Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Guys, this book is beautiful. I had heard whisperings about this book and then, suddenly, my Tumblr was flooded with imagery from it. I had to get it. Had to. 

While out and about, visiting a nearby town that I've never gone to before, we stopped by a quaint little independent bookshop that had this on display. I grabbed it and showed it to my boyfriend, claiming right then and there I was DEFINITELY buying this book. And of course I followed through and of course I whizzed through it and of course I went back to linger over the beautiful artwork.

Seriously it's just overwhelmingly beautiful. (I'm throwing up some of the pictures at the bottom of this post--obviously not my creation).

We've discussed that I'm not a big fan of Snow White and yet this was the first time I really enjoyed the character. She's brave, beautiful, kind and a good person. She sets off to save a kingdom that has fallen under an enchantment where everyone sleeps--Sleeping Beauty's kingdom. 

We all know the tales of these two but there's a twist in this book that makes it so much more than the original stories. I don't want to get into it, because if I do I'm ruining everything, but I can continue to vaguely discuss the book.

This is short and sweet and could easily be a full novel. I think, if it were a full novel, it would lose some of the spot-on fairy tale feels. Fairy tales are often so short, beautifully written but done too soon, and this book is much the same. If it was a full novel, it could cover so much more, but it would lack that fairy tale-feel. With the shortness of this book, we also lose out on better character development and details. This could've gone on for so long, the worlds could've been so in depth, but they aren't because of the shortness. See? That's what we lose out on. It's either too long to be as "fairy tale" like or too short to fully cover elements of writing: character development and world building. 

But I think the imagery makes up for it. You still get a sense of satisfaction that you know everything about the book and all the characters within it if you don't look too closely, and the imagery definitely helped. Honestly, had it not been for the imagery I think I would have liked the book half as much as I do. The imagery lends so much help to the story as a whole. 

Want a quick read? Grab this. Want to marvel at beautiful artwork? Grab this. Really, too short or not, I loved this.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


In the springtime I went to a local independent bookstore. It was a nice experience, bright and warm outside, and there were a slew of authors meandering the crammed bookshelves and actually helping customers out. The author of Compulsion was at the store and she seemed like a very lovely lady. I spoke only briefly with her, but overall, you got this vibe from her that she was sweet to the core. I had interest in her book then but put off buying the book.

During one of my many book shopping trips, I picked up the novel and thought, "Why not?" and brought it home. It was a quick read and exactly what I had been craving. Give me those southern charms and the hanging Spanish moss! Give me the pleasantries and creepy ghosts! Give me all those tales!

I'm a Yankee who really enjoys the south. At least, I enjoy visiting the southern states and coming back to the north (technically, Virginia is in the "south" but I live in Northern Virginia which many argue is "north"). I don't claim to know all the details to southern living. I still find out some interesting fact on each trip I make, but I still really enjoy the atmosphere and any books that focus on the region.

The book was a great fit for what I needed when I read it. I had just finished a final for graduate school and I desperately needed something quick and easy to read. Reading is a great way for me to calm down and have a mental restart so this book helped me achieve that. It was interesting enough that I'm interested in the next book, but past that, I don't know if I would go so far as to say I loved reading it. Overall, this book left me wondering if I've finally reached a point where I'm too old to read YA literature. 

Compulsion takes a San Francisco girl and plops her right into the south. She has little to no experience of life outside of the city so this is a complete change of pace for her. The book has a great plot but it could have been executed much more neatly. This may come to a fault of the proofreader or editor of this book (as an editor, it hurts me to say that, I'm sorry, but I feel the fault can be on multiple people). Barrie--our main character--confused me. She was extremely moody and easily annoyed and ALWAYS RUNNING. She'd become irritated with Eight (our love interest and next door neighbor) over almost anything and then run away from him. Nearly every single time. So often she would run off and I picture this girl running away from a parking lot, on a road, in a yard, teetering in ridiculous heels, and it looked so ridiculous and immature to me. Eight is a decent character, I liked him, and I also felt that he may have been a little too good for Barrie since she was so damn flippant.

Barrie has been through the ringer though. She has dealt with a lot of awful things recently--the death of her mother and cancer diagnosis of her godfather, plus a move across country--and considering this, she's reacting pretty damn well. I mean, maybe the anger is her reaction to all that's gone on in her life, but it somehow feels like she runs away after easily being annoyed is a part of her personality.

For the characters you shouldn't like, as in they are the villains, the author made them extremely unlikable. There were numerous unexplained plot points and plot holes which grew increasingly irritating to me. It's also a pretty long book to have so much happen in the course of, like, four days (in the book's time frame). And all during this time, Barrie adjusts to the area pretty well and more or less falls in love. It just seems like a quick turn of events over a very short span of time which makes it harder to believe.

The book did achieve what I was looking for though. I wanted the pleasure and comfort of reading, I wanted to escape, I wanted a break for my brain after a grueling grad school class, and I was able to have all of that in this novel. I think the following book would do much the same but if you're looking for more than that, look elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Books to Read - DIY Project

Mason jars are, quite possibly, my favorite piece of kitchen supplies. You can use them for just about anything. I carry cream for my coffee in them to work (it never spills) and use a very large one for my homemade overnight oatmeal that I eat in the morning. I have a ton sitting on top of the fridge after going through a jam-making summer a number of years ago and they keep getting in the way when they aren't actively used, so I've been urged to find other uses for them. 

This brings in crafts. A long while ago an idea was floating around on Pinterest about having an empty jar at the start of the new year and placing a piece of paper in it, stating what great things have happened over the course of the year. At the end of the year you open the jar and revel in how awesome your life is. While in college, I had something similar given to me called the "Shit Box" where you put scraps of paper of bad things that happen in the box as if you're taking the bad thing, creating it into something tangible (i.e., the paper) and throwing it away in the box, therefore ridding it from your life. So that's another way to go around that idea.

But I digress. There was another idea involving scraps of paper and mason jars which wasn't quite as prominent on social media -- a To Read jar. 

The idea is simple: get a mason jar, write out books you want to read on scraps of paper, put them in said jar, then pick out a paper when it's time to pick a new book to read. 

But there's so much more to this. I'm a book hoarder -- I think that's part of being a book lover. Often enough, book lovers collect books. We like having them on display, we find them beautiful, we get an edge from buying the books, but we also buy the books quicker than we can read them. 

My bookshelf is a year and a half old. I bought it and only filled half the bookshelf at the time. Now it's packed to the brim with books, most that I haven't read, even though when I read books I often bring them back to my parents house or donate them it's still not fast enough to make room for my incoming reads. So I made a To Read jar and a promise to myself for the year 2015 that I would only read the books I already owned. I was saving for multiple trips and running out of room, so not spending the money on new books was an obvious decision and the mason jar was put together.

I grabbed some colorful paper and began jotting down the titles of the unread books on my shelf.

I cut the list of books out into strips then folded them up so that I couldn't see the titles. I'm a total cheater when it comes to picking things like this, so if I were to see a sliver of a name I know I'd look.

Once I had all the papers folded, I started packing them into my mason jar. The little folded tabs took up a lot of room in the mason jar so maybe a larger mason jar would be worth investing in, or simply having better organization in placing the papers in the jar. 

Once all the tabs were in the jar, I crammed the top back on and the jar was ready to go! It sat in it's place of pride on my desk and was ready for each moment I needed a new book to read. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Worth a Second Look -- Top Posts of 2015

The month of December can guarantee you two things: articles about gift giving and end-of-year wrap ups. Best of, most attention driven, this is our favorite, or what to look forward to next year. It can get tiring but I really enjoy these posts as they often remind me of past articles I've enjoyed or give attention to things I've missed. I'm a nostalgic person by nature so I enjoy them, even if they're a bit repetitive. It's a nice chance to reflect on all that's gone on and if you're anything like me, you'll likely be surprised that so much has happened in a year.

This year was the rebirth of Soon Remembered Tales. After taking a year off from writing in this blog, I realized how much I missed reviewing and creating posts. It was such a solid part of my life for so long that I wanted to return to it. This time, with less pressure on myself that I had to write every week if I was busy--something that caused me stress previously.

With that, lets check out some highlights:

The Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
Poetry of Lang Leav 
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Colonial Williamsburg -- Williamsburg, Virginia
Cajun Encounters -- Slidell, Louisiana
Homestead Farms -- Poolesville, Maryland

I've had so much fun over the course of the year and I've experienced a lot through travel and reading. I've rambled on and on about a lot of different subjects on the blog over this year and have an assortment of posts that I had an absolute joy writing and reliving the content. 

The Secret History felt like an assigned reading. It was deep, descriptive, and messed with my mind. But I enjoyed diving into that dark, twisted world during the chilly days of early spring. And Pilgrim at Tinker Creek only widened my mind to the description of the world. I found someone who loves nature like I do and can write about it in such detail it's inspiring. While My Salinger Year made me fantasize about working in publishing and writing that novel that's always been sitting in my brain.

I shared My Reading Nook and asked others to shares theres as well (hopefully, someone will! It's a fun look into the reading world). But my reading nook soon changed into so much more than just a place to do pleasure reading when I was accepted into graduate school and began my classwork. 

I've been so lucky to travel quite a bit within the United States and write about the places I've seen. I update my Trover account with my most favorite vacation photos but for specific experiences, I write about them here. But I really enjoyed writing about the Pennsylvania Ren Faire--a faire I go to yearly if I can, sometimes multiple times! And my most favorite post, above all, was writing about Yosemite Park. I still can't believe I was able to go to Yosemite and I can't wait to go back!

  1. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
  2. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
  3. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  4. Quiet by Susan Cain
  5. Paper Towns by John Green
  6. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  7. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
  8. Shadows on My Heart by Lucy Rebecca Buck
  9. The Wolves of Mercy Falls Books 1-3 by Maggtie Stiefvater
  10. Love and Misadventures by Lang Leav
  11. Lullabies by Lang Leav
  12. The Raven Cycle Books 1-3 by Maggie Stiefvater
  13. You Have to Fucking Eat by Adam Mansbach
  14. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  15. The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring
  16. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
  17. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
  18. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  19. The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkein
  20. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  21. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  22. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
  23. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  24. Blankets by Craig Thompson
  25. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  26. What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss
  27. Edward Scissorhands Volume 1: Parts Unknown by Kate Leth
  28. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  29. Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
  30. The Wicked + The Divine Parts 1 and 2 by Kieron Gillen
  31. Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
  32. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  33. The Quiet Gut Cookbook by Sonoma Press
  34. Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
  35. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  36. Compulsion by Martina Boone
  37. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  38. The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  39. Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
  40. A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith
  41. Leviathan by David Sedaris
  42. A Death by Stephen King
  43. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
  44. The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara
  45. Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood
  46. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  47. My Last Duchess by Robert Browning
  48. MLA Handbook for Writers
  49. The Eatonville Anthology by Zora Neale Houston
  50. Cattle Haul by Jesmyn Ward
  51. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
  52. Memories by Lang Leav
  53. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
  54. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  55. There is No Right Way to Meditate by Yumi Sakugawa
  56. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

The Secret History by Donna Tartt [Link]Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry [Link]The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen [Link]Quiet by Susan Cain [Link]Paper Towns by John Green [Link]The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge [Link]Shadows on My Heart by Lucy Rebecca Buck
The Wolves of Mercy Falls Books 1-3 by Maggie Stiefvater
Love and Misadventures by Lang Leav
Lullabies by Lang Leav
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater [Link]Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour [Link]
A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith [Link]
Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi [Link]
Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George [Link]
Edward Scissorhands (Parts Unknown) by Kate Leth [Link]
Blankets by Craig Thompson [Link]
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson [Link]
Walden by Henry David Thoreau [Link]
Compulsion by Martina Boone [Link]
On Writing by Stephen King [Link]
Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory [Link]
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling (softcover) [Link]
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1 by Jaimie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen [Link]
The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 2 by Jaimie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Connecticut by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Virginia by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old New York by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
A Little Maid of Old Massachusetts Colony by Alice Turner Curtis [Link]
Heidi by Johanna Spyri [Link]
A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett [Link]
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery [Link]
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott [Link]
Pilgrim on Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard [Link]

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Bookish Christmas

If I ruled the world, or at least had complete control over my own life, I would do such things as own multiple houses in different places, have more time in a day, and always cook the perfect meals. I'd also have more time to craft -- something I got into while in college but haven't had much opportunity to continue once I joined the work force. Still, every once in awhile I'm able to get crafty and the holidays are no different. In fact, I probably do more crafts around the holidays than the rest of the year!

Here are a few holiday book-crafts you can give a try:

Paper Star Ornaments
I had an ARC book laying around that I really didn't enjoy reading. Since it was an ARC, I couldn't donate it to the local bookstore, and since it was taking up space I figured I would repurpose it. I don't believe in buying books just to destroy for purpose of crafts but if you have something that's falling apart and on the verge of being thrown, I feel this is a wonderful way of recycling the book so that it can continue living on in one way or another.

I made a how-to post a few years ago and still have these ornaments for our tree. I made a number of the stars and gave them out to coworkers that year. They're fun, they're Christmasy by means of their star shape (and colors!), and they bring reading into the mix.

Another way of repurposing this book (which I kept, despite destroying it, for other craft purposes), is to make even more holiday decorations! Earlier this month I posted about making two Christmas ornaments with scraps of book pages. I love glass ornaments and it seems there are plenty of clear ones on the market. I feel this is a great way to add some festiveness to the bulbs and make them pop while still appreciating that they are clear and allow in the light of the Christmas tree.

This project only takes one or two pages from a book, depending on how big your ornament or curls are, per ornament. It's a super quick and fun project to do and I love that you can use any book pages you have. Maybe one day I'll actually craft these up with worn copies of some Christmas books I have (when they are past their prime of reading and falling apart... believe me, I have a few). 

Paper Heart Ornament
Another ornament I made was a Mod Podge creation with some hand lettering over it. I'm just getting into hand lettering so this was the perfect opportunity to test it out and give it a go. This was fun and I was able to use a lot of the same material I used for the previous ornaments.

In no time, I was done. Honestly, I think amongst the three ornaments, this was the quickest to make!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Crystal Spring Tree Farm

Where: Lehighton, VA
When: December 2014

I'm a creature of nostalgia. I am a person who celebrates holidays to the fullest and so much of that good tidings originate from my mother, who always made a great effort to have holidays be magical and special no matter where we were in life. We built a lot of traditions that I still hope to follow and pass down to my children (whenever I have them) and Christmas is probably one of those highlighted traditions.

For the earlier part of my childhood, my family was a live tree family. We would get a live Christmas tree every year and it would stand in all its glory until we sent it back to the woods a week or two after Christmas. For a span of time, we had a fake tree, and I hated it. This is back when fake trees looked like fake trees and they didn't have such great candles that smell like balsam fir. The tree, eventually, became shorter than me as I got taller and my dislike of it grew as well.

While I lived in apartments and the like, it was a fake tree again. My own tiny fake tree I bought that could only sit on a table, but it was better than nothing. But when I moved in with the beau and we had a first floor house, I was determined to get my live-tree fill in while I could.

But where could we get a tree? My parents, who live in Pennsylvania, are surrounded by tree farms and during my years living there I knew the Christmas tree process. Come October, a lot of the trees were sawed down, packed and shipped to various places that would have tree lots. The majority of Christmas trees you can pick up from a tree dealer in a parking lot had those trees cut for two months before the holiday season. I want a tree to last for a solid month. I want that thing glistening and full of life from the start of December to the beginning of January.

We didn't really have many ideas of where to get a tree straight from the ground but my parents' hometown... that was a great area to start looking. The question was, could my tiny Prius handle a tree strapped to the roof for the three hour drive back to Virginia? We were going to find out.

The start of December we went to visit my parents and had plans of getting a tree from a farm right down the street from their house. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season. But there was another tree farm, further away but reportedly still good, that we could try.

So off to Lehighton we went!

The Crystal Spring Tree Farm is something of a prized posession for the area. For multiple years, Crystal Spring has provided the White House with a Christmas tree. If the White House is deeming this tree farm good enough for their home, it's certainly good enough for ours.

With a bit of poking around we discovered the details of the farm: you can select pre-cut trees, you can select epic huge trees for those of you with ridiculously high ceilings, or you can go into the hills and find your own special tree and cut it yourself.

Hand saw grasped tightly, we headed for the hills. There are handy carts you can take with you and unless you're going for a small tree or have someone very strong with you, I'd suggest grabbing the cart. We went in search of the perfect three: something tall, full, with a great scent and needles that don't draw blood. They had a lot of various trees to look for, some much smaller than others, but we eventually tracked down The One.

It had been very rainy just that week, so unfortunately we had a good bit of mud to deal with, but what do you expect when you're on a farm? The wind was quick and bitter as well, something that isn't uncommon when you're on a hillside, so I say this to you, any future visitor of the farm: dress appropriately. While I really wanted a super cute Christmas tree farm photo op, it was definitely better to be warm and ready. Heavy gloves for prickly needles, boots that can get wet or muddy, and I certainly ended up being very thankful for the hat I brought with me.

Part of what is so wonderful about getting your own Christmas tree is to see all the other families meandering around in search of their own. People get so excited, adults included, and everyone is generally in a festive mood. We found a few trees that we enjoyed, all achieving the height we were going for, and went back and forth between them as we looked over the pros and cons of each. Finally, after a lot of deliberation, we settled on our perfect Christmas tree. I was ecstatic while the Beau was left with his first time experience of having to cut the tree down.

Lucky for him, my father is a pro and helped him get the tree cut down. We trimmed it on the spot, loaded it onto the wagon, and brought it down to the tree lot building. Here, the tree is loaded up to be shaken to death so all loose needles go flying, you can also opt to have a hole drilled into the bottom of the tree. For anyone unfamiliar with having their own live tree, having a hole drilled in the bottom is a wise choice, as it allows the tree to drink water more easily. It's also best to try and do this right before you set it up so that it doesn't get covered in sap.

Once it's shakened up, the tree is tied down and put onto your car. With payment, you get a little mug which we added to our Christmas mug collection. With the tree tied to the car (they have twine for this, but my father brought along sturdy straps which I'd suggest you do as well if you have a far commute) and we headed out. The following day we drove the tree home--all three hours--to Virginia. It made it there without issue and filled our house with the smell of Christmas. Our cats even loved it, Lily took up roosting under the tree and Joe dedicated his stuffed animal Yodas to the tree on a regular basis.

The tree lasted all through December and when we brought it to the curb to be taken away (on the second week of January when they had designated pick up) it was still fresh and ready to go if we had the chance to keep it longer.

While driving out of state for a tree was a bit of an extreme, it made for a great story and a wonderful way for us to remember "our first tree." Happy tree hunting, folks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Letters from Father Christmas

Personal Photo - From Instagram
J.R.R. Tolkien invokes imagery of Middle Earth, elves, hobbits, wizards and dragons. He's a magic man, a man of fantasy, a writer of wordy literature, and rarely do people immediately think "He was also a father." Of course that's part of the facts and anyone who has even glimpsed at his Wiki page will see he had children, but it's often left out and not often focused on when the world of Middle Earth is there glittering in front of you.

But privately, Tolkien had a normal family life with little kids who believed in Santa. 

These letters are written to his children; notes from Father Christmas as he replies to letters they sent him, includes artfully done drawings and paintings of his world, and urges the children to keep hanging up their stockings as they grow older.

They're simple letters, written with a shaking style (Father Christmas comments on that a few times). He details the North Pole and the many battles that are raged with the goblins, the antics of his friend the North Polar Bear, and happy notes of pleasant moments. For me, the saddest part of the letters were commentary from "Father Christmas" about the older children becoming to old to receive letters. One by one, new names appear on the letters as older names are left off. The final letter, one to Tolkien's daughter, makes comment about it being the last as she's growing up and I felt sad. I know my parents were rather saddened when I stopped believing in Santa, so I imagine there was a bit of sadness for Tolkien and his wife, it seemed that way through the letters.

These are not the detailed lines you're used to from Tolkien's other works but quick articles meant to be read by children. I enjoyed them though and I read the book quickly and have it back on my bookshelf. It's inspiring, in a way. I'd love to write letters to my own children, penned by Santa, whenever those little ones come along. 

For lovers of Christmas, nostalgia, and Tolkien, this would be the perfect Christmas gift.