Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When It's Just Not Working

I fell in love with this yarn years and years ago.

I remember being drawn to them from across the yarn shop....three perfect skeins - 1,500 yards of a mohair, wool blend in the beautiful colors of a forest in autumn...or of a turtle shell.  They were the colors that a fairy queen would wear, and I wanted them desperately.  However,  I didn't have a plan for that yarn, and it was too expensive to justify as a 'just because' purchase.  So I touched it gently, and walked away.  Several times.  Then, magic.  I popped a balloon at a sale, and found a 40% off coupon inside.  My fairy queen yarn came home with me that day, and I rejoiced. 
If only the yarn had retained it's magic.

Instead, it has become an albatross.
Lord knows I've tried.  For a very long while I worked really hard to find a pattern that would show the yarn and its glorious color to full advantage.  It was a tricky proposition...it needed to be a basic pattern, free of detailing (like cables or lace) that would be lost in the color, but with enough texture to break up the typical pooling problems that happen with varigated yarns.  Try as I might, though, I never could figure out that particular puzzle.  There was always a problem - usually with gauge and yarn quantity - that couldn't really be overcome.  I tried and tried...and then gave up.
The yarn has been tucked away in my stash, largely untouched, for years now.  The albatross has weighed on me as yarn that isn't being used is a financial burden that I don't like living under.  For quite some time now I've only purchased project-specific yarn, and I deeply regret the stash building days.  More than that, I long ago lost any love I once had for variegated yarns.  The few that remain have become a problem that perplexes me every time I open the drawers and am reminded of their existence.

Recently I did an old fashioned stash "toss."  I pulled all of my yarn out of the drawers so that I could lay hands and eyes on each and every skein I own.  It's fun...and it's inspirational.  I decided that day that my fairy queen yarn would be one of the first challenges I took up in my attempts this year to work down the stash.
As I was knitting the baby turtle shell over the weekend, the wheels started to spin.  The hexagon I based my turtle shell on is part of a sweater that I'd once briefly considered as a match for my gorgeous greens and golds.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea....so I decided that I would swatch this week.
This morning I worked the two pieces in the picture above - a single hexagon and a sample of the sand stitch used in the sweater.  I went for the needle size I thought would work best with the yarn, knowing full well I'd probably have to make some pretty major adjustments to the pattern.  It was a delight to work with the colors, the yarn felt good, and I was pleased particularly with how the sand stitch worked up....but something about the process bothered me.  Once finished, I sat down at my computer to look up the yarn and the pattern on Ravelry. 
Sometimes the truth is hard to face.

The problems with the hex sweater I could face.  There were enough finished projects to show me that with some care and consideration - and a few adjustments - it would be a nice sweater on me.

The yarn though, oh goodness...my albatross.  As I browsed through pages of finished projects made from this specific yarn, I had to own up to the truth.
I hate variegated yarn.  I despise it with a passion, and I really don't want a sweater made out of it.  No matter how you knit it up, the colors in variegated yarns pool and do disgusting things.  It's amazing when still just a skein of possibility - but I've never liked what it does when it's worked up.

The worst?  There is one hex coat made of a variegated yarn in a similar weight.  The knitter was delighted with it - and for that I'm glad - but I could not in a million years imagine myself wearing something similar.

Sigh.
I don't have many yarn related regrets, but friends...this is one.

I'm going to go ahead and wash and block my swatches.  Maybe I'll change my mind.  Probably not.  I would still love to find something to do with this yarn...but I no longer believe that a sweater is going to be the answer, and I'm not sure that I want to waste any more time trying to figure it out.  My mother has offered to take some of the other variegated yarn I have for weaving purposes, and I think I'm going to let her have it.  Perhaps I'll go ahead and list this for sale on ravelry again.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do next, but I do know that this yarn just isn't working for me...and it may be time to let it go.


(This particular yarn is impossible to photograph correctly, and I am NOT someone who can manipulate photos well - mostly because the attempt to gain accuracy makes my little OCD brain go more than a bit crazy.  This is the closest I managed before I made myself stop.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Monday List

The wood violets showed up the spring after we had to cut down all of those dead trees.  I love them dearly, and am always glad to see them.
 
 
Last week was a very productive week for me, and I'm very happy about what I was able to accomplish. 
 
Curiously enough, I found myself spending the entire week at home instead of parked at my favorite table at Starbucks.  I actually drove there a couple of times...and then turned around and came home without ever going into the store.   My Starbucks has been my home away from home for years now, as I've been there almost daily since my youngest started kindergarten.  It's odd that I don't want to go now, and I've been trying to figure out what's going on.  Here's what I think it is:
  1. I'm finally comfortable working in my corner nook in the basement.  It's impossible when the kids are home, and in the winter when it's really cold...but I've finally learned to love my space and am enjoying it.
  2. Likewise, I'm getting tired of having to haul half of my office somewhere else.  I'm the queen of overpacking, but I honestly never know what I'm going to need.
  3. My Starbucks went through a redo a couple of years ago, which has seriously changed the feel of the store.  It's now mostly populated by business folk and students - lots of individuals staring at their laptops in a much more masculine environment.  The cozy, friendly vibe is pretty much gone, and I truly miss the crazy, random encounters I used to have.
  4. It's also crazy busy.  I'm happy for them, but there are days I don't want to deal with it.
  5. If I'm honest, it's become a little too much of a social gathering spot for me.  I have some really awesome friends who also come by on a regular basis.  In fact, I have many good friends I've made BECAUSE of Starbucks.  As much as I love them, though, I've found that I'm actually getting less and less done during my time there, and that's a tad frustrating.
  6. The blasted allergies again.  It is very typical for me to go through an anti-social withdrawal in the fall, which is normally the worst time of the year for me.  This spring has been truly awful, though, and I'm tired all of the time and have little energy to be around people. 
  7. I'm not crazy about the new tea line.  It's good, and I have several options, but I actually splurged and bought myself some really good looseleaf green and white teas from the Tea Market...and I'd rather drink it.
  8. Maybe it's just time for a bit of a change in the schedule, change of the habits.  I kind of hate how OCD I get about the whole thing....
None of this is to say that it's over.  I would miss dreadfully all of my friends and the lovely staff if I were to give up Starbucks for good, and I do have plans to go back this week.  It just might be time to shake things up a bit.
 
Anyway, let's move on to the list, shall we?
 
  1. The hap was finished, with plenty of time.
  2. The article is going live soon, and was a lot of fun.  I'm going to ask to see if I can also publish my environmental articles here on the blog.
  3. Journaling was spotty.  I did get some interesting dreams recorded, but that's about it
  4. I did get quite a bit of work done on the pair of socks that's been lingering for a while.  I always have a pair on the needles for just such occasions.
  5. and 6.  Didn't happen...but mostly because I was focused elsewhere. 
 
Now for this week's list:
  1. First and foremost, I am finishing up my second year as the Building Volunteer Coordinator for my elementary school.  As soon as I finish here, I'll be turning in my official report on the volunteer hours to our school district, and I need to get the list of individual volunteer names completed today....maybe tomorrow if I need to have a friend of mine double check a few things.  It's very rewarding work, and when you see the numbers it truly does remind you of how wonderful people can be.  Not going to lie, though, I hope they find someone else to do it next year.
  2. I need to do some major spring cleaning.  It's time!
  3. I need to take one of our chairs to the local furniture repair place for an estimate.
  4. And I need to take our donation pile to the Salvation Army.  (So far, there's nothing creative on the list...BUT, cleaning up my personal space will clear me up for creative work.)
  5. Do you remember a few weeks ago when I said I wanted to figure out what to do with some yarn that had been hanging around for a long while?  Well, I think my mom is going to take some of it for a weaving project, and...drumroll, please....thanks to my turtle project I figured out what I want to do with the Brooks Farm Duet.  I am VERY happy about this, and want to do some swatching this week to see if it's going to work.  Fingers crossed!
  6. I need to have a conversation with a FB friend of mine about doing a KAL to design our own lace.  She threw the idea out there when I posted about the fact that it is time I get over myself and get to it...and I think that might be exactly what I need to actually do it this time.  She had several ideas about how to go about it, so we just need to figure out what works.
  7. I really do want to do that mini sock art project.
  8. and I want to spin some this week. 
  9. Knitting is the tricky question, oddly enough.  Having finished up everything that had a deadline, and having promised to be selfish (mostly) about my knitting this year, I'm not sure in what direction I want to go next.  So maybe this week instead of listing specific projects I want to work on, I just want to give myself the freedom to figure that out and play a little. 
  10. I don't know.  Just seems like there should be 10.
 
And that's that...have a great week everyone!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Turtles

This is a slightly unusual finished project post, but that can't be helped, so here it is!
 
Several years ago, my ocean-loving friend from church showed me a picture of a newborn baby who was wearing a crocheted turtle shell with a matching hat.  She had a friend who was expecting, and thought it was the cutest thing ever.  It was adorable.  It was also the sort of fiddly thing I don't normally make...and I certainly wasn't going to make it for someone I didn't know.  (She didn't ask, and I didn't volunteer.)
 
But I remembered that turtle shell, and when my friend announced her pregnancy it was one of the first things that popped into my mind.  I knew I had to make one for her...and when she teasingly asked a few months later I went ahead and told her that was my plan so that she didn't track one down elsewhere. 
 
First things first, she sent me her inspiration pictures, and I found the item easily on Amazon.  I then did a search on Ravelry, and in fact found several patterns for sale...but all in crochet. Much as I did with the shark hat, I knew that I was not going to have to reinvent the wheel...it was just going to take a little bit of creative searching to find something close enough that I could tweak.
 
I found my close enough in Norah Gaughan's beautiful book, Knitting Nature.  She has a whole chapter on hex patterns - perfect!  I based my wee hexagons on the pattern for her hex coat, also using her snapping turtle skirt as inspiration. The hat was a simple matter of tracking down the average size of a newborn head and then making a super basic hat.  For the yarn, I picked Knit Picks Shine Worsted in mongoose and peapod- a super soft cotton, modal (a fiber made from tree bark) blend that does indeed have a shine. I used a size 5 needle for the turtle shell, and a size 6 for the matching hat. The biggest question was actually how big to make the shell..and for that I guestimated.  Hopefully it'll turn out to be just right.
 
(For the record, the original inspiration item was based on a pentagon, as are many of the patterns on Ravelry.  REAL turtle shells, though, are based on hexagons.  Seriously.  I looked up pictures online to make sure.  A friend of mine totally laughed when I was telling her about this and said, "That's the Kristin I know!"   I may be a tad OCD...but I like my knits to be as perfect as possible...up to a realistic interpretation of a turtle shell.)
 
I knit everything up yesterday.  It wasn't as fast of a knit as it could have been because of the unforgiving nature of the yarn.  I don't work with cotton often as it's pretty hard on my hands, and frequent breaks were thus required.  I'm going to admit to being very satisfied with the outcome.  It was fun to make, and it turned out beautifully.  I think my knit version looks better than most of the crocheted versions I saw...but then I'm clearly biased.  As the baby shower was today, I immediately popped it into the wash and gently blocked it to dry.  But I forgot how long it takes cotton to dry...so it was still damp when I wrapped it for the shower...and in my hurry to get out the door I totally forgot to take finished pics.  It was still damp, so the color would have been off anyway...ugh...and I didn't have time to finish the hat.
 
So in lieu of a traditional finished object post, I'm going to share with you the pictures I took while working on the shell.  They do, fortunately, include a picture of the shell placed on my youngest's teddy bear.  Clearly the bare is not the same size or shape as a newborn human baby, but you get the idea.
 
Hoping mama will snap some pics for me at some point...but as she's going to be very busy very soon, I'm not going to worry about that.
 (This is the truest color in the pics.)




Saturday, April 11, 2015

An Ocean For A Baby

 My friends, I'm very happy with this one.
 
In my ongoing quest to use what I have, I decided to make a second hap shawl out of that drawer full of Knit Picks palette - this time focusing on the leftovers from the Andean Chullos.  (You might remember, I ordered two kits when they went on sale - two kids, two kits - not thinking that one kit would have enough to make four hats at least.)  I have a friend at church who's expecting a baby at the end of the month, and she loves the ocean.  I thought the colors from these kits, as well as the wave pattern would maybe bring a little bit of the ocean to her new babe.
 
And my, oh my, I am in love.  I think it's perfect.  I hope she does, too.
 
Shetland Hap, by Sharon Miller
(This time I used the instructions for the Morag shawl as given, including the stripe pattern.)
Addi Turbo US 6, 4.0mm needles - 32 inch and 40 inch.
Knit Picks palette:
4.5 skeins white (I did have to order one extra because I didn't have enough to do the edging)
misc. scraps of cyan, delta, sky, silver and ash
March 19 - April 9, 2015
 
I think it's time to put the Hap's away for a while.  As much fun as they are, this is two in a row and I have other things to knit.
 
The funny thing is that I'm planning at least two more this year.  You see, before I made this particular hap I asked my eldest daughter if she wanted me to make it for her because the blues are her favorite colors.  She said no....being somewhat disdainful at the age of 12 of Mom's knits, so I happily knit it for the baby.  She walked into the living room shortly after I had finished blocking it, looked down, and immediately asked me if I could make her one.  Mom really does know best.  Little sister wandered in a few minutes later and wants one too.  They so rarely ask for things anymore that I'm quite happy to make that happen...just not quite yet.






Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Monday List...on a Tuesday


It's a beautiful, stormy spring day....perfect to curl up in my space with tea, books, spinning, knitting, journals...all of those wonderful things which help to make me feel centered. 

Looking at last week's list:
  1. The second hap just needs the edging, and then it will be done.  Unfortunately, I ran out of yarn and had to order more.  Ask me how annoyed I am about having to spend $12 to ship $5 worth of yarn.  Sigh.  It actually wasn't THAT bad.  I also ordered yarn to do a second special request present for this friend...but still...the shipping was a third of what I had to spend. 
  2. As you can see...mini sock done!  Decided to wait until I actually finished the pair of socks to make the second mini, which is what I usually do.  I love these wee things....
  3. hmm...
  4. uhhh...
  5. well...
  6. eek...
  7. THAT I DID!  Journaling happened, and it was very helpful. 
So for this week:
  1. As soon as that yarn arrives, the hap needs to be finished
  2. I have an article to write today for the Mission Center newsletter.  I volunteered to write regular articles on the environment and going green...which is actually a focus of our world church.  Love our world church Earth Stewardship team, but I don't think many people know about it...thus the articles!
  3. More journaling.
  4. I'm cautious about committing to much more, because there are going to be a few days of frantic knitting to finish that blanket.  The shower is, after all, on Sunday!  HOWEVER, I have a few simpler knit projects I could use to fill my time.  (Hopefully the yarn will be here tomorrow...I did second day shipping, which was the best that was available.)  Throwing out a few ideas rather than an official to do list selection: work on a pair of socks, new slippers for myself, start my husband's shark hat...
  5. I do have an "Art Project" that I really, really want to do.  Has to do with finally putting all of those mini socks on permanents display....
  6. I'm going to go ahead and add spinning something to the list.  This is usually the season where the spinning bug takes hold, so I might was well add it in!
Have a great week everyone!

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Monday List

Hershey's favorite perch.
 
Not going to lie.  This particular Monday is going to be a tough one.  After a lovely Spring Break, it's back to reality...and reality is hitting hard.
 
Ah well, routine is good, too.  Give it a few days and the girls and I will be right as rain! 
 
So now that we're back to a normal schedule, let's get back to the regular Monday List. 
 
First, a wrap up of last week's list:
  1. I did finish the center, and am starting on the stripes of the new Hap today.
  2. I did not get anything else done on my cardigan.  I'm afraid that's rather more than I had the energy for last week.
  3. I also didn't do the mini socks.  No excuse.
  4. Decisions have been made...more on that in a moment.
  5. Happy to say, I did play with the lambs
  6. and I played with them some more
  7. and I sat quietly in the barn with them.  It's good for the soul.
  8. The letters were written!
  9. I did not journal.  More on that in a minute, too.
  10. And yes, I did get started on my online class.  Yay me!
And my list for this coming week:
  1. The second Hap is going to take priority for my knitting because it's for a baby shower in a couple of weeks.  Good thing is that it's smaller than the last one I did, so it shouldn't take quite as long.  (I have no idea if mama reads my blog.  She certainly has access to it...but she's busy, and I don't know if this is her thing.  I'm not naming names, and I know multiple pregnant mamas, though.)
  2. I do want to get those mini-socks done.
  3. About that Estonian lace decision.  It occurred to me as I spent time pouring through all of my (many, many) lace books and browsing all of my favorite online sources last week that I'm just not satisfied with anything that anyone else has published right now...which means it's time I get over my fear and start designing something myself.  I have three batches of inexpensive KnitPicks laceweight right now that would be perfect for experimentation.  It's time.  Maybe if I state it publically that'll goad me into actually doing it.  I give you all permission to harass me. 
  4. Back to editing my husband's book. I didn't touch it over spring break - he's got a lot of work to catch up with what I've already done - but I'd like to get the last 10 chapters done asap so that I can move on to other things.
  5. More letters!  Last month I started writing letters for The World Needs More Love Letters, and it was an amazing experience.  I recently received the latest request for letters, and I want to get those done this week.  Seriously people, it takes no time at all...and yet it makes a difference.  I also have at least two personal letters that are a bit overdue. 
  6. Likewise, I'm also going to check out the Camila network in more depth.  Their work is near to my heart because they are addressing a major problem that I was made aware of through my last job.  I may not be able to donate money, but they do have an option to help provide emotional/moral support to the youth they work with...and I'm thinking that might be another good fit for me. 
  7. Journal, Journal, Journal.  I had a bit of an epiphany last night.  I'm avoiding it because there are a couple of topics I need to address, and I'm afraid they will swamp me if I get started with them.  Another example of needing to get over my fear/myself. 
And I think that about wraps it up for the day. 
 
Have a great week everyone!


Sunday, March 29, 2015

An Unusual Month, For the Most Part

I spent a lot of time this month working on editing my husband's book.  It's a slow process.  (one chapter averages 45 minutes, and I had 25/35 to do)  I'm a tough editor, and Sean had given me a first draft that needed a lot of attention.  As a consequence, I didn't have quite as much time and energy for my regular reading as I usually do.  I also didn't want to pull my focus away by getting into the big novels I'm drawn to right now.  I found myself instead turning towards books on my reading list that are a bit unusual for me - short stories, memoirs and essays. 

Just as a point of fact - most of these were pretty short books.  (I consider audio under 12 hours and print of under 300 pages to be short)  Thus, the larger number of completed books this month.  I also utilized the library for more than half of them, so there was some incentive for getting through them before the digital loan was up. 

In order to better talk about these books, I'm going to do something a bit different this month.  Rather than go through the books in the order I read them, I'm going to first list them in order and then group them by type for my comments. 

The books:
  1.  Almost Famous Women, (audio), Megan Mayhew Bergman
  2. The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin
  3. Trigger Warnings, Neil Gaiman
  4. Doc (audio), Mary Doria Russell
  5. It's What I Do, Lynsey Addario
  6. Bettyville, George Hodgman
  7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
  8. Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle
  9. Queen Victoria's Book of Spells, ed. by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
  10. Ex Libiris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
  11. The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit
  12. H is For Hawk, (audio), Helen MacDonald

Short Stories:

1.  Almost Famous Women, Megan Mayhew Bergman (audio) - This is a new publication that is getting a LOT of buzz right now.  B's first book was a bit of a literary sensation, and the reviews on this, her second, book are sensational.  I was really intrigued by the concept - short stories about women who are close to, but not quite famous.  Some are relatives of famous people, some almost, but not quite, got there on their own.  I was delighted when I found this book available through my library's streaming service, especially as I really do enjoy consuming short stories in audio better than print.*  I have two small quibbles about the audio for this particular book, though.  The reader's voice was almost too soothing and too sweet.  I think the stories lost a bit of punch because of that.  Also, the break between stories was very short, and at times wasn't quite obvious enough. I lost track a couple of times, and had go to the book sample I'd downloaded to check the page of contents.  As to the stories themselves...honestly, I was disappointed.  They very much were more of a 'slice of life' style of story rather than fully fleshed out stories with a beginning, middle and end.  Yes, they were beautifully written, and yes, the women were fascinating.  I just wanted more...oh so more.  It was not truly a satisfying read.

2.  Trigger Warnings, Neil Gaiman - Part of the problem with Almost Famous Women is that I was listening to it at the same time that I was starting to read my eagerly anticipated copy of Neil Gaiman's latest story collection.  No, it's not truly fair to compare two such different writers, but I did....and Berman lost by a mile.  Gaiman is able to create a beautifully complete, tightly written, fully plotted, and emotionally impactful story that leaves you haunted for days...in only a few pages. This is a gorgeous, gorgeous collection.  I have a feeling I'll be coming back to it time and time again.  (Bonus points for the introduction, which is signature Gaiman, and for the little blurbs about each book.)

3.  Queen Victoria's Book of Spells - I've actually had this for a long, long time, but had only read a few. It's edited by the magical Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, who's work I've followed and admired for years and years and years.  Those two have an amazing gift for putting together story collections, and I have many of their books on my shelves.  This particular collection is an anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy - by definition "historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century" - which is right up my alley, even if I'm not into the subgenre of steampunk.  I absolutely enjoyed this book, although I will admit that there were several stories I wound up skimming/not finishing because they just weren't my thing...that's fair in an anthology.  Of course, one of the best parts about an anthology like this is the recommended reading list in the back....my wish list runneth over!

Memoirs:

1.  It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War, Lynsey Addario - I put myself on the library wait list for this book just as soon as I heard Addario's riveting interview with Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air.  It didn't disappoint.  (And as a side note:  It was available in both digital print and audio.  You must actually read the print version because Addario includes some of her photographs, which are truly amazing.)  When I was finally able to check it out, I devoured this book in two days, staying up way too late on a school night to finish it. Not only does Addario have an amazing story to tell, but as a woman in a largely male field she's someone to look up to.  One thing I really admire is Addario's ability to find the humanity of both sides of a conflict.  Also, she may admit to fear, but she's one of the bravest women I've ever read about. 

2.  Bettyville, George Hodgman - I snagged this book from the library digital services within hours of downloading Hodgman's Fresh Air episode, based solely on the short description of that episode.  A gay man moves home to Paris, MO to take care of his ailing mother?  Gotta read that.  I know all about small town Missouri!  I did listen to his interview before reading the book, and while it did give me a few more spoilers than I would have liked, I nonetheless very much enjoyed this reading experience.  Hodgman writes with both humor and warmth, and it was a truly delightful read.  I kind of wish I knew him so that I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with him sometime. 

3.  H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald (audio) - This was one of those books that started popping up on recommendation lists all over the place, so I had to check it out.  I fell in love within minutes.  MacDonald turns out to be the sort of writer who is the perfect reader for her book, with a quiet calm voice that draws you in.  And her story...wow.  After the sudden death of her father, MacDonald, an experienced falconer, decided she wanted to train the notoriously difficult goshawk.  I knew absolutely nothing about the art of falconing, much less about goshawks, and it is always a treat to be introduced to someone else's passion in such a beautiful way.  MacDonald connects her story with that of the writer T.H. White, again introducing me to a piece of literary history I knew nothing about.  This was the most literary of the memoirs I read this month, and is the one I would like to purchase a copy of for myself.  It's another gorgeous book. 

Essays:

1.  Ex-Libris, Anne Fadiman - 18 short essays about books!  By someone who loves reading as much as I do!  Yay!  I will say, though, that Fadiman confesses in multiple essays that she's someone who loves writing in books, and is generally ok with abusing them horribly...and I cringed every single time that came up.  Sigh.  This book was almost enough to make me long for the days when I read paper books...almost. 

2.  The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit - I started this the same day that I finished Ex-Libris, and oh my goodness....it's fabulous.  Ex-Libris is totally a light-weight book in comparison.  Where it is a fun ode to the love of books, The Faraway Nearby is an exploration into the power and importance of story.  (I started reading it the same day that I saw the new live action Cinderella, driving to the theater just after reading Solnit's beautiful words about the importance of fairy tale.)  Each of the essays is connected, and there are themes and stories that run throughout the entire book.  I know I keep using the word gorgeous this month, but this truly was.  I'll be buying a copy hardcover, to sit on my shelf next to Jane Yolen's Touch Magic, and I now want to read everything else Solnit has ever written. 

Novels:

1.  The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin - Not going to lie, it took me a long while to get into this book.  Like maybe 100 pages.  Like, if it had been any other writer, and if I hadn't bought both books, I might have given up by then.  This particular fantasy world is modeled somewhat after Ancient Egypt...and that's just not my thing.  Fortunately the characters were enough to keep me going.  Jemisin is one of the best new fantasy writers I've found in a long while, and even her lesser novels are still worth more than many others. 

2.  Doc, Mary Doria Russell (audio, read by Mark Bramhall) - Silly Kristin.  Russell is one of my favorite writers.  Her book, The Sparrow, is in my top 10 all time favorites, and her WWII novel is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I've ever read.  One of the things I love about Russell is that all of her books are different.  She's someone who LOVES to switch up genres, so you never know quite what to expect...except you know it's going to be great.  Despite all of that, I hadn't read Doc because I have no interest in Westerns or in Wyatt Earp or Doc Holiday.  Silly Kristin.  Russell just published a second novel about the OK Corral, Epitaph, and when one of the hosts of BOTNS mentioned that he'd listened to Doc so that he could go back to that world before reading the newest I had a bit of a eureka moment.  To my delight my library had the audio available for immediate download.  I mention the reader's name because he was perfect.  Bramhall sounds like an easygoing old cowboy, which is just exactly what you want for this type of Western, and he does amazing voices for all of the characters.  This is a book with depth, heart and a cast of amazing experiences.  In audio it was just about the best storytelling experience I've ever had. 

3.  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See (audio) - This was on my wish list for a long while, but I had removed it at some point.  Happened to stumble across it while browsing the library's audio, and thought I would give it a try.  I very much admire See for bringing to life a culture which is very unfamiliar to me...as brutal as it can be at times.  (The foot binding parts were really, really tough to take.)  I have some minor quibbles with the pacing of the story, and I'm not sure I actually like any of the characters.  See did her job so well that the women she portrays are thoroughly of their time, and therefor beyond my ability to relate.  However, I'm very glad I listened to this book.  I think it's important to expose ourselves to other cultures!

4.  Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle - I happened to snag this one from the library right after listening to a Literary Disco episode based on it.  I had seen it on a bunch of 'best of' type lists, but hadn't really had much interest.  Now, I will say that I love Literary Disco, and I find a lot of their commentary to be pretty spot on....but I don't always actually enjoy their recommendations because my taste does not line up very well with theirs.  I'm not sorry I read this book, but I can't say that I really enjoyed it either.  It's beautifully written, the main character is compelling, and the plot is centered around the type of gaming stuff I've been around for a long while because of friends and loved ones.  At the end of the day, though, I'm glad I didn't pay for it, and I'm glad it was pretty short.