Month: April 2009
Pattern: Waving Lace Socks by Evelyn A. Clark from Favorite Socks
Yarn: Knitpicks Risata in the Woodland Sage colorway
Needles: 1 1/2 DPNs
My Waving Lace socks are done, pretty much just under the wire for March’s Sockdown challenge. This was a fairly easy pattern, and actually a pretty quick knit, when I was working on it.
The Risata yarn is interesting. I really want to feel what it’s going to feel like after I wash it once. It definitely has potential, but I’ll need a wash to gauge the cottoniness of it. I do think the stitch definition isn’t as good as a full wool yarn, but it’s not bad. I do definitely love the color, and it does seem a little lighter weight than a full wool, so like I said, it definitely has potential.
The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
Read for the Vampire Reading Challenge.
The Historian begins in Amsterdam in 1972 when a teenage girl discovers a mysterious book in her father’s library. The entire contents of the book are a woodcut dragon and the word Drakulya. From here, the story weaves backward and forward in time, as the girl’s father reluctantly relates the story of how he came into possession of the book, and how it ultimately ties back to the legend of Dracula.
This is ultimately a family story, but it’s also a story rich in history, from the time of Dracula, when Prince Vlad III fought the Ottoman Empire, to the days when Eastern Europe was still a part of the Soviet bloc, to the present.
I really enjoyed this book. I also had to put it aside a few times when I was home alone, reading it late at night, and couldn’t deal with the sinister overtones of what might happen next. This isn’t in any way a scary book, but it’s wonderfully creepy, and the creepiness is perfectly done. Dracula is not a large figure in the direct action of this book, but his presence is always lurking in the background.
As I mentioned, this is really a family story. The unnamed protagonist, her father Paul, and her mother Helen, are beautifully drawn characters, and there is an entire cast of supporting players, running the gamut from the Turkish Shakespearean scholar with a surprising depth of knowledge of the time of Vlad III, to a Scottish-Gypsy archaeologist that Paul’s mentor meets in Romania. Everyone is drawn with great detail, even if they only play a small part in the story.
The main quibble people seem to have with this book is the pacing, which at times is not necessarily helped by the author’s attention to historical detail. I never felt that personally, but I’m also a closet history freak, and found the level of detail fascinating. This is not the book to read if you’re looking for a blood and guts vampire tale, but if you’re in the mood to think, and maybe even learn a little bit, this book is well worth the read.
Pattern: Undulating Waves Scarf by Heather Nelkin
Yarn: Schaefer Heather in the Eleanor Roosevelt colorway
Needles: size 6
I’d had grander knitting plans for this weekend, but the throat plague of doom put the kibosh on most of that. I did however, finish the Undulating Waves scarf I started back in January for the class I took at Knit Wit. I ended up really enjoying this pattern. I was initially a little leery of the beading, but that turned out to be pretty easy once I got going.
I think I took as long as I did making the scarf because one pattern repeat was a nice discreet unit that didn’t take too much time, and served as a pretty good break from working on other projects. I ended up only making 18 pattern repeats, because that’s all I had the beads for. Still, that’s a perfectly adequate length. (The pattern calls for 20 pattern repeats.)
I love, love, love the Schaefer Heather yarn. I love the color combination, and it’s so lovely and soft. I’ve been working with another wool/silk blend on my other scarf, and while it’s nice, the Heather is much nicer. I would very willingly buy more of this yarn to make something else.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld – Patricia A. McKillip
Read for the Patricia A McKillip Challenge and the Once Upon a Time III Challenge.
This is the story of Sybel, daughter of a line of wizards that live on Eld Mountain. The wizards have called the fantastic animals of the world to them, and Sybel grows up in the company of these magical beasts, never missing the company of other people. This changes when Sybel is sixteen, and a man named Coren brings a baby to her. Young Tam is Sybel’s kin through her long-dead mother, and for the first time, Sybel is able to love another person. But Tam must grow up, and when he does, he inevitably must find his heritage – that he is the son of the King of Eldwold, and this knowledge can only bring Sybel and those she loves pain.
Patricia McKilljp has an amazing way with words. This is really a very simple story, of betrayal, and revenge, and rising above revenge in the end to find your true self, but she raises above simple with the lovely descriptions of Sybel’s world, and the wonderful animals that live with her. I confess, Sybel is not my favorite character in the book, she’s far too much of an ice queen to be completely sympathetic, though I do feel for her by the end of the story, when she come through to the end of her ordeal. Coren is probably my favorite character, because he is such a fascinating person, with a depth of knowledge to rival Sybel’s, though he isn’t a wizard. And, his motives are always ultimately pure.
This is a quick read, great if you need a weekend escape (or are laid up with a wretched plague of a cold, as the case may be).
Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey – Karen Wilkin
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I requested it based on my familiarity with some of Gorey’s work that has shown up on various greeting cards I’ve received, as well as his delightfully macabre alphabets. The book is a companion to a current exhibit of the artist’s work at the Brandywine River Museum, and features a variety of plates of Gorey’s drawings.
I learned a number of things from this book, first of which is that Gorey is actually a contemporary artist (he only passed away in 2000, and was younger than my grandparents). Given his typically Victorian style, I’d always assumed he was an early 20th century artist.
Another surprise was that he did set design. A number of sketches for his designs for The Mikado are included. His design combines Victorian England and high Japanese fashion, and it actually works.
This is definitely an interesting book, with a wide survey of his work, even including some illustrated envelopes from the letters he sent to his mother when he was in college. I’d highly recommend this to anyone like me that’s only familiar with the public face of Gorey, and would like to learn more.
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse – John Joseph Adams, ed.
Read for the It’s the End of the World Reading Challenge.
The title says everything you need to know about the subject matter of this short story collection. Every story is set after the world has ended. If that seems like a fairly limiting subject, you’re in for an interesting survey of how many different ways people can imagine that the human race will manage to off itself, as well as a surprising range of story tones. Who knew the apocalypse could be almost funny?
Stephen King’s “The End of the Whole Mess” starts off the book with an almost lighthearted look back from the man who helped his brother destroy humanity when he thought he was keeping us from killing ourselves. I enjoyed this story because the tone was so different than what I expect from King. (Granted, I’ve been told a number of different times I need to check out his short fiction, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. This story actually spurred me into putting his short story collections onto my Paperspine queue.)
I was actually excited to see a story from Cory Doctorow in this anthology. I’ve heard good things about his work, and was happy to get a chance to read one of his stories. “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth” was particularly enjoyable because it more or less captured my world of work, and was entirely plausible as something that could happen at my company.
“Speech Sounds” was a lovely story from Octavia Butler in a world where most people have lost the ability to speak, and those who still can speak must hide their ability or fear jealous retribution. On a similar theme of loss, David Grigg’s “A Song Before Sunset” explores the world of a piano player who finds the sudden opportunity to use his musical gifts after years of living without his art in his life. Both stories, as well as several others, really made me think about how many things I have in my life that I take for granted.
I only didn’t care for two of the stories in the book, and they weren’t terrible, just different in form than I usually prefer. One was the most hardcore science fiction tale of the book, and I prefer to stay away from really hardcore sci fi. All in all, it’s a great anthology with stories from a number of authors giving a nicely varied survey of an interesting subject that people enjoy reading about probably more than we really should. After all, it is about the end of the world.
By way of Nymeth’s blog, I found Mari’s recent Show Me Your Bookmarks post, and couldn’t resist posting my own. My bookmarks are one of my earliest collections, and even have their own shiny container to live in. I have way too many to photograph easily, but highlights of the collection include:
Local library bookmarks, and my college library from back when that was local to me.
The handmade wedding favor bookmark from Brenda and Adam’s wedding.
The really cool wildlife themed print bookmark set done by a local artist that I bartered for at the Common Ground Fair many years ago.
Bookmarks from my college Writing Center, featuring extremely random silent film stars.
Bookmarks from my travels, including my personal favorite from a bookstore in Waterford, Ireland, where the owner had inked over the old hours.
The laminated Valentine’s bookmark my fifth grade teacher made.
A Girl Scout promise bookmark I won long ago for a contest I no longer remember.
A neat moose from Alaska (from Leah) that seems to be carved out of an agate. A really thin agate.
What I love about my bookmarks is that I didn’t buy any of them. They were all gifts, or came from the neat bookstores I’ve visited over the years, or seemed to come to me in some other serendipitous way. It’s one of my favorite collections, because it’s a window back on where I’ve been.