Monday, December 30, 2013

December Books and 2013 Reading Roundup!

1. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt - Full disclosure, I've never read The Secret History, which by all accounts is an amazing book.  Having heard so many wonderful reviews over the years, I was curious about Tartt's newest book, so I snagged it from the library.  My opinion?  I agree with every single review that I've heard/read about The Goldfinch.  It's an amazing book...but it's way too long....but I'm not sure what Tartt could/should have cut.  For me the first half of the book was insanely good.  Couldn't put it down, was totally engrossed.  It started to lose steam after that, though, and with about 1/4 of the book left I gave up.  I skimmed the last 250 pages or so (I read the ebook version, so I don't know what that translates into in terms of real pages.)  I think my biggest issue was that I just flat out stopped caring about the characters and so it became a slog.  I really wanted to love this book, and I almost did.  Sort of.

2.  After Dead, Charlaine Harris - Having finished up the Sookie Stackhouse books, Harris decided to write a follow-up book that explains what happened to all of the characters after the events of the books ended.  It was a super-quick read, and was super-fun.  Harris has a wry sense of humor, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading her vignettes on each of her characters.  I also think it's pretty darn awesome that she decided to do the ever afters on her own terms. 

3.  Lud In The Mist, Hope Mirrlees - I'm a sucker for a good blurb, and when Neil Gaiman's name is attached it becomes a must-read.  Lud is very much a typical fairy tale....although one with a bit more foo-foo language than most.  I had trouble getting into it - partially because of that foo-foo language, which I found to be tiresome and confusing.  (Overly flowery for flowery's sake)  At the end of the day, though, I did enjoy the plot and characters.  Yeah...I enjoyed it, but I don't know that I would recommend it.

4.  Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowel - How to bait a hook really, really well for me:  describe a book as Jane Austin with a magic twist!  I tumbled across this book while looking through the Hugo and Nebula Award winner/nominee lists on iBooks, and could NOT resist.  Absolutely true that it's a very lighthearted read with little of real substance...but it's also absolutely true that it was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to read the two sequels!  It was a lot of fun tracing the Austin influence in Kowel's characters. 

5.  The Golum and the Jinni, Helene Wecker - This book popped up on multiple Best of 2013 lists, and when an online friend urged me to read it I knew I could not resist.  Wow.  Just.....Wow.  I don't know that I really want to say much about it, other than....you should all totally read it asap.

6.  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin - A couple of my college friends have been recommending this book to me for YEARS.  Silly me, I really wish I'd read it immediately!  I immediately fell in love with Yeine, our heroine, and was tickled to find a pretty fresh world in Jemisin's creation.  It was a thoroughly satisfying read, and was probably the most traditional fantasy novel that I've read in a long while.  It made me very hungry for more. 

7.  Shadow & Bone, Leigh Bardugo - A Books on the Nightstand recommendation that I couldn't resist when I discovered it was on sale for $2 on ibooks!  Yay!  (The end of the year deals have been amazing.)  This is YA fantasy at it's absolute best, and I loved the Russian twist to the fantasy world.  The second book came out this year, and according to at least one review I read it's every bit as good as the Shadow & Bone.  The third book is due out next year, and the real question is do I read the second now or wait until #3 is published so that I can read them back to back?

8.  Ironskin, Tina Connolly - Absolutely true, it is Jane Eyre with a fey twist.  (The author recognizes that in the acknowledgements, although it's a tad unclear as to whether or not it was originally intended.  I think it must have been.  It's too obvious.)  Just as with Shades of Milk and Honey, this second few twist on a classic was found on the Hugo and Nebula iBooks pages.  The difference, though, is that there was real substance in Ironskin.  There's much there about appearance, self-worth and finding one's inner value.  I couldn't put it down....which was somewhat problematic as I was reading it over Christmas at my parents' house!

9.  The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, Catherynne M. Valente - I absolutely adore Valente's books about the marvelous September....but I also am realizing that I find them maybe just a tad too precious.  As much as I delight in the whimsy, I have to admit that these books can be a tad difficult to really get into, and they tend to put me to sleep when I'm reading them.  I'm thinking it's perhaps because I was so fully engrossed by so many good books this month that I finally noticed....or maybe it's just because by book 3 the problems are starting to show.  Not sure.  I still love them, but I just can't give this one as much of a recommendation as I have in the past, and I'm not sure if I'll continue on if there are more books. 

10.  Copperhead, Tina Connolly - Ooohhhh....a sequel!  With another one planned!  Connolly has blissfully moved on from Jane Eyre, and focuses this book on Jane of Ironskin's sister, Helen.   Yep, snapped it up as soon as I discovered it.  Haven't finished it yet, but will by the stroke of midnight tomorrow night!  Love it!

And now....drumroll please....
 
my 2013 Book and Reading Review!

  •  I read a total of 117 books this year.
  • With about 4 of those being books I didn't complete, that averages out to 10 full books/month.
  • October was my biggest month - with 16 books.
  • Interestingly enough, my October book blog post was my most popular blog post ever. 
  • I had three months of themed reading, which was fun. 
  • Several years ago I discovered the Books on the Nightstand podcast, and since then the range of what I read has expanded greatly.  I think it's been really good for me, and it's certainly introduced me to a wide range of authors that I never would have tried before.
  • Having said that, December brought me back to fantasy, which has long been my great love - and I have to admit that it felt really, really good.  I may focus more on fantasy/fairy tales in the next year.
My Top 10 of 2013
(in order of when they were read)
  1. Wonder
  2. Beautiful Ruins
  3. Tiny Beautiful Things
  4. The Hum and the Shiver
  5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  6. A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon
  7. Life After Life
  8. Night Film
  9. The Cats of Tanglewood Forest
  10. The Golum and the Jinni
Thank you for traveling along with me on all of my reading adventures. 

Here's hoping 2014 brings just as many wonderful books!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Taking Stock

Friends, I'm in a mood. 

I've decided I want to start 2014 with a clean slate...which means it's time to take a serious look at any and all unfinished projects, forgotten plans and general messes in my workbasket. 

Let's see what we have, and perhaps figure out what to do about some of it!

1.  A tiny trio:
the minis to match my three most recent pair of knit socks

 I did that today.  Yay!


2.  The Maia Mitts:
 They are now frogged.
 
The nutshell is that the pattern very clearly didn't work for my hands.  While I was able to figure out the details of how to fix the problem, I just didn't have any interest in completely redoing the mitts.


3.  Maia Shoulderette:
 
I didn't finish it off because I decided to wait until the mitts were done so that I could use up any leftover yarn in the wee shawl.  Now I have a decision to make.  With almost an entire skein now available, do I frog back the bottom portion of the shawl and add another repeat of the middle section to make it a bit bigger?  Or do I just cast the thing off so that I can move on?  Not sure yet.


4.  Tanith wants mittens.
Goodness help me, this is the leftover from the first hat kit (still haven't cracked open the second kit!) so I might as well make that happen.


5.  Mandala Shawl:
This one is the problematic one....but I'm pretty sure I know what I'm going to do.
The fact of the matter is that this is my third attempt at a pattern I really, really love...but wow, I just can't seem to finish it.  I worked through most of the pattern this time around, and then got stuck trying to figure out how much more to do so that I could make it as big as my ball of yarn would allow.  The fact that I never went back to it says something.  Generally speaking, if something has been sitting around for more than three months than it goes into the frog pond.
 
I'm thinking the yarn would make a lovely featherlight cardigan instead....
and I do need clothes considerably more than I need more shawls.

 
 
 6.  Cupcakes!
My cupcake kit has a ton of yarn left.
Make more cupcakes?  Or repurpose the yarn/pass it along to someone else?


7.  Kusha Kusha kit:
This will never be a Kusha Kusha scarf. 
I've had the kit for over three years, it's a basic pattern, and I've never made time for it.
But.
I have an idea...for which this stainless steel yarn will be PERFECT.
Stay tuned....


8.  Quite some time ago I started working on my very own Pi shawl design.
The yarn is my very own handspun laceweight in a merino/tencel blend.
It's yummy...I need to get to work!


9.  Scrapbook Blanket:
Still needs to have about half of the ends woven in...and needs to have an edging added on.
I'm getting there.


10.  Bug Out! Socks.
They are so cool that I'm going to wait until they are finished to share a picture.
I want it to be a surprise!

11.  The Stash:
I've done a really, really good job of working with what I have for two years now rather than continuing to purchase new yarns.  I'm very pleased at the great dent that's been made in what I have, and I want to continue on with that!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Magic!

So I had an idea...... 
 A couple of years ago, my Gillian fell head over heals in love with Kerin Dimeler-Laurence's Andean Chullo pattern in the Knit Picks catalog.  She begged and pleaded for that hat, and so when the kits went on sale I decided to indulge her!
 The kits were being sold at such an amazing price that I decided Tanith would need a hat as well.
 
Two kids, two hats...two kits, right?!?!
Wrong!
 
Silly me...there's enough yarn in a single kit to make at least four hats!
Such is the agony and the ecstasy of colorwork.
 I've had all of this extra yarn just sitting around...
and it really, really needed to be turned into something wonderful....
and the girls have totally been into their American Girl Dolls for a long while....
and had practically asked for nothing but doll clothes for Christmas....
 So even though I SWORE after last year I would NEVER knit doll clothes again....
Well, some promises are meant to be broken.
You would too, if it made your children this happy!
 
Full details - including all notes as to how I modified the original pattern to fit the dolls - can be found on my Ravelry Page.
 
Yeah...I'm pretty pleased with myself!
PS.  JoJo approves

A Christmas Trio Plus One

While I didn't push myself for a complete handmade Christmas this year, there were - quite naturally - a few lovely knit things under the tree, including a trio of handknit socks!
 As usual, all socks are knit with Ann Budd's Basic Sock pattern
from The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.
 Sean's socks were made from Ellen's Half Pint Farm Merino Sock...the ONLY skein I had left in my stash with sufficient yardage for his looooong feet.  They are his usual custom fit - 80 stitches, 2x2 ribbing, 78 rows in the leg and 60 rows in the foot.  December 8-13....which is super-fast!
 Totally cheated and gave Gillian my Lucy socks...which I knit for myself this fall.  Her feet are soooo close to my size, and she loves these colors.  I do too, but it saved a lot of time!
 Miss Tanith's socks are knit from Araucania Ranco Multi on size 2.25 mm needles.
December 2-7.
And a pair I knit for myself between Nov 1 and Dec 1....and totally forgot to post.
Typical Kristin Sock:
Zwerger Garn Opal Hundertwasser
Knit Picks Harmony 2.0 mm needles
76 stitches - 23 rib and 50 stockinette in leg, 60 stockinette in foot
I had to shorten the foot a couple of rows because my last two pair have been a smidge too long!

Monday, December 9, 2013

My Brilliant Kid

A few weeks ago we had a pretty significant problem crop up at school.  My fifth grader came home in a very bad mood (which is just not like her), and when pressed a bit for details tearfully admitted that her class was studying nutrition and she just didn't know how she was supposed to answer the questions.  You see, the standard American ideal of nutrition that is taught in the schools does not at all match what our doctors have taught us and what we practice at home.  My poor girl was stuck between wanting to do well on her health unit but not wanting to lie.

I immediately composed and sent an email to her teacher, explaining the problem and asking if she had any ideas as to how we could come to a compromise for my daughter.  Bless her heart, she wrote back within an hour, telling me that she understood and would do some brainstorming.  The next morning she wrote again to let us know that she had decided that our girl didn't have to take the test, but instead could write an essay about the hows and whys of our family's paleo diet.  It was a perfect solution, and I simply cannot thank her enough for coming up with an outside of the box plan! 

The essay came home in her folder today, with a 100% and a big star on top.  I was blown away when I read it! I loved it so much that I asked her if I could share it with you, and she graciously agreed.  (Spelling and punctuation is all hers....remember, this is her first essay test!)

Some people eat chips, sandwhichs, cheez-its, and cookies for lunch.  Other people eat meats, veggies, fruit and maybe some funky looking soup or meat.  I am one of those other people who eat different nutrients. 

I eat what is called a paleo diet.  It is made up of fruits, veggies and meat.  Basically, we don't eat anything with a label on it.  My family doesn't eat one hundred percent paleo but we do our best.  My sister and I take gluten free items in our lunch and we are allowed to cheat at parties and other events.  We have turkey burgers as a snack instead of doritos.  When grocery shopping we raid the produce isle, picking up whatever's on sale.  We basically eat like dinosaurs.  They idn't have cheerios, ritz, or bread.  We still eat nuts though but no beans.  We also don't eat processed foods. 

We eat this way because we have allergies.  Mom being the most allergic and dad being able to eat whatever.  When I eat grains and dairy I get headaches, I get grumpy, I get tired, and I don't feel well.  We believe that grains aren't healthy because grains can be hard to digest and irritate the digestive system.  Grains also have anti-nutrients which prevent and disrupt digestion.  All grain products are refined in some way which means they were changed in the manufacturing.  Then the body doesn't know what to do with them.  It doesn't recognize processed foods.  When grains get digested, they break down like sugars do which can cause swings in blood sugar which causes mood swings and energy spikes. 

If you compare my diet to another persons diet, even though they have more options, paleo has more nutrients.  When I eat this way, I feel better.  We replace flour with almond flour and we have found a way to make paleo pancakes.  We have more options then you think.  We have a lot of great recipes to choose from even though most nights we have turkey burgers and roasted carrots with steamed broccoli.  We get healthy fats from steak instead of bad fats from chips.  When we buy things with labels, they usually have very natural products in them.

When we pack lunches, we usually find gluten-free versions of what other people eat to make us feel "normal."  We buy the healthier versions of chips by buying kettle chips and gluten-free cheese puffs.  When we cheat we have to keep in mind that we won't feel well if we eat it so we have to weigh our options.  When we go to church reunion in the summer we bring a bin of food to help us not get as sick.  When we get meals in the lodge, we usually load up at the salad bar and have our snacks later.

We eat differently because it makes us feel better.  We have different nutrition than some people but allergies get in the way.  That's why we eat like dinosaurs. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Cranky Letter

Dear Family Sitting At the Table Next To Me,

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that I've managed to offend you by the simple fact that I've chosen an entire table for myself this morning.  I know you would prefer that I sit at the large communal table...because you discussed that, pointing to me and then to the table in as obvious a manner as you thought you could get away with.  I believe the exact quote was "She should be over there."

The irony is that if I had been doing my usual - knitting with my earbuds plugged in and a podcast playing - I likely wouldn't have even noticed.  But today I was doing some Hard Work that needed to be done.

Hard Work that didn't need to be interrupted by a rude family.

I thought about getting up and saying something snide....but that just isn't in me, and you aren't really worth it.  I have no desire to call you out publicly or make a scene.

Besides, I have a reputation as a nice girl to maintain!

But you did hurt my feelings, and I wanted to respond somehow...especially as you kept sending me vitriolic looks the entire time you were here.

And so....

Shut it, dear family sitting next to me.

For starters, it is not MY Fault that the tables and chairs are set up like this.  This place went through a major overhaul this summer, and the powers that be decided that they could get more people packed in here if they redid the seating.  Thus...instead of many individual tables there now exists one big communal table, a computer 'bar' along the window and just a few individual tables.  Nope, it's not really ideal, but it is what it is.  The important thing to remember here is that I DID NOT DESIGN THE TABLES.  Like you, I am working with what I have.

The fact of the matter is that I've tried...I really have tried to sit at that big table.  As I am generally here by myself, I know I probably  *should* sit at the group table.  The fact of the matter, though, is that I was excruciatingly uncomfortable sitting there - uncomfortable at being forced into such close proximity with people I don't know...distracted by so much movement and noise at such a close range...unable to focus - yeah, it was ugly.  I shouldn't have to explain my own neurosis to you.

Nor should I have to explain simple human kindness and consideration.  If it's pretty darn clear to me upon entering a coffee shop that people have chosen their seats for their own  personal needs and comfort, than it should be clear to you.

Besides, coffee shops are first come, first serve.  Blame your own darn selves for getting here at a particularly busy time of day.  Anyone could have told you that it would be difficult to find seating during lunch hour at a busy location.  This is a high traffic store...I regularly see people making the best of it with cheery dispositions.  Maybe you should try that?

So you are just going to have to deal with the fact that you have a smaller table than me.

Tough Sh*t.

One last note.  I LOVED the look on your faces when a friend came in and the barista yelled out pretty loudly, "Kristin, do you know EVERYONE!?!"

Dude...they've got my back.

Sincerely,
Kristin

PS.  In the 10 years that I've been seeking refuge in coffee shops, this is honestly the ONLY negative experience I've had.  All in all, that's a pretty darn good track record.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Starborn Peacock

 This is a big deal, friends.
 Why?
 Because not only did I knit this scarf....
 ...I knit it from handspun silk.
 The fiber is from Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks in the Starbirth colorway.
It's the first time I'd ever spun silk,
and I'm delighted with how the colors gently stripe in the finished project.
 The pattern is Nancy Bush's Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf
from her beautiful book, Knitted Lace of Estonia.
I used an Addi Turbo, US 4 to do the work.
 I took my time....I started knitting it on June 23, 2012, and finished it on October 23 of this year.
I did the actual finish work just a few days ago.
It's lovely.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What Turned Out To Be A Sillyish Post

Well Hello Friends!
 
It's been a long while since we've had just a newsy, chatty sort of post...so here it goes!
  • It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
  • Actually, not so much.  We're having trouble figuring out where to put our tree.  The orange chairs have made our living room extremely comfy...but also pretty crowded in terms of furniture, and our tree is very, very large.
  • There's also the issue of how to put up a tree so that the rather large one-year-old puppy doesn't destroy it....
  • Yeah, I've got nothing.
  • Speaking of the rather large one-year-old puppy, Winston and I have been taking Pet Manners One.  He's doing really, really well for a very, very immature lab with puppy brain. 
  • Seriously...I am proud. 
  • I've only wanted to throttle him during one of our sessions. 
  • Much better than expected.
  • Winston would like you to know that he's very sad that it is now too cold to go swimming.  I'm sad, too.  It is super-fun to watch him swim.
  • I never in a million years thought I would be a dog park sort of girl...but there you go, I am one.
  • It's taken two and a half years, but my cat has finally - FINALLY - figured out that it is her job to sleep on my feet at night.  She's also finally decided to be a snuggle cat.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much I'm enjoying this.
  • I am not enjoying the ongoing battle I'm having with my daughter's cat over my yarn.  Sigh.
  • My children are still fantastic.
  • My husband is also still fantastic. 
  • I'm pretty lucky that way.
  • Enough about them. 
  • I'm still working really hard to get myself back on my allergy diet.  I've cleaned most everything out except for some occasional potatoes, coffee and some chocolate. 
  • ....and tomorrow is the day when that stuff goes away too.  Fingers crossed. 
  • Nope, I really haven't found the peace I so need with my allergies, nor is the depression gone.  It's going to be a long road folks, but I take pride in the fact that I keep putting one foot in front of the other. 
  • There are signs of life returning, which is a blessed, blessed thing. 
  • For example, I'm almost done with that beaded lace shawl.  It was a simple and quick knit, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's beyond good to get back to something I love so much. 
  • I mean, really...I didn't knit lace for almost six months.  Clearly that was a red flag.
  • This is completely random:  My hair is now shorter than it's ever been, making the cowlick I didn't know I had a HUGE pain in my arse.  90% of the time I have a big chunk of hair sticking straight up.  As annoyed as I am, I also think this is pretty funny.
  • Back to the knitting...which is what we were sort of talking about, and is now the tangent I'd like to follow.
  • I like knitting.
  • And with that, this has officially degenerated to silliness on a level that is unacceptable for further writing. 
Have  a great week everyone!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November!

1.  Five Days At Memorial, Sheri Fink - (BOTNS recommendation)  My library ebook hold came available just as I was finishing up last month's marathon of horror novels, and so I decided a nice, narrative non-fiction book would be an excellent palette cleanser.  It was, in a word, riveting.  In fact, I finished it in less than 24 hours (and it's a hefty book) because I literally could not put it down.  (Sorry girls...)  Fink's book was also considerably more terrifying than anything I read in October, being the story of what happened in New Orleans Memorial Hospital in the aftermath of Katrina.  Shivers.

2.  The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, Charles De Lint and Charles Vess- I'd been saving this for a rainy day, and after last month, and Five Days, I really needed something gentle.  It was beautiful...and quiet...and peaceful...and exactly what I needed/wanted.  Then again, I knew it would be.  To my intense delight, both of my girls chose to read this book as well!  They checked out an extra copy from the library so that they could both enjoy it at the same time, and I managed to snap a quick - and very adorable - picture of them reading together.  Love that we've all had a special moment this month with my favorite author!

3.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clark (audio) - You all were right, it's much better in audio!  Very reminiscent of Dickens, and I happen to love listening to Dickens. I did find that periodically I had to look the chapter up and reread it, but that's a minor complaint.  Even though I liked it better in audio, though, I still didn't finish it...Sigh.  I'm not giving up...but this could take a while. 

4.  Clair of the Sea Light, Edwidge Danticat - (BOTNS)  Oh my, was this ever a beautiful book.  Now I swear I had read the first chapter before (perhaps it was published as a short story somewhere?), but I haven't figured out where or why.  I agree wholeheartedly with the reviews I've heard which state that it's rather like poetry.  I believe I must go read more Danticat now.

5.  Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce - I honestly hadn't heard of Joyce before, but when my favorite author, Mr. DeLint, and his wife, MaryAnn Harris, recommended his work on Facebook I decided to give him a read.  I loved it!  This should come as no surprise to anyone as many of the authors I enjoy are folk I tried because they had a De Lint blurb or review.  Ahem.  I will also be reading more Joyce.  Fairy tales have always been my favorite...and now I'm craving more and more.

6. Writing Down Your Soul, Janet Conner - A very good friend of mine sent me her extra copy of this lovely book, knowing it was something I could benefit from.  She was right.  Conner has written a guide to taking one's journaling practice to a deeper level, which is just exactly the sort of thing I needed.. 

7.  Lord John and the Private Matter....and

8.  Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade...and

9.  The Custom of the Army...and

10.  A Leaf in the Wind of All Hallows...and

11.  The Scottish Prisoner, by Diana Gabaldon. - I hadn't read the Lord John books and novellas yet.  Thanks to the library, I now have....and it was super-fun!  Must say, though, they don't come anywhere close to the magic of the Outlander Novels. 

12.  Songs of Willow Frost, Jamie Ford - (BOTNS) - Sighs...another beautiful book.  I don't know that I expected to like it as much as I did, but when I saw that it was available from the library I decided to give it a try.  I think what I love most about this book is that Ford has taken a very common orphan storyline and twisted it in an unexpected direction.  The ending was perfect. 

13.  A Fatal Likeness, Lynn Shepherd - I must say, I liked this one quite a bit better than I liked The Solitary House.   Same main characters, same witty literary connections...but this time Shepherd dumped the 'being clever for clever's sake' nonsense that so aggravated me with the first Charles Maddox book.  The central mystery revolves around the true story of  Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley.  In fact, Shepherd had to invent very little (and she does clearly spell out what was true and what was fiction at the end of the book) because the real life events were so dramatic...and nutballs.  I loved it so much that I have three of the biographies that Shepherd used on hold at the library to pick up tomorrow!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grandpa's Wisdom

I've been sharing my grandfather's beautiful words of Thankgiving since I started my blog, and likely it will always be my Thanksgiving gift to the world because I simply cannot do it any better. May you all have a wonderful holiday filled with love and laughter, and may you recognize your many, many blessings.

The following poem was presented to the Woods Chapel congregation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ) by my grandfather, Stanley E. Curtis, on February 27, 1994, two months before he passed away.

"I am a farmer and a minister, and I see all these things that God has made and they are good.
  • To know that out under the ice and cold of winter, there are tender shoots of wheat that will emerge in the warmth of spring and produce a golden harvest next summer
  • To watch a baby calf being born, struggle to its feet and find nourishment at its mother's side
  • To ride the crest of the Missouri River in an aluminum canoe and sense the power of millions of gallons of water searching its way to the gulf 1000 miles away
  • To ice skate to school when the roads were too slick for cars or school buses
  • To wade waist deep in the Little Blue River searching by hand for fish hiding under snags of tree root - and finding them
  • To watch very fragile soybean plants push up huge clods of dirt as they emerge in the spring
  • To see a buck deer with a three-foot wide rack standing in my pasture looking exactly like a Hartford Insurance ad
  • To watch a doe raise a pair of twins later on in the spring and summer in that same pasture
  • To ride a sled down a half-mile long hill with family and friends after a new-fallen snow
  • To be up early enough for most of my life to watch the sunrise
  • To watch rivers overflow their banks covering thousands of acres of land causing millions of dollars of damage; yet realizing this has created some of the richest farm land in the world
  • To watch a nest of baby rabbits grow up less than 20 feet from the back door
  • To stand in a corn field on a warm summer afternoon and hear the corn grow
  • To watch my border collie bring a herd of cows from the pasture, up the road and into the barn to be milked
  • To smell the warm fresh milk on a cold winter morning
  • To hear the howl of a coyote on a moonlit night, and to see his shadow out the bedroom window
  • To have seen the Canadian Rockies, the Norwegian Fjords, the Hawaiian Islands, the Finger Lakes of New York, the Coast of Maine, the canals of Holland, and so many other places of breathtaking beauty
  • To see a wild tom turkey strut in the spring
  • To stand on a hillside and watch a summer thunderstorm move across the valley below
  • To taste fresh, tender sweet corn roasted in its husk over an open campfire
  • To stand in our storm cellar doorway and watch an approaching tornado pass harmlessly overhead after it had created a path of destruction ten miles long and a quarter mile wide
  • To smell a field of new-mown alfalfa hay
  • To sit under the hands of two very fine elders in administration and receive strength and healing
  • To feel the pain and yet the privilege of officiating at the funeral of a neighbor I had known and worked with for 45 years
  • To hear the scream of a mountain lion and see just ahead two huge eyes in the beam of my flashlight
  • To come home from seeing the fall colors in New England and see our own countryside ablaze with spectacular beauty
  • To see forty young friends show up to help move property out of harm's way as floods threatened
  • To watch our 12-year old daughter lead her 2000 pound Holstein into the winner's circle at the state fair
  • To stand before you this morning to testify of the overwhelming power of God's presence in my life, in you my friends, and in all of nature
From these and a Host of other experiences, I can truly say, I see all these things that God has made and they are beautiful."
Happy Thanksgiving, and God Bless.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why I Let Her Do It

Recently my beautiful little girl went from this:
To this!
She was...and still is...a very, happy little girl who loves her new look.

 And people have asked,
"Why did you let her do it? Why would you let her cut off all of that gorgeous hair?"
 
 First and foremost...it's her head, not mine.
 
Secondly...it's just hair, and it will grow back.
 
But really,
 
Really I let her do it because of this:
 
"Jan. 1, 1988 ...  I have long brown hair that I think is my only vanity."
 
That is quite literally the fourth sentence in my first journal.
 
It's also the only nice thing I say about my appearance in any of my journals.
(I might be wrong, I've only reread through my college years, but I know myself and I'm 99% sure this is true.)  Pages upon pages upon pages are devoted to what's wrong with my appearance, and the only nice things I ever say about myself are about my hair.
 
Yes, it is incredibly sad.
 
It's also infuriating.
 
I want better for my girls.
 
I want them to know they are beautiful because they just are.
 
I want them to know that they are more than their looks.
 
I want them to have fun with their femininity...and all of the crazy things that go along with that.
 
I want them to be free of societal expectations.
 
I want them to believe in themselves...in their WHOLE selves.
 
And yes, I want them to know that a bad hair day or a bad haircut isn't the end of the world.
 
So I let her cut her hair. 
 
Goodness bless, she'll have it better than I did...of that, I am sure.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Peek Into My Workbasket

The Green Woman is over the moon that we are being creative again, and she wanted me to share what's in our workbasket right now!
 The small shawl I started earlier this week is close to being finished.  I actually have enough yarn to make myself a pair of matching fingerless mitts!
 I'm also very close to finishing another new pair of socks for myself.  Yes, friends, this will be my fourth new pair this fall.  One can NEVER have too many handknit socks!
 I've also finally started a long-wanted pair of stranded colorwork socks.  They are so fun that I think I'll keep the details secret for a little while yet.
 All I have to do is graft the end onto the rest of this scarf...
which will only take ten minutes or so if I just get to it...
 This sweet little thing, which just happens to be one of my favorite knits in a long while, needs to have the facings sewn down, the ends woven in, and buttons added before it can be sent to the baby it is intended for.  Problem is, I can't find buttons in town!
I have about half of the ends to still weave in on the Scrapbook blanket, and I also need to add the trim around the outside.  Opal has other plans, though, so I haven't touched it since I brought it upstairs.
 
I also have a circular shawl that is mostly done.  The problem is that I lost interest in it months ago, and am honestly not sure if I'm going to continue.  The Green Woman likes to remind me that if I haven't worked on something in several months it should probably be frogged so that I can use the yarn for something else.  She's probably right....and I might have some ideas....some of which would involve some tweaks to what I have already so that I don't have to entirely frog it.  We shall see!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hope

It's no secret that I've had a really rough year.
 
But.
 
Yesterday I cast on a beaded lace shawl...my first lace in over six months.
 
All will be well.
 
All is right in the world.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Dog Dilemna

I knew when my sweet Kiera passed away just before Christmas that it wouldn't be long before I turned my attention to finding a new dog for our family.  I'm a dog person...always have been, always will be....and to me a house without a dog just isn't home.  (Yes, we still had a dog - my husband's papillon - but she is very bonded to my husband, and she thinks she is a cat.  That first fact makes the situation unfair for the girls and I, and the second...well....)  Truth be told, I had been browsing various rescue and breeder websites for quite some time...preparing for the inevitable and, yes, trying to ignore my grief over watching my beloved dog age. 

Kiera and I in the spring of 1997.
 
When she passed in December, my heart was well and truly broken.

And yet....I had hope because I knew it wouldn't always be so, and I knew that some day someone new would come along.  No dog could ever replace my Kiera, but there would be a new beginning.

The trick is in figuring out when the time is right.  My husband was quite correct to have put his foot down and said no for the first month after Kiera's passing.  I was too raw, and my grief too strong....stronger than I had expected because I thought I had prepared myself.   I knew I needed to wait until I stopped looking for Kiera around the house and that I needed to be able to remember Kiera with smiles, and not tears.  Sean made sure I kept a clear head until both of those things happened, and I'm very grateful to him for that!
 
However, once both of those bars had been passed, the house became unbearably empty.  (I know that statement is somewhat ridiculous, coming from a happy home with two children, two cats and a wee papillon....but it's true.)    It was time to get serious and start looking.
 
At the time, a friend of mine was also in the process of searching for a family pet.  She asked me for some advice, and when our conversation was over she suggested I write a post about how to find the perfect dog. 
 
So here it is!
 
Growing up as I did - the daughter of a veterinarian - I have some very strong beliefs about pet ownership and the responsibility that holds.  It's a lifetime commitment, and one that bears a great deal of thought and discussion.  It is essential to take into consideration the needs of each and every family member as well as the potential needs of your new pet in order to establish a successful relationship between family and pet. 
 

First and foremost:  Owning a dog (or any pet) is not a right, it's a privilege.  If you don't have the time, energy, resources and finances to support a pet than you shouldn't have one.  I know that sounds harsh, but it really is that simple  If you have never had type of pet you are interested in you need to do your research to make sure you fully understand the cost and care that the pet will require - including both regular and emergency vet care and training, and covering each and every stage of an animal's life.

Assuming you've done that, you need to figure out exactly what you want!  Here are the things I recommend that people take into consideration.

1.  Dog size:
 
This should be the absolute first thing you consider.
 
Are you a big dog person or a little dog person?  What type of space do you live in?  Do you have the type of space appropriate for the size of dog that you want?  How many other pets do you have and is your space appropriate for one more?  Do you have a yard?  Fence? Access to parks or trails for walking?  Do you know how size influences a dog's personality?  Do you understand that larger breeds have shorter lifespans and vice versa?
 
I personally tend to be a medium-largish dog person.  My one exception is that I absolutely adore West Highland White Terriers.  However, for reasons that I will mention later a Westie simply wasn't a possibility.  I wanted a larger dog because I appreciate the sense of safety and security you get just by having that larger dog in the home. I also wanted an exercise buddy that would force me into a constant routine.  Besides, much as we love our papillon, smaller dogs can be fragile...and with rough and tumble children I wanted a dog that could be rough and tumble with them!

2.  Dog age.
 
Most people automatically assume puppy....but there are some really wonderful things about adopting an older dog.  Here are just a few of the pros and cons of both.
 
Puppy pros:  super-cute!, high energy, blank slate, can adapt easily, train as you like, it's fun to watch them grow up and develop, did I mention super-cute?!
Puppy cons: super high energy, need obedience training, need to be housebroken, will keep you up at nights, often chew on lots of stuff, pretty needy, depending on breed can take a while to mature.
Older dog pros: tend to be calmer, often come partially or fully trained in obedience, often are already housebroken, know what you're getting in terms of size, personality and behavior, mature
Older dog cons: can potentially have behavioral problems and/or emotional issues relating to their past, sometimes have health problems, don't get to share your life with them as long
 
This was actually one of our easier decisions.  I adored Kiera, but she was about a year old when I adopted her and it quickly became clear that her earlier days had been traumatic.  She was worth every single minute of the work I put into her....but it was a solid three years of focused work to help her get past whatever had been done to her, and with two young children I just can't do that right now.  To be honest, I also wanted the girls to have that puppy experience as well.

3.  Purebred v. Mutt
 
Six of one, half a dozen of another. 
 
While you will hear from some quarters that mutts have fewer health problems...but that's not necessarily true if you find a reputable breeder.  The dearth of breed specific rescues renders the 'you should only adopt' argument moot....especially as with many of the breeds you can be 100% sure you are getting  a purebred through such rescues.  Sure, mutts are fabulous if all you are wanting is a companion...so are purebreds.  For every argument pro one side or the other I can give you a matching counterpoint.
 
This is personal preference...and the next issue is actually more important.
 
Honest to goodness, my personal preference is for a purebred, but this was lower on my priority list.
 
Not much else to say about that!

4.  What Breed?
 
Here's where things get truly personal.  
 
Please, PLEASE!!! do some research.  Different breeds have very different personalities, and what works for one family may or may not work for you.  For example, a dog with strong herding instincts may not be the best choice for a family with small children.  I could list many, many examples...but this is getting long enough as it is!  Dogs are frequently surrendered to rescue - or returned after a failed adoption - because of what amounts to an avoidable personality conflict because the humans didn't understand the specific personality traits of the dog's DNA.  This holds true for both purebreds AND mutts.   (Most animal rescue folk and/or vets can at least provide a good guess as to the genetic make-up of a mutt, giving you no excuse to skip the research!)
 
Me? 
 
I LOVE Westies (as I mentioned) and I LOVE Labs and I LOVE Brittany Spaniels.
 
I'm also pretty cool with pitts, rotts, terriers and pugs.
 
I like - but know better than to get - several varieties of working dogs.
 
What I don't care for so much are boxers, poodles, hounds, chihuahuas, or small decorative puff balls.
 
At the end of the day, I know what works for me...and what doesn't work for me.  This time around, though, I based much of my decision on what my girls needed...and that was a happy-go-lucky lab... AKA, the perfect family dog.

5.  Breeder v. Rescue: 
 
I may get into trouble for saying this publicly, but I am a supporter of responsible breeders and I believe whole heartedly that if you are a family who wants a very specific breed you have every right to find a breeder.  (The trick being you must do your due diligence and find a responsible breeder.  Our state is notorious for puppy mills, and that is a deplorable practice that must be stopped.  So NO pet store puppies and no puppy mills!!!)  You can find information about how to go through the process here

I'll go a step further....it really makes me angry when people get on their high horse and start preaching that you HAVE to adopt a shelter dog.  I mentioned on FB that I was starting to think through what we wanted to do and I pretty immediately had people start to try to influence my decision in that direction - some gently, some not so.  I also have friends who hesitate to tell you where their wonderful puppies have come from because they have so often been given so much crap over having used a breeder.  It's irritating and offensive.

As with everything else, there are some legitimate reasons to go either way. Please respect that YOUR decision may not be someone else's decision on this sensitive topic.
 
Breed specific rescues are a great compromise if you are struggling to decide where to get your pet - especially if you want a purebred.  Be warned, however, that they often have very high adoption fees and/or that they can be very selective about where they place their animals.  Remember that Westie I wanted?  The MO Westie rescue won't place in a home with children under the age of 8 because of typical terrier behavior...and they are four times more expensive than our local shelter.  Having said that, the benefit of those stringent placement rules is that they do a great job of putting dogs in homes that are good for the dog and the humans.
 
When it came right down to it, we chose to go through the Central MO Humane Society (my preferred rescue organization in our area) for two reasons.  First, they had exactly what we wanted..and I do mean EXACTLY.  I wanted a black lab (or lab mix) puppy with an outgoing personality that didn't show any signs of either aggression or fearfulness.  Check, check and check!  Two, the price was right.  Adoption fees at CMHS are a fraction of what a purchase price would be from a reputable breeder.  True, I could have saved up for a purebred...but I didn't want to wait that long!
 
So there you have it....my long-winded opinions on how to pick your next pup.
 
And now I'm going to go snuggle with my Winston, who is now about a year old and is just about the best dog I've ever known.


 Winston and I on the day we fell in love!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Some Thoughts About Change




I can actually remember the first time my husband and I saw this commercial.  We laughed ourselves silly...and have referenced it often over the years.  You see, I am a woman who LOVES my bushes.  Change is NEVER easy for me, usually creating considerably more stress and anxiety than the specific situation warrants.   If I had my druthers, I would happily live in my bushes forever and ever and ever.

Stupid pants.

Which brings me to what I would like to talk about today - Community of Christ Sings, my church's new hymnal.

(I imagine some of you may be scratching your heads over that one.  Bare with me...)

Two weeks ago, Community of Christ Sings was officially released at the 2013 Peace Colloquy to great fanfare and celebration.  (The Peace Colloquy is an annual event held at our world headquarters in Independence, MO.)  New hymnals don't exactly appear often, so this is - as you can imagine - a Very Big Deal, and was in fact part of the main focus for the weekend.

According to my mother, who is my resident expert, hymnals go out of date roughly every 20 years, and our old hymnal was over 30 years old....so we were overdue.  My understanding of the purpose behind updating the hymnal was twofold.  First of all, the church wanted to make sure that the songs inside reflected our current mission initiatives as a peace seeking church which is inclusive of all.  Second, they wanted to expand the range of music available to include different styles and languages as we truly are a global church.  This all makes very good sense as we do consider our hymnal to be a book of scripture, and I actually do support those goals.

It has, quite naturally, been a long process.  In all fairness, I give great credit to our world church for helping to prepare everyone by releasing previews at reunions and special events, and by holding music workshops.  They've been doing this for about two years, with the end result that most of my church family has been quite excited about the new hymnal.

And I've just been 'meh' about the whole thing.

I fear change, and will keep my bushes.

You might be wondering why I would be so ambivalent and/or nervous about a new hymnal when I support the ideas behind it.  Seems odd, don't you think?

Sigh.

The fact of the matter is that I've struggled with new religious music since I was a teenager.

Let me explain...

The contemporary Christian music and worship movement was really taking off when I was a teen...and I hated it.  I had sooo many well-meaning adults try to convince me that such things were for ME.  After all, I was a teenager..and teens LOVE pop and rock music, right?! Teens wanted informal and fun, right?!!  Teens wanted lots of movement, bright colors, dancing and concerts, right?!  RIGHT?!?!

Wrong.    

In fact, I was super-annoyed by the whole thing.  (And a grumpy Kristin has NEVER been an easy thing to deal with...sorry Mom and Dad.)  I suffered through contemporary services that my parents dragged my brother and I to in an attempt to give us what they thought we needed/wanted.  I rolled my eyes at the canned music that found its way into our worship services and the overeager people around me who embraced it.  I prayed for peace, and I shut down.

(As I write this, I'm keenly aware that as an adult I've come to realize that I do truly have issues with being very sensitive about sensory input.  It's entirely possible that much of my problem was actually about the fact that it was all too much...too loud, too much motion, too bright, etc.)

You see, I love the old hymns.  Always have, always will.  There is a difference in my heart between a song that has been beloved by generations and a song that was written last year.  The old songs carry the weight of history behind them, and because of that their meaning and spirituality is magnified.  They are beautiful...and nothing is better than listening to a congregation join together to lift them to the heavens.  The familiarity is comforting.  Those old hymns have lifted my soul in joy, bonded me through tears with a friend, brought comfort when needed, inspired me to greater contemplation and given me great peace.

In comparison, I felt that most of the contemporary Christian music was overproduced dreck that was so treacle filled that it could have given a person a cavity.  Either that or it was emotionally manipulative in a clear and cheesy way.  Don't even get me started on the electronic background music.  Shivers.

No thanks...I'll keep my old hymns.

I survived the Contemporary Christian movement only to be confronted with two supplemental hymnals that our church published about 15 years ago.  To my disappointment, the two books had a distinctive contemporary Christian feel, including songs such as "My God is an Awesome God."  That's just about my least favorite song in the entire world - being maddeningly repetitive and slangy.  Ugh.  To my even greater disappointment, I quickly found that my opinion was in the minority...and that if I expressed it I was going to be quickly trounced as a hater.  The movement had officially invaded my church, and was here to stay.  It's hard to put a finger on exactly what I felt we had lost...except perhaps that in embracing the new I felt that we had taken a huge step away from who we were.

(Another wee insight that I'm receiving as I write is that newer songs are never sung well by congregations...and the stumbling around is distracting, even in new hymns with potential.)

Please remember, this is personal opinion...and I'm being honest.

Since then, by and large I've kept my mouth shut.  I know full well that my feelings on the subject are just that - MY feelings - and that others feel quite differently.  So long as our services at church include a decent mixture of the old and new, I am happy.  (Although I'll be honest...there have been many a service in which only new songs were used, and they generally leave me feeling pretty cold.)  I don't want to impose my own personal preferences for worship on others, just as I don't want them to impose their own preferences on me.  I truly believe that if a church is going to thrive it needs to learn how to accommodate the needs and wants of all of it's members, and I'm totally ok with that.

Oddly enough, I love experimenting with different components in the worship service...it's just the new music that bugs me.  Go figure.  I'm a conundrum.

Anyway.  This brings me back to the new hymnal and its release two weeks ago.

My Mom called me from the Peace Colloquy, clearly head over heals in love with Community of Christ Sings.  She wanted to buy me a pew copy as my ordination gift...and I tried to politely refuse.  What followed was a crazy discussion in which my mother told me I was being an old fart (in not so many words) and needed to be more like her as I tried to explain why I'd rather just stick with the old hymnal, thank you very much.  It was a rather bizarre conversation, and I'll admit that it left me rather agitated.  It felt like high school and that rock worship service all over again.

I went to bed that night very, very nervous about going to church the next day.  I knew the new hymnal was likely to be a hot topic as we'd already received excited news of it from a few of our congregations members.  I was so very not ready....

And then I had a dream.

I dreamt that I was in a large hall for some sort of event.  It was a beautiful, beautiful place...reminiscent of an old fashioned 'crystal palace' ,the flight cage at the St. Louis Zoo and a grand ballroom.  I wandered through the very crowded room, mostly keeping to myself...but happy to be there, enjoying the party  Then I heard a single voice begin to sing...

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace...

It didn't take long for other voices to join in, and before I knew it every single person in that very crowded hall was singing along.  There was no accompaniment...just hundreds of voices lifted together in song.  At one point a choir appeared to lead the room in harmony.

It was amazing.

I woke up the next morning with that song on my heart, and was comforted.  I felt as if God had reached down to say, "Don't worry.  The old will not be lost or forgotten.  We will still honor it.  Don't be afraid of what's to come."  I felt better about that new hymnal than I ever had, and was able to honestly celebrate with all of those who were excited for what it had to offer.

I've been singing that hymn to myself every since.  What a blessing.

There was still something missing, though.  I needed a reason to embrace the new hymnal for myself.  I had to find something in it that I could love, and I had to find a bit of reassurance.

With that in mind, I sat down with my mom's musician's copy of Community of Christ Sings during our trip home a couple of weekends ago so that I could explore it for myself.  What would I find?  What was still there?  What had been left out?  Would there be any new songs in there that I would like?

I spent a good hour searching through that book.  I was relieved to see that many old favorites had survived the selection process, and was amused to see a key change or two designed to make them easier to sing.  I both laughed at and was puzzled by the inclusion of alternative music for one hymn.  (Mom said it had lots of complaints for it's tendency to be a dirge..which I blame on the pianist, and not the actual music.)  I was glad to see that the one song I enjoyed from the supplements made it in, and relieved that a few others had been left out.  I figured out why that blasted preview song had been such a hot mess when we'd tried to sing it at reunion.  (No time signature) I also grieved when I discovered which hymns were missing....at least two of which were near and dear to my heart.  For the record, I wish there was an official list somewhere of the approximately 200 songs that were cut from the last hymnal.  Mostly, I explored the new..reading lyrics, examining rhythms and styles, seeking to understand what was so special about them.  I tried my darndest to keep an open mind and heart.

By the time Mom came home from church (You caught me...I was lazing at home with my brother and kids!) I had found two new hymns that spoke to me.  Mom was delighted when I asked her to play them for me.  She's a brilliant pianist, and has a gift for making hymns truly come alive when she plays.

The first of the two songs I had selected had absolutely lovely lyrics, but had a flat that I found a bit irksome in the melody.  I need some time - and a few more listens to adjust.  Still...it held potential.

The second, though, the second was absolutely beautiful and I fell in love.

I didn't know it, but apparently all I needed was that one new hymn that could speak to my heart as so many of the old ones do.  I've found it, and I am at peace.

Community of Christ Sings is indeed a book of scripture, and there is much in it that I look forward to exploring and enjoying in the years to come.  I have no doubt that it will become an important part of my own ministry, and I look forward to learning more about it.  I will also hold on to my old hymnal, and will honor all that it's given me over the years.  There are still lessons to be learned from it as well.

So yes, my friends, I shall continue to hold on to my bushes...but I will wear pants as well, and I will learn to enjoy both.

Miracles never cease!

Many thanks to my Mom...for being patient...and to all of my church friends who've been working to prepare us all for the new hymnal.

Many thanks also to all of those who put their hearts and souls into creating Community of Christ Sings.  I know it wasn't an easy job - especially when such changes can be so challenging for so many - and I do appreciate all of their hard work!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spoooooky Boooooks......

Many thanks to the Daniel Boone Regional Library for providing all but one of my books this month!  These are soooo not the sort of thing I would ordinarily buy, and so I kept their fabulous staff busy with all of my hold requests.  Love my library!

Also, big thanks go out to my friends, who made many of the recommendations! 

I also pulled recommendations from several online lists that I found when searching for Halloween books.

1.  The Shining, Stephen King - Meh.  I bought it a few years ago because it was recommended by a whole bunch of my friends.  Call me crazy, I've never been much of a fan of King's.  (The fact that he sometimes comes across in interviews and quotes as a complete know-it-all ass doesn't exactly endear him to me, either.)  I was in the mood to start my month of scary books a few days early, and as I already had it on my shelves...this is what I started with.  Meh.  I've never particularly found the Kubric movie to be all that scary.  (Crazy, I know, for someone who loves horror movies as much as I do.)  As I've also seen the King-approved made for TV version which is pretty darn faithful to the book there just weren't any surprises to be had by actually reading The Shining.  Meh.

2.  Before I Go To Sleep, S.J. Watson - Yes, it took me a while to get into it. However, it was totally worth it.  I would be remiss if I didn't point out that it reminded me of a dark version of the movie 50 First Dates.  The nature of the beast also led it to feel like a less-well written shadow of Life After Life.  The best part is that days later I was STILL contemplating the ending...and questioning what was going to happen the very next day.

3.  Lost Boy Lost Girl, Peter Straub - Disappointing.  I really didn't feel any tension, and rather than questioning the end I just accepted it at face value.  Too many genres and ideas in one book?  Perhaps.  It was more successful as an examination of one family's relationships than it was as a scary book.

4.  A Night In The Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny - Pretty funny to refer to a Halloween book as "Charming" but it was!  I would probably let my girls read this book, even though there are a few curse words.  Loved it. 

5.  A Prayer for the Dying, Steward O'Nan - This is a small book, and it's not at all a traditional horror book.  (Although I did find it on a list of creepy books put out to celebrate Halloween.)  Yes, the events portrayed in the book are truly horrifying....largely because they are exactly the sort of thing that HAS happened.  Mostly, it's a heartbreaking look at love and loss.  I cannot recommend this book enough.  (Plus, it'll make you super glad we live in the era of modern medicine.)

6.  Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill - LOVED it!  A very satisfying ghost story.  I appreciated the fact that the action started right away, as I find a too slow build up to be a common problem among horror books.  Likewise, the ending was awesome...again avoiding the common problem of just breaking off too soon.  I simply loved the characters and I could not put it down.  Since it was a real and true ghost story, it actually felt like the first true Halloween book of the month. 

7.  The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson (audio) - More of a character study than a scary book for me.  Granted, I know (and laugh at) the movie, and although that took liberty with the original text it was familiar enough to not give me any surprises.  I caught some character details that I loved, and I did appreciate the fact that this is the sort of ghost story where you never actually see the spooks.  The reader was amazing, although this is the rare case where I wonder if I would have loved it more if I had read it instead of listened.  Then again, had I not found it in downloadable audio I would not have added it to the reading list! 

8.  Something Red, Douglas Nichols - Ooooohhhhh, I LOVED it.  To be honest, though, I loved it more because it fits more accurately within my beloved fantasy genre than it does in horror.  Something Red is a shape shifter novel, following a small group of traveling folk through NW England in the thirteenth century.  If you love and crave strong female characters, you will love this book.  Molly - a displaced Irish queen who leads our band of travelers - is simply amazing. 

9.  The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters (audio) - A properly wonderful haunted house novel! Period and everything!  Reminded me rather of Downton Abbey, in fact. Waters is amazing, and I'm glad I wound up with two of her books this month.  Have to admit...I'm still wondering if the narrator was as reliable as he appeared to be...

10.  Neverland, Douglas Clegg - I have mixed feelings.  The book is Southern Gothic, and the unique but familiar characters are very well drawn.  At its heart, it's a book about an unhappy family suffering through an awful vacation, with a healthy dose of crazy horror thrown in.  The thing is, I just couldn't get through it.  I tried multiple times to read it, and for some reason it never took hold of me.  Given my gigantic pile of books this month, I decided to put it down and move on. 

11.  The Solitary House, Lynn Shepherd - While I did have a bit of trouble getting into this book at first, I'm really glad I gave it a good chance.  As a lover of all thinks Dickens and Collins, I appreciated Shepard's use of Bleak House and A Woman in White (one of my all-time favorites!).  True...at times I thought she was rather smugly being a tad too clever, and her POV was very tough to follow at times...but fun nonetheless and worth the extra effort to follow along. 

12.  Affinity, Sarah Waters - Sigh.  Just when I'd decided that I love Sarah Waters.  I made it 1/3 of the way though, and just couldn't care less about the protagonist.  Spooky books only work if you care about the characters!

13.  Dracula the Undead, Freda Warrington - Sooo much fun!  I'll admit, I'm not normally fond of the trend in modern day to write 'sequels' to classic literature, but Warrington is a favorite of mine and I thought I would try it.  Warrington's take on Bram Stoker's classic characters doesn't quite ring true..but it's close enough to be a fun ride!

14.  Stoker's Manuscript, Royce Prouty - Fun fact, I just happened to notice this on the new book shelf at the library when I picked up the first batch of horror novels for the month.  It was so new it wasn't listed on Goodreads yet!  This is yet another take on Bram Stoker's classic...this time fusing 'history' with his manuscript and the 'truth' behind the book.  It was a lot of fun, and I must admit that I love it when vampires are actually...you know...scary!  (Not to knock the fuzzy vampire trend...I admit to enjoying it as well.  I just like it a wee bit better when the vamps are actually monsters.)

15.  The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes - I was only able to fit this in because the library had it in downloadable audio.  A time traveling serial killer.  Awesome!  Super-cool in audio because they used different voice actors for the different characters, which is always a treat.  Loved Kirby, loved the style the book was written in and loved the concept! 

16.  Dr. Sleep, Stephen King - Nope, not a King fan, but I was curious and liked the idea of closing my month with the sequel to my first scary book.  True, King's writing is much better in this book than it was in The Shining.  True also that I found myself considerably more invested in the characters this time around.  True, it was a much better reading experience because the story was fresh and new to me.  I'll go so far as to say it's possibly the best King book I've ever read.  (And now I never have to read another King novel....)