Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Sad Goodbye

It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing the end of Cozy Little Book Journal. I will no longer be reviewing, tweeting about, or blogging about books. Period. This means the end of all of my secondary blogs as well, including this one, I'm afraid.

I'm so sorry to all of the authors and publishers who were counting on me to promote the countless books they've sent me over the years, and I'm sorry to all of the readers who have come back to my blog again and again. I appreciate all of your support and encouragement and I'm so sorry to disappoint anyone. I assure you I did not take this decision lightly.

Most people don't realize this but I've not been well for several months now. I've had medical issues that have impacted my life in various ways and I really need to focus on my health now. For a long time, blogging seemed like a good fit for me. I could read and review books even when I was too ill to do much else. Lately, however, the stress of all of my book-related commitments, combined with feeling physically ill and emotionally exhausted, has made it a hobby that I dread more than I treasure. I've hated having reading turn into a chore instead of a joy.

Apart from health concerns, I've also gotten tired of a lot of other aspects of having a book blog. I'm sick of having authors' friends call me an idiot on Amazon because I didn't like a book. I'm tired of being sent dozens of crappy book files every month, despite repeatedly telling self-published authors that I'm in no way interested in their Christian children's books or their vampire YA. I'm tired of always being a few hundred books behind in my reading list, then feeling guilty if I choose to read a library book instead of one I'm "obligated" to read. I miss re-reading my favourite books just because I feel like it, instead of trying to speed-read the endless book files I have on my Kobo.

Don't get me wrong. I've loved so much about book blogging. I'd say I've loved it way more than I've hated it. I've loved being a part of a community of committed readers who discuss books with the enthusiasm of sports fans discussing a big game. I've loved interacting with authors, illustrators, publishers and publicists, the majority of whom have been the most amazing and lovely people. I've treasured the moments when my honest excitement for a book can make an author's day, and I've loved when they've taken the time to tell me that. I've been in awe of so many authors and artists and I've felt like I was backstage at a rock concert, getting to exchange letters and emails with my literary heroes.

I've loved sharing this experience with my daughter. She's five, but she never starts a new book without reading not only the title, but also the name of the author, the illustrator and the publisher. I didn't do that when I was her age. She's only a beginner reader herself, but she can already easily identify when a book is written or illustrated by someone she knows because she's come to recognize art styles, writing styles, and author photos. She thinks computers are mostly for downloading book files. I love that.

Nonetheless, I've decided that it is time to take a break from blogging. My daughter is starting school in a few days and I'm trying to stay healthy enough to share each day with her. Of course we'll still be reading and discussing all our favourite books. We just won't be doing it online.

Thank-you again to everyone who has supported and participated in my book blog, in every capacity, over the past four years. Unfortunately it's goodbye for now (possibly forever) but I really appreciate all of you. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Did anyone else see the Designer Home Tours leading up to Season 13 of Project Runway? Is it just me or does it seem like there are a disproportionate number of whiny brats this year? I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not feeling this group. And are they still doing that thing where someone from a previous season gets to come back FOR NO DAMN REASON? Ugh, so stupid.

Doesn't matter, I'm still excited. Less than a week to go!!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

How hard could it be? At Home With Modern June shows you how to sew projects for your home

If I can make these, then literally anyone can

I don't consider myself much of a seamstress (I was going to say 'sewer' but then I realized that 'sew-er' as in 'one who sews' is indistinguishable from 'sewer' as in 'where poop goes'...which is probably why people say 'seamstress') but I can mend torn clothes, sew a hem, and make simple things like doll clothes or pillow covers. But even I found the projects in this book easy. As in, really easy. So easy, in fact, that I probably didn't need a book to tell me how to do them (like make a place mat or a simple pair of curtains).

At the same time, if you are someone who loves the look (or idea) of handmade items for your home but have absolutely no idea where to begin, this book might be perfect. The photos are aspirational and--as promised--modern, even though they're referencing a nostalgic time gone by. For instance, the author refers to her grandmother as "the only person she ever knew who wore an apron" then shows you how to make an apron. It's the book for people who find Pinterest exciting but too complicated.

But because the projects are so simple, At Home With Modern June does make me want to try the few ideas in the book that are slightly more intimidating (to me at least) like the Roman blind or the bed skirt ruffle. Since the other things are so easy, how hard could these ones be? If I actually do get a Roman blind finished, I'll be sure to update you with my results!

Ultimately Kelly McCants captures perfectly the current trend of "modern nostalgia," mixing old-fashioned patterns and ideas with modern sensibility and accessible techniques. The projects are probably too simple for the serious sew-er (see? it's hard to write that word) but are a great starting point for someone who desperately wants to be able to point at something in their home and say proudly, "That? Oh yeah I made it."

Simple and adorable apron
At Home With Modern June: 
27 Sewing Projects for Your Handmade Lifestyle
by Kelly McCants
Publisher: Stash Books
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
View on Amazon

Source: NetGalley

This review originally appeared on my other blog, Cozy Little Book Journal.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

CRAFTY BOOK REVIEW: The Big Book of Things to Make, by James Mitchem (DK Publishing)

The Big Book of Things to Make,
by James Mitchem
DK Publishing: March 18, 2013
Source: Edelweiss

View on Amazon

Fantastic! As always, DK Publishing delivers exactly what it promises. This is like the quintessential book of kids' crafts. It's got all those things I vaguely remember from my own childhood (pinhole cameras, bottle rockets), plus a bunch of things I used to know when I was a daycare teacher but have since forgotten (homemade slime, milk art), and a couple of things I just never knew at all (if you make jello with tonic water it glows under UV light -- why?). Basically it's one-stop awesome.

And it has a whole bonus section of "things to do" that includes tips for how to play detective or pirates or even how to make your own board game. You know, for kids who want to better at playing and figure the answer is probably in a book (hint: it totally is). I was that kid. Actually, I still am, which is why I strongly approve of this book.

This review originally appeared on my other blog, Cozy Little Book Journal.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What the hell happened to Anya??? (Project Runway: Under the Gunn)

Anya Ayoung Chee, looking terrifying

I've never been an Anya hater. I know they're out there (and they are many) but I've never jumped on the "Anya didn't deserve to win Season 9" bandwagon (now Gretchen's win from Season 8 is a whole different story). I've always loved her and thought she was a good choice as mentor on Tim Gunn's new show, Project Runway: Under the Gunn.

Back in her own season of Project Runway, the criticism was basically this: she famously said she only learned to sew in the months leading up to coming on the show, so everybody (including most of her fellow competitors) took this to mean: (A) that she DIDN'T know how to sew; and (B) that she didn't know ANYTHING.

I've always found both of those things to be unfair. Anya Ayoung-Chee went to design school. She had been designing and making her own clothes for years, including pageant gowns which I'm sure aren't easy. But she had gotten a lot of help with things like pattern making and sewing with fancy sewing machines (like the ones she'd be using on the show), so when she decided to audition for Project Runway she decided she'd need to learn to sew properly. Which is how she spent the months leading up to filming. Hence she "just learned to sew" for the show.

The thing is, there are a LOT of contestants who don't even do that much. How many times have we heard contestants complain that they don't know how to thread a needle in commercial sewing machines, or that they never had to sew or make patterns before because they have "people" for that? How many times have we seen contestants acting bitchy to the self-taught designers because they didn't go to design school?

It happens nearly every season, but almost no one got the kind of criticism that Anya got. So why? What was different about her?

Anya, looking tired but fabulous in Season 9

Well a couple of things. First of all, she was honest about her crash course in sewing and didn't apologize for it. A lot of other designers come on the show without even bothering to make sure they're going to be able to handle the basics (like using the kinds of sewing machines they have on Project Runway) but they all make a million excuses about it (I hand sew everything, I have a different kind of machine at home, I have assistants for that, my sewing machine is in metric, I don't believe in electricity). Anya just made sure she knew how to do it before she came on the show. Point Anya.

Secondly, she did really REALLY well, which pissed off the other designers. They interpreted her "just learned to sew" as "doesn't know anything" and then got mad when that wasn't the case. Plus she's very pretty and accomplished in other areas (wasn't she Miss Universe or something?) so I think a lot of them really wanted to not have to take her seriously. But she kicked their asses and didn't apologize. Again, point Anya.

So I never had a problem with her winning her season. I liked her designs, I liked her, I thought the criticism was overblown and unfair, and I didn't feel there was a clear front runner who should have won instead. Certainly there were other contenders, but no one who I thought was clearly the intended winner (like, ahem, Mondo in Season 8). I was on board with Anya.

But now I'll admit I'm starting to have some doubts. Was everybody right about her after all? Anya's mentoring style on Under the Gunn is, at best, confusing.

Do you all remember when the challenge was to design a look inspired by Vampire Academy, a teen vampire movie, and Anya told one of her designers (what was that guy's name again?) that his looks were "too junior" so he should think about what a 35-year-old would wear instead? When have the judges ever wanted that?? And especially on a teen-inspired challenge? It's crazy talk.

Then when that designer was in the bottom two and Anya was asked to pick who should go home, she picked him! "I can't help but feel responsible," she said tearfully. YA THINK? Of course she's responsible!

Anya putting a hex on What's-His-Name for not being good enough

Then this week her mentoring strategy seemed to begin and end with making all her designers feel guilty that they weren't living up to her expectations. How is that helpful?

She was particularly hard on what's-his-name, the boring guy with the white shirt that made him look like he was catering breakfast for the show, um, Nick? He's so boring I can't even commit his name to memory. Still, Anya's idea of encouraging him was to imply that he had tricked her into thinking he was a good designer and that maybe he was just a big fraud. Ouch.

What a shock he was on the bottom again.

And yet again, two of Anya's designers were in the bottom and they made her choose which one should go home. That can't be great for team morale. Her designers must always be worrying not only about whether the judges like them enough to keep them, but whether or not Anya does. Eesh.

On the plus side, Nick Verreos seems to be doing a lot better as a mentor (his team's win last week really helped) and Mondo is, as always, killing it. I think it'll probably be someone from Mondo's team who wins the whole thing, but we'll see.

Next week: Anya Ayoung-Chee slaps her designers and makes them cry. (jk jk...well, maybe)

Monday, February 24, 2014

All the Project Runway contests EVER. How many do you remember?

Alexander Pope
 S12 (7th)
Alexandria von Bromssen
 S12 (2nd)
Angela Bacskocky
 S12 (16th)
Bradon McDonald
 S12 (4th)
Dom Streater
 S12 (1st)
Helen Castillo
 S12 (5th)
Jeremy Brandrick
 S12 (9th)
Justin LeBlanc
 S12 (3rd--TGsave)
Kahindo Mateene
 S12 (15th)
Karen Batts
 S12 (10th)
Kate Pankoke
 S12 (6th), S11 (9th)
Ken Laurence
 S12 (8th)
Miranda Levy
 S12 (11th)
Sandro Masmanidi
 S12 (13th--quit)
Sue Waller
 S12 (12th)
Timothy Westbrook
 S12 (14th)
Amanda Valentine
 S11 (8th)
Benjamin Mach
 S11 (11th)
Cindy Marlatt
 S11 (14th)
Daniel Esquivel
 S11 (4th), AS3 (10th)
Emily Pollard
 S11 (16th)
James Martinez
 S11 (15th)
Joseph Aaron Segal
 S11 (13th)
Layana Aguilar
 S11 (5th)
Matthew Arthur
 S11 (12th)
Michelle Lesniak Franklin
 S11 (1st)
Patricia Michaels
 S11 (2nd)
Richard Hallmarq
 S11 (6th)
Samantha Black
 S11 (7th)
Stanley Hudson
 S11 (3rd)
Tu Suthiwat Nakchat
 S11 (10th)
Alicia Hardesty
 S10 (9th)
Andrea Katz
 S10 (14th--quit)
Beatrice Guapo
 S10 (16th)
Buffi Jashanmal
 S10 (12th)
Christopher Palu
S10 (4th), AS3 (4th)
Dmitry Sholokhov
 S10 (1st)
Elena Silvnyak
S10 (6th), AS3 (3rd)
Fabio Costa
S10 (2nd)
Gunnar Deatherage
S10 (8th), S9 (17th)
Kooan Kosuke
S10 (13th--quit)
Lantie Foster
S10 (15th)
Melissa Fleis
S10 (3rd), AS3 (9th)

Nathan Paul
S10 (10th)

Raul Osorio
S10 (14th, 11th)

Sonjia Williams
S10 (5th)
Ven Budhu, S10 (7th)
Amanda Perna
S9 (17th)
Anthony Ryan Auld
S9 (7th), AS2 (1st)
Anya Ayoung-Chee
 S9 (1st)
Becky Ross
S9 (10th)

Bert Keeter
 S9 (6th)

Bryce Black
 S9 (9th)

Cecilia Motwani
S9 (13th--quit)

Danielle Everine
 S9 (12th)

David Chum
S9 (17th)

Fallene Wells
S9 (15th)

Joshua Christensen
S9 (15th, 11th)

Joshua McKinley
S9 (2nd), AS2 (4th)

Julie Tierney
 S9 (14th)

Kimberly Goldson
 S9 (4th)

Laura Kathleen Planck
S9 (5th), AS2 (6th)

Olivier Green
S9 (8th)

Rafael Cox
S9 (16th)

Serena Da Conceica
 S9 (17th)

Viktor Luna
S9 (3rd), AS3 (5th)
A.J. Thouvenot
 S8 (12th)

Andy South
S8 (3rd), AS3 (11th) (as Ari South)

April Johnston
S8 (5th), AS1 (10th)

Carlos Casanova
S8 (10th), AS2 (7th)

Christopher Collins
 S8 (6th)

Gretchen Jones
 S8 (1st)

Ivy Higa
S8 (8th), AS2 (5th)

Jason Troisi
 S8 (16th)

Kristin Haskins Simms
 S8 (13th)

McKell Maddox
 S8 (17th)

Michael Costello
S8 (4th), AS1 (3rd)

Michael Drummond
 S8 (9th)

Mondo Guerra
S8 (2nd), AS1 (1st)

Nicholas D'Aurizio
 S8 (15th)

Peach Carr
S8 (11th), AS2 (13th)

Sarah Trost
 S8 (14th)

Valerie Mayen
 S8 (7th)
Amy Sarabi
 S7 (8th)

Anna Lynett
S7 (12th)

Anthony Williams
S7 (7th, 5th), AS1 (9th)

Ben Chmura
 S7 (9th)

Christiane King
 S7 (16th)

Emilio Sosa
S7 (2nd), AS2 (2nd)

Janeane Marie Ceccanti
 S7 (11th)

Jay Nicolas Sario
 S7 (4th)

Jesse LeNoir
 S7 (10th)

Jesus Estrada
 S7 (13th)

Jonathan Peters
 S7 (6th)

Maya Luz
S7 (7th--quit)

Mila Hermanovski
S7 (3rd), AS1 (6th)

Pamela Ptak
 S7 (15th)

Ping Wu
 S7 (14th)

Seth Aaron Henderson
S7 (1st), AS3 (1st)
Althea Harper
 S6 (2nd), AS2 (8th)

Ari Fish
 S6 (16th)

Carol Hannah Whitfield
 S6 (3rd)

Christopher Straub
 S6 (5th)

Rodney Epperson
 S6 (9th)

Gordana Gehlhausen
S6 (4th), AS1 (11th)

Irina Shabayeva
S6 (1st), AS3 (6th)

Johnny Sakalis
 S6 (12th)

Logan Neitzel
 S6 (7th)

Louise Black
 S6 (10th)

Malvin Vien
 S6 (15th)

Mitchell Hall
 S6 (14th)

Nicolas Putvinski
 S6 (7th)

Qristyl Frazier
 S6 (13th)

Ra'mon Lawrence Coleman
 S6 (11th)

Shirin Askari
 S6 (8th)
Blayne Walsh
 S5 (8th)

Daniel Feld
S5 (11th)

Emily Brandle
S5 (14th)

Jennifer Diederich
S5 (13th)

Jerrell Scott
S5 (4th), AS1 (5th)

Jerry Tam
S5 (16th)

Joe Faris
S5 (6th)

Keith Bryce
S5 (10th)

Kelli Martin
S5 (12th)

Kenley Collins
S5 (3rd), AS1 (4th)

Korto Momolu
S5 (2nd), ASC (2nd), AS3 (2nd)

Leanne Marshall
 S5 (1st)

Stella Zotis
S5 (9th)

Stephen "Suede" Baum
S5 (5th), AS2 (11th)

Terri Stevens
 S5 (7th)

Wesley Nault
S5 (15th)
Carmen Webber
S4 (13th)

Chris March
S4 (12th, 4th), ASC (4th)

Christian Siriano
 S4 (1st)
Christiana "Kit Pistol" Scarbo
 S4 (8th)
Elisa Jimenez
S4 (10th), AS1 (13th)

Jack Mackenroth
S4 (12th--quit, medical)

Jillian Lewis
 S4 (3rd)

Kathleen "Sweet P" Vaughn
S4 (5th), ASC (3rd), AS1 (12th)
Kevin Christiana
 S4 (9th)

Marion Lee
 S4 (14th)

Rami Kashou
S4 (2nd), AS1 (8th)
Ricky Lizalde
 S4 (6th)

Simone LeBlanc
 S4 (15th)

Steven Rosengard
 S4 (11th)

Victorya Hong
 S4 (7th)
Alison Kelly
 S3 (9th)
Angela Keslar
 S3 (7th)
Bonnie Dominguez
 S3 (11th)
Bradley Baumkirchner
 S3 (10th)
Jeffrey Sebelia
 S3 (1st), ASC (5th-8th)
Katherine Gerdes
 S3 (13th)
Kayne Gillaspie
 S3 (5th), AS2 (9th)
Keith Michael
 S3 (12th,DQ)
Laura Bennett
 S3 (3rd)
Malan Breton
 S3 (14th)
Mychael Knight
S3 (4th), ASC (5th-8th), AS3 (8th)
Robert Best
 S3 (8th)
Stacey Estrella
 S3 (15th)
Uli Herzner
S3 (2nd), ASC (5th-8th), AS2 (3rd)
Vincent Libretti
 S3 (6th)
Andrae Gonzalo
 S2 (6th), AS2 (10th)
Chloe Dao
 S2 (1st)

Daniel Vosovic
 S2 (2nd), ASC (1st)

Diana Eng
 S2 (9th)

Emmett McCarthy
 S2 (8th)

Guadalupe Vidal
 S2 (11th)

Heidi Standridge
 S2 (15th)

John Wade
 S2 (16th)

Kara Janx
 S2 (4th), AS1 (7th)
Kristen Ehrig
 S2 (14th)

Marla Duran
 S2 (10th)

Nick Verreos
 S2 (5th)

Raymundo Baltazar
 S2 (13th)

Santino Rice
 S2 (3rd), ASC (5th-8th)

Zulema Griffin
 S2 (7th)
Alexandra Vidal
 S1 (7th)

Austin Scarlett
 S1 (4th), AS1 (2nd)

Daniel Franco
 S1 (12th), S2 (12th)

Jay McCarroll
 S1 (1st)
Kara Saun
 S1 (2nd)
Kevin Johnn
 S1 (6th)
Mario Cadenas
 S1 (11th)
Nora Caliguri
 S1 (8th)
Robert Plotkin
 S1 (5th)
Starr Ilzhoefer
 S1 (10th)
Vanessa Riley
 S1 (9th)
Wendy Pepper
 S1 (3rd), AS2 (12th)