Monthly Archives: May 2015

Book Review: Lost in the Garden by Philip Beard – I love this author!!!

Lost in the Gardenlost in the garden

By Philip Beard

230 pages

Lost in the Garden is a fictional biography written by Michael Benedict, self-proclaimed under achiever. Born into a wealthy family, he goes to law school then works the least possible billable hours to maintain his place in a law firm.

He is married with two daughters, both of whom he adores. Michael and his wife lost a third child and neither of them seem to be coping with the loss, but have settled into a comfortable routine as a family. The girls are in school, leaving more free time for Michael and his wife Kelly to rekindle the romance of their younger days.

Unfortunately, Michael decided he wants to become a pro golfer. Kelly scoffs at the idea because he just isn’t that great of a golfer despite spending most, if not all of his free time at the expensive country club he has grown up in. When Kelly tells him she is pregnant – an absolute surprise to both of them – the couple drifts further apart instead of becoming closer.

I wanted to slap Michael, tell him to put on his big boy boxers and stop whining. Beard is a master of making his characters, both lovable and downright annoying, come alive on the page. It takes a brave or crazy writer to make his main character unlikable. Most could not pull it off. That is not the case with Lost in the Garden. The fact that Michael made awful choices then rationalized them really worked in this book. Maybe men would be able to identify more with him as he hits his mid-life crisis, but women will still like this book. I loved it.

The subplots with his minor characters are just as compelling as the main story, sometimes taking it over for a chapter. The smooth transition back and forth between story lines makes Beard a master storyteller. He gets into the heads of all of his characters, no matter how big or small of a part they play overall. No one is glossed over, which ads a layer of depth not often found in a book that is so readable. I often thought about parts after I’d read them with “ah ha!” moments connecting why one character or the other acted the way they did.

Beard is one of my favorite new authors. He has written three stand alone novels, Dear Zoe is his first, Lost in the Garden is his second and Swing is his latest. They are all different subjects and characters, but all of them are deeply complicated, yet read like the latest best seller. I defy you to put one of his books aside without it calling you back to see what is going to happen next. I am honestly shocked that everyone who reads doesn’t have at least one of his books on their shelf. The only reason I don’t right now is I’ve loaned my copies out to friends, who then have loaned them out to friends….if you love a book or an author, share them!

In case you can’t decide which one to read first, here are the links to my reviews of his other novels:

https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/book-review-dear-zoe-by-philip-beard-heart-breaking-but-beautiful-novel/

https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/book-review-swing-by-phillip-beard-a-grand-slam-must-read/

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Review, books, Philip Beard, Writer & Book Reviewer

WIP Wednesday Viva Las Vegas!

This week’s WIP is pretty light on the progress side of things. I spent the a long weekend in Las Vegas with my dad and hubby and left all my yarn at home so I could take a vacation from my projects also. We had a great time just being together, laughing and playing a few slot machines. After all, if I would have been a big winner (which I was not) I could have bought more yarn!

dad and jim

I did get a couple of hats knitted, just need to add the eyes, nose and sew them together. This week I am going to work on my shawl 🙂

half bears

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Filed under baby hats, family, Knitting, NICU, Vacation, WIP Wednesday

WIP Wednesday Audio Books and Knitting

Anyone who knows me, or has read a post of two of mine, knows that I not only love all things about knitting and crocheting, I also love all things about books. One of my favorite – or I should say two of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to read and knit. I know, you are all saying, “duh, thanks for the peek into your inner self what that revelation. NOT!”. But have you ever read AND knit at the same time? Nirvana!!! LOL for me anyway.

This week I’ve finished a couple of audio books and a few projects. The NICU hats are making another appearance this week. I’ve finished 2 blue and a pink.

5.20.15 pink and blue bears

 

In the last few weeks I’ve finished 10 of them, so I’m taking a few weeks weeks off from baby bears and hopefully finish my shawl and the blue & yellow blanket that got shelved to make the pink one.

5.20.15 possum shawl

 

It is hard to see the shawl because I can’t spread it out any more because I’d risk dropping stitches off the tips of my circulars. In this pic the top of the shawl is on the bottom left. It is zipping right along. I’m happy with my progress as well as the way the pattern is working up.

Regarding the audio books I finish, the first I have been listening to for several weeks. Alan Turing: The Enigma is a really, really long and sometimes way too technical book. But it is also a heart wrenching look at a man who has not fit into the society he was born into and spends his life playing an “imitation game” (his words) to fit in as best he can. The magnificent film based upon this book is tragic in the triumph Turing being instrumental in solving the enigma code, yet never able to be true to himself.

The book was a bit too technical for a laymen like me, but I did enjoy it. The letters Alan wrote to family and friends gave me a glimpse into this brilliant man. I was thankful that it was an audio book because I enjoyed it more not having to read all of the slower parts.

Turing

 

(picture from audible.com)

The next book I finished was #GIRLBOSS Sophia Amoruso’s how to succeed in business on your own terms. She advises hard work and being at the right place at the right time. There are some great tips for doing your best in a job interview. If you are planning a job change Amoruso’s book could really help you rise to the top of the list if you follow some of her tips.

Girlboss

(picture from Amazon.com)

So it has been a good week. Hope you all had a good week too.

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Filed under baby hats, blanket, Book Review, books, shawl, WIP Wednesday

WIP Wednesday Shawls and Bears

Here’s the thing. I started to use the beautiful yarn I told you about last week. First of all I was wrong, it isn’t silk, it is mink yarn. Because the band was all in Chinese, I couldn’t read it and I’d had it so long I’d forgotten that it was mink! Second of all I wasn’t wrong about not liking to do lace. As a matter of fact I hate lace with lace weight yarn, but I do like lace with sport, fingering or worsted yarn. So I gave Leslie the yarn to make a beautiful shawl for me (her idea and I should have taken her up on the offer immediately instead of waffling around).

But call me stubborn, I still had the itch to make a shawl myself. So I looked through my ample stash and came upon some possum yarn that is fabulously soft and much easier to work with than the mink I handed off to Leslie. In case you are wondering, it is possum, not opossum yarn, made from marsupial possums in New Zealand. I did a post about it when I ordered it, if you want more info check it out here. https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/new-zealand-possum-yarn/

 5.13.15 possum shawl

It is coming along nicely if I do say so myself 🙂

The other project I’ve worked on is NICU bear hats during my lunch hours at work. Because I need to count the increases and stitches on the shawl, I only work on it at home. Below is a work in progress pic of the hats and a completed pic.

5.13.15 bears in progress2           5.13.15 bears complete

This week projects will include the shawl at home, and NICU hats at work. I am not sure if I’ll make more bears. or work on another pattern. Hopefully I’ll have 4 or 5 complete to share next week.

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Filed under baby hats, Knitting, New Zealand, NICU, possum yarn, shawl, WIP Wednesday

Book Review: Bye, Bye Love by K.J. Larsen – Perfectly Plotted Fun

Bye, Bye Love

By K.J. LarsenBye-Bye-Love-cover

218 pages

PI Cat DeLuca has a habit of annoying the police while in pursuit of cheating spouses. She owns the Pants On Fire Detective Agency that is known for catching lying, cheating spouses. Cat seems to stumble into trouble and over dead bodies routinely. Lucky for her she has a long family history of Chicago cops to help her even when she doesn’t think she needs it.

After a particularly hairy stakeout situation, Cat decides to unwind with a run. Even though it is late, she feels safe running in the park with her partner Inga – who happens to be a beagle. Cat literally lands face first on a dead body. The only problem is the bad guy is still around and zaps her before she can get her tazer out. By the time she is able to call the police the body is missing.

Even though her father is an ex-cop, her brother is a current cop and her uncle is quite probably a dirty cop, Captain Bob of the Chicago police department doesn’t believe Cat.  He makes the big mistake of letting Cat know how little he thinks of her detective skills. She vows to find the killer herself and hopefully the body that went missing and made her the laughing stock of the Ninth Precinct. Lucky – or unlucky for her – she saw the guy she thinks is the killer. But of course that means he saw her also. Now she is hunting for the killer, looking for the corpse and trying not to get killed herself.

Zany circumstances force her into predicaments that include going to a biker bar, being ambushed by a mobster and into dead people’s homes to search for clues. Her assistant Cleo tends to make things worse, but her heart is in the right place even though she often ends up in the wrong place.

While all of this is going on, her pushy mother keeps trying to guilt her into marriage and starting a family. To complicate matters more, her boyfriend’s parents are coming in to meet her parents. It is planned to be one happy family dinner. The question is how will ex-hippy vegetarians get along with meat loving Italians? Cat can see the impending train wreck and tries everything she can think of to not be on board when it happens, but nothing works. She is going to have to have dinner and hopefully make it through the evening without losing her boyfriend in the process.

This is K.J. Larsen’s forth book in the Cat DeLuca Mystery series. It read great as a stand-alone novel, just enough background info to let people new to the series get up-to-date, but not so much as to become repetitious to readers of the series. This witty read kept me laughing with one-liners and outlandish situations that could actually happen if a PI had bad luck and crazy friends, foes and family. Here are the other three, because I know you are going to want the series. I do!

Liar, LiarSome like it hotSticks and stones
K.J. is actually three sisters, Kari, Julianne and Kristen Larsen. This award winning trio writes under one name and if you didn’t know it was more than one person, you could not guess by the writing. The sisters brilliantly combine their efforts to create a fun series with quirky characters both human and animal.

If you are a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Mysteries, you will love K.J.’s Cat DeLuca. There is a perfectly plotted mystery among the poker games and car chases. The twist at the end was masterful; I totally did not see it coming.

Bye, Bye Love is a fast paced, fun book. I especially liked all of the Chicago references since I live in the burbs and have seen many of them myself.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

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Filed under Book Review, books, Chicago, Mystery, poisoned pen press, series, Writer & Book Reviewer

WIP Wednesday – Nothing to Write Home About

This week I spent more time reading than knitting. I started a polar bear hat that is ready to bind off and stitch together. It won’t take long, but it will be at least tomorrow before I finish it. Next week you’ll see it completed.

Polar bear in progressI’m still obsessed with starting a shawl that in all likelihood will never be finished. I love the look of a lacy shawl, but in reality I’m not a lace knitter. I sometimes convince myself I’ll have the patience and find a quiet place to begin and actually complete a beautiful lace shawl, but honestly I am better off with something that doesn’t need to be counted. Carefully. Without distraction. Riiiight.

I have some beautiful yarn. I ordered this silk from China in 2012. I have other lace weight yarns in my stash, but this one just calls to me when I think of a soft, silky shawl to wrap around my shoulders on cool evenings. Maybe a nice glass of wine, sitting on my porch swing with my hubby…all of this sounds so romantic, but unrealistic.

silk yarn

I am more likely wearing a hooded sweatshirt with a Pike’s Peak logo on the front, sipping a Diet Coke from the can and listening to my sweet hubby complain about being cold. AND this scenario would not require completion of the shawl that I am already love/hating.

I have whined enough about it to my friend Leslie, that today she offered to take the yarn and knit it for me. She loves to knit lace and does a great job, without any whining at all.  It is really tempting. Maybe I’ll just start it, get sick of it and hand it off to Leslie.

We are oddly opposite. She loves order, I thrive on disorder. I’m loud, she’s quiet. I’m old enough to be her mother and that is ok because we both love to knit. You can tell who we are by our websites. Mine is kind of scrambled with reading, writing and yarn arts and hers is very tidy and organized. Check it out: http://singlestitchknit.com

So I don’t know what I’ll be starting this week. I will be finishing the white NICU hat for sure. I am seriously thinking short sleeves to finish the brown sweater I started way too long ago, maybe this week but probably not.

I also have lots of squares for a Lego blanket started. Maybe I’ll make a few of them. Not likely tho.

Perhaps I’ll make Leslie nuts and start a shawl. 🙂

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Filed under baby hats, blanket, Knitting, NICU, shawl, WIP Wednesday

Book Review: Dear Zoe by Philip Beard – Heart-Breaking But Beautiful Novel

Dear ZoeDear Zoe

By Philip Beard

196 pages

September 11, 2001 was a tragic day in U.S. history. Tess’ three-year-old sister Zoe died that day, just as countless others did. Many died in the terrorist attack, but others like Zoe died in other places where the magnitude of their death only devastated a family, not a nation. But each and every one are tragedies nonetheless.

In Dear Zoe, fifteen-year-old Tess begins to write a letter to the little sister who will never read it. She tells Zoe little things about her life that she may have told her when she got older. Like how they decided as a family to name her Zoe. She also tells her about how the family she left is coping with the hole left in their lives when Zoe died.

Tess is actually Zoe’s step-sister. Her mom and step-father married when Tess was young, after her mom divorced her real dad, who still plays a part in Tess’ life. He isn’t necessarily a bad person, but is more of a dreamer and sometimes a schemer who always finds a reason not to work.

David, Tess’ step-father, is a hard working family man who loves her. He didn’t really know much about being a father, but got better at it as the family grew with two more daughters, Emily and Zoe. Tess always thought of Em and Zoe as her sisters, never “half” or “step”, loving them both with her whole heart.

After Zoe’s accident the little family imploded. The only one that seemed to be “normal” was Em. The seven-year-old has always been wise beyond her years, but losing the little sister she adored and watching the rest of her fragile family float away from her was way too much for a first grader to handle.

This book is quite possibly one of the best books I have ever read. The underlying sadness of Zoe’s death mixed with the joy she brought to the family in her three short years is heart-breakingly beautiful. Now Tess has to grow up fast and could easily take the wrong path when it is practically dropped in her lap.

Em is the one that broke my heart. She was so lost without anyone to tell her life would be ok I wanted to bring her home to keep her safe until her family was well enough to do it themselves. Em made me cry more than once as she watched her family disengage from the life she knew and she was too small to get it back.

Beard is an extraordinary author. He creates characters that are so well developed they don’t just seem real; they ARE real to the reader. Tess grows up in the year it takes her to write this love letter to Zoe, and it is not without pain. We are swept along through her loss of innocence, hoping she will make it through this personal journey without too many scars.

This is Beard’s first book, and has since written two more, Lost in the Garden and Swing. I’ve read Swing and plan to order Lost in the Garden today. It is rare to find an author that can write in so many different voices and make all of them come to life. The stories he tells are rich and full, giving the reader enough details to pull you into the world he has created with his words without a hint of slowing the flow of the intricately beautiful plot.

I read a lot of books. Only a handful of authors amaze me. Philip Beard is one of them.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under 9/11, Book Review, coming of age, coping, debut novel, family, Philip Beard