Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Really Late Craft Post: What I Made Over the Holidays

With all the craziness that happened over the holiday season, I did get a few things done. Nothing like I planned, but well... I guess you do get laughed at if you plan. 

One I did get done was for my sweet 90 yr old friend. 
These are done in the hoop on the embroidery machine. This one is from Lovely Leaf Applique (Etsy store) and the small tag was from Buggalena Embroidery. I made the large pouch with a D ring attached to the ribbon on the side and made the wristlet strap on my regular sewing machine. The smaller pouch just has a swivel hook on the end of the ribbon. All this was done with scrap fabric!

The next one I got done was a towel for a cousin who just got married.
 The embroidery file was from Hoop Mama Designs (and was free during the season but is no more but available for purchase at her website). The towel was a microfiber towel. Blue and Yellow (or gold in this case) taken from the colors of her wedding.

A couple of other projects rounds it out...

Eye mask:
This was actually a play mask from Ohana Applique Designs but changed it quite a bit for my eye mask. I flipped the eyes to look closed (a little bit more wrangling than that, but you get the idea) and then made the front from felt and quilting fabric and the back was made with satin. It is then filled with smooth tiny beads for a cooling and relaxing feel. 

Trinket tray
I don't know the designer for the tray (I got it free) but the letter design at the bottom of the tray is from Designs by JuJu. It can be unsnapped flat or partially snapped for a partial tray or fully snapped for a full, but small tray.

I made myself some pattern weights. The top two were from Buggalena Designs. It was made differently than I did as it required you to use non-fray fabric, but I thought that if I flipped it a bit while making it I could make it out of quilting cotton and have no raw edges. The one that says Pins is also a pin cushion. All have metal washers (get at a farm store) to create the weight. The 3 underneath are smaller and I used other designs I had on hand. The back is foldover elastic (which is part of the original design) to keep things in place and to give something to hold onto. FYI, I used unicorns, peacock feathers and star wars characters since you probably can't see them clearly. The horn on the unicorn is iridescent scale vinyl and the ears are glitter vinyl. 

So have you been crafty lately?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Entertainment Post: Netflix Series

It has been a while since I did one of these. With everything happening I did slack off from watching and binging but I'm slowing getting back to it. I did watch some of these before the holiday season so yea, some of this is probably old for some of you and you may have already seen many of these. Some of these series are actually quite short.

The Magicians S2
I wasn't sure about this one as I found the first season uneven, but I really enjoyed S2 and think the storyline came together better as well as the character development. I'm currently watching on SYFY channel for S3 as it comes out. So, if you didn't like S1, try S2 (but do watch in order).

Of course I saw Stranger Things S2
I also had my mom totally addicted to it and she couldn't wait for this season to come out (*little evil laugh*). Still love Wynona's character as supportive and "don't mess with my kid" mom. You also need to see this one for Steve! What a change! I didn't quite like the side-plot for Seven but I understand that was a failed attempt at a offshoot series. It didn't quite work and the season wasn't quite as tight as the first one. Still enjoyable. I also liked the ending but for a series that is continuing, it felt odd to me. As if the ending was with S2. Still, I did like how it came together. If you haven't seen it yet, don't skip S1.

The Defenders
Yea, I do like the Marvel Universe on Netflix and while this isn't my fave, I was happy to see Jessica Jones and Luke Cage together.. sorta. The weakest link is still the Iron Fist, but hopefully they will start to flesh out his character a bit more. Even though this has gotten lukewarm reviews it is still fun to watch.

Alias Grace
This one really peaked my interest. It did take me a couple of episodes to get into it and then I was hooked. However, the ending was so frustrating. For those of you who don't mind open endings where you don't get definitive answers, this is for you. For me, it was quite frustrating. I do get the creative angle to that ending, but GAH! LOL No, I'm not telling what it is in case you want to see it for yourself. Seriously, it was creative but frustrating.

Lastly, Anne with an E
I admit I had a bit of trouble with this one at the very beginning, but it didn't last long. It was my fault and I kept my ideal Anne with the Megan Fellows version. Even with my trepidation, the series really caught my attention in the end and I eagerly await the second season.

Okay, now that I've listed a few, do you have any to recommend? Also, I'm not remiss in seeing what day I posted this one on... 
...let the jokes commence! ๐Ÿ’˜


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Genre: Political Science
320 p.
Publisher: Crown
Published: 1/16/18
Source: NetGalley and Publisher for review
Affiliate Link:

A bracing, revelatory look at the demise of liberal democracies around the world--and a road map for rescuing our own
Donald Trump's presidency has raised a question that many of us never thought we'd be asking: Is our democracy in danger? Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang--in a revolution or military coup--but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms. The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism. The bad news is that, by electing Trump, we have already passed the first one. 
Drawing on decades of research and a wide range of historical and global examples, from 1930s Europe to contemporary Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, to the American South during Jim Crow, Levitsky and Ziblatt show how democracies die--and how ours can be saved.
My thoughts:

No matter what you think about US politics right now, I do think there is a resurgence in learning about the political process and what these people in office can and can't do or even what they should or shouldn't do (if not in legal terms). This book does a good job at explaining a bit of that from lessons in the past in terms of what is happening today. Unfortunately I've seen some people dismiss this book without even a cursory read because it does criticize Donald Trump and his rise to becoming the current US president. While it does criticize the man and what he has done, it also brings a historical viewpoint in politics I have not read in quite a while. The book isn't just about Donald Trump even though he is the reason the book was written.

I think the most one word review I've seen about this book is depressing. While that aspect is present in the book, it is also hopeful. We get lessons from democracies that have perished but also those that were threatened and survived and became stronger. The US has had several threatening instances to our democracy and some were successful and corrected in later years which made it stronger and some gone uncorrected or partially corrected which has diminished our democracy. The book also shows what specific ideas were put in place by the founding fathers to prevent demagogues, those who use popular prejudices and false claims, from taking charge. Some ideas were explained in a historical context (ideas that eluded me like the electoral college) as to why they were put in place and also why those ideas failed in recent times. It also delivers a road map in how authoritarian figures come to power by examples of the past and how closely that map is followed in the present. It isn't a one sided book but well rounded as it shows how no one side (liberal or conservative) is immune to the danger of an authoritarian figure. Also, be assured, it shows how the authoritarian figures were subverted either before or after that person came to power.

So while I do see that aspects of this book are depressing I also see hope within the pages. I think it also helps to see that the tiny actions of "no" within the party in power might make a difference if it starts to grow. This book really helped me see that as a bit more positive than I had before (not much but I'll take what I can get). There is so much more I want to say as this book has really made me think. If you want to know a bit more about how democracies win or fail this is the book for you. It is, I think, better than the more tabloid book out there (no names and admittedly I haven't read it because there is nothing to back his claims) as it is a well written and a well documented thesis on how democracies die and also live.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Series: The Hazel Wood #1
368 p.
Published: 1/30/18
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Source: NetGalley and Publisher for review
Amazon Affiliate Link:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.” 
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
My thoughts:

I didn't know what to expect with this book but dark fairy tale is something I do gravitate toward. I was not disappointed and really found the tale to be inventive and unusual. I did see some things that felt like retellings, but it really felt like something new.

I admit it took me a while to get used to Alice and really like her. Part of the problem is that it took a long while to get to Alice's true origin story. Even though that was frustrating in part, you also knew that when you got the story it would have to be close to the end and that it would bring all the elements together. I also was a bit frustrated with not knowing all the fairy tales we encountered. Like the stories were dangled just out of reach and I wish it came with a companion book of the fairy tales. Tales I know would be hard to read as the ones we got to know were dark as if the Grimm brothers took an even darker turn with their tales.

What kept me going was the mystery I was determined to solve and that I really started to like Alice. I really wanted a win for her and I wasn't sure this story would end on a positive note. I won't tell you if it does end well, but I will say that the story felt complete (despite it being the first in the series) and not everything ended in how most stories end. I'm extremely curious to where the author will take the next book.

I give this story 4 stars. Despite the problems I had in the plot, it was very readable and I also found it very unique. I also think that some of the problems with the plot were intentional. It mirrors Alice who is messy and dark and who we learn about as she learns about herself. There is great character growth in this book.


Monday, January 22, 2018

The Eterna Solution by Leanna Renee Hieber

Series: Eterna Files #3
384 p.
Published: 11/14/17
Publisher: Tor Books
Source: Publisher for review
Amazon Affiliate Link:
The exciting conclusion to a sumptuous gaslamp fantasy series 
Leanna Renee Hieber brings Victorian London and New York to life and fills both cities with ghosts and monsters. Two groups of paranormally talented investigators discover that the Eterna compound—thought to be the key to immortality—is, instead, a powerful protective charm. That protection is sorely needed, for both England and the U.S. are under attack by dark forces.

Having vanquished the demonic pretender to the British throne, the now-united forces of the Eterna Commission and the Omega Department reach America ready to take on a new menace. But like the United States itself, this evil is rapidly spreading from sea to shining sea. Will the new magic our heroes have discovered be strong enough to defeat it? 
With its blend of Victorian details, complex plots, and compelling characters, Hieber's fascinating historical fantasy continues to earn critical acclaim and has a dedicated readership.
My thoughts:

It had been a while since I read the last book, but it didn't take me long to remember what had gone on and I wasn't lost. I also have to say that this book really has me enjoying this series more. I have liked it but not quite loved the books before but I really enjoyed this volume.

I liked how all the characters had come together in this one and I do think it shined because of all the various characters. I had not really felt that the romance of Clara and Bishop made much sense to me before (I liked her previous romance too much and it interfered, I admit) but I think I finally feel as if they belong together. I also enjoyed the other couples as well, but this was my main focus. 

The villain is formidable as the last one and it also all connects together. There are some horrors to be aware of for the squeamish but the book is more of an alternate historical fantasy and not horror so it shouldn't be too hard to handle. 

I give this book 4 stars. It is my favorite in the trilogy and the one that was the easiest to really get lost in. It is a good book for those looking for strong and intelligent women who solve paranormal crime.