Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This was a really cute and enjoyable book. Not saccharine cute and it has wholesome message to it. It was light even though it touches on some harder subjects like mental health and suicide. It was a bit slow to start off because the main character is depressed at the beginning but it came along nicely. I knew the ending early one but the ride was fun. In fact, the novel stayed with me the next day because it offers so many different stories.

The format of the novel involves the protagonist trying various different lives which made it interesting. It felt like a series of connected short stories and possibilities. The book was easy to read. It has a lot of dialogue. I read it one sitting.

This book is popular for a reason and I can see the appeal. Book lovers probably like especially female ones. The format and the main character Nora made it easy for the reader to inhabit and relate too. She is at times athletic, intellectual, and artistic. She doesn’t seem to be described as drop dead gorgeous or plain. She’s a great reader insert based on her interests and even her own struggles. Her love interests are even relatable in context to how they affect her. They do not actually have much character development, but the point was more about how Nora felt about them. For example, her selfish ex boyfriend/fiance is very typical of a lot of ex’s. Her ideal love interests are idealistic but not out of this world romantic heroes.
One of the love interests is a thinking woman’s real world dream partner: a dorky surgeon who is a great dad and adores his wife.

The Britishness of this book was nice. It feels like it’s been awhile since I read a modern English novel especially one that was not overly literary. I like the author’s style so I’ll try more from him. It was quirky. A good novel.

Read March 8, 2021.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I originally started this book over a year ago when I read about the Morning Pages (MP) from a blog. I I was getting back into stationery, pens, and notebooks. I am surprised I hadn’t really encounteed this earlier. Then again, I have been keeping a journal on and off since since I was 8. I have become even more consistent with my journal over the last couple of years ago after neglecting it recently.

I really took to the morning pages technique. I have been writing in my MP notebooks every day for over a year now. At first, it was a difficult to write 3 pages everyday, but I persevered. Now I write about 1-2 A4 pages a day. I find it really does help me organize my day. There are thoughts which I can exhume out of my brain. I do not know if it’s made me significantly more creative. I can’t pinpoint all the benefits but I like it a lot. When we can travel again, I’ll probably have to let it lapse. However, this past year, I’ve had time to really develop the routine of the Morning Pages which I think I will continue for many more years.

Back to the actual book, I had to put it on pause during the first lockdown as my library was closed for a couple of months. It’s also an in demand book from the library. I was finally able to read it recently.

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The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

This was a wild ride.

I am part of a book club where we read whatever we want so there is no set book. However, most of the participants had read and raved about this book. It’s urban fantasy set in New York. New York and its boroughs are literally the characters. It reminded me Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (who has a quote on the cover of this book) as it focuses on a city’s life.

This is a book for those who love the city of New York and it helps a lot if you’ve been. I really enjoyed that aspect. The character work was interesting as well. I do not want to give too much away because the setting is the character. The plot moved quickly and all the events of the book unfold over the course of 3 days so I found it easy to devour.

It’s a fun fantasy novel and I’ll continue on with the series.

Read Feb 14-18, 2021.

Easy Ombre Slouch Hat

Hat #2 of 3 that I been planning to make and stashbust this winter. I have been meaning to use the white Diamond Merino Superwash DK yarn for years. It’s been in my stash since at least 2007! The problem was that the ball is only about 125m DK yarn which is not enough for most adult hat patterns. I recently found this very popular stranded hat pattern and used the merino with some alpaca I had leftover from Buttercup which incidentally, I have rarely worn unlike the Twenty Ten cardigan which I am wearing in these photos. I’m wondering if this hat will be on the heavy hat rotation or will be stored away with knit items I do not wear much or at all.

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FO: Christmas Necktie

This took a few months to photograph and write up. There has not been a lot of opportunities for the recipient to wear the Christmas necktie. I finished this back in November as an early Christmas gift to my other half. He requested a knit tie and I was able to use the recommended yarn. Overall, I made the tie less long and wide than the pattern. It helped that I modeled after a tie he already owned. I made it less long because of blocking. If I were to do it again: make even tighter, use another decrease than SSK which did not look as clean.

Christmas Necktie, started October 14, 2020, finished November 21, 2020.
Pattern: The Wedding Necktie by Susan B. Anderson
Made for: Husband
Yarn: Chickadee by Quince & Co. (Sport – 100% Wool – 166 meters / 50 grams ) 1 skein in #133 Winesap
Needles: US 4 – 3.5 mm
Measurements:
Unblocked: 134 cm/52.5”
Blocked: 154 cm/61”

Modifications & Notes:
Overall, made the tie less long and wide than the pattern:

  • CO first on US 5/3.75mm but it was not dense enough so I started over with US 4/3.5mm – could have gone down to US 3/3.25mm. US 5 only if are a tight knitter.
  • Increased to 19 sts for the front so every seed st row is the same
  • Slipped 1 st of every row
  • Front: Knit to 19.5”
  • Neck: Dec to 13 sts gradually over the course over 2”
  • Decreased down to 9 sts for tail end

Cost of Project: C$18 in total: US$1.50 for pattern and C$16 for yarn
Would I knit it again?: Yes but tighter gauge (smaller needles) and a different decrease than SSK.

FO: Midas Hat

This winter has been a slower knitting one. I still have a knit tie that I haven’t posted about because the recipient has not been wearing it much. I’ll have to get that one out in the next few weeks.

After finishing my wedding shawl in September, I was inspired to plan for more lace shawls and sweaters in my future. I took stock of my large yarn stash and realized that if I wanted to buy new yarn for shawl pattern and jumpers, I need to knit the stash down more. As a result and a shift in my hobbies, I’ve knitting hats.

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Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

This memoir by George Orwell was quite a grim yet interesting read. It’s Eric Blair’s (aka Orwell) experiences as a casual kitchen labourer in Paris and as a tramp in London. There were a few disturbing moments and quite a number of depressing ones.

It was not easy to read but strangely fascinating owing to it being well written. Blair has a way of painting the characters he meets. The Paris section reads like a dark comedy. I understand there is some debate about how factual the book is. It does read like fiction in many ways. However, it also has elements of being stranger than fiction. I could believe it and it’s almost frightening how dirty and rough life could be for the down and out in the past. There was some good social history and commentary. In some respects, I think I like this book more than reading 1984. It has been almost 20 years since I read 1984, but I do remember it being similarly grimy and dreary. However, this memoir has more interesting characters as it were.

I know that Blair played around with the sequence events and that he truly was not a homeless person and didn’t need to be a tramp in the London section. I found the Paris section more realistic in terms of how he described his work and his constant undernourishment. His musings on poverty and work throughout the book was thought provoking as well. It echoes some of my own views about work and being efficient and profitable.

I would not read this book again but it was a a fascinating and well written book. I would have said the same even if it was a completely fictional book.

Read Feb 7-9, 2021.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

It’s been awhile since I read a literary novel like this one. The author is a poet and this is his first novel.

This is a very well written first novel. The prose is so sparse yet so powerful. The storyline and the characters are heavy though. As a first generation immigrant and someone who had not the most peaceful relationship with my mother growing up, some of the scenes between the narrator and his mother hit me hard. It was a difficult read for me at times. I do admire the style and it makes me wish I could write and express feelings and moments so well.

I do have to read something lighter again to lift myself up. I thought it was a very good novel.

Read Feb 2-3, 2021.

The Girl from the Other Side – Siúl a Rún by Nagabe (Vol 1-8)

I discovered this manga series through Good Reads. I’ve read volumes 1-8 which were all available through my library. Volume 9 should be coming to me in the next month or so. I think there is a total of 11 or 12 in the series.

There is something so captivating about this medieval fairy tale manga about a girl and a creature from the “Outside” a kind of a monster with history. There is no audience stand in and like the characters, the reader is discovering the mystery of the Outside and the curse of the monsters.

Sometimes, it was a bit frustrating to read about a little girl’s reactions to things or watch “Teacher” the monster character full of doubts and self-pity. On the whole, I found the story really interesting and compelling. It really made use of the black and white visual medium. It had moments of levity and humour. It’s oddly wholesome at times. There’s horror but there is a lot of tenderness between the two main characters as well. It’s really effective character work.

I am looking forward to the last few instalments. Recommended for graphic novel and manga lovers.

Read Dec 2020-January 2021.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

I have mixed feelings about this book and sometimes about Harari too. On the one hand, Harari does offer some interesting and thought provoking ideas about history, the current world order, and philosophy. On the other hand, I also find his style of writing a bit meandering.

The first part of the book has a lot of what if scenarios for the 21st century. This bored me early on and I put the book on hold for weeks. There are definitely moments where I agreed with Harari including views on religion, fake news, and how ignorant human beings are.

I find more issue with his style of presentation. This book was done in response to questions he is asked and it feels like a haphazard mix of random topics. I do not think there is an actual premise of the book. It feels more like a patchwork of ideas and discussions the author has.

I learned a couple of things and appreciated his philosophy on some things. I would give this about 2.5-3 stars. It was very boring in parts but I also found myself agreeing with some of it or seeing things in a different way. It also made me think that more people should read these kind of books but they are not likely to for the same reason I struggled with it. His short chapter and recommendations on how to not be brainwashed was interesting and I’d have more about that.

The author notes how complex the world is and now this book review is more complex than usual. Overall, I am glad I finished it and don’t regret it. I would be wary about recommending it to anyone though.

Read Dec 15, 2020 to Jan 24, 2021.

The Borrowers series by Mary Norton

I know some people read cozy mysteries and romance novels as their comfort reading. I am finding that young adult / children’s books and graphic novels are my comfort reading.

I read the first Borrowers at the end of 2019. I liked it enough to read the rest of the series in the past couple of months. Overall, I really liked this series. I wish I had read it when I was younger but I definitely appreciate it as an adult. There’s a lot of whimsical details. As a cozy novel, the adventures and conflicts are mostly resolved by the end of each novel.

I liked all the core characters and found the world building so interesting too. I liked both the outdoor and indoor adventures. I adored Arietty and I wish the adventures would continue. The last book The Borrowers Avenged did have a bit of an abrupt ending. I know that almost twenty series separated book four and five. Maybe Norton also planned another book or vignette after the last book. The epilogue seemed tacked on as well. I wonder what other adventures Arietty and her family got to after moving to their final home.

This was a wonderful series to read during the holidays and in winter. I am really happy that I keep finding children and young adult gems like these.

Read December 2020- January 2021.

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence

I love books about books. I think it’s because it’s an intimate and special kind of love. For me growing up as a lonely kid, books were some of my best friends. I’d spend summers at the library. I’d wonder about book characters and their lives. Reading about how how other people love and think about books so deeply is cathartic.

This author and others who wrote lovingly about books gets it. Maybe some of my friends loves books like I do as this author does but they don’t talk about it with me that way. Nowadays, I have joined a book club which I attend (virtually) where we can talk about my passion for books more. It’s still lovely to read about reading though.

This book has funny and insightful letters to books that the author a librarian has encountered. The last half of the book are all book recommendations. Spence is an older millennial so we have overlapping tastes. We both love Jeffrey Eugenides among other things. Not everyone would appreciate the recs, but they can be helpful.

Definitely a recommendation if you love books about books and libraries.

Read November 15-18, 2020.