Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Easy and Elegant: Knockout Knits by Laura Nelkin

Laura Nelkin’s Knockout Knits offers a collection of feminine projects that feel at once new and familiar. Nelkin’s designs incorporate beads, tassels, and stitch combinations that result in playful and elegant garments. Her use of beads never feels overdone, and always serves to enhance the stitch patterns rather than detract from them. Nelkin suggests stunning yarns sure to grab attention while remaining subtle fashion statements. The rich colors make for stunning photographs, which makes the book a pleasure to read and flip through when brainstorming for projects.

Beginning and experienced knitters alike will find everything they need in this book. Nelkin covers basic and advanced stitches, blocking, how to add beads, yarn weight systems, and yarn substitution. Knockout Knits meets my personal standard that every knitting book should teach a person how to knit. The collection is filled with socks, hats, scarves, shawls, fingerless mittens and more in order for readers to keep themselves warm all autumn and winter.  I will recommend this book to my library patrons and share it with my knitting group. Thank you to Random House and Blogging for Books for providing this copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Laura Nelkin, a prolific independent knitwear designer, graduated from Cornell with a degree in Apparel Design. A former design director, Laura sells her knit pattern and kit line to yarn stores worldwide and teaches workshops around the country and online with Her patterns have been published through Nelkin Designs, and in The Rhinebeck Sweater, Scarf Style 2, Knitscene, and Knitty. Laura lives near Ithaca, New York. Visit her at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

All the quotes from Veronika Decides to Die that were written for me (and maybe for you, too)

Have you ever read a book that made you feel you were the person the author intended to write it for? That's what happened to me when I read Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo. My friends teased me about the title, and asked if I was okay. Don't let it fool you. This book is full of hope.

All quotes are taken from the US paperback edition published by Harper Perennial.

Behold I give unto you power to tread
on serpents...and nothing shall
by any means hurt you.
Luke 10:19

I'm not a religious person, but I have to admit this is powerful. How nice it will be to get to a place where all the pain of one horrible situation won't hurt me anymore. I've gotten there with other tragedies in my life. I can do it with this one, and the ones to come.

In one of her lucid moments, a nurse asked her: "Don't you want to know how you are?"
"I already know," replied Veronika. "And it has nothing to do with what you can see happening in my body; it's what's happening in my soul."
pg. 24-25, Nurse and Veronika

In this scene, Veronika doesn't yet know she has a heart problem that is going to kill her. But she does know something inside of her isn't right, and she feels there is no correcting it. It's hard to express just how well I feel I understand this quote. Depression can be treated through therapy and medicine, but it feels like you have to dig something intangible out of yourself in order to feel better.

She had given up many of her desires so that her parents would continue to love her as they had when she was a child, even though she knew that real love changes and grows with time and discovers new ways of expressing itself.
pg. 43, Narrator

This is a hard truth about love. Perhaps it is the hardest truth about love. The way we express love isn't always having butterflies and saying "I love you." Sometimes love means leaving, saying goodbye, letting go, accepting things and forgiving so you can get to the point where they don't hurt anymore. At least not as much...Some experiences will always sting.

"When I took the pills, I wanted to kill someone I hated. I didn't know that other Veronikas existed inside me, Veronikas that I could love."
pg. 65, Veronika

This is where I started to admire Veronika. I had felt sympathy and empathy beforehand, but at this point I felt I had started to read about a friend. I've known people who hate themselves, so it was a relief to read about someone realizing she is a multifaceted person. She isn't just her mistakes. In my moments of self-doubt, I'll come back to this quote to remind myself I'm not just one dimension.

Then, once more, a deep peace flooded through her and Veronika again looked out at the starry sky and at the new moon, her favorite, filling the room she was in with gentle light. The impression returned of Infinity and Eternity walking hand in hand; you only had to look for one of them--for example, the limitless universe--to feel the presence of the other, Time that never ends, that never passes, that remains in the Present, where all of life's secrets lie. As she had been walking from the ward to that room, she had felt such pure hatred that now she had no more rancor left in her heart. She had finally allowed her negative feelings to surface, feelings that had been repressed for years in her soul. She had actually felt them, and they were no longer necessary, they could leave.
pg. 70, Narrator

I spent all of July feeling my feelings about the past. I'm feeling them a bit now, too, but I can also feel them leaving and evolving. I ignored them for so long that I thought they were gone. Let yourself feel things even if people tell you that you should be over them by now.

"You have passed through the two hardest tests on the spiritual road: the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what you encounter."
pg. 98, Sufi Master

I prefer to iron out conflict as soon as possible, but that can't always happen. Things are not often satisfying when they do finally come to a head. That's just something that has to be accepted in order to move forward.

"We're allowed to make a lot of mistakes in our lives," said her colleague, "except the mistake that destroys us."
pg. 128, Mari's colleague

In high school I had this irrational fear that I would lose my mind, and end up in a mental ward by the time I was thirty. A friend assured me she would always remember me for who I had been, if it ever came to that. It was a comforting thing to say that I'm still grateful for.

Now I think the mistake that destroys us is also an opportunity to rebuild who we are.

"Look me in the eye, and never forget what I'm about to tell you. There are only two prohibitions, one according to man's law, the other according to God's. Never force a sexual relationship on anyone, because that is considered to be rape. And never have sexual relations with children, because that is the worst of all sins. Apart from that, you're free. There's always someone who wants exactly what you want."
pg. 136, Mari

The best thing a heart broken person can read. There's always someone who wants exactly what you want.

Monday, July 14, 2014

On Missing Someone Who Hurt You

This month I've been dealing with bad memories from a particular time in my life. These memories cover a period 4-8 years ago, and simultaneously feel very recent and like a lifetime ago. I'm not sure why my mind picked now to steamroll me with everything. I just know that I have to work through what I'm feeling instead of pushing it aside. It makes me angry, seeing as I thought I already dealt with and defeated all of this.

So I've been soul searching. There are lots of details, but it comes down to this: I used to be in a relationship with someone who treated me like I was the most wonderful person in the world until, after a while, the person I was with became manipulative and verbally abusive. ("Everything will be fine if you change.") We haven't spoken in four years because he blocked me on social media even though we had been getting along--then unblocked me, then blocked me again, then unblocked me again, etc. It was confusing, but I've chosen to respect what I interpret as a wish for me not to contact him.

Yet I still miss him. It can feel like a very shameful thing, missing someone who hurt you. But I'd rather admit to this than tell myself I am neutral on the situation, that I feel nothing.

I recently read Kelly Sundberg's essay It Will Look Like a Sunset about the abuse she suffered during her relationship with her ex-husband. Her situation was far worse than mine, but I related. This passage struck me the most:
There are days when I still wish that he would beg me to take him back, promise to change, actually change. This will never happen.
I used to have the same fantasy. Reading this part of the essay gave me the perspective to acknowledge that I don't want to be with him anymore, and haven't wanted that for a long time. I don't pine for him the way I once did because now I know I don't deserve to be treated like I'm worthless. But I do miss him and the way we clicked; the way I trusted him enough to read journal entries I wrote about us; the way made each other laugh effortlessly, and joked about living in an apartment full of 27 welsh corgis. Friends have suggested I only miss the feeling, not the person. I don't want to lie to anyone. I know I miss the person who used to be my best friend. ("Your opinion is more important to me than anyone else's.")

And it's okay. It's okay to miss the person who hurt me, as long as I remember he is not worthy of me. It's okay to miss the person who hurt you, as long as you remember they are not worthy of you. Love is complicated, so there is no reason to deny our complicated feelings. We are not weak. We have value. We deserve respect. If anyone ever wants back into our lives, there will be work to be done. Remember this. Write a note like the one at the top to carry around with you. Read it when you're being too hard on yourself. Be kind to yourself.

Sharing all of this is unnerving. There is always the chance the person in question could see it. But so what, I suppose? What will he do? Continue to hate me and not miss me? Never think about me even more than he never thinks about me now?  Having to be the one who does the missing in this situation is heinously unfair. ("You don't love me anymore," he said when I wanted to spend the weekend with my mother.)

Sharing all of this is important. If I don't allow myself to feel the residual turmoil from what happened, I'm never going to heal completely. I'm a storyteller. Telling this one is me learning to be brave. There are friends and strangers reading this who didn't know we could relate in this way, and they are relieved to not be alone. ("All I want is for you to be happy and healthy.")

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Chain Dating and Serial Dating

There has been much talk around my office lately about the pros and cons of dating, as well as the types of daters we and others tend to be. I offered the term "serial dater" to describe a couple exes we brought up in these conversations. When a co-worker feared she was a serial dater, I decided I needed to clarify.

All of this is only based on my own perceptions and experiences. Googling these terms will bring up articles with different definitions.


Chain daters get lonely very easily. When it comes to romantic relationships, they need to be in one. Do you have a friend who looks for someone new as soon as they break up with their last romantic partner? Chain daters don't spend much time getting to know themselves all that well. Some chain daters are secure in their identities, while others are looking for someone else to fulfill them because they feel lost. They burn through relationships, making lots of mistakes, and settling for the wrong people. The great thing about chain daters is that they have the ability learn from their mistakes in order to form healthy relationships.


Serial daters are a troubling sort. They stick to patterns of behavior that cause pain in relationships, and never learn from their mistakes. A serial dater does not believe they make mistakes, but that mistakes are always made by their partners. You may know someone who has told you they feel broken inside or cannot feel emotions correctly. These people have a tenuous grasp on their identities. They fill up that void by dating one person after the other in hopes someone will fix them. A person can't find themselves inside of someone else, so the relationships of serial daters never turn out well.

A serial dater seems like the perfect partner. At first they assure you of how wonderful you are, but as time goes on and they still feel that void, they turn cold or even abusive. Serial daters claim you need to change in order to save the relationship. Hearing that can make a person feel confused at best and worthless at worst. Serial daters will continue to adore their partners early in the relationships, and ask others to change when they realize they are still unhappy with themselves.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How it feels to read 100+ books in a year

I read 104 books in 2013, which is the most I've ever read in one year since I've been keeping count. So how do I feel? Not like I thought I would.

I don't feel accomplished, but I am proud of myself. I don't feel smarter, but I have learned many things. My knowledge is being built slowly, and I feel better about myself because of it. I suppose that is why I read: to have a better understanding of who I am (and to have a better understanding of others).

My book goal for 2014 is 105. Four down!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2013 Books in Review

It was a great year of reading. Here’s my best and worst of 2013.

Best Book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was a the book I regretted not reading 2012, so I made it the first book I read in 2013. I read a lot of good books this year, but nothing topped the lush prose and careful, quiet storytelling of this book. Somehow Morgenstern managed to tell a generational story from multiple POVs that is completely engaging and exciting. That’s rare.

Worst Book: Divergent by Veronica Roth. The way being Divergent works is special snowflake bullshit. The world-building is poorly though out, and recklessness is constantly mistaken for bravery.

Favorite Book: Again, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I want to visit the Night Circus, to wear black and white with a splash of red with my fellow reveurs. I want to reread the book again to experience its beauty and complexity. Love is a challenge in this story, and loving the book is also a challenge because it breaks your heart.

Other Favorites: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell for being a love letter to fandom and portraying a relationship that I actually found romantic (a miracle); Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, a modern day retelling of the Odyssey starring five sisters on a quest to return a dead man’s body to his family in Mexico. It’s a beautiful story about the strength and perseverance of women.; Tiger Writing by Gish Jen for teaching me something new about the functions of story structure.; The Girl-Thing who Went Out for Sushi by Pat Cadigan, a strange and brilliant story about body modification and class structure.; Crow by Barabara Wright for the honest struggles and triumphs of Black people during and after slavery.

Books That Would Be My Favorites If Not For…: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater because of the snide remarks about Blue being a feminist the guys use to shut her down when she’s upset. This is one of the best books I read this year, and I think its the best thing in YA fantasy right now, but the characters are making it hard for me to love them.

Books I Thought I’d Love, But Didn’t: Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Female lead, people of color, Romeo and Juliet in space, a tree that is a spaceship. I should like those things, but the story is several different plots poorly stitched together. Too much warty giant penis, not enough character development. Too many characters introduced at once.; Parasite by Mira Grant. I could not believe how boring this book was. Many of the characters were interchangeable with characters from the Newsflesh series. I saw the twist within the first fifty pages, and it was not revealed until the final page.; Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. More like Lying Coward & That Little Jerk Upstairs. What began as a quirky story about childhood pulled a fast one on me at the end, and gave me no time to sympathize with the characters.

Books I Didn’t Think I’d Like, But Did: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. I knew I would like this somewhat, but not as much as I did. A fun romp in Victorian London with creepy automatons and communication with the dead.

Favorite Protagonists: Franziska in My Family For the War, a ten-tear-old that moves to England from Nazi Germany with no family. She always takes initiative, and always has a plan as how to survive.; Ronan Lynch in The Dream Thieves for being the most interesting bastard around.; Moses in Crow for being smart, ambitious resourceful, determined, and so many other engaging qualities that help him survive living in the Jim Crow era.; the old women in Two Old Women for surviving abandonment, and not accepting death when society calls you a burden.; Ivan in The One and Only Ivan, a gorilla who takes his art very seriously.

Favorite Supporting Characters: Franziska’s adoptive mother in My Family For the War, she’s stuffy at first, but I really warmed up to her as Franziska bonded with her through religion. She doesn’t judge Franziska for being in love with two boys at once, so A+.; Moses’ father in Crow because he always expects respect no matter what people think of him. He’s dedicated to the education of his son, and never cowers in the face of racism.; Boo-Nanny in Crow for the tremendous grief she endures at the hands of a master who thought her pain was uncalled for; for learning how to read at such an elderly age.; all of Blue’s psychic relatives in The Dream Thieves, a house full of women who see the future in different ways, yet still allow themselves to take risks.

Favorite Picture Book: Bluebird by Bob Staake, a wordless picture book that speaks volumes about the consequences of bullying.

Other Favorite Picture Books: how to be by Julie Morstad, for calm, simple images that make living feel not so tough; How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure for the adorable cat behavior, and economical use of words.

Best Ending: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. She put the pedal to the floor throughout most of the book, and the story ended with a pitch perfect crash leading to one hell of a cliffhanger. I have so many theories on where things are going, and what roles the characters are going to fulfill.

Books Read

Goal: 100
Met Goal: Exceeded
# of Books Read: 104
Rereads in italics

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2. Wave by Suzy Lee
3. One by Kathryn Otoshi
4. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm
5. Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead
6. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
7. I Want My Hat Back by John Klassen 
8. Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
9. Oh, no! by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann
10. This is Not My Hat by John Klassen
11. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, trans. by Philip Pullman
12. Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
13. Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
14. Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder
15. Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex
16. Shadow by Suzy Lee
17. Unspoken by Henry Cole
18. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
19. Crow by Barbara Wright
20. Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
21. Too Shy for Show and Tell by Beth Bracken and Jennifer Bell

22. Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Folktales by Alison Lurie
23. The Song of the Moon Harp by Charles E. Owston
24. Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage, and Survival by Velma Wallis
25. The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
26. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

27. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
28. Black Crow Dress by Roxane Beth Johnson
29. My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve
30. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

31. Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II by Cheryl Mullenbach
32. Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
33. Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
34. Mister Orange by Truus Matti

35. i’d know you anywhere by Laura Lippman
36. Doll Bones by Holly Black
37. Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins
38. Everyone Sleeps by Marcellus Hall
39. Bluebird by Bob Staake
40. Blackout by Mira Grant

41. Divergent by Veronica Roth
42. Beyond the Glass Slipper by Kate Wolford
43. Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
44. Saga Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
45. Locke and Key Vol. 5 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
46. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

47. Saucer Country Vol. 1: Run by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly
48. Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson and E.B. Lewis
49. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
50. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
51. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by NancyKress
52. The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
53. Rat-Catcher by Seanan McGuire
54. In Sea-Salt Tears by Seanan McGuire
55. Fade to White by Catherynne M. Valente
56. The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi by Pat Cadigan
57. Tiger Writing by Gish Jen

58. Parasite by Mira Grant
59. Sailor Moon, vol. 1 by Naoko Takeuchi 
60. Sailor Moon, vol. 2 by Naoko Takeuchi 
61. Sailor Moon, vol. 3 by Naoko Takeuchi
62. Sailor Moon, vol. 4 by Naoko Takeuchi 
63. Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody by Ludworst Bemonster
64. Zombelina by Kristyn Crow and Molly Idle
65. Sailor Moon, vol. 5 by Naoko Takeuchi 
66. Sailor Moon, vol. 6 by Naoko Takeuchi 

67. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
68. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

69. Journey by Aaron Becker
70. Moon Day by Adam Rex
71. When Mermaids Sleep by Ann Bonwin
72. Little Red Writing by Jane Holub
73. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
74. Going Out With Peacocks and Other Poems by Ursula K. Le Guin
75. if you want to see a whale by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead
76. Cozy Classics: Pride and Prejudice by Jack Wang and Holman Wang
77. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
78. Sixty Odd by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Carrie by Stephen King
80. The Beatles Were Fab by Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, and Stacy Innerst
81. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
82. Daisy Gets Lost by Chris Raschka
83. How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure
84. Sing by Joe Raposo and Tom Lichtenheld
85. Gone With the Wand by Margie Palatini and Brian Ajhar
86. how to by Julie Morstad

87. Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond and Dave McKean
88. Basher Basics: Creative Writing by Simon Basher
89. The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco
90. The Man With the Violin by Kathy Stinson and Dusan Petricic
91. The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney
92. Fairy Tale Comics, ed. by Chris Duffy
93. How Big Were Dinosaurs? by Lita Judge
94. Grumbles from the Forest by Jane Yolen, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Matt Mahurin
95. Nursery Rhyme Comics, ed. by Chris Duffy
96. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson and Bagram Ibatoulline
97. Earthsong Vol. 1 by Crystal Yates and Lady Yates
98. Privateer’s Apprentice by Susan Verrico

99. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
100. One Moon, Two Cats by Laura Godwin and Yoko Tanaka
101. The Art and Flair of Mary Blair by John Canemaker
102. It’s a Book by Lane Smith
103. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
104. Namesake Vol. 1 by Isabella Melancon and Megan Lavey-Heaton

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fantasy and Sci-fi fans: The Hugos are tonight!

The Hugo Awards are tonight at 8PM CDT, 9PM EDT, and 6PM PDT. The ceremony will be broadcast live on the Ustream channel, and there won't be any scripts cutting the broadcast off when they run clips of Doctor Who. Plus, no ads this year! Praise Ustream. If you're a speculative fiction fan, you should definitely tune in. I find it endlessly entertaining to watch some of my favorite authors make acceptance speeches. This isn't my first year watching the Hugos, but it is my first year nominating and voting. I'm going to be on the edge of my seat rooting for the authors and artists I voted for. I know everything won't go my way, which is injustice fine. I already have a list going of what to nominate in 2014.