I had another really enjoyable month in terms of embroidery. The following projects were the result, some of which are still available over on my etsy shop.
I’d been having an urge to start dabbling in painting for the first time in years, so after getting hold of some supplies for my birthday, I started playing around with watercolours. I was instantly hooked, with the following pieces just a handful of what I ended up producing.
Last but certainly not least, we have the main event: the pet pictures!
Frankie (with a cameo from Ted)
There we have it! Did you have a good month in June? What was the best book you read?
Time for another wrap up! I don’t know about anyone else, but this past month went by really quickly for me. In terms of reading, I’m still plodding along fairly slow and steady (hence why I haven’t been that active on here – sorry!), but in terms of embroidery, I had a really productive few weeks. That said, let’s just jump into it.
I had a lot of fun with my embroidery projects in May; revisiting a few more past designs and trying out some new ones. Here were the results:
I had a stall for the first time at a small fete at the end of the month. I’d never done anything like it before, but as it was a chilled, lowkey event at a local boutique hotel, it was a nice way to dip my toe into new waters. It was a good experience, and popping up at craft fairs, markets, and such like is definitely something I’d like to try more of in the future!
I also just gave my Etsy shop a big update in the past couple of days, sprucing up the look of it and adding a bunch of new pieces for sale, including those featured above.
It seems pet updates have become something of a regular feature in these monthly wrap ups, which is fine by me! Ted is around 6 months old now and he continues to be a bundle of cheeky yet delightful energy.
Oscar is as chilled out, patient, and wonderful as ever, and this month also marked 8 years since I got Frankie, so I’ve included a throwback picture of her settling into the house (and my shoulder, lol).
There we have it! Did you have a good month in May? What was the best book you read?
I had a really fun month in terms of embroidery, working on a mix of landscape, animal, and floral pieces. I revisited a couple of past designs (the cherry blossom and the flower crown), and I’m particularly pleased with how the tiger portrait turned out. I’m hopefully going to have a small stall at a local fete at the end of this month, so I’m enjoying the challenge of building up enough pieces to stock it! That said, there are still several things available over on my Etsy.
Last but not least, I promised some more Ted updates, and I’m happy to oblige! He continues to be a delight, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Just for good measure, here are some recent pictures of Oscar and Frankie: as much as I’m obsessed with Ted, I’m still obsessed with them too!
Though not vast in quantity, when it comes to quality, this is easily one of the best reading months I’ve had for some time. Here’s a look at what I picked up, with links to reviews if you’d like more thoughts.
Books read: 6
Yearly total: 19
The books I read in March
1. The Antarctica of Love by Sara Stridsberg, Tr. by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Favourite of the month: The Most Dazzling Girl in the World is fresh in my mind, but honestly all of these were great!
March was also a fun month craft wise. Finished projects included a matching pair of autumn trees, a large owl embroidery, a little starry landscape, a floral woven wall hanging, and a miniature cross stitch of a cosy cottage. Some of these are still available over on my Etsy.
I also promised some more Ted pictures last month, and frankly I’m always happy for a chance to show him off! He’s continued to settle in and make friends really well, and he’s still an absolute delight.
There we have it! What was your favourite read in March?
In terms of both reading and embroidery, it’s safe to say February wasn’t my most productive month, but thankfully there’s a nice reason as to why this time: There’s a new four legged friend in my life! I adopted 10 week old pup Ted earlier this month and I am more than a little bit smitten.
He’s a cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Miniature Poodle), and he’s settled in so well – even the cats are tentatively warming to him, lol. I could gush all day about how cute, friendly, affectionate, fluffy, playful, and delightful he is, but I suppose I’d better mention some books!
As for embroidery, I’m just finishing up a matching pair of tree designs which were requested by my cousins, but the following pieces are all up for sale over on my etsy shop: a large whale hoop, a contemporary rainbow piece, and a squirrel cross stitch magnet.
How was your February? What was your favourite read?
My reading year is off to a somewhat tentative start, as I found myself reaching mainly for short reads as and when a burst of motivation hit. Given my desire to ease the pressure on myself if/when a slump is lingering, I’m okay with that! Besides, there were a couple of gems in the mix.
Here’s a quick summary of the books I read, with links to reviews if you’d like to know more.
Favourite of the month: A Psalm for the Wild-Built
Meanwhile, I had a pretty productive month craft-wise. As well as a couple of classic floral pieces, I loved working on a slightly larger embroidery of woodland animals, and I tried out an aerial landscape for the first time.
I’ve also been continuing to delve into hand weaving a little more, which resulted in the mini wall hangings and decorations shown below.
(Some of these pieces are still available over on my Etsy shop.)
I don’t think I need to bother reflecting on the kind of year 2021 turned out to be overall. It happened; let’s move on, shall we?
In bookish terms, I felt like much of my year was defined by a lingering reading slump, meaning it came as a very pleasant surprise when I surpassed my goal for the year (by 1), reading 101 books in total. That’s the lowest figure since I started tracking my reading, but objectively, I’m aware it’s still a lot of books, and considering the backdrop we’ve all been living against, I can make my peace with it! I talked a little about my 10 favourites here.
My average rating was 3.6 stars. That’s .1 up on last year’s average, and it means I’m still enjoying the majority of the books I pick up, so I’ll take that as a win!
Though I always pick up books based purely on what appeals to me at the time, as the year comes to a close, I like to look back and break them down based on a few key areas. It’s clear to see I’m still drawn to the works of women far more than I am men, and I’m also pleased to see that my intake of non-binary authors has gone up a little – though this could certainly still be higher.
In terms of authorship, I’m pleased to see it’s not a terrible balance, but I could always stand to read more from authors of colour. I’d be much happier if it could move closer towards a 50/50 split, at least.
As per the trend of the last few years, more than half of my reading is given over to novels/novellas, and the proportion of my reading dedicated to poetry has edged up slightly again, which I’m perfectly happy with!
It also seems that around a quarter of my reading is made up of works in translation, which is pretty consistent with last year. I’d like to maintain or even boost that proportion moving forward, if possible.
I’m still going to set myself some goals for the year ahead, but in the spirit of not wanting to pile the pressure on when we’re still going through the wringer, I’m going to keep them simple:
Read 90 books: This is lower than I usually set my target, but I want to respect the fact my reading slowed down for much of last year. While it’s good to motivate myself with an ambitious end goal, reading is something I love, and so I never want it to feel like a daunting chore. Life is rough at the moment; it’s okay to ease the pace a little when we need to.
Commit to WITmonth: I love joining in with Women in Translation Month, which takes place every August. For the last few years, I’ve committed to reading exclusively women in translation during that month, and I’d like to do so again.
Re-read Saga: I read and loved the first 7 volumes of Saga as they came out, but I fell out of the loop and haven’t picked any up for ages. I believe the series is coming to the end of a hiatus soon, so I’d like to refresh my mind and get caught up.
As always, I’ll finish this little retrospective by bringing together every title I read throughout the last 12 months (followed, this time, by all the embroidery projects I completed). If anything catches your eye, feel free to drop me a comment. Thanks for stopping by – Happy reading, and all the best for 2022!
It’s that time again! It goes without saying that 2021 has been another strange year, and sadly for me, much of it was defined by a lingering reading slump. It boggles my mind therefore that I somehow managed to get through 101 books, with my favourites listed below.
As always, I chose from the books I read for the first time throughout the past 12 months, and not strictly books that were published within that time. I always take into account how much I enjoyed the book at the time, and how well it has stayed with me since. But without further ado, let’s talk about some books!
Sealed by Naomi Booth
At once both highly allegorical and frighteningly plausible, this claustrophobic novel follows the perspective of a pregnant woman during the spread of a strange skin-sealing disease, born of climate change and an increasingly toxic atmosphere. Using body horror to explore the fear and potential terror of pregnancy/birth, the book also offers shrewd commentary on the narrative of female “hysteria” and the fight for body autonomy. This wasn’t the knock-out favourite I hoped it would be at the time, but certain moments continue to haunt me, strengthening my appreciation of its smart, understated power.
The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender
A quiet exploration of family, trauma, and mental health, The Butterfly Lampshade follows Francie as she reflects on a particularly upsetting and unusual string of events that took place in her childhood. Though it flirts with an otherworldly tone and elements of magical realism, it offers very real, poignant commentary on a complex mother-daughter dynamic, looking at just how closely fear, guilt, and love can intertwine when it comes to family. Deliberately fragmented and skilfully underplayed, Bender’s unique approach makes the book all the more impactful.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
His first release since winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Ishiguro’s latest novel blends the appeal of commercial fiction (thanks to an enticing setup and immense readability) with the author’s signature exploration of the human condition. Concerned primarily with the moral complexities of artificial intelligence, the book explores well-worn themes of speculative sci-fi, but Ishiguro’s subtle emotional delivery gets to the heart of the best and worst traits of humanity. His brilliantly well-handled point-of-view and worldbuilding ensure it’s a fresh, worthwhile offering.
Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder
Though not always easy to stomach, Ogawa’s signature hypnotic atmosphere makes it almost impossible to look away from this fascinating, offbeat little novel. The story Follows a 17-year-old who willingly subjects herself to a series of physical, emotional, and sexual humiliations at the hands of a much older man. Exploring misplaced grief and toxic relationships as a means of self-punishment, the book highlights the often fine lines between pleasure and pain, passion and torture, excitement and fear. In pin-sharp prose, Ogawa has written a novel that is as shocking as it is tender.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Set in the run up to Christmas in 1980s Ireland, this understated yet powerful little novel looks at the ideas of compassion and secrets; those we cannot see and those we choose not to. Capturing a very specific time and place within Irish history, Keegan embraces the power of implication, commenting on heavy topics without resorting to sensationalism. Sad yet full of hope, it captures the feelings of charm, nostalgia, melancholy, and longing that so often go hand-in-hand during the festive period. It’s a sensitive ode to the resilience of the working classes, and the quiet yet vital heroism of those who choose not to turn a blind eye when faced with injustice.
Endless Night by Agatha Christie
Though one of Christie’s lesser-known works, this quickly became one of my favourites. Hugely compelling, it has many of the hallmarks you’d expect from a classic Christie novel, including a central element of mystery, well-drawn characters, fantastic dialogue, and an intricate tapestry of clues that leads to a startling truth. What marks this out among her work, however, is how heavily she leans into the conventions of gothic literature – complete with a grand, imposing house, and whispers of the supernatural. Brooding and expertly paced, I loved its seamless blend of crime fiction and psychological horror – bolstered by excellent commentary on the freedoms and trappings of money.
Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley
This is a powerful look at navigating trauma on your own terms. We follow Owen, who is sexually assaulted during a visit to a prospective university. When the crime is anonymously reported to his school, he is forced to deal with the fallout. The novel delves into issues as wide-ranging as loyalty, abuse, gender, PTSD, gaslighting, sexuality, toxic masculinity, and warped plays for power. It’s a tangled web, but the narrative never feels bloated, thanks to how well-realised Smedley’s protagonist is.
The Butcher’s Blessing by Ruth Gilligan
Set amidst the devastating outbreak of “Mad Cow Disease” in the 1990s, this is an achingly real portrayal of rural life in Ireland, and an ode to the country’s fraught history with its own folklore. Opening with the image of a body suspended from a hook, the narrative jumps back to explore the events that would lead to this man’s grotesque end. Instantly compelling, the stakes are consistently raised as we attempt to identify both the victim and the perpetrator from a cast of complex, morally ambiguous characters. Though ostensibly a literary thriller, the focus is placed firmly on its characters, all of whom are wrestling with their own inner demons. This allows for nuanced commentary on the fight for autonomy in a culture ruled by tradition, and the bravery required to defy society’s expectations in search of happiness.
Love and Fury by Samantha Silva
This stunning novel serves as a love letter to the genius of pioneering feminist and writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, while also painting a picture of the very real, sensitive woman behind the legend. Silva does an excellent job of celebrating her subject’s sharp intellect and early push for equality, exploring issues of gender, class, and sexuality with nuance and grace. That said, the book never feels like an academic text or a dot-to-dot biography. Wollstonecraft was a pioneer in many respects, but she was also a human being, susceptible to the same flaws and heartache as the rest of us. I think Silva handled the balance of reverence and honesty in portraying her heroine with aplomb. Whether familiar with Wollstonecraft yet or not, this is a gorgeous, evocative read; a character study that is equal turns inspiring, captivating, and moving.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
McConaghy blends powerful eco-fiction with the intrigue of a thriller in this arresting look at human nature. Our heroine is Inti Flynn, an environmental biologist leading a controversial rewinding project that aims to bring wolves back to rural Scotland. The surrounding community are immediately hostile; their resistance reaching a fever pitch when the mutilated body of a man is discovered. Inti is determined to absolve the wolves of blame — and thus spare them from a brutal culling — but to do so means proving there’s a killer in their midst. At once a page-turner and a deep dive into the psyche of its characters, McConaghy’s prose paints vivid pictures of Scotland’s rugged beauty. Almost every character is shown to be capable of both great compassion and immense cruelty, prompting us to consider which of these (if not both) is the true nature of man. And yet, nothing is ever presented as straightforward; McConaghy always mining the moral complexities of the situation. Even Inti is regularly forced to question the validity of her project, and where the line falls between vital conservation and unethical interference with nature. Burning with passion, Once There Were Wolves is an ode to the land as it once was, and how it could be.
Since December always seems to end up being a bit of a hectic month, I didn’t get through a huge number of embroidery projects, but the ones I did work on, I loved. These included a couple of larger pieces – a pair of blue tits, and some Van Gogh inspired sunflowers – and a couple of mini pieces – personalised reindeer decorations for my niece and nephew.
There we have it! What was your favourite read in December?
Well… November happened. On a personal level, it was far from a great month, I’m afraid. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my beloved pupper, Barney. He was the sweetest, gentlest bundle of scruff, and I’ll miss him every day, but I know he had a long and happy life.
I felt I had to acknowledge his loss, but in the spirit of normality, here’s a quick wrap up of the reading and embroidery projects I managed throughout the month during happier moments.
Aside from a distinctly summery beach hut scene (which was a commissioned piece), most of my embroidery and weaving projects for November had a distinctly cosy and Christmassy feel. I particularly enjoyed working on the little robins, which I have a real soft spot for. Some of these pieces are still available to buy over on my Etsy shop if you’d like to snag one in time for the holidays!
There we have it! What was your favourite read in November? Are you on track to hit your goals before the end of the year?