Tuesday, December 31, 2013

seasonal reading: Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
series: O'Neil Brothers (1)

I really enjoyed this romance novel set around the holidays.

Kayla Green is an extremely successful workaholic who hates nothing more than the Christmas season ("I'm Scrooge, but without the tasteless nightwear," 8). She's busy avoiding holiday celebrations at work when she learns of a lead that could lead to a huge account for her PR firm. When the potential client (the sexy, young Jackson O'Neil, CEO of Snowdrift Leisure) makes an unorthodox request (that Kayla agree to spend a week up his family's secluded Vermont resort in order to experience the resort firsthand and get the rest of the family on board with her developing an integrated marketing plan for the resort), Kayla surprises both her boss and Jackson O'Neil by agreeing to spend the holidays at the resort ("Kayla decided that given the choice between an encounter with Santa or a black bear, she'd take the bear," 42).

As would be expected with a romance novel, Kayla and Jackson have immediate chemistry. Chemistry he's willing to explore and she wants to do her best to ignore. And, of course, Kayla's time at Snow Crystal resort does not go to plan. She flubs her initial presentation to the resort's stakeholders, making her job of winning them over that much more difficult. In the course of showing her all the resort has to offer Jackson takes every opportunity to thaw Kayla's chilly exterior, much to her chagrin. On top of that Jackson's family is not the least bit businesslike and they aren't content to ignore her and let her do her work, insisting on pulling her into their holiday celebrations. In order to win the Snow Crystal account, Kayla is going to need to confront the issues that cause both her hatred of the holidays and fear of intimacy.

Even given the time constraints inherent in the Sleigh Bells in the Snow's plot, Kayla and Jackson's relationship proceeds at a reasonable pace (personally I dislike romance novels in which relationships progress too quickly). Both Kayla and Jackson have interesting and complex backstories and the issues they have to overcome in order to be together are realistic.  Morgan also populated the novel with a bevy of well-realized secondary characters (mostly in the form of other O'Neil family members), many of whom will no doubt appear in the other books in the series as each installment will revolve around one of the O'Neil brothers.

My one complaint about the novel is that it gives away too much about the other books in the series.   By the end of Sleigh Bells in the Snow readers know who both of the other brothers will likely end up with and have a general idea of the issues that the couples will have to overcome in the course of their own stories (more so for Tyler than for Sean).  This isn't really enough to ruin or spoil the upcoming books, it's just that I would have preferred less in the way of clues about later installments.
disclosure: I received a review copy of Sleigh Bells in the Snow from Harlequin via NetGalley.

Edmund Crown/Hat from Literary Knits

One of my 2012 Christmas gifts was Literary Knits by Nikol Lohr (see post). To quote myself:
Subtitled "30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books," Literary Knits is just that: a collection of patterns inspired by novels, specifically the author's favorite literary characters.  The patterns are grouped into four categories:  women's accessories, women's shawls and garments, items for men, and items for children.
This fall I finally knit one of the patterns from the book: Edmund Crown/Hat, which was inspired by the character of Edmund Pevensie of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. When I visited one of Russell's sisters in May niece #2 requested leg warmers. I love nothing more than appreciative handknit recipient, but I knew that if I knit something for her I'd have to knit for her three siblings as well. The Edmund Crown/Hat is what I decided to knit for niece #3.  I used purple as the base color since it is her favorite and I had some lovely leftover yarn in both purple and pink that I thought would suit.

Project: Ella Crown/Hat
Pattern: Edmund Crown/Hat
Yarn: South West Trading Company Optimum DK in Lilac and Rouge
(the eagle-eyed among you may recognize this yarn from the literary yarn bomb)

I love that this pattern is reversible so that one can wear it crown-side out or as a nondescript single-color toque.  However, I'm really not crazy about how the pattern came out. Lohr includes two different sizes, but the youth/small adult size differs from the child size only in the instruction to use a larger needle size. I wanted to knit the larger size, but I suspect that I would have had much better luck if I'd made the effort to modify the pattern to add a repeat (and using a lighter yarn and/or smaller needles as necessary) rather than relying on larger needle to do the work.

The larger needle size left my knitting far more loose that I like and the colorwork section horribly irregular. When I soaked the completed hat so I could even out the colorwork during blocking it grew so large that I had to risk putting the hat in the dryer (against care instruction) to get it back to a size that might actually fit her head. The dryer worked fairly well to resize the hat, but I ended up having to soak and dry again because I failed to realize that I'd need to shape the hat to the best of my ability before (and during) drying so it didn't get locked into a misshapen mess.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

holiday gift-giving,
books incoming and outgoing

Now that the holidays are for the most part behind us and 2013 is drawing to a close, I think I will attempt attending to the blog (just recently Russell reminded me that it'd be two months since I'd posted). First order of business, an overview of my holiday (book) gift-giving.

I received:
  • The Archived by Victoria Schwab (from Russell)
    This book came out in early 2013. I had to put it on my wishlist since the story revolves around an unconventional archive.
  • Baba Yaga Laid an Egg by Dubravka Ugresic (from my dad)
    This is one of the books in Canongate's Myth Series (I've been slowly acquiring them all for my library). I was pleasantly surprised to receive this book from my dad because we'd had a conversation about Baba Yaga in October after I'd seen a sculpture inspired by the story in an exhibit.
  • The Rhinebeck Sweater, edited by Ysolda Teague (from Russell)
    Stories and sweater patterns inspired by New York Sheep and Wool Festival, which occurs each October in Rhinebeck, New York. I'm certain that the only reason I received this book is because I told Russell that I was planning on buying it for myself if I didn't receive a copy for Christmas.
  • Warchon: Clash at Sygillis (from Russell)
    This is an extremely hard to find European-style board game in book form. The first in an award-winning, but commercially unsuccessful planned series of games: Playmark Book Games by Z-Man Games. I've wanted to play this game ever since I first found out about this failed gaming system and I'm so pleased that Russell was able to find a copy of it.

I gave:
  • The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien (to my dad)
    Russell was sure that we'd given him this book already, but it was on my dad's wishlist.
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (to my niece, with instructions for her mom to read it first)
    Not a holiday present, but it traveled with the holiday presents.
  • The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien (to my dad)
    Tolkien's translation of two stories from Norse mythology. A must-have for any true Tolkien fan.
  • Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou (to my book-dislking sister)
    I got a lot of slack for the present that felt disturbingly book-like before it was opened. I knew this was a risky choice for my sister, but given the fact that she's just gone back to school to study applied mathematics I couldn't not get this graphic novel for her. She's already started reading it and has asked me whether I know of any other comics about math. I'd say that's a successful present!
  • Playing at the World by Jon Peterson (to Russell)
    Subtitled "A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, From Chess to Role-Playing Games."