Friday, August 11, 2017

[Book Review] The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
EPUB Edition
Genre: Women's Fiction

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Nina McCarrick has it all: a loving husband, two beautiful boys, a well-appointed home and more time than she knows what to do with. Life is perfect. Until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

Part 2: Recommendation

Amanda Prowse does it again. This is the second book of hers that I've read, thanks to Net Galley and it's powerful… emotional… triumphant even. I want to read more about Nina, Tiggy, Connor and Declan, Gilly and the girls.

The plot is simple but emotionally charged beginning with Finn's death and discovering the financial difficulty they are all in. Nina's reaction to everything was believable and readers can't help but cheer her on as she tries to put the remaining pieces of their lives together in a less posh neighborhood aka the life she's known before Finn. I love that there's more to Connor than the usual teen angst and its lovely to see both boys grow into people with character and integrity and kindness. I feel that the boys from Kings Norton College could definitely learn and grow into. 

In the scene where Kathy Topps was asking Nina if Declan would like to join her son Henry for tennis lessons and saying that, "…they learn so much better when there's an element of competition in it, …" I quite agree with Nina when she thought, "… it's the worst way to teach things. Who needs that added pressure?" 

On p.15 the words "Oh no… That can't happen now. That won't happen again. There it was: the realization like a door slamming in her mind… bang!" resonated so much with me as my family is still grieving over the loss of my mother-in-law, and it does feel like that every time you thought of or do something and make a mental note to share that with your dearly departed loved ones, it does feel like a door slamming once you realize they're not physically there anymore. 

On p.25 when Connor asked Nina "That's nowhere near my school. It's on the other side of town. He was heading out of the city. He wasn't on his way to watch me play rugby, was he?" it adds to Mr. Monroe's supposition when he said, "And I hate to think that I am the one who might be shedding light on Finn's untimely death…"

On p.28 when Declan said to Nina and Tiggy, "…but I hope that people [when they die and go to heaven] get to have a rest, either because they are very old and tired or because they were very busy, like Dad" made me very sad and hopeful at the same time that when our time comes and we die, that we too get to rest and that we don't have any spiritual chores to do.

My heart was filled with both sadness for Nina and rage at Finn when I came across the note Finn left behind, "My Nina, Things are hard for me — I feel like I am living in a world made of glass and with every day comes a new pressure that is pushing down down down and I don't know what will break first, me or my world…" If only Finn was strong enough, brave enough to share this burden with Nina and the kids, maybe together they all will be able to find a way to fix it. But Finn broke first.

And my favorite lines from the book first appeared on p.85 when Nina remembered the words from her own mother upon receiving a glass marble, "This is a little world, Nina. And if ever the real world feels too big or too scary, remember that it is nothing more than a little ball traveling through space and it fits right into the palm of your hand and the more courage you have, the braver you are when facing it, the easier it is to conquer!" which was repeated at the end.

As always, Amanda Prowse, is a gifted storyteller and writer. Emotions leap out at you and grabs hold of you until the very end. A quick read and all the characters feel real. I love seeing Nina grow from a timid mousy character into a brave, confident woman with friends she actually enjoys. I enjoyed seeing Connor and Declan also grow from feeling entitled to learning and showing compassion and kindness to others. I love how Nina's relationship with her sister, Tiggy, grow warm and affectionate as sisters ought to be. It's not easy but you sure have to try, just like with any relationship.

If you like a well-written, emotionally charged book with a good ending and memorable characters, set in Bath and Southampton and marketed as Women's Fiction, you will not regret picking this one up. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

[Book Review] The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Audiobook Edition
Narrated by Steve West, Emma Bering and Cassandra Campbell
Genre: Fiction

Part 1: From The Book Cover

"There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies — I mean books — that were written for one person only… A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that's how I sell books."

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country's rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.

Part 2: Recommendation

I feel like I can't properly review books when I listen to audiobooks. Why? Because I can't take down notes and memorable quotes or lines from the audiobook version because my memory is not that great and I can't write or type fast enough and usually, I'm crocheting or working at my day job when I listen to audiobooks. But I will try my best here.

I finished this book last June 26, 2017 and a month later, I'm still not sure how I feel about this book enough to write a coherent review. By this time, I have listened to a lot of audiobooks and I do enjoy them especially when I'm driving for more than 30 minutes. This book was narrated by Steve West, Emma Bering and Cassandra Campbell and they were excellent. The book was well-written, the plot is a bit on the slow, relaxed and meandering pace and the two main male characters: Jean Perdu and Max Jordan, a young novelist are very realistic to me. Jean Perdu is a little sad character but you can see him change and finally move on while Max Jordan is a very adorable young man, always helpful despite his own issues. As for Perdu's greatest love, Manon, the chapters that are from her point of view, presented as journal entries never failed to startle me mainly because I just want to get back to Perdu's and Max's adventures and who they get to meet next. I honestly did not want to hear about Manon and as each of her journal entries came to light, the more I found her to be selfish, untrustworthy and definitely not worthy of Jean Perdu's undying love and devotion, even after Jean finally read her last letter to him. In my eyes, she was deemed unworthy of the good-hearted, literary apothecary. And here comes Catherine, Perdu's second chance at love and romance and she was portrayed as another broken-hearted woman, crying over how her ex-husband left her and that was the last thing that was mentioned about her before the great adventure and sure, Jean was constantly sending her a postcard from wherever port they ended up anchoring in but it's always been one-sided. We never get to picture Catherine growing and overcoming her heartache and divorce and we never knew what she was thinking and feeling every time she received a postcard from Jean. Even though she was brave in the end to go and be with Jean, in my head, she will always be that vision of a broken woman whose husband left her for another woman. I wish there was more to Catherine in this book other than that sad, crying image seared in my brain.

If you want a sweet, slow, meandering book and to savor it, and take your time with, this would be it.

Monday, July 31, 2017

It's Starting To Be Fun Again

It has been over 20 years since I last rode a bicycle and it has been about 3 years since the husband and I planned to get bicycles. For our 8th year wedding anniversary, instead of getting the traditional present made out of bronze or pottery, I thought the wheels of the bicycle could easily represent the number 8 but we wanted super low maintenance bicycles. We found two bicycle companies: Dynamic Bicycles based in the UK which uses a drive shaft system and Priority Bicycles based in New York City which uses a Gates Carbon Drive belt system and the NuVinci Infinity Shift Gear Hub, which is perfect for the hilly terrain of Colorado Springs. We were leaning towards Dynamic Bicycles but when we sent an email inquiry to both companies, Priority Bicycles responded within 2 hours (at that time, it was after their normal office hours) and when I replied back, they responded within 2 minutes. Let us just say that I was delighted with the customer service. So I looked up reviews and YouTube videos and it looks like it was easy to assemble the bicycle, practically zero maintenance on it and if the belt skips or the brakes need to be adjusted, it was pretty easy to fix/adjust them yourself and doesn't require a lot of time or expertise either and the bicycle ships with all the tools you will need. It took me awhile to decide between the Priority Coast in pink (of course) and the Priority Glide. The Glide won because of the NuVinci Infinity Shift Gear Hub, so I ordered that and I received it on June 12, 2017. I assembled it myself in about 50 minutes. My husband's Priority Continuum Onyx bicycle was on back order (that's how popular it is). 

The next day, I rode it around my neighborhood and fell onto the sidewalk and skinned my knees. My knees were bruised and swollen and it hurt, a lot. Two weeks later, I rode my bike again on June 30 and fell onto the sidewalk again and my knees were skinned, bruised and swollen again. I obviously need to re-learn how to balance, ride properly and brake properly. 

On July 3, my husband and his aunt helped me overcome my increasing nervousness around cycling and his aunt coached me on what I need to practice and work on. His aunt's husband gave us a really good suggestion to have me practice riding my bike at a baseball field that has a dirt in-field so it would be softer to land on then gradually move on to the asphalt vacant parking lot. That next weekend, my husband took me to his elementary school to practice. My husband also lowered the seat and handlebar to fit my size/reach better. The seat is a tad lower than normal but I haven't fallen off my bike since then so now it's starting to be fun again. I can't wait to get more strength in my legs so my husband and I can run errands riding our bicycles instead of driving our cars especially if the store is around our neighborhood like the grocery store. 

On July 24, my husband's Priority Continuum Onyx bicycle finally arrived after UPS botched the delivery (this is the 3rd time UPS botched various deliveries to our house) and we assembled it in about an hour and 10 minutes because of the extra front light and cable, front fender and rear light and it fits him just fine. We were worried about the inseam measurements for the bike as the bike's measurements was higher by 0.25 inches and we were worried it might be too tall for my husband but it turned out fine. I have to say, the Onyx looks gorgeous! But I love the fact that my Glide came with the water bottle cage. Wished the Onyx came with the water bottle cage too.

My Priority Glide Bicycle
image copyright by Priority Bicycles

My Husband's Priority Continuum Onyx Bicycle
image copyright by Priority Bicycles

On the writing side of things, I've finally finished chapter 5 of Helena and the Dragon, the third book in the Helena Meets Magic series at 20k+ words. I do need to kick it up a notch and write faster if I want to finish this book by October 2017. 

In the world of crochet, I unfortunately ran out of yarn for my Patons Kroy Socks Toe Up Socks and I think its a little too tight when I tried it on so I'm going to reach out to the resident sock expert at the Sock It To Me Ravelry forum to see if the tightness is normal or do I need to frog it. Wish me luck!

Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post

Currently Reading 
  • Destroyer of Worlds (ARKANE, #8) by J.F. Penn

Currently Writing

  • Chapter 6 of Helena and the Dragon - my computer screen aversion for writing drafts seems to have dissipated (for now). But I still have that notepad and pencil on hand in the event that I feel the urge to write with pencil and paper rather than type on a keyboard. I'm going to free write and brain dump using pencil and paper then switch to my MacBook Air to continue writing the first draft and see how that technique goes as I do want to be as efficient as possible when it comes to completing the first draft. 

Currently Crocheting

  • Patons Kroy Socks Toe Up Socks - Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn for the heel part. I finally tried it on but it doesn't seem to fit. It's too tight and only half of my foot could fit into the sock. I did manage to fit my foot all the way in but found that I need to frog it and work additional rows because the heel opening was quite off. Lesson learned, no matter what the pattern says, always try it on for size. I will get this eventually.

Product Reviews


Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

[Book Review] Growth And Change Are Highly Overrated by Tom Starita

My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Paperback Edition, 279 pages
Genre: Fiction, Humor & Satire

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated is a classic coming-of-age story that takes a unique and comic look at what we all fear—having to grow up and abandon our dreams.

For a charismatic man like Lucas James, life is a breeze because everyone else provides the wind. This man-child front man for a mediocre cover band has been mooching off of his fiancee Jackie for years until she finally decides she's had enough. Faced with the reality of having no income to support his carefree lifestyle, Lucas James abandons his principles and gets a job working in the stockroom at, "That Store." How does he cope with this new found sense of responsibility?

He casually steals…

In a life spent bucking authority how will Lucas James deal with his manager, 'Victor the Dictator'? How long can he survive Ralph, a starry-eyed coworker who desires nothing more than to be best friends? Will Lori, a twenty-something cashier, be like everyone else and fall for his charms? Will he ever find a place to live? And is "growing up" just another way of saying "selling out?"

Part 2: Recommendation

The narrative is written in a 1st person POV from Lucas James' perspective who is very self-centered, narcissistic, a liar and a jerk. I honestly don't like him but I agreed to read and review this book when the author Tom Starita submitted a book review request because the description did say, it's a coming-of-age story and other reviews said it's hilarious.

Sad to say, for me at least, the only hilarious scene throughout this entire book was the scene where a 75-lb rolling island unit was being hauled up to the 3rd floor by Lucas James on p.11. That was it. The only scene I found hilarious and real life laughed out loud.

The line, "First you write the hit song, then you die. Never reversed" on p. 13 reminded me of Chester Bennington, Linkin Park's lead singer committing suicide on 7/20/2017.

The line, "There is nothing more maddening than losing potentially great lines to the ethers of your mind" on p. 15 does ring a bell and has some truth to it. 

Lucas James is big on procrastination when he said, "Any task, any goal, any dream you wish to accomplish but failed to do so today, has the opportunity for redemption the next time the sun rises. My faith in tomorrow was ultimately not shared by Jackie" on p. 16 made me cringe because what if there is no tomorrow for you? Then you would've wasted today doing nothing when you could've easily done something towards accomplishing your task/goal/dream, etc. I agree with Jackie on this one.

Just no to the scene where Lucas takes his 5-year-old nephew to a strip club for lunch and no to the scene where he pretended to have gotten hit by a teacher. No matter how "immature" or "irresponsible" or "rebellious" a person is, these two scenes should never have happened. 

And the line, “Never propose at a dive bar” on p. 153 really?! It's more like never use a ring you stole to propose to your girlfriend. Ever.

The line where he admits to being a dick, “If you are a dick you have jerk tendencies, plain and simple. You are selfish and don't take the feelings of others into consideration when you do whatever it is you want to do. At the same time, people still like you. You're most likely funny and/or attractive, which dulls a person’s animosity towards you. People enjoy being around you because they think you're interesting or quirky. They also try to live vicariously through you, because you are the person who says what they are thinking. When a dick walks into the room you can feel the energy shift. People feel better, smiles appear on faces, and all is right with the world. When the dick leaves the room, the collective mood deflates, and depression is normally the end result” on p. 176 is the exact opposite for me. I don't get fooled by the charm. I feel super relieved when said dick leaves the room.

I hate this line on p.179 “Punch in, do as little work as possible, punch out.” I've worked with people with this kind of work ethic and it's stressful. So I'm really not liking Lucas James at all, nor do I find his antics funny. I also did not appreciate the lack of any legal consequences to Lucas James' stealing. An innocent person gets the hit for it, which is not fair and definitely sends out the wrong message. I believe that books should teach the readers important life lessons and this book failed miserably on this point.

Finally, something I can agree with: “So live the life you want to live. Take chances and accept the likelihood of failure. Because whether you succeed or fail… your name and all you did or did not do will disappear into the sands of time.”

Overall, the paper quality is good and the formatting and writing style is very good. I know that this book was independently published and each page costs something to print but how I wished that this book did not start abruptly on Chapter 1. What I mean was, the lack of a copyright page and maybe a list of other books the author wrote in the front matter section and an author bio in the back matter section after the acknowledgments. It would be nice to have those two things as I do read those sections as well. 

As for the plot and pacing of the story… it reads like a memoir and relatively paced. There's nothing exciting (for me at least) to entice the reader to keep reading. I had to put the book down several times and debate whether to file it under my DNF (Did-Not-Finish) shelf or continue reading. Every time I put the book down because I was getting annoyed at Lucas James, I had to take deep breaths and remind myself that the sooner I finish reading this book the sooner I can get back to my other, more favorable books in my Currently-Reading shelf. I also had to remind myself that this is a coming-of-age story so that means, Lucas James learns something, changes or grows up from his experience by the end of the book. I have to say that I was mad when I reached the end because Lucas James did not learn anything at all. He did not grow as a person/character. He did not become a better person. He was the same old piece of shit that he started with. Not cool to claim this book as a coming-of-age story without the character developing into a better person. 

A better coming-of-age story would be Jackie's story. At least she learned something and she got out of a financially and emotionally abusive relationship and now, she's with a better person who appreciates her and will always put her first. Now, who do I recommend this book for? If you are a very responsible person who gets emotional, skip this book because Lucas James will incite every negative emotion you have. If you like reading books that makes you feel negative emotions, or has unlikeable characters or you get a kick by reading about lazy, self-centered, narcissistic characters, then by all means, pick up a copy. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Writing By Hand Does Break The Block


I've been on a writing funk for the last 2.5 months because I've been reading like crazy and every time I opened my Scrivener (fiction) file to write, I couldn't do it. I felt an aversion to computer screens but hammering out my monthly roundup blog post using Scrivener on my MacBook Air is fine. Strange. So, I thought about buying a 1969 Royal Signet Portable manual typewriter on eBay for $29.99 (because I love typewriters and because this particular model was the legendary typewriter that brought my words to life on the page back in high school) but with the lack of typewriter supplies and how heavy and noisy it is, it's not possible. That and I don't particularly like buying stuff that will serve as dust collectors. The next thing my brain latched onto was the Freewrite Smart Typewriter by Astrohaus (it's more like a word processor) but the price tag of $549.00 turned me off. I mean, really, it's a typewriter that has built-in WiFi for use to sync documents to cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote, has E Ink display and 4 weeks of battery life. Not to mention a bit bulky and heavy at 4 lbs. My MacBook Air weights in at 2.38 lbs and 9 hrs of battery life. Despite amazing reviews, I'll pass for now. Sigh, if only the iPad Pro uses Mac OS, that would be the best as I used to write my first drafts on my iPad Air which my husband now uses because I prefer to read on an E Ink display eReader and I now work from home, so there's no real need to keep the iPad since my MacBook Air is right there on my desk along side the Beast (aka my HP Elitebook 8570p day job issued laptop). 

Anyway, I wasn't worried about the amount of writing that wasn't getting done. I've accepted the fact that I have creative seasons but June came around and suddenly, my fingertips felt the pull of the words. I wanted to write again but at the same time I still have that aversion to computer screens. So, on Father's Day, I went out and bought writing supplies in the form of a pack of white Office Depot Junior Legal Writing Pads (I just love the portable size), a Pentel Quicker Clicker 0.7mm mechanical pencil and a small pack of the Office Depot eraser caps and dug out my Junior Writing Padfolio that was given out to employees at one of my previous day jobs. Since then, I've been writing long hand and churning out pages like crazy. Which is a good thing. They say that changing up your writing environment works wonders for breaking through the block. I can say that it's working wonders for me so far. Yay!

On the yarn craft side of things, I'm still participating in the Summer of Romance CAL hosted by Claudia and Clarisabeth of the Crochet Luna and Crochetcakes podcasts respectively. There were numerous times (the 2nd repeat of the entire pattern and on the 3rd repeat of Row 4 of the Virus Shawl pattern) where I felt like frogging the whole shawl out of sheer frustration because the written pattern needs to be improved upon (yes, it's still flagged by Ravelry Editors to improve the written instructions) and because on the 3rd repeat, the stitches doesn't match. I've even frogged 4 rows back to make sure it wasn't me that made the mistake. Nope, stitches still didn't line up. So I fudged it up a bit to make the Row 4 Virus pattern fit. I'm honestly not too thrilled about it. I wrote to the designer about an updated pattern but she doesn't have it and at the time, I was thinking of drafting up a chart for the whole pattern and so I asked her if it's alright to share said chart on my blog and she said yes and that she'd love a copy of it. I'm halfway through remaking the chart and the written instructions but now, I just want to get this shawl done. I'm not sure if I'm still going to continue with the charting and written instructions because to be honest, as a designer, it is her responsibility to provide a well-written pattern. It's not my job to do that for her. Maybe if I feel generous but then again, I can't waste my time on re-charting this shawl when I have other original patterns to write up myself. Don't get me wrong, I love the design and the designer was nice enough about it on her email. It's just that the written instructions suck. And boy am I so glad my determination to finish this shawl won over pattern frustrations.

Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post

Currently Reading 

Currently Writing

  • Finally finished Chapter 4 and writing Chapter 5 of Helena and the Dragon

Finished Objects

  • Elizabeth Bennet Meets Mr. Darcy Shawl for the Summer of Romance CAL, it's currently blocking in our guest bedroom

Currently Crocheting

  • First Crocheted Toe Up Socks - I'm using Premier Yarns Deborah Norville Collection Serenity Sock Weight 50% super wash Merino Wool, 25% Bamboo and 25% Nylon 230 yds/50 gms in Lavender Topaz for the Patons Kroy Socks Toe Up Socks pattern with a 2.75mm crochet hook. It doesn't look like it but I've had to frog the sock with the red stitch marker 2x now. The first time, I couldn't get the stitch count right on round 3. The second time, the join was forming a very crooked line up the length of the sock and by the time I got to round 15, my OCD kicked in (even though the side with the joins are going to be on the bottom side of the foot) and so I frogged it and started over again. And by the way, the sock with the red stitch marker was the first sock I started. So now, the shorter sock is playing catch up with the second sock.

Product Reviews


Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!

Monday, June 5, 2017

[Book Review] Wonder by R.J. Palacio

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ebook Edition
Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction

Part 1: From The Book Cover

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school — until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R.J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Part 2: Recommendation

I normally don't read anything that is about bullying or deformities. I don't need to read such books to experience how hard it is to be bullied or have a deformity because I myself have been subjected to bullying from kindergarten to 6th grade because I have a scar on my upper lip due to surgeries to fix my cleft lip and palate. I don't wish to resurrect painful memories from those 7 miserable school years. Then I saw a trailer for the movie Wonder that is coming out in November 2017 and since it was on my TBR list and available to borrow from the library, I thought I'd give it a try. 

"When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." How I wish all of our teachers or at least a teacher during those 7 early school years taught this instead of turning a blind eye or laughing behind my back. The girls were definitely nicer than the boys as clearly depicted in this book as well. 

So, if "we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness…", how come a lot of kids don't always choose to be kind or sympathetic? Is it because of what they see in their own families or is it because of what they see their friends doing or both? I love how the author shows both sides where kids with kind, sympathetic families tend to choose to be kind even if they were mean at first while the kids with families who are judgmental, unkind and unsympathetic tended to remain a mean-spirited, spoiled brat throughout the book. 

And some days when I wish I had a different face, a perfect, beautiful face like my sister's, I will always remember this line and be reminded of how my mom must've felt: "I missed seeing your face, Auggie. I know you don't always love it, but you have to understand… I love it. I love this face of yours, Auggie, completely and passionately. And it kind of broke my heart that you were always covering it up." 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is beautifully written in different points of view other than Auggie's. The reader gets to experience the the story from the following character's points of view: Auggie's older sister Via, Auggie's school friends Summer and Jack, Via's boyfriend Justin, and Via's best friend Miranda. Throughout these different points of views, there might be some overlap but the story still progresses very nicely. I was just a bit thrown off because Justin's section of the book doesn't properly use proper writing styles. I'm not sure if that was deliberate like reading off of Justin's journal or something. I didn't like that part, to be honest. 

All the characters especially Auggie and Via are very well developed and as the story progresses, you not only see how Auggie grows, but you see it in his family and his classmates too. The plot is not complicated at all. It did not feel overly dramatic. In fact, it reads like a memoir, being written in first person and sounding matter-of-fact. It is what it is, no special effects, no embellishments. Simple. 

In the end, I hope to be able to laugh about myself more like how Auggie can laugh about himself (he's quite funny but I, on the other hand, have a very serious and quiet nature. It takes a special personality and patience to bring out my funny side) and live these words from Mr. Tushman: "Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness." 

To conclude this review, I highly recommend Wonder by R.J. Palacio before watching the movie because for sure, there will be a lot of scenes that won't make the cut to the final movie version. This is one of those books that you will love to hug several times and most especially when it ends. It moves your spirit to kindness and I was just thinking how serendipitous it is to have come across this book in my personal year of kindness. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Chipping Away At The TBR List

GoodReads Shelves as of 05/04/2017

GoodReads Shelves as of 05/25/2017

I don't know about you but I originally have 233 books on my Goodreads To-Read shelf. Not good. So, the last weekend of April, I went through all 233 books on my list and purged those who have fewer than 4 star-rating average. Those that don't have at least a 4-star rating but managed to stay on my TBR list are those that I still really want to read. It brought my list down to 172 books. Better.

Then, since my new Kobo Aura Edition 2 finally came in the mail after much delays, I noticed that a lot of books that I side loaded to the device are not even on my TBR list on Goodreads so I had to add those that I'm still interested in reading. 189 books to read. Still better than 233 books originally on that list. I feel better about that. The TBR list purging goes on. The night of May 4th, I was going through the TBR list to see which one to read first with the intention of prioritizing those already on my device and I noticed that there were still some books that I was pretty sure I removed last weekend but it's still there so I went through the list again and removed them. I also added the rest of the ARKANE books by J.F. Penn and the rest of the Leopold Blake books by Nick Stephenson. My TBR list is now down to 150 (way better) and I’ve also removed ebooks from my device that didn't make the cut on my newly purged TBR list. Hopefully both device and Goodreads TBR list remain the same tomorrow morning. I wonder if it was a Goodreads system glitch or maybe I was adding back all the books I purged in my sleep? Hmmm… I wouldn't put it past my “unconscious, sleeping self” to act of its own accord and add the books back. 

Speaking of eReaders (I don't think I ever mentioned the ones that I have used), I ditched my iPad Air and went back to using my Sony Reader PRS-T1 during the last quarter of 2016 especially because a single charge lasts up to 3 weeks instead of the iPad's 10-hour battery life and I can read clearly outdoors without having to deal with glare from the sunlight on the screen. Yes, I'm one of those who read everywhere (on a dog walk, walking to the grocery store, waiting in line at the checkout counter, waiting at doctor's offices, waiting at restaurants, etc.). Anyway, I'm not exactly sure what happened but all of a sudden, I'm having issues with downloading and reading public library ebooks using my Sony Reader PRS-T1 and the poor thing would only be recognized by the Calibre software on my Mac. The Sony Reader Desktop software and the Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software don't even recognize it. It was telling me it's time for it to retire. My faithful and beloved 2nd eReader ever has finally retired. The first eReader I've had was the Sony Reader PRS-300 and it was very basic and slow compared to my PRS-T1 and now, the Kobo Aura Edition 2. The Sony PRS-300 only has 500mb of internal memory, no WiFi, so I have to connect it to my computer all the time to upload ebooks to the device (as if I don't do that now). Then I was gifted with the Sony Reader PRS-T1 for Christmas in 2011 with the book light cover so the PRS-300 got recycled at Best Buy. Sometimes, I wish I'd kept the PRS-300, for what purpose, I don't know. It's probably best to recycle stuff instead of keeping them around, cluttering space. And now, my PRS-T1 has retired. I am definitely growing attached to my Kobo Aura Edition 2 despite initial frustrations such as getting used to the new user interface (UI), issues with ADE ID and Overdrive. Click here to read my in-depth opinions on the Kobo Aura Edition 2. 

2009 Sony PRS-300: My Very First eReader

2011 Sony PRS-T1: My Second eReader

2016 Kobo Aura Edition 2: My Third and Current eReader

With all the many different brands of E Ink eReaders out in the market today, I chose to purchase the Kobo Aura Edition 2 instead of the better ranked Kobo Aura One and instead of the more popular Amazon Paperwhite because if an Indie Bookseller has a partnership with Kobo (like they have a Kobo affiliate link on their website), I can still support them by buying eBooks thru their special affiliate links and they will in turn, get a percentage of the sale. On top of that, I like how Kobo gamified the reading experience by having awards and badges for every milestone like Scout Leader award or Highly Decorated award or Deep Thinker award or Night Rider award or Fanatic award or the Papillon award or Total Recall award or the Juggernaut award or Page Turner award, etc., etc. Earning those reading badges is really fun. I still have a handful of badges to earn: Deep Thinker, Papillon, Witching Hour, Lost In Austen, Off The Wall, Quoth The Maven, and Author-ized Reader.

On the crafty side of things, for about 2 years now, a nagging thought has been telling me that I need to focus on one type of craft to be successful at making a living out of it but lately, a few months after reading the last Julia Cameron book from the library, I came to the realization that I don't need to give up any of the crafty things that I love to do in order to turn it into a business (like choosing between writing, crochet, watercolor painting or piano playing). I mean, look at Julia Cameron. She's into a lot of creative endeavors and she's managed to turn them all into something profitable that is part of her creative living. With that freeing thought, I've updated my blog's name from Booktalk 'n More to Ambidextrous Crafter because I want to focus my patterns to specialize in using both dominant and non-dominant hand and because I myself am ambidextrous. It feels like I've completely outgrown my blog's original name ever since I've fully embraced my ambidextrous nature and accepted the fact that a year for me consists of crafty seasons: I'm more crafty in the areas of writing books, playing music and crochet during the Fall - Winter seasons and then for the rest of the year, I'd rather read, bake, play music and crochet. So, with the new blog name, I've updated my blog's logo and my Ravelry store name to Ambidextrous Crafter as well. I've also uploaded PDF versions of my patterns to Ravelry (you can still find the patterns on my blog with the Ravelry download links on it) before I add my almost ready Ambi Crochet Blanket pattern. I'm really excited to share this blanket pattern with you all because it's really very pretty and I'm proud of how it turned out. I worked really hard on it to make sure the instructions are clear and I hope crocheters will love the construction technique.

Books I've Read Since Last Blog Post

Currently Reading 

Currently Writing

  • No progress made on Chapter 4 of Helena and the Dragon - too much reading going on.

Finished Objects

  • Ambi Crochet Blanket

  • Anna Estella Mae's Baby Blanket - I used the same pattern as well as 3 of the same yarn colors I used for the Ambi Crochet Blanket.

Currently Crocheting

  • Elizabeth Bennet Meets Mr. Darcy Shawl - I'm currently participating in my first ever Crochet along (CAL) called Summer of Romance CAL (#SRCAL) hosted by the lovely ladies Claudia of the CrochetLuna podcast and Clarisabeth of the CrochetCakes podcast. I'm using the beautiful Virus Shawl meets Deichspielerei pattern by Angie Nelson of Bumbly Designs because the lacey sections reminds me of Lizzie's playfulness & femininity and the dc sections reminds me of Darcy's serious nature & masculinity. The yarn I'm using is Ella Rae Lace Merino Extrafine Superwash 100% Merino Wool in the 151 Peach/Deep Pink colorway because the color reminds me of their passionate relationship from the first moment they met to Darcy's declaration of love to finally Lizzie admitting to her dear father how she's so very much in love with Mr. Darcy. 

Virus Shawl Meets Deichspielerei Pattern by Angie Nelson

Ella Rae Lace Merino Extrafine Superwash Merino Wool Yarn

Product Reviews

My 2016 Kobo Aura Edition 2 eReader


Just in case, I would like to share the blogs and/or podcasts I'm really enjoying which are also listed on the side bar...and these are in the order I discovered them...hope you'll enjoy them too!