women and the darker stories of the more obscure women of the Bible. I've never really seen anyone talk about those things before.

Knitting: A sweet little striped baby hat. This is another one to sell....I haven't really done any personal knitting in the past week. I'm using some of my handspun for this one. I accidentally ended up with an odd amount of leftover fiber that I was spinning to sell in my Etsy shop (which I'm planning to open in the middle of June!), and I managed to spin it into just enough yardage for a baby hat. :)

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sock Scrap Blanket {Month 2}

My scrap yarn blanket is officially too large to photograph the entire thing on the canvas I use for a white background. :) I'm a little late with this update, but it doesn't matter because obviously this project isn't very time-sensitive. I went several weeks in April without working on it any, but then I got obsessed again and added most of the new squares over a period of a couple days.

-14 squares added (36 total squares now).
-6 squares from my own scraps.
-4 squares from mini-skeins from Andi.
-3 squares from GnomeAcres mini-skeins purchased last month.
-1 square from a newly purchased mini-skein.

I'm starting to add in repeats of squares. I know that a lot of people who are making these blankets don't want two of the same square, but I actually like it. If I love a yarn and the project that it reminds me of, I want as much of it as possible in my blanket! And with striping yarns, squares from the same yarn can look completely different. Example: the pink square and the green corner square in the bottom two photos are from the same yarn.

I added three new yarns this month. The first two were leftovers from the socks I knitted in April: my first handspun socks and the Make Believe socks. Also, when we were in Tennessee, I purchased two "Seedlings" from The Fiber Seed. (The yarn is US wool, which is awesome!) Each mini-skein is 60 yards, hopefully enough for 5-6 squares each. One is purple and one is that beautiful golden yellow in the second photo. I like that now some of the squares in my blanket will remind me of our weekend in Tennessee. :)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Favorites: mysteries and detectives.

As I mentioned, I've been in an Agatha Christie phase lately. That got me thinking about all of the mysteries and detective stories that I love.

I was surprised to realize a couple of years ago that I really enjoy mysteries. It wasn't exactly a genre I ever expected to like! It all started with the BBC Sherlock. I guess what I like falls into the category of either detective stories or "cozy mysteries." Basically: most of them are British, they feature unusual sorts of crime-solvers, and they have a good dose of humor mixed in. I'm not at all interested in anything gory or graphic, or real life crime stories (I hate to think of such things happening to real people...I'd much rather stick with the made-up ones).

I'll start with the books, since there aren't as many of those.

Agatha Christie. I'm currently reading A Murder Is Announced, and I've read three of her other books previously: The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Body in the Library. I really enjoyed all of those...Murder on the Orient Express was probably my favorite so far. (There's something really great about a murder mystery on a train, right?) She wrote so many novels that it would take you quite a while to get through them all. I know that some of her stories are more beloved than others, but honestly I don't think you can go wrong with Agatha Christie.

The Flavia de Luce series, by Alan Bradley. This series is now seven books long, and I've only read the first three. (I'm behind because I'm reading them from the library, and I haven't been to the library in forever.) But they are so good! They're about an eleven year old girl named Flavia who lives in an old English house with her family and who is obsessed with chemistry and solving murders. She's such a great narrator...she's obviously really intelligent and at times doesn't sound anything like her age (unless she's bickering with her sisters). Even though the main character is young, these books are adult, not middle grade, so don't be put off if you're not into children's books. I love the English country setting and the fact that the mysteries usually include strange, quirky aspects. I really want to catch up with this series sometime this year!

And now onto the TV shows and films...

Monk. This is definitely in my top 5 list of favorite TV shows. It's so funny, with great supporting characters, and of course there's Monk. He's brilliant, annoying, obsessive, and immature, but so likable at the same time. :) I always compare it with Psych, but I think I still like Monk better. I like that it's a bit more serious at times and that there's the overlying story arc of Mr. Monk and Trudy. I wrote a little about the show here, but I'm also planning a post about my favorite episodes once I finish rewatching the series (I'm currently on season five).

Psych. This show took a season or so to grow on me (because it just couldn't quite live up to Monk!), but I ended up loving it. Shawn and Gus have one of my favorite fictional friendships...their interactions crack me up. :) Sometimes I'm in the mood for something a bit more goofy and fun than Monk, and Psych definitely fits. I picked my favorite episodes here.

BBC's Sherlock. You guys know how much I love BBC, anyway, but Sherlock is one of the absolute best. It's even higher on my list than Monk. I can't believe I waited so long to start watching this show! There are only nine episodes so far, but each one is almost film-length. This show is incredible. It's a perfect mix of humor, drama, suspense, memorable mysteries, and interesting characters. I don't know how in the world they do it, but each season gets better and better, and they're setting impossibly high standards for any other show to live up to. :) I'm a period drama fan, so before I started watching, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the modernization, but they've done it perfectly.

80s-90s Granada Sherlock. If you want a more traditional Sherlock Holmes, this is the series for you. I haven't seen all of these. We were borrowing them from a friend and I think I've seen most of them, but I plan on finishing it out at some point.

Pushing Daisies. This show sadly only lasted two seasons before it got canceled. It's about a pie-maker named Ned who helps a detective solve crimes because he has a special gift (curse?): he can touch something dead and bring it back to life (so he can ask how they were murdered, thus solving the crime). The problem is that he only has one minute...after that, he has to touch them so they're dead again or someone else in the vicinity will die instead. (And once he touches them a second time, they're dead for good.) Sounds quirky, right? That's the perfect way to describe this show. It's strange and bizarre and over the top, full of colorful characters. The whole thing is colorful, actually: the costumes and set design are visually gorgeous. The only thing keeping it from becoming one of my absolute favorites is that it does have a bit too much language and innuendo for my taste.

Marple. I've only seen the first season of this series so far, but I'm already hooked. Apparently this series is known for taking liberties with the books (adding romances, changing motives, etc.) and adding Miss Marple into non-Marple stories. But I'm still liking it. Also, the guest stars are awesome. One thing I love about British TV is being able to pick out so many familiar faces from other shows I love, and it seems like each episode of Marple has several guest stars that I recognize.

60s Miss Marple films. These four films aren't faithful to the books at all (except for possibly one?), but they're still awesome. This Miss Marple is like a sock knitting, sword fighting, bicycle riding, murder solving superhero. :) I wrote more about the films here.

The Thin Man films. This is a series of six films made from 1934 to 1947. They star William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, one of the kookiest and most wonderful fictional couples ever. These are the perfect 1930s detective stories, and they're glamorous and hilarious. I reviewed the films here.

So those are my favorites! There are more that I want to try: I've heard good things about Foyle's War and The Bletchley Circle, so I want to watch those sometime. I also want to watch more of Poirot, but hopefully after I read the books (since I'm failing at doing that with Marple). I've only seen one or two of them before...I know I've seen Murder on the Orient Express. Also, I'm planning on starting the Sherlock Holmes stories. I have A Study in Scarlet sitting on my desk, waiting to be read!

Do you have any mystery/detective recommendations? Any authors I should try or shows I should watch?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yarn Along

Reading: A Murder Is Announced, by Agatha Christie. (This sad little copy came from either Goodwill or a library book sale.) I've become a bit obsessed with Agatha Christie lately. I've only read about four of her books so far, but I'm always collecting more. Over the past couple of weeks, I've got hooked on the ITV Marple series. I'm sort of doing things backwards because I'm watching the shows before I read the books. That can be a problem with mystery novels! But it can't be helped...the show is too good to stop watching and there's no way I can read each Marple book before I watch the corresponding episode. Oh, well! I watched the adaptation of this book about a week ago and I'm still really enjoying the book itself. :) Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions of your favorite Agatha Christie novels. I'm keeping a list of ones I want to read, but soon I think it will just be all of them. :)

Knitting: Next month I'm going to have an opportunity to sell some handknits, so I'm trying to get a few baby and children's hats knitted before then. (Though honestly, I'm not sure people are going to be looking to buy wool hats in June.) This is just a simple children's beanie knit with leftovers from my Lady Marple cardigan. And I just realized how ironic and appropriate that is, given the book that I'm reading!

{Yarn Along is a weekly link up hosted by Ginny where you can share what you've been knitting and reading.}

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Why I don't wear makeup.

In my post last month about the natural products that I use, I mentioned that I don't wear makeup. That little tube of lip balm is the extent of my "makeup" usage. :) I think I had said that here before, but I've never explained why. So here are five reasons why I personally choose to not wear makeup.

1. Nasty chemicals. Most cosmetics are full of weird, harmful chemicals (formaldehyde, anyone?), and I try to use products that are as natural as possible.

2. I have zero interest in it and I'm lazy. I know there are girls who love shopping for makeup, trying new kinds, learning different ways to apply it, etc. But that doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. Shopping for books or yarn, or learning a new way to knit that's a different story. :) Also, I don't want it to take me long to get ready. If I have a few extra minutes before I have to leave the house, I'd much rather be knitting than putting on makeup.

3. It makes me feel uncomfortable. On the few occasions that I have worn makeup in the past (as a bridesmaid in a cousin's wedding, to a homeschool formal, etc.), it felt so awkward and unnatural on me. Honestly, I'm plenty self-conscious enough, thank you, without having to constantly worry if I've got lipstick on my teeth or if my mascara is smeared.

4. I would depend on it too much. There are some girls who can wear makeup or not wear it and feel equally comfortable. But if I did wear makeup, I know I would be one of those who wouldn't want to leave the house without it on. If I knew everyone was used to seeing me with makeup on, I would feel too embarrassed to be seen without it. Sad, but true. So it's better if I don't even go there in the first place.

5. Sometimes I like to be contrary. I'm not a rebel. If you know me, you know that I'm one of those cautious, rule-abiding types (think Hermione Granger). But every once in a while, I can rebel in a small sort of way. :) I hate that our society has taught us that women are supposed to wear makeup. Little girls believe that they'll finally be pretty when they're old enough to wear makeup. Grown women believe they have to wear makeup to look presentable. It's gone from something that was "fun" and optional to something that is required. I'm stubborn enough that if the world tells me I need to wear makeup, it makes me want to wear it that much less.

How about you? Do you wear makeup? Why or why not?

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.

Melanie Dickerson is well known in the Christian fiction world for taking familiar fairy tales and expanding them into historical stories. Her books are also recognizable for their gorgeous covers. The cover for her latest book, The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, might just be my favorite so far. :)

This book is about Odette, a girl who poaches deer from a nearby estate to feed the poor, and Jorgen, who is the forester of that estate and who is responsible for catching poachers and bringing them to justice. (He also has a personal reason for disliking poachers: his father was killed by one several years before.) The story is set during medieval times and is inspired by Robin Hood and Swan Lake.

I'm familiar with Robin Hood, and having been recently watching the BBC show (I have two more episodes to go), I was definitely seeing a connection between Odette and Marian in that adaptation. That's actually the first thing I thought of when I read the summary of this book, before I even knew that it was inspired by Robin Hood. I'm not familiar with Swan Lake so I'm not sure how much of that is referenced in this book (though at one point, Odette dresses like a swan for a masquerade ball).

This is the fourth book of Melanie Dickerson's that I've read at this point. Her second book, The Merchant's Daughter, is my favorite (because I'm partial to Beauty and the Beast retellings). But I have to admit that so far, I'm a little disappointed with each consecutive book. Ever since I first started reading her books, I found the writing to be awkward at times, but I guess I expected it to improve. It's been an issue that has bothered me with all of her books, but it seemed to be worse with this one. (I've only ever heard one other person mention this in a review, so maybe I'm just being picky?)

I'm always drawn in by the interesting premises and beautiful book covers, but I'm left wanting more. With this book especially, the writing feels stilted and awkward, and the characters and story often feel a bit flat and predictable. Honestly, because of the writing and predictability, I felt like I had to pull myself through this book at times. Again, this might just be a personal preference. I'm not usually a fan of overly flowery and descriptive language, either. But for some reason, I struggle with the starkness of this writing style.

If you love this author's previous books, then I think you'll enjoy this one. I will likely read more of her books but I hope that her writing style will evolve into something more natural with each new book.

*Note: I received this book for free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.*

Friday, May 8, 2015

A weekend in Tennessee.

Last weekend, my mom and I tagged along with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece on a short trip to Tennessee. (My dad stayed home because we're in the busy season with the farm right now and there are chores to be done.) There were two goals for the trip: Rachel and I wanted to see the Titanic museum in Pigeon Forge, and my brother wanted to stop by a motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley, NC on the way home.

So we left on Friday and headed for Pigeon Forge. My family went there once before, when I was about six years old, so I remembered nothing except what I've seen in home videos. I knew that area was going to be touristy because of Dollywood, but I wasn't quite prepared for just how touristy it really is! I guess I was expecting it to be really beautiful and mountainous, since it is in the Great Smoky Mountains, but wow. The main road is nothing but hotels, restaurants, dinner shows, and tacky little shops all selling the exact same junk. The road between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg was so nice and wooded and green, so I thought that Gatlinburg was going to be different, but nope...once you get in the middle of it, it's the same thing.

Anyway, I don't want to sound negative because we really did have a fun weekend. :) We arrived Friday afternoon and went to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg. We drove through the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which was pretty. Being surrounded by mossy rocks and green trees and little creeks was such a nice contrast to the busyness of Pigeon Forge. The rest of the evening was relaxed...we stopped in a few shops, including a lovely spinning and yarn shop. (You know I couldn't go on a trip without finding a yarn shop!)

Saturday was our only full day there, and the busiest day we had planned. We were at the Titanic Museum when they opened. I know I've mentioned this before, but ever since I was little, I've been fascinated with the Titanic. I've seen just about every Titanic film I can get my hands on (I reviewed three of them back in 2012), I used to always check out Titanic books from the library, and I even wrote my senior research paper about the sinking. It just so happens that my sister-in-law, Rachel, loves the '97 film and is really interested in anything Titanic, too. So of course we were both really excited for this museum, and it was amazing. I highly recommend going if you're ever in the area (I think there's one in Branson, MO, too). It was so informative and beautiful and sad. There are tons of artifacts, and lots of life stories about the people who survived and those who didn't. (By the way, you aren't allowed to take pictures inside, which is why there aren't any.) You're given a boarding pass at the very beginning with information about one of the passengers, and at the end, you find out whether they survived or not. The museum features a replica of the grand staircase (that you get to walk up), replicas of third class and first class rooms, and a deck area where you can stick your hand in salt water that's the same temperature as the ocean water was on the night of the sinking. (28 degree water doesn't sound that cold, but oh my goodness. Your hand starts feeling numb after seconds and pretty soon pain is traveling up your arm. I don't know how anyone survived the water.) Basically, the Titanic Museum was one of the best museums I've ever visited.

After that, we grabbed lunch and headed for Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Aquariums are always fun, though this one was quite crowded. Anyway, as you can see, my niece enjoyed the aquarium a lot more than the museum. (Can you believe she's 18 months old now?) I loved the jellyfish and clownfish, but my favorite part by far was the shark tunnel. It was so much fun, riding a slow conveyor-thing through the tunnel while creepy sharks swim above you and dramatic music plays over the speakers. :) I think I could have done that two or three more times.

We left Sunday morning and drove through the beautiful mountains into North Carolina. My brother, who loves old motorcycles, stopped at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley. (The rest of us have zero interest in motorcycles, so we skipped this one.)

I managed to fit in some knitting, most of it on the drive. I knitted on socks (carried in the adorable bag Carolynn made for me) and added a couple more squares to my blanket in the evenings. As far as souvenirs go, I came home with a Titanic tote bag and a couple of pressed pennies. But my favorite souvenirs aren't touristy at all. I bought some Tennessee grown and dyed yarn, 4 ounces of alpaca/silk blend spinning fiber (which is impossibly soft and silky), and a couple of Agatha Christie mystery novels. (4:50 from Paddington and The Man in the Brown Suit. I got them from a bookstore that had the biggest selection of Agatha Christie books that I've ever seen, and all of them in those gorgeous newer editions. They looked so beautiful all together on the shelves. When I got home I realized that they were about $4 cheaper at the bookstore than on Amazon, so I wish I had picked up a couple more.)

Even though we had a lovely time, this weekend trip reminded me of how much of a homebody I am. I like seeing new places and going to museums and riding through parts of the country I've never seen before. I have a list of places I want to visit someday. But I'm a creature of habit. I love my quiet life and my normal little routine. I was ready to come home and eat some real food (fast food for three days in a row- ugh. I did get to try Baskin-Robbins for the first time, though!). I got tired of that universal hotel smell (what is that, anyway? The cleaning supplies they use or the detergent or something?). I missed my bed and my cats and my books and our well water that doesn't feel make my hair feel sticky or taste like chlorine when I brush my teeth. Apparently I'm just a hobbit. (One of the less adventurous ones.)

I like you a lot, Tennessee, but it's good to be home. :)