Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jo's Best Books of 2013

I read so many good books in 2013 - and if you look over at the right sidebar, you will see that I surpassed my Goodreads goal (and I might even be adding to that total before the night is through)! Here are the ten(ish) books I read in 2013 that I liked the best. When I was going through the list this afternoon, I realized that a few of these are multiple books in a series, and if that was the case, I listed them all together. So, in no particular order:

 1. Onyx, Opal, and Origin by Jennifer L. Armentrout


 Daemon... sigh.  My book boyfriend.  I don't care that he's 18 years old and an alien.  If you haven't read these books yet, do it!  They aren't expensive, and are a fantastically additive series.  I also love that Armentrout has branched out to tell you bits of this story from the Arum's point of view in her book, Obsession.

 2. Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson
Full Blooded

This book was such a cool take on the werewolf mythos.  Jessica is a private invesigator (and former cop) who comes from a family of werewolves and is used to the supernatural - but only men are werewolves.  That is, until Jessica has a really bad night and wakes up naked in the woods...  there are a few more books in this series as well, but they are so expensive for ebooks (I don't get why ebooks are $3 more than the paperbacks!).

 3. Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass
Crown of Midnight

 Oh my, did this series ever tear me apart.  Maas has created the most well-thought out fantasy worlds in a long time, and I still find myself thinking about the books from time to time, trying to puzzle out what is actually happening with the magic.  Celaena is a teenage assassin who is rescued from the sure death of the salt mines only to be forced to compete in a death match to see who will become the King's champion.  There are a few prequel novellas in this series that fill out Celaena's pre-salt mine days that I need to read.

 4. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half

 I had come across Brosh's blog a year or two ago on a friend's suggestion to read her posts about depression, and was so incredibly touched.  Such a sad subject, but she makes you see the stark humor and pathos in depression.  Don't sit down to read this book unless you have a few hours to go through it and laugh yourself silly and cry yourself dry.  I would recommend getting the hardcover or paperback versions of this book rather than the ebook because of the cartoon drawings.

 5. Dead Spots and Trail of Dead by Melissa F. Olson

Dead Spots
Trail of Dead

 I came across these books while I was on vacation this year - I had been storing up a few Kindle deals of the day to read in Canada, and the first book was one of those.  Scarlett is a null, meaning anything supernatural cancels out around her - and she is so rare there is only about 5 people with her ability in the world.  And she works as the clean up person for the triad of supernaturals - the vampires, werewolves, and witches.  The whole story had a neat set up - why she works for the supernaturals, and where each of them came from.  The mystery in the story was very interesting, too - so much so that I picked up the 2nd book at full price as soon as I finished the first one.

 6. Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
Magic Rises

 I have to say up front that I do not like the artwork in the new cover.  All of a sudden it makes Kate look 10 years younger than she is!  Okay, petty comment aside, this is definitely a series that gets better and better with every book.  I cried, I laughed - and one of my favorite scenes in any book I read this year was Curran throwing a tantrum and tossing boulders at a mountain to vent his frustration with Kate.  I like how these books are treating Kate and Curran's evolving relationship in a real fashion - nothing is ever absolutely perfect and relationships need work - and happily ever afters are nonsense.

 7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

 I shouldn't have been surprised that I liked this book so much - I went through a faerie phase a few years back, and read Black's Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside - three novels that definitely put Tinkerbell out of your mind completely.  Tana lives in a world where vampires are very much a reality - and there are ghettos called 'Coldtowns' where the vampires and hanger-ons are kept walled in, and on 24 hour satellite feed where people can see everything that is happening.  Tana woke up from a 'sundown' party - where people lock themselves in at night to party in safety - to find everyone but herself, her ex-boyfriend, and a chained-up vampire slaughtered.  They go on a roadtrip to the nearest Coldtown to her ex can sweat out the virus - I don't want to spoil it - but I loved this book.  I had to gush about it to Andrew afterward!  Tana was such a resolute heroine and I loved her thought processes.

 8. Wait For You - J. Lynn
Wait For You

 Cam... another sigh.  As you can see from the cover, J. Lynn is a nom de plume for Jennifer L. Armentrout when she write her New Adult books.  I loved the interplay between the two leads in this book, and the scenes between Avery and Cam were so hot.  It was very interesting and sad to read Avery's backstory - she was a victim of a sexual assault, and her whole town and even her family had made it out to be her fault because of who the aggressor was.

 9. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Days of Blood and Starlight

This is a series I get completely lost in.  Days of Blood and Starlight is the sequel to last year's Daughter of Smoke and Bone (another one of my year-end favorites).  The book continues with Karou's story, and goes into so much more detail of the conflict between the angels and chimera.  I also loved that Karou's friends, Zusana and Mik, have a much larger part in this story (and even have a novella of their own that I haven't read yet - Night of Cake and Puppets!).  The conclusion to this series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, comes out this spring and I cannot wait.

 10. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Shatter Me

 Shatter me did exactly that.  I was first attracted to this series by the cool artwork on all of the covers, but I was blown away by the story.  I will admit to being really confused by the story in the beginning, thinking that there was something wrong with the formatting of my ebook because there were so many lines where the text was struck-through - it took me a few pages to realize that was Juliette was redacting her thoughts.  This is a dystopian story where we have basically poisoned the world, and the absolute power in power is a scary thing.  There are a few sequels and novellas to this series I haven't read and am quite eager to read.

Wow.  It was hard to choose these books!  There are a few others I couldn't bear to leave out, even though they didn't make the top 10 - so I urge you to check out these ones as well!

 Honorable Mentions:
 Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund
A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang
Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
Faking It by Cora Carmack
Ever After by Kim Harrison
Fragments by Dan Wells My Unexpected Forever by Heidi McLaughlin

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

IMG_1478, originally uploaded by jochibi.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Review: Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas

Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas: A Perfect Fit  Holiday NovellaHave Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas: A Perfect Fit Holiday Novella by Sugar Jamison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a sucker for Christmas romances – it doesn’t matter if it is paranormal, regency, or contemporary – and I really liked this one. I was originally a bit thrown off by the formatting of the book – some of the dialogue from different characters seemed to flow into single sentences which made following the conversation confusing, but I think I have to attribute to this being an ARC eBook and perhaps these things weren’t cleaned up yet.

Dina is a mother of a 10 month old boy, and she knows she was not a nice person before her son came along, and she wants to be a better person. Dina starts off the story trying to find the baby’s father to make him pay child support, but soon finds out that the father is no long around. Period. She instead meets Ben, her lover’s older brother, a man still grieving his wife’s death from cancer nearly 10 years prior. Ben sees an instant family in Dina and her son, and offers her marriage so that Dash, his nephew, can stay in his life. The character development in this story is wonderful – and one of my favorite parts is Dina’s verbal diarrhea when she gets nervous – everything gets blurted out all at once and it made me laugh out loud. The relationship between Dina and Ben, although it seems awfully quick at first (this is a novella), but is believable when you understand the emotional places that both of them are coming from. I love how the author wove Christmas into the story – Ben’s family had stopped celebrating Christmas long ago because of his mother’s death, and having him introduce Dina and Dash to all the things in his town and house that he loved about Christmas were very heartwarming.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ornament Painting Party

I keep a Pinterest board for Willow, and it is a hodgepodge of gift ideas, craft ideas, or just cute things I think she might like. A while back, I pinned this pin on painting glass ornaments as a possible craft idea for her. We invited her friends over, and had a ornament painting party this afternoon after the girls came back from watching Frozen. It wasn't an expensive craft - the glass balls were normally $5.99 for a half dozen, and I had bought 2 packages plus a few bottles of acrylic pain with my 40% off coupon on Black Friday a few weeks back - so I don't think the entire project even hit $10-12 for everything. Amanda's mom supplied the ribbon, so we were all set. Here are some examples of our handiwork:

  Jo's Ornament A

Amanda's Best Ornament

Sara's Best Ornament

Willow's Best Ornament

Jo's Ornament B

Jo's Ornament C

 One of my friends who had done this craft previously suggested using the little coffee stirrer/straws to help guide the paint, and that helped immensely. Also, you have to use a lot more paint than the blog post I originally saw this on indicated if you wanted the paint to move inside the ball. I would love to try this craft again. I wasn't able to replicate the color striations in the originally pin, and I would love to try other techniques.  All in all, this was a great craft for 11 year old girls.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Willow's Winter Concert

Willow's middle school held its Winter Concert last night, and it was lovely go go and listen to the music. At first I hadn't intended to take video, but I wasn't really able to get any good still photos with the lighting and from where I was sitting. Luckily, Willow was within my view! You can see her in the lower right part of the frame.

 Video 1: Mozart Mania / Believe / Let it Snow / Winter Wonderland:


 Video 2: Let it Grow (from "The Lorax")



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Willow and Caddie

Willow and Caddie 1, originally uploaded by jochibi.

We were watching the dog show on TV while having our Thanksgiving dinner, talking about the dogs we would like to have and the NARDs (not a real dog). It was all in fun, but it made me think of Caddie - Willow's first friend and first dog. This picture was taken 6 years ago, and Caddie passed away a little less than a year later. We were so worried when we were pregnant because Caddie had never been around babies or small children except for short visits from the cousins. However, as far as Caddie was concerned, Willow was *her* baby and she rarely left Willow's side, even when Willow tried riding her like a horse as a toddler. Many nights I would wake up in the middle of the night with Willow crying, and Caddie would already be at her door, as if asking me what was taking me so long! On this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful to have had such wonderful animals in my life.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I See You There

I couldn't find any of my point and shoot digital cameras this afternoon (I have 3 of them, so not knowing where any of them are is pretty sad!), so I tried taking a selfie of me and my new haircut and color with my DSLR camera... to mixed results:

My arm just isn't long enough to get the camera far enough to do anything other than get a close up of the side of my face.  I toyed with the idea of setting up the tripod... but that would have been too much work.  That and I am not entirely sure how to sure how to use the timer on the DSLR.  Yes, I have had this camera for over a year now.  Yes, I have a pretty comprehensive manual.  No, I have not read through it other than to figure out how to use the video function.

Then I remembered where my Nikon camera was (diaper bag!), so I pulled it out and snapped this one:

About 1.5" cut off, and dyed a coppery red color.  I'm really pleased with it.  The last time I had my hair colored in the salon was right before I went on vacation in August, and the colorist messed it up and my hair was really dark.  I much prefer it this way.  I think it is a bit brighter than in this picture - but today is a very overcast and rainy day.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

This Kid

IMG_0995, originally uploaded by jochibi.

Piper has been cracking me up recently. She has been fixated with the idea that she has a brother - I know what most of you are thinking - that she wants a baby brother (and trust me, that is not happening!) - but no... according to her, her brother is older than her. And he took her to the hospital when she was hurt at a soccer game. She also says she has a daughter. Who is a boy. This kid has some pretty wild thoughts and ideas - talking to her always makes me smile.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Solitude

IMG_1028, originally uploaded by jochibi.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving 2003

DSCF0054.jpg, originally uploaded by jochibi.

I know Thanksgiving is still a week away, but if I wait for this one for Throwback Thursday next week, I may just forget.

Despite the Christmas tree in the background, this picture was taken around Thanksgiving when we went to visit our friends Gara and Asami. Willow was about 16 months old, and Gara and Asami's three boys weren't even a sparkle in their daddy's eye yet. I can't believe how young we all look!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Favorite Part of My Day


 My days are busy. Up at 5:30am, shower, drink coffee, eat something, take Piper to daycare, work work work, come home, make dinner, get Piper ready for bed, spend time with Willow, knit... and then go to bed.

But it isn't sleep that is my favorite part of my day.  It's snuggling in bed with Andrew and having him sleep while read in the dark off my Nook HD+ until the wee hours of the morning.  Sweet blissful quiet.

And then morning comes again too soon.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

So... About This Daily Blogging Thing.

I've been so long out of practice that I have missed a day or two here. I'm trying! I started a new test knit last night, and I was all engrossed in the pattern and lost track of time.  I also tried one of these last night for the first time:


Seriously yummy!  I was a little hesitant because it is pear cider, and while I don't mind pears, they really aren't my favorite fruit.  My favorite hard cider to date has been Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Cider, but I think this Fox Barrel Pear Cider really gives it a run for its money.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Finished Object: A Time To Reap Mitts

Aren't these gorgeous?


 These mitts were a test knit for my extremely talented friend, Melissa, and I have to say I am happy that they are one of the first lace pieces I have knit without having to rip them back! Well, I did have to rip part of them back, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the lace!


 The mitts are intended to be slouchy and feminine at the same time.


 And as far as I am concerned, they are a perfect match for Willow.

The Particulars:

Pattern: A Time to Reap by Melissa Schaschwary
Yarn: Three Isish Girls Kells Sport in Riley
Needles: Size 2 and 3 Knitpicks DPNs and 16" circulars (I knit them with 2 circulars like I do with socks)
Modifications: I made these for Willow, so I deliberately shortened the sleeve length and length between thumb and last lace portion. Then I inadvertantly shortened the length of the last garter stitch portion by reading the wrong part of the pattern. Design feature, people!
Would I knit this pattern again? Absolutely! I want a pair of these for me!


 Wouldn't you want a pair, too?!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Girls on the Run

Willow ran her third 5K race in a month this morning, and it was such a positive, fun experience. Willow's friend, Amanda, has participated in Girls on the Run for a few years now, but until this autumn, it hadn't really worked with our schedule. The girls met and trained twice a week for 7 weeks, ran practice runs, worked on their interpersonal relationships, and this all culminated in a 5K race.

 Here's a pic of the girls before the race started: DSCN1071

 This is how they warmed up for their race:


 Here is the best picture I took all day:


 (Even Willow said that one was a keeper when she saw it on the camera screen.)

 Here is Willow running and not looking at the camera:


 I was peeved about that one - I had a great shot lined up, and some asshat came up and just stood in front of me. After I freaked at him, that was the only shot I had time enough to take.

 And here are the girls as they finished up their race:


 And just so everyone knows -


(Sorry - I know I didn't blog yesterday - I was under the weather and was not on the computer.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Jo at 27

I'm going to hazard to say this picture was taken 1999/2000. The background was my office at Boulder Country Day School and I know when we left Boulder in 2001 my hair was down to my shoulders again. Compare and contrast to my selfie from yesterday...

  Shorter even yet!

 That was a super cute hairdo, but definitely needed to be done every morning!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Forty-One Things I Like...

... in honor of my 41st birthday (in no particular order).


1.  That I am damn cute for 41. Being short helps.
2.  Toddlers who sleep through the night.
3.  Mint soap
4.  Doctor Who
5.  Augustbird yarn
6.  Going to bookstores with Willow.
7.  Autumn leaves.
8.  My DSLR camera
9.  French Toast
10. Super hero movies
11. Tegan and Sara
12. Lip gloss
13. Clinique perfume
14. Spooning with Andrew.
15. Business trips
16. My job
17. Vanilla lattes
18. Texting
19. Knitting
20. Learning new things.
21. My Nook HD+
22. Cherry Tomatoes
23. Swimming
24. Baking cookies.
25. History documentaries
26. Getting my hair washed by someone else.
27. Reading to Piper.
28. Driving
29. Vancouver Island
30. Tuesday SnB Night
31. Getting packages in the mail.
32. Land's End clothes
33. My sunroom
34. Entering book blog contests.
35. Hot spinach and artichoke dip
36. Watermelon
37. Yoga pants
38. Getting pedicures.
39. Backpack purses
40. Ravelry
41. My french press

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Little Snow Makes Me Happy

When I was little, one of my best friends was a girl down the street named Lisa. Lisa and I were in the same grade, and her birthday was a few weeks after mine. I remember it would invariably rain on my birthday in mid-November, and then snow on her birthday in early December. I have a really clear memory of being at a sleepover birthday party at her house and we were watching the Sesame Street Christmas special (this was at the end of the 70s) and it was snowing on Sesame Street. All of a sudden Lisa's mom, Gail, points out that it was snowing outside their house. It all seemed so magical... and in truth, I was a little jealous because I always wanted it to snow on my birthday. My friends here don't understand this sometimes. They think that because I grew up in Canada that we must have had snow all the time. Not true, especially the Lower Mainland (Vancouver and the surrounding towns and cities) - we were more likely to have rain and sleet than anything else. In fact, I have experienced more snow in Delaware than I have anywhere else I have lived - and Andrew and I lived in Colorado for 3 years!

We had our first little bit of snow this morning - barely there flurries,  but it made me happy. My birthday isn't until tomorrow, but it is close enough for me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Stuck in a Movie For 5 Days

Oh, you are going to laugh at this one...

 Today's NaBloPoMo blog prompt:

 If you had to be trapped inside a movie for 5 days, which movie would you pick?

This was one of my favorite movies as a child, and I still get all excited when it comes on television (usually around this time of year - I guess some people think of it as a Christmas movie).  My Mom even gave me my own dvd copy a few years ago, so I can watch it whenever I want now.  The singing, the dancing - it is all so much fun.  I guess as a child I didn't think too much about the actual abduction part of anything like that. And I love how utterly fake the backgrounds are in the movie during the avalanche scenes.  I just looked the movie up on Wikipedia - I hadn't realized it was nominated for an Oscar for 1954 Best Picture!

What's not to like - a movie with seven good-looking red-headed men...

See, maybe they should do a remake of this musical and then cast Tom Hiddleston as one of the brothers:

He's a bit too young to play Adam, maybe he is more of a Gideon - but I am sure he can sing and dance!  

I'd go see it!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Mom Makes Me Things!


 I think I have mentioned this before, but no, my Mom didn't teach me how how to knit. Not for lack of trying - more like my lack of interest in learning when I still lived at home. I wished she had taught me - I've kind of cobbled my technique together over the last few years and while I knit fast and have very even tension... my creative yarn-holding makes it very difficult for me to learn new cast ons. But Mom is a fantastic knitter, and from time to time, I'll send my Mom a pic from Ravelry and ask her if she thinks she could make something for me. She hasn't said no yet! Damn! I probably just jinxed myself by writing that. 

The shawl above was designed by my talented friend, Melissa of Another Dandi Day and you can find the pattern on Ravelry: Bradbury Shawl. And, right now, since it is Melissa's birthday month (mine, too!), she is offering 25% off all her patterns on Ravelry with the code Birthday Bash until the end of November. Go check them out!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Beaucoup de Books


 Look what I bought today for a grand total of $2.50!

 Books 2 - 6 of Vicki Pettersson's Signs of the Zodiac series. I already had book #1 at home, so I was quite happy to find all of these in my library's for sale section at 50 cents a piece. The spines don't even appear to be cracked, so I wonder if someone donated them unread. Looking at the covers, I am curious why the publishers went in a different direction with the covers and artwork for the last three books in the series.  The first three had very specific artwork and style, then #4 (City of Souls) has a different font, and then books #5 and #6 are different again.  Wait a second - I just realized there are 3 different publishers going on here as well - Avon, EOS, and Harper Voyager.  Perhaps that had something to do with it.

I don't frequently buy paperback or hardcover books anymore (I know my sister, Teri, is groaning out loud at this because I used to send her all of my read books).  I almost exclusively read on my Nook or Kindle - I am really not sure what it is, but I read much faster on my e-readers as well.  However, I just couldn't pass up this deal.  Happy reading!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Dream Jobs


 Don't get me wrong, I love my job. So much so that it was nearing 5pm on a Friday night and I found myself wishing I could stay and continue working on a project because I was getting to an interesting part where I had to think up some recommendations and potential outcomes for a situation, and I love doing that. But I started to think about what I would like to do if I wasn't in my job, and I came up with these things:

1) Book Editor 
I read many, many books - if you look on my sidebar, I am within 5 books of my goal of 120 books for the year, and there are still six weeks to go in 2013. I also have a degree in Linguistics, and my study of Linguistics was heavy in grammar and semantics. This is a good thing and a bad thing - good because it makes me great at my job (writing and interpreting contracts and rules), but also bad because I notice every little mistake and it can really detract from my enjoyment of books. I have actually put books down and not finished them because of *how* they are written, which is too bad because sometimes the stories are promising.

2) Auditor
I love digging stuff up and finding out the whys and hows of things.  Luckily, this is part of my job as well, but not something I get to do as often as I would like.  I have also had the opportunity to do developmental assignments with the Audit Group at my company, and I have always enjoyed those audits.  Unfortunately for me, most auditors I know come from an accounting background - which, while understandable on one hand because many audits are financial audits - but on the other hand, that isn't the only kind of audit there is, and some of the other audits I have been involved with have required more investigative skills and soft people skills to get to the bottom of things.

3) Attorney
I add this one with the knowledge that this will never happen and I am A-OK with that.  I saw Andrew through law school when we were first married, and it isn't something that I am interested in repeating.  However, I do find law immensely interesting, especially in the government area that is my specialty.  I know have friends with opinions on both sides of Health Care Reform, but this legislation has made my job so much more interesting in the last few years.  I love grappling with this and parsing out what works and doesn't work, and getting to discuss this with other experts in the field.

There you go - and I am interested to hear from my friends.  What would your dream jobs be and why?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Throwback Thursday: Willow and Soren

Willow and Soren 2

 This picture is 5 years old - I can't believe it. Willow and Soren were preschool buddies, and when they were very little, people used to think they were brother and sister. Soren's mom, Jenny, and I used to joke that we should just plan their wedding now and save on the booking of the hall 20 years down the road. Unfortunately, the two of them drifted apart when they went to different elementary schools, and they haven't seen each other in a few years.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Wretched Wednesday

I am not having a very good day. Let's look at this pretty rose from my Gram's garden and try to reach some zen.


 I have nothing. I had to resort to using today's blog prompt, which I kind of had to snicker at when I saw it:

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

 It's kind of niggling at the back of my mind that I have answered this before and I said I wish I was taller. Well, I have a different answer today. I wish I wasn't so quick and uncontrollably to anger.  My parents and family may have a different view, but I don't think I was a particularly volatile child.  In fact, until I was in my mid-20s, I kept most of my anger bottled in.  Sublimated.  That probably wasn't very good for me, either.  But it's harder when you have children - especially when one child legitimately makes me angry, and I lash out verbally at the uninvolved child because her toddler meltdown happens to intersect with Mama's warpath.  I feel like I have such a short tether these days between Willow's tween cluelessness and Piper's nascent independence.  And poor Andrew gets caught up in all of this, probably wondering most days just what to expect when I walk through the door.

I think I need to go snuggle with Piper.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

French Kiss

French Kiss, originally uploaded by jochibi.

This was my work group on Halloween this year. In the back is Starchild Ryan, and in the front from left to right is Demon Rebecca, Spaceman Jo, and Catman Tami. We didn't win the costume contest, but I think we did damn well for an idea we lifted off Facebook and only decided on 24 hours before the party. Even if some people just thought we were mimes...