Tuesday, November 29, 2011

{read: WWII fiction with a twist} City of Thieves by David Benioff

I just re-read this for a book club discussion and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. I appreciated the very specific premise of this book, perhaps because I read it again during NaNo: Two young men apprehended by the NKVD in Leningrad during the seige are given a possible reprieve from execution: find a dozen eggs before the wedding of the NKVD colonel's daughter on Thursday. That this task is nearly impossible is almost beside the point. That, in the end, it turns out to have been pointless yet costly seems to underscore the futility and insanity of war.

Kolya is a character who's impossible to resist, and his focus on the trivialities of daily life (what characteristics does Lev have that might make him attractive to the young sniper partisan Vika?) makes the cold, the hunger, and the long walks almost seem bearable. Although everything is a struggle for Lev, life seems to come easily to Kolya. Nothing shakes him, and he has a ready plan for every situation. Yet in the end, we see that Lev has more resources than we might have given him credit for.

City of Thieves by David Benioff (Viking Adult, 2008)
My rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 28, 2011

{crafts} recycled crayons

If you have a lot of old crayons laying around, you can easily recycle them!

Step 1. Gather your crayons

Step 2: Chop them up into small pieces

Step 3: Fill an ice cube tray, if you can find one that has cute shapes, your crayons will be fun shapes!

Step 4: Bake them at about 225 degrees for 20 minutes, keep a close eye on them and take them out when they are melted.

Step 5: Allow to cool, and pop them out of the molds.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} One step at at time

In honor of all NaNoWriMo participants:
"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." -- E.L. Doctorow

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

{read: YA bestseller} The Hunger Games

I picked this book up after hearing rave reviews from several friends, even though I'm not usually a sci-fi fan. The straightforward narration made it a quick and easy read, good for NaNo. I couldn't always predict what was going to happen next, and I liked the futuristic hybrid mutations, like the tracker jackers and the mockingjays. I did see Katniss's crisis at the end of the book coming from almost the beginning, though, and am hoping the series doesn't revert into predictability. Although I knew she was going to live through the Hunger Games to make it to books 2 and 3, it was sort of like watching Mission Impossible: the enjoyment is in seeing how the characters get out of impossible situations. The editing wasn't that great and I wish more attention had been paid to punctuation, but I'll definitely finish this trilogy.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008)
My rating: 3 stars

Monday, November 21, 2011

{crafts} Thanksgiving Turkey Shirt

I saw a tutorial for a cute Thanksgiving Turkey Shirt on The Crafty Nest. I created one for my son to wear to his school's Thanksgiving Feast:

{DIY Tutorial} Turkey Handprint Shirt

Turkey Handprint Shirt 1Turkey Handprint Shirt 12

Thanksgiving just isn't complete without a handprint turkey. I turned Logan's little hand into a felt turkey and ironed it on to a shirt that he can wear for the turkey eating festivities. The hardest part of this project was getting a 16 month old to sit still long enough to trace his hand. I plan on cutting out the little turkey and framing it, to be used in my Thanksgiving decorating next year. Happy Turkey Day!


Shirt (I found mine on clearance at Target)
Heat-n-Bond No Sew Iron On Adhesive
6 Pieces of Different Colored Felt (large enough to fit a tiny handprint)
Pen or Pencil
1 Piece of Cardstock

Turkey Handprint Shirt 3

Step 1: Trace your little one's handprint on a piece of cardstock. Cut out the handprint.

Turkey Handprint Shirt 4

Step 2: Iron a small piece (big enough for a handprint) of no sew Heat-n-Bond onto the 6 pieces of felt.

Turkey Handprint Shirt 5

Step 3: Trace the entire handprint onto the Heat-n-Bond backing of the piece of felt that you want to use for the turkey's body. I used a brown piece of felt for the body.

Turkey Handprint Shirt 6

Step 4: Trace each finger (except the thumb) onto the Heat-n-Bond backing of 4 different colors of felt. Each finger will get a different color of felt. Cut out the fingers.

Turkey Handprint Shirt 7

Step 5: Cut a wattle (that wobbly red thing on the turkey's neck) out of the remaining piece of felt that you adhered Heat-n-Bond to.

Turkey Handprint Shirt 8

Step 6: Iron the whole handprint onto the shirt. Next, iron on each individual finger and the wattle.

Turkey Handprint Shirt 9
Turkey Handprint Shirt 11

Step 7: Place shirt on child and enjoy your turkey!

Turkey Handprint Shirt 13

Thursday, November 17, 2011

{a thought for Thursday} Reincarnation through translation

All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . . —John Donne

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

{wordless wednesday} Ice

Time to start getting into the holiday mood!
This was from a show in Washington DC. Everything was made of ice! It was a cold exhibit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

{crafts} Craft organization

This is a beautifully organized craft center. I would love to work in an area this pretty! Do you have an organized craft area? Send your pictures to bookreviewsandcrafts@gmail.com.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

{read: short story/novel) The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

I enjoyed the portraits of these quirky characters who had only one thing in common: the international newspaper in Rome that they worked at (or in one case, read). The character sketches are written in the present, and the story of the newspaper itself, beginning with its founding, is told in italics in between the chapters. This switch in time was a little disconcerting at first, probably because I tend to skip subheads (which included the date, the big clue that we were changing time periods) and just start reading the chapters. I found the story of the paper and its founding family much less compelling than that of the reporters, editors, and other employees. My favorite chapter was the one about the copy editor, Herman, and The Bible, which is the paper's style guide. As a former newspaper reporter and current magazine editor, I had to laugh out loud at many parts of this chapter, including his diatribe about the word "literally." 

Although I typically don't like short stories disguised as a novel, these were somewhat linked and kept moving the story forward. I found myself liking it, despite my usual preference for one continuous story over short character portraits. It was an amusing read.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (The Dial Press, 2010)
My rating: 3 stars

Monday, November 7, 2011

{crafts} Toddler Super Hero Cape

I have found a cute craft to try out. My little one is ready for some dress-up fun and I thought this might be cute:

Here you have it, the most popular, free sewing pattern for superhero capes on the internet.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

{read: vet fiction} The Call by Yannick Murphy

Somewhere I saw this book blurbed as "not your father's James Herriot," and I definitely agree. This is written in the first-person style of a vet's log book ("the call," "the action," "the results") and also has some other categories like "what I thought about on the way home" and "what the wife made for dinner." Although the style could be limiting, Murphy brings to life the New England landscape, farms, people, and animals. The story follows the vet as he tries to find out who shot his son in the shoulder while they were hunting, causing him to fall from his tree stand, land on his head, and end up in a coma. The police have no leads, so the vet starts to ask around. It's a small town, and he's convinced that someone knows who shot his son. He begins to suspect some of his clients and makes up reasons to visit them so that he can think of incriminating questions to ask them. In the meantime, part of his past is coming back to lay its hands on his present, and he'll have to make a difficult decision.

Murphy's characters are finely drawn and her language is crisp and clear. This is a quick and engaging read. It's the first book of hers that I've read, but I'd love to pick up another one.

If you like this one book, check out Murphy's blog from September that's posted at Powell's books. It's written in the same style.

The Call by Yannick Murphy (Harper Perennial, 2011)
My rating: 4 stars