The Quick by Lauren Owen

When I picked up The Quick by Lauren Owen last December I was dubious. Several reviews compared The Quick with Wilkie Collins and we all know how I feel about Wilkie Collins (love you Wilkie, *kiss*). I thought that The Quick was either going to be really amazing or really terrible. Sometimes a new work compared to a literary great is fabulous and deserving of the comparison. Other times the literary great’s name is slung around because the work in question is a poorly done rip-off of said literary great’s work. I put the book down last year without opening it and finally mustered up the courage to give it a go this autumn.

Lucky me, The Quick was an absolute gem and completely deserving of being called a Wilkie Collins-like novel about Victorian vampires. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, because this book is best read with a sense of anticipating dread. If I tell you who you will meet and what will happen I will ruin the entire novel. Instead I’m going to hit some highlights and then implore you to read The Quick straightaway. In fact, I lent my copy of The Quick to my friend Catherine the day after I completed the novel and she read the first section at night, outdoors, while waiting for our concert to begin. It is just that good.

1. Atmospheric writing without being overwrought. Fog, darkness, creeping damp, silence, murmurs, darkness, owls, dust, secrets, coppery blood, old papers and books lurk throughout the novel, but it isn’t overdone. There is just enough atmosphere to make the reader wary and alert, but cozy too. I guess what I’m saying is this is best read under a blanket, with a steaming mug tea beside you, and the rain pattering outside, but be forewarned that when your husband asks what’s for dinner you’ll need to be careful to not jump and upset said tea.

2. Female badassery. Most of the principal characters are male, but the women in the book are badass. They take care of themselves and know what they want and need. They are fully fleshed out characters and not there to be merely a love interest.

3. Love. There is some romance, but it doesn’t take away from the story. I hate it when people are in the middle of something epic and then pause to make-out or say cheesy things to each other. Time is of the essence, people! We have no time for extended lovemaking. There are things to slay.

4. The time period is perfectly reflected. This isn’t a plot spoiler, but the Dickensian street urchin vampires were my absolute favorite characters. The carriages, homes, and customs all ring authentic. Nothing felt anachronistic.

5. The characters and ideas of the book are not sacrificed for plot. This book is a page turner, but I never felt that characters were introduced to move the plot. The characters felt true and authentic. This novel also says a great deal about the human condition; especially in regards to one of the main vampires and his human-scientist accomplice. They start out with high minded ideals and plans for the betterment of society and end with an absence of compassion for humanity and horrific involvement in a sort of vampire eugenics plan.

This was a perfect autumn read and I will certainly look forward to reading more from Lauren Owen!

Snapshot Saturday (On a Sunday)

snapshotsaturdaysnapshot_monstersThis weekend was rad. Giant book sale, but showed great restraint and only bought $7 worth of books. Out with my good friend Catherine for thrifting, Ikea dinner, Of Monsters and Men, and coffee. Atticus played Readathon this weekend. He piled his books in the tent and then handed them to me with a cup of coffee.

On to a new week!

Mindfully Healthy


Tuesday I was at home with a sick toddler and spent most of my day on the couch watching hours of singing children’s television. After several days of cleaning up vomit from said toddler I was ready to deep clean everything. I was also really wishing I felt healthy. Sure, I was sleep deprived, I ate too many carbs, and even though I never actually threw-up (knock on wood) I felt gross from all the clean-up duty. There was a reason I felt bleh… but that feeling happens more often than not.

As I sat on the couch I started thinking about health and noticing how quickly my mind slid to dieting and thinness. Sigh. This cycle again. I know you’ve all seen it on this blog. I get excited about weight loss, I start a program, I do well. Then I fall off said program and make poor choices that spiral me towards disordered eating and self-harm. Then I declare that I am going to eat what I want and not give a rat’s ass about dieting. Then eating what I want turns into fast food, ice cream, too much coffee, etc. I gain a little weight or maybe just become bloated from salt and too little water. My face breaks out. I wheeze when I walk. I feel listless. So then I diet and it starts all over again.

I attempted to break this cycle back in March when I got back to therapy. The binge eating has subsided, but I still eat when bored, tired, angry, sad, happy. I have an emotion and then pick a food and stuff that emotion down. I still think of food as “good” and “bad.” I don’t reach for healthy food. I “save” things for when I’m “better.” As my therapist says, the only way to overcome this cycle is to be mindful. Mindful of my body, heart, and head.

I truly don’t want to diet. I don’t want the yo-yo. I cringe at the thought of people congratulating me on weight-loss. Does it mean they’re examining me? Waiting for me to mess up? Will I disappoint everyone?

I want to love my fat body. Yes, it is fat. Don’t tell me it isn’t. This body has carried and fed three kids. It has survived abuse and assault. It has a brain constantly curious and heart that loves fiercely. I have a soul. I have value and worth as I am. I want to honor this beautiful, sagging, scarred, tattooed, stretch-marked covered body. I deserve health, mental and physical.

Today I start a journey to embrace a mindful lifestyle focused on health and that not focused on calories, grams, and scale numbers. I may lose some weight. I may gain some weight. I’m not worried about that. I want restful sleep. I want to enjoy the food I eat and not race through meals. I want to be rid of the constant colds and infections. I want to be comfortable and not dissociated from my body.

Gosh darn it I want to like myself and treat this body well.

I am so bad about wanting everything to be perfect. If I cannot immediately be all organic, vegan, fitness super woman, then I will show you a binge worthy of one of those intervention TV shows. This path will be one of quiet, deliberate steps and not a rampage towards some big goal.

Is there a plan? Of course. While sitting on the couch I made a list of small, healthy lifestyle changes I can make. My goal is to work a few of these in each month and make it a routine. Here are the first seven steps:

Take a daily probiotic. The stomach bug inspired this one.
Mindfully take time outdoors each day. As in sitting outside and enjoying my surroundings for a few minutes or watching the sun rise on the back patio. Not on my phone, not rushing on an errand, but being present and mindful of my natural surroundings.
Start back with the organic produce delivery service. I enjoy eating the organic produce, rather than the flavorless stuff at the store. I keep throwing away uneaten produce because we don’t reach for it like we did with the organic produce.
Start my morning with a cup of green tea. I drink so much coffee at work. Starting with tea will help me cut back.
Wind down at night with a cup of Sleepytime tea. I love the ritual and quiet of tea before bed
Develop a morning routine and wake-up at the same time each day. To help reorder my crazy sleep patterns.
Get a blender and make smoothies for breakfast. I don’t like to eat solid food before 10am in the morning. This means by lunchtime I’m scarfing too much food down too quickly.

There we have it. Small, healthy steps.

Readerly Rambles: A RIPX Update

rip10500I thought I’d pop-in with an update for RIP X (aka R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril 10).

ripnineperilfirstMy Peril the First is in progress. In fact, I haven’t finished a single damn book for it, but no worries. Readathon will help me knock out my plan to read four creepy books by October 31st.


I’m reading Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Tales for this peril. I’ve read several, but so far my favorite has to be “Under the Pyramids (with Harry Houdini). The prose was so creepy and overwrought and there are some truly terrifying beasts under the pyramids! I don’t want to give it away, but it was very visual and succeeded in scaring the crap out of me.


Sam and I started watching Twin Peaks on Netflix back in September. We’re pacing ourselves and watching 2 to 3 episodes a week. I saw bits and pieces of this show growing up, but I seriously knew very little about it. I did know that is was probably something I would like. I’m completely addicted, but terrified.


Bob scares the every loving daylights out of me. Seriously, and I have a million owls and we all know “the owls are not what they seem.”



Lastly, the peril of the group read! Moar Owls! The Quick took a little time for me to get into, but I plowed through 100 pages on Friday while I was hanging out of the couch with a sick kiddo. It gets seriously badass and I am completely hooked.


Goodbye, September and Hello, October

looking to October

Goodbye, September!

Highlights: This has been such a full month. The university was busy with students starting projects and papers. I love the library best when it is like this, busy… but busy in a fulfilling way.

I had so many events this month. The Decatur book festival and chance to hangout with Shannon and meet the ever-dapper Thomas in person, a date day with Sam in celebration of his birthday, Purity Ring concert with my friend Natasha, the first official meeting of the Young Democrats, lunches with friends and nights with knitters, and this past weekend a wonderful Welcome Autumn dinner with some good friends. At times I’ve felt so busy that I can hardly catch my breath, but it is a good busy. Yes, I am an introvert and I have been craving some peaceful time to write letters and read, but all of my busy days were filled with people close to my heart. You can’t get much better than that.

It wasn’t all hustle and bustle and excitement. Sam and I have been having regular dates on Friday and Saturday nights; these dates involve ice cream and watching an episode or two of Twin Peaks. I’ve taken to hiding on my lunch breaks to read. We’ve had loads of one-on-one time with the kids at the park or just watching them play at home. On the whole it has been really nice.

What I read: Well this is embarrassing. I only read one book in September. ONE BOOK. Of course that book was East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It was a chunkster and I had to take a break of about a week after reading it because no other book could quite live up to it. I am now five book behind in my GoodReads Challenge. Perhaps #15in31 and Readathon will help with that this month.

What I made: I spent a little more time in the kitchen this month, although not as much as I wanted. The first pumpkin spice baked good was made and consumed and I brought along some pumpkin baked beans to a dinner. I finished one baby blanket and I’m still working on my letter dishcloths.

Family Updates: Sam is busy with teaching and taking classes and tomorrow he takes the first two of his teacher exams. Hope has a new boyfriend and he is very nice. We had the dress code fallout that cost me a blog reader (cry me a bucket). After a dismissive email from the principal I wrote a letter to the superintendent. Still haven’t heard back. Atticus had only one minor blip, he told me didn’t want to do ballet after school. He wants to do ballet, but he said after school he wants to “put on jammies and play.” Oh my little introvert needs a recharge! We’ve moved him to an earlier afternoon class that he will start this week. His current hobbies include building forts and constructing elaborate fights between dragons, super heroes, and monsters. Persy Jane is suddenly busting out with complex sentences and a stubborn little will that is frustrating, amusing, and empowering all at once.

Hello, October!

Anticipating: I hadn’t anticipated that we would be starting the month out with a projectile vomiting toddler; we’re on day three and let’s hope it isn’t a nine-day stomach bug like last time.

I am anticipating quite a few things this month. First of all my work schedule changed. I’m back working every weekend, but on Sundays. I have the morning with the family and then go in later. This means that I have Fridays off to run errands (or read!) while the kids are in school. Also, Atticus won’t have to do afterschool which will save money and preserve family time. Oh yes, and there is a blissful regularity to my days.

October will also hold some fun events: a giant charity book sale, a day with my friend Catherine that includes seeing Of Monsters and Men, a date with Sam to watch the first Democratic debate with other liberals, a few days off for fall break, watching Crimson Peak with my friend Melissa, Readathon, an Art in the Park Bernie Sanders event, Atticus’s birthday, and Halloween. I’m also declaring October, Frocktober and plan to wear dresses as much as possible. Oh yes, and reading. Loads of reading plans.

My October TBR is ambitious (as usual), but I like to dream big:

  • In progress: The Quick by Lauren Owen, The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Tales by HP Lovecraft, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (audio).
  • Virago Project: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
  • From my stacks: The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
  • More audio: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • YA Series: Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City
  • Classic: The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
  • Contemporary: Among Others by Jo Walton
  • Graphic Novels: The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde / Dark Horse Book of Hauntings / Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  • On my Kindle: This House is Haunted by John Boyne
  • Non-Fiction: Will Storr Vs. the Supernatural by Will Storr
  • A Re-read: The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield

Upcoming projects: Planning Atticus’s birthday party. We are going to do something different this year, but I’m saving that for another post. Halloween costumes. I really want to dress the kids as special agent Dale Cooper and the Log Lady from Twin Peaks, but they want to be Batman and a princess. Sigh. Also, I want to get from F to R on my alphabet washcloths. I have other things to knit and these are really so easy. I need to just do it.

Okay, October… I’m ready for you!

Mom is Mad: What Happens When My Kid is Pulled for Dress Code

This morning I received a panicked text message from my 15 year old daughter, Hope. She was in the school office and a random teacher or staff person (i.e. not any of her class teachers) told her the outfit she was wearing was “inappropriate.” She was charged $1 to “rent” a super big shirt to wear in place of her inappropriate clothing.

Below is the offending outfit:

dresscodesaywhatHope’s response? “If I was skinny and didn’t have a butt they wouldn’t pick on me.” SKINNY. My daughter is very thin, but healthy. Due to medication side-effects she has even struggled with being underweight at times. My daughter can look at the skinny people with a different body type and see that long shirts and leggings are okay for them, but that she is held to a different standard. This one teacher has influenced the mind of a teenage girl to erroneously think that her body is not okay and Hope was able to pinpoint the “problem area.” This area has been deemed inappropriate by some arbitrary standard and by saying this is inappropriate said teacher has sexualized my daughter’s body.

Maybe the leggings are the issue? Nope. I checked the policy and it says nothing about wearing leggings. This is a large tunic shirt over leggings and is what many teens wear everyday. It isn’t spandex and it isn’t tights. These are cotton, stretchy leggings that you cannot see through. Here’s a screen shot. Notice the subjective term “immodesty.” Who gets to decided what’s immodest?


Maybe something is wrong with the shirt? Oh wait. It is an Alzheimer’s society shirt Hope purchased at school from a coach.

I spent the better part of my lunch break emailing the principal and outlining the ridiculousness of this “infraction.” I’ve requested Hope get an apology and her dollar back. I’ve also voiced wanting to help rewrite school dress code policy to eliminate discriminating against body type. I’ve requested information on what training faculty receive to pull students for dress code. I’ve indicated a “willingness” to discuss this with the school board.

Two things I wished I asked:

  1. Do they keep track of what students are cited, because I’d love to see a gender breakdown. Pretty sure it is mostly girls suffering at the hands of arbitrary body policing.
  2. Could they provide some peer-reviewed scholarly research on “inappropriate” clothes and their impact on grades and testing. I know the public education system really loves assessment and data, so I’m sure they can provide me with data-supported research.

As it stands now I told Hope to not wear the ugly big shirt and keep wearing her shirt and to direct people who have an issue with it to me. I haven’t had an email back yet, but rest assured I will be following up tomorrow in person.

Weekend Cooking: Pumpkin Everything Edition


At last, it is officially autumn. I’m one of those gals who loves LOVES loves pumpkin spice. I’m not a fan of artificial pumpkin pie flavors (too sweet) and I don’t care for pumpkin spice flavored everything. You can keep your Oreos, Pop-tarts, sausage (?), etc…. I love pumpkin spice coffees and baked goods.

I think folks unfamiliar with baking may focus on the pumpkin aspect and not realize that the spice is really what must keep flowing. Pumpkin in baking adds a rich, creamy, subtle texture and flavor. If it tastes gross, you are probably using the wrong sort of pumpkin. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are not intended for eating; they can be bland, bitter, or stringy. Go for the smaller “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins or grab a can of pumpkin from your grocery store. Truly, the pumpkin flavor is subtle, but it does wonders for texture and density.

The pumpkin spice is my favorite. Cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and maybe an teeny pinch of cloves is all it takes to make the spice to pair with the pumpkin. In truth my GINGER recipes just have more ginger equal amounts of cinnamon and ginger and contain molasses or dark brown sugar. My PUMPKIN recipes have more cinnamon than ginger and usually use light brown sugar or maple syrup. It is chemistry folks. Dislike pumpkin, but love ginger? Just an adjustment of spices (yet I don’t see snots making fun of gingerbread latte fans in the winter).

Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t like pumpkin spice you’re fine (more for me). I don’t like regular eggnog (I only like the soy version) because it is too heavy and I really hate berry flavors in my coffee (blueberry blend? barf). We all have different likes and dislikes and that’s cool. Autumn lends itself to baking and you can bake up a storm and avoid pumpkin.

But today is all about the pumpkin.

First off, I wanted to share my favorite pumpkin recipe ever. This vegan pumpkin snickerdoodle coffee cake is delicious and quick to put together. It is my go to staple for having folks over, cozy knitting nights, and last year I made it for Atticus’s birthday because one of his friends had a dairy and egg allergy.

I’m linking to the recipe (because copyright, yo!), but here it is:

vegancakeIt is pretty delicious.

I have several other pumpkin recipes I want to try this season. I’m having dinner with friends on Sunday and bringing along slow cooker Pumpkin Baked Beans. I hope they’re good. Here are some other recipes I hope to test this fall:

Throw your pumpkin-inspired recipes my way and I’ll give them a whirl. Not a pumpkin fan? That’s cool. I like all the autumn baking: apples, cranberries, ginger, etc… let me know what you’ll be baking.