Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Books

1.  Assassin's Fate, Robin Hobb - This one was a doozy, both in length (864 pages) and scope (not only does it complete a trilogy, it completes a story that Hobb began 20 some years ago).  I've always loved Hobb's books, which not only give me grand fantasy epics, but which are also deeply character driven.  It says something that I've been reading her books for years and years and years, and I still remember details from all of them.  Hobb always writes in trilogies, and they are all connected in some way.  This actually marks the end of the third and final trilogy about Fitz and the Fool, and I believe it may also mark the end of Hobb's playing in this particular world.  I say this because in many ways this last book was a who's who, in which we revisited the lead characters and locations of all of Hobb's other books.  Felt very much like a last harrah, which was both fun and a little bit eyerolling at times.  It was a slow read.  These books are so character driven that sometimes there's a lack of urgency.  I finally blocked in an entire day to finish the last half.  (The pace, mercifully, picked up.)  I will make a complaint that the first half felt at times that it was recycling plot with one character.  (How many times can this happen....) Overall, though, it was a satisfying end.  Now...I wonder where Hobb will go next?

2. The Runner's Guide to Yoga, Sage Rountree - I've wanted this book for a long time, and finally invested in it.  First step, read it.  Second step, implement.  (That's going to happen after my race!)  I can't remember where I first came across Rountree, but I do love her style and appreciate her approach to yoga and running, which focuses on balance.

3. Miracle Mindset, JJ Virgin (audio, read by author) - JJ Virgin is a health and nutrition expert who's been around for quite some time.  I've never read her books, but I've seen her in various tv spots and know enough to have a healthy dose of respect for her.  Years ago I remember watching an interview with her in which she described her son's near fatal accident and spoke of how important it was to focus on her own health during his time in the hospital.  It made a big impression.  The message was, if you don't take care of yourself you can't take care of others.  Well, she's now written a book about that experience and about the life lessons she learned along the way.  Miracle Mindset is an interesting cross between memoir and the sort of self-help book that is about sharing life lessons rather than preaching at you.  I very much enjoyed it, and although I don't relate to Virgin in many ways (she's a very different personality than I am), it did leave me with some things to think about.

A note about my reading as of late:  Truth be told, now that I'm working full time I'm having to make some decisions about how to spend my limited free time, and reading is lower on the priority list than running (which I HAVE to do for my health) and knitting.  I realized too, that staring at a computer screen for much of the day leaves me not really wanting to stare at a book or a screen in my free time. My eyes and my brain need a break.  SOoooo....I'm revising my reading goals in order to make sure reading does continue.

1.  I'll be working to find more audio...and will be cutting back somewhat on the number of podcasts I listen to.
2.  Reducing my goals to five books/month, with one of them being an unfinished book.
3.  Oddly, I'll probably be reading more nonfiction for a while.  I find that as much as I love fiction, I don't have the emotional energy to invest in it right now.  That's ok, because I have a pile of nonfiction to get through!

Sunday, May 21, 2017


 As many of you know, I've been unable to shop in our local yarn stores for quite some time because of my alpaca allergies.  Well, to my selfish delight, the owner of True Blewe has developed the same problem, and so the store is now free of all alpaca products...which means I can shop again!  

(I should be clear - I'm VERY sorry that someone else has this problem, and I'm also not at all surprised given the market saturation/overexposure of alpaca products that they've reported that there are a lot of customers who share the same problem.)
 I found myself at True Blewe shortly after I was offered my job, and so I decided to treat myself to something new and different....and it just so happens that they had laceweight yarn made of yak in just exactly the shade of salmony pink that I love best.  It was meant to be.
 Words cannot describe how delicious this yarn is (or how much fun it is to say YAK YARN!!!).  It's buttery soft with a barely existing halo, and it knits up like a dream.  The silk adds sheen and is helping the finished shawl hold it's shape beautifully.

Given the hefty pricetag, I decided to work on a smaller shawl - more of a shawlette/scarf than anything else.  I'd fallen in love with Anna Victoria's patterns some time ago, and this gave me the perfect excuse to try one out.

Originally, I worked up the fancier version of Hortense - which has a lace pattern in the upper section - but I was never very happy with it.  It didn't flow into the beautiful lace as well as I'd hoped, and it was too fussy.  I wanted this shawl to show off the yarn AND the I ripped it out and started over with the 'plain version.'

Also, the pattern calls for beads, and as much as I love beads that would have been much too much for this particular yarn, which was luxurious enough on its own.
 Hortense by Anna Victoria
Reywa Fibers Bloom
50% Yak 50% silk
Addi Turbo 32" US 4, 3.5mm
March 23 - May 11, 2017

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Did I Read In April?

OK. Let's get real.  Going back to work after 14 years as a stay at home mom means that a lot is going to change.  One of the things that happened this month was that I just flat out didn't have time or energy to do much reading.  Trying to find balance to make sure I still get to enjoy the things I enjoy while giving my family what they need is tricky!  So this is the shortest list I've ever presented.  Hopefully next month will be better!

Interesting note:  nonfiction was considerably more appealling for some reason this month.  I've actually started a couple of other nonfiction books to share next month.  I'm normally a fiction girl, so this is an intersting development.

1.  Searching For Sunday, Rachel Held Evans - Beautiful.  Another lovely book in line with my religious viewpoints, this time on what it means to search for a church that is truly Christ-like.  Evens will be speaking at SPEC this summer, and I can't wait.

2.  The Ask, Laura Fredricks - This was a career development book that was recommended by my new boss..  It's about how to be a fundraiser in the nonprofit world, and was actually quite helpful as it focuses on direct asks, which is an area I need to develop!  Also gave me an opportunity to do some serious reflecting about some serious topics.

3.  First Ladies of Running, Amby Burfoot - I needed some inspiration, and had picked this up quite a while ago on sale.  I didn't expect to be quite so moved by it...and many times I found myself in tears over various stories.  Burfoot's writing style got a little bit repetative, but that's a quibble.

4.  Within The Sanctuary of Wings, Marie Brennan - The final Lady Trent book was released this month, and it's the one fictional book I made it through.  Win!  (Truth:  I started three other novels, and kept getting distracted despite the fact that they were all fun.)  I'm going to miss Lady Trent...and I may have to put these books on the list of hardbacks to acquire.  Isabella is just exactly the sort of plucky female I love...and I ADORE the fact that these books took her from childhood through middle-age with hints into her elder years (from when she is writing).  It was a gift!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Saying Good-Bye Is Hard To Do

 Let's pause for a moment to acknowledge the awesomeness that was my 50th pair of handknit socks. 


Socks aren't forever, and normally I can let them go with ease....but this kind of hurts.

You see, this was the very first sock yarn I bought.  Not knowing, exactly, how much yarn I needed to knit a pair of socks, I bought two skeins of Opal instead of just one.  My dad was the recipient of my very first pair, and years later I celebrated a milestone by using that second skein to knit my 50th pair for myself.

And today they gave up the ghost.


All good things come to an end, thank you beloved socks for years of awesome warm, comfortable service to my tootsies.

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Reading

1. A Conjuring of Light, V.E Schwab -That loud squealing you heard at the end of February was my excitement when this book showed up in my inbox!  It's the final book in one of the most amazing trilogies I've come across in a really long time, and I'm happy to say that it more than lived up to the awesomeness that was the first two books.  (And as a reading experience, this more than made up for the dissapointment in the Tearling books)  Schwab is a gifted writer who's managed to craft a series that's well balanced with strong world building, characters, plot, and action, which makes for an excellent read.  If I had to pick one thing that I love the most, though, I would have to say that I absolutely adore the characters that she's created.  They are all complex, interesting, flawed, and uniquely cardboard characters here.  Pretty spectacular.  May need to buy this series in's that good!

2.  A Shadow In Summer, Daniel Abraham - This is the first of a quartet that a friend of mine recommended a while back.  It also happens to be in the essential reading list on the iTunes fantasy page, so I decided to try it out.  So it's good, and very well written, but I'm not sure I fell in love with it enough to read the next three books in the series.   It didn't bode well that I put it down for a week and almost forgot to finish it.  Wish I could put my finger on what the problem is.  It's not exactly that anything is wrong with it so much as that it just didn't capture my interest.

3.  Gather Her Round, Alex Bledsoe - The newest of the Tufa novels, released just this month, and I'm happy to say that Bledsoe is back in form!  At this point these characters feel like old friends, and so I have high expectations about how they are treated in the books.  If you haven't read them, I wouldn't start here.  It's not that it wouldn't work as a stand's just that the series deserves to be started from the beginning.  This is what a truly unique, American fairy tale looks like.

4.  The Stranger In The Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, Michael Finkel (audio) - I'd seen this listed in the new books section on several sights, and was intrigued.  I snapped it up when I found it available immediately through the library.  Excellent book, intriguing subject, loved the way he handled it....telling the story with occasional philisophic breaks.  Two thumbs up from this wanna be hermit!  (Seriously, though, crazy!)

5.  Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher (audio) - Yep, I enjoyed The Princess Diarist that much.  It's just a treat to listen to Fisher read her own books!  Not much else to say about it though...

6. Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor -   I found Okorafor in a Neil Gaiman edited anthology, and picked up this award nominated book as part of my birthday binge.  I was blown away by this book.  It's beautiful, and mythic, and hard to read because you care about the characters so very much and you know bad stuff is going to happen.  I loved the ending more than I can possibly say.  I loved what it had to say about gender and power.  I loved reading a book in which a beautifully well-rounded woman drives the entire story.  Now, I must read everything Okorafor has ever read.  

7.  Luka and the Fire of Life, Salman Rushdie - I have tickets to see Rushdie at a local book festival next month, and it's been rather a bit of a question as to whether or not I should actually go given that I hadn't read any of his work before.  Problem was, I didn't have much interest in reading any of his books.  I dutifully checked them all out from the library...and then ignored them.  After an intersting conversation on FB on the subject, I tried listening to Rushdie's memoir...but, charming as it was, I had trouble working up interest for a 27 hour book about someone I hadn't read.  Then this book showed up...the last of the available digital books, finally available.  And my oh my, I fell in love.  I adore fairy tales and whimsy, but it's hard to do right and too often it comes across as being too precious.  This was just perfect.

8.  Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman (audio) - Because really, is there anything better than Gaiman reading his own work?  It reads like a child's mythology book, and I loved every minute even as I understand the criticism that's coming from some quarters that it's not scholarly enough.  This is a realm of myth that I'm not so familiar with, so it's all good to me!

Some Shorter Stuff, with a note:
My life changed pretty dramatically this month, as I went back to work full-time after 14 years as a Stay At Home Mom.  I stumbled upon the following short stories and novellas while browsing iTunes the week before my job started, and felt like they would be a great way to incorporate some reading once my reading time became more limited.  Plus, I just didn't have the attention span for a lot of long books this month.

9.  For Want of a Nail, Mary Robinette Kowel (short story) - I'm not typically in to Science Fiction, but this story won the Hugo in 2011, and I was curious, given how much I enjoyed Kowel's Glamourist Histories.  What I found was a curious story that posed more questions than it answered, which is what I think great Science Fiction is supposed to do.

10.  Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, Seanan McGuire (novella) - McGuire is extremely prolific - as in 'i kind of don't know how she manages to produce so many books.'  Fortunately, she also happens to be an extremely good writer.  This book is a ghost story, and it just so happens to be the sort of ghost story that I like best.  In fact, I cried buckets at the end.  In terms of her other work, this is more like McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway than her October Daye series...beautifully written, deeply emotional, speaking to the heart.

11. A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (novella) - This novella grabbed my attention because N.K. Jemisin had given it a blurb.  It's a love story with an ending I didn't see ending that made me cry buckets.  Totally worth it.

12.  The Escapement of Blackledge, Mary Robinette Kowel (novella) - This snagged  my attention because it was tagged as being for fans of Kowel's Glamourist Histories, which I most certainly am.  In a!  and hot!  oh my!

13.  Cold-Forged Flame, Marie Brennan (novella) - meh, which surprised me.  I expected more because Brennan is so much fun in her Lady Trent works.  Makes me question whether or not I want to try her other series.

And a note:  No unfinished books this month.  Whoops!

Friday, March 24, 2017

This is love.

Our family by choice expanded recently with the birth of a very special wee one...a tiny girl who's already brought great joy into the lives of all who know her.

Her Mae Mae is my sibling by choice...someone who I love with all of my heart...someone I chose because of the light they bring into the world. 

Her Mama is a beloved friend...the sort of person you want on your side...another light bearer who makes me smile and who reaches out to me when I stumble.

We can't do without either one of them.

And so, of course, their niece...needed something very, very special.

 The dress was supposed to be a jumper, but after consulting with my mom, I decided that wasn't a good idea.  A dress will fit longer, and it's also a whole lot easier to deal with when diapering a baby!  I totally winged it, using several other baby dress patterns as a guide....and I'm sad to say that I didn't take notes.

 The color...a great favorite in their home which I lucked into thanks to the internet.  I managed to find a store which not only carried this discontinued color (which was a much better match than the currently available blues), but also had it on sale for almost half price.
I did something unusual (for me) and made the set in a newborn size.  If she never has a chance to wear it...well, I'm sure I will knit her something else.  Sometimes you need to tuck away in a special place a reminder of just how tiny they were.
I've made several things from my Dale baby book, and I've never been disappointed.  The patterns are sublime, and the finished pieces are heirloom quality.  This set was such a joy to knit.

 Permemor Infant Set
by Dale of Norway
Dale Baby Ull, 2 skeins white, skeins turqoise (discontinued)
US 0 (2.0mm) and 1.5 (2.5mm) Addi Turbo 24" circs
February 10 - March 18, 2017
 Welcome to the world, little one.

We are so glad you are here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Reading

1.  Cold Eye, Laura Anne Gilman - This very nearly wound up on the unfinished shelf...exept that would have irritated me because, as you may remember, I'm trying to clean that shelf off.  Pros: Gilman has created a very American mythology with her books about the Territory and the Devil's Hand.  Her characters are still fantastic, and I enjoy the relationship between Gabriel and Isobel.  Cons:  lordy, it moves at a snail's pace and the language is often unneccessarily vague.  I wanted something - ANYTHING - to happen...or maybe I wanted the things that were happening to just be described in a more straightforward manner.  Both of those.  These are critisisms I had of the first book...they were just a million times worse this time around.  Final verdict:  Much as I enjoyed the first book, I'm done with this series.

2.  Kindred, Octavia Butler - It's not an easy book to read, but it is a book which I believe should be read because it deepens understanding and hopefully increases empathy and compassion.  I'm impressed with how quickly Butler got right to her need to dilly dally or build a background.  The reader is pushed into it immediately, and has trouble walking away from it later on.  I was glad it wasn't longer.  I'm not sure I could have handled that.  I'm very glad I read it, though, and I appreciate the critical essay and readers' guide in the back.

3.  The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden - I'd preordered this quite some time ago, knowing little to nothing about it other than the brief description on iTunes.  Shortly after it showed up in my inbox, I had two friends post glowing reviews on Facebook...which is something that's never happened before, so I moved it to the top of the list.  My oh this ever one beautiful book!  If I had a checklist to create the perfect book for me, this would hit almost all of the items on that list.  Most notabley, it's an extremly well-told (Russian) fairy tale with a plucky, marvelous female protagonist.  Yes, I need a hardcover copy to add to my was that good.

4.  Stars Above, Marissa Meyer (audio) - This is a collection of short stories based on the Lunar Chronicals which I read last month.  It was a largely unneccessary, but still enjoyable book.  Most of the stories just served to fill in the backstories of the main characters from the Lunar Chronicals, which honestly wasn't needed as Meyers had done a great job of that in her series already.  Fortunately, they were fun enough that I didn't mind.  Also not needed was the retelling of one portion of those books from a different point of view.  (That's the one story I didn't finish.)  It was all totally worth it for the last story, though, which was the only one to further the the lives of the characters, adding to the story told in the Luner Chronicles.

5.  Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly  (audio) - If you haven't seen the movie yet, run - do not walk - to your nearest theater as soon as is humanly possible.  I saw it with my girls this month, and was blown away by the story it told.  (As an aside...I'm impressed with how much tension it built around historic events that I already knew the outcome of!)  I wanted more info, so I checked out the book, and I'm glad I did.  Kudos to Shetterly for bringing to light the lives of women who deserve to be recognized for their amazing contributions to our world.

6. Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey - A friend of mine brought this book to my attention after attending a conference with the author.  I was looking for a nourishing Sunday morning book, and snatched this up when I discovered that it was on sale.  When I found myself in tears less than two pages in, I knew I had found something I needed.  Simply put, I am a progressive feminist because I am a Christian...and it was wonderful to read this affirming book which deepened my understanding.

7.  The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher (audio) - OMG, this was sooooo much fun!  I'm so very glad I did the audio.  Fisher reads it herself, and she's a stitch!  I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read any of her works before, but after this I might have to track every bit of it down.  This might not even have come on my radar (I like Star Wars, but am  by no means a superfan.), but for the fact that Fisher did an amazing Fresh Air interview for it about a month before she passed.  She was truly an original, and I'm so glad she left us this book.

8.  Kingfisher, Patricia A McKillip (my unfinished book for the month) - So weird that I didn't finish this.  It became, for some odd reason, the book that I read in the tub during post-long-run soaks while training for my half marathon last spring.  I finished the race before I finished the book, and for no good reason I let it fall off the radar.  So glad to have finally finished it.  I adore McKillip, and this book is just as wonderful as the rest of her work!

9.  The Sun is Also A Star, Nicolla Yoon - Yoon is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine, and this - her second book - was part of my birthday bonanza book purchase.  I knew this book was a YA version of the movie, Before Sunrise (which I've never seen), in which two teens from different worlds spend one perfect day together and fall in love.  Admittedly, I was a touch skeptical because of that. However, I also knew that Yoon is a fantastic writer who has the ability to sweep the reader up in her stories.  My response when I finally sat down to read this book?  Read it in one sitting, loved every minute, cried frequently.  Yes, Yoon is definitly becoming a favorite.  The fact that I was both enjoying the book while simultaneously being carried back to what it felt like when I was 17 and in love?  Well..that was a gift.  (As a side note...really good YA writers get to me because they tend to cut through the BS of so-called 'adult' literature to really get to the heart of the matter.)

10.  The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit (a second unfinished book) - Another oddity.  I adore Solnit's writing, and don't remember why I set this book aside either, especialy as I only had a few chapters to go.  I had a little bit of time, so I decided to pick it up again, and within one page was transported.  Solnit's use of language is amazing, and this work definitly sits close to my heart.  I'll have to persue some of her other works.

11.  The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen - First of all, I have to stop picking up new series before they are finished. I had to hunt down an online synopsis of each of the first two books because I'd forgotten so very much.  Secondly, the first of this series - The Queen of the Tearling - is an absolutely brilliant book, but I should have been forwarned because the second didn't really sit as well with me.  Third, and I haven't quite put my finger on the why of this, the writing is occasionally confusing as to what's going on.  The author says in the back of the book that it's a difficult world and there aren't answers to everything...but I would argue that having so very much shrouded in mystery makes it difficult to follow at times.  Finally, I hated the ending.  I feel pretty cheated, and I don't often say that.  (As a side note, Emma Watson optioned the first book for the movie rights before the second and third were published, and I really wonder how she feels about that now.)  The more I think about it, actually, the angrier I am.  Intellectually, I get it...although I also feel in some ways like the author took the easy way out.  Emotionally, I kind of can't believe I wasted my time and money on these books.  So much potential...for nothing.  (Edited to add:  Shortly after I published this post, I realized exactly what my problem is.  The end plot device is not at all a new idea, and in fact was used in a made for tv movie that I watched back in middle school.  I hated it then...left me angry for days...and I hate it now.  To me, it's the lazy thing...write yourself into a corner and then hit a reset button.  I have always disliked stories that make use of this because I feel it does such a huge diservice to everything that comes before.  Why bother, if this is the way it ends?)