30 December 2011

2011 Goal Review

Back in January I gave myself a list of goals for the year and while I looked at it at mid-year, I seem to have forgotten to monitor during the Fall (oops!). Let's see how well things held up on my goals for 2011:

Books:

Read 100 books: Done! I hit 105 books for the year, and already have some bookmarked for 2012. I wonder if I shall hold steady, or should I challenge myself to more?

Review at least 2x a month: I had a bit of a slump this fall. Writing became difficult, and I was not driven the way I wanted. I averaged at least 2x a month, but was not consistent. Also, I started another blog, which has slumped a little at year's end too. Am I spreading myself too thin?

Try Audiobooks: Yup, just the one. Time to pick up some titles again. As I discovered, it is a lot easier for me to get into non-fiction audio than fiction. I think that has to do with the imagery my brain creates while reading fiction - which is not always the best to do while driving.

Yarn:

Finish Four Projects: Two! Better than none, but not to my goal. I get ambitious, then lazy about my knitting. I think smaller projects are key for me, along with understanding my knitting habits better.

Sort my Stash: Much of this has been unpacked in the upstairs room, but still sorting through a couple bins. I know there is yarn I haven't seen in years. Maybe it is time to start purging it?

Get It All on Ravelry: Well, this was not accomplished. I think it is still a good idea, however. Ravelry is a wonderful resource for knitters (you should see my pattern queue).

Ink:

Get Tattoo: Done! I was happy to get the start of what will become a larger arm piece this fall. I really hope to add to this in the next few months.

Other Pursuits:

Grow My Garden: This was another so-so year for growth. I did get a soil sample out before the ground froze too much, and that is on its way to UMASS for testing. Hopefully this will give me a start on what I need to do to make the beds better for what I want to grow.

Preserve More: Ketchup, tomato sauce and applesauce were done. Unfortunately the October storm knocked out power for a week at the house, and I lost the quarts of strawberries I had in the chest freezer. That will definitely go on my list for next summer, as I am out of jam. I also discovered that the kind of apples used make a difference. I had a bag of Macs among my Empires, and they were so watery I only ended up with a half-dozen pints of sauce. That won't last the winter.

Take Space: The Ferry Beach conference was wonderful and I am definitely headed back next year. In fact,  this next year I am one of the conference coordinators! I feel honored to have been asked to participate in such a direct way, and look forward to seeing my spirit sisters again next August. I am also blessed to have a family willing to take on my children during occasional vacation times, and now their father lives in the same state, which benefits everyone.

I am already pondering the goals I will have for next year. Some are close to my heart and not ready for reveal, but others will definitely be listed. This was a terrific experiment for me in intention and manifesting when dealing with Life goals. I want to continue this process, and will definitely have a new list of goals for the coming year on the blog.

Do you already have some goals, resolutions or Life changes decided? 

28 December 2011

Review: Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead (Plus Dark Swan Giveaway Winner!)

The Book:

Eugenie Markham will do everything she can to protect her unborn children, but knows that it is getting harder and harder to avert the forces striving to make sure the Storm King's prophecy goes unfulfilled. As she struggles to make sure that both the mortal realm and the Otherworld lands stay safe, she faces the ultimate challenge when a blight strikes her Thorn Land and many more in the Otherworld. Eugenie realizes that only she will have the courage to find the way to protect all those she loves, whatever the cost.



The Yarn:

It was so hard to believe this is the last of the Dark Swan series. Eugenie has faced a long road becoming Queen of the Thorn and Rowan Lands, yet stay connected to her shamanic heritage in the mortal realm. As she works to protect the children that many are trying to destroy, another force brings a horrible blight upon her lands. In usual Eugenie headstrong fashion, she heads off to the place where the trouble originates, not knowing that this will be only one stop along a trail of trouble.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series since the beginning. Many difficult topics are faced during these books, especially revolving around the prophecy of the Storm King's first grandson. Eugenie is headstrong as always but still vulnerable, having to fight against many who would either kill or use her not-yet-born child. Her relationships with both Dorian and Kiyo are addressed on different levels, as Eugenie must make decisions that not only affect her and her children, but those who live on both sides of the Gate between the two worlds.

Eugenie has had to face a lot of tough challenges through the series (no spoilers this time!), and faced disagreement with those she loved because of them. I will say there was disagreement in this reader with some of the choices she has made, however there has not been one that I did not respect, even if I did not agree. I believe that this actually made this fantasy more "real", as you can see definite parallels with choices that Eugenie makes with those faced by others during life. To me, that makes a believable protagonist in a story. When I start thinking "Would I have done what she did?", then I know that I not only empathize with the character, but I have been pulled wholeheartedly into the story. I can see that some of the sequences may not please every reader, and I felt a lot of "But what is going to happen now?" at the end of Shadow Heir.

Mead did not skimp on the emotional turmoil of her protagonist, but it is these feelings that connected me to Eugenie through all of the books. Mead has successfully built an intricate world with the Otherlands, and I will definitely miss it.

The Ink:

Title: Shadow Heir (Dark Swan, #4)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Zebra
Date: December 27, 2011
Read: ARC Provided by Publisher

DARK SWAN GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Congratulations go out to SKYLA11377. Skyla11377, you have won the first three books of the Dark Swan series (Storm Born, Thorn Queen, Iron Crowned)! I will send you an email shortly to verify your information, then send that on to the publisher to mail your books out. Thanks again to Kensington Books for supporting this giveaway.

Happy Reading!

22 December 2011

Celebrate

Our Christmas Tree This Year
This time of year is a time for celebration - at least that is what everyone keeps saying. Sometimes it is really hard to celebrate a year that has had a lot of ups and downs, and if you have more downs than ups, maybe you are celebrating that the year is finally OVER. January 1 always seems like a time to reboot, give yourself a fresh slate to start scribbling on.

However, right now is the clash of secular holidays that can make any sane person's head spin (so, you can imagine what it is doing to me!). I was raised in a traditional household, traditional as in I was baptized a Lutheran at the age of six, we went to church on a semi-regular basis when I was younger, attended Sunday School, was jealous of all the kids that got off the bus on Tuesdays after school at the church (did not really understand CCD at that time, now all I can say is Whew!) and fell out of religion pretty much all together in high school and college. I was drawn to Wicca, but never really felt in tune with any sort of solo practice with it, too self-inhibited to try to meet others who may have shown more of a light on those Paths.

I rediscovered church through my last spouse, this time Unitarian Universalism. We were living out in Wichita at the time, and the space where this church was so....different. People came from all sorts of backgrounds, religions, all just wanting a space to be themselves and believe that what they believed was okay. Folding chairs, curved wooden walls, children's art behind the front space, and people were KNITTING IN CHURCH.

I knew I had found my place.

But of course I left there, and it took a while to find the right church that resonated with me, and now am ever so grateful that I have. I know my Path is littered with remnants of Christianity, Goddesses, moon gazing, mythology, tree-hugging, and a big bunch of knowing that the Universe in my Mind's Eye is a woman in overalls with a big 2x4 over her shoulder. She always smiles when she whacks me upside the head with that board. And I love Her for that.

So, now of course with my family and my children, I do celebrate the Christmas holiday in all of its glorious tradition of giving gifts. I feel no real shame in that, I know that others find a more religious experience in that day. For me, it is one for family and loved ones. This is a time to share bounty both physically and emotionally, if you can.

My Solstice Candle
Personally, I celebrate the Solstice. As once again the Wheel Turns, and light begins to overtake the darkness that has been ever-present since the summertime waning. I light the candle and smell the scent of evergreen in my house, and once again remember that what I believe may be as much the same, or as different, as every other person on this planet.

So, Happy Holidays, everyone.

20 December 2011

Dark Swan Giveaway

Richelle Mead's Dark Swan series will come to a close with the release of Shadow Heir on December 27th. To celebrate the release, Kensington Books has graciously offered copies of the first three books - Storm Born, Thorn Queen, and Iron Crowned - as a giveaway to my readers!



Storm Born

Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl's got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy--one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie's first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.




Thorn Queen

Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire, paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld. But after her last battle, she’s also become queen of the Thorn Land. It’s hardly an envious life, not with her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and Eugenie eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind. And now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one—except Eugenie—seems willing to find out why.




Iron Crowned

Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham is the best at banishing entities trespassing in the mortal realm. But as the Thorn Land’s queen, she’s fast running out of ways to end the brutal war devastating her kingdom. Her only hope: the Iron Crown, a legendary object even the most powerful gentry fear…





(All synopses from author's website)

To enter, just fill out the Google Docs form below. One winner will be chosen at random from all entries to receive the first three books of the Dark Swan series. Only US & Canada entries please, books will be shipped directly from the publisher. Deadline to enter is December 27th at 9 PM, winner will be announced December 28th with the review of Shadow Heir.

Good luck!

  

14 December 2011

Review (and Giveaway Winner!): Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

The Book:


After battling Reapers of Chaos, mythological creatures and all-around evil classmates, Gwen Frost just wants to survive the rest of her semester at Mythos Academy. Learning how to use weapons seems like a good start, even if that means being taught by her unrequited crush, Logan. Maybe Daphne's suggestion of attending the Winter Carnival will turn things around and let her move forward? However, there is more than snow, boys and fun awaiting Gwen and her friends at the ski resort; Gwen will have to face the past once again and fight for her life.

The Yarn:

Kiss of Frost opens not long after Touch of Frost. Gwen works on improving her fighting skills after her fight with the Reaper Jasmine. Against the Spartans, Amazons and others at Mythos Academy, she seems at a serious disadvantage. However, her Gypsy gift of psychometry once again shows Gwen is not as limited in power and skill as she may seem, and Gwen discovers more about her role as Nike's Champion, maybe more than she bargained for! Even with this power and goddess-given mantle, Gwen is still dealing with her own sadness from her mom's death and Logan's rebuff of her feelings. While you definitely know you are dealing with teens, powers and battles aside, the emotions of the characters stay true to age and you can see true growth in them without belief-suspending leaps.

I have really enjoyed Jennifer Estep's adult Elemental Assassin series, and Mythos Academy brings a lot of the same elements: a strong female lead; family interactions and issues; developing powers - all leading to a delightful book that makes me anxiously await the next in the series. Gwen is finding answers to some of the questions that were asked in Touch of Frost, good and bad, that will definitely push the storyline forward. There were some definite moments that were revealed far too early, but Estep countered those with some surprises towards the end. I believe some of the best parts of these books are the secondary characters: Daphne and Carson are back in the thick of things, and the introductions of Oliver and Kenzie, along with Morgan hints at some intricate relationships for Gwen and the future.

Estep gives the "teen outcast" storyline a fresh twist with the Mythos Academy series. I will be waiting for the next book, Dark Frost, when it appears on shelves in June 2012.

The Ink:

Title: Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy, #2)
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington
Date: November 2011
Read: Purchased Nookbook

KISS OF FROST GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Congratulations goes out to JenniferK for winning a copy of Kiss of Frost!  Jennifer, I will be sending you an email to confirm details. Many thanks to Kensington Books for supplying the book to the winner.

And stay tuned, as I will be announcing another giveaway next week!


10 December 2011

I Am Blessed

My "baby girl" is 15 today.

I find it to be such an incredible age. For her, it is the first year of high school. With all of its aches and pains and OMGs I have homework AGAIN days, school has come around another bend to its ending. She will be done in three years, then off on another adventure.

And don't get me started about being able to drive in one year - I am not sure my heart could handle it.

Life is beautiful with her, and challenging. The old saying is that little girls are made of "sugar and spice and everything nice". That obviously does not apply to teenage girls. Someone threw hot sauce in that mix for sure.

But it is that extra zing that makes my daughter her own person. I keep her school photo in a frame on my desk. Behind that picture is a succession of school and holiday pictures, going back to her toddler days. It is amazing to lay those down, one after another, and see her change before my eyes. As she has done these last fifteen years.

The Universe is blessed to have her in it. I am too.

Happy Birthday sweetheart.

07 December 2011

Review: Highland Bride by Hannah Howell

The Book:

Gillyanne Murray holds her own lands, and decides it is time to visit them before she begins courting. Unfortunately upon her arrival Gillyanne finds not one, not two, but three lairds (with adjoining property) waiting to lay claim to it - and her. To prevent a battle, she chooses Sir Conor MacEnroy, a knight as handsome and bold of action as he is quiet of words. Gillyanne is not one to flee from a challenge, however, and as she fights to find a place in her husband's keep, she hopes to also find one in Conor's heart.

The Yarn:

How can you not enjoy a romance in the Scottish Highlands? Hannah Howell brings us another of The Murrays with Highland Bride. While the typical plot of first-comes-marriage, then-comes-love is in play, Gillyanne is a strong, spirited young woman who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, facing off against the suitors. She is also willing to give in to protect what is hers, as she marries Conor to stop the battle that would destroy the peace the land so needed to keep. She needs all of that strength to try to keep up with a husband who really does not know how to woo the wife he needs to keep.

Humorous and poignant, Howell delivers a sweet Highland romance that will please her readers.

The Ink:

Title: Highland Bride (The Murrays, #6)
Author: Hannah Howell
Publisher: Zebra Books/Kensington
Date: August 2011 (First Printing: October 2002)
Read: Mass Market Provided by Publisher