Slide into your squishy slippers, drape yourself in that oversized sweater grandma made you, and become immersed in our third season’s offerings of harvest and balance this equinox, as you melt into that cosy fall feeling.
In Ontario this week, ‘melt’ was the keyword since yesterday we had a humidex of almost 30 Celsius instead of the more seasonal 21 of previous years. I am not complaining, though, because if the alternative is shovelling my driveway, I am not into it and will appreciate basking in the heat.
For many years September was when I would jump back into reading after taking a summer hiatus. The chilly air pulled me towards hibernation, the cocoon of a blanket, and the comfort of an autumn-themed tale. A recharged passion for the pastime would overcome, and I would tear through the books as fast as the leaves would fall.
Not to worry, I’ll get into the spirit of my favourite season by relying on the taste of pumpkin, the smell of cinnamon, and the stories from this list. I can think of worse things!
Ever since learning that Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight Series, was loosely based on it, I have avoided reading Wuthering Heights. The neediness of the characters and the contrived desperation of the ‘plot’ in Meyer’s first book, repulsed me and I struggled to finish it, never mind reading the rest.
On the other hand, some trusted readers have said they adored this atmospheric mid-1800s classic about the forbidden yet eternal love of Catherine and Heathcliffe. They praise this gothic tale that they insist will leave you breathless with its backdrop of dark imagery in the fall on the Yorkshire Moors.
Have you read this romantic classic; what did you think?
This YA gem comes highly recommended as a feel-good novel to keep one bright and energised for the transition into darker months.
Squashed is an early-90s novel about sixteen-year-old Ellie Morgan’s attempt to grow the heaviest pumpkin for a weigh-in competition in rural Iowa, whilst simultaneously trying to shrink herself to impress a boy she likes.
The premise could be both relatable and validating for some modern teens and offensive and triggering to others. I am curious to see if the author will address weight control without pathologising Ellie and her choices, and I wonder how the story will translate in the current climate.
I am a fangirl of J.K. Rowling’s without ever having read Harry Potter. The Casual Vacancy was outstanding, and I have completed and tremendously enjoyed the first half of the CB Strike series under her pen name, but have not read a word of her uber-popular children’s books.
HP was on the list of books that I had saved to read for the first time with my children. It turns out I was living a fairytale, as fast-forward to 2021, and my eight-year-old wants nothing to do with them. He says he doesn’t like magic. I think he is being contrary because he knows how long I have been excitedly awaiting the series. I made the mistake of talking them up too much, which had Mr. Independence saying ‘no way.’
Ah well, I will have to read this mega-hit about a wizarding orphan and his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, all by my lonesome.
Although I recall tepidly enjoying the movie with Tobey Maguire many years ago, I have never read The Cider House Rules. A decade ago I read The World According to Garp, which I highly recommend, so I am aware of John Irving’s talent. I have had a hankering to take on another from his catalogue for too long.
It appears to be a salient time to dive into this autumn-set piece of American historical fiction. Irving manages to address the polarising issue of abortion, and adoption, sensitively. Dr. Wilbur Larch delivers unwanted babies and performs illegal abortions at an orphanage in rural Maine. We follow one orphan as he grows up to assist the doctor in delivering those babies.
Having not read the book in full yet, I cannot be sure what my end take will be, but I have heard others assert that Irving’s story is not interested in having you pick a side, so much as it asks you to practice the lost art of looking at an issue from another’s perspective.
Ali Smith’s first book in her Seasonal series: Autumn, takes high praise for its beautiful writing. We observe the friendship between an art history lecturer and her one-time neighbour as she visits him in a nursing home, with the politics surrounding the Brexit vote serving as a backdrop.
This short yet thought-provoking work of contemporary British fiction confronts immigration, racism, and other prevailing themes. The complexity of this layered tale should be the perfect distraction from my countries local politics of the day, and I will be sure to line up the three remaining titles to see the series through.
Do you have a fall-themed read that you reach for at this time of year? What are some seasonal books that you have enjoyed, I’d love to add them to my list for 2022.
Where will this technology take us? This week on Saturday in Stereo listen to the Peachy Books review for Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, written and read aloud by PeachyTO.
Please visit the Peachy Books YouTube channel or click on the video below to check it out. If you enjoy the reading, I’d be thrilled if you would ‘like,’ subscribe, and hit the notification bell; it will help my channel to grow, and you’ll be the first to know when the latest Read-a-Louds are available. Thank you so much for your support!
To find the written review for Klara and the Sun and see the Sunshine bookmark I was inspired to make, please click here.
‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery None but ourselves can free our minds’ – Redemption Song – Bob Marley (as quoted in Educated)
Welcome to one of the lengthiest book reviews I have ever written, as there was a lot to find here and many poignant quotes to share. What follows is a mix of summary, commentary, and admiration for the fierceness of a woman who was able to persevere in the face of endless adversity.
After having spent the first 15 years of my life caught in the crosshairs of an unstable and abusive alcoholic father, without the assistance of any adults that would stand up to him, there was much I could relate to in Tara Westover’s struggle. Her story personally affected me much more than I had expected, and I was all in from beginning to end.
Educated is a candid recounting of Tara’s sojourn to self-discovery. With an obvious gift for writing, hers is a memoir that reads like literary fiction, so at no point did I feel trapped in the depths of her despair. I was often taken away by her contemplative and affective prose instead of feeling laden with sadness, as can sometimes be the case with life stories.
I have always supported homeschooling (done right), and had I the patience and resolve for such a task would have had my son learn at home as well. The Westover’s, however, were unaware of their limitations. What Tara and her siblings endured on that mountain was merely indoctrination that left them woefully unprepared for the real world. The minimal instruction their parents provided them was instead of an education, willful neglect, and dereliction of duty.
With a parent often floundering in the recklessness of mania, the disregard the Westover children met with due to their bipolar father and silent mother frequently caused me to seethe. The persistent bodily harm the children were subject to was shameful. Whether when being coerced to work in the family junkyard or whilst enduring the near-fatal car wrecks they landed in when their father was in a depressive episode, their fate was always in his hands. The continual isolation from school and doctors meant no checks and balances from the authorities, and the children were left to fend for themselves.
The hypocrisy in the home was rich and would be laughable if it were not so disastrous. They were strictly monitored concerning clothing choices, fraternising with members of the opposite sex, or being a part of a dance class, only to be left unprotected while dodging flying objects – or being set ablaze – in their junkyard.
A lack of parental guidance may force a child to depend on instinct, instilling in them a sense of hypervigilance. What forms as a necessity for survival when younger can root into a fortress of fear and isolation later in life.
‘Those instincts were my guardians. They had saved me before, guiding my movements on a dozen bucking horses, telling me when to cling to the saddle and when to pitch myself clear of pounding hooves. They were the same instincts that, years before, had prompted me to hoist myself from the scrap bin when Dad was dumping it, because they had understood, even if I had not, that it was better to fall from that great height rather than hope Dad would intervene. All my life those instincts had been instructing me in this single doctrine – that the odds are better if you rely on yourself.’
Trauma can turn you to stone, may convince you that you are impervious to pain, that you could never fall victim again. And this, in and of itself, is the effect that renders you impenetrable. This imposed encasing of your emotions leaves you incapable of letting in the good while you incessantly battle against the bad.
‘How I hollowed myself out…. I had misunderstood the vital truth: that it’s not affecting me, that was its effect.’
Tara commenced her education by reading math textbooks in the balcony section of the local theatre, where she was allowed to sing. Finding a way to make sense of the world was a step towards enlightenment, while the logic and order found within trigonometry helped to eclipse the chaos she was living.
‘I began to study trigonometry. There was solace in its strange formulas and equations. I was drawn to the Pythagorean theorem and its promise of a universal – the ability to predict the nature of any three points containing a right angle, anywhere, always. What I knew of physics I had learned in the junkyard, where the physical world often seemed unstable, capricious. But here was a principle through which the dimensions of life could be defined, captured. Perhaps reality was not wholly volatile. Perhaps it could be explained, predicted. Perhaps it could be made to make sense.’
It can be impossible to break the chains of dysfunction that tie us to our abusers, as we instinctively push anyone who tries to love us away, unable to reconcile what love even is. When chaos is all that you know, how can you feel comfort or solace in the calm embrace of an outsider? When will they realise who you are, and from whence you came?
‘If someone had asked me, I’d have said Charles was the most important thing in the world to me. But he wasn’t. And I would prove it to him. What was important to me wasn’t love or friendship, but my ability to lie convincingly to myself: to believe I was strong. I could never forgive Charles for knowing I wasn’t. I became erratic, demanding, hostile. I devised a bizarre and ever-evolving rubric by which I measured his love for me, and when he failed to meet it, I became paranoid. I surrendered to rages, venting all my savage anger, every fearful resentment I’d ever felt toward Dad or Shawn, at him, this bewildered bystander who’d only ever helped me.’
Tara continued to struggle with her identity when making choices based on her newly acquired knowledge. Her personal growth and strength implanted with it a sense of sadness, as it served to further divide and alienate her from her family, pushing her nearer estrangement. Although finding her own way was a necessity, as well as a reflection of her inner fortitude, it left her with a void that a family of origin fills, be they toxic or safe, loving, or detrimental.
‘ The truth is: that I am not a good daughter. I am a traitor, a wolf among sheep; there is something different about me and that difference is not good…I am not sorry, merely ashamed.’
The mistreatment Tara suffered was never exclusive to her father, her relationship with her brother Shawn mimicking that of a battered wife trying to survive her tyrannical husband. After countless beatings that kept her mired in shame, she blamed herself, as a traumatised brain is wont to do. It seemed that over the years, she coped by vacillating between fear and fondness for what she told herself was a special relationship they shared.
‘I begin to reason with myself, to doubt whether I had spoke clearly: what had I whispered and what had I screamed? I decided that if I had asked differently, been more calm, he would have stopped. I write this [in her journal] until I believe it, which doesn’t take long because I want to believe it. It’s comforting to think the defect is mine, because that means it is under my power.’
Not until Tara had heard accounts of Shawn’s abuse towards other women – even needing further admission from the men in their lives – did she trust her thoughts or the words in her journal.
We can speak endlessly about the damage inflicted by her father and brother, but I feel her mother needs to take a fair share of the blame, as well.
Not only did Tara’s mother not protect her, in many ways, she ‘parentified’ her. Like when trying to guilt her into caring for her abusive brother; that which her mother certainly had not prioritised the time to do herself, given how he turned out.
This ‘mother’ was often more concerned about covering up the image and fragility of her son, to the detriment of her daughter, and was quick to cut her off if she did not comply with the instructed narrative.
The exemption that Tara’s parents afforded their son at her expense saw her struggle with self-reliance and self-worth. I assume their allegiance to him is due to him being male, but it may also be for them to stay firm in their denial of how he turned out.
She found solace in her studies, as she took the ACT admissions test (twice) and stumbled through Brigham Young University. Accustomed to isolation, Tara suffered from social awkwardness and untold ignorance regarding societal issues and events in history. But, she stayed the course, and through ability and dedication, found herself with an opportunity to take her education to England.
In what seems like poetry, Tara went on to study historians at Cambridge. By escaping the dark shadow of misinformation cast by her father’s teachings, she was enlightened and able to study experts in the details of the past.
‘From my father I learned that books were to be either adored or exiled. Books that were of God – books written by the Mormon prophets or the Founding Fathers – were not to be studied so much as cherished, like a thing perfect in itself. I had been taught to read the words of Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself. Books that were not of God were banished; they were a danger, powerful and irresistible in their cunning.’
In the eyes of her father, all of her hard work and fearless determination still were not her own. He dared to take credit for her successes, declaring that it was on behalf of her homeschooling that she achieved such honours. He believed she should publicly relay more gratitude to her parents for this.
No matter how far she travelled, she forever felt tethered to her family and her responsibility to her roots. Often there were opportunities for the Westover’s to drag Tara back into the family fold of delusion and deceit.
Being asked to forsake all that she had amassed, to fall right back into that which marred her start, was not only selfish on the parts of her parents but impossible for such a devoted and transformed person to allow. To do so would have been a sure contradiction to the mountainous acts of bravery, grit, and dedication that she channeled to become the person she now knew herself to be.
‘Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind…. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.’
The rejection she received because of her integrity almost caused her to fail her Ph.D. at Harvard. She became consumed with depression and loss as she bore witness to the tug-of-war between where she was going and where her family needed her to be.
‘The thing about having a mental breakdown is that no matter how obvious it is that you’re having one, it is somehow not obvious to you. I’m fine, you think. So what if I watched TV for twenty-four straight hours yesterday. I’m not falling apart. I’m just lazy. Why it’s better to think yourself lazy than think yourself in distress, I’m not sure. But it was better. More than better: it was vital.’
The entirety of her family’s love, save that from her brother Tyler and his wife, was conditional. An offer of reacceptance into the cult of Westover was eventually put forth, via ultimatum, that would see Tara throw herself on the altar of their perceived righteousness, seemingly as a sacrificial gesture of humility.
In the end, the fool’s paradise that her family expected her to reside in was too ridiculous for her emotional education to allow. She could exist with the guilt that she continued to allow them to assign her, or she could move on and live a life grounded in truth, taking pride in herself and her hard-won achievements.
‘But vindication has no power over guilt. No amount of anger or rage directed at others can subdue it, because guilt is never about them. Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.’
Ultimately, I think the unresolved conflict that she waged within herself was rooted in her need to accept the different parts of who she was without shame or guilt. She had to reconcile that the girl that hailed from that dangerous mountain, living in the shadow of its demons, was also a part of the woman she now was. The convergence of these two personas would allow her to move forward in good faith and good health. Sadly – or graciously – this would have to be without the stranglehold of her family.
When perusing Goodreads, I saw that Tara’s mother had written a retaliatory book to her daughter’s claims laid out in Educated. From what I observed in various reviews, it was nothing more than an attempt to gaslight and invalidate Tara’s experience of her childhood.
She vehemently denied that Tara and her siblings were insufficiently educated or raised. In fact, she spent a lot of time defending her husband and his deranged behaviour.
In my view, their book provides proof that Tara continues to be the recipient of bad parenting. The Westover’s had no interest in protecting their children when they allowed unmitigated mental health issues to fester, and it was their (ignorant and paranoid) way or bust. She could not have proven Tara’s case any better than with the writing of their tone-deaf book.
Educated has made me a fan of Tara and her writing. I patiently await any lead she has left in her pencil.
I foundmyself thinking about Landslide by Fleetwood Mac a lot when reading this book, and even took a break to listen to it; it feels like a song that just fits the story.
Almost forgot to post this! My Free Bird Pencil Bookmark, inspired by Tara.
Have you read Educated? What is an inspiring memoir that you favour? I’d love to expand my collection with some stories of resilience, and would be interested in what you’ve enjoyed.
What could possibly go wrong? This week on Saturday in Stereo listen to the Peachy Books review for The One by John Marrs, read aloud by PeachyTO.
Please visit the Peachy Books YouTube channel or click on the video below to check it out. If you enjoy the reading, I’d be thrilled if you would ‘like,’ subscribe, and hit the notification bell; it will help my channel to grow, and you’ll be the first to know when the latest read-a-louds are available. Thank you so much for your support!
To find the written review for The One and see the DNA Strand bookmark I was inspired to make, please click here.
Mindfulness is something I lack, and if it were not for crochet, it is unlikely that I would ever practice it. Reading aloud to my son is the next closest thing that has me focusing in the moment.
Now, if we were talking about hyper-vigilance, mindfulness’ evil twin, I would say I’ve got that in abundance, thanks to Complex PTSD. It scarcely leaves me any time to be mindful, which may be why I struggle with meditation.
That is where books like this come in handy. Colour is a splendid tool for grounding, or at least it is for me. Seeing the vibrant hues mix and match together helps slow down my chaotic mind as I try to process the vividness of the image before me, occupying my senses and keeping them from becoming hijacked by unregulated emotion.
When having to endure an anxiety attack, colour can play a critical role in gaining control again. Spotting the brightest colour in the room, naming it, then spelling it out; repeat. Find another and start again.
Tricks like these can be a real saviour, especially if you aren’t with others when it happens. Emma Leith has included many thoughtful suggestions and helpful ideas from her life as she shares with the reader the health struggles that have led her to be more mindful.
‘Draw your attention toward what is happening in the present moment by gently tuning into the different sensations in your body. Notice without judgement and without trying to change anything, simply observing.’
Sage advice such as this accompanies each project as you work your way through the bright yarn and turn your troubled thoughts into beautiful treasures that will lift your spirits and clear your mind.
I started with these gorgeous mandala coasters and am ridiculously smitten with the colour combination I chose. The mix of rust, red, brown, yellow, and coral give a warm and cosy feel to my dining room and match perfectly with the dark wood decor. I plan to use the same colours and come up with some matching placemats or a table runner, to finish the look.
My son liked the coasters and wanted me to make him one in the colours he preferred. I like his choices and enjoy the beach feel his combo gives off. I decided to match his coaster with the desk organiser pattern in the book, which he will use this week when school starts. 🥳
He uses his coaster every morning with his cup of herbal tea and has requested a matching cup cosy. The never-ending list of crochet projects continues alongside my bottomless TBR list!
The tea cosy pattern in Mindful Crochet is super adorable, so I just had to make one to fit my French press. I am not particularly fond of how the colours turned out. I rotated a variegated yarn with solid pink and white and though it’s not terrible, I expected more. It might be the pom that’s irking me. Anyway, it fits, it’s cute, and it will keep my coffee warm longer, so nothing else matters.
The cosy in the book is shown below, incase you are curious if the pattern will match your tea pot. I added stitches and used buttons to fasten one side in order to make one that fit my coffee pot. I love the bright and fun yarn Emma Leith uses here, very bold and stimulating.
Mindful Crochet is a great book to get for an advanced beginner and up, but with the basic techniques shared in the book an eager student could learn from a novice position. Add a few YouTube tutorials, and you’re off to the races!
Gorgeous Mandala table toppers, curtains, and cushions will have you turning your outdoor patio into a crochet paradise, wowing your guests with the explosions of colour.
These are some pretty stressful times we are living in, and picking up a creative habit can be a way to ease an overactive mind. If you are just starting and don’t have any supplies, try heading to your local thrift store to see if they have any yarn and hooks that you can use to practice with. You might even get lucky and find a set of hooks or some pretty yarn. Given how inventory can change from week to week, do not give up after your first mission.
Yarn is expensive in Canada, especially the higher quality brands that are only sold at local yarn shops and not offered at big box stores or Amazon. As much as I love to support local businesses, sometimes there is no option when needing to buy many balls of yarn, or multiple colours.
If you are in the market to buy some affordable yet better quality yarn online, I recommend the US company Knit Picks. There are no unexpected duty fees or customs charges when it arrives here in Canada, unlike when ordering from Europe. I am unaware if this would be the case for your country, though, so be sure to check out the details on their site. From affordable luxury yarns to basic acrylics, they have every colour and fibre you need, with a top-quality seal of approval, even offering some organic options. Knit Picks was my go-to site for natural fibres when running my Etsy shop a few years back, and it’s the first place I look when in need of some cotton for my bookmarks.
If you do choose to get this book and make some of the projects within it, please come back andshow me what you create!
Do you have any hobbies or techniques that you use to help with mindfulness? I’d love to know; as it has been a lifelong struggle for me, I’m always looking for new ideas.
I just did the math, and I have been crocheting now for 35 years. That explains why my wrists groan under the worsted weight of cotton, an 11-gram hook, and a moderately tight stitch.
I try to limit myself to small timespans: two hours or breaks every 45 minutes. Instead, I get tangled up creating something and don’t want to stop until I see my vision through. Art is like that for me, all-encompassing and urgent.
With the majority of my time spent typing, playing with my yarn, and sometimes my Ukulele, I may need to get some repair work on these wrists in a few years. At least that should buy me some more time.
I’ve heard loads of people claim how they wish they had learned to crochet, or how it has always been a goal to do so. To all of them and you who may feel the same way, I say do it!
There are plenty of avenues for learning the craft these days, and with all the spare time people may continue to find themselves with, given our current pandemic situation, this is the time.
Get a beginner’s book, watch a YouTube channel, search for tutorials on blogs. There is no reason everyone can’t learn to do this with the will and a heavy dose of patience. Practice and time produce stellar results, and it won’t take 35 years!
Start slowly and give yourself the space to make mistakes; that’s how you learn best. I know I spent the first two years making scarves with only one or two stitches repeated. Accept your mistakes gracefully instead of getting frustrated. I’ve seen people get really discouraged when they have to rip back their work to fix an error, some even giving up in shame, which is silly, in my view. Repetition produces a better result, that is simply what practice looks like.
Get comfortable holding the yarn, maintaining consistent tension, and keeping a proper stitch count in place of rushing into making something you are not skilled enough for yet. That will only produce annoyance and disappointment.
Before you run off to find some yarn and a hook – I love Clover hooks (in case you were looking for an opinion) – I hope you’ll be able to draw some fibre art inspiration from these 5 Creative Crochet Books.
Crochet 101 by Deborah Burger is the right place to begin. Starting with a proper foundation gives you the knowledge and the confidence to be better faster, and in our world of instant gratification, that is the best you can hope for when learning something new.
Detailed chapters explaining all the necessary techniques needed to become competent in the art of Crochet are here, along with clear tutorial photos showing the appropriate placement of hands and yarn.
I really cannot say enough about this book, with its thoroughness, organised layout, and cute practice projects. I have bought it for two of my nieces and recommend it as an excellent place to start a journey into a beautiful and time-honoured hobby and skill.
Crochet One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant & Edie Eckman has 101 projects! Woo hoo, that’s what I’m talking about! If you are going to buy a book, you might as well get one stacked with practical patterns, and in this case, you would need no more than a skein’s worth of yarn to boot.
With all of the free instruction online these days, as heavily doused in advertising as most patterns are, you may wonder why one would even get a book? For me, I hate to be a slave to technology, so I like the feeling that if I am ever without power, I could be just a candle away from crocheting as my ancestral grandmothers did. Between my books and my yarn, I’ll never be bored.
These small and creative options are the perfect handmade inclusion to elevate a gift to the next level and are sure to be well-received treasures.
Mindful Crochet provides you with an explosion of colour, a feeling of lightness, and a sense of grounding. Calming patterns using bright and cheery hues give you a sense of joy and peace whilst creating something beautiful.
Emma Leith has put together a thoughtful book that includes tips and wise words about the importance of being mindful and how you can achieve it. With today’s ever chaotic world this book makes the perfect crochet companion on a search for health and wellness.
Read the full review, including some delightful projects I made from this soothing collection, in The Gallery.
Granny squares are some of the most satisfying projects to make in crochet. Finishing a section in one session gives you an accomplished feeling that you miss when sitting down for hours with the endlessly repeating stitch of a simple blanket or scarf.
Use a basic stitch pattern leaving colours combinations to shine, or choose something more detailed to tell a story, as the options in this 3D Granny Squares book do. Adding one of these special themed squares to a simple granny square baby blanket would be just the thing to take it to the next level.
The hardest thing for me will be choosing which one to make first!
One of the biggest booms for the hobby of crochet has come via the popularity of the Japanese art called Amigurumi.
Mainly consisting of a single stitch repeated in a spiral, these creative toys can be a great tool to get people interested in learning the craft.
I love this book for its sea creatures and their actual likeness to the real deal! Kerry Lord is an amazing talent, and you can’t go wrong with any of her fascinating and fun menagerie patterns.
Do you crochet, knit, or enjoy any other fibre arts? Have you ever received a handmade item from someone, that you treasure? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.