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. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Starting the Conversation

Dear Green Woman,

My dear, whatever shall we do with each other!

We seem to have been blessed for the first time in a very long while with the twin gifts of time and ability....not to mention the fact that due to my efforts in controlling my allergies I've been gifted with a type of mental clarity that I haven't felt in years.  (We're not kidding anyone...there's still work to be done in THAT department...but that's a story for another day.)  So now that we've had some a few weeks to adjust to the new school year schedule, we could really get some stuff done!

That is not, however, what seems to be happening.  I think at this point you and I are both feeling rather perplexed.

So here's the situation as I see it:

Things have changed this year big time.  My new running schedule takes precedence - and before you gripe about that, let's take a breath and remember that running is part of why I'm feeling so much better now.  No way am I giving that up!  The challenge is that it does take up a large portion of my morning three times/week.  By the time I get home and get cleaned up it's really too late to go to a coffee shop with any hope of getting a table.  So we stay home, and...

Crickets.

I can almost hear them as I sit in the quiet of my empty home, trying to figure out what to do.

True, as usual I'm also overwhelmed by the general household things that need to be done.  Yes, my dear, I'm referring to the things you usually lead me away from with nary a though as to how that effects the rest of my family.  In addition to the laundry and the dishes and the rest, there is also a fairly decent list of projects that I really do need to work on.  (Might I remind you, you wanted that flower bed as much as I did!)  I've always struggled with the perfectionist tendency to be overwhelmed to the point of inaction when faced with so many things to do.  I'm not proud of that...but it is part and parcel of who I am.

And it's so blasted quiet!

You can stop laughing now.

The quiet of an empty house at midday is quite different from the sort of quiet that you know I need in rather large quantities.  Its uncomfortable, and empty, and it makes me a little bit crazy.  I haven't figured out yet if this is just a matter of making my environment more suitable for our needs and comfort...or if it's triggering some uncomfortable emotional junk.  Either way, the quiet of that house can be uncomfortable.

I should point out that I AM getting things done, creatively speaking, on the days when I can start my morning at Starbucks...precious few as those have been.  I tend to come home from those mornings with a clarity of purpose that allows me to actually get some of those household things done in the time remaining before the girls come home from school.  As much as I appreciate that, I don't want to go back to that being my everyday existence.....for a lot of reasons that you already know about.

The trick, therefor, is to figure out how to work with the way things are now.

So what are we going to do?

Better yet, what do we WANT to do?

I don't have any brilliant ideas, but I did want to pose the questions so that we can start to think about them.  Perhaps we'll talk soon and see if we can figure this out!

Love,
Kristin

PS.  I was not amused when you spilled that box of beads.  That most certainly is NOT the way to get my attention with something you want to try.

PPS.  I love you anyway.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In Which I'm Easily Amused....

Forget the knitting part, I could stare at this for hours.
Or the back...it's pretty too.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Reading, Part 3 - August!

AKA, the month I decided that I WANTED to do several rereads but also NEEDED to work my way through the pile of books that I've already bought but hadn't yet touched.  Seriously...the queue in iBooks was getting out of control, and I have several preorders coming this fall!

1. Tam Lin, Pamela Dean - I have a special place in my heart for Tam Lin as it was my official gateway into the world of fantasy literature.  (Caveat, OF COURSE I grew up on Narnia, Tolkein, L'Engle, and fairy tales.  Given how much I've always loved those books, I'm not sure why I didn't travel the fantasy path earlier.  Instead, I grew up on a steady diet of classics and Victoria Holt romances, sometimes struggling to find reading material because the books at the time that were marketed  to my age group were so horrendous.)  I was a freshman in college, and was developing an interesting circle of friends that included fellow alums from Missouri Scholars Academy and the fencing club.  In some instances I can remember who recommended what.  This, sadly, is not one of those cases.  I do remember falling hopelessly in love with Tam Lin, and that love propelled me to chase down the rest of the excellent fairy tale series it belonged to.  (Also starting my love affair with the work of Terri Windling.)  In short, Tam Lin is a modern retelling of an old Scottish ballad set in a 1970's liberal arts college.  It's been years and years since I last read it, and to be honest I'd forgotten how strange the pacing is.  Lots and lots of nothing happens for a very long time, but every single detail is focused on as if it's of immense importance....which is just exactly what it feels like when you first go to college.  The end then happens with a breathless rush.  Incidentally, this is exactly how the pacing of the original Scottish ballad feels.  I'd forgotten how many similarities I felt between myself and the book - English, classics, fencing, the focus on my campus, the importance of all of that reading.  True, I rolled my eyes a bit over the crazy details.  I think perhaps if I hadn't read Tam Lin during college I might not have enjoyed it quite so much.  Timing, sometimes, is everything.  It was a delight to reread!

2.  The Quick, Lauren Owen - This was a BOTNS recommendation, and the thing that made me perk up my ears when it was first mentioned a month or so ago was the fact that Kate Atkinson loved it.  (Recommendations by authors sometimes go a very long way with me...but only of a few select writers.)  Darn it, I loved it....but I soooo wish I'd read it in October, when I start to yearn for stories about monsters.  I'm not sure I want to say too much about it, because I don't want to give away any details in case you'd like to read it.  For sure, this is a book for you if you like Victorian Gothic and/or more classical style horror novels.  As a special bonus, it had one of the most satisfying endings I've read in a really, really long time in this genre.

3.  The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman - Oh my, the first of those preorders came through!  Going to admit, I wasn't too excited about reading this final entry in Grossman's Magician's trilogy because the second book wasn't so much fun for me.  (To be completely honest, the teen antics in the first left me a bit cold, too...I was so NOT that kind of teen.)   Buuuuutttt....yeah, I had to finish the series.  I'm so, so glad I chose to read the final installment, because it was amazing.  In fact, it was probably the best of the three books.  The really awesome thing is that Grossman allowed his characters to truly gain maturity throughout the series, while staying true to his irreverent tone.  In fact, I kind of wish that I had waited until they were all published so that I could read them back to back as it truly would have felt like one big book.  It's a pretty incredible thing to wind up a series in such a satisfactory manner, having seen the writer improve throughout.  Now...I need to reread my Narnia books....

4.  Enchantment, Orson Scott Card (audio) - I honestly don't remember the when I first read this book. I'm guessing it was in the few years prior to my marriage.  I remembered the details only faintly....Russian folklore, a woman lying on a bier in the woods...ah yes, I didn't remember much, but I remembered it was lovely.  When I found it on hoopla, I immediately borrowed it and began reading it even though it wasn't on my list of rereads I'd planned for the month..  (To my delight, it uses both male and female readers, and they are among my favorite Blackstone readers.)  Truth - Card is a little bit problematic because of his personal politics/beliefs, and on rereading I can see how some of that crept into the book, particularly in gender roles.  Having said that, I still really enjoy this book even if it's not quite as perfect as I remember it.  For me, one of the biggest delights is Baba Yaga (and if I remember correctly, this book was my very first introductions to her), who is delightfully wicked.  Plus, Card's take on her house with chicken legs is hysterical!

5.  The Uninvited Guests, Sadie Jones - I can't remember where I first heard about this book, but it does have rather stellar reviews all over the place.  It took me forever to get into it...not going to lie....but wow, the payoff for sticking with it was huge!  It's kind of an old-fashioned, gentle ghost story on top of book of manners.  As I look back, the thing that really sticks out is how funny the book was in places.  I'm going to have to ponder this book for a while..it's the sort that sticks with you, with more and more details emerging the longer you think about it.

6.  Her Fearful Symmetry, Audry Niffenegger - I loved the Time Traveler's Wife, and because of that this book has been on my wish list for a long while.  Sadly, I was disappointed.  Oh, I loved the characters....most especially some of the lesser characters like Martin.  (What would I give for an entire book about Martin?!)  I hated the plot, though.  Ultimately, the book left me feeling cold.  You know...I do like books about unlikeable protagonists, but the writer has to make me care about them in some way.  The younger twins I just couldn't connect with.  The older twins...well, Niffenegger managed to pull off the trick of having me love them in the beginning and despise them by the end.

7.  Tea With A Black Dragon, R.A. MacAvoy- This was recommended to me quite some time ago by my fairy godmother, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm only just getting to it!  First off, I'm wondering if the print version is easier to read.  There were some editing issues which I am guessing were caused when the book was transferred to a digital format.  Most noticeably, there were odd transitions between paragraphs where there should be a break in the page.  I got lost a few times in trying to figure out what was going on until I figured out this would be an ongoing problem, and I will admit that it dropped my enjoyment of this book down a few notches.

8. The Sword-Edged Blonde, Alex Bledsoe (audio) - I admit to being curious about Bledsoe.  I absolutely adore his Tufa books, which are some of the best modern fairy tales I've found in a long while, so I thought it would be worthwhile to try one of his other books.  At less than 10 hours, this is a quick audio book...and it was so much fun.  Bledsoe's Lacross books are a mash up between fantasy and the hard-boiled detective novel.  It's a curious combination that sounds like it shouldn't work...but in this case it really does.  Of course, another awesome narrator really added to the experience.  (I actually had to double check because I thought at first it was James Naughton, one of my favorite Broadway actors.)  There are more books in this series, and I believe I'm going to use them as some lighthearted quick reads between weightier tomes.

9. The Call, Yannick Murphy - Pretty cool to fall in love with a book/character on the very first page. Given the slow warm up I felt for so many other new books this month, that was big for me.  Of course, it helps that my dad is a veterinarian, and that I spent my childhood going on call with him, so  it all felt very, very familiar.  The book is written as though it's our narrator's notes for his veterinary practice...with lots of other comments added in.  It could have been an annoying format, but instead it was utterly charming.  This is absolutely going on my list of top 10 books for this year!

10.  The Poppet and the Lune, Madeline Claire Franklin - I have very few FB friends who I don't know in person.  The few I have come from very trusted sources, and are a delight to me.  One of my friends designs covers for indie publishers, and as she has tastes similar to mine I tend to rush to any recommendations she gives me.  A few days ago I accepted the FB challenge of listing 10 books that were important to me, and she suggested this book based on that list.  She said "the Poppet is probably one of the most exquisite faerie tales I've ever read."  I immediately downloaded it, and could not agree more.  It is a lovely, lovely book...and this is exactly the sort of thing I love most to read.  Now...I'm not entirely finished with it right now, but as I'm planning on burying my nose in it this afternoon I'm including it in August anyway.

Special Project:  The Call of Chaos, by Sean Frazier - Yep, my husband has written a book, and so a lot of my reading time this month was devoted to a read through (with editing/notes...making it a slow process for me) of his work.  I'm very proud of my husband for returning to his writing in the last year as it's a passion of his that he put on hold while our children were young.  He's much happier now that he's back to a regular writing schedule, and I'm absolutely delighted to be witness to his creative process.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hello...and Good Bye.


I really, really needed to see something through from start to finish as quickly as possible.  I also really need to work through the stash. Happily, those two needs were satisfied by this wee shawl, which I shall formally present as soon as it's been blocked. 
Alas, it's time to say good bye to two much-loved pair of socks. They are beyond repair, and in any case have served me well for the last 10 years or so. (Yep, my opal socks last - with heavy use - for 8-10 years, making them well worth the investment!). It's a bit sad to lose them, especially the pair on the left which was the first pair I made for myself.   It's a good thing I have a drawer full of other hand knit socks to comfort myself!