Monday, December 29, 2014

Favorite Reads of 2014

In 2014 I spent as much time writing as I did reading. A good thing, yes, but it meant that I didn't get to, as my husband refers to it, devour as many books as I usually do.  I did however read enough books to present to you my

Favorite reads in 2014

The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

I can usually guess what is going to happen in a book pretty early on, but The Riverman kept me guessing. Are the events actually reality or is it all in Fiona's head? I really can't say more without giving everything away. It is imaginative and strange, in a good way. 
I also loved that the story takes place in the 80s and the characters are about the same age as I was during that time. There was a lot of 80s reference love on my end.

This book is the first in a trilogy. I plan on using a gift card I received recently to pre-order my copy of The Whisper (book 2) that is set to come out in March. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Also set in the 80's, Eleanor and Park tells the story of two teens who feel like outsiders who find each other.  

A very realistic depiction of the awkwardness and confusion of having a first romance.  That was what I loved and appreciated the most about the story.  It wasn't a sixteen year old girl knowing exactly the right things to say, how to kiss, exactly what to do, it was a sixteen year old girl feeling completely awkward, socially anxious, and unsure of how you proceed in a romantic relationship.  Pretty much how I felt at that age.  The story does go from quirky and sweet to taking a serious dark turn towards the end, but even the sad moments feel authentic and believable.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 

I loved Fangirl so much, I had an impossible time putting it down.  I read the entire book during a snowy weekend in February with the Olympics playing in the background.  

Cath, the book's main character ranks up with Anne Shirley and Luna Lovegood as female characters that are most like me.  Never has a book so identified what if feels like to be geeky, creative, and socially anxious.  The book follows Cath during her first year of college. Although Cath feels awkward and unsure while socializing face to face with people, she has tons of confidence socializing online, especially when socializing with her chosen fandom. Though she is a popular fanfiction writer on the web, she can at times be completely invisible in person.  Cath has to figure out who she is, what she wants to do with her life, and how to improve her relationship skills. 

Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott

In my opinion, this is a completely underrated book that I wish more people, particularly young girls, were reading.

What I valued so much about this book is the lack of the main teen girl character kissing shirtless boys, getting all googly over boys, no this girl has a lot more to deal with than teen romance.  It was refreshing.  
Growing up in a secluded village, Abisina must learn to trust and form relationships with those she had been taught to fear and hate. The story and characters are beautiful and complex, never crossing over into being heavy handed.  The fantasy elements are perfectly executed. Delightful and imaginative without ever feeling cheesy.  If you have a daughter, I highly recommend this book for a good dose of refreshing intelligent girl power. 
This is also a trilogy and I look forward to devouring books 2 and 3 in the coming year.

Chloe by Design-Making the Cut by Margaret Gurevich Illustrated by Brooke Hagel

This book was my biggest surprise of the year. 

I picked it up simply based on the fact that it was outside of my usual genres. I've never had an ounce of interest in fashion, until I read Chloe by design.  It has opened up an entire world that I had previously closed the door to.  I've started watching Project Runway, I've watched documentaries on Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour, and I absolutely adore Diane Von Furstenberg. I never knew how creative, artistic, and lovely fashion could be, until Chloe taught me.  Even if you have no interest in fashion, I recommend this book as the main story is mostly about the artistic process and believing in yourself. 
Another series, I can't wait to see where Chloe's creativity takes here next. 

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Not a new book, but new to me, this was another where I thought I knew exactly where it was going, but the ending left me surprised.
Most of the book centers around Catherine who has reached marrying age,  but Catherine has grander dreams than becoming a wife. Being rather clever, Catherine devises ways to ward off potential suitors, buying herself time to figure out what exactly she wants to do with her life. 

Another books I would recommend young ladies to read. The lesson I took away was to keep your dreams flexible.  As your life changes, as you mature, and as your views and perspectives shift, your dreams can change too. Don't be stubborn and hold onto something based solely on principle. 

Honorable Mentions- Cinder, We Were Liars, Shatter Me, and The True Meaning of Smekday 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Geeky Crafty Holiday

I love this time of year because the holidays give you a legitimate reason to make/create stuff; stuff that you wouldn't have an excuse to make during any other time of year.

I started out the month of December by making a Wreath of Khan for my front door.  I saw one last year going around Pinterest, but it was just a plain green wreath with a couple of pictures of Khan scotch taped to it.  I thought I could do it better and make it match my snowy snowflake snowman d├ęcor.

I used a tutorial I found on Pinterest for a basic yarn wreath.  I loved this technique. Wrapping yarn around Styrofoam is quite relaxing and meditative.

I then cut out some pictures of Khan, glued them to glittery snowflakes, and then topped it all off with a Spock snowman ornament that I found on Etsy. 

One of the offices I work at has an ugly sweater contest every year.  I had my heart set on a sweater I saw on Amazon (a sloth wearing a Santa Hat), but it was sold out completely by Cyber Monday so I decided to make a sweater instead.  

I started out with a plain black sweater.  Since I’m geeky and love word play (note The Wreath of Khan above)  I designed a Dalek the Halls sweater. 

The nice part about the sweater was that it was supposed to be bad so if I messed something up, all the better.  The hardest part was getting the lights to stay peeking through the larger holes in the sweater. Duct tape and wire were needed.  I made the Dalek and holly out of felt and used safety pins to adhere everything to the sweater, including the fuzzy puff balls that my cat became obsessed with.

I didn’t win the contest,but it didn’t matter, because I had a fun time making something. Also how often do you get to wear a sweater with lights, a dalek with reindeer antlers and jingle bells to work?

I had a few friends over this year to decorate Ninja Bread Cookies. My fine motor skills are not the best.  I tried to make Agent Mae fighting Evil Agent Mae/Agent 33 (thanks Liz for giving me the idea).

The other girls had some nice gingerbread men skills.

Picture by Taryn Kearsley

Picture by Liz Mocelo

We also made ornaments/decorations. Each girl made something to share with the others.

I made wine cork reindeer.

I have some talented friends.

picture by Liz Mocelo

Knowing that my skills do not excel in the gingerbread arts, I almost scraped my last project of the season.  I tried to figure out how I could make a gingerbread house without actually having to build a gingerbread house.  I thought of the idea of  having a smashed gingerbread house ,because I had a feeling that is what I would have ended up with if I actually tried making one for real anyway. All I had to figure out is why the house was smashed and smash always makes me think of The Hulk. So I made a Hulk SMASH gingerbread house. 

I had a great time making geeky crafty stuff this holiday season.  Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to make next year.