Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Reading

1.  The Accursed, Joyce Carol Oats - I picked this up on the iBooks sale page some time ago, being very intrigued by the description...which was absolutely up my alley.  It's a loooong book, and it took a while to get into it.  Normally, I'm not daunted by either of those...but.... yeah, I put it down about 25% of the way into it.  Life is just too short sometimes.

2.  The Replacement, Brenna Yovanof - Oh my...I loved this book more than I can possibly say.  When I was in college, one of the first papers I ever wrote for my first ever English (Honors Section) Lit Class was entitled,"Crying For the Monsters."  I based it on Frankenstein and The Phantom of the Opera, using them to illustrate how authors used often sympathetic monsters to make powerful statements about humanity.  My teacher said it was a potentially publishable paper.  It's been years and years since I read it...but that whole experience of early critical reading of classic horror novels came flooding back when I read The Replacement.  Simply put, this is the story about a fairy changeling child...one who survived against the odds when he was left in place of a human child as part of a horrible history of child abductions in a small town.  Not going to lie....in the passage when he realizes why he lived all of those years I cried.  Really, I wouldn't call this a horror/scary book so much as it's a fairy tale which touches on the darker side of the fey.

3.  White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi - I really should have loved this book.  The language is amazing, and there were phrases that made my heart sing.  Once or twice there was even a scene that thrilled me for its originality.  The problem was that it was perhaps too literary for my liking.  When I read a genre book, usually I just want to be entertained.  If I'm having to work too hard to follow the story because the language is so complicated...well, that's just not fun.  I consider myself to be an intelligent and experienced reader...when I struggle, perhaps there's a problem.

4.  The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black - A unique twist on the vampire plague sort of novel.  I really enjoyed the concept of a Coldtown!  (A bit surprised at the YA tag, but then I was a super innocent kid when I was in the target YA demographic.)  There was a really nice balance between the horrors of the monsters and the horrors that can be caused by stinky humans.

5.  House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski - Truth.  This book was recommended to me years and years ago.  I bought it, and then gave it away when it sat around for a really long time without being read.  It kept popping up on best of lists, though so I decided to give it another go.  I tried getting a copy from the library - but it stunk so bad of cigarette smoke that I had to return it in a ziploc bag the next day.  So I bought my own...and WOW!  I'm glad I did!  It was a slow read...the sort of thing I worked on all month long...and that was necessary given the format.  First and foremost, you should know that this is an 'experimental' novel, with a very non-standard format.  Yes, it takes a long time to read, and sometimes the structure can be maddening...but then, that's the point.  Every crazy page lends to the overall insanity of the book.  It was awesome.  (And my goodness, how much work was it to write this beast?!)

7.  Bellman and Black, Diane Setterfield (audio) - I love Diane Setterfield, and I loved this book.  It was the story of a man who makes one single mistake in his childhood that effects the rest of his life. Truthfully, this isn't a scary book...but it is a heartbreaker.  Given that it's a period piece, the real tragedy within seems all the more read because you know that it's exactly the sort of thing that actually happened.  It haunts me...far more so than any scary book ever could.

8.  Penpal, Dathan Auerbach - The writing is actually quite beautiful.  But.  I only read through half of it, and then after a quick skim of the rest I discarded it.  I have small children.  I don't really care for scary books that are realistic and very, very possible.

Annnnndddd....that's when I gave up on my month of scary books.

With one of my Halloween books turning into a very slow (but pleasurable) month-long read, and three others turning into reading fails I decided I didn't want to force the rest of the month into a theme that really wasn't doing it for me this year like it did last year.

SO!

9.  Silverskin, Tina Connelly - With this book Connelly competes an amazing trilogy that I absolutely adored.  The first was a steampunk/fairy/Victorian take on Jane Eyre...the second, well truthfully I forget that at the moment...this one, well this one wound up using Tam Lin, which is a much-beloved tale in this reader's heart.  I absolutely love Connelly's female characters, and I adore the world she's created.  This was a real treat!

10.  Dragon Haven, Robin Hobb (audio) - So I went ahead and picked up the second book in the Rainwild series!  Truthfully, there are some things that bug me about loooong epic fantasy series....and those things are a tad more noticeable when reading them in audio format.  (You really pick up on the repetition and the wasted time and the emotional dithering that can happen.)  Still love Hobb, though.  Even with the flaws I was anxious listening the entire time to find out what happened next!  The reader - Anne Flosnik - is really good, too.

11.  Bird Box, Josh Malerman - Could. Not. Put. It. Down! Bird Box got a major recommendation from Books on the Nightstand a couple of months ago, and I was saving it for this month.  The fact that you never actually see the monsters....well, let's just say it was terrifying in a way that books aren't usually for me.  Reminded me in some ways of the movie The Mist.  Shudders. 

12.  Ex-Heroes, Peter Clines - Yeah, this one wound up in my unfinished folder as well.  The concept is fun - a band of survivors living on a movie lot after the zombie apocalypse with real live superheros! - but it didn't really do it for me.
 
13. The Pierced Heart, Lynn Shepard - I had completely forgotten that I had preordered this book, and to my great delight it turned out to be a perfect October read.  This is Shepard's third book in a series of Victorian gothic/detective novels that turn on actual writers/books of the time.  (Her last book sent me on a grand explorations of biographies of Mary Shelley!)  This time around, Shepard takes on Dracula....which you all know is my favorite of all classic horror novels.  It was perfect.  It was so perfect that it left me a bit dazed.  (And darn it!  Would it have killed her to have given us an epilogue!!!!)

14.  Interview With A Vampire, Anne Rice - File this under, "I can't believe I read this."  Sigh.  It was on sale for a couple of bucks.  I thought why not?! Answer me this, Anne Rice fans, why the heck to do you like this dreck?

15.  Dragon City, Robin Hobb (audio) - With the third installment, Hobb pulls her lens away from the small group that she focused on in the first two books and expands back to a larger view of her world.  This was a very good thing. That small group had started to feel somewhat claustrophobic.

16.  Blood of Dragons, Robin Hobb (audio) - (Fun fact, when the reader is this slow, you can speed up the audio to 1.5x the normal speed with no problem.  This allows you to listen to a 70+ hr saga in about 50 hours.  yay!)  I hadn't intended to listen to the whole thing straight through, but I was so caught up in the story that I HAD to.  I honestly don't think this series is Hobb's best work (or maybe now that I'm older and have expanded my reading I'm noticing the errors more?), but that aside it was still a whole lot of fun!

17.  Lucky Us, Amy Bloom - I put a bunch of books on hold with my library's digital services, and when they become available, it's either read them or wait another couple of months!  Thus...this book, which is completely unlike anything else I read this month.  (Books on the Nightstand recommendation)  It's a new book that I've really wanted to read for a while, and to my delight it turned out to be just as much fun as I'd hoped!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Satisfaction


With the body officially done, it's time to take a break and move to another project for a while. 
And so I go home...to lace, which always fills my heart with joy. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Back In The Saddle Again

You'll be happy to know that I figured out what I need to do.
 
After perusing a few of my reference books and taking some measurements from a few of Sean's old sweaters, this morning I ripped out the top two bands of color (about a day and a half of work...but not too bad, all things considered) and got everything back on track with the corrected pattern.
 
Yay me!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Step Away From The Knitting....

It's gorgeous.

In fact, it's quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I've ever knit....and given my portfolio, that's saying something.  For sure, it's the best sweater I've ever knit.

I've been so focused on this particular project that just about everything else in my life has gone by the wayside lately.  I'm not spinning...or knitting anything else...or reading as much... or blogging...or fill-in-the-blank.  (While this is certainly productive for me, it doesn't exactly make for the most entertaining blog for you. There's only so many times I could say, "I knit x # of rows today," before your eyes would glaze over.)  But that's ok, because - honestly - it's been a pleasure.

The thing is...

I knew from day one that the pattern was problematic.  It was written in the 80's during a time when the popularity of knitting led designers to try to honor traditional styles.  Unfortunately, in their attempts to modernize the patterns they managed to mangle the traditional methods of construction.  Ultimately this was misguided.  The old methods existed for a reason, serving to make a much nicer finished product.  The new pattern instructions - intended to "simplify" the process for a modern knitter who hadn't been taught the hows and whys of traditional knitting - actually complicate things and create multiple potential problems.

So I knew from day one that I was going to have to take this poorly written pattern and return it to it's roots in order to get the sweater I wanted.  Really, this wasn't THAT difficult.  All I thought I had to do was to add in steeks for the sleeves so that I could knit the whole thing in the round.  I consulted a couple of Fair Isle reference books, and that was that.

Crazy how the rows can build up without you even realizing how much you've accomplished....but that's exactly what happened.  After weeks of work, I laid it out a few days ago to check some measurements and fully realized just how big it had become.  Today was going to be important.  Given how much I've been able to accomplish over the last few days, I thought I'd be able to finish the body today.  With that done, I'd be on the downhill slide with just the sleeves left!

The problem became evident when I pulled out the pattern to figure out the shoulder shaping.  I read through it once.  It didn't make sense.  I read through it a second time....it still wasn't coming together.  I tried a third time, and that's when I realized that the pattern was completely, hopelessly messed up.  I've done this before.  I always assume the published pattern is written correctly, so if there's a problem with the pattern I go into this weird confused state until I am able to see that yes, in fact, I was right and the pattern is wrong.

In this particular example, there are multiple errors.  For starters, there *should* be instructions for neck shaping incorporated in there somewhere.  Next up, the shoulder shaping is completely off, part of the instructions are repeated, and the stitch numbers don't match up anywhere.  There are several choice words I use about this bad of a muck up in private.

Now, I'm a smart knitter, and I have a big personal library of amazing reference books.  I can and will be able to figure this out...although I freely admit that it may not be much fun to do so, and that I'm nervous about how much I'm going to have to alter.  Ordinarily I roll with mistakes without too much of a problem.  They happen.  I can fix it.  It's just what happens.

But.

I'm not real happy right now.

I'm annoyed that my plan for today has now been thrown away.  I'm irritated by potential lost time.  I'm angry with myself for not having done a better job of reading the pattern/planning from the get go.  I know better than to trust a pattern too blindly.

So for now I'm going to set the sweater aside.  I think I'll take some time to work on some lace or a nice, simple sock until I'm in a better frame of mind to tackle this.

Sigh. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall Into Reading.

Yes, that's a supremely bad post title....I was channelling my inner elementary librarian. 

1.  Burn Me Deadly, Alex Bledsoe (audio) - ok, so I didn't wait to read more of the Eddie Lacrosse books.  It helps that they are all short (less than 10 hours,  with a slow reader that allows me to speed them up to listen at 1.25x speed).  They remind me quite a bit of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books....short, lighthearted, fun reads that are well written enough to make you feel like you aren't reading junk.  (I mean that as a big compliment.)  I found that once I got started with them, I just couldn't stop!  This may be a series that I eventually have to buy for myself.

2.  Sweet Grace: A Weight Loss Memoir, How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor, Teresa Sheilds Parker - Full disclosure, Parker and I see the same allergist, which is how I first heard about her book.  In fact, Parker has the exact same yeast allergy that is the bane of my existence.  So here's the thing...I am a Christian.  In fact, I'm an ordained member of the priesthood in my denomination.  But.  I do not enjoy overtly Christian literature/art/music/etc, as my own faith is a much quieter, more personal faith.  I find more of religious truth in secular works because to me they feel more honest.  I say all of this because Parker very much is someone who does live her faith in a much more open way, and so the focus of her book is more on her faith than on her health.  (She also has a very long history of writing and publishing various Christian publications...this is her calling, and I admire and respect that.)  While on the one hand its awesome to read about someone who understands food like I do, and who really gets the addiction thing (and a special shout out to my allergist, who plays a key part in the book!), I really wish there had been less of an emphasis on the religious side of things.  I really, really dislike being preached to in such a way. She did reference a couple of health books in there that I will be looking up, though, and that's always good.

3.  Dark Jenny, Alex Bledsoe (audio) - Can't stop!  Too much fun!  Dark Jenny is Bledsoe's take on King Arthur, and my oh my was it ever fun!  I'm not generally a fan of satire or spoof books, and so I'm kind of surprised I enjoyed it...even in the framework of Bledsoe's Eddie LaCrosse genre-mixing books.

4. Wake of the Bloody Angel, Alex Bledsoe (audio) - Eddie LaCrosse takes on pirates.  Honestly...not my favorite.  The grand problem of fantasy books that take place on the sea is that sea travel of that sort necessitates a lot of down time.

5.  Written In My Own Heart's Blood, Diana Gabaldon - Confession, I only read about 1/3 of the book when it first came out...even though I went ahead and listed it as a finished book that month.  (Whoops!)  I had intended to get it done that month, but it just didn't happen.  As I believe I said at the time, Gabaldon doesn't waste time coddling readers with a lot of reminders about who and what is going on in her books.  While I commend her for this (too much exposition being a huge annoyance of mine with certain writers of giant, multi-book epics), I did find it pretty tough to become fully invested in this one.  (When I read the series originally, I read through straight through all seven books in less than 2 months...which makes it kind of like reading one gigantic, almost 7,000 page book.)  All of the press on the Outlander TV show - which I'm sadly not watching as I don't get that station - led me to pick this up again.  This time it sucked me in, and I found myself enjoying it immensely....maybe not as much as the earlier books (did it feel like a string of random to anyone else, too?  like there wasn't a central plot tying it all together?)  My only complaint...the book really bogged down for me with Roger and Brianna.  Usually I like them every bit as much as I like Jamie and Clair, but this time around their portions of the book were a bit of a slog.

6.  He Drank, and Saw the Spider, Alex Bledsoe (audio) - The last one.  Sad.  (Because there are no more.)  This might have actually been my favorite of all of them - even though I saw the conclusion coming from a mile away.  I love that the female characters in these books are so amazing, and don't tend to fall into horrid fantasy stereotypes.  I love that this book made me laugh out loud and was so much fun I had trouble putting it down.  I already loved Bledsoe because of his brilliant Tufa books...now I just love him as a writer.

7.  Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel - Every once in a while both hosts on Books on the Nightstand recommend the same book in the final section of their podcast...and when they do I take notice because those books tend to be something special.  I almost never buy books as soon as they are released...but this one I read within 24 hours of it hitting the shelves.  It's got a fairly simple premise...a pandemic flu basically wipes out most of humanity in the blink of an eye, and this is what happens afterwords.  I find myself at a bit of a loss as to what to say about Station Eleven.  Yes, I enjoyed it.  The language is beautiful and as a character study it's exquisite.  The plot perhaps takes second fiddle, and it's actually quite different from the usual post-apocalyptic novel.  I was left perhaps wanting a little bit more....more plot, more intensity...but I still recommend it highly.

8.  The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell - OK, so the Bledsoe books are super-fun and super-quick and tend to be popcorn filler.  That's kind of awesome in a way because it leaves me free to devote some of my reading time to weightier tomes.  At 600 some odd pages, this fits the bill nicely.  Besides, it's one of two books long-listed for the Booker prize that cross over into the fantasy genre. I'm writing this up the morning after I finished The Bone Clocks, and I find that I could write pages and pages about my reading experience with this book.  I'll try to be brief.  First, I will be buying a hard cover copy asap...I enjoyed it that much.  (As you know, I buy hard cover copies only of the books I love most...of those that impact me.)  Second, I was having trouble sleeping last night, and the last section scared me so badly that it made it worse.  Mitchell's vision of the future is chillingly possible.  I don't remember ever being that frightened by a book.  Third, I absolutely loved the characters.  Every. Single One.  Fourth, the time and perspective jumps were amazingly well done.  While I disagree with others' assessment that it's basically a collection of different novels strung together, I applaud Mitchell's ability to so completely capture such wildly different voices.  It was a lot of fun to see the connections between each section, to start to put them together as the book progressed.  Fifth, Mitchell is very clever and his 'in jokes' really made me laugh, even not having read any of his other work.  Sixth, I now want to read everything he ever wrote.  The Bone Clocks is going to sit with me for a long, long while.  I'm glad I really took my time with this book...and I plan on reading it again in a few years.

9.  Dragon Keeper, Robin Hobb (audio) - Robin Hobb is one of my favorite epic fantasy writers, and this partiuclar book is the first in a series of four books that are a follow-up to her Live Ship series.  I do really enjoy Hobb's work.  Surprisingly enough, it translates well into audio.

10.  My Real Children, Jo Walton - I had preordered this book, and yet when it came out this summer I was so busy reading other stuff that I put it off for a long while.  To be honest, the first chapter kind of threw me a little bit.  I was expecting something other than what I got.  (Silly me, Jo Walton has rapidly become one of my favorites.  I should have known she wouldn't disappoint!)  Truth be told, it rather quickly became apparent that what I was reading was basically the same type of story told by the Gwenyth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors.  What are the possibilities in life if a split second decision/action had happened differently?  In that way, it felt a bit derivative...but Walton made up for that in the fact that she made her two different lifetimes considerably longer and more complex than they are in the movie.  The end is also more ambiguous.  (Which curiously enough doesn't bother me this time.)  Brilliant book!

11.  The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers - I bought this book from a sale table because it wound up on a gazillion best of lists for last year, despite the fact that (as I've said frequently) I am NOT someone who is into books about modern warfare.  That last little tidbit is why it's been sitting in my queue all year long.  I decided to finally try it, though, and to my surprise I discovered that it was the rare case of a book about war that had been written by a poet.  (Yes, I looked Powers up, and he did hold a fellowship in poetry...which didn't even remotely surprise me.)   The language is beautiful, and I think this is probably an important subject.  Even then, I only made it about a third of the way through the book before setting it aside.  It's just not my cup of tea.  I have a super hard time relating to or understanding our modern military machine, and I just couldn't get into it. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Scrumptious

As promised, here she is in all of her glory!
 I'm glad I decided against following the pattern instructions to make this shawl any bigger than intended.  As it is, it stretches about 8 foot across and 22 inches deep.  That's fantastic!
 I love blocking lace.  There's something so magical about seeing it come to its full potential...and the crispness of the finished shawl when you first take the pins out is amazing.
 The colors make me happy.
They actually make my mouth water!
 The stripes make me happy...as does the picot edge.
 The fact that it's so versitile in how it can be worn makes me happy!
The model makes me really happy....of course!
 
 Taygete by Rosemary Hill
from 7 Small Shawls; Year One: The Pleiades
Madelintosh Tosh Sock
1 skein Norway Spruce (the blue-green)
1 skein Oak A (the yellow-green)
(Drat the luck...I actually forgot to record the needle size!  Whoops!)
August 11-29, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

There Is A Metaphor In There Somewhere


I've had this pothos for 15-20 years. It's a beautiful, healthy plant that's never once faltered. 
But it does have a tendency to get leggy. Every few years I'll take it down from it's counter and untangle the vines to check it out. 
Then, for the overall health and well-being of the plant I whack off the ugly vines. 
And use them to start a new plant. 

New life. 

Rebirth.

Possibility.