Three Book Habit

Everyday Adventures

In a recent discussion with other bibliophiles, I realized I have a bit of a book habit: one for my commute, one to read on my lunch breaks, and one to read before bed. Sometimes there’s overlap if I’m close to finishing one and just have to get to the end. But, yes, it’s completely normal for me to have three books going at the same time. Sometimes more, if there’s a research book I’m working my way through in spurts between more fun reading. I admit, part of the impetus is the 75 books I challenged myself to read by the end of the year–it’s good to have a goal, but I don’t think I’ll take up the challenge next year, I’m too competitive (with myself) and wanting to see the progress bar fill up makes me feel guilty if I choose to watch tv before bed instead of read, or even to flip through a magazine.

Silly the things we do to ourselves, right?

But otherwise I’m just generally a voracious reader. Always have been.

image via GoodReads

image via GoodReads

June’s conquered titles:

  • The Gemini Effect*
  • The Dead Key
  • The Coffee Legacy*
  • Dragon’s Triangle
  • The Confederacy of Heaven*
  • Kitchen Confidential
  • I Am Livia
  • Down the Rabbit Hole
  • Contagious*

(remember, the asterisk means it was an audio book)

I’m starting to catch up to the backlog of Kindle First books, so it’s lucky that I got an email about trying out Kindle Unlimited for a month. Granted, at first I thought I wouldn’t let it go past the 30 days because the books I searched for weren’t available through KU. But then I started to browse and found books that I’d never gotten around to reading (like Bourdain’s book) as well as others I was looking forward to reading, having read earlier books in the series.

What I was most excited about, though, was the narration feature on many of the titles. I don’t know if this was a product of Amazon purchasing Audible or not, but I’m loving it! Frankly, Audible’s $14.99 a month that only got you one book credit a month never seemed like a good deal to me, and hoped that the recent acquisition might mean Prime members would have free access to audiobooks. But for $10 a month you can get Kindle Unlimited, borrow up to 10 titles at a time (not per month, just at once, unless I misread), and download the narration, too. I was, at first, worried about what the streaming audiobook would do to my data usage, but it doesn’t appear to be doing anything untoward–just the initial download–and I can plug my phone into the auxiliary jack in my car the way I do my iPod and plug the phone into the car charger, as well, to prevent running the battery down to and from work. Though the replay isn’t perfect (occasional skips, that sort of thing), it certainly opens up many more titles to my commute entertainment–definitely worth $10 a month, at least for now!

A few notes about a few of the books I read or listened to this month:

I liked that the main character of The Dead Key was neither a perfect specimen or a burnout with a lucky streak–she was believably middle of the road and very likable. The time shifts in the book are handled quite well, and I was well-hooked throughout the book, wondering who all was really in cahoots with who, and where the missing “treasure” really ended up. I Am Livia had me thinking (mostly fondly) of my 4 years of high school Latin classes. Books like this would have been great helper materials when getting ready for competitions; great jumping off points for history lessons!

Contagious is part of series of books from the twisted mind of Scott Sigler. Ages ago I’d listen to a few of his podiobooks but, apparently, many have been reworked since then, a result of his signing with Crown Publishing. Good for him! I started with Contagious, remembering fairly well the events of Infection, and have Ancestor cued up next on my iPod. I remember parts of Ancestor, I believe, but knowing that they’ve undergone a revamp I’m going to give it a new listen to see if what I remember is still valid. But I needed something lighter before I could move onto more stories from him–a 7 year old as the big bad, in its strange and believable way, is a lot to take in. Though I’ll admit I was picturing a Chibi Usa-like figure as little Chelsea Jewell. Listen to it and, if you watch Sailor Moon, you’ll see what I mean. From a Q&A included in the podcast I’ve learned that all of his books seem to exist in the same universe, which makes me curious about his other titles.

Finally, Down the Rabbit Hole. I was a fan of Girls Next Door when it first aired and one of the reasons I liked it because it was fun and light on the drama. I followed the careers of Holly, Bridget, and Kendra for a while after they left the series (and the last season with Crystal and the twins was really not worth watching) and was happy to see them all doing what they set out to, more or less. I wasn’t as big of a Kendra fan, so I didn’t read her book, but when I heard Holly had written one, I thank ebooks for their instant gratification potential and devoured the book over a couple of days. Reading about the behind the scenes stuff makes me want to go back and watch the show again (I have the first three seasons on DVD) with new eyes. The only disappointment was how quickly she glossed over her relationship with her current husband–there were some rumors flying around when they were first together, and it would have been nice to get her take on that period, the way she delved into the Criss Angel months as well as her years at the mansion. I can see why she might not want to do so, but it did feel rushed at the end.

I’ve been catching up with my binge-watching as well. Wayward Pines is getting quite interesting, now that we know what the big secret is. I’m grateful that the recent season of OITNB not only continued to give us more background into the backstories of various characters (dude, I was actually sympathetic to Pensatucky!) but also managed to show some growth for Piper, namely that of a spine. I was so tired of her whiny attitude, the fact that she’s got a bit of steel to her, now, makes me look forward to Season 4, whenever we get that. And I finally watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the silliness of the first several episodes. But then we got to the trial plot line and amusement turned to absurdity, and I’ve never found the absurd that entertaining.

Younger Tom’s Tollbooth in the City of Windy Poplars… and Other Stories

Everyday Adventures

Which is to say, the books I read in April are (were? they still exist…):

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Girl Who Owned a City
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Anne of Windy Poplars
  • Younger


And in May I added the following to the read:

  • The God Conspiracy*
  • Digital Magic*
  • Roses of Winter*
  • Into the Woods*
  • The Paying Guests
  • Big Little Lies
  • Brood of Bones*
  • Chasing the Bard*
  • The Seventh Child

Now, my book posts tend to run a bit long, so I’m going to try to keep this brief, by comparison, because I’ve been meaning to write this post since the beginning of May when I was otherwise distracted by Todd’s broken bones. It’s pretty much been hanging over my head as the one I needed to get out of the way so I can get back to blogging regularly, even though it’s more for me than anyone else: turns out I like recording what I’ve read!

This round of books started with finding a copy of Uncle Ton’s Cabin on my Kindle. Now, I thought I was pretty familiar with the story, having seen The King and I oodles of times since I was small and they’ve got that fabulous version of the story as the entertainment for the big important dinner party.

Not the movie version, but a very good rendition of it. (Direct link for the feed readers: Small House of Uncle Tom, Ballet from The King and I)

So I thought I knew what I’d be reading, right? Wrong! Rogers and Hammerstein took some serious liberties with the source material! Eliza? Never met Legree. Legree doesn’t even show up until probably 2/3 through the book! The other thing I was unprepared for was the outright preachiness of the book. I suppose it makes sense given the time it was written in, and the moral appeal Stowe was attempting to make (while being pretty patronizing at the same time), but still. Sheesh!

It also took me about 2 weeks to get through, reading before bed, which is where the graphic novel (Girl Who Owned a City) came in–I wanted a nice, quick read–a palate cleanser, if you will–and I also wanted to try out the public library ereader system. Because that was something else I did in April: got a library card! Of course, I’d hoped to be able to remotely check out the upcoming book club titles but, as with a lot of newer books, there was a waiting list. And when they finally did become available, wouldn’t you know they both popped up in the same week, with only 7 days allowed for each, overlapping? So I sped my way through The Paying Guests and Big Little Lies during the last week of May. I was okay with the Paying Guests (kinda feel about it the way I felt about The Awakening from an earlier month’s book club) but I absolutely adored Big Little Lies.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I also read a real-life paper-printed book in April–Anne of Windy Poplars–which led directly to receiving tickets to the local production of Anne of Green Gables at the end of the month for my birthday. Todd’s great at observational gifts like this. The funny thing about Windy Poplars, is that I have all the Anne stories in Kindle format except Windy Poplars. For some strange reason, at the time I purchased the collection, the publisher had not okayed that particular volume’s digital rights, so there was this gaping hole. And since her years teaching at the college and dealing with the Pringles, et al., are my favorite from the television shows, I was bummed that it was the Windy Poplars installment that held them. So, when I had a couple days off to run some errands in town and I happened to find this in The Bookshelf, I picked up a copy and started in while I enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Grassroots Coffee. That was an awesome day!

Rounding out the April books (back to digital) was a bit of old and new. The Phantom Tollbooth was also lurking about the Kindle files and I’m sad I never read this as a kid because I would have adored it! Having read it for the first time as an adult, though, I think I appreciate it differently. (Just like when I read A Wrinkle in Time a couple years ago–very different from if I’d read it at the intended age.) Younger was one of the Kindle First offerings and I really liked that it dealt with the issues of aging and beauty but turned the often-trod topics on its ear a bit by starting with an older protagonist and regressing her in a very curious way.

When May rolled around and I was spending a lot of time in waiting rooms and monitoring Todd’s recovery, reading was not something I was very good at. If you notice the asterisks on most of May’s reading list, those are all audiobooks–Podiobooks, technically speaking, books published in podcast form. I used to listen to these ages ago while at work, but I find it difficult to concentrate on narrative while working, these days. But! My 2+ hours spent in the car each day? Perfect for consuming audiobooks, and I can get through a book a week or so this way.

There are a couple of things to be aware of if you want to take advantage of Podiobook’s catalog of free audio books. First, the reader is often the author, and that doesn’t always work out so well. Sometimes it’s just the tone of voice that doesn’t sound right to me, so being able to listen to a bit of the first chapter is a good thing before I download the whole series. Other times it might be cruddy production value. Also, my ancient iPod (a 2nd gen Nano) has a default of sorting podcasts newest first and not autoplaying the next one. Because of that, I was focusing on books that had 30 minute or more chapters so that I wasn’t having to fumble with the player while on the highway. Safety first! Then I realized I could drag the podcast episodes into a playlist and put them in any order I wanted, and it’d auto play from one to the other. Success!

Despite my dislike of the preachiness of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I knowingly downloaded The God Prophecy–does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so. I just like knowing what I’m getting into! And end of the world stories are generally fast-paced and interesting. The Christian point of view is a natural one for this sort of story, though I gave the speakers a serious side-eye when the Big Bad’s real identity was revealed. You had to go there, huh? Sigh… Another standout was Brood of Bones. I mean, a narcoleptic priestess in a town where every female over 12 is pregnant all at once sounds like a dark comedy in the making, but turned out to be incredibly suspenseful, bordering on scary at times. The fact that this is but the first book in a series makes me very happy. The fact that the other books are not available in audio form, read by Henrietta Meire, makes me sad. But I will hear here voice in my head as I look up the rest of Marling’s work. After her, the Phillipa Ballentine books (read by the author) are both engaging and a aural pleasure. Seriously, these books make me look forward to driving to and from work.

And I finally finished The Seventh Child. Holy cats, y’all, but that was a slog. I really don’t like books with a slow start (The Paying Guests, this goes for you, too), but I’ve found that if I can stick it out, I’ll be rewarded. Eventually. The Seventh Child took a slow meander through several different orphans lives while building to any sort of real action. It was a good 70% through the book before the pace finally picked up and I wanted to power through to find out more, only to switch to another set of characters who were meandering their way through political machinations and, in the process, killing the momentum. Was the ending ultimately good? Yes, thankfully. There was even a little twist I didn’t expect (though not the ultimate plot answer: that I saw coming pretty much from the beginning, which is why slogging through this book for more than a month was just so excruciating).

Okay, so brief is relative, I guess. But I think that covers it all, more or less. Now I can get back to the other stuff I want to tell you guys about.

Next week!

On The Nightstand: March 2015

Everyday Adventures

That’s a loaded title, isn’t it? When I first envisioned this website (12 years ago, ahem) I always planned for their to be a little section on the sidebar with whatever book(s) I was currently reading and linked to my thoughts on said books. I suppose I could still do that (or use the Goodreads app/plugin or some such), but I’ll be honest: I only remember to check in with Goodreads at the end of the month, I’m not sure I’d be any better with a manual sidebar feature.

Enough blathering about blathering about books, let’s get to the more direct stuff!

Book covers snagged from GoodReads

Book covers snagged from GoodReads

In addition to everything else that was going on in March, I was really ripping through some books!

First up was the Traveler’s Gate Trilogy by Will Wight. Which started out as me just having House of Blades on my Kindle because I met the author’s brother at a convention the weekend it was being released and blah blah blah supporting other creators, etc. I read the first couple of chapters and reminded myself why I don’t read high fantasy as a general rule. That was 2013.

BUT! It was next up on the oldest unread books on my Kindle list, so I dove back in, waded through the world building and character soup, and damn if I wasn’t really interested in who these people were by the mid-point in the book. And by the end? Totally checking to see if book 2 was available. Not only was it, but it was available for borrowing via Prime, so I didn’t even have to break my spending diet to get it!

Oh, another thing, I actually read House of Blades in February, but after I wrote the last book round-up, and I didn’t realize I’d devour it quite so quickly! So I borrowed Book 2 at the very end of February and was able to borrow Book 3 a few days later once the counter had reset for March. Book binge!

Here’s the short version (but no spoilers): In this world, magic-users are called Travelers. Some are born to it, others trained to it. Travelers are affiliated with Territories (usually only one, but there are exceptions) and each Territory comes with certain pros and cons. (There’s a bit of vague Norse references in some of the names and all, but nothing truly one culture or another.) Simon is our main character, ordinary poor kid in his village after his dad is killed by a Traveler and his mother tortured into mindlessness. Cheerful so far, right? It gets better (no, really, it does). Simon’s village is raided and in the scuffle Leah appears to distract the baddies and get captured instead of Simon, so he feels honor-bound to try and rescue her. Now, back when his family had that run-in with dark side of magic, another Traveler stepped in and saved him and his mom (more or less). Simon decides to go back to the spot it all happened and see if he can get the Traveler to train him so he can rescue Leah.

While Simon makes great strides in his training out of necessity, I appreciated that it was accomplished more out of abject stubbornness instead of dumb luck or some hidden ability. Simon kinda sucks at being a Traveler at times, but he’s also not a complete anti-hero or a whiny brat complaining about finding himself in a situation. I respect the character, in other words, and that made it easy to get interested in him. He also doesn’t “drink the Kool-Aide” the way another character, Alin, does when it’s discovered he’s (Alin’s) the first natural-born Traveler of super-Territory Elysia, the prophesied one, and all that. Alin would have made a far less interesting main character, but as supporting character it works better. And Leah, well, she’s got her own secrets. We’ll just leave it at that.

It’s far from a perfect story, but I really enjoyed the hell out of it and so would definitely recommend it if you can get into a story and ignore the details.

Next up was Rushed, by Brain Harmon. Modern day setting with some fantastical/supernatural elements. What it wasn’t, despite the title, was a quick-moving story. 95% or more of the book takes place during a single day. And while there are definite signs of imagination on the part of the writer, there are also so blatant pop-culture reference drops (Steven King, the Shining, Curious George, and Indiana Jones) that work in some ways but not in others. And the perceived antagonist is just referred to as the foggy man. Oookay.

Basically, this guy starts having this dream that wakes him up with this urgency to GO (as in travel, not heed nature’s call). But where and why are elusive. He resists for a couple of nights and then, finally, gives in and decides to get in his car and drive wherever and get it out of his system. His wife takes all of this in stride, almost unbelievably calm. I think this is meant to underscore their loving, trusting relationship. And, again, he’s just gone a day so, really, I suppose you could give their dynamic the benefit of the doubt, once he starts encountering weird stuff in corn fields (of course) and sending her cell phone pictures of the same, I’d expect her to be a little more concerned! In any other book their banter would have been delightful, it just didn’t seem to work for me, here.

I was reminded, more than once, of King’s Dark Tower series–a series I enjoyed, by the way, until that piss-poor ending he threw at us after waiting more than a decade for the damn series to end (apparently I’m still very. opinionated. on that point, ahem). Our main character (whose name I cannot even recall, that should tell you something) is no Roland, but we have a very similar, frustrating, oh-you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me, side-eye up on side and down the other ending in store and I was not pleased. I don’t think I’ll be reading the other two books in the series.

Now for something totally different!

The peril in downloading book and letting them sit for a while is that you might not remember why you downloaded them in the first place. When I started on Connie Brockaway’s No Place for a Dame I really wondered what I was thinking–it starts out like your typical bodice ripper! With “dame” in the title I was thinking 1920s and here I was about a century off!

While it did turn out to be a historical romance, with all the usual (dare I say formulaic) elements, the characters were engaging and the premise was pretty good. A gamekeeper’s daughter is granted the gift of education by the master of the house. She has a talent for astronomy, discovers a comet, and wants to present it to the Royal Astrological Society (yes, I know, it’s that for reasons), only one thing stands in the way: the fact that she’s a she and not a he. So she enlists the help of Lord Strand in the usual subterfuge, hilarity ensues, and they eventually succumb to the expected attraction. (I really don’t consider that a spoiler, see again: formula).

Now, I did like the way they extricated themselves from the resulting scandal-to-be. And telling would be a spoiler, but I’ll say it was inventive and funny. Turns out this is book 3 in a series, but I don’t think I’ll go back and read the others. I feel like No Place for a Dame stands alone really well and I don’t want to tempt fate with another book in a genre I’m not a big fan of.

The book club selection for the month was The Awakening, a shocking book in its day by Kate Chopin, but like a lot of the “scandalous” books from decades past, it doesn’t hold the same power when read in modern times. It’s all about a woman who realizes that she is unhappy with her life, her husband, and the strictures of Victorian society. And while I can empathize with a need to change one’s situation, her “awakening” didn’t come with any sense of responsibility or purpose, she was just as self-centered and careless in the choices she makes to extricate herself from the unhappiness as she appeared at the beginning of the book.

As is often the case, the secondary characters were far more interesting to me, and the ending of the book was disappointing, but in a different way from Rushed (though I’d still call it a cop-out). The book’s been out for more than a century so I’m going to “spoil” the ending: she kills herself. Why? Because the alternate life she drifted towards didn’t turn out the way she planned. The man she left her husband for had a shred of decency and didn’t succumb to her charms–but not because he didn’t want to, because he knew it wasn’t the right thing to do–and she runs off and ends herself. Oh, sure, she spares a momentary thought for her two young children, but it ultimately didn’t matter.

Even the way she ended it was thoughless and self-centered. She arrives at the resort the frequent each summer unannounced, in the off-season, sending the few people on the island into a tizzy trying to make up a room and meal for her, while she heads off to the beach. She refused offers from friends for help (including a kind doctor that actually seemed to have a clue about what she was going through and appeared ready to listen and talk without judging her thoughts or actions). Even taking into consideration the mores of the day and the narrow roles women could fill, she was weak and lacked character. And that just makes for a frustrating end of a story.

Thank goodness the next book was more my style, featured a strong female lead, and included enough humor to keep things light but without cheapening the suspense of who was really responsible for the death of a student in the admiralty law professor’s office. Long Knives, by Charles Rosenberg, is a pretty interesting legal thriller. There’s sunken treasure ships (or at least the rumor of them), university politics, condo board scheming, and so on and so forth.

I was stymied for most of the book what the title had to do with anything. Again, I had no memory of the book’s description and was expecting something adverture-y, and then maybe pirate-adjacent when the sunken treasure because a plot point. But, no, it’s apparently a metaphor for treachery (a quick search reveals that it dates to the 12th century–guess I missed that one during my SCA days) and was finally mentioned by one of the antagonists during an informal academic hearing that ultimately revealed whodoneit.

Nothing about the book blew me away, but it was an enjoyable read. If there are more novels featuring Jenna James (the lawyer-turned-professor protagonist), I’d probably give them a try. (Oh, looks like this might have actually been a sequel. There’s a lot of history between some of the characters, history that apparently is fully discussed in Death on a High Floor.)

Just one more to go! Even though I finished Back on Murder in April, I’m liable to forget about it by the end of the month, so I’ll go ahead and cover it, now. It’s your basic police procedural starring a fallen-from-grace homicide cop, March, who really wants to get back on the regular rotation but it seems like he’s on his way out, not up. At first I was worried that he was going to be another anti-hero, but I discovered I like him well-enough by the end.

There’s a shoot-out at a drug house and Marsh, trying to make himself useful, actually discovers something at the scene that suggests there was another person there, definitely injured, possibly dead, but why is the body not there? Then there’s a fair haired do-gooder that goes missing, and March is convinced there’s a connection, as incongruous as it seems, and pins his hopes on it being the case that redeems him in the eyes of the department. Things don’t go as planned (it’d have been a short book if they had!) and another couple of opportunities present themself that also seem to fizzle (hope that doesn’t give too much away).

The fact that this is #1 is a series of March mysteries tells you right off that something eventually goes right, but it was pretty damn touch-and-go for a good long while. Would I read the rest of his series? Maybe. Once I catch up on all the other books still in my backlog I’ll consider it.

According to GoodReads I’m 2 books behind schedule my goal of 75 books read this year. Guess I need to step things up a bit more, huh?

Read, Watched, and Crafted: January 2015

Everyday Adventures

How about a round-up?

January Reads


The Fracking King by James Browning

I’m trying to read through the various books saved on my Kindle and I’m pretty sure this is one I selected from the Kindle First program. If you’re not familiar, Amazon Prime members get to download one book a month (from a group of 4 that won’t be released until the following month) for free and even if I don’t have time right then to read it, I try to remember to check them out so I’m getting my Prime money’s worth.

ANYWAY! The Fracking King revolves around a boys school, the effects of fracking on local communities, and scrabble. There’s a lot of talk about how the main character knows a lot of obscure words and their point values on a Scrabble board, but doesn’t know the meaning of the words, connotations and subtleties escaping him. I sort of felt that way about the book as a whole: lots of words, lots of odd characters, lots of scenes, not a whole heck of a lot of meaning. I didn’t get a sense of resolution from the book, or that anything important had been said. It just didn’t resonate with me.

The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, and Mort (Discworld books 2-4) by Terry Pratchett 

For more than a decade I’ve been hearing really awesome things about the Discworld books from people I generally trust and respect. So when I found the first several books on sale I snapped them up, read the first one (The Color of Magic) and promptly wondered what my collective friend-base had been smoking. It wasn’t that I disliked the writing (not at all, Pratchett is fabulous at turning phrases) but I could not connect with (I’d even go so far as to say I loathed) the main character, Rincewind. It just didn’t work for me. So I ignored the other books for a good long while.

I’d been assured that Rincewind does not take center stage for the rest of the series, and since the Discworld books were the next-oldest in my reader’s unread list, I figured it was time to go back in. I’m so glad I did!

Rincewind’s story wraps up in The Light Fantastic, but it’s not all about him–we get to see a lot more of the rest of the Disc and Rincewind even develops a bit–he’s still not my favorite, but I can deal with him as he continues to pop up throughout the rest of the series. Equal Rites, though, was awesome. A story about the 8th son of an 8th son (go directly to wizard, do not pass go status on the Disc) that happens to be a daughter, and girls cannot be wizards. Granny Weatherwax is a trip, their journey across the Disc, and everything that happens in and around Unseen University is a good standalone read if you just want a taste of the Discworld without committing to the full series. Finally, Mort reminded me a lot of On a Pale Horse (the “death” installment of Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, a long-time favorite of mine). The similarities are pretty obvious (Death being the central character, a new office holder vs an apprentice, learning the ropes, etc.) and I just had fun reading it.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

That this is a book club selection should tell you a lot: it’s that erudite, supposedly-deep and pithy story. The fact that it appends it title with “:A Novel” tells you a lot more. I’m sorry, but a book that has to clarify that it’s a novel (as opposed to what?! It’s fiction, it’s not poetry, what the hell else is it? A pony?) usually tells me it’s pretentious beyond belief, but it was a book club selection and I’m trying to stick with this one, so here goes.

The story is set during WWII–an era I enjoy reading about in that morbidly curious way a lot of us have–and involves two young people over the course of a couple of years. One is Marie-Laure, a blind daughter of a locksmith at the National Museum of Paris, the other is Werner, a Polish orphan who is a whiz with radios, and is recruited into the Reich. The book flips between each characters experiences (with a few secondary characters getting their own chapters as necessary) and keeps parallel timelines but isn’t exactly linear. We start at the not-quite end, then flash back to the beginning, getting a bit more of each timeline as we go until we finally meet up with the “present” in the books narrative and approach the end. It’s an interesting tactic and one that works well for this sort of story.

I appreciated the insight that Werner’s story gave us into the side of WWII we don’t often see: the German soldiers that aren’t the higher-ups. WWII narratives usually focus on the prisoners of the work camps, the different community being persecuted by the Reich, or the soldiers on the winning side. Seeing the deprivations of the lower-rung soldiers is a bit more humanizing, and (of course) Werner is sympathetic as he’s not exactly drinking the Kool-Aid, he’s just doing what he has to, but not without realizing the gravity of the situation and the unfortunate part he plays.

The two teenagers stories are intertwined in wonderful ways and Doerr does a great job of putting those puzzle piece out there without being heavy-handed, even though it takes 3/4 of the story before they actually interact. It was after that point, the last quarter of the book, where Doerr starts to lose me. Without giving anything away (this isn’t alternate history, the war ends as we know it did), once the plot of our two main characters intersects and reaches the climax, the story could have ended. It would have felt complete, resolved, and given the reader a sense of satisfaction.

But no, Doerr draws out a prolonged epilogue that includes more than we really need to know. While I love a good wrap-up and appreciate knowing what happens to the characters I’ve just spent many, many hours becoming invested in, I want that epilogue to be snappy and succinct. Not 15% of the book. I don’t need to read a chapter about a secondary character undergoing a horror of war (while realistic, it really serves no purpose to the story, it’s just for shock or to take a jab at the other side). I don’t need the hop-skip, I just want the jump to the end. Instead of moving on I was still reading, wondering what was really left to tell.

It was that last 15% of the book that put a bad taste in my mouth and took it from a thoughtful story to a pretentious doorstop. If it weren’t on my Kindle, of course.

Thankfully the next book club selection is Yes, Please. Even though I’ve heard so-so things about it, I’m sure it’ll at least be a bit more lighthearted and entertaining in it’s own way.

January Binge-Watches

I finished my multi-month marathon of Criminal Minds this month, started back in November, I think, when I was on the hunt for classic CSI but came up empty on the streaming front (well, aside from pay-per-episode/season on Amazon). I have long suspected CBS of being stingy with their shows and recently learned about CBS All Access subscriptions, confirming the suspected motive.

Next I watched Twin Peaks. The talk of more coming from that well in the near future made me curious about the show. I know I watched some of it, but since it originally aired when I was 14, I’m not sure how much I really kept up with. I also didn’t realize that the first seasons was only a handful of episodes: they packed a lot of crazy in 8 or so hours! Turns out I remembered bits and pieces of season 1, but none of season 2. So when I got to the answer to “who killed Laura Palmer” I thought we were done! Nope, instead they tacked on a whole extra storyline that really could have been its own season. But, hey, cross-dressing David Duchovny makes it all worthwhile.

I remembered I had an Acorn TV subscription going to waste (British TV service, great for all sorts of fun shows if you’re a fan of the BBC and Australian programming). I found the 2008 show The Palace about a fictitious royal family where the king dies unexpectedly and his 24 year old son is suddenly king. Back-biting, squabbles, and scandals ensue and I’m more than a little sad there wasn’t a second series (what we call seasons). Then I switched over to a family drama, Drop Dead Gorgeous. Middle class girl scouted by a modeling agency and a social-climbing stage mom is born in the process. Fun show with a bit of culture shock as a bonus.

Finally. I wandered over to Amazon and saw they had The White Queen (Starz miniseries) available as part of Prime Instant Video. Back to the royals, this time pre-Tudor. It got very good reviews from another blogger, and it’s definitely worth the watch. I love costume drama and this one is populated by incredibly strong women. It was a little more like The Tudors than Reign, but not a bad addition to the collection. Only 10 episodes, it can easily be binged in a weekend (as I did).

Handmade in January

I completed one scarf,

This is the Scallop scarf from One Skein Wonders... and I now know how to knit a decent fishing net... life skills!

This is the Scallop scarf from One Skein Wonders… and I now know how to knit a decent fishing net… life skills!

technically completed a cross-stitch stitch-a-long with some online friends (I’m adding to the pattern, so it’s not quiet done to my liking just yet, but close!),

The pattern is from etsy seller ___ but I changed the color scheme and the top element from a sun to a moon.

The pattern is from etsy seller TinyBoxesDesigns but I changed the color scheme to one that would work better on the blue background fabric I already had in my stash, and changed the top element from a sun to a moon to make more visual sense (to me).


and two design team projects: one for Helmar (that went up on their blog yesterday)


I puffy heart love these puffy hearts :)

I puffy heart love these puffy hearts 🙂

and one for the revived Gauche Alchemy (which will post tomorrow). There was also work done on the beds for the dolly-dorm (a lot of little snips with my wire-cutters, not a lot to actually show for the blister it earned me) and some bits and pieces of other projects that aren’t quite ready for prime time just yet.

One other fun thing of note from last month was our Cloak and Banner craft day. We were planning to go to a Renn Faire in Gainesville at the end of the month (preempted by me getting sick, boo!) which led to Mary proposing we make banners/standards that could, supposedly, be worn as a small cape. We all went with the banner theme in our own way and I, of course, decided a house banner was most appropriate for me.

The Gingerbread Dollhouse. Still very much a work in progress, but not bad so far!

The Gingerbread Dollhouse standard. Still very much a work in progress (and with admittedly questionable perspective going on there), but not bad so far!

Work on the store plans continue (more on that in another post) and we’re finally working on house stuff again (posts forthcoming).

Got any achievements to share from last month?