Archive for January, 2011

31st January
2011
written by Steph

"Oh my God!"

If The Catcher in the Rye is considered required reading for teens in high school, then I definitely think that A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole should be required reading for those at college and university. It’s not that Dunces’ central character (and some (where some = me) might argue, the titular character as well) is what Holden Caulfield would be at age 30, because truthfully there is only one Ignatius J. Reilly (and that’s a good thing)! But as I read through Dunces, I kept thinking that for all of its absurd twists and outlandish moments, there is a part of it that very much deals with being out in the real world and figuring out what to do with your time and yourself, and just making it through all of the bizarre curve balls life (or, as Ignatius would claim, Fortuna) has a way of throwing at you. (more…)
28th January
2011
written by Steph

When I read and reviewed Room by Emma Donoghue late last year, I really didn’t like it. Part of me was rather surprised that the book had received such acclaim because I found the majority of its narrative rather superficial and lacking in real depth. Many readers who did enjoy Room thoughtfully responded to my crankiness by saying that my expectations had perhaps not been quite correct going into the book, as they had not necessarily approached it as a literary novel, but one that was a fast-paced page-turner. Perhaps if I too had gone into Room expecting something more straightforward I would have liked it more… When I picked up Child 44, I recalled some of the reviews I had read about it when it was first released, and even though it was short-listed for the Booker Award in 2008, I decided to approach it as a standard thriller and put aside expectations of it having to transcend that genre or having an obvious literary quality to its writing. (more…)
23rd January
2011
written by Steph

One of the things that I've discovered about my new knitting obsession is that I tend to make far more things for others than I do for myself. Hardly seems fair, though I must admit, I do really just enjoy the process of creating and while the end result is rewarding, it's always nice to give something homemade to another person and watch their face light up. Still, I figure it's only right that I should reap the rewards of my new hobby every so often, so one of my first projects of 2011 was to knit a pair of fingerless gloves for myself. My office at school is generally freakishly cold, so I plan to make good use of these, as they'll keep my hands warm while I type. Not to mention they're a pretty awesome fashion statement as well!

Spirit fingers!

Time for the close up!

This was probably the most difficult pattern that I've tackled to date, simply because of the intricacy of the "lace" patterning to create the fish scale motif. I learned the benefit of using a "lifeline" with lace knitting, and on my first attempt, I probably had to unravel the glove three times before I was able to get the pattern down. I'm super happy with the end result, however, so the hard work certainly paid off! I'd definitely be up for making another pair and/or making the socks that inspired the gloves in the first place! I'm not the only one parading about new threads, as Emmy recently found herself in possession of a new t-shirt. Snagged in the kids section of target, I love the look of this shirt on our little girl. If there's a dog who loves clothes, shopping, cupcakes, and BFFs more than Emmy, I've yet to meet her! There was a flouncy pink tutu style skirt that would have complemented this perfectly but I thought that might be going too far, so for now Emmy will have to settle for breaking hearts in a shirt alone!

Who's cuter than Emmy Lou? No one!

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20th January
2011
written by Steph
Apologies for the double post, but I couldn't contain myself! 'Tis the most wonderful time of the year, everyone! The time of year when The Morning News truly starts revving up for their annual Tournament of Books! The (incredibly) long list was released a while back, but today they finally announced what the 16 contenders vying for the top spot will be... Anxious to see this list? So was I! Here are your sweet sixteen: The first year I was aware of the ToB, I had read a grand total of ZERO books when the list was released. Last year, I had read two. This year? THREE! I've already read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Room, and Freedom. Of the remaining contenders, I have copies of : A Visit From the Goon Squad, Bloodroot, So Much for That, and Super Sad True Love Story. I would also like to read Skippy Dies at some point, and would maybe read The Finkler Question. I have not heard of (or if I have, I've since forgotten) Nox, Bad Marie, Lord of Misrule, Next, Model Home, Kapitoil, or Savages. I think this year promises some GREAT competition and I'll be anxious to see how things go when the tournament kicks off on March 7, 2011. Not sure how this will affect my TBR reading plans, as I've been trying to avoid the library as a well in a bid to read my own books. Then again, maybe it doesn't really matter that I haven't read all the entrants because what are the odds that Freedom isn't going to take this? Anyone placing bets? Who are you rooting for? [For the record, I'm not saying that I want Freedom to win, just that I think it will.]
20th January
2011
written by Steph

I recently interviewed Ron Reagan, son of America's 40th president, Ronald Reagan, about his recently released memoir, My Father at 100 over at BookPage. Anyone who knows me knows that politics aren't really my shtick, and certainly not American politics, so I was super nervous going into this interview. I am happy to report that it went swimmingly and that Ron Reagan is a wonderfully nice guy with a great sense of humor and the entire thing wound up being a complete blast! For those of you interested in reading a no-holds bar conversation on Reagan's thoughts on the current state of the nation and what his father was really like, you can read my interview here. It's chock full of lots of juicy tidbits and Reagan doesn't pussyfoot around controversial issues, so it's a pretty fun read if I do say so myself!
18th January
2011
written by Steph

Y’all, I have been waiting to talk about this book for soooo long. I think I first saw it posted on TLC tours sometime back in back in SEPTEMBER, so I’ve literally been sitting on this thing for months. Ok, fine, figuratively, since I haven’t in fact been perched on my galley copy of The Weird Sisters like a mother hen for three months, but it kind of feels like I have. I’ve been nursing a great secret, but now I can let it out: The Weird Sisters is a totally fab book and you must read it post haste. I was initially drawn to this book because of the Shakespearean connotation of the name (the weird sisters being the three witches in “Macbeth”). You know I love me the bard, so any book that alludes to the master of the English language is going to pique my interest. As I read the little blurb about the book, I realized the Shakespeare reference in the title was not mere coincidence but intentional, which thrilled me. Add to that the fact that book involves three sisters whose father is a professor of Shakespeare, and who all return home, beaten and bruised when disasters of various ilk strike, and I was sold. If this were a Cosmo quiz about books, my answer would say something to the effect of “If you chose mostly A’s: You are the kind of reader who loves books set in academia that are chocked full of literary references, and feature dysfunctional family drama to round things out.” If this also describes you, then The Weird Sisters is the book for you. (more…)
12th January
2011
written by Steph

First read of 2011

I feel like I’m in a bit of a reviewing slump. I’m picking up tons of great books but I’m not sure what to say about any of them. I’ve often said it can be harder to write something meaningful about books that really astound me and I think this might be an example of that very thing. As you know, 2011 is my year of reading from my own shelves, so I figured the best way to kick things off would be to pick up the book that has possibly lingered on those shelves for the longest. I think I’ve owned You Remind Me of Me for at least five years, though it certainly feels like longer. I remember picking it up in hardback off of a remainder table at the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, and I’m sure the sticker proclaiming it “seulement $9.99” was a large incentive (weird factoid about me: when I buy books that have price stickers on them, I NEVER remove these stickers until I’ve finished reading the book… I have no idea why this is the case, but without fail I always do this… hence how I still know how much I paid for this book…). I’m sure the premise of intermixed storylines of seemingly unrelated characters that eventually unite into a meaningful and breathtaking whole played some part, but dollars to donuts it was the price that really sealed the deal for me. I think the real question is why the heck it took me so long to read this book! (more…)
10th January
2011
written by Steph

Playing a bit of catch-up, The Wilding is the last book I need to review from 2010. I read the bulk of it while up in the winter wonderland that is Minnesota, which seemed like the perfect setting for a novel that is largely set in the great outdoors in the very heart of nature. I must admit that were it not for Indiespensible, I never would have heard of this book, never mind have picked it up, but this is why I love that program! It’s constantly exposing me to books that would otherwise fly under my radar or not immediately appeal. This was a ripping read, full of plenty of suspense and tension so I’m definitely glad I read it. (more…)
8th January
2011
written by Steph
Given my new obsession with knitting, I wound up whipping up a few winter wear items this past holiday season. Now that the gifts are given, I can finally reveal them to all of you! Ever since I started my new hobby, Tony has been begging me to make him a patterned hat (as well as a sweater, but I figured I would start with a hat because it's much smaller!). This is a traditional Norwegian fair isle design that I really liked, as did Tony, so after he picked out the wool he wanted, I got to work. I know it looks super complicated but it really wasn't that bad! It was actually a lot of fun to knit and allowed me to master two skills: knitting in the round on double-pointed needles (DPNs) and also multi-colored yarn work! Love how it turned out, though I did have to drop the hem around the brim a few more inches than the pattern called for because Tony has such a huge noggin! 😉

Looks complicated, doesn't it?

Next, I have an entrelac scarf using Noro yarn that I made for my mother-in-law. Unfortunately, I didn't manage my time well enough to get a picture of her wearing it (perhaps she will be kind enough to snap a picture with her new camera and send me one?), but you can see Rory modeling it! This is another pattern that is deceptively difficult in its appearance but fairly easy to knit up once you get a hand of short rows. Love the colors that Noro yarn comes in, and I'm now making a similar scarf for myself!

"It's my scarf, not yours!"

Finally, I had some left-over yarn from knitting up Emmy's sweater, so I made myself a quick, retro 1930's-esque French beret. It's very slouchy, but I gather that's rather on trend at the moment. Also, now when Emmy wears her sweater and I wear my hat, we will match! Yaaaay! 😉

Me... in a hat!

[I should also mention that I did make my father-in-law a pair of "glittens" (aka fingerless gloves that convert into mittens), but I also forgot to take any pictures of those (not even ones modeled by puppies). So I am going to ask him to also take some photos of himself modeling his new homemade knits so I can post them here on the blog.] Next up: I'm working on some fingerless gloves for me (one down, one to go!), and will be starting on a winter toque for my brother-in-law, Ben. Thankfully he's up in Minnesota, where I know he'll still need a warm hat for the next few months... I'm sure I can get it done before the snow thaws...
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6th January
2011
written by Steph
I have decided that 2011 is the year for funkiness.

New hair!

That is all. (Also, for those who didn't know, I now wear glasses! All the better to read books (and drive at night) with!)
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