sunday brunch

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If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you to stay far, far away. I was SO lucky to catch a late-spring cold and it is terrible. I’ve run the gamut–super tired, sore throat, stuffy AND runny nose–and luckily it is on its way out. No one wants to get sick, but trust me, it is far better to get these kinds of things when it’s not 75 and sunny. I just want to run and play!

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you, no, you didn’t miss anything, we STILL don’t have our new floors. I don’t know either. Are they growing the bamboo shoots one at a time? It’s the only explanation I can come up with that doesn’t leave me raging. In the meantime, we’ve done things like build a half wall in our living room (replacing a spindly banister over the stairs), started a DIY fix-up of some patio furniture I got at a yard sale, and replaced our refrigerator (reluctantly), but ugh I want the floor. Now.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you I did it. I started the last Tana French book. I…can’t explain myself. I knew that I would race through them after I loved The Likeness so much, and I had no willpower to stop myself. I love them so much. Please, please, read them all. Thanks.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I am so ready for this summer. We have a few little weekend getaways planned, some concerts, and because we’re crazy, we’re planning to ride our bikes 100 mile. It’s…so far. Please keep the ice packs and Advil handy as we start to ramp up the training miles these next few weeks. (I’m only sort of kidding…it’s actually so much fun, much better than I found marathon training.)

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that we have been watching Netflix like crazy people. How are they SO GOOD at their original programming? I love Bloodline and I know it sounds so dumb, but Daredevil is insanely addictive. Damn Marvel. I am also already dreading the finale of HBO’s Silicon Valley. I love those nerds so much. Can we also talk about Mad Men? I was on the fence for the last few seasons, but still stuck it out, and I am getting a little weepy that it’s going to be over tonight. I’m a few weeks behind so I at least get to savor the end. Sadface!

What’s going on in your world today? Share!

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nerdy girl reads: the likeness

Howdy. Did you miss me? Sorry for my absence. Chalk it up to writer’s block and some good old fashioned burnout. I can’t promise I’ll be back every week, it is spring and every moment not at work should be spent outside, but I’m finally feeling inspired enough by a book to share.

Guys. You already heard me extoll the genius of Tana French here. I super loved The Secret Place (her most recent) and immediately picked up In The Woods. While I didn’t love it quite as much (uh, there’s no boarding school, duh) and the character of Rob is very unlikeable, I still raced through it breathlessly until the spectacularly self-destructive and wonderfully written ending. Every word French uses is elegant and perfect, even the Dublin slang thrown into each story for good measure. Since I love them SO much, I have been pacing myself with the Murder Squad, delaying starting the next story until now. Ugh I wish I hadn’t waited so long!

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The Likeness picks up six months after the end of In The Woods, and is told by Cassie Maddox, former undercover and the partner of Woods‘ Rob. Cassie has left the Squad to work in Domestic Violence, craving something more stable after the clusterf*ck of her last case with Rob. She’s bored and restless, unhappy with the relative boredom of her job and bucking under the stability of her long-term relationship with Squad member Sam. One morning she gets a frantic call from him to come to a crime scene — where she finds the body of a woman who is essentially her identical. And oh yeah, she’s using Cassie’s former alias. Undercover cop Frank Mackey convinces Sam to tell everyone she’s alive, and Cassie to return to undercover work for this investigation, infiltrating the home of Lexie Maddox and her four best friends who are considered suspects. Cassie gets to know them and becomes a part of their “family,” while learning that Lexie wasn’t anything but the smoke and mirrors of a girl with a past. As she pokes and prods, Cassie finds the cracks in the “family” and does everything she can, in every shade of moral-gray, to catch her man.

Like The Secret Place, I super loved this book. Cassie was a complex and relatable character and I thought French did a fantastic job weaving her past with her present. When she becomes Lexie, the words dance off the page and I never wanted it to end. While I loved Cassie, this book would be nothing without its supporting cast. On the one hand, you have Sam and Frank, coaching through the investigation and providing her with the links she needs (though she doesn’t always think so) to stay tethered to the real world, and on the other you have the housemates. Gah, they are the best collection of weirdos ever. All are grad students and all are escaping pasts they’re trying desperately to forget. Daniel, the quote-unquote patriarch, inherited the house and is a super socially-awkward guy. For reals. Abby is the quiet and caring mothering type, perfect to play off Lexi/Cassie’s wild streak. Justin is the sensitive gay one (and the only one who goes a little too heavy on the stereotype). Rafe is the hot and hot-tempered one from England. And of course there’s Lexie, the character who drives it all. She is reckless and free, secretive and dangerous. With all this damage, they can definitely live in their own utopia, right? Right. Totally sustainable.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again (when I allow myself to embrace my destiny and bellyflop into the series and finish it in one fell swoop — it’s only a matter of time), my favorite part of the French novels is the complexity of the characters and their relationships. The richness with which she writes takes a simple mystery (step one: girl is dead, step two: investigate crime, step three: find killer) and elevates it to a story that haunts you. I found myself sitting at work thinking about the characters and what it would be like to be in their situation. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the world she created. French effortlessly weaves in the themes of family, commitment, freedom, and sacrifice and leaves the reader wanting more, more, more. And of course the ending is perfect. Suspenseful as can be and completely satisfying.

Rating: 9, Just shy of perfect (Can’t put it down! Well rounded with exceptional characters and style.)

nerdy girl reads: first impressions

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife…” … is really the only line in Pride and Prejudice I care to remember. I know, I KNOW, I am pretty much the only romance-loving woman who is not seriously into Jane Austen. I don’t get it either. So I kind of rolled my eyes a little when I realized Charlie Lovett’s new book was a mystery about good old P&P. I was SO looking forward to it because his debut, The Bookman’s Tale, was so wonderful. But I shouldn’t have despaired because in the hands of a good writer, even a Jane Austen-hater can be convinced.

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As in The Bookman’s Tale, the narrative follows two story lines, one present and one past. In the present, we meet Sophie Collingwood, a recent Literature grad who (like most Literature grads) has no idea what she wants to do with her life. Her beloved uncle dies in a suspicious “fall,” and while attempting to restore his library (sold off to pay for the family estate, naturally — there had to be SOME British stereotypes!), she begins to work at an antiquarian bookshop in London. In the span of a day or so, two different customers request the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Her search for the title leads her into a mystery that questions the author of her favorite book, Pride & Prejudice. In the meantime, we follow a young Jane Austen and her friendship with Richard Mansfield, an aging cleric who encourages her writing and is a deep influence in her life. It is during their friendship that she gets the idea for an epistolary novel about a young man and woman named Darcy and Bennett who make disastrous “first impressions”…or was it really his?

As a book and mystery lover, I was pretty much already going to love this book, despite my anti-P&P bias. The mystery was well-paced and suspenseful, the reader is left guessing whether Sophie can save Jane Austen’s reputation and who is really coming after her and the book until the end. While I liked Sophie, my main critique of the novel is that she felt very one-note throughout the book and as a whole, the character development was a bit shallow. Her love triangle is entertaining, if not predictable. Just how does one choose between the hot smooth-talking book publisher who wines and dines you and the confident and attractive American literary scholar who writes you funny and romantic letters from his travels? Of course, you’d have to believe her “first impressions” of these suitors…

Under the mystery, the book is all about love…romantic love, familial love, the love between close friends, and the love of books and the worlds they transport us to. Reading the book is as pleasant a journey as a stroll around the English countryside, perfect for spring. Bibliophiles rejoice, if Charlie Lovett keeps writing beautiful love letters to literature like First Impressions, we’ll all be very happy indeed.

Rating: 7, Darn good (Highly recommended book that is well paced and enjoyable with a few flaws.)

 

what i love: february

Oops, forgive me for being one day late. It’s been a busy week. You know what else is late? SPRING. Or at least temperatures that aren’t the norm in the arctics. Supposedly there’s a big frost on the way this week, but I’ll believe it when I see it. How was your February? I can’t complain about mine: we celebrated the husband’s birthday in style, I’m feeling much more settled in my job (and still love it!), and we’ve seen old and new friends. More exciting news to share: we bought hardwood floors! Ok, technically bamboo floors. We found a good sale and decided to take the monetary plunge and redo the entire main level of our house. They should arrive in a few weeks and then, God help us, we’re going to tackle installing them ourselves. I’m sure everything will go PERFECTLY and there will be no fighting or unpleasantries at all. Heh. Because of that, pretty much all of my faves this month have to do with the house. I’ve been doing nonstop research about things like building walls and how to pick rug sizes for a room. I can’t wait to see how much the house is going to change for the better. Here’s what’s making me smile this month:

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1. I read a ton of home decor blogs for inspiration, but my favorite for years has been House Tweaking. Dana and her family (Cincinnati natives) “rightsized” into a fixer upper a few years ago and she has since made the house into a stunning place to live. The bathroom above is the most recently completed room and as you can see, she has an eye for creating the right mix of warm woods, interestingly patterned textiles, and gorgeous textures. I love every room in her house and wish I could buy it and move in tomorrow (see the house tour here). For now, I’ll just have to be content with stalking her blog page daily and copying everything. Seriously, that kitchen though…

2. You know what I’m obsessed with? This Banana Republic Jacquard Cropped Tank. The husband went on an after-birthday shopping spree and this, um, somehow made it into the shopping cart too. What can I say? I HAD to have it. I might also have to have the matching skirt so this summer I can pretend it’s a super cute dress. Yes?

3. One thing our house is missing hardcore is green, as in plants. I’ve been crushing on the shiny gold planters in this adorable pin from Target (love the tiny white succulent vase and all those awesome patterns too!) and am heading up this afternoon to pick up this hanging planter…I figure we should finally use one of the seventeen hooks hanging from our ceiling. The only problem is the last time I had a house plant, I killed it. Quickly. And it was a succulent, i.e. the most kill-proof plant in the world! So help me, which plant would you recommend to the worst plant owner ever?

4. One thing I’ve noticed in my new office is that all the women really take care of themselves. Shoes are always clean and unscuffed, nails are always manicured, and jewelry is always, always beautiful. I need to step up my game, for sure. I’ve started my weekly DIY manicures (it really DOES make you feel better and more put together!) and I’m eyeing these stunning Kate Spade Balloon Bouquet stud earrings. That blush color is so gorgeous and as a spring neutral would look great with everything.

5. Remember how much I loved The Bookman’s Tale? Imagine my surprise when Charlie Lovett published a new literary-themed thriller! Of course I picked it up ASAP. First Impressions is a fun quick read about Jane Austen (ugh, I’m so sick of her but read it anyway), weaving an imagined story of how Pride and Prejudice was written with a modern-day heroine trying to protect her favorite author’s legacy. While definitely nowhere near as wonderful as Bookman, I still flew through the book and loved the main character Sophie.

What are you loving this month?

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nerdy girl reads: the invention of wings

I’ll confess: I didn’t want to read Sue Monk Kidd’s latest, The Invention of Wings. It was a book club pick and I put off reading it as long as possible until our meeting this week forced me to crack it open (the long library hold list helped me on this…guess I should have trusted its popularity). I don’t know exactly why I was dreading it, but let’s just call it the reverse Oprah-effect. I wasn’t feeling historical fiction and I think I went into it thinking it was going to be cheesy for no real reason at all. Good news: I was super wrong.

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The Invention of Wings is the true story of Sarah Grimke, the daughter of a layer and slave owner in Charleston, South Carolina, and one of her family’s slaves, Handful. Growing up, Sarah was known for her intelligence, not her beauty, and was indulged by books and extra lessons from her father. On her 11th birthday, Sarah is given Handful as her present, which is deeply unsettling to her. She tries to set her free to the dismay of her overbearing and unloving mother. When she fails, Sarah decides she’s going to be the first female lawyer in Charleston so she never has to feel that helpless again. As you can guess, it doesn’t go over well, she is publicly humiliated by her family, and develops a speech impediment as a result. Sheesh! Sarah listlessly floats through the next few years until she moves north. Her move away from her family, thankfully, is the catalyst for her personal growth. She becomes a Quaker, and ultimately finds her voice as an abolitionist writer and speaker and a champion of women’s rights along with her younger sister Nina. For her part, Handful lives up to her name and leads a life of quiet subversion. Handful, in real life, was a Grimke slave, but died very young. In Kidd’s imagination however, she follows in her mother’s footsteps, becoming the Grimke’s seamstress and doing her part in the building slaves’ riots and working everyday to escape. Kidd weaves in Handful’s family history throughout the novel as Handful and her mother sew it into their quilts. It is heartbreaking and I’m sure all too real.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book. It is powerful and beautifully written and an important story to be told. I loved how the narrative jumps between Sarah and Handful and I really loved the character growth. But I didn’t love the book. I had a very hard time getting into the story and there are SO MANY TIMES I wanted to shake Sarah. I’m sorry to be so awful to a woman who did so much work to end slavery and advance women’s rights in a time when doing so was dangerous and nearly impossible, but Sarah is the Edith of the Grimke family, just in Charleston instead of Downton and in way worse clothing. I kind of said “Poor Sarah/Edith” for awhile and got so sad that her family is so callous and everything seems to go wrong at the worst times and no man will ever love her…but then I just stopped caring. It’s not until Nina joins the crusade, and they find their wings together, that I was swept up in the plot and really felt that Sarah’s part of the story blossomed. On the other hand, I was caught up in Handful’s story from the beginning and never found it to be cheesy or maudlin. It was gritty and hard to read and yet still hopeful, and I am glad I learned just a little bit more about the worst part of American history from Handful’s perspective.

I’ll be honest, this is not a light, fluffy beach read. It’s perfect for the last dreary days of February when you want to sink your teeth into something that will make you a better person for having read it. I can’t wait to discuss the book later this week with my book club; I have the feeling that everyone in our diverse group will have taken away something special from this special book. You know, special for an Oprah book…

Rating: 8, Excellent (Memorable and above par, highly entertaining.)

 

 

sunday brunch

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If we were having brunch today, I’d wish you a belated Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you feel loved everyday, but especially after yesterday. Whether your valentine is your significant other, your dog, your bestie, or yourself, you deserve to feel a little spoiled and pampered. We played it super low-key and ignored all of my date ideas to do touch-up paint in the master bath where we replaced the toilet (BY OURSELVES. WE ARE AWESOME.) and eat takeout sushi, drink wine, and watch Netflix. It was perfect. (By the way, we started watching The Fall. It’s great. Agent Scully forever.)

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I kinda, sorta hate myself for going to see 50 Shades of Grey this afternoon. I know. My only excuse is that it’s a girls’ outing and I miss them. Ok, and maybe I want to see it. The book was so horrendous, I feel like it’s going to be a hate-watch kind of thing. I just hate giving my money to such horrible, awful poorly-written crap. Whatever. Laters, babe.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I am in the middle of a major home renovation fever. The only prescription is more cow — just kidding. The only prescription is more money, which is not exactly flowing my way. I’m making myself content with a few small projects I’ll share soon: The previously-mentioned bathroom painting, framing and hanging a few of our favorite concert posters, a DIY twine project for the guest room, finding a new side table for the living room to replace our current Ikea Lack situation…it’s not an expensive list, just expansive. And you know how good we are at actually doing the work…

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I’m starting to get super pumped about a few small getaways we have planned starting next month! We are choosing to forgo a big vacation this year so next year we can (hopefully) afford Europe. But everyone needs a break now and then so we have a few long weekends in the books. We’re going to see a few concerts, Sylvan Esso and St. Vincent, and then taking a trip down to the Bourbon Trail. We’ve got a limo and a driver, and I’m already feeling the post-trail headache…

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I am loving Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. It’s our book club pick-of-the-month and it’s really beautiful. The characters are so deeply drawn and I love the way the narrative jumps back and forth between the two main characters, giving two different views on the life of a family and their slaves. They are heartbreaking and strong. It’s not a book I would have picked on my own, but it’s an important one to read, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Happy Sunday! What’s on your mind today?

nerdy girl dates: valentine’s day

In case you’ve been living under a rock and not watching any TV or reading anything online or going to any store, Valentine’s Day is in a few days, people. While I’m generally not a Valentine’s Day fan, I am a romance fan (last year’s faves) and a marketer’s dream, in that I love anything pink, red, heart-shaped, sparkly, and generally over-the-top cute. You make a mini heart-shaped ramekin? I want four. You put hearts all over…well, anything? GIMME. I love celebrating love, but I’m totally not into the roses-chocolate-overpriced-dinner-and-lava-cake thing. I am especially not into enduring any more “Every kiss begins with Kay” commercials. We don’t usually do gifts besides maybe a bag of “thinking of you” candy, but my goal each year is to make our celebration just a little unique. Recently, and I’ll be honest here, it’s been the same old dinner-and-watch-a-movie-on-the-couch kind of night. Nice, and sadly very reflective of me and the husband as a couple, but we pretty much do that every weekend. Not so special.

We are, of course, always last minute about these kinds of things, meaning we can never get a reservation at a restaurant or get tickets to a concert or movie. No biggie, we don’t really want to deal with the crowds anyway, but it means we’re in the aforementioned Valentine’s Day rut. This year V-Day is on a Saturday, meaning there’s a WHOLE DAY to do romantic, mushy, love-y stuff! Here are a few of the fun and nerdy date ideas I’ve been planting in the husband’s mind all week:

-Go to a bookstore and pick out a book or two to exchange. It can be one you’ve loved in the past or one you think they’d love (that of course is also on your reading list…two birds, one book). I know there are also cute bookstore scavenger hunt ideas all over the internets if you’re feeling especially ambitious and cutesy. Finish up with a yummy coffee and start reading!

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-Along the same lines, go to a record store (or a CD store? Was that ever a thing?) together and pick out a few inexpensive oldie-but-goodie selections or some random albums just because you like the art. Spend the night giving them a spin with a bottle of wine.

-A staple: find a fancy new recipe and try to cook it together. Bonus points if you wear aprons and silly hats to make each other laugh. Extra bonus points if it involves the crème brulee torch and cute heart-shaped ramekins.

-And if that gives you a heart attack: order carryout from a nice restaurant and plate it like you made it yourself. Be sure to wear your fancy clothes! (We may or may not do this every year. I hate cooking.)

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-Host a blind beer, wine, or bourbon tasting. Take notes and compete to see who can guess what they’re tasting. This one is especially fun if you’d rather hang in a group, and you get to eat lots of snacks in between tastings!

-Three words: Board game tournament. You can decide the stakes. Wink wink!

-Enjoy a nice meal out…just not dinner. We’ve got the whole day! Use it! Bypass the typical dinner date and go out for breakfast or lunch. I personally LOVE lunch dates. Somehow it feels so like such a treat to enjoy a glass of wine and a slow, relaxing meal with good conversation in the middle of the day. Or stay up late and go out for a nightcap and dessert. What could be more romantic?

-Go on a first date. It’s probably impossible to get dinner reservations at this point, but the bar in a swanky restaurant might just be the best place to have some fun together. Plan to meet separately at a bar and pretend you’re strangers. Have fun deciding who gets to creatively ask, “want to go back to my place?”! (Anyone see when they did this on Modern Family? I love Clive Bixby.)

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Whatever they are, I hope you feel loved!

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nerdy girl reads: the martian

So I read this little book called The Martian. IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS. I’m pretty sure my review on Goodreads just says “I can’t even with this book.” I just can’t guys. After a string of so-so reads, this one blew me away.

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Andy Weir’s The Martian was recommended to me a few times so I picked it up, not really knowing anything about what it was about or the type of book. I mean, I figured it was sci-fi because, duh, Mars, but I didn’t know if it was an alien-comes-to-earth kind of sci-fi (something I would only maybe be into?) or if it was a mystery or anything. Well sure it’s sci-fi, but definitely not veering into the fantasy world. It is a heart attack in a book from page one and the action continues until the very last sentence.

The book begins with a failed NASA expedition to Mars due to an abnormal wind storm. Botanist/mechanical engineer/astronaut Mark Watney is hit by debris and his suit is damaged, leading the rest of the crew to believe he is dead and leaving him on Mars. But, uh, he’s not dead. What follows is an epic tale of survival told through Watney’s daily logs and the efforts of NASA to rescue him. And I don’t mean “epic” as in “bro that story was totally epic,” I mean like the guy goes through every possible disaster completely alone (for most of the novel he has absolutely no way to communicate to Earth thanks to the aforementioned wind storm) in an unknown and terribly inhospitable environment. Every single sol (Mars day) brings new chances to starve, blow up, run out of oxygen or water, freeze, and suffer through 70s TV shows. Page after page brings threat after threat and the pacing of the novel leaves you breathless and exhilarated. Because Watney is a botanist and mechanical engineer, he is able to do seriously impossible things. I wish everyone were as smart and ingenious as he is. The world would be a much better place.

And did I mention he is maybe the funniest fictional character I’ve ever met? Because he is a riot. In between biting my nails in anxiety I was laughing out loud. The husband thought I was insane. But that may have been because every five minutes I was telling him he HAD to read this book after I finished. Oops. I get a little excited sometimes.

Anyway, because I am not an astronaut or mechanical engineer, a lot of the lingo was new to me and I won’t lie, I haven’t taken a math or science class since high school, so a lot of Watney’s “work” on Mars went over my head. However, I never felt like I had to suspend my disbelief. I totally believed that he was able to grow potatoes in the Hab and outfit the rover to carry him across the surface of Mars to repair an old communication system and create the millions of things he had to just to live. Weir is a self-proclaimed “lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight” and it’s obvious he did tons of hours of research. Truth is, I don’t even care if all of Watney’s MacGyver-ing wouldn’t really work; I was picking up what he was selling. I also know that I am certainly not scrappy enough to survive on Mars. So sad.

While most of the story is told first-person by Watney, and he is obviously the central character to the drama, the cast of characters on the ground in NASA were also well-drawn, smart, and funny. If you do read The Martian, and I SERIOUSLY hope you do, please do yourself a favor and DO NOT look up the cast of the movie that is coming out on Thanksgiving. (Side note: Sorry family, dinner’s going to have to be late this year, I’m going to be busy…) Most of the casting is absolute perfection, but of course the pictures in your head will be better unbiased.

The non-stop action eventually does give way to a story full of heart. Without a doubt, it’s a story about the persistence of mankind to survive. It wouldn’t be very exciting if Watney just gave up and OD’ed on morphine on Sol 6. But it’s also about the incredible generosity and goodness of mankind, the people who devote sleepless days and weeks and months for rescuing one stranger. I know it’s a bold statement for February, but The Martian might end up being the best book I’ve read and will read in 2015. That’s how freaking much I loved this brilliant and funny story of the first guy to colonize Mars.

Rating: 10, One of the best books ever! (Thoroughly captivating and re-readable. Complex and without flaw.)

what i love: january

OMG January is over? We’re already 1/12 through 2015? Gah. Life please slow down. Life is pretty great right now. My new gig is going so well, it’s almost a certain husband’s birthday (we can’t sneak away for a mountain cabin escape this year sadly, but I do get to bake a cake!), and Suits is back on. When Harvey Specter is back, do you really need anything else? I didn’t think so.

Here’s what I’m loving this month:

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1. Don’t you love this fire pit? I am longing for a mountain or lake getaway rightnow. I think I’ve been feeling this particular brand of wanderlust for months now. But no dice. For now. We’re supposed to get snow this weekend (thankfully not like the East coast got this week, only a few inches) so I could totally fake it with a cozy staycation, right? Everyone (Nico included) chills in pajamas in front of a fire with bad-for-you snacks and lots of spiked hot chocolate! Not quite as picturesque as the scene above. Sigh.

2. Speaking of fires, this fireplace and mantel is basically my platonic ideal of a fireplace and mantel. I want to jump into my computer and move into this house. The stone work is so gorgeous and I am dying over a floating chunky mantel these days. You better believe it’s happening in our lower level later this year. In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say everything in that picture is happening in our lower level later this year…luckily for me, here’s a diy version of the mantel. Even I can do it? Sure.

3. This cold, bitter weather has me craving everything hot and/or spicy, but I’m getting a little tired of the same old, same old soup. Enter this Thai Noodle Bowl. Look at those red pepper flakes! I want red pepper flakes on all the things. This Asian chicken noodle soup is quick and healthy, perfect for spicing up any old Tuesday night. Do it now.

4. Ok, so you know how I was disappointed by my unmet expectations of The Hangman’s Daughter? The Husband and I went to the library on Monday (I actually get to go to the library in my free time — it’s so fun when it’s not work!) and the cover of The Brothers Cabal popped out at me. You guys. It’s exactly what I wanted The Hangman’s Daughter to be. It’s full of dark, gothic, dry British humor and mystery galore. The brothers are a necromancer and a vampire and the author-as-narrator works so well here. It’s number four in a series and I already can’t wait to go get them all. I’m hooked.

5. Since I’ve had to enter the adult world and dress up for work, the rest of the time I have been all about some cozy, chic layers. I want to wear sweaters and wraps and jeans all the time. This look is pretty much what you’ll find me in anytime it’s not 9-to-5. Unless, you know, there are yoga pants around.

What’s making you smile this month?

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nerdy girl writes: the hangman’s daughter

With a title like The Hangman’s Daughter, you’d think the book would be about the hangman’s daughter, right? But no. The first of many disappointments ahead, be forewarned. I had heard about Oliver Potzsch’s book a few times in the last few years and the cover caught my eye in the library used book sale. It’s pretty, right?

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The Hangman’s Daughter is set in a small German town, Schongau, in the mid-1600s. Like I said, you’d think it would follow Magdalena Kuisl, the hangman’s duaghter, but the action instead follows her father Jacob and the young town doctor (and Magdalena’s forbidden love-interest) Simon Fronwieser. Early one morning, a child turns up dead near the river marked with “a washed-out purple circle with a cross protruding from the bottom.” So basically the woman sign. But back then, it equaled witchcraft. Jacob is forced to arrest the town midwife and use “enhanced interrogation techniques” to get her to confess, though another child is killed while she’s in jail. Before the aldermen decide to hang her, Jacob and Simon must figure out who really is killing the children so justice can be served. And Simon has an ulterior motive: if he can prove he’s smart and able, he hopes to marry Magdalena. Potzcsh, it turns out, is a distant relation of the Kuisl hangman clan and tried to stay as true to family history (the Kuisls were known as being very well-read and respected healers despite the fact that they were still generally shunned in society) as possible. One of the creative licenses Potzsch took paid off – the villain of the story is truly and wonderfully evil. He’s known simply as “the devil” throughout the novel and has a fake arm made of crushed bones. It’s awesome.

I’m not sure whether it’s a poor translation (written originally in German), a product of the overly-formal 17th century time period, or just poor writing, but the first 300 pages are sloooooowwwww and disappointing. There are a lot of (German) names. A lot of Jacob and Simon running around the town. A lot of Simon fighting with his father about new and old medicine. A lot of Simon trying unsuccessfully to get with Magdalena. I think I came into the book expecting that Magdalena would have a central role — that she was the one who solved the murder mystery or she was the one who bravely came to her father’s or the midwife’s rescue. She doesn’t. It’s disappointing. I don’t think she was a strong character, and certainly not important enough to have a book titled after her. But then you get to the last 100 pages and it’s nonstop action – chases throughout the town, fights in pitch black tunnels, daring river escapes. It’s great. But getting there takes a lot of work.

I really wish I could give the book two different ratings because the ending really is exciting and satisfying, but as a reader you have to be really committed. Definitely not for everybody.

Rating: 4, Sub par (Bad. Just enough good to avoid complete disaster.)