Thursday, November 24, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

book review thursday

book review thursday This book was one of those that I put on my to-read list as a whim. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children appeared to be a spooky, horror story that was perfect for Halloween. Granted, I didn't get a chance to read it until well past the creepy season, but still. What this novel turned out to be was an entirely different matter.

The best way I can describe this is to compare it to other books. If you have (or are) a kid who loved the Spiderwick Chronicles, Inkheart, and other similar novels, I think it's a great book. If you're expecting something scary and chock full of surprises, then you might want to look elsewhere. I think this was a *great* book if you're looking for a 10-12 year old kid. The plot was interesting and engaging, the characters were easy to relate to, and the pictures really added an great depth. The plot, however, was a smidgen predictable, and the characters did echo a bit flat. The book wasn't terrifying (one of the reasons it took me so long to start it), but it was spooky enough to keep me entertained. Overall, however, I'd definitely recommend it. I wasn't quite the target audience for this book, but I know that there are plenty of people who are.

This review is short, but I think it suits the book. I pounded it down in maybe three hours. Easy to read, and entertaining. This is one that I would recommend getting a hard copy, as an audiobook wouldn't capture the great photographs that are included.

(4/5 stars)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard

book review thursday

book review thursday After thoroughly dragging out listening to A Red Herring Without Mustard, I finally finished it. This was the third in the Flavia De Luce mystery series, and was a thoroughly engaging read. While I didn't enjoy it as much as the first novel, it was still greatly entertaining.

For the good parts of this book. Flavia's character is fleshed out further. She is developing, albeit slowly, into maturity. Her sisters and father are also humanized. The novel seemed to emphasize Flavia's loneliness and the ill effects that isolation at Buckshore has on the family as a whole. While Flavia's father has always been a distant figure, his utter disengagement from the rest of the family was felt more fully with this novel. The sub-plot of the portrait of the girls really served to emphasize how distant he had previously been, while hinting at the possibility of his becoming re-engaged with the rest of the family. Ophelia and Daphne also showed more rounded characters as well. While their harsh treatment of their sister has only grown worse as the novels go on, it wasn't until this novel that their own desperation to escape their isolated life emerged. Ophelia's attempts to escape are demonstrated with her flirtations, whereas Daphne buries herself in her books. I particularly enjoyed Flavia's explanation of the truce she and Daphne sometimes engaged in.

One criticism I've read about the sisters is that their cruel behavior is unlikely. Personally, I disagree with that statement. I'm quite a bit older than my own sister (nine years) and even though I know that I should behave more maturely, there are times when I wind up in horrible fights and say things as immature and hurtful as in the books. That sort of thing is natural among siblings. Even though my sister and I get along quite well the majority of the time, we both know the best ways to annoy and hurt each other.

Anyways, I particularly enjoyed the addition of Porcelain's character. While I still have many questions about her- like how old she was, how she was living in London by herself, and why she wasn't living with her grandmother if she was young enough to have such an equal relationship with Flavia- her addition really helped the author further drive Flavia's loneliness home. While I had noticed that Flavia personified her bicycle, it didn't really get driven home how desperate Flavia was for a friend. Her daydreams about being invited to tea with Antigone and her husband demonstrated how desperate Flavia is for a loving, engaged family.

It was, overall, a depressing read. I'm anxious to listen to the next book, as I'm hoping it will involve a more engaged home-life for Flavia, and a bit more happiness.

As for the bad parts of the novel, I have only one real criticism. The plot was very drawn out, and there were points where I grew frustrated because I figured out answers chapters before Flavia did.

(Really Flavia? You couldn't figure out why your fire-dogs went missing and then later reappeared coupled with Brookie's mysterious appearance in your house?)

The conclusion, however, wasn't spelled out. It was unexpected enough to still be enjoyable. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I'm quite anxious to read the next in the series.

(4/5 stars)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Potions Class

finished object friday

Again, this is a project that I've already posted photos of, but not a description.


I've had the gruesome knitted eyeballs on my to-knit list for a while now. When it became available for download, rather than needing to email the designer, I seized on the opportunity to knit these for my Halloween decorations.


Again, I knit these up with scraps from Monkey's grandmother. They were super quick, super easy, and stuffed with plastic grocery sacks (I was not about to go out and buy stuffing for something that will only get use one month out of the year). Definitely a project worth doing. I snagged the vase from the Dollar Tree. I had originally wanted a giant glass jar to make it look more like ingredients for a potion, but resigned myself to a vase when I decided that giant glass jars are not worth their price for a project like this.

Overall, I'm happy with how they came out. Plus, they're hard enough that I can pelt them at Monkey whenever he's being a pain in the neck.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Discovery of Witches

book review thursday

book review thursday A Discovery of Witches is a perfect example of not judging books by their cover. I stumbled across the novel when I was setting up an account on goodreads (something I'm still exploring). The cover, and title, immediately drew me in. Based on the description of the plot, I got the impression that this was a novel similar to The Historian. While reading it, I decided that it did remind me of The Historian- but not the pleasant aspects of it. The boring descriptions, the initial sense of removal from the characters, and the precocious nature of the author all are the same.

After reading the author's blurb on goodreads, I decided that this desire to seem intelligence isn't my imagination. The author has virtually placed herself in the novel with a vampire boyfriend. The author and main characters were at one point in time theater majors before they changed to history, then finally settling on a history of sciences, and finally, a college professor. While I think that all authors put aspects of themselves into what they write, this was a bit disturbing. It's almost like reading the author's personal fantasies. What the book reminded me of the most, unfortunately, is the Twilight saga, with the addition of desperation to seem smart. Overall, it was less than engaging.

You're thrown into this alternate world without any senblence of preamble, and even after finishing the book, I was still incredibly confused as to what the hell a daemon even was. There was no real explanation of any of the creatures powers, other than in Diana's brief, sycophantic conversations with her boy toy. At least in the Twilight saga you know the depths of the world that Stephanie Meyer has created. I just wound up confused while reading this. It's almost as if the author starts to explain, and then veers off in another direction whenever she gets close to hashing out this alternate universe. This is particularly frustrating as the very definition of the creatures is an essential plot point.

Yet another irritating portion of the book was the constant references to the main character's overabundance of adrenaline. Of course, this is supposed to make her extra-tasty to her dangerous yet caring vampire boy toy, but all it made me wonder was how the hell she would have survived thirty something years without keeling over from all of those ridiculous hormones. I may not be a scientist, or a doctor, but even I know that running around isn't going to alleviate a hormonal imbalance of that magnitude. The least the author could have done is put her on some damned medication.

The author also devolves into boring ramblings about topics which do not move the novel forward in the least bit. There are frequent lengthy descriptions of food, meditation, and other off topic subjects that do not serve to move the plot forward, develop the world, or explain the characters. They seem to be only there for the author to fill up space and drool over wine she wishes to drink.

I repeat, this book is worse than Twilight. At least Twilight had the decency to admit it was romantic drivel. The series was specifically for fluff and enjoyment. This book attempts to demonstrate intense intelligence, but ended up with the same end. Ridiculous relationships that are hardly realistic or healthy. Why does every vampire have to go through the "I'm so dangerous, get away!" stage. And why do the women always have to give in to whatever demands their boy toy is making without a fight, all while claiming to be independent women? Diana starts out admirable, but ends as a miserable, pathetic mess that only cares about her "speshul snowflake" love with Matthew. Edward, and Matthew both act without any consideration towards their significant others thoughts or feelings. It's an incredibly chauvinistic view, and something that I find appalling in this day and age. When I read romances like that, I have zero empathy, and the authors lose my interest completely. "Oh yeah, btw, we're married now. You don't get a say in this!" Yeah, no.

To top it all off, the book ends without and sense of resolution. The plot was rather lacking to begin with- it was often difficult to realize that something happened other than Diana drooling over Matthew, so when there was no even attempt at a wrap up, I liked the book even less. While I understand the urge for cliffhangers, there's still a way to engage that tactic and still give consolation to the readers. Overall, definitely not my first choice. I think this would be great for the 13 and 14 year old girls who are at that peak age of know-it-all attitude once they've tackled Twilight. I just wish this novel had been more clear about it's role. It's fluff, nothing more than that, and it greatly disappointed me that it tried to me something else. I'm not against fluff for fluff's sake, or Twilight for that matter. I think they have their time and place. This just didn't cut it for me as anything more than, well, silly fantasies.

The only thing I can credit the author for was that I was actually interested in what was going on with the world she created. I still want to know the answers to the various mysteries that the author introduced at the very beginning of the novel that got shoved aside when Diana found her "true love". It was a really interesting concept that got lost in the paranormal romance genre, which is disappointing to say the least.

(2/5 stars)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And on the first day of Christmas...


Okay, it does feel wrong to be writing about Christmas before it's even Thanksgiving. My inner holiday purist is going crazy. But, if I post every day, I might be more accountable and won't wind up knitting forty nine mittens on Christmas Eve.

That would be bad. Especially when you consider I'm also planning on knitting my sister a present. You know, if I ever actually get to it...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A mitten a day keeps the doctor away

Christmas is almost as big of a deal in my family as Halloween is. The only reason I think it isn't is because my birthday is the day before Halloween and my father's is the day of. Still, every year, our Christmas decorations get larger and larger.

My mom has become a fan of the rustic decor. She bounces between rustic-farm and rustic-beach. Our kitchen is covered with roosters on almost every surface, whereas there are seashells and palm trees scattered about everywhere else. This decor obsession also reaches the Christmas decorations. Since my father is in charge of the outside, my mom takes over the inside. Essentially every nook and cranny is stuffed to the brim with decorations.

This year, my mom keeps hinting that she wants some knitted items. It began with seeing an add for hand-knit stocking ornaments and has only increased from there. I have quite a few random holiday patterns in my queue, and this year, I decided it was time for the mittens.


My goal is to knit one mitten a day for fifty days preceding Christmas, which starts November fifth. I'll be using the knitpicks' Smitten pattern, using the red white and green worsted weight scraps of yarn. I'm thinking that after I come home, I'll play "hide the mitten" with my mom and see how long it takes her to notice the random decorations that pop up.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pumpkin Chunks

finished object friday

So I've already let the photos of this week's FO Friday slip, but I didn't explain them. One of my favorite places for inspiration on Ravelry is my friends feed. MissCookie in particular is utterly fabulous for giving me the bug to make toys. So when her Halloween themed monster chunks came into my line of sight, I knew I had to make them.


My Pumpkin Chunks are based on Rebecca Danger's Monster Chunk pattern, except I followed the trend of knitting them in one piece. I used safety eyes because, well, I think they're adorable, and a nice zig zag stitched mouth just for ease.


The first chunk is knit up with RHSS from Monkey's grandmother, and the second is knit out of random chunky acrylic, also from his grandmother. I vastly prefer the look of the first. It's kind of amazing that there is worse quality yarn than RHSS, but there you go. I finished both within an afternoon, and I suspect that next year, they'll multiply.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Help

book review thursday

book review thursday Talk about a book you just can't put down! The Help has been sweeping all sorts of book clubs and bestseller lists for a while now. I have to admit, I had absolutely zero interest until I saw the movie trailer. After that, I was intrigued by the fact it seemed to be more humorous than serious. I had almost forgotten about it by the time it popped up as available for me from my library, but five minutes in, I was hooked.

I normally absolutely abhor books that have some sort of propaganda or underlying message throughout. Not only are they usually incredibly boring, but they also have a tendency to be insanely preachy. This book, wasn't. It was funny, lighthearted, and heartwarming, and still addressed the difficult topic, all without falling into a lecturing tone. I didn't end the book feeling as though I should be filled with guilty, rather, I felt entertained, and grateful that the topic was brought up in my mind.

I'm not even going to pretend that race has ever been at the forefront of my mind. While I did grow up in a predominantly white town, throughout the years, I've had just as many, if not more non-white friends than white. I just never really noticed it- it took me until I was thirteen years old to realize that my best friend since the age of eight was Asian. It took me even longer to realize she was Buddhist, even though she had a shrine in the house I spent every weekend in.

Observant, I am not.

I'm just so tired of books that set out to make you feel guilty. I'm tired of novels that have a message. Don't cheat on your husband, you'll die a miserable death. Don't pick on the unpopular kids, you'll wind up a loser later in life. Don't be jealous of your best friend, they'll wind up dying and you'll feel guilty. And so on. This book managed to avoid that pitfall by being a story about women. It wasn't really a story about the treatment discrepancies, it was about these women and their lives. It was thoroughly engaging, and I kept laughing out loud and crying as the scenes changed. I was utterly wrapped up in the characters lives as soon as they were introduced. They all had personality depths that brought them from a cliche to a dynamic character.

I do think that I would have liked this book less if I had actually read it, rather than listen to it. The narrators of the audiobook were absolutely fabulous, and now I keep catching myself let out my little southern twang the way I do after talking to someone with a serious accent. The majority of the book was written in dialect, and that would have frustrated me to no end having to actually see it, but listening to it wasn't bad at all. It added an additional level to the characters that just pulled me into their stories further.

The one small criticism that I have for this book is that Minny and Celia were by far more enthralling than Aibileen and Skeeter, yet they had drastically smaller parts in the book. Celia's struggles of trying so hard to fit in, and yet still remaining an outsider really stuck with me. When the scene came up where she lost her baby, I was alternating between hysterical sobs as that is my greatest fear ever and horrified laughter at Minny's reactions. Minny was a breath of fresh air in the novel whenever Aibileen and Skeeter grew too sentimental and idealistic. Her frank humor brought the novel to a new level, and her final decision that forced her to grow as a character at the end made my chest hurt with sadness at what she had been through. I only wish that Celia's storyline was finished properly. While the ending with Johnny was meaningful, I think she could have brought yet another dimension to the novel if she had been given a greater part- especially countered with Minny's descriptions of her and her actions.

All in all, I absolutely adored this book. It's definitely one of those that sticks with you for a while. It probably didn't hurt that I wound up listening to it essentially all of yesterday and last night (and a good portion of today as well... did I mention that it only took me two days to finish?). I really, truly enjoyed it and was sad to see it end, but I know I'll be reflecting on it for weeks to come.

(5/5 stars)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Decor: Part Two

Yesterday, I showed off my own Halloween decorations. Now I'm about to put them to shame with a few from my parents house.

These photos suck and don't give justice to what the house looks like. The garage was closed off because my dad was still rearranging when I took the photos, so you don't get to see it from the front. The garage is the biggest part of our decorations, so it was a big disappointment that I didn't get a chance to take proper photos.


First off, a photo of what it looks like from far away. On the right, you can see a bit of the blow ups. There are about six on that side of the house, and they continue around the bend of the cul-de-sac and into the yard of the house across the street.

The black blobs on the center peak and the far right peak are a giant demon and a giant vampire. My dad opens the garage door and strings cobwebs (and a kind of rope netting) across so no one can get at the decorations.


A peak at what is behind the garage doors...


And more...


You can only really see about two thirds of the decorations in these photos, and almost all of them talk and move. Every year, my parents add more decorations, and every year, they get more and more visitors on Halloween. People will pour out of cars.

Like I've mentioned before, it's my dad's birthday (his 50th this year!), so of course he has to make it special.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Decor: Part One

As I've mentioned before, Halloween is absolutely huge in my family. This is the first year that I didn't get to spend it with them (I did see them that morning, but I had to leave around 7AM), so I did my best to cheer up my own little place. There wasn't much, but it's enough to make me happy. There's also a few sneak peeks at some FOs as well! Later, I'll show the few photos I did get of my parents place...


I used this tutorial, which I stumbled across on pinterest. I made this while listening to Storm Front- a fitting background, I think.


Our TV got the cobweb treatment.


And I made a pumpkin chunk.


And then our arm chair, which no one uses, became home for spiderwebs.


Our side table needed a little Halloween treatment, so I made another pumpkin chunk.


And finally, some eyeballs for potions!