Monday, October 30, 2017

September AND October Book Reports

September

1.  The Brightest Fell, Seanan McGuire - I really, really, really hope that McGuire will be able to maintain the quality in her October Daye novels for the long haul.  So far, so good.  In fact, this is one of the best long-running series I've ever found!  This is her newest, and I'm delighted to report that 11 books in she's still got it!  The Toby Daye books are pretty much everything I want in a fantasy series....fantastic characters who actually grow and change throughout the series, a beautifully built world, enough new each book that you don't get bored, magic, romance, fairies...yep, I love these books! So much so that I've started to purchase all of them, and may do a reread sooner rather than later!

2.  The Wind In His Heart, Charles De Lint - What can I say?  De Lint remains one of my favorite authors for good reason.  He's been away from adult fiction for a little while, and my oh my...when he returned he came back big.  I devoured this book in about 24 hours...and am going to get ahold of the audio for a reread this winter because I want to experience it again.  So much to love.  De Lint's true gift is that he writes with an intimacy that makes the reader feel that they are a part of the book....it gets into your heart and soul, and carries you along.  His usual themes of healing, redemption, art, community, love, friendship...they are all there.  Nods to fan-favorite characters are a welcome treat, and help ground the book in the world that he's built over time.  So grateful for his writing.

3.  The Girl With All the Gifts, H.R. Carey - Oh wow.  I picked this book up on the virtual sale table after stumbling across the hardback in the bookstore a few months ago.  I was impressed with the blurbs on the cover, but had little to no idea what the book was about.  I don't really want to spoil it for anyone, but I will say that it's the best book in a somewhat tired genre that I've read in ages and ages.  In fact, I had thought for a long while that the genre could use temporary retirement because it's so overdone....and then along comes this book.  It's a fresh, unique take...and I loved every minute of it!

4.  Dead Spots, 5. Trail of Dead, 6. Hunter's Trail (unfinished), Melissa F. Olsen - I really, really wanted to like these books, and am super dissapointed with my experience of them.  I discovered Olsen through a review of her most recent book in this, her Scarlet Bernard, series.  The review was glowing - and it was done Charles De Lint, who's never steered me wrong before.  In many ways, though, these books are Laurel K. Hamilton light (the market has been flooded with such books for years), tough and hot young woman in a world filled with vampires, werewolves, etc....solving crime, futzing over her love life.  I'll give Olsen credit for a twist on the subgenre that was actually pretty cool, but it wasn't enough to elevate the books beyond the rest of the crowd.  Even with that, I might have kept going...if it weren't for something I noticed (probably because I read them back to back).  Olsen has a really bad habit of unnecessarily using weight to describe characters, and she has at least one derogatory stock phrase that she used repeatedly.  In fact, I stopped reading the third book when I stumbled on that phrase for the fourth or fifth time in the series.  To give her the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure she was just trying to populate her world with something other than the standard 'everyone is gorgeous' that you typically get in this type of book.  Unfortunately, the way that it was done displayed both lazy writing and a bias that was uncomfortable for this particular reader.

October:

A note:  typically I do scary books in October.  It's a tradition that I've done for 4 or 5 years now - one that I enjoy very much.  I found that this year, though, the world itself is scary enough, so I turned to fairy tales...including four rereads that are all great favorites of mine. It was comfort reading, and it was perfect 

1. An Unkindness of Magicians, Kat Howard - Kat Howard is one of my favorite discoveries of the last few years.  This is only her second book, and based on her writing so far she has an amazing career ahead of her.  Her two books are quite different in tone, plot, and characterization...and yet they are connected by the simple fact that Howard is a brilliant writer with beautiful prose.  I don't want to spoil it.  It's just that good...and you should all read it. 

2.  The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman - iBooks has been recommending this series to me for quite some time, and I finally decided to take them up on it!  (The first book was on sale....it's a good incentive for me.)  No, it wasn't a perfect book by any means....but it was fun and original and I loved the world that Cogman built.  Can't wait to read the next couple of books!

3.  Uprooted, Naomi Novic (audio, reread) - Love, love, love this amazing book.  It's a must read for anyone who loves fairy tales/fantasy/magic.

4.  The Replacement, Brenna Yavanoff (reread) - It's a changeling story, and ultimately is a book about love...and I adore it.  No, it's not the most perfectly writen book out there, but it makes me cry every time.

5.  Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Caitlin Doughty - I've heard a couple of interviews with Doughty, and was intrigured.  This is her first book, a memoir of her early days in the mortuary buisiness.  It's not for the faint of heart or the squeamish, but if you can handle her description of what happens to our bodies when we die you will find that it is a book full of compassion.  It will also really make you think about why we do things the way we do.

6.  The Bear and the Nightengale, Katherine Arden (audio, reread) - I didn't realize this was the first in a trilogy.  I discovered as I was getting ready to listen to it that the second is coming out soon, so it's been preordered. This was my first time listening to it, which always adds to the experience...particualrly with an amazing reader.  Love this one too!

7.  The Boy on the Bridge, M.R. Carey (unfinished) - It's the sequel/prequel to The Girl With All the Gifts, and although I wanted to enjoy it given how much I enjoyed that book, I found I just wasn't in the right space to read it...and I just didn't care.  The first book may have been too perfect alone.

8.  The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black (reread) - I'd almost forgotten that so much happens in this lovely fairy tale! Perhaps part of why I love it so is because of the changling story within...just one component, but one that's beautiful. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Inside Columbia Magazine



On April 20th of 2008, I squashed the fear bug and turned to my computer to start a blog.  Green Woman Comes Knocking - named from a piece that I wrote decades ago - became an outlet for me to share my creative endeavors with the world.  The blog has gone through changes over the years, but at it's heart it's always been a place for me to talk about my knitting and spinning.  I take great pride in being, "the one who makes all the beautiful things," as one of Mom's friends recently dubbed me.  

This is what I do.  It's who I am.

My dear friend Carrie Koepke has been writing for Inside Columbia, a local magazine, for several years now.  Earlier this year she asked me if I would like to be a part of an article she wanted to write about all of the amazing things you can do with wool.  Quite naturally, I said yes.  (The fact that she wanted to feature my Princess Shawl had a lot to do with that - but truthfully I would do just about anything for Carrie.) The interview and photo shoot were a lot of fun, and I really loved learning about the needle felting art of Carrie's friend Kate McKenzie, which would also be featured.  

The article was published in the October issue, which was released this afternoon.  As I've been looking forward to this for months, I made a special trip into town today to pick up a copy.  It was everthing that I had hoped it would be - beautiful pictures, a warm and sweet story that pays tribute to all that I love about the fiber arts world and the type of people you find in it. 

....and then I realized that Carrie had shared my blog address at the end of the article.

In hindsight, I'm laughing at myself for being so surprised by that little detail.  Silly me, it's a completely natural thing to include!

Which is why I'm here this afternoon, to welcome anyone who read the article and decided to check out my blog.  

Welcome, and Thank You so very much for visiting!

If you are new to my blog, there are a few things you should know:
  1. The blog has been through many changes over the years, so if you look through the archives you will find all sorts of experiments.  In addition to posts about crafting, you will also find posts about my family, monthly book reports, stories about my parents' flock of sheep, personal essays about running and my allergies, and crazy lists that used to make my readers fear for my sanity.  It's been fun!
  2. Seven months ago I went back to work after 14 years of being a stay at home mom.  Unfortunately, I've had little time to knit since then - and even less time to blog, which is why it's been very slow this year.  I haven't at all given up on my blog, and am working really hard to figure out how to once again find time for the things I love. 
  3. I miss writing!  I've many ideas rolling around in my noggin, and this just may be the kick in the pants I need to get started again.  Please check back to see what happens next!

If you are an old friend, thank you so much for all of your support over the years.  You've no idea how much I appreciate all of the kind words when I've shared my thoughts or my work with you.  You've been a joy, and I hope we can continue on together!


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Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Mixed Bookshelf

1.  The Waking Land, Callie Bates (audio) - I listened to 3/4 of it and didn't finish.  While it sounded like just my type of book, I was struck by a.  how much I wanted to slap our protagonist throughout the entire first half of the novel for being an idiot; b. the flat, flat characters; and c. the heavily borrowed - and not in a good or inovated way - mythology.  Oh, and did I mention love stories that made no sense whatsoever?  No.  Just no.  The fact that this was only the first book of a trilogy doesn't bode well...

2.  The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, Theodora Goss - Now this is more like it!  Goss tapped into all of my favorite classic horror novels in the best way possible, borrowing characters from classic works but truly inovating in her plot and character development. This is how you add to the cannon!  I love, love, love the fact that Goss asked herself why all of the female 'monsters' were disposed of in the classics and then came up with a brilliant story about them.  I sincerely hope she writes more about them!

3.  The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee - This was one of my holiday splurge books, and it just seemed like the time to read it.  It's an amazing, delicious historical novel, full of larger than life characters and more drama than one life could possibly hold.  So much fun!  And a perfect end that didn't cheat around the actual plot.

4.  The Lady Astronaut of Mars, Mary Robinette Kowal (short story) - It's a love story, a beautiful love story that addresses aging and loss.  It may be my favorite work from Kowal.  Sweet...gorgeous...satisfying.

5.  For the Love, Jen Hatmaker (audio) - Hatmaker has been on my radar for a while as part of the group of Christian women writers who are taking the world head-on.  While there wasn't anything new in here, there were some messages I needed to hear right now.  I was charmed by Hatmaker's style - part loving sermon, part memoir, part comedy, part recipes - even as it occasionally drove me crazy because I wanted more substance at times.

6.  Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay (audio) - I wanted to like it, but ultimately it bored me.  I do like Gay's writing, and perhaps the problem is that I agree with her and didn't need to listen to a book reflect back my own outrage.  (which is what was happening)  I may try to read it later, but life is short and there are a lot of books out there.

7. The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor Lavelle - I'd bought this novella some time ago on the sale table, but it wasn't until I read Lavelle's brilliant book The Changeling that I felt drawn to actually read it.  He's definitly a new favorite of mine, and I can't wait to see what he does next.  (even while I'm not really a Lovecraft fan, and this is a Lovecraft homage.)

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Very Good Month of Books Indeed

1.  The Girl From Everywhere, Heidi Heilig - I discovered this book through NPR's 2016 book concierge, one of several I put on my wish list.  Oh my.  It's a true delight!  Truly unique idea, fantastic characters that really drew me in, excellent pacing, and thought-provoking concepts.  Mostly, though, it's just a really good story.

2.  The Ship Beyond Time, Heidi Heilig - So of course, I had to read the follow-up.  It wasn't quite as magical, but I loved it as well.  I love that Heilig used her books to ask really big questions, and I love the way she navigated those questions.  In retrospect, this could have been one of those books with the 'twist' ending that I hate (ahem, remember how ticked off I was with the Queen of the Tearling books?), but Heilig didn't go there at all, instead crafting an ending that was deeply, deeply satisfying.

3.  The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova - Oh.  My.  Lord.  I can't believe I forced myself through this awful book.  I LOVED Kostova's first book, The Historian.  Perhaps I should have paid better attention when the reviews said her second book wasn't good.  The third....well, it's ridiculous that I pushed myself to read this all the way through.  If the book were 1/3 of what it is then perhaps it would have been good.  The central story that Kostova is trying to tell could be an important one.  Unfortunately, she muddied it with a worthless framing device, pointless digressions, and writing techniques that tried to be fancier than was warranted.

4.  Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (audio) - It's been less than a year since I discovered this book, so to return with a reread so soon is unusual for me...but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to discover what the audio added to the story.

5.  Hunger, Roxane Gay (audio, read by the author) - As someone with a complicated relationship with my own body and with food, I related to this book in a way that some may consider surprising even though the details of my life and Gay's are not at all similar.  It's an important book, and I highly recommend it.  We don't talk honestly enough about our bodies, and this is an important first step.

6.  March, Geraldine Brooks - I think Louisa May Alcott would have approved of this beautiful novel that tells the story of what happened to the father of her "Little Women" while he was off at war.  It's a beautiful book - well-deserving of the accolades it received.  I've often been critical of writers who seek to capitalize on the classics, but this is one of the few cases where I've truly seen it done right.  Bravo, Ms. Brooks.

7.  Magic For Nothing, Seanan McGuire - Truth time, I was getting a bit tired of the Incryptid series, and the our youngest sibling just didn't capture my attention like her big sister and brother did. My one big problem with the entire series is that it takes too long to really get into the books.  In this case, I was 100 pages in before it captured my attention.  The entire first act was m'eh.  Oh well.  Still planning on reading the next one!

8.  The Changeling, Victor Lavelle - Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It was a perfect modern-day fairy tale, and I loved every minute.  Hands down, one of the best books I've read this year so far.  I've read one other Lavelle book, and knew I liked his writing style, but I honestly wasn't expecting a straight-up urban fairy tale.  Now I feel like I need to go read everything else he's ever done!

9. Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck - In doing a bit of research for my current job, I discovered a phenomenal website (Storytelling Nonprofit) run by a brilliant writer who recommended this book in one of her posts.  I was intrigued as it seemed to fit a particular need I have had for quite some time.  Haven't finished it yet because I'm working through the exercises, and it's just going to take time.  Truthfully, there's nothing in here that's new or surprising - it's a variation on a common theme with these sorts of books - but it is speaking my language, so I'm enjoying it.

10. Buried Heart, Kate Elliot - The final in the Fives trilogy.  Oddly enough, I had trouble getting into it.  The pacing felt different from the others, with the beginning being an extension of the end of the second book in a way that was a bit jarring to start with.  Overall, I'm satisfied with the series and I very much appreciated the way that Elliot finished it up, even though I felt it petered out a bit in the third book as if she'd lost a little bit of steam, and/or didn't have quite enough material to actually fill a third book.  That makes it sound worse than it was....I"m only a little bit disappointed that it wasn't as great as the first two.  Elliot will always be one of my favorites.

Giving Up On 'Em (for now):

11. The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber - I wanted to like it, but ultimately it committed the crime of failing to make me actually care about any of the characters.  Life is just too short.

12. Mile Markers, Kristin Armstrong - Too precious, not enough insight, too suburban mommy blogger, nothing unique....too something, not enough substance.

13. One Square Inch of Silence, Gordon Hempton - I loved the interview that drew me to this book, but I just couldn't connect for whatever reason.  I suspect it's timing and it may go better at another time.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Reading Once Again

Apparently, all I needed to do to kick my reading into overdrive again was to declare that I had let go of my expectations for myself.

That, and I started focusing on finding good audio and tumbled into a series I enjoyed mightely....

1. Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell - Um...I'm not sure why I hadn't already read this, and am rather embarrassed about that oversite.  I finally did because it turned up on the itunes sale page, and I decided to snag it and give it a go.  So.  Much.  Fun.  And so much that was relatable for me.  Now I need to reread Carry On.  

2. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Sugestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (audio) - It's a brief book, but it's important.  I'll be buying copies for my daughters.   For all that I have made some very 'traditional' choices for myself, I'm a raging feminist at heart and I want my girls to have better.

3.  The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison, Mikita Brottman (audio) - Very interesting.  This is the author's memoir of her time running a book club in a men's prison, and I was captivated by both the books she taught and by the characters she  met.  It was fascinating, and humanizing.

4.  Word By Word, Kory Stamper - I heard an interview with Stamper on NPR, and immediatly put the book on hold.  Stamper is a lexicographer with Merriam-Webster, and this delightful book is both a memoir/slice of life and a book about words.  Now I think I know what I want to be when I grow up....or when I snap and finally become a hermit.

5.  Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire (novella) - This lovely little book is a Wayward Children book, following McGuire's brilliant Every Heart a Doorway.  It tells the backstory of Jack and Jill, and it will utterly and completely break your heart.  The Wayward Children books are very different than McGuire's other works, with beautiful language and a fairytale atmosphere that are a delight.  These are the McGuire books that really get into your heart and soul.

6.  Discount Armageddon, 7.  Midnight Blue-Light Special, 8. Half-Off Ragnarok, 9.  Pocket Apocalypse, 10.  Chaos Choreography, Seanan McGuire - Having read the novella, I decided to finally try McGuire's InCryptid series.  Truth be told, it was a huge shock switching from the Wayward Children novella (MCGuire's best writing is clearly in this series) to the InCryptid books, which are little more than popcorn fluff novels.  (This series is nowhere near as good as the October Daye books either.)  But, they were fun and unusual enough that I enjoyed them.  Every once in a while I had to work to keep reading (slow getting started in a couple of the books), but for the most part they kept me turning the 'page.'  I do enjoy that the series is about an entire family, as the change in characters between books kept it from becoming boring.  I am dissapointed with how flat the characters are...but then in this type of book that's almost to be expected.

11.  Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami (audio) - My first Murakami novel, and I'm in love.  It was lyrical with a slight tilt into the fantastic....and I enjoyed every minute.  (Bonus, multiple readers who were all amazing.)  I'm not at all sure I actually understood the whole thing.  Curiously enough, that's fine with me.




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

YAK!

 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 pattern....so 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