February 2023 Book Club: The Book of Night

Cover art for Book of Night by Holly Black.

I should probably start by saying that one of the reasons this book was so much fun to read is that the setting of the story takes place around the towns I grew up in. When Holly Black mentioned different college campuses or iconic local places, I’ve been there. It is my opinion that this lead me to enjoy the book more because I shared a lot of the feelings around the different settings with the characters. For better or worse.

Now that that’s out of the way, Book of Night was an interesting take on what would happen if a select few discovered they had the ability to manipulate the world using magic. True, the idea that magic comes with a price is not a new one, the idea that you have to feed your shadow in order to do it is one I hadn’t come across yet. Much like the limitations to magic in the world of the Wheel of Time, there are physical limitations and risks to using magic. Use too much and you won’t be able to use any more. There is also a pecking order created by how strong you are, which seems to make sense in any world that uses this rule of thumb.

There’s also something to be said about a good anti-hero (queue Taylor Swift’s song? No?). Charlie Hall is not the worst person in the room, but she’s not the best one either. Due to her upbringing, she was forced to manipulate those around her in order to survive and it’s clear that the habit has stuck with her even when her original teacher left the picture. Things are always going wrong for Charlie, but a lot of her challenges are self-created. While you want to root for her, there are also moments where your gut reaction as a reader is along the lines of “I mean, you did sort of do that to yourself. You didn’t have to do what you just did”.

Did I like the book enough to be excited about the sequel coming out in the next year or so? I’m not sure. The ending of the book left a lot of room to expand the story as well as enough ends tied up that I could stop here. Do I need to read about the struggle that Charlie will face with her new shadow and trying to get him to remember who she is or can I imagine a possible happily ever after? Holly Black isn’t afraid to make her characters uncomfortable, so even if they do live happily ever after there’s probably going to be a lot of discomfort before they get there. This might be why I enjoy a good Holly Black tale, no one is ever given the ability to be perfectly happy. There are always compromises that need to be made in order to reach the end goal, something that is very relatable.

Cover art for Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

I’ve been putting off reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer since it initially came out and I think I’m in the headspace after Book of Night to take on a fairytale retelling. At the very least, it will be a fun read while I wait for my hold on the 8th book of the Wheel of Time series. As this is my third attempt to get through the series since I read book 1 in high school, I will say this confirms that the timing of a book is really everything. So many people have called the middle books a slog and here I am, enjoying the slow world-building. It also probably helps that I’m not able to read book after book due to everyone wanting to read them now that Amazon has turned the first book into a TV series.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.

She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Dash-it All! Cowl

A white knit cowl with bursts of rainbow. The stitch pattern creates lines of dashes every couple of rows.

This one is going to be a little shorter than the last few because it’s being snuck in during a nap. Definitely feel a little bit like we spend a lot of money on daycare just to introduce our daughter to all the germs, poor thing has been sick on and off since early November. My husband and I seem to be on a rotating schedule of who gets which bug worse. Sometimes I have to remind myself that we’re building strong immune systems. Rome, after all, wasn’t built in a day. Also, it’s hard to see your kiddo sick! It’s a humbling reminder that you can’t fix everything.

I bring this up because even though the Dash-it All! Cowl was completed before this string of bugs, I think it would have been a good project to have on my needles at any point during the last few months. The pattern is easy enough to memorize while being simple enough to be able to work on for 5 minutes at a wack without getting lost. My last few projects have been of the squishy variety (think lots of garter stitch), but I can’t help but think back to this one and wonder what it would look like in different colors.

The tricky thing about beautifully dyed yarn is that you need a project that allows the yarn to do the talking. Sometimes this means working simple patterns with lots of garter or stockinette stitch, sometimes it means adding texture that gives the colors more depth. This can be made tricker by the placement of the colors themselves. For my Dash-it All! I used one of Wonderland Yarn’s color burst yarns thinking the color would be slashed about the cowl a bit more, I think for my next one I’ll opt for something more speckled or variegated.

Hope everyone is feeling mostly healthy this winter season! I think it’s safe to say we’re all looking forward to being able to open the windows in a few months.

Want to make one of your own? Use the discount YARNVIP for 15% off your total purchase from Wonderland Yarns (discount not eligible on sale items, with other discounts, or on yarn clubs). No kickbacks for me, just discounts for you :]

…And forward on 2023

Sometimes I feel like we never stop moving. In the last two years, we’ve renovated an entire house, gotten married, had a baby, changed employment… and the list keeps going. Despite this, I can’t help but look forward to the changes that come with a new year.

In 2023 I:

  • Will figure out what type of fancy loom to buy. I sold mine at the end of 2022 and sort of feel as though I should have come up with a plan beforehand. My initial plan was to buy the same loom but in a size 48in, however, a very kind weaver talked me out of it. I’m told that it’s uncomfortable to weave on that size rigid heddle. This leaves me stuck between a 24in rigid heddle (assuming I can double weave on it), an 8-shaft table loom, and an 8-shaft floor loom, probably due to the variations in size and price point. I just want to occasionally weave blankets and towels, nothing fancy. So it’s hard to justify the cost of a $3,000 floor loom. Unless, of course, I can find a used one.
  • Will sew a dress with my egg fabric! I purchased it a year a go and just haven’t been able to sit down and make the thing. I also want to make something out of the floral denim I snagged from Notion Fabric. And finish my husband’s bike pants. And maybe sew a few more things for O. It’ll happen!
  • Will knit the things. Some are planned and some are TBD, but I will knit the things as inspired.
  • Will slow down and explore the world around us. It’s a lot of fun to view the world through the eyes of someone who’s literally never seen things before, and a good reminder that the world is our playground.
  • Might finish the Wheel of Time series. At this point, I’m halfway through and still going strong, which hopefully doesn’t jinx me.
  • plant a garden? Maybe this is the year?

I’m not really sure what 2023 will bring, but as I look at the year laid before me I can’t help but be hopeful about what’s in front of us. Some things will stay the same, but so many things will shift just enough to be felt. You don’t really blink and become a year older, each passing moment can be felt if you allow yourself to be aware of them. There’s something truly beautiful in that, so for 2023 that’s what I hope we do. I hope we sit in each moment and enjoy them, the good and the bad.

Looking back on 2022…

2022 was an incredible year for so many reasons, it’s hard to believe it’s behind us.

In 2022 I said I:

  • would spend more time in the garden. This one actually makes me chuckle because almost zero gardening got done this year. I had these grand plans of building some raised garden beds and planting vegetables that we usually buy. Instead, I found myself hanging out on a blanket or on the deck. Relaxing while O was napping or watching her play.
  • will spend as much time outside as possible actually, doing all the things. We spent a lot of time outside this summer, but in a much slower way than my 9-month pregnant self dreamed we would be. Instead of mountain biking, we spent lots of time walking in the woods around where we live. Sure, not as glamorous as summiting a major mountain, but it was nice to feel as though we were regaining our time in the wilderness.
  • will read books because I want to, not because I set a numeric goal. I’ve actually been cruising along through the Wheel of Time books and loving the world-building. The secret is definitely taking the time to read a couple books in between so that the constant recapping doesn’t feel annoying.
  • will spend more time by the water. This one, sadly, didn’t happen as much as I was hoping it would. We took a trip to the ocean and O loved it, and then hit a growth spurt/sleep regression and the trip became less about enjoying the water. In the end, the best part of the trip was taking her to the Boston Aquarium and watching her talk to the penguins. It was a humbling reminder that the best-laid plans are really only good intentions.
  • will design and publish a baby sweater! This happened, in fact, I designed a few things this year including two cowls, a pair of fingerless mitts, socks, and a shawl. Don’t ask me where I found the time!
  • will make. So many items flew off my knitting needles this year, I’m honestly not sure where I found the time and know there are more projects in my future.
  • will keep trying new things. I started a new job, does that count? What about caulking a window? This goal was created without realizing how many new things would be forced upon me as a new parent, it’s amazing how I suddenly understand the appeal of a vacation when someone else plans the itinerary and you just show up.
  • will journal and/or sit with myself more. Neope. I even attempted to meet this goal by putting together a book of photos and whatnot of our first year as parents. I think I learned that my reflection happens while my hands are busy with other things and that that’s ok. I’m learning to let go of the romantic idea that my life should be documented and that I need to process everything on paper.

January 2023 Book Club: The Christie Affair

Cover art for The Christie Affair.

And then there were none by Agatha Christie was one of the first adult books I read. In fact, the memory of finding at my Grandmother’s church book sale is burned into my mind. I was in fourth grade and was getting tired of reading Nancy Drew books. The other women at her church spent hours sorting books into categories so that I could spend minutes pouring over the mystery section, reading the text on the back for any title that caught my eye. In the end, I walked away with three books, And then there were none, Roses are red and Violets are blue.

To this day, And then there were none remains one of my favorite novels, one I reach for again and again. I’m also in love with the recent mini-series adaptation even though it significantly changes the ending. Having read and enjoyed other Agatha Christie books, it wasn’t a huge leap for me to be curious about a fictional book discussing what happened when Agatha Christie went missing.

Let’s start with the fact that Agatha Christie did in fact go missing in 1926 for 12 days. Police searched for her for 3 days after finding her car abandoned with two wheels hanging over the edge of a chalk pit and eventually expanded the search after finding themselves unsatisfied with the results (The New York Times did an excellent summary of the time period). True, she wasn’t as well known as she is now, but for 12 days there wasn’t a reliable witness and to this day no one knows what really happened during the 12 day period. It’s a mystery novel in and of itself.

Using Christie’s Husband’s Mistress as a narrator, The Christie Affair aims to tell a fictional story about what happened during those 12 days and I think it does an amazing job. True, there are elements of the story that are almost too convenient (like who the mother of the child is), but the convenience doesn’t go so far as to take you out of the story.

I enjoyed reading about love, both a mother’s and a lover’s. I enjoyed the portrayal of Agatha as someone who was willing to commit to and keep a secret. This was a fun read and a fantastic way to kick off 2023. This wasn’t a book with levels of hidden depth, but it was one that made you think about how someone’s history affects their present.

Next month, we’ll read Book of night by Holly Black. I’m particularly excited about this one because it’s Black’s first adult novel (I read a lot of her books growing up) and because it takes place in an area that I grew up in and around.

Cover art for Book of Night by Holly Black.

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.