Reading Taste Test · Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | Cousin Edition | Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Hello and welcome to the July edition of Someone Picks My Books! This month I reached out to my cousin to pick a book for me. She ended up picking Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, but you probably figured that out from the title. I have read a few of Murakami’s books so I was thrilled when she brought this one up so I get to read it. I was able to get it right from the library on my ereader so I got right to reading!

Description

A dazzling new collection of short stories—the first major new work of fiction from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami since his #1 best-selling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic. –goodreads.com

What I Liked

I really enjoyed the bite sized looks into the lives of those within the stories. I felt like the stories were well paced and the length of each one was perfect. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything, but I also never felt like a story went on too long. A very difficult balance to maintain as a writer. I felt that while we got a snippet of each of these men, each was unique and I didn’t feel like a plot was recycled in any way.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that these short stories has the same feel that I have previously loved in works I have read by the author. This is personally a worry for me when I am used to reading novels by an author, changing the type of fiction an author writes can at times ruin an author for me because they can loose a sense of what I enjoy about them. Happily that was not the case at all here.

What I Didn’t Like

As with short story collections there are some winners and some not great ones. I normally have this experience with collections, but I have to say I felt overall very positive about the collection and I didn’t outright hate or fully dislike one in particular.

Overall

This is a great collection of short stories and I am very glad that my cousin picked this for me to read. I was lucky enough to bring this with my on vacation and it was honestly perfect for that setting. It was bite sized chunks of great works by a very talented writer. The stories didn’t go to fast or drag on in any way. If you love Murakami or have been wanting to give his works a try, but 1Q84 is overwhelming I think you should look into this collection.

Up Next

Next month I am reading a book picked by the lovely Minna, where you can find them on twitter as @bookishminna and on their blog bookishminna. I really love their combination of book content and life where their personality shines through as well as their passions.

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

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Let's Talk

Books I Took On Vacation and Did I finish Them?

Hello and welcome to a short post talking about the books I recently took with me when going out of state for the first time since everything went haywire in 2020. My household and I stayed in the middle of the woods, it was great to see different scenery and be in the middle of nature. Something I have not been able to do for a long time. Anyway, here is a list of the books I bought with me to read in the woods!

What I Took

Later by Stephen King

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

What I Read

Later by Stephen King, finished, paperback, pictured

This is the first book I finished on vacation. I have a tradition of reading a King novel whenever I go away and this short one was perfect and did not disappoint. It was a great of traditional monsters in Kings writing. This book took it a bit further and sadly showed the monsters that humans can be as well. I read it within two days and I could not put it down once it really got going. I also really liked them POV that was used for this novel. I think it really lent itself to what King was going for.

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, finished, ebook, not pictured

I don’t want to say too much about this novel because I am going to do a whole separate post about it soon. I will say that I really enjoyed reading this collection of short stories and was great to bring with me when I went on a walk or just sat outside for a bit.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald J. Robertson, started , paperback, pictured

As the heading says, I only started to read this book, but I will say I am really enjoying it. I decided that I wanted to take my time with this one and not rush too much because I think I could take a lot from this and I don’t want to miss out on anything. I am about 88 pages into it and looking forward to reading more soon.

What book has been your favorite vacation read?

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Crochet, Crafting, Art & More · Lists & Recommendations

My Favorite Crochet and Yarn Arts Channels

Mr Bobvin, Crochet With Kaye, More KopyKali

These three sisters are close knit, but love to crochet! They each have their own style, but I love each and every one of them. They have podcasts, tutorials, original patters, and organizational videos that I can just watch and chill out to while I am working on my WIP. I also really love that they all mainly work with natural fibers, which is something I really want to be exploring more personally so I love watching them trying out new yarns and seeing their thoughts to see. I can seriously say that these three have pushed me outside my comfort zone and I have started to make more wearable items.

Anna Kallajian

I found Anna though her Harry Styles sweater video which was a huge thing in 2020. I really enjoyed her vlogs and just hanging out with her viewers. I think she is the first crochet youtuber I saw that was not just tutorials. Tutorials truly have their place, I use them all the time, but I can’t crochet and watch a tutorial for something else. Also, her humor is just great!

Justine Isabelle

I love her stuff because she is learning and just trying new stuff. On top of that she is not afraid to show her messing up. Her humor and honesty are great. I hate to say this, but I just love her vibe. She is very down to earth and I can just chill with her.

TL Yarn Crafts

If you want to learn tunisian crochet her tutorials are where you go. They are clear, simple, and all around VERY helpful. On top of that, she is just a ball of sunshine with a great sense of humor. Even when I am learning something and really concentrating on her tutorials I still find myself laughing here and there and honestly. If I am learning and having a good time, there is no toping that!

Yarn as a Second Language

This channel is two friends chatting about crochet and knitting. I love that these two friends have such a great dynamic and don’t take themselves seriously and just have a good time. They have fun challenges from time to time and share their viewers work as well in between their podcast. I often laugh while watching them and every video I know I am going to love!

Tiffany Liew

While I am not a knitter, I love watching her stuff. I really enjoy her positive attitude while taking part in challenges, trying new patterns, and hauling some yarn. She honestly makes me want to learn knitting, maybe in the future. Her ability to see a sweater or something she likes and just recreate it is just something I am very envious of.

Knitty Natty

This is another knitting channel I have followed for quite some times. I mainly started to follow her stuff from her declutters and yarn organization videos. She has a podcast, random yarn related videos like yarn shop tours, as well as vlogs and sock challenges! Her attitude and personality keep me coming back even though I don’t knit.

Who are your favorite yarn arts channels or bloggers?

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Reading Challenges

2021 Mid-Year Check-In

Hello lovely people and welcome to my 2021 mid-year check in for my goals. If you would like to see my origional post you can find that here, Reading Challenge | 2021 Reading Goals. I went kind of easy on myself this year, but to be honest the 2020 was a bit hectic in quite a few ways. I wanted to really tailor my goals to what I truly wanted and not try to compete with anyone.

Use Library Monthly

So far I have stuck to this goal very well. Even if I owned a book I used my local library to read the book digitally when on the go or used the library as my only copy of a book. I am still not comfortable going to borrow a physical copy of books just yet, so I am using their digital services at this point of the year,

Twelve Non-fiction Books

I am actually ahead on this goal, which thrills me honestly. I have read a total of 9 non-fiction books at this point. The books I have read that meet this goal are; A Promised Land by Barack Obama, Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard Grant, White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer, The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary by Catherine Gray, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein and Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde.

Read 50 Books

I am excited to say I am also ahead on this goal as well, at the time of writing this I have read a total of 42 books! If you want the most up to date read count for the year you can check out my goodreads challenge page.

This is where my goals kind of take a turn. The past few ones I have been pretty on top of, but from here on out I have made progress in almost each of the goals, but have not quite on track. Ooops.

Read International Booker Prize Shortlist 2020

The good news is I have read two books from this list, you can see a more detailed post talking about Hurricane Season and The Memory Police here: Reading Challenge | Reading a Shortlist Vol. 1 Update. The bad news is I have 4 more to read. I will say, I am glad I have 6 months to read 4 books, that is very doable and I plan on continuing to work towards achieving this goal.

Read The Farseer Trilogy & Liveship Traders Trilogy

Once again, I have read two books towards this goal. I have read the first two books of The Farseer Trilogy, which I really enjoyed so I cannot wait to continue. I do have all the books either physically or digitally to meet this goal and I plan on doing just that.

Reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilology

This is where I start to hang my head in shame. I have not attempted to pick up these books at all so far this year. I love them so much, but the mood has not hit me at all the first half of the year. I am hoping that this changes very soon.

Keep TBR under 10 Books

Last year I got my TBR down to 0 books. I wanted to keep my owned TBR under 10 books going forward, but I am at about 30 books as of writing this. I am not totally happy with it being this high, but I am really happy that it is not as high as it once was. This is what happens when you have some holidays, birthdays, and sales.

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Crochet, Crafting, Art & More

My Favorite Crochet Tools & Notions

Hooks

Furls Streamline Swirl, I love the Cafe and Cream collection the most. These are quite pricy, they run around $24 dollars each. The good news it they have sales frequently so if you keep your eyes open you can get a great deal. I ended up getting one a month for a while until I had the entire set. For me, these are super smooth to use with all different yarn types, but also feel really comfortable in the hand. Before I got my first one I thought it was all hype, these hooks are really amazing.

Clover Amour Crochet Hook, these hooks are also amazing. They feel great in the hand and glide easily with nearly every type of yarn I have worked with. These are a lot more affordable and come in kits or singular. The prices are generally around $8 if you buy them one at a time, but I never paid more than $4 because I always have a coupon for my local crafting store. These were the hooks I learned on and I still use them regularly. When I give people crochet starter kits, I even add these hooks to them.

Notions

Clover Darning Needle Set (Bent Tip), with every crochet project sadly, you have to weave in some ends. I think this is the worst part of crochet, but I never weave in as I go. Anyway, I found that I LOVE metal bent tip darning needles the best. These allow me to get in between the stitches at a comfortable angle for my hand and wrist.

Yarn Basket, I use Decorative Coiled Rope Baskets from Threshold™, they have quite a few sizes. I came across these when walking around target one day about a year or so ago. I loved the huge size range of these baskets and I thought the neutral coiled rope look went really well with the yarn. They even have handles so you can use these as a yarn bowl if you were so inclined. I generally just use them to hold my WIPs and a larger one to hold all my yarn…. okay some of my yarn. Yarn has its own version of a TBR pile.

Yarn Bowl from kbkilnart on etsy. I have two yarn bowls created by this shop and I love them both so much. They are heavy enough where they stay still, but not too heavy to move around with.

Stitch makers, I have a huge collection of stitch markers. I have over 100 because I use them for almost every project. I tend to buy the cheaper ones although there really are some beautiful ones I see constantly on etsy. My tried and true ones are Clover Locking Stitch Marker. I have never had one pop open on me out of no where and I have never had one snap as well.

Row counter from TwillandPrint on etsy. I have a row counter from them called Witchy Row Counter Pin. it is beautiful and functional! It is a row counter with a pin back so you can attach it to your project I also like that it is not digital and a physical counter.

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Bullet Journal Jottings, Writing & More

Bullet Journal Jottings July 2021

Items Used

My Bullet Journal

I am keeping this bullet journal quite simple since I am really just starting to get back into it. The main layout is my monthly calendar that goes across two pages. Each square is 6×6 so I have plenty of room to write blog post ideas and other important information. In the picture above I had to cover everything in post-it notes. I used the micro for the actual calendar, but I used the Acrylograph pen for the month title. This is my first time using it and I am not to thrilled. It has great pigmentation and does not bleed at all, which is amazing. Sadly, it kept flicking the ink everywhere, which you might be able to see. It looks like paint splatter, now if that is something you like great, me not so much. I also used this pen to add some lines at the bottom of the page to get rid of of some of the dead space. Lastly, I added washi tape down the left side. This blue washi tape has gold suns and stars, green snakes, and blue leaves.

My next two spreads are pretty simple. On the left side I did a boarder around the page and labeled it Book Digest where I am going to keep a running tab of the book incoming and outgoing from my TBR. On the right side I outlines it all the same with the micron pen and labeled this one with Monthly Intent using the Acrylograph pen to make the two pages more cohesive with the calendar. My monthly intent page has the goals I set for myself in this months post you can find here, Monthly Intent. I created a checklist type setup and wrote the books I want to read, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor and Later. As well as writing the crochet project and a random thing I would like to do, which includes crocheting a poncho and creating a room spray.

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Monthly Intent

Monthly Intent | July 2021

Hello and welcome to “new” kind of post here on my blog. In the past I just did monthly TBRs and didn’t really talk about my goals outside of this or share the things I wanted to try to get to during the month. Well, I decided to change that and post a monthly intent post to share what I intend to do over the course of the month book wise and beyond!

Reading Plans

This upcoming month I really want to read a few books, but the two I want to prioritize this month are How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson and Later by Stephen King. When it comes to How to Think Like a Roman Emperor I am curious to continue looking into philosophy. I took a class when I was in school and really enjoyed it, but I have not really explored it more since. I am really hoping to chance that. As for King’s book, I really loved the last two books he wrote for hard case crime, so I am hoping that this is another great mystery penned by King.

Crochet Plans

This month I want to finally tackle a project I have been putting off. I have all the yarn for the project and everything, I just have been so intimidated by it that I keep picking up other projects first. The pattern in question is the Macchiato Crochet Poncho created by BrianaKdesigns. It is a beautiful sweater/poncho that I really want to have done for the fall months so I can wear it out and about. I have been dabaling in creating wearables this year outside of scarfs and hats and I already notice an improvement in my abilities. I am hoping I have gotten good enough to create this beautiful pattern. I ended up picking up Brava Bulky Weight Yarn in the color Sienna.

Random Goals

Something different I would love to do this month is create a room spray. I normally just buy some from the store and call it a day, but I think it would be a ton of fun to try and make one myself and really tailor it to my tastes. This is not to say that the store bought ones or bad, I tend to like most of the ones I have picked up. I just think it would be fun to mix my own or follow a guide to create a scent I really adore.

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Monthly Digest

Monthly Digest | June 2021

Hello and welcome to a run down of my past month. If you follow me over on twitter you will have seen that I want to share a bit more than just reading books with everyone so my monthly wrap ups are going to be sharing, of course, books, but also a few more things as well. Each month what I share might be different, but I want to share something that sticks out as a propionate memory or just some random things that sparked my interest. I hope you enjoy!

Reading

Current TBR Count is at 33 books.

Crochet & Crafting

This past month has been fun for crafting and crocheting. I completed my first granny square sweater without a pattern! I never really made anything before without a pattern and I actually really loved how it came out. On top of that I made quite a few market bags and made a huge chunk of progress in my ally blanket. I am hoping to finish that in the near future, I have never done a graphgan before and it takes a lot more time than I thought it would, but I am really liking how it is coming out.

On top of that I figured out how to transfer images to wood using Mod Podge, I feel like I am going to be using that in quite a few things in the future. I tested it out by making myself my own rune plate on a piece of cut wood. It came out fabulous! If I bought the same thing it would have been easily $35, I made it myself for about $12. This is one of the reasons why I love DIY so much!

Life

This past month I have been doing a lot of deep cleaning. I don’t know if it is because I am doing Summer cleaning instead of Spring cleaning, but I have been feeling the itch to purge a bunch of stuff I have not used in a while and clothing that isn’t really my style anymore. I have really been trying to acquire clothing and things I like and are truly my style. I think being at home so much over the past year I have kind of figured out what I really enjoy and want in my space. I think this month was just the month where I really started to follow through on it.

Anyway, that has been a bit of an incite into my life over the past month. I didn’t really make notes throughout this month because I didn’t know the direction I wanted this blog to go in, but now that I have an idea I think in next months digest you will see the difference. I hope you had a wonderful June!

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Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | Whit Reads Lit | Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

Hello and welcome to the second Someone Picks My Books within the past week! If you are are new to the blog, this is a series where I have other book lovers pick a book for me to read and I give it a try! I love it because I always end up reading books I might not have read otherwise. This month Whitney, who you can find on both twitter as @whitreadslit and over on her blog, whitreadslit.com picked a book for me to read. As someone who loves historical fiction, I was thrilled with her choice!

Description

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.
It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border. Her success and her remarkable ability to evade capture earns her the nickname THE WHITE MOUSE from the Gestapo. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, her new comrades are instructed to call her HÉLÈNE. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉ, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, armed with a ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and the ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces.
But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she–and the people she loves–become. –goodreads

What I Liked

This historical fiction novel is both a story of a really awesome woman, but also a love story of sorts as well. I really like this balance that is was not one or the other, but we got two stories working side by side. I would have to say that throughout this book there were times that were lulling a bit, where other times there was so much tension I had to actually get my muscles to relax. This was an interesting thing to be because when I read a book it is usually one or the other. It really shows how this book is almost two stories in one.

I thought the author did a great job when it came to really sharing the characters with the reader. I felt that I really knew their motivations and why they did things. I was really connected to them and was emotionally invested because they were written in such a way that made them feel real. This is especially apparent when exploring Nancy and her husbands relationship, but really apparent throughout. Can I just say here and now that Nancy was just a total badass? Because I can’t think of another word to describe her. She was/is a badass.

What I Didn’t Like

While I really loved exploring the role of Nancy in her relationship as well as her role as being a spy, at times I felt like it was in the way. It was not that I didn’t enjoy these aspects, but I found myself wanting to get through them because I wanted to read more about this very strong female protagonist in the context of her espionage.

Overall

Overall, this was a really engaging read. I read it quite quickly because I was sucked into the story when I did pick it up. This surprised be because it is not on the short side with almost 500 pages. Sometimes historical fiction can be long winded and at times I did feel this, it was not a constant in my experience. I felt like this was a very well done historical fiction set against the backdrop of WWII. Not only did it highlight that atrocities, it also showed the story of female spies that helped get many to safety and the dangerous choice that some made to put their own lives at risk to safe the lives of others. With this there is discussion of violence and other dark themes, here is a full list of trigger warnings compiled by Book Trigger Warnings.

Up Next

The next round of Someone Picks My Books is actually picked by a family member who doesn’t have a blog or anything, but we often talk about books so I thought it would be fun to read a book picked by my cousin! I am really excited about her picked because I have read a book by this author in the past and really enjoyed their style.

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

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Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | JJ Clapton | The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Someone Picks My Books where I ask for volunteers to pick a random book for me to read and see if I like it just as much as they did. This past May I had the wonderful JJ Clapton, who you can find over on twitter as @JJClaptonWrites as well on her website jjclapton.com. Yes, I am sorry I am late to posting this because I have been rethinking my blog a bit, but this series is one I truly love and wont to continue into the future. Anyway, I really excited to share my thoughts on this adventure of a book!

Description

For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob — a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life — hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life’s duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world… and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing.
There’s someone else who shares his powers. It’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them, before these characters tear apart the fabric of reality. –goodreads

What I Liked

First and foremost, I absolutely adored the imaginative aspect of this book. I mean, the ideas of book characters jumping off the pages is something a lot of us book lovers say as a figure of speech and most likely has been around for a while. The thing is, the author actually made this figure of speech seem like a reality and created a whole book around it, amazingly I might add.

This book opened up the readers in such a great manner it was a mixture of explaining and showing that was balanced really well. I felt like the author explained just enough that the reader isn’t lost, but we are thrown right into the action of the story. The writing really was just wonderful throughout. The plot was well done, the atmosphere was great, and when I read it felt like I was falling into the book just as much as the characters in this story were coming to life because of Charley’s abilities.

What I Didn’t Like

Honestly, I really enjoyed this book and I can’t think of a single thing I did not enjoy about this book.

Overall

If you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. It was imaginative and unlike anything I have read personally and on top of that was executed amazingly. I was honestly shocked to see that this was the authors first book, but very happy too see that they have others out and another one in the works. This review was hard to write because all I wanted to do was gush about it and say, how much I loved it. I will say that there are a few scenes in the book that depict a few dark things that could be triggering to some such as violence, if curious here is a list of trigger warnings. If this is something that does not affect you, I highly suggest giving this book a try. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I could not be more ecstatic that JJ Clapton picked it for me to read!

Up Next

The next installment that is coming very soon was picked by the wonderful Whitney, who you can find on both twitter as @whitreadslit and over on her blog, whitreadslit.com. She is a very kind individual and her content is amazing!

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

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