Ghosts, Sisters, and Wild Hyenas // Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Hi guys! I’ve been excited to share this book review. I was fortunate enough to receive a physical ARC of Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry and it’s the prettiest thing ever. Unfortunately, I am away from home in COVID-19 lockdown, so I cannot share a picture with you because it’s at home on my shelf. But here is the magnificent cover.

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Blurb

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
 
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

Goodreads | Amazon
Where I got it: Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review

My Thoughts

There was so much I wanted to like about this book, and ultimately I think it’s a good read. Parts of it didn’t click with me, but a lot of it did. But there is a lot of excellent still, so here’s a list of things I liked and things that didn’t quite work for me.

WHAT I LIKED
-The characters! All four sisters felt well-developed and unique. Iphigenia is the sweetest, I think, or at least I could relate to her the best. She likes to read and write and always carries around a book with her. Rosa loves animals and spends most of the book looking for a hyena that’s loose in the neighborhood. Jessica is dealing with an abusive boyfriend and a maybe-crush on the one boy who’s nice to her.

-The theme of sisters sticking together. They are all there for each other, and it’s so sweet and supportive. We need more of this in YA, and I’m completely here for it.

-Ana is such an interesting character. The whole book is kind of ABOUT her, but we don’t get to know her very well…which is the point. But I wish it had been explored a bit further!

-The boys next door are such affable dorks. Admittedly, they just go along with bullying, which is completely not cool. But you can tell they’re good kids. They just make some big mistakes.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE SO MUCH
-This is actually a good part of the book, because the writing is so good it makes me HATE the character John with an ALMIGHTY VENGEANCE. He is such a jerk and I am so annoyed.

-Not much actually happens. It’s a quieter book…it’s character-driven rather than plot-driven. Which is completely fine! I just expected more to happen because there’s a literal ghost, but instead the ghost just kinda hangs around and leaves people alone.

-Because not much happens, I got bored sometimes.

Beware, this point has spoilers! -Jessica frustrated me with how unkind she was to her sisters sometimes. And the whole thing with [ her dating John, Ana’s ex, right after Ana died? I would’ve liked to see a little more explored with that. Like, why did she do it? There’s a throwaway line about how she wanted to become her sister…but I would’ve liked to hear more about it. That’s kind of a big deal.

ALL IN ALL

I liked this book enough that I would check out the other things this author has written. If you like quiet, family-driven, kinda spooky books, you should definitely check this one out.

Rating

3.5 out of 5 stars = liked it quite a bit

Isolation Blossom Blanket CAL, Week 1

Just last post I was musing about how to feel connected to a community in the midst of this crisis. And who should come along but my wonderful friend Astri, hosting a crochet-a-long on her blog Apple Blossom Dreams. I have been following Astri since I was 14 years old, and she has been nothing but kind and gracious to a young beginning crocheter. Me and my mom did Astri’s first ever CAL, and I participated in the Rockman CAL a few years ago. So as soon as I saw this one I jumped on board.

This CAL is called the Isolation Blossom Blanket, very aptly, haha. You just make a donation to a COVID-19 relief charity and Astri sends you the pattern. The goal is to use yarn we already have on hand, because getting out to the store should not be happening. In fact, Oregon, where I live, has issued a “stay home, stay safe” order. This means that you may not leave your house except for necessities like groceries or medications. As it happens, I am currently away from home and I only have a small bucket of yarn with me. So here is what we’re working with:

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I ordered a few skeins of white and green yarn online. The white will be for the background of the flower squares, and the green will be for the leaves – I want them to all match. But the rest will just be made out of these yarn scraps. There are a few skeins not in the picture, but for the most part, this is it.

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Here are the flowers I’ve made so far. I got the pattern at about 5 pm yesterday. Not bad for a day’s work? I love making these flowers so much. I really needed some peaceful crochet.

Because my green yarn isn’t here yet, I decided to start making some regular granny squares as well. So then I can make the leaves while everyone else is making squares and catch up that way.

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Granny squares are so soothing, you guys. I missed repetitive patterns like this. I’m still on spring break from college for the rest of this week and weekend, so I have nothing but time. And when classes start (online), I sure will need the distraction.

You can come join in the Crochet-A-Long if you wish. Just check out Apple Blossom Dreams and hop on board. I can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing!

What Do We Do From Here?

Guys, I can’t thank you enough for your response to my Coronavirus Amigurumi. You’ve blown me away. It’s been absolutely wonderful to connect with so many of you. From all over the world, no matter your situation, you came together with this very silly design, and I am grateful for the interactions we’ve had because of it. Everyone is experiencing the same anxiety, and while I wish that weren’t the case, I appreciate how it’s uniting everybody.

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We are in the midst of a global pandemic. I can’t believe I’m writing that outside of a fictional story. Is 2020 off to a rocky start or what?

Things are crazy out there. My college has moved spring term classes entirely online, and my tutoring job will be online, too. I’m very fortunate that I can work remotely and that I make money from freelance writing and crochet design. I’m also used to online classes because I was homeschooled, but a bunch of my classmates are freaking out. It’s going to be different, that’s for sure…and weird. And I find myself wondering, what do we do from here?

How do we cope with this quarantine that feels like it’s straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie?

How do we stay connected over the next few months while we stay in our houses, to protect the most vulnerable populations?

How do we stay alert to the dangers of COVID-19 without giving in to anxiety?

How do we fill the hours that we once spent commuting, shopping, going out with friends?

For me, the answer is books. It always has been. As a kid, whenever the outside world was too much to take, I retreated into fiction…and that’s what I’ve been doing lately. I started a shelf on Goodreads called “Read During Coronavirus Quarantine,” and so far it has 8 books on it. But just reading hasn’t been enough. I have so many anxious thoughts that when they stay cooped up in my head I start going crazy.

So I’ve been writing again. It doesn’t even really matter what – the act of writing is enough to give me a grip on things. I’ve written more in the past week than I have in the past several months. Writing has never been an easy process for me…it takes a lot of effort to get the words out, and sometimes it’s painful if the topic hits close to home. But I always feel better when the words are on the page, because then I can deal with them. That’s how I’ve been coping lately.

I was thinking, we all need a distraction. And I need to write. So what if I blogged a book here again? Remember The Yarn Wars and Unraveled? That was a great experience for me, and I had some lovely feedback from people who enjoyed it. I also have been thinking for the past couple years about self-publishing an urban fantasy book, so maybe this is the opportunity for it. Please let me know your thoughts. I don’t want to profit off this crisis. I want to give back to the community that’s helped me so much, and writing is the only way I know how to do that.

Stay safe, everyone. Thanks for all the kindness you’ve shown me and one another. I love you guys.

Amigurumi Coronavirus

Yes, I really will crochet anything. Before the Internet starts yelling at me for being insensitive, let me give a bit of background.

I’ve had a phobia of germs since I was a kid. Remember the swine flu epidemic about 10 years ago? Yeah, I was a nervous wreck. With everything going on lately, it has not been a great couple months for someone with severe anxiety. The scary thing about COVID-19 is that it’s invisible, so it isn’t something you can fight. It just lurks until it gets you. I thought it could be a good exposure therapy exercise to make a crochet version of it.

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Nothing is scary when you put a silly face on it, and that was my goal here. I had feedback on my Solar Eclipse amigurumi pattern that someone used the toy to explain the solar eclipse to their kid, who was afraid of it. But when the kid saw how it worked and understood the science behind it, he wasn’t so scared. I thought this pattern might be useful to some of my fellow germaphobes because it makes the scary thing visible, so you can mentally confront it.

Or maybe you just want to make it so you can chuck it at your friends and tell them they “caught” the coronavirus. Up to you.

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This is the image I based my design on. I chose gray for the base and red for the spiky bits, which are the “corona” that the virus is named after. Did you know that the common cold is a coronavirus? So technically, it’s inaccurate to say that this is a coronavirus pandemic, because that’s been the case for years. The virus is called SARS-COVID-19, and the disease it causes is COVID-19.

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Materials

  • Worsted-weight yarn in two colors: base and the spiky bits
  • 2 plastic safety eyes (mine were about 12 mm)
  • G (4.00 MM) crochet hook
  • Yarn needle
  • Small bit of polyfill stuffing. Or fill it with beans so you can chuck it at people.
  • Small bit of black yarn to embroider face

Notes

  • I use US crochet terms in all of my patterns
  • This pattern is worked in one piece for the base, leaving spare loops to attach the red spiky bits. When the base is complete, you go back and crochet onto the loops.
  • This pattern is worked in a spiral without joining, amigurumi-style. So use a stitch marker to mark the first stitch of each round.
  • 2-double-crochet cluster: *Yarn over, insert hook into stitch, yarn over pull up a loop. Yarn over, pull through 2 loops.* Repeat from * to * one more time, which should leave you with 3 loops on your hook. Yarn over, pull through all 3 loops.

Pattern

Base

Round 1: Make a magic ring, ch 1, 6 sc in ring

Round 2: in back loops only, 2 sc in each sc around

Round 3: in both loops, (sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc) around

Round 4: in back loops only, (sc in next 2 sc, 2 sc in next sc) around

Round 5: in both loops, (sc in next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc) around

Round 6: in back loops only, (sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc) around: 36 sc

Round 7: in both loops, sc 10, in back loops, sc 26

Round 8: in both loops, sc 36

Round 9-12: Repeat Rounds 7 and 8 two more times.

Round 13: in both loops, (sc in next 4 sc, sc2tog) around

Round 14: in back loops, (sc in next 3 sc, sc2tog) around

Round 15: in both loops, (sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog) around

Work on face: attach safety eyes and embroider eyebrows and mouth.

Round 16: in back loops, (sc in next sc, sc2tog) around

Stuff.

Round 17: in both loops, sc2tog around.

Fasten off. Through back loops, sew the small circle together. That leaves you with 6 loops to work into.

Corona

Special Stitch: I’m going to call this “Corona Stem.” Ch 4, make a 2-double-crochet cluster in 2nd ch from hook. Sl st in same ch, sl st in next 2 ch.

Start in the leftover loops of Round 17. *Make a Corona Stem, then sl st into the next 2 free loops.* Repeat this twice more.

For the rest of the spare loops, you’re going to *make a Corona Stem, then sl st into the next 3 stitches*, all the way around and around. When you get to the middle section, which leaves a non-adorned part for the face, you’ll be working back and forth in rows. Then when you get back to the top, just start working around and around again.

When you get to the very top, with the 6 loops left over from Round 1, *Make a Corona Stem, then sl st into the next 2 free loops.* Repeat this twice more.

Fasten off and weave in ends.

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Stay healthy, you guys. There’s nothing cute about the real coronavirus, and I don’t mean to make light of it. When things scare me, I crochet. Wash your hands, don’t go to the store unless you can help it, and try not to worry too much. Easier said than done, trust me, I know. But we’re going to make it through this together.

Beach Time For Barbie

It’s February. That means it’s winter here in the Pacific Northwest. Which means it’s probably the worst time of the year to go to the beach. That doesn’t stop me from dreaming, though, which is what led to this particular crochet pattern.

Presenting the Barbie Ocean Waves Ball Gown! (I am good at some things, but naming is not one of those things.) This is my newest free pattern on Crochet Spot, and I am particularly pleased with this one.

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The bodice was tricky, but I’m happy with how it turned out. For once, it’s exactly how I pictured it in my head. Don’t you love when that happens? I pictured flowy sleeves, lacing up the front, and a closely fitted torso that didn’t distract from the Extra™ skirt. And it was a great way to use up all those yarn scraps. Come on, we all have them.

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Anyway, why don’t you head over and check it out if you want to make a new Barbie dress? I don’t make them so much these days, and I miss it. You’re never too old. I actually was given a new Barbie for my 22nd birthday, at my request, and have some dresses in the works for her. So keep an eye out for those. 🙂

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It’s been a while since I’ve been around here, but college is standing on top of me and refusing to get off. How have you guys been?

Regarding Hildegard

Hey guys. Since its publication in 2014, my free pattern for Hildegard, the Life-Sized Crochet Chicken has remained my most popular post here. I’m absolutely delighted that you all like her so much, and I’ve loved seeing your versions.

Here’s the thing: the pattern isn’t that great. It’s poorly written and has a lot of errors. Trust me, I know. I wrote it when I was 15 years old…cut me a little slack. It’s free for a reason. That pattern is really complicated and huge. If I wrote it up professionally, the pattern would no longer be free.

I’ve been meaning to rework it for some time now, and recently I started this undertaking. It was going to look like my beautiful chicken Harriet. However, she recently passed away, and I don’t have the heart to keep working on it right now. Someday, definitely. But not right now.

So this pattern is going to remain how it is: unedited and lacking. I’ve put disclaimers at the top of the pattern warning people that it’s terribly written and confusing. But the comments have been getting to be a little much lately. Most of you are nothing but gracious and kind, and I appreciate that so much. However, a few people have been impatient with me. And while I understand their frustration, please remember that I’m just a college student behind my computer, sharing my love of crochet with you. I don’t make a single penny through my blog. I have my hands full being a full-time student and working.

This post will serve as my official notice that I can’t provide pattern support for Hildegard. I don’t have the time anymore. I really wish I could help everybody, but I gotta let things slide somewhere. So: undertake at your own risk.

Cheerful posts will resume sometime soon. I’m off to keep studying for final exams now.

An Artfully Simple Tidal Wave

Goodness, it’s been a while. Since I last talked to you guys I have gained a new writing job and a new crochet design job. I can tell you about the second one in a couple of months, but suffice it to say I’m a little bit excited. I tend to favor the “squeal and jump” variety of expressing my excitement, so you’ll just have to imagine me doing that now…

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Today I’m sharing some photos of a scarf I made two years ago, and for whatever reason, never got around to posting. At the end of my French 200 series, I wanted to make a gift for my professor, after spending three classes with her. (In the term system, there are three classes in a series, so French 201, 202, and 203.) She was a really classy lady, always dressed nicely even at 9 AM on a Monday morning, so I tried to make something that would live up to her style.

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This is made with the Artfully Simple Infinity Scarf pattern from Moogly, which  have loved for years. As the name implies, it’s really simple but gorgeous. I love the diagonal lines and how it highlights the long color changes in this yarn. It was an absolute delight to make.

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And I love the button detail in the pattern, because who doesn’t want to incorporate a cool button into something? My mom lets me swipe stuff from her button stash, which is probably where I dug up this one.

The great thing about making a scarf for somebody else is that you can use yarn that you wouldn’t wear yourself. I got a nicer skein of yarn than I usually use. I think it was Red Heart Unforgettable in Tidal. This yarn is just a little bit too itchy for me to wear myself, but I’m super sensitive. It’s always good to check if your recipient has fiber allergies, but I didn’t have that opportunity with my teacher, so I just hoped for the best. This yarn is still 100% acrylic, though, so it’s a pretty safe bet.

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I just love how this fabric looks! My professor loved it and said it would be great for traveling. I hope she’s had a good couple years. It’s so weird that I’m in fourth-year French now. And I’m actually the French tutor at my college. Weird, I tell you, just weird.

Tell me how your November has been going! Thanks for reading, and hope you have a lovely weekend.

Sophie’s Pink Universe, Part 2

I realized I never continued the saga of the pink Sophie’s Universe square. It was supposed to be an afghan for Maisie, but I kinda got carried away making squares and it turned out too big for her.

Much larger than I anticipated! Arranging squares is always tricky. My mom helped me with this. She’s made a lot of afghans herself and is a pro at making sure colors are distributed equally.

Here’s maisie test driving the square. She’s not so happy that this blanket isn’t for her I guess. 😉

Anyway, it was time to join all the squares, which is both exciting and extremely obnoxious.

I went with a single crochet through back loops only. Some of the yarn is pretty splitty , which made it tricky, but this gave the result I was after.

Pile of squares waiting to be joined.

I had to carry them downstairs somehow, and my mom and I giggled over how this looks like a dumpling or something.

I just figured out how to post from my phone, so this is a trial run. Yes, I’ve been blogging since 2013 and I only just figured out the app. Anyway, I’ll conclude the Sophie’s Universe adventure soon. Thanks so much for your kind words on the dinosaur pencil case!

Dorks Have More Fun

I’m a senior in college. I have a part-time job and two paid blogging gigs. I wake up at EIGHT O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING (which was unthinkable to my younger self). It would seem that I know how to Adult, right? In some ways, I guess so. But in other ways…not so much. See, I decided to make myself a new pencil case in honor of my senior year, and this is the result…

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PURPLE DINOSAUR YESSSSS.

Yeah, I’m not a fan of this whole “adults don’t have stuffed animals” business, so I’m starting a rebellion. Care to join me?

I saw a pencil case similar to this in a store, but part of this whole “adulting” thing is trying not to buy as many plush things, so I had to leave it behind. But obviously the idea would not leave my mind, so after a couple weeks’ design struggle this was the result.

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I got to mess around with a zipper, which was both fun and stressful. Sewing is not my strong suit. I can sew on a button with confidence, but zippers onto a rounded crochet thing? Yikes. Still, it has held up so far. I’m bringing it to college for the first time today, so we’ll see. My plush Pusheen pencil case has been well-received.

Here’s a secret: most college students are 100% on board with the cute stuffed-animal thing. They’re just afraid to admit it. So if you lead the way with being unashamedly pro-cute, everybody else will appreciate it!

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And the free pattern is available on Crochet Spot should you wish to create your own little dinosaur companion 😉

What should I name it? It doesn’t feel right having this little guy without a name! Please leave your suggestions in the comments and I shall be eternally grateful!

A Year of Cow Pigeon

Today is a very special day.

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of my first sighting of Cow Pigeon.

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(Don’t know who Cow Pigeon is? Click here.)

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I learned about this bird about a year and a half ago, but I didn’t see him myself until September 25, 2018. And boy was that an exciting day.

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Since then, I have seen Cow Pigeon 25 times, and have even written a blog post for my university about him. They actually featured me on the university Facebook page for my post about CP, which was delightful, an honor, and exactly how I want to be known.

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So here’s to Cow Pigeon. For helping remind me to keep my eyes open, because you never know when a spotted pigeon can wander into your life and change the way you look at the world.

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Here’s to Cow Pigeon, for helping me get excited over the little things in life.

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Here’s to Cow Pigeon, for helping me connect with complete strangers when I answer their questions about the mysterious bird we’re both gawking at.

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Here’s to Cow Pigeon, for helping me be less self-conscious. I don’t care if people give me weird looks when I get excited about seeing CP. I’m just happy to see my friend!

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Here’s to Cow Pigeon, for making me feel like a National Geographic wildlife photographer when I spend an hour following him around to get pictures like this. (Thank you, iPhone “burst” feature.)

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And most of all, here’s to Cow Pigeon for making the world more beautiful.