Inkspell – Cornelia Funke

Read for the 2009 YA Reading Challenge.

In Inkheart, Mo and his daughter Meggie had the ability to read characters out of books, most notably the book Inkheart. So in the first part of this trilogy, we dealt with characters from a story being brought into the real world. In Inkspell, the roles are reversed, and Meggie and Mo find themselves in the world of Inkheart. Turns out Meggie can read herself into books, and what she thought would be a quick sight-seeing tour of this land she’s heard so much about turns very serious when Mortola and Basta are read back into the story as well.

The world of this book, split between the realms of the Laughing Prince and the Adderhead, and populated with fairies and wandering minstrels and a whole host of other people is beautifully done. I also enjoyed Fenoglio’s part in the story. As the author of the book that created the world they’re in, his journey as the story falls further away from what he originally envisioned is an interesting one.

My slight quibble with the book is the characterization. I occasionally found myself not necessarily caring that much about what was going on with the main protagonists, and hoping that something would come up shortly to move the story along. I was usually rewarded shortly with a bit of action, but I definitely found this happening more than once. This is not to say that I hated the book, but I definitely liked the first one better. This one lags at times, where the first book drove quite satisfyingly through to the ending. Here’s hoping that the sequel brings back the action.


Knitting Notes

Pattern: Embossed Leave Socks from Interweave Favorite Socks
Yarn: Knit Pick’s Imagination in the Frog Prince colorway
Needles: size 2

My second pair of Embossed Leaves socks are done. I really like this pattern – it flies off the needles and looks lovely without being very difficult. (I also now understand the purpose of the seemingly crazy extra M1 stitch in the foot. I left it out by accident this time around, and there’s definitely a slight lack in pattern definition on that side of the foot. Nothing bad, but I can see it.) So these are ready to ship off to Texas, though it turns out I could have waited a week, since L’ll be out of town until next Monday, so I can’t ship them until later in the week anyway.

This means I can concentrate on my Moonflower socks. I did frog and restart them, but I’ve only got a couple of pattern repeats done. I do have all of March to finish them, but I have plans for a March Sockdown pair of socks as well, so I’d really like to get the Moonflowers done sooner rather than later. And there’s also the small matter of the two scarves and sweater I have sitting around. I definitely need to do something about my start-itis. It’s getting a little out of control.

Doctor Who-athon 2008-2009, Series 3

Just wrapped up my rewatch of Doctor Who series 3, and upon reflection, I think this may be my favorite series, on the strength of a couple of stellar episodes.

“Blink” may just be my favorite episode of new-Who. I almost hate to say that, since it barely features the Doctor or his current companion, but their use in the episode is inspired, and the absolutely creepy overtones in a story where statues come to life, but only when you’re not looking at them, is pure perfection. This episode perfectly demonstrates why I’m so excited that Steven Moffat will be taking over the Who-helm. His episodes are consistently my favorites, and I can’t wait to see the direction he’ll take the show.

I also really enjoy the “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood” two-parter. In the story, the Doctor has to hide himself away as a human, locking away his Time Lord persona even from himself. Martha’s the only one who knows what he really is, and finds it increasingly difficult to keep him safe, both from a band of alien hunters, and from falling in love. I particularly enjoy the end of this story. Watching John Smith agonize over the decision to make himself back into a person he doesn’t know, and who will probably lose everything that Smith holds dear, is one of my favorite examples of David Tennant’s acting skills. And his final punishments for the Family of Blood are chilling.

FoB also gave me what I consider the best explanation of exactly who the Doctor is: “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe. And … he’s wonderful.”

And finally, I really love the three part ending of this series. The sudden wrap up of a number of running clues from the entire season (some of which you would never have expected to be important outside of a brief appearance in another episode) was so incredibly satisfying. I loved John Simm’s performance as the Master. The ending was a little too pat for my tastes, but did make sense in the over all story. And I have to give props to Martha for managing to leave on her own terms.

On a side note, “The Last of the Time Lords” was my first introduction to how much American tv stations cut from the episodes to fit them into an hour time slot. There’s a great sequence in the beginning of TLofTL where the Master is dancing around the Valiant that does a neat wrap up of what has happened to the people trapped on board with him over the past year that was skipped between episodes, and it was completely cut from American feeds. I was terribly annoyed by this (though it seems minor now in the face of some of the things they cut from last year’s series finale), and I really hope American audiences aren’t relying on seeing the episodes on tv. The networks are fine for a quick fix, but you’re only going to get the full experience if you either surf the bit torrents or buy the DVDs.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – C S Lewis

b8a57fd27bd2d2a59777a505367434f414f4141The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was always my favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s a lovely story of a voyage into the unknown.

We begin the story with Edmund and Lucy Pevensie having been sent off to stay with relatives while their parents and sister Susan tour America, and their older brother Peter is studying for his college entrance exams. Their rather horrid cousin, Eustace Scrubb, enjoys teasing the two of them because of the stories they tell about Narnia. One day, in the middle of the teasing, the three of them are drawn into a painting of a ship, and find themselves in Narnia, on the Dawn Treader, which King Caspian has commissioned to find the seven lost lords of Narnia.

What follows are a number of distinct episodes where the ship visits various islands as they sail to the east, towards the end of the world. (The world of Narnia is flat. Caspian is rather amazed to hear that the Pevensies live on a round world, as he’s always heard stories about such places, but never believed they existed.)

The stories on the islands can be read on two levels, and the theological level was much more apparent to me this read around. The clearest example is Dragon Island, where Eustace is turned into a dragon, and only Aslan can return him to human form, by removing his dragon skin so that he can bathe in a clear well in a beautiful garden. There’s really not a clearer parallel to the journey of a unbeliever towards baptism, and indeed, Eustace is a changed boy after this encounter, no longer his whiny former self.

The stories in this book have a relaxed dreamy quality to them, and I’ll be very interested to see how they translate them to the screen in the newest movie adaptation. There’s no climatic battle, but a series of what could be seen as smaller internal battles. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what this newest movie team makes of this book.

Knitting Notes

I’ve gotten to the beginning of the heel flap on my Moonflower socks. The pattern is a very simple repeat, and quite enjoyable, and I really like the yarn. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly clear that by using size 0 needles, I’m producing a sock that won’t even fit a midget. At first, it seemed like it was just going to be a bit small, so I had the bright idea of sending them off to my friend L, who has much smaller feet than I do (and is having a rotten month, so would probably appreciate a care package). But, by the time I got to the heel flap, it became quite clear that they wouldn’t even fit her. So, these are going to be frogged (during the week, since I have to make sure I recast them on to keep in the Sockdown February rules). I think I’ll try them again with 1 1/2 needles.

I did still like the idea of sending L a care package, so I cast on some Embossed Leaves socks on my Knit Picks Imagination (Frog Prince) yarn. This pattern goes light years faster than the Moonflowers (at least partially because it’s on size 2 needles), so I’m hoping to have these as a blip in my sock production schedule and get back to the Moonflowers asap.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Koolhaas Hat (Interweave Holiday 2007)
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted in the Tuareg colorway
Needles: size 6 and 8

I’m going to nickname this one the vaguely Koolhaas hat, because the pattern just didn’t want to work for me as written. Fortunately, the texture of this yarn is really forgiving, and it seemed to work out well in the end.

I definitely enjoyed working with the Malabrigo, but I’m not sure if it’s something I’d want to work with all the time. I found myself occasionally paranoid by how soft it was. Still, it’s a really lovely blue, and I’m definitely looking forward to wearing this hat.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon

Read for the TBR Lite Challenge.

Apparently, at the tale end of WWII, there was a fleeting idea to allow Jewish refugees to settle in Alaska. It was indeed a fleeting footnote to history kind of idea, but Michael Chabon took it, ran with it, and the result is this book, an alternate history, Jewish, chess-playing, detective noir extravaganza.

I have huge respect for authors of alternate history. It amazes me when someone can take an idea so far outside of the real world, and build a story around it. It seems like it should be harder than writing a straight fantasy, because you have the weight of history to work against, and you have to reconcile the differences of your story against it.

The story begins when Meyer Landsman, a detective for the Sitka police, wakes up in the fleabag motel he’s been living at since his divorce, and finds that one of his neighbors has been shot. What happens next involves the Messiah, US/Native American and Jewish politics, and a number of interesting family interactions. It’s an interesting story, well thought out, and involved enough to pull you through to the end of the mystery (I totally did not see the identity of the murderer coming).

I suppose I came to Chabon’s work a little backwards – this is my first experience with his work, and I suppose I now need to get my hands on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay so I can see what everyone’s been raving about.

Knitting Notes

My new swift works! I spent a lovely, leisurely time winding my Three Irish Girls Carys Blue Faced Leicester yarn, which is practically lace weight it’s so skinny, and I didn’t feel the need to tear my hair out once. I’m repressing a serious urge to take all of my stashed skeined yarn and wind it right now. I’m repeatedly reminding myself it stores better in the skein…

The reason I wound the yarn is that they added Chrissy Gardiner to the designers for this month’s Sockdown. I’ve been looking for an excuse to make her Moonflower socks, which were the Sock Yarnista pattern for December, and figured I might as well use December’s yarn while I’m at it. The yarn is the Mulled Wine colorway, which is not a colorway I’d normally choose for myself, but I really like.

The challenge for this month for me will be using size 0 needles. So far so good, the yarn seems to glide pretty well over my Harmonys, so I fairly well flew through the cuff and first pattern repeat.

In other news, I need to frog the Koolhaas hat. I got way off once I got to the pattern. I think I’m just going to place a marker for each repeat. It’s going to be a little marker heavy, but the pattern is just long enough it’s a little too easy to get off in the middle of the row. I do like the Malabrigo, though.

The Birchbark House – Louise Erdrich

Read for the 2009 YA Reading Challenge.

I first heard of this book in 1999, when it came out, and was compared to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. It’s set in the same time period as those books, but takes place on the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker (Madeline Island) in Lake Superior, a traditional home of the Ojibwa (Chippewa) people. In the book, we follow a year in the life of Omakayas, or Little Frog, so named because her first step was a hop.

By following the seasons, you get a wonderful slice of what life for the Ojibwa was like in 1849, including a devastating small pox epidemic that swept the island. Erdrich paints a moving picture of both the good times and the bad times of these people (her ancestors). And even though it’s set more than a hundred-fifty years ago, there’s an immediacy to these characters (very similarly to the Little House books, which I adored as a child) that bridges that gap of time quite effectively. It’s all here, how they housed themselves, fed themselves, cared for their sick, and interacted with their spiritual world.

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a broader slice of American history. The stories of these people aren’t told as often as a they should be, and this book takes an important place besides other more famous books to help understand where we came from.

Knitting Notes

I had a bit of a knitting binge this weekend:

Pattern: Garter Yoke Baby Cardi
Yarn: Dalegarn Falk
Needles: Size 4

I finished this off on Saturday after purchasing buttons. I’d already decided to only put buttons on the yoke, rather than the entire placket, which is probably a good thing, as I wasn’t overly fond of the button selection at Joann’s. My LYS has some buttons, so I’ll definitely have to check there next time I’m in need of buttons. Or perhaps venture online.

But, back to the pattern, this is a really quick knit. I did manage to slightly fudge the bottom so that they’re a bit uneven, but but I blame that mostly on my inability to cast off loosely, not any fault of the pattern. It’s really cute, and I’d make it again.

The yarn is quite nice and makes a good sturdy fabric. My one quibble is not actually a fault of the yarn, but only an observation that the pattern example was made in a more heathered yarn, and I like that effect better. I’ll definitely keep that in mind if I make this again.

I also finally finished my mother’s ChristmasBirthday socks!

Pattern: Spring Forward socks
Yarn: Panda Cotton in the Blueberries-Grapes Colorway
Needles: Size 2

This is a great, really easy, very quickly memorizable pattern. Ideal tv watching knitting. I’d say I’d make it again, but I have so many sock patterns I’d like to try that I may not get around to it.

I really like the finished fabric of this yarn. It’s got a nice, dense, but soft, feel to it. This is a pretty big relief, as the yarn is incredibly splitty, and not always a joy to work with. I had to forgo my Harmony needles and work with something with a little less give so I wasn’t dropping stitches. (Well, except for the one Harmony I had to sub in when one needle went missing. I still haven’t found the little bugger!) I can’t say for sure I’d work with it again, but I do like the way it ends up, so I won’t say I never would.

And finally, because I am insane, and four other WIPs doesn’t seem to be enough, I cast on a Koolhaas hat in my lovely Malabrigo. I’d normally wait, but I really want a new winter hat, and therefore might actually finish this relatively quickly. We’ll see!