Friday, February 27th, 2015

An eventful weekend…

Last weekend was Stitches West, and what an amazing time we had! From seven degrees to seventy degrees (after a long day of travel), wonderful students, time with dear friends and colleagues, and coming home full of inspiration (and a bit exhausted).

While I was away, we had two household crises: a frozen pipe in the garage (fixed fairly easily, thank goodness) and my dear Boris had a urinary blockage. He had to go to the emergency vet, have a cystotomy, and the poor little guy generally felt like crap. Just a few days later and he’s already feeling much better and acting more like himself.

im back

There is a lot of other stuff going on here — getting ready to ship the first round of the new Yarn Club, preparing for the premiere of Lace Yarn Studio in April, and of course, plenty of knitting and dyeing and writing going on. I’ve also got some book previews to do (first up is the brand-new Rowan Magazine) so check back soon!

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Valentine’s Day yarn: get it while it lasts!

I had so much fun collaborating with Jimmy Bean’s Wool for their Twelve Days of Christmas promotion that we decided to do it again!

This time, however, the holiday we’re celebrating is Valentine’s Day. We put our heads together and decided to offer a limited edition colorway in honor of February 14th, in my Luna base yarn, which has subtle silver sparkles. I named the colorway “Eros” in honor of love and the god of love. Inspired by red roses and pink candy boxes, the Eros colorway is a semisolid red with hints of pink, magenta, grape and coral. There are lots of subtle tonal variations, with a slight silver sparkle.


Last time, the BBF yarn sold out in a very short period of time, so don’t delay! Go here. (Rumor has it that the eminent designer Brooke Nico has generously provided a free pattern download with purchase, too — woot!)

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

In which I get kissed on the lips by a hot chick, sell a lot of yarn, and run into J. Lo

This week is one of those weeks when I feel like the president of the Lucky Club. I just had the most amazing weekend in New York City with my people.


It was VK Live’s fifth anniversary, and the show was packed with students, shoppers, designers and others from the industry. I got to teach an amazing group of students who mastered the art of yarn substitution; I got to catch up with my wonderful friends in the industry; I got to see a little bit of New York City (but only a very little bit); and I sold a lot of yarn.


More highlights:

My self-stripers sold out in a day! (Don’t worry: I’m already making more.)


A gorgeous blonde lady kissed me on the lips!

Brandon Mably told me he liked my enthusiasm!

I learned how to zumba!

I terrorized an 18 yr old who looks like Justin Timberlake!

After breakfast, before I left to drive home, we saw Jennifer Lopez in Times Square!

I mean, really, does it get any better than that?

Actually, it kind of does, because I came home with a giant blow-up of the cover from Lace Yarn Studio.


I’m already thinking of weird and perverse things to do with it. . .

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

VK Live is Five! (Come see us in Booth 705)

I have been honored to be a part of VK Live: New York from its very inception five years ago. And I’m super-excited to be heading out to NYC again, to be a part of the fifth anniversary show. I’m teaching and vending, and I hope you will stop by and check out Booth 705 because we’ve got some amazing stuff.

I’ve been dyeing and dyeing and dyeing. I’ve got lots and lots of my new self-striping fingering-weight yarn, which is 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon. I’ve been having so much fun playing around with different self-striping colorways. People do seem to love the traditional spectrum of ROYGBIV but I also love combining unexpected colors, mixing in neutrals, and using more muted shades.


And of course Brooke has outdone herself with pattern support; this shawlette is just lovely, done mostly in garter stitch with a lovely edging and swirled lines of increases:


(Forgive me: I didn’t have a chance to get my supermodels to try this one on yet!)

I’ve got some more new base yarns. Belmont is a really nice blend of kid mohair, merino and nylon — but I love that the kid mohair content doesn’t give it a really pronounced halo.

belmont 2


Brooke designed an absolutely fabulous layering piece that you’ve got to see!

We’ve got another new base called Roxie, which is a blend of linen, silk and alpaca:

roxie gray

roxie golden

The different fibers take the dye slightly differently, giving a heathery effect, and this yarn is just so soft! Perfect for spring.

We’ve got a sneak preview of one of the projects from Lace Yarn Studio. The Malbec Infinity Scarf


features a strand of chunky yarn worked into a laceweight cowl. Pattern is free — and we’ve got some lovely lace weight skeins to purchase along with miniskeins of chunky so you can go home and start knitting before the book is even out.

Speaking of books, you can get signed copies of Brooke’s Lovely Knitted Lace and my Sock Yarn Studio; we have patterns, such as Brooke’s fantastic Yoyo Shawl (takes just one skein of laceweight!)

shawlette 8

and the luscious Whisper tunic (with or without cowl, your choice):

whisper 3

or pick up two skeins of sock yarn and make this capelet (or skirt):

cowl 8

I hope you’ll stop by and see us in booth 705!

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Sneak preview: Lace Yarn Studio

It seems like I’ve been working on Lace Yarn Studio for years. Well, I actually have been working on it for about two years, when I first floated the idea of doing a sequel to Sock Yarn Studio focusing on lace weight yarns. And after many months of swatching, knitting, ripping out, writing, proofreading, and so on, Lace Yarn Studio: Garments, Hats, and Fresh Ideas for Lace Yarn was born.


If you aren’t someone who usually knits with laceweight yarns, you might be surprised at how many beautiful choices are out there: handpainted, self-striping, exotic fibers (like buffalo and mink), luxury fibers (like silk), breeds of wool as well as our old friend merino, smooth textures and novelty textures, multicolored, solid, tweed….there are just so many terrific choices. Lace weight yarns are so lightweight; they seem to float in the air, and then settle into lovely drapes and curves. And there are many, many things knitters can use laceweight yarns for that thick yarns just can’t do. (Try to make a pleat or ruching using a superbulky yarn. Just doesn’t work.)

So when I consulted some of my amazing colleagues in the industry and asked them to contribute patterns to Lace Yarn Studio, I asked them to think about using laceweight yarn in creative ways– for items other than shawls, or using stitch patterns not usually associated with lace yarn. Pairing several colors or textures together or finding unusual yarns. Imagining geometric patterns instead of floral ones.

And as usual, my colleagues blew my mind with the gorgeous designs they proposed.

I’m going to be talking about this book a lot this year, since it will be shipping in just a few months (April) but let me tease you with just a few of the patterns that you’ll see in the book.

Barb Brown did an amazing job of using laceweight yarn (a beautiful merino/tencel blend from WEBS) to create a softly-flowing skirt. She added subtle beading at the bottom to give some extra sparkle.


Laceweight yarn is perfect for a skirt, since it doesn’t weigh a ton, making it more comfortable to wear and less prone to sagging out of shape.

How about some cables? My cowl uses a large cable motif in lovely Rowan Kidsilk Haze yarn for a cowl.


It was fun seeing how a cable looked using a sheer, feather-light yarn. I love the effect.

Marly Bird took a stunning yak yarn in a deep shade of purple, and used diamond motifs for a dramatic and lovely scarf.


The deep color and the geometric design make this especially striking, and the supersoft yak fiber feels amazing next to your skin.

Brooke Nico found a Stacy Charles yarn with a unique metallic texture and created a soft, wear-over-everything layering piece.


This is such a fun piece and as shown, is perfect to wear out on the town. Knit a second one in a slightly different yarn, and you’ll have a wear-it-all-the-time layer.

Patty Lyons used Lion Brand Stainless Steel yarn, which is moldable, just like it sounds, and combined it with a fluffy mohair for this beautiful shawl.


(You can tell how much I love Patty, since she got to use yarn that matches Boris’ fur.)

See why I’m so excited? (The stunning photography is by Carrie Bostick Hoge, who always blows me away with her stylish and sophisticated shots.)

There are many more beautiful patterns in the book, and I’ll be showing you more of them in the coming weeks. I’m really excited that the book will finally be finished, and I’ll be able to hold it in my hands in just a few months. We’ll be doing giveaways of books and yarn, interviews with some of the contributors, and other exciting promotions when the release date gets closer.

If you own a yarn shop and you’re within a few hours’ distance of Philadelphia, please get in touch with me as I’d love to set up a booksigning at your shop! I’ll post specific dates under the Events tab on the website.

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

2014: A Look Back

What an eventful year 2014 was for me — and not always in a good way. I started the year off by losing two very dear, though geographically distant, friends. In late spring, my mother-in-law — that fiesty, eccentric, often difficult personality — went into the hospital with what we thought was pneumonia and never came home. Lung cancer took her in just three weeks. Two very close relatives (I’m being vague to respect their privacy) spent the year struggling with serious health problems, and it’s been awful seeing them suffer.

2014 didn’t seem to save its heartache for my family, though; it seemed like whenever I turned around, someone I know was losing someone dear to them, or suffering from unexpected health problems, or struggling with other challenges in his or her life. Glancing at the news only seemed to highlight more suffering, whether Ebola, a downed jetliner (or two), sickening acts of terrorism, or having to look at a Kardashian’s naked buttocks.

I have always been a glass-half-full person, so now that I’ve talked a bit about the empty part of the 2014 glass, let’s focus on the good things that happened. My mom is still here and in rare form, even at 84 years of age:


Hooray for Nana!

Tom and I are both doing well and haven’t killed each other yet. Our kids are beautiful and healthy and happy.


They’re doing well in school and, just as important to us, are nice kids. Or as my husband likes to say, “At least we are not raising entitled little Main Line assholes.” Charcoal the bunny is still with us at nine years of age, a very long life for a bunny who only weighs 3 and a half pounds, and his “little” brother Boris the cat has brought our whole family a tremendous amount of joy.

boris aug 8 2014

I’ve worked really hard this year. I’ve been a regular contributor to the industry magazine Yarn Market News; recently began writing the “Knitting News” column for Vogue Knitting; and had articles appear in great magazines like Noro Magazine and Jane Austen Knits. I have had over a dozen patterns published in 2014 in fine publications like Creative Knitting, Noro Magazine and Knit Simple,


and in books, some of which are already out and others which are coming out soon. Speaking of books, I spent a great deal of time finishing up my forthcoming book, Lace Yarn Studio: Garments, Hats, and Fresh Ideas for Lace Yarn which will be released in April.


All of these are good things.

I had the wonderful opportunity to teach at yarn shops and fiber shows; dipped a toe into the world of vending at VK Live: Seattle and Chicago; released several new Black Bunny Fibers patterns (this is the Fairview Cowl, which takes only one skein of sock yarn):

cowl 4

and had a blast collaborating with Brooke Nico on a new yarn club (btw, you can sign up for the next round here).

Looking back at the happier times in the year, it becomes a bit easier to have a more balanced view of 2014. I spent many wonderful hours with friends and family, creating beautiful things, reading good books, and petting a fluffy orange cat. I know that my life is blessed beyond many people’s wildest imaginings.

So here’s to 2015. I hope that we will have less heartache and less war and less suffering, and more joy, more peace and more love.

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘It will be happier.’” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Now accepting members: Round 2 of our Yarn Club!

Earlier this year, my dear friend Brooke Nico and I brought you a very special beta version of our yarn club. We had such a good time doing it – and more importantly, our members did, too – that we’re doing it again. The Sip Sip Knit Yarn Club (Brooke came up with that name after our first round – isn’t it fabulous?) is taking sign-ups. Once again, it’s a collaboration between Black Bunny Fibers and Brooke Nico, and once again, we’re matching up Brooke’s fabulous designs with my handdyed yarns. This is one of the shipments from the last round.

Sangria, Month 4 of Round 1

Sangria, Month 4 of Round 1

We were inspired by wine last time; this round we’re looking to the hotel minibar for our inspiration.

bottles only

Brooke and I travel a lot, and although we rarely indulge in the hotel minibar (how can they charge twelve dollars for a bottle of spring water?) believe me, at the end of a long day of teaching or vending, we are often tempted. There is something so adorable about mini-anything, and that includes mini-skeins of yarn. So we are not only exploring colorways inspired by mini-bottles of top-shelf liquor, we are also going to play with mini-skeins of yarn.

mini 2

The club will operate the same way as last time: Members receive four shipments, each with a mini- theme. Each shipment includes handdyed BBF yarn in a colorway inspired by minibottles of top-shelf liqueurs, along with a new pattern designed by Brooke (at least three of the four shipments). Patterns will be exclusive to the club for six months after their release. We will play with some new yarn bases and some old favorites, mostly in the fingering/sock weight range. Patterns will vary in difficulty, but we’ll try not to include anything that will make your head explode. And you can expect to see miniskeins used in at least three of the designs.

mini 4

1. You sign up for four shipments, going out approximately six weeks, with the first shipment going out in February 2015. (I try to post updates on our Ravelry group to give members a sense for when to expect each shipment.)

2. Each shipment includes handdyed BBF yarn paired with a new pattern (at least three designs by Brooke) designed especially for the yarn and colorway. At least three shipments will have miniskeins to spice things up!

3. Each shipment, which includes yarn, pattern, dyer’s/designer’s notes, shipping and some surprises, costs $45 for US residents and US$46.25 for Canadian residents (postage is so expensive to our northern friends that we had to tack on a little extra). You sign up for a subscription payment plan through Paypal and we’ll bill you automatically every six weeks, for four shipments total, $45/46.25 each. Or you can pay in full up front, and receive ten dollars off (you’ll pay $170 for all four shipments, instead of $180, or $175 instead of $185 if shipments go to Canada). (Because miniskeins require additional handling, we’ve had to nudge the price up a smidge.)

4. Yarn gauges will tend toward the finer weights, such as fingering and sportweight.

5. Each shipment includes dyer’s and designer’s notes which discuss our inspirations for design and colorway, and give recommendations for cocktails to pair with your shipment.

We’ve got a limited number of spots and we expect them to fill quickly! You can sign up via my ArtFire shop, using this link for payment in full to a US destination, or this link for payment in full to Canada, or use this Subscribe button for recurring payments with US shipment:

If you’d like Canadian shipment and recurring payments, use this button:

Don’t forget to visit our Ravelry group where Brooke and I will be on hand to answer questions about yarn and patterns, or just to get to know each other. We can’t wait to get started!

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

No-Bull Book Review: Magpies, Homebodies & Nomads, by Cirilia Rose

I’ve had my eye on Cirilia Rose for a while — not in a creepy, stalkerish kind of way, but because from the first time I was introduced to her, I was struck by her charisma, talent and style. I always think of Cirilia as a kid, probably because I’m old enough to be her mother  cool  younger aunt, but that’s silly of me, because she’s done so much in this industry already, working for WEBS, Berroco, Skacel and now New Zealand’s Woolyarns. When I heard that Cirilia was working with another of my girlcrushes, Melanie Falick, on a new book, I was very excited. Last month, Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads: A Modern Knitter’s Guide to Discovering and Exploring Style was published (STC; hardcover; MSRP $27.50, available for $20.40 through the link) so let’s take a good look.

magpies cover

One thing you can always count on with a book from STC Craft is that it will be beautiful: beautifully photographed, interesting styling, gorgeous yarns, lovely paper and design. And sure enough, you notice all those things about Magpies is. Lovely hardback cover, endpapers with a tulle-like design, photographs by Jared Flood. You’ll also notice that there’s a fair amount of text in addition to the patterns; Cirilia writes short essays that are sprinkled within each chapter, reflecting on topics such as diversity among the tastes of knitters; acquiring and then combining yarns; color; styling; introversion and knitting; and ideas for inspiration. Then there are the patterns:  26 patterns, mostly for women (there are one or two home dec-style patterns), including cardigans, tops, accessories and bags. Both patterns and essays are divided roughly into three categories, each reflecting a type of knitter or an aspect of a knitter’s personality (since I think most people don’t fall exclusively into a single category).

The “Magpies” section reflects our tendency as knitters to collect one or two balls of yarn here and there. The Norah hat uses only two skeins of yarn and showcases a vintage sequin patch:


The Breve Cowl uses an unlikely mix of yarns — Rowan Denim, which shrinks and fades a bit with each wash, along with Noro Silk Garden. But it works:


The Garance camisole features a silk fingering weight yarn and halter shape, giving the daring knitter something to wear in warm weather.


And the Isla cardigan, while taking more than one or two skeins, does just cry out for a special yarn like the Zealana merino/possum blend the sample is shown in.


“Homebodies” features knits that are designed to appeal to the nester in all of us. Whether you are looking for a layer to keep you warm when lounging around the house, like the Loro vest,

Loro Vest

a pair of slippers inspired by Icelandic folk slippers:

Heima Slippers

Heima Slippers

a textured pillow to toss on the couch;

Bogarnes Pillow

Bogarnes Pillow

or a cowl that you can pop on anytime,

lana cowl

this chapter’s got you covered.

Last section is “Nomads,” tapping into the way knitters tend to wander around, whether traveling for business, vacationing or attending yarn festivals. The Coterie cardigan features military-inspired design elements:


the Jordaan cape is perfect to throw over a casual outfit for window-shopping,


the Rainier Cowl uses both a superwash merino blend and a creamy nylon novelty yarn for a shearling look;

lined cowl

and the Studio Cardigan features clever saddle-shoulder construction and a bright heart motif made from dyed locks:

studio sweater

Patterns are sized either one size for items like cowls (although some of the accessory patterns, like the Norah hat are sized) or in a generous range. For example, the sweaters run from around 33-36 to 51-55 inches in circumference, with schematics, lots of photos and charts where necessary.

Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads is a lovely book, filled with styles that somehow manage to be both eclectic yet classic. There’s a nice variety of items and yarn weights used; techniques vary, but I would say most of the projects are well within the province of an enthusiastic beginner. Cirilia’s insights on fashion and design are fun to read, and the beautiful styling and photography are a treat. I’m looking forward to seeing whatever comes next from this talented young designer!

Photographs copyright 2014 by Jared Flood; used for review purposes.

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Favorite books I read: 2014 edition

It’s the time of year when people start creating “Best of” lists. I read a lot and used to talk more about non-knitting books on my blog, until I started using Goodreads to keep track of my reading and do quick reviews. But since I love getting recommendations for good books to read, I’ll join the many other writers and bloggers who are creating end-of-the-year lists. Since my reading doesn’t always keep up with the newest releases, I won’t call my list “Best of 2014″ but rather my favorite reads of 2014. Some of these books have been out for a little while and I just got around to discovering them.

I read a lot of YA books and generally enjoy them a great deal. Sometimes I think writing for the YA audience frees authors to be a bit more direct and less flowery in their writing, and certainly the number of high-quality YA books that have been coming out in the recent decade makes the genre wonderful even for older-than-teen readers like myself. Of the YA books I’ve read this year, and there were many, Code Name Verity, and its sequel, Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein, were two of the most affecting and gripping, books that kept me enthralled and made me cry. I had to brace myself to read these books, since you sort of know going into a World War II book that you’re going to end up reading things that break your heart and make you despair for the human race, but like the best fiction, these two books both left me amazed at the cruelty of humans but also inspired by the resilience and courage that our species has.

Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer, dealt with modern times and modern issues — depression and trauma experienced by teenagers. The protagonist is sent to a boarding school in Vermont to deal with her depression after losing her boyfriend. Part of the story revolves around what is not said: Jam (short for Jamaica, the place where she was conceived on her parents’ honeymoon) spends most of the novel skirting around the issue of what happened to her beloved boyfriend Reeve. Jem is signed up for a seminar English class and forges bonds with the group of students in her class. This is an angsty-y but enjoyable and very empathetic treatment of the ways emotional trauma can hurt the teenaged soul.

I really was knocked out by E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, which also tells the story of a teenager dealing with issues with a capital I: Cadence, daughter of a wealthy family, spends each summer at her family’s beach house on a private island near Cape Cod. She hangs out with her teenage cousins, spends time with her grandparents and generally enjoys life as the privileged daughter of a very upscale family. But as the novel starts, Cadence is recovering from an unnamed but clearly very serious trauma. She has amnesia and migraines, and can’t quite remember how her rather dysfunctional family got the way it is when she arrives. I won’t say more, since part of the pleasure of this novel is watching Cadence’s story unspool as she pieces together what happens and comes to grips with it.

I read The Here and Now without realizing that the author, Ann Brashares, also wrote The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (which I haven’t read). Not that it matters, as this book is more of a fantasy/time travel featuring a girl from the future named Prenna. Prenna “immigrated” from the future, trying to avoid a future plague that decimates the world’s population. She meets a boy (of course) and they hit it off — but Prenna is supposed to stay away from non-travelers (for lack of a better word) so their relationship is forbidden, dangerous. This book plays around with the theme of changing the future that often forms a large part of time travel stories, and it does so in a way that feels satisfying and right.

Last YA book is one that I might not have read if it hadn’t gotten excellent reviews and a “Best of the Year” nomination from Goodreads. Red Rising felt a bit too sci/fi for me, and I wasn’t intuitively drawn to the notion of a guy who lives on Mars and drills for ore underground. But I’m glad I gave it a chance, because it was an exciting and suspenseful book. Yes, there is a dystopian future thing happening, and yes, it’s part of a goddamned trilogy (WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE SPLIT INTO THREE PARTS???) but it’s well-done and intriguing.

Non-YA books?  Let’s start with the intense: Elizabeth Is Missing, by Emma Healey. I read several good reviews of this book, and even though I was a little unsure whether I would find it too depressing, I scored a free review copy. “Elizabeth is Missing” is told from the perspective of Maud, an eighty-something woman in the UK who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. When the book begins, she’s still living at home by herself, with some help from paid companions and her daughter Helen. And when the book begins, Maud is growing increasingly concerned about her friend, Elizabeth. She can’t seem to find Elizabeth anywhere or get in touch with her, and she’s afraid something bad has happened to her. Maud’s attempts to find out what happened to her missing friend are at times hilarious and heartbreaking. But it quickly becomes apparent that Elizabeth is also a stand-in for Maud’s sister, who went missing years ago, just after WW2. As you get to know Maud and Helen, and understand more about Maud’s past and present, it’s easier to see what is real and what’s not, but it’s also easy to see how hard Maud tries to fight against the disease that’s ravaging her brain. One of the most fascinating aspects of the novel is how it tries to get inside the mind of someone with dementia and let the reader experience some of the fear, frustration and anger — all of it justified — that Maud feels. In some respects, we all know how this story will end (there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s) but in other ways the reader doesn’t quite know how everything will play out. So I highly recommend Elizabeth is Missing for the incredible empathy it shows for Maud, and for managing to take an unlikely character who clearly irritates the people around her at times and turning her into a heroine. And for reminding us all that no matter how deeply a person’s brain has been affected by a shitful disease like Alzheimer’s, we shouldn’t forget that somewhere down under there is a real person, struggling to get out.

Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill, is another book I wasn’t sure about but took a chance on when I was offered a free ARC.  It’s a very slim book, written more as a series of vignettes. It’s sparse writing but is remarkably evocative. The characters don’t even get names; for example, we know the narrator only as “the wife.” Even though the vignettes (almost like journal entries) aren’t long, they draw you in and create a very real picture of a marriage, how it starts, changes, is altered by a baby’s arrival, and also the day-to-day that “the wife” experiences. This is not the usual kind of book I’d read, but you can read it quickly and it’s amazingly powerful.

I have a love-hate relationship with Stephen King. I read a bunch of his horror books when I was in high school (I remember how terrified I was by The Shining) and I think his vernacular writing style is deceptively hard to pull off, but I also sometimes end up being irritated because he often strikes me as too “boys club”-ish (if that’s the right phrase).  Some of his recent writing is, I think, his best ever as he transcends the horror genre of oldies like Christine and Firestarter.  Joyland was published last year and unlike many of his previous super-thick books, doesn’t even crack 300 pages. I expected it to be a noir-ish crime book, a la Maltese Falcon, but it was really more of a coming-of-age and ghost story — in a good way. It takes place in a family-owned amusement park, which is a fun setting and offers the chance for King to create some oddball characters in the mix. Even if you’re not usually a King fan, this might be worth checking out, and it’s a fast read, so it’s not a huge investment of time.

Another book I got to a little late is 2012′s Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt. This book sounds a bit cliched — coming-of-age story, 80s nostalgia, AIDS patient before the discovery of retrovirals, sibling rivaly — and yet it works beautifully. The story is told from the perspective of June, and is set in the early 80s, before people knew as much about AIDS as they know know, when fear and prejudice were much more near the surface. June is especially close to her uncle Finn, who has just died from AIDS-related complications when the story starts. So this is a bittersweet story, about grief, about love (of many different kinds), and about not shutting away your heart even after you’ve suffered loss.

And my last favorite book I read this year:  Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter.  I was, again, late to the party on this one (I picked up a paperback copy at an airport) but I am so glad I ended up giving this a go.  Beautiful Ruins was a delightful read. It takes place (mostly) in an obscure village on the Italian coast but also travels to Hollywood and other places in the world. It skips back and forth from the sixties to present-day, but it does so skillfully, and with a fascinating cast of characters that felt real (and some characters that are in fact real, although their participation in the book is obviously fictionalized). Imagine the charm of your favorite old movie, with Rock Hudson or Cary Grant, in book form.  Loved it.

So there you have it:  eleven of the books that I enjoyed the most, that transported me outside my daily life, that made me feel or made me think (or both). I love that no matter how many books I read, there are still plenty of good ones out there to explore.  And please feel free to share some of your favorite 2014 reads in the comments!