Knitting Notes

Paul Atwell sock #1 is done, which means I’m a quarter of the way through my Christmas knitting.

I’m now going to make what to many would be a startling announcement: I like doing the second sock better than the first. Yes, that means I don’t have second sock syndrome. The second sock always seems to go faster, because there’s no uncertainty. You don’t have to keep pausing and measuring on the portions that are supposed to go to a certain length – you can just count rows or pattern repeats on the first sock. What might have felt like it took forever on the first go flies by when you know how long it’ll take until the end. So there you have it. I may be a freak, but I like second socks!


The Gates of Sleep – Mercedes Lackey

This book is one of the Elemental Masters series, where the author has reinterpreted fairy tales in slightly more modern times, and where the main characters are in some way involved with the elemental magic of Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

The Gates of Sleep is Sleeping Beauty, set in late Victorian England. (I’m actually rereading this book, as I originally read a library copy some time ago, and only recently got my hands on a used copy of my own.)

Marina Roeswood was cursed at her christening by her father’s older sister, Arachne. Despite the combined efforts of her parents, both Earth masters, and their friends, who represent the other elements, they are unable to stop the curse, but are at least able to change it so that if the curse does not come to pass by Marina’s eighteenth birthday, it will backfire and hit Arachne instead. At that point, the only sensible thing to do is to hide Marina. So she’s sent to live with her parents’ dear friends the Tarrants, artists who live in a cottage in a small village in Devon.

Since she doesn’t grow up as a gentleman’s daughter, Marina has a rather unconventional upbringing, but she’s happy there. She also begins to have lessons from her parent’s friend Lady Elizabeth, as Marina is a potential Water mage, and Lady Elizabeth is a Water Master. They’ve just begun their studies when terrible word reaches them. Marina’s parents are dead.

Arachne has managed to destroy the Roeswood’s will, and is able to immediately summon Marina back to the family manor of Oakhurst. Marina is heartbroken, and wary of her aunt and her son, the too perfect Reggie. Arachne immediately thrusts Marina into studies of the unfamiliar world of the gentry, and while Marina is at first miserable, she learns to appreciate this new world, and even cautiously makes some friends through the local church.

But the curse is waiting, and Marina must find a way to break it. The ending is standard Sleeping Beauty, with a twist. There is a love story, which seems a bit rushed, but all princesses seem to fall in love quickly in fairy tales, so I can forgive the hurry. This is overall an enjoyable read, with a good take on the Sleeping Beauty tale.

Knitting Notes

The first Tilting Cables sock is done. I’ve definitely been enjoying this pattern. It’s got a really, really long pattern repeat (like I think three total in the whole sock), which I definitely enjoy. The cables also got a lot easier the further I got into the sock.

The Happy Feet yarn isn’t bad, but I’m not sure I’ll be in a hurry to knit with it again. It has a slight stiffness to it that I don’t always enjoy working with.

I’ve also been plugging away at the Paul Atwell sock. Since this I took this picture this morning, I’ve now gotten through the gusset, and am ready to start the main part of the foot.

Working on these socks together has definitely illustrated my preference for longer pattern repeats. I found it much easier to plug away for longer periods of time on the Tilted Cables sock, but found myself fighting against giving up after no more than three patterns repeats on the Paul Atwell socks. With four rows to a repeat, that doesn’t cover a lot of ground. I’ve decided not to cast on the second Tilting Cables sock until I’ve finished both pair of Christmas socks I’m doing this year. Otherwise, I feel the temptation may be too great, and I’ll slack on the ones I need to get done.

Dream King Challenge 1/1/09 – 12/31/09

Another challenge down!

For this challenge, I decided to go the Devotee route, which was to read six books in six categories and watch one movie.

I read/watched:

With the exception of Coraline, I had all of these books lying about the house, as my BF is a huge Neil Gaiman fan. I was actually spoiled for choice, and probably could have done another challenge’s worth of reading, if I’d had the time, and that’s even considering how much of the material I’ve already read through.

This was a fun challenge. I will always enjoy an excuse to go wondering through any of the worlds that Neil Gaiman conjures up. The man is definitely a genius.

Mirrormask – Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Read for the Dream King Challenge.

The illustrated script to the movie Mirrormask features Dave McKean’s storyboards for the movie alongside the script. There’s also a forward by Neil Gaiman, as well as an appendix containing the original back and forth conversations between the two that formed the basis for the movie idea.

The movie is the story of Helena, the daughter of a couple that runs a traveling circus, a life that the teenage Helena is rebelling against for the moment. Helena likes to draw pictures, and has drawn an entire city of fantastic buildings and strange creatures.

One night, Helena and her mother have a fight before a show, and during the show, her mother falls ill. Things are very bad, and the show grinds to a halt as her mother lies in the hospital, her prognosis uncertain. Without going into the whys, since that’s part of the story, Helena is drawn into the world of her drawings, a world ruled by a light queen and dark queen, both of whom look like her mother. The light queen has fallen asleep, and no one can wake her, and the dark queen is taking advantage of the situation. Helena therefore sets out to wake up the light queen.

This movie is an amazing visual journey, especially considering the low budget they were working with. You can see the basis of this journey in the meticulous storyboards throughout the book. They’ve also apparently added back scenes and dialogue that didn’t make it into the movie, but it’s been long enough since I’ve seen it that the extras weren’t anything that jumped out at me. What you do notice is the humor injected into the script. My favorite passage in the entire book is the following scene set up:

We hear the QUEEN roar.

Down the steps come hoards of creatures. Everything that the budget will run to. Thousands upon thousands of Orcs and mighty Uruk-hai, their weapons glinting as they prepare to do the bidding of the evil Saruman…Sorry. Got a bit carried away there. Wrong movie. No budget.

Whatever we’ve got comes down the stairs.

It’s little gems like that that make this movie companion worth a look through.

Blood Debt – Tanya Huff

Read for the Vampire Reading Challenge.

I’ll admit I was actually more than a little pleased when Paperspine inexplicably leapt my queue and sent me the next Blood Ties book. Due to certain events that happened in the last book, I was quite curious to see what would happen next in the Vicki/Fitzroy/Cellucci saga. I’m going to have to be more than a bit spoilerific to discuss this book, so if you want to be able to read Blood Pact and be surprised by the ending, stop reading right now.

At the end of the last book, Fitzroy was forced to turn Vicki into a vampire. What this means in this world is that after an initial year as student and teacher, Vicki and Fitzroy will no longer be able to live in the same city, as their predatory instincts will override the feelings they once had for each other. This seemed to bring a neat close to Vicki’s apparent need to chose between Fitzroy and Cellucci. When Cellucci thinks that he’s lost her forever (thanks to Fitzroy conveniently forgetting to tell him that she’ll only be gone for a year), he realizes the depth of his feelings for her, and when she returns to his doorstep, even though she’s changed, he’s ready to take on those changes, and chooses to be with her. So the last book left things essentially closed.

Which brings us to the opening of this book. Fitzroy has settled in Vancouver, and wakes up one morning to find a ghost in his room with him. The ghost wants Fitzroy to do something for him, and when he doesn’t get his way, innocent people start dying. Fitzroy very quickly realizes that he’s out of his league, as Vicki was the strong investigator in their partnership. So, fighting his instincts, he asks her to come to Vancouver.

Vicki asks Cellucci to come along, as she’ll need his help and protection during daylight hours. Naturally, Cellucci thinks it’s a terrible idea. And with their arrival in Vancouver, the love triangle is back in place, still looking for resolution. And yet, it works. Vicki is able to convince Fitzroy that they may indeed be able to live near each, given some time to redirect the instincts that would normally tear them apart. It opens up interesting possibilities for the future, when Cellucci has passed on (never in a million years do I see him allowing Vicki to change him over, even if he were dying. Their relationship is therefore finite.)

The relationships really are the main focus to this book, but the side mystery was interesting as well. Someone has been dealing in illegal organ trading, and it takes the whole team to figure out who, and finally rid Fitzroy of his ghost.

I definitely enjoyed this book. It’s sadly the last full length novel in the series (there is another book of short stories available, as well as another series about Fitzroy and a young man named Tony who’s been one of the minor characters throughout this series), and I’m going to miss being able to look forward to more.

Knitting Notes

And so the holiday knitting begins. These are Paul Atwell socks, by Emily Johnson, in Knit Picks Stroll in the Midnight Heather colorway. They’ll be either for Dad or C (probably Dad, as the other colorway I bought is Merlot Heather, and C is the wine drinker, so it just seems to fit). I actually cast these on on Sunday, but the lack of light when I get home (definite downside of daylights savings time) means I didn’t get a photo until I had a spare moment on Wednesday before work. And you can tell how long it took me to have time to clear my camera… Anywoo, the pattern is pretty easy, once I figured out how to follow the lace repeat. I don’t know what I was smoking that night, as it’s actually pretty simple, but it took me few very confused moments to get through the first repeat. I memorized it after the second. It’s going quite nicely now.

So, since I have another pair to complete before Christmas, and the November Sockdown challenge doesn’t end until 12/31/09, you can imagine how my progress on the Tilted Cabled socks is going. I did actually get through the heel, but have stalled out on the gusset decreases. I’ll probably work on them hear and there for a little variety, but I won’t count on finished them anytime soon. And that’s the state of knitting for now.

YA Challange 2009 (1/1/09-12/31/09)

I’m done with the 2009 YA Reading Challenge, slightly ahead of schedule. I read:

In the group were one regular fiction, three historical fiction, one historical fiction/fantasy hybrid, one post-apocalyptic/sci fi book, one urban fantasy, and five fantasy books. If someone hosts this challenge again next year, I think I’m going to challenge myself to try to read less fantasy. It is definitely my favorite genre, and there is a lot of it available, much of it good, but I think I should stretch myself and see what else I can find. So here’s hoping there’s a reprise of the challenge next year!

Daughter of Venice – Donna Jo Napoli

Read for the 2009 YA Reading Challenge.

Most of Donna Jo Napoli’s books draw from fairy tale or folklore backgrounds, but Daughter of Venice is a straight historical fiction story, something I tend not to run into as often in my young adult reading.

Donata, with her twin sister Laura, is the second oldest daughter of a noble Venetian family in the late 16th century. There are 12 children in all in the family, and while they are wealthy, it’s probable that only one of the sons, and one of the daughters, will marry. The daughter will probably be Donata’s older sister Andriana, but Donata wishes to marry too, and experience more of the life outside her family’s palazzo home.

This is the background to Donata’s decision to sneak outside the palazzo, dressed as a boy, which leads her to a series of adventures, and ultimately will shape the lives of her and all her sisters.

This is a fun read. Donata is full of modern spunk (I seriously doubt a real Venetian girl from that time period would have been quite that daring), and her adventures cover a surprising amount of ground in Venice. I think I would have enjoyed this had I read it when I was younger, and would have undoubtedly wanted to learn more about the city. Being older, and having actually traveled there (for a far too brief time), I enjoyed imagining the past in those charming alleyways and canals.