Sunday, December 31, 2017

December 2017 in Books

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker - science fiction - four stars - Kind of a cool premise.  The earth has suddenly stopped turning as quickly, so a day is now longer than a day and it continues to slow.  What happens?  Do you live by the clock or by the sun?  Add to this the fact that the main character Julia is just starting to come of age (she's 11) and a really interesting look at how the changes affect her family, her social life, and all of society.

Ragweed (Tales of Dimwood Forest, #0) - Avi - juvenile fiction - three stars - One of Ellie's battle books, this one was just OK for me and mostly for a very shallow reason.  The story itself is good.  A mouse goes on a journey to see the world, ends up in a town where there is cat who wants to annihilate the mouse population, good overcomes evil, etc.  But what I couldn't get past is the fact that half the mice were talking in a skater/surfer dude fashion.  It was totally distracting to me and really took away from the story.  Of course the book is for kids and I'm sure they won't mind.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop - Veronica Henry - fiction - four stars - I love books about bookstores.  This one starts when Emilia returns home as her father, who owns the bookstore, is deathly ill.  He dies and she's left with the bookstore and a great deal of grief.  She quickly discovers how vital the store is to the community as well as the fact that it's in quite a good bit of debt.  As she struggles to decide what to do, she becomes involved in the lives of the patrons.  I like that the author includes the backstory of her father and how he came to own the bookstore.  It's just a general feel good book with happy endings all around.  

Mikey and Me: Life with My Exceptional Sister
- Teresa Sullivan - biography - four stars - The author's sister was severely handicapped, she thinks due to being born extremely prematurely and being given too much oxygen at the time.  She tells about how the family adapted and coped with Mikey's illness, they worked hard to achieve as normal a life as possible, going on vacations and to restaurants, etc.  As her sister grew older this was more difficult as she grew too strong to control safely, and they struggled with the decision to institutionalize her.  It was really fascinating reading, I was not as interested in the sections specifically about the author's life as she struggled with drugs, unhealthy relationships, etc., but it was a really revealing book about how the disability affected the family and their function.

The Red Notebook - Antonie Laurain - fiction - five stars - I love this one!  Just a little gem of the book, it's very short, but a wonderful little story.  A man find's a woman's purse and goes through the contents in an attempt to return it.  It's a puzzle as all clearly identifying information (credit cards, ID, etc.) are missing, but he eventually identifies her, falling in love in the process.  

A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles - fiction - five stars - Another winner.  The book starts with the trial Count Alexander Rostov.  As a tsarist, he should be sentenced to death, but because of a poem he wrote years ago that inspired many in the revolution, his life is spared, but he is condemned to live in the Metropol hotel for the remainder of his life.  It's a lovely story of how he finds friendship with those living in and working at the hotel, and betters their lives as well as his own.  I was totally engrossed in this one and I loved how everything came together in the end.

Worlds Collide (The Land of Stories, #6) - Chris Colfer - juvenile fiction - four stars - The conclusion of the Land of Stories series that Ellie and I were reading last year.  It was a good conclusion to the series.  I don't know that the last books were as good as the first few, but it did a good job of wrapping up the story line as well as lettering the reader know about what happened to Connor and Alex in the future.

The Sun Is Also a Star
- Nicola Yoon - juvenile fiction - five stars - The story of a day in the life of an unlikely couple: Natasha, who is due to be deported that day, and Daniel, who is heading to a college interview.  They meet by chance and end up spending the day together as Daniel tries to get her to fall in love with him and she makes a last ditch effort to stay the deportation.  The story is told by the various vantage points of both the main characters as well as some ancillary characters which allows you to see the thought process of each of the characters.  The story deals very much with the idea of cause and effect, actions and consequences.  I couldn't put it down.

An English Governess in the Great War: The Secret Brussels Diary of Mary Thorp - Sophie De Schaepdrijver - non-fiction - four stars - I need to caveat this book by saying that I read it off and on over the course of a month.  If you want to read it cover to cover like a story you'll die trying.  I gave it four stars because I found it a really fascinating look at life during WWI.  I read a lot about WWII, and would love to read more about WWI, but there's just not as much out there (if you have good WWI books to recommend, please let me know!).  This is really source material.  It's a rather dry accounting of events, but there are so many interesting nuggets buried in there.  Mary Thorp is living in German occupied Belgium, among the mundane things she logs are the price of various items and how they differ from before the war, how hard it is to get various good, things that the Germans are requisitioning and how often they come looking for various items - brass, horses, mattress stuffing, etc., how hard it was to get mail and packages through, and updates on fighting/bombing.  In fact it was rather courageous of her to keep the diary as others were jailed for doing so.  So while it's not one of those books you'll fly through, it's an excellent primary source regarding WWI.

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic - Darby Penney, Peter Stastny, Lisa Rinzler - non-fiction - five stars - Ever since I read Ellen Marie Wiseman's book What She Left Behind I have been wanting to read this book as she references it in hers.  Problem was, they don't have it at my library.  I finally broke down and ordered it from Amazon and I'm so glad I did.  It's a really fascinating look at the lives of a number of inmates from Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane which operated from 1870 to 1995.  When it was closed they discovered hundreds of suitcases in an attic.  When patients arrived, their suitcases were stored there (they were not allowed to have much with them in the wards) and most were never claimed after their deaths.  They are fascinating little time capsules of the lives of the individuals.  The suitcases became the focus of a photography project which in turn became a traveling exhibition.  This book explores the stories of a number of the patients, their histories, how they came to Willard, and what happened to them afterwards.  There are a lot of negative reviews on Goodreads about this book focusing on the discussion of mental health in the book.  Candidly, while I read those parts and I found them interesting, my five starts is basically about the stories of the individuals.  I love how the suitcases were the starting point of a mystery about the people that the authors needed to unravel.  From the stories that were told, clearly some people did have issues and needed help, but I did find it shocking how easily someone could end up there and not be able to get out, especially if they were foreign born and language was an issue. 

So that's it 2017 was full of some really wonderful reading, and I'm looking forward to 2018.  Trying to decide what to read next....I've got Before We Were Yours, Seven Days of Us, The Misfortune of Marion Palm, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane on my nightstand along with a couple of juvenile fiction books.  So many choices!  What have you read lately?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Favorite Projects of 2017

I have been WOEFULLY bad about blogging this month.  Life has been crazy busy but crazy good.  The run up to Christmas got pretty busy around here, but then life slowed waaaay down and we've really enjoyed time with family and friends over the past week. 

That said, I'm ready to get back in the swing of things and I've been working away on all sorts of good stuff, including the first Neat & Tangled release of the year coming to you next week!

In the mean time, I thought I would take a break and look back over this past year.  I tried to pick out just one project from each month, but there are a few where I couldn't choose.  Click on the photo to go to the original post:













That's all for me today.  Tomorrow I'll be sharing my December in Books post and then Monday we hit the ground running with the first day of the January Neat & Tangled release!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Big Christmas Sale at Ellen Hutson

Hey guys, just popping in to let you know about a big sale at Ellen Hutson.  Everything in the special Christmas category is 40% off!

I peeked in and some of my favorites are in there, both new (like items from last month's N&T Christmas release) and some of my older favorites.  Here are just a few of the cards I've made using items in the sale category:







I've linked products used below, as well as a few things that may or may not have ended up in my cart.  You'll want to hurry though, much of the category is down to single digits!