Throne of Jade – Naomi Novik

In this second book of the Temeraire series, the Chinese Emperor has found out that the dragon egg intended for Napoleon went to the British instead, and has sent his brother to demand Temeraire’s return to China. Laurence and the rest of Temeraire’s crew are reluctant to go, but higher ups in the British government prevail, and they’re all loaded on a dragon transport ship for the long voyage to China.

What makes these books so great is that they’re wonderful historical fiction books with rich details of the time, that happen to include dragons. This book spends most of its time at sea, and the details of the interactions of the naval crew, aerial crew, and the Chinese envoys are so detailed, and so much fun. Coming to China, experiencing it in that time period, is also fascinating. You know certain details are made up, because the dragons and everything needed to support them isn’t real, but you also know the rest of the details are real, and that makes the story so enjoyable.

I highly recommend these books , and will be doing my best to get my hands on the next one in the series.


Knitting Notes

Pattern: Jacques Cousteau hat by Lalla Pohjanpalo
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios in the Playa colorway
Needles: Size 4 circs and DPNs

The BF’s hat is done, and already worn for his daily lunchtime walk earlier today. Apparently, his coworkers approve – he made a point of mentioning it when we talked on the phone at work this afternoon.

The pattern is super-easy, if a little monotonous. The yarn is lovely to work with – I would totally knit with it again. All and all, a successful little project.

Fables Vol. 10 – The Good Prince – Bill Willingham, et al

As the war with the Empire grows closer, Prince Ambrose, otherwise known as Flycatcher, has regained his memories of what happened to his family, and wants to find some way to revenge them. Fly’s one of the kindest people in Fabletown, so it almost doesn’t seem possible that he could find a way to do this, but this book is the story of how he gains the power to keep a kingdom safe, and thus become a king.

I think what I really love about this series is how it takes these fairy tale characters and turns them into real people, and then turns them around again to be better than regular people, to be truly larger than life. There are other stories in this book, mostly of the other Fables preparing for the current war, but Fly’s story is larger than life, and so thoroughly wonderful to read. I love these books. Absolutely love them.

The Mammoth Book of Merlin – ed. Mike Ashley

Originally published in 1995 as The Merlin Chronicles, and republished in its current form in 2009, this is indeed a full-sized book of stories centering around King Arthur’s wizard Merlin. And, because Merlin is often linked to Vivian/Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, she features quite prominently in many of the stories as well. She’s probably my favorite character in the mythos, so that was a welcome surprise.

The authors span the 20th century, even one that’s an updated translation of an old Breton legend. There’s something for everyone, from The Sword in the Stone-esque “The Horse that Would be King” by Jennifer Roberson to “Namer of Beasts, Maker of Souls” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, which is about as allegorical and new-agey as you can get.

My favorites include Charles de Lint’s “Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood”, which takes Merlin and his trees into present day, “The Knight of Pale Countenance” by Darrell Schweitzer, a fascinating take on the birth of Merlin, and “The Dragon Line” by Michael Swanwick, another tale set in the present day that puts an interesting twist on Mordred’s tale.

There are many other tales, some taken from portions of large stories, like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. If you’re a fan of the more mythological side of the Arthurian tales, which is where most of the Merlin tales come from, this is an anthology well worth seeking out.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Bearded Toque by v. vine
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Chestnut Heather and Black
Needles: Size 9

I’ve finished my brother’s Bearded Toque, complete with Fu Manchu moustache (which is only minimally affixed at the moment, in case he hates it).

Second time around was definitely better for the pattern. I had a better idea of a few trouble spots I needed to keep a closer eye on. I also went up a needle size, and made the black portion a little longer, so hopefully it’ll fit a bit better than the initial proto-type.

All in all, not a bad knit, and while I don’t normally go for acrylic-containing yarns, the Wool-Ease is actually quite nice to work with, and I know my brother won’t easily ruin the hat in the wash.

In other news, the BF has actually requested a knitted item! His hat (which he mainly wears while snow-blowing) has been driving him crazy by riding his head, so he asked for a replacement. I pulled up all the free men’s hat pattern on Ravelry, and he picked out the Jacques Cousteau hat.

Since I was heading to the yarn store anyway to pick up the needles I needed to do the Bearded Toque redux, I asked what colors he was interested in – “oh, you know, nothing flashy, like black, or gray, even navy”. So I picked up some lovely black Quince & Co. Osprey yarn. And it just so happened they had Malabrigo Rios in stock, which I’ve been interested to try, so I picked up a skein of that in the Playa colorway, which is a darker blue with tan highlights, for myself. And the BF loves it. So he’s getting a slightly flashier hat than I originally thought he would ever want, but it’s Malabrigo yarn, and I’m loving it.

Knitting Notes

I gave up on the Seahorse Nachaq last night. I wasn’t liking the way the pattern looked – I don’t think the Bugga was a good substitution. Which is a shame, because the Bugga is quite nice to work with. So, I need to come up with something else to do with that yarn.

In the meantime, I’ve cast on the Jubilee Cardigan from the 2010 Interweave Holiday magazine. I’m using Quince and Co. Chickadee yarn in the Rosa Rugosa colorway. It’ll be going to the as yet unborn daughter of friends of the BF. Since I tend to knit a bit tightly, I’ve cast on the second size up, rather than the newborn size.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Genmaicha Mitts by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: Sundara Sock in the Evergreen over Lime Colorway
Needles: 1.5 DPNs

My second pair of Genmaicha mitts are done, and I will be sending these to my friend. I did two less decreases on the thumb (I actually pulled the gusset four rows early), and finished the hand pattern above the second to last cable. I definitely like the fit on these ones better after the modifications.

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth Von Arnim

Set in the 1920s, this book tells the story of four women from England that rent a castle in Italy for a month, and the profound changes that this vacation has upon their lives.

The story starts with Mrs. Wilkins spotting an ad for a castle for rent in Italy while she’s visiting her women’s club in London. She realizes that Mrs. Arbuthnot, who she has never actually spoken to before, is also looking at the ad. Very uncharacteristically for Mrs. Wilkins, she speaks to Mrs. Arbuthnot about the castle, and before long, the two have hatched a plan to rent it. Realizing they can’t afford it by themselves, they advertise for other renters, and end up contracting with the elderly Mrs. Fisher, and Lady Caroline Dester.

When they actually arrive in Italy, the beauty of the place has an interesting effect on their lives. Being set in the 1920s, there is an emphasis placed on married life, and the three married women in the tale each have issues within the boundaries of that life. In the course of the book, Mrs. Wilkins becomes Lotty, and Mrs. Arbuthnot becomes Rose, as they both come to terms with those issues. They both remain married, but Italy allows them to grow within the roles they defined for themselves in that institution.

Lady Caroline has another problem – she’s not sure where she should be defined, and Italy brings that definition to her. Mrs. Fisher has probably the least successful journey – her problem is living in the past, and there doesn’t seem to be as recognizable a journey for her to move beyond that.

I can’t help but contrast this book with the last one I read, where I had a bit of a post-feminist annoyance with the plot. This book was quite the opposite. This book is about the roles of women, but takes a really wonderful journey to resolve that. It might outwardly seem unsatisfactory to a more modern eye, but it’s very much of its time, and therefore very satisfying. This is a really delightful little read that’s much more profound than you might first think.

One note: the Digireads edition I read was typo-riden. I’d definitely try to locate another edition if possible.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Genmaicha Mitts by Kirsten Kapur
Yarn: Sundara Sock in the Evergreen over Gold Colorway
Needles: Size 1.5 DPNs

First, I will say, I really enjoyed this pattern. It’s easy but interesting, and very quick. However, the thumb seems a bit loose, and they’re a bit long on me. I would be fine dealing with this, but I had intended these for someone with smaller hands than me. Fortunately, I have more than half the skein of yarn left, so I’m going to do another pair. I’ll maintain the same needle size, because the overall fit on the hand is fine, but I’m going to do two less increases for the thumb gusset. I’m also going to do a few less rows in the hand. I’ll probably end it the same amount from the top of the next to last cable row as it is from the current last cable row. I don’t want to shorten them a ton, but I think that will do enough so they won’t be too long.

This also works out since I mucked up the cables on the right mitt in one place, which again, I can put up with, but I’d rather not have in a gift. Fortunately, I should be able to knock out another pair by next weekend, so I’m still on time.