I first wrote about Out of Print two years ago, after my brother bought me a shirt as a belated Christmas present. I loved my To Kill a Mockingbird shirt so much I’ve now bought several other items from Out of Print and thought I should write an update.

Little Women bag

Little Women bag

Out of Print has continued to be one of my favorite places to get cute shirts for the weekend. In addition to my To Kill a Mockingbird shirt I now also have this Catch 22 shirt, this Wizard of Oz shirt, this Pride and Prejudice shirt, and this adorable Little Women bag. Their shirts are super soft and have held up fine with my constant wearing and washing. I’ve been using the small bag to hold all the items I transfer from my larger work bag to my purse on the weekends, and it works great for when I want to run errands on my lunch break without bringing my large bag.

All the things I mentioned in my original review still stand–their mission is great, their products are solid, and shipping times are fast. I only buy when there is a sale (yay for budges), but if you sign up for their newsletter they have semi-regular sales and promotions. They also rotate designs fairly often, which I like; I just wish they would offer more shirts with the wide scoop or deep v neckline because I prefer those styles.

Out of Print shirts and accessories make great gifts (we got my sister-in-law a gift card for graduation), and have been a great conversation starter when I’m out and about. I’ve continued to have great experiences with this company, and highly recommend them.

 

**The opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. I was not contacted by Out Of Print Clothing or solicited in any way. This post was written because I had a good experience with a company and I wanted to share it with my readers.**

In my few other cookbook reviews I’ve mentioned that I read cookbooks like I would a normal book–before I even think about making something from a new book I’ll read every recipe and all the stories that go along with them. Cooking and baking has always been a very personal thing for me, since spending time in the kitchen is my other stress relief when I’m not reading. In the past few weeks I’ve baked an orange gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting, a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, zucchini bread, and tried four new weeknight dinner recipes using new-to-me vegetables (I don’t hate turnips and rutabagas, who knew?). And one book I keep coming back to for inspiration is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman, whom I was thrilled to see speak in Portland last year.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I started reading the Smitten Kitchen blog three or so years ago, and was instantly hooked. She cooked the kind of food I wanted but didn’t know how to make, featuring lots of vegetables and a focus on seasonal items. She’s not vegetarian by any means (and neither am I) but so many of her recipes have introduced me to new vegetables I never ate growing up, including my current obsession with leeks. Many of her recipes had a story about the family member of friend who shared it, the restaurant meal she was trying to recreate, or a frantic need to get dinner on the table that night with a random collection of things in the pantry; when her book came out, I hoped that the same tone Deb created on her blog would carry over into print. And I’m happy to say it has.

My absolute favorite recipe that I’ve made so far is the Mustard Milanese with Arugula Fennel Salad, page 169, although I served mine with lemon garlic roasted Brussels sprouts instead because I don’t like arugula. I will admit I doubled the amount of Dijon mustard used to coat the chicken, because my husband is crazy like that. There are also many recipes I still haven’t tried including Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels (page 17), Slow-Cooker Black Bean Ragout (page 137), Panchetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies (page 163), and Gooey Cinnamon Squares (page 207). If anyone has tried one of these, or any of the recipes from this book, I’d love to hear what you thought!

And while the food is great, it really is her sense of story and family behind each recipe that keeps me coming back to this book. Despite being nervous, Deb was a great speaker when I saw her in Portland. She answered tons of questions, was patient with the large line of people waiting for autographs, and even gave me a hug in congrats when she heard I was getting married in a few weeks! When I cook from her recipes, I remember a woman who was so passionate about food that she turned a crazy little blog into a career and best-selling cookbook and hope that I can get some of that same passion in my own food. I cook to relax, and with the recipes from Deb in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook I know I’ll have food worth washing the dishes.

While I didn’t review the rest of the books in The Wheel of Time series, I’d like to review the last book, A Memory of Light. It seemed like reviewing all 14 books would overwhelm whatever else I posted during my reading challenge in 2011, but one review can’t hurt, right?

A Memory of Light

A Memory of Light

As we’ve discussed before, I’m not a big fan of happy endings–many stories seem too forced and joyful at the end, when real life is never so neatly wrapped up. I don’t demand that all my books be 100% realistic, but I wouldn’t mind more ambiguous/uncertain endings! Even though I had some issues with Rand throughout the series, I largely enjoyed these books (plus I got to meet Brandon Sanderson two times!). And the ending….oh, this series had a good ending. There were some happy parts, some upsetting parts, and so many “OMG what?!” parts. I started reading this book while on vacation in Hawaii, and it was totally worth doubling the weight of my carry on bag.

Brandon Sanderson, the author picked to finish Robert Jordan’s wonderful series, has always been pretty open about how the last three books were originally designed to be a single book (and at the most recent book signing at Powell’s Harriet shared that Jordan even planned for the book to be a trilogy way back before it turned into an epic fantasy series!). I’m sure every reader was as happy as me when it was turned into multiple books so every story line, even for more minor characters, could be resolved. Did they all end the way I wanted? Not at all! But was it realistic to what probably would happen in a war-torn world with so many competing factions? Yes, so I’ll only cry a little when good characters die.

I don’t want to give away any major plot points for people new to the series so I won’t give a plot overview, but I do want to say this: The Wheel of Time is an amazing epic fantasy series, and I completely enjoyed my time with these books. I’m already planning to reread the series every few years, and I’d like to go back to reread A Memory of Light once on its own to make sure I caught everything (Sanderson loves to hide small but important details). The length of the books may be off-putting for some, but I can’t think of a better way to spend your time!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on ever Brandon Sanderson book I’ve reviewed, but I love his story telling. Sanderson writes grand sweeping novels with complicated worlds, and I have yet to meet a hero I don’t love. So when a tiny novella came out last year, I eagerly pre-ordered the book and read it the first chance I had (it made a great read-at-lunch book). The Emperor’s Soul takes place in the same world as the book Elantris, but adds a level of depth unexpected in a story so short.

The Emperor's Soul

The Emperor’s Soul

Where Elantris followed a princess trying to save her world, The Emperor’s Soul follows Shai, a notorious forger who got caught. Having a main character who is, by some accounts, a bad person with no morals doesn’t change the insane connection I felt with Shai. She may be part of the underground black market in expensive forgeries, but she is also intelligent, fiercely independent, and loyal to her family and teachers.

Shai does have to face punishment for her crimes, but like any good Sanderson story the punishment isn’t what Shai or the readers expected. To pay for the crime of forgery…she must create a forgery of the Emperor’s soul. What Shai and the rest of the world don’t realize is that the Emperor was hurt, and the only way to save him is to create a new soul that defies everything their religion stands for. If Shai can create this impossible soul stamp by the time he is expected in public again, she will be allowed to live.

If you keep up on things in the sci-fi/fantasy world, you already know that The Emperor’s Soul has been nominated for a Hugo Award for best novella. I haven’t read any of the other works nominated this year, but I hope Sanderson wins because this story was great. With very  little action compared to his normal battle-filled books, Shai still lives an exciting and dangerous life. It tackles issues of morality versus the law in a direct but subtle way, by viewing the world’s religion almost as an archaeological study would (Shai does not subscribe to the same religion as the Emperor and his government). And because Sanderson’s writing is never dull, there is even a story behind how the novella went from concept to award nominee in just over a year.

The Emperor’s Soul may not be the length or scope we’ve come to expect from Brandon Sanderson, but it’s just as well written and thought out as his other books.

Apparently everyone is in a science fiction mood right now–or at least two of my favorite stores! Powell’s is celebrating Geek Week with a sale on science fiction/fantasy games and gifts, and Out of Print is running Book Madness with a sale on science fiction/fantasy shirts and accessories (I have the Wizard of Oz shirt and absolutely love it). I recently finished Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, and am currently halfway done with the second book in the series.

Cordelia's Honor

Cordelia’s Honor

I’ve read several fantasy books by Bujold, but this is the first sci fi book I’ve read despite owning several of them so I was really excited for this one. Cordelia’s Honor is actually two stories in the Vorkosigan Saga, Shards of Honor and Barrayar (which won a Hugo Award for best science fiction novel), and follows a few years in the life of Cordelia Naismith. Cordelia is captain of a spaceship and comes from a very technologically advanced planet called Beta Colony, but has never seen the ocean or even a lake because her world mainly exists as underground cities.

While on a mission, her team is overwhelmed by a group from the rival planet of Barrayar (a planet so “backward” they don’t have electricity and computers in every home). Soon only Cordelia, a wounded member of her group, and the leader of the other group, Aral Vorkosigan, remain to make the trip back to a base to be rescued. Like any good love story, two very different people thrown together in stressful circumstances naturally fall in love…except Cordelia and Aral will do most anything to avoid admitting they feel anything but hate toward the person who should be the enemy. Yet when life back on her home planet becomes unbearable, Cordelia manages to escape the military to join her love on his strange planet.

And while Barrayar may have many similarities to Earth, it’s the strangest thing Cordelia has ever seen. She struggles to understand their political system, their food (instead of “protien packets” they eat animals, something not seen on Beta Colony), and the way marriage and sex works on this planet (they don’t have birth control, and arranged marriages are common). And when Aral becomes Regnant to a child Emperor orphaned in a bloody civil war, Cordelia barely manages to survive this strange new world.

Obviously this book has an exciting story line, and I love most anything to do with space travel. The true highlight of the book, however, is Cordelia and the contrast between women on Beta Colony and women on Barrayar. In Cordelia’s world women can fill any position in the army, control their own love lives, and live like independent modern women. In Aral’s world, however, women aren’t allowed in the army and they don’t hold political office. What appalls Cordelia most of all is the lack of medical technology–on Beta Colony pregnant women can transfer the fetus to a robot-like incubator so the pregnancy and birth don’t disrupt their lives, while on Barrayar it’s rare to even have a doctor perform a C-section!

Cordelia is an intelligent, funny, and passionate woman. Her crazy antics never seem out of place because she truly believes in everything she does, and I hope those traits continue into the rest of the series.

One of my biggest annoyances with books is when only part of a series is out and I’ve got to wait for the rest of the books–patience is not one of my strengths. Even thought only two of the three books in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle series are currently out, I love these books so much I can deal with having to wait for the third. The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, was even better than the first.

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear continues Kvothe’s tale, bouncing back and forth between his adventurous childhood and the bitter old man he is today. This book also starts to fill in some of the history behind the legends surrounding him, and they provide a great example of how legends rarely tell what really happened. Despite how well Kvothe does at his University classes his roaming childhood did not prepare him to get along well with upper class citizens, resulting in enough trouble with another boy that he must take a break from the school.

While on this break he works for a local nobleman leading a band of mercenaries on a bandit hunt (while stopping an assassination attempt on the man and winning a wife for him!). One member of this mercenary band, Tempi, is part of a mysterious warrior tribe who teaches Kvothe their ways despite their mistrust of outsiders, starting just one of many legends about him. Kvothe also spends some time with the Fae (fairy) Felurian in the Fae realm, starting yet another legend as the first man to resist her powers. There is also continuing issues with his Edema Ruh past, a girl he fell in love with at University, and his quest to find the Chandrian (demon group responsible for killing his family).

As amazing as the stories are, it’s still the characters and the writing that make these books amazing. Kvothe is young and impulsive and eager to become an adult instead of a troubled kid, and reminds me so much of other young kids I know. He tries so hard to be a good person and seems genuinely confused when people don’t see things the same way he does, and that earnestness is heartbreaking. I found myself crying several times and I really hope the last book comes out soon so I can figure out what happens!

Continuing my theme of “classics I really should have read already,” I practically devoured The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde on my recent vacation. I started this book on the flight (after finishing another book only an hour into the trip–I really do love my Kindle for travel!) and was annoyed several hours later by the flight attendants announcing the time to put away all electronics so we could land.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray

This is the second Oscar Wilde piece I’ve read, and I am really enjoying his writing. It’s both beautiful and thoughtful, and his characters are adorably misguided. The Picture of Dorian Gray follows the life of a young London socialite, Dorian Gray. Dorian is not the most educated man, nor the most well-connected or prestigious–his main skill lies in being so achingly beautiful that people cannot help but love him. Among his admirers/friends is a painter, Basil Hallward. Basil claims that Dorian has become his muse and paints a glorious portrait of Dorian. It is during the sitting for this painting that Dorian meets Lord Henry, a friend of Basil. Lord Henry claims that the only goal in life is to selfishly pursue all things beautiful and fulfilling to the senses, a life theory Dorian latches onto immediately. Despite Basil’s warnings that Lord Henry is not a good influence, Dorian begins to abandon his innocent way of life for the beautiful indulgence of Lord Henry’s theory.

It is during one of the many conversations about Lord Henry’s theory that Dorian jokingly prays for the painting of himself to age while he stays young forever, as youth and beautify are the only things of value he holds. It is only some time later, after Dorian has become a destructive force of indulgence, that he realizes he is indeed staying young and pure while his painting bears all the ill effects of his sins.

In parts, this book reads like science fiction instead of classic literature. A magical painting that is linked to its subject on some sort of cellular level to share physical changes? Experiments by Dorian to prove he can in fact do anything (lie, steal, murder) without showing any sings of age or grief? Sounds like science fiction to me! But the writing is more lyrical than any sci-fi I’ve ever read, and the theme here has less to do with overall societal destruction and more to do with personal responsibility to not become a terrible person just because you can. The scenes of Dorian’s extravagant life of constant youth are intoxicating in their beauty–piles of exotic cloth for stylish new clothes, chests of jewels from far off travels, friends to welcome him wherever he goes, and hordes of women eagerly awaiting their chance to be his lover. Yet the dangers of his life are just as wonderfully described–a dependence on drugs to ease his growing paranoia that his secret may be found out, his first love dead by suicide, and many once-friends who had their reputations ruined when they could not hide the impact of the lifestyle Dorian follows.

There was some controversy when The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published because of it’s not-so-subtle allusions to homosexuality, drugs, and mistresses. Maybe our society is a morally depraved place, but I was reading along going “yup, I totally know people like this.” So much of social media today is creating an ideal, fictional version of our lives. I know many people who may be struggling to establish a career or create a stable relationship, but if you look at their Facebook or Instagram feed you get the impression that everything is perfect. While we may not have a painting to hide our fears from society, people today hide behind the self-selecting anonymity of the internet to remain youthful and beautiful forever.

All this to say, I loved this book. Dorian read as a confused young man who made some bad friends and bad decisions, Basil was helplessly in love, and Lord Henry enjoyed playing with people’s emotions more than he enjoyed living his own life. Overall, these were naive men swept up in the life of a strong personality, and I believe that’s something we can all relate to. It was a quick read, and one I look forward to rereading soon.