Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What I Read In May

The library parade continues!  Only three of these were actually mine.....

And I'm going to confess - there might have been more books, but I got caught up in rewatching all of the old episodes of Call the Midwife.  Ahem.  Motto for the summer:  more books, less streaming tv.

1. Glamour In The Glass, 2. Without a Summer, 3. Valour and Vanity, 4. Of Noble Family - Mary Robinette Kowal  - I snagged these from the library as soon as they showed up in the digital catalog of ebooks and audiobooks.  They've sort of been on my reading list for years.  I say 'sort of' because I've taken them off and added them again a few times.  Why?  I read the first book in this series several years ago, and although I did enjoy the Regency/Austinesque take on magic it paled in comparison with another book a read at the same time.  (Ironskin by Tina Connolly...a steampunk take on Jane Eyre, which was the first book of a trilogy that I adore.)  I was curious about the rest of Kowal's series because they kept showing up on recommendation lists...but I was so NOT going to pay for any of them because I didn't think I'd enjoy them much.  In fact, I kind of, sort of dreaded reading them.  Well.  That was stupid of me.  As it would turn out, I burned through these books in about a week, and I enjoyed every single minute of them.  No, they aren't the deepest books in the world, and sometimes I had to roll my eyes a bit about the characterization or the plot, but they were a lot of fun to read and are based on the type of romantic relationship that clearly I'm a sucker for. Also - plucky female leads...I'm a sucker for that, too.   I'll be buying them at some point, because I can imagine rereading them down the road whenever I need a brief, fun escape.

5. The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah (audio) - My BRF (Best Running Friend) recommended this book to me, and so I read it despite my usual distrust of popular books.  I was relieved when it turned out to actually be a good book.  I do rather enjoy WWII books - for their ability to educate and help us to remember as well as for the emotional depths they usually bring me to.  The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters - women who are very different and who's paths take radically different turns.  While I can't honestly say this was the best WWII book I've ever read (A Thread of Grace, Mary Doria Russell or All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr...if you are curious.), it was certainly in my top 10.

6.  Anna and the Swallow Man,  Gavriel Saint - This middle reader book was published fairly recently, and pretty immediately got a lot of buzz.  It's also a WWII book, written from the perspective of a little girl who's father disapears in the Polish expulsion of intellectuals.  I was not able to become as emotionally invested in this book as I had expected to, but I did love the language and the ideas presented.  It gave me a lot to think about, and for that I am grateful.

7.  Murder at Mansfield, Lynn Shepherd (unfinished) - I'm kind of surprised that I couldn't get through this book.  I've truly enjoyed Sheperd's other books, which are murder mystery riffs on some of my favorite Victorian books, staring and centered around a character named Charles Maddox.  I knew this book was a take on Jane Austin's Mansfield Park, but I didn't realize it also included Maddox.  The difference, though, is that this book is more firmly based on the source material, with Maddox coming in as more of a side note.  Perhaps it's because I don't know Mansfield Park as well as the other Austin books?  (True, it's not my favorite and I've only read it once.)  And so couldn't connect?  Not sure.  May try again another time.

8.   Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert (audio) - I wasn't going to read it.  I'd listened to a few episodes of the podcast Gilbert put out to support the book release, and I kind of couldn't stand her.  (I've also never read Eat, Pray, Love...and must admit I view it somewhat suspiciously in light of it's intense popularity.)  However, a good friend of mine read it, and I decided to give it a try.  After all, the audio was only 4 hours!  Well, to my surprise this book carried a message I really needed to hear right now as I contemplate my future.  

9. Silver on the Road, Laura Anne Gilman - Yay!  My book selecting knack is completely intact and still awesome!  This book showed up on the ibooks sale page, and I admit I was initially drawn in to read the description because of the cover art.  (It's an artist who's done covers for Charles De Lint and Lynn Flewelling...and this is not the first time I've discovered a new writer by being attracted by that artist!)  I didn't buy it, and I didn't buy it, and I didn't buy it....and then I kicked myself when it disapeared from the sale page.  When it showed up again, well you can guess!  Half way through I preordered the sequel, which is due out this fall.  I love Isobel, who is another version of the tough female lead.  I love the thoughtful pace, which can be slow but which allows for some gorgeous language.  I also love this magical take on a Western, and found Gilman's world to be unique to anything I'd read before.  This was most definitely a good pick!

10.  Find a Way, Diana Nyad (audio) - I needed more audiobooks, and Nyad's book came highly recommended by one of the running magazines I follow on FB, so I decided to give it a try.  To my delight, it was amazing!  Nyad is a fantastic story teller (and she read her own book, which added considerably to the narrative), and her life story is much bigger than I expected.  The description of her various attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida did get a tad repetitive, but I completely understand why she included them as she did.  Her messages of never giving up and holding your relationships as a priority are spot on, and her powerful story of being an abuse survivor is one that people need to hear.  I hope this book gets a wide audience, I really do.  (Also...I hate swimming, and I think she's a tad nuts...especially given the jellyfish thing.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sunny Days

My girls have been avoiding handknits for a couple of years now, so when my youngest asked me to start making socks 
for her again I jumped at the chance!

Of course, she picked the BRIGHTEST yarn I had in my stash.

Ahem...I kind of screwed up when I finished.  Instead of taking pictures immediately, I gave them to Tanith, who promptly put them on and wore them for the next month and a half.

Soooo...they aren't so bright anymore, but I have a super happy kid!

Basic Socks, Ann Budd
Black Bunny Fibers BFL Sock
Knit Picks Harmony DPN's - US 1. 2.25mm
January 27 - April 11, 2016
68 stitches - 56 rows 2x2 leg, 54 rows foot

Monday, May 16, 2016

This is What Love Looks Like

In case you were curious, there is ONE project I really and truly despise knitting.  Multiple strands of yarn, gigantic needles, and a fussy pattern make for a not so happy knitter.

But when you favorite, and truly wonderful, brother sends you this text:
You suck it up and knit that project because you love your baby brother more than anything.

No, I didn't get a finished project picture...I don't actually have a washer that I can felt in, so I sent them to my mother and she did that part!

Felted Clogs by Bev Galeskas
Addi Turbo 24 inch US 13 needles
Yarn from our own sheep - Belle Ridge Farm's Willow and her daughters
(There is a large amount of kemp in this genetic line...so the yarn is great for slippers and rugs and such, but not so much for anything else.  Mom and Dad are working to better their wool, but they hold on to these sheep because Willow is one of the founding members of their flock.)
May 1-9, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sweetness and Light

I needed a wee project.  

Stuck on another shawl with a problematic edging, wanting to start another Shetland piece but not having made decisions about it yet, and just flat out not wanting to knit anything other than lace....I needed something to fill my hands and my mind while I thought for a bit.

I know I'd seen this pattern before, but it had never called to me.

I stumbled on it again after finding the designer's blog during my search for more information on the Outlander shawl, which she was in process of developing a pattern for.  I became curious about her other designs, and fell head over heals for this piece.

I needed a wee project....

....but I didn't really want to spend any money on it.

Fortunately, I had a half skein of silk laceweight leftover from anther project....and just the right beads, also leftover from something else.

I've often thought it was a pity that silk doesn't translate through the screen so well.  I wish you could see how it shines...how crisp it is...how it holds it shape...how it drapes more beautifully than anything else.  I wish you could feel how delightfully soft and warm it is.  

Silk is truly something I love.

I wish the beads showed up a bit better in the pictures.  They are meant to resemble dew drops, though, catching the light subtly without distracting from the lace pattern itself.  In person they do just that.

Across the Beach
by Monique Boonstra
Claudia Hand Painted Silk Lace in Sunrise - approximately 1/2 skein....500 yards or so
24 inch Addi Turbo US 3 - 3.25 mm needle
size 8/0 gold lined beads
April 14 - May 8, 2016

In truth, this was a bit of a bear to knit.  There are some issues with the pattern - it's not as intuitive as lace patterns usually are, the charts are laid out in such a way that you have to flip back and forth quite a bit, and the designer doesn't use standard symbols.  Fortunately, there is very helpful information available on ravelry from other knitters who've worked with this pattern.

It was totally worth it.

The end result is light, and sweet...feminine without being too girlish  or too much.

I'm looking forward to wearing this one.