Crafternoon: Winter Knitting

Crafternoon: Winter Knitting

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I was reminded of my love for knitting during a girls’ weekend in St. Louis.  Both of my friends had adorable knitting projects for their babies and I thought about how much I love the soothing sounds of clicking knitting needles and the benefits of having something to do with my hands after dinner to help me stop snacking on holiday M&Ms.

I can really only make scarves, but I have made some real winners!  I made a scarf for T when we first started dating and I didn’t buy enough yarn and quickly ran out, leaving a tiny half scarf.  He said it was perfect, which was sweet.  I have a scarf that I wear almost every day in the winter that gets me compliments every now and again, most recently at an art museum which felt extra nice!

So after my St. Louis inspiration, I was reading Krysten Ritter’s interview in Women’s Health (librarian plug: read your magazines for free using your library’s eMagazine services! Lots of libraries subscribe to services like this!).  She talked about how much she loves to knit and that she creates patterns for the company We Are Knitters and I thought, this is a sign!

I went to the website and ordered a couple of kits.  I like taking the guesswork out of what needles I should get, or what kind of yarn will work.  I also like the helpful videos and modern designs!  A lot of them are easy too, or at least that is the promise!  I have been loving these crafternoons and crafterevenings, working on a purple scarf while watching reruns of The Office, I can’t say I have slowed down on the M&Ms though!

(img by T)

 

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Top 5: Newbery winners

Top 5: Newbery winners

Hello there!

I want to start making some quick top five lists and thought I’d start with Newbery winners since they are on my mind!

We started Nerdbery this week at school, which is where the school tries to work together and read all of the Newbery winners going back 50 years.  I am excited because the kids are exited!  Half of the books are already checked out.  Here are my favorites:

 

One of the many reasons why I love doing this challenge is that it forces me to go outside of my reading bubble and try something new.  I have been on the record many times saying that I have a heart of stone when it comes to books about animals.  I have never really been into them, but Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and The One and Only Ivan are two books that made me change my tune and I would have never read them without this challenge!

From the Mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Westing Game are both classics that I have loved since childhood.  Probably because of the smart and young heroines!

The Crossover is my newest fave.  Kwame Alexander is an artist and his debut novel is perfection.  It has gotten so many kids through the library doors excited about books and reading because of this book and for that, I give him all of the awards!

 

fuzzy mud

fuzzy mud

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I really liked Louis Sachar’s book Fuzzy Mud.  It is about a couple of kids who cut through the woods near their school in an effort to avoid a bully.  They find something that is way more trouble than a fight with a kid at school.  What I took from this book was that the problems that you think you have now could be much much worse.  And when you are faced with something catastrophic, the daily things that bother you fall away.  Rivalries that you have with people, fears you might have about your friends liking you or not, don’t mean anything when your community is truly threatened.  Some heavy stuff!  But Sachar’s books are always approachable and enjoyable for readers.

 

 

noras

noras

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I like to collect Nora Roberts novels whenever I am at library book sales or used book stores.  I completed a couple of series thanks to a book stall in a market in New Orleans, and actually read a series while road tripping all summer.

Nora’s Bride Quartet has been a favorite of mine since their publication in 2009 (missing in the picture above is Vision in White, the first in the series).  It is a modern series following life long friends who go into business together planning weddings.  I think I love it so much because it reminds me of a grown up baby sitters club, even taking the time to describe what all of the characters is wearing.

This series is peak romance, and perfect for long road trips.  But only if you are into sugary-sweet romance!

BKLST: Books about Reading!

BKLST: Books about Reading!

Here are some of my favorite picture books that are all about reading picture books!

Lola Loves Stories is about how a book can inspire your imagination!  Lola reads a book with her mom or dad and the next day she pretends to be the characters in the books that she loves!  My favorite part is when she reads a book about friendship and then meet up with her friend Ben for cappuccinos!

How to Read a Story is a step by step guide on how to enjoy a great story.  The book covers important steps like finding a great book, a perfect reading spot and someone to read with!

Duncan the Story Dragon is a great book written by a local author, who has visited my school library! Duncan is a dragon that loves to read, so much that his excitement causes him to breathe fire which as you can imagine is terrible for books! I read this one as an introduction to taking care of books.

The Book With No Pictures  has truth in advertising, there are no pictures and shows kids a book can be just as entertaining without illustrations.  Preschoolers often request this one because of the hilarious things that it makes the reader say!

grown woman reads: spring

grown woman reads: spring

I read so many books for kids and teens during the school year, so summer is my go to time to catch up on fiction for adults.  Here are my most recent favorites:

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What Alice Forgot is by Australian author Liane Moriarty and was a pick for my book club this Spring.  We wanted something lighter after reading a book about suicide and depression. Many of us had seen HBO’s mini series Big Little Lies and wanted more from Moriarty so we went with this one.  It is about a woman who is about to turn 40 and falls off her bike in spin class, hitting her head. She wakes up thinking that she is 29, happily married, and about to have her first child.  In reality she is divorcing, has three kids, and looks a lot like the suburban moms that she vowed to never become.

It is a great premise and made me think about how much a person’s life changes in a decade.  Not just your appearance but your attitude, friendships and desires.   There is an feeling that it is a negative thing for a person to grow and change and what I liked about this book is that while it spent a lot of time being dismissive towards Alice’s growth, we get a satisfying part (for me at least) when you are able to explore how life changes over the course of 10 years.  The book gives you a chance to see all of the sides of the story and you learn that there really is no “good guy” or “bad guy.” In normal life, that usually doesn’t happen, does it?  No one sets out to be a monster, problems occur when you decide that the other person has become one.   Sounds a bit heavy, but don’t worry, it is a great beach read!

 

homegowing

I had Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi on my list to read for MONTHS but couldn’t get it at the library (too many holds) so I finally broke down and bought it on Amazon.  I know! I never buy books, but this was worth it.

Homegoing is a beautiful debut book that follows a family though many generations, starting in the late 18th century in the Gold Coast (now Ghana).   The first two chapters follow half sisters that have never met.  Effia marries James Collins, a British governor at Cape Coast Castle, her sister Esi is captures and sold into slavery in America.  The following chapters follow the children in the generations that follow.

I saw this book more as a collection of short stories, at the start of each chapter you find yourself dropped into a new world and just as you get your bearings the story stops and you move on to the next person.  You don’t have time to mourn the end of one story because you are immediately wrapped up in the next experience.   I found that I had to stop at two stories at a time.  First because the book is so beautifully written that I didn’t want it to end.  And second because it moves so fast that I needed to pause to take in what I was reading.

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When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher bought me a copy of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.  This was after I told her how much I liked the film version.  She shook her head and said, as soon as you read the book you’ll hate the movie.  A few days later there was a copy on my desk.  That book was a life changer, so whenever I see a new book by Allende, I read it.  Its never as good as House of the Spirits (and my teacher was right, I hate the movie now.  I mean, for the whitewashing alone! You want to tell me that Jeremy Irons is the best person you could find to play Esteban Trueba???) but it is always enjoyable.

The Japanese Lover is the story of two women.  Alma, a Polish Jewish girl, is sent to live with her distant relatives in San Francisco at the dawn of World War Two. She eventually falls in love with Ichimei, the son of her family’s Japanese gardener.  The two are torn apart during the war, Ichimei and his family are sent to an internment camp in Utah.  Throughout their lives, they reunite many times but can never stay together.  Irina is a young Moldovan immigrant who works in the nursing home that Alma now resides. They form a close bond and with the help of Alma’s grandson, Seth, she starts to uncover Alma’s past, while trying to hide from her own.

There are a lot of twists in this book and unfolds slowly, bringing you to a very satisfying ending.  What I love about Isabel Allende is how much she loves her characters, each person gets a deep dive so that you feel like you really know them.  This holds true in Japanese Lover.  I think this book got mixed reviews for having  too much going on in the story (Japanese internment, the birth of Israel, human trafficking, AIDS) and because of this, the settings feel unbelievable and rushed.  To me it shows were Allende’s loyalty lies, with the people.  I ended up caring for them even if the world they live in feels a bit incomplete.

all the bright places

all the bright places

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What is up with YA books and how sad they are?? This is not a new thing of course.  I remember girls loving Lurlene McDaniel books when I was in middle school and high school.  Anyone remember the book Don’t Die My Love?  Back then the books were a little more obvious when pulling on our heartstrings.  Maybe it has something to do with teens wanting to feel all the emotions, deeply, but these kind of books have always been very popular

All the bright places by Jennifer Niven was requested by a 7th grade student and then recommend strongly to me by an 8th grade student (“I read this in a day, Ms. Serrano!!”).  Well it took me longer to read than a day, but it was fast, funny and heartbreaking.

The book starts with Finch, an outsider with a bad reputation standing on the top of his school’s bell tower considering jumping but then changes his mind, thinking of the mess he’d leave behind.  He turns to see Violet, a girl in his grade who just lost her sister in a car accident on the ledge and talks her down.  This starts an unlikely partnership (looking for off the beaten path curiosities in Indiana) that becomes a life changing love.  And then, you know, tears.  Lots of tears.  It touches (maybe too lightly?) on mental illness (bipolar disorder), grief and loss and first love.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book.  First, it took place in Indiana, my second home. There is even a Crawfordsville shout out (C’ville is where I went to high school):

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Finch and Violet and beautifully written and you care about both of them.  The relationships feel realistic.  Although I don’t know if teenagers talk on Facebook very much any more.  One downside that I’ve read in reviews is that there are no consequences for the bulling that Finch faces at school, mainly due to his mental illness.  And I don’t know how realistic that is.  And that it romanticizes mental illness and suicide.  I can see that but I can also see how this is a starting point for healing and understanding for teens.  So, maybe mixed review?

I love reading YA books, the only problem is that now that I am 33 I am way more likely to take the parents’ side.  I kept on yelling “Violet talk to your mother!!!!”

After this and Wolf Hollow I need to read something lighter!  Next on the docket is The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende, so that is not likely!!