Paris, My Sweet – Amy Thomas

Read for LibraryThing EarlyReviewers.

Do not read this book on an empty stomach.

The author was given the chance of a lifetime when her advertising agency offered to send her to the Paris branch to work on the Louis Vuitton contract. She’d been pretty much obsessed with Paris since she spent a semester there in college, so jumped at the chance to go.

Now, contrary to the title, this book is actually a sweet-foodie’s love story of both Paris and New York. Hence the don’t read on an empty stomach warning – each chapter is centered on a particular food item, contrasting American and French cuisine. After a couple of chapters, I was ready to throw the book aside and hop a jet to either city just to get my hands on some of the food she described.

There’s a personal component to the book as well, with the author finding it difficult to fit in in Paris, and also finding that life in New York is moving on while she’s gone. I’ll admit that that struggle got a bit old by the end of the book, but I was so focused on the food, I was ready to overlook that.

I’m probably not going to be moving to Paris anytime soon, but I may be able to visit in a year, and I’ve definitely gained some most visit places to add to my list from this book.


2011 Completed Knitted Projects

I can’t believe it’s the end of the year already, but I guess I have done a fair amount of knitting in that time. (Click the photo for a bigger view.)

The most notable thing about this picture? No socks (well, other than the baby socks). I took a good break from socks this year, and apparently concentrated on lace instead. I also got rid of a fair amount of sock yarn remainders, which was one of my goals for the years.

My favorite projects? Probably the shawls – Lilah and the Triple Wrap shawl were both a lot of fun to work on.

The Midwife’s Apprentice – Karen Cushman

The girl was known as Beetle, because she often used the dung piles in villages to keep herself warm at night, until she happened into the village where Jane Sharp was the midwife. Jane wasn’t a particularly kind woman, but she was in need of help, and she took Beetle on, so long as she would work for food and board.

Though she started out as a lowly apprentice, she slowly learned the midwife’s trade, and the villagers began to seek her out if the midwife wasn’t available. But one mistake cast all her learning into doubt, and Beetle had to choose to keep this wonderful new life, or leave to find something else.

This is a charming little book, aimed probably for the tween crowd. It’s well researched (the author’s notes at the end of the book are worth a read), and gives a good flavor of medieval village life. Beetle is a wonderful heroine, and it’s a joy to read her story.

Pretties – Scott Westerfeld

It’s two hundred years in the future, and after a number of man made calamities, people have found the way to keep the peace is the operation to make people Pretty. At age 16, the operation makes everyone beautiful, and improves everyone’s health. What they don’t know is that at the same time, their brains are altered to keep them dumb and pliable.

Tally learned all this in the last book (Uglies), but by the end, realized the only way she could save her friends was to become Pretty herself, so that’s where we find her as this book begins. But Tally’s different. Even though her memories have mostly been taken away from her, she still knows that something’s not right, and that leads her to join the Crims, a group of Pretties that are also searching for something more.

The arrival of some of the Uglies from outside the city provides a sudden cure, but that cure leads to complications that Tally couldn’t imagine, and puts her chances of escape from the city in doubt.

I liked the first book of the trilogy better. It’s not that this one is bad, but it’s didn’t grip me quite as well as Uglies did. I do have the next book (Specials) in the house, so I’ll be reading that one soon so I can see exactly how this ends. I’m hoping the action picks back up in that one.

Knitting Notes

I’ve cast on my next project, a shawl for me! I’m making Susan Pandorf’s Galadriel’s Mirror, using Berroco’s Ultra Alpaca Fine, in a lovely dark blue colorway.

The yarn ended up being a bit of an adventure. I started to wind it Friday night. The first skein went beautifully. The second skein – well, I can only assume that something burped when it was initially being skeined, because I swear there was a section that ran in the opposite direction than the rest of it. So, I ended up having to take it off the swift, and as expected, a rat’s nest quickly ensued.

It took me all of the rest of Friday evening, and until about 3:00 yesterday to get that worked out. I only did end up cutting it once, which was a minor miracle. At least it’s done now, and I’m cast on and firmly into chart A. So far, so good.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Merletto Mitts by Jody McKinley
Yarn: Pine Woods Sock in the Nor’Easter colorway
Needles: Size 2 DPNs

My final Christmas knitting is done. And it’s really final now, because I’ve already done Christmas with the only members of my family that I didn’t knit for, so I’m totally out of options for this year.

I like this pattern – it’s easy, but complex enough to stay interesting. I also really like this yarn. I’ve got enough left over of both this yarn, and the Jitterbug I made the other mitts with that I’ll have to figure out something fun to do with that. But first, I’m going to selfishly knit for myself, and start a shawl I’ve been eying for a while.

2011 Completed Reading Challenges

It was actually a couple weeks ago that I technically completed my reading challenges, but I’m just now getting around to recording them.

I did cut back a little bit this year, and stuck to mostly broad stroke challenges that covered multiple genres within a more specific subject. This did go pretty well, and let me work from my slightly ridiculous TBR bookcase (it outgrew the tote this year). But, I still found it a bit restrictive.

Next year, I’m going to cut back to just the Once Upon a Time and RIP challenges, unless I see one that just captures my fancy (I really did enjoy the Foodie Challenge this year, even though it took me a while to get going). I’m hoping to blew through a good chunk of the TBR pile way.

But, any way, this year for challenges, I read:

2011 TBR Lite Reading Challenge 1/1/11 – 12/31/11 – finished 10/16/11

RIP VI Reading Challenge – 9/1/11 – 10/31/11 – finished 10/23/11

Once Upon a Time V 3/21/11 – 6/20/11- finished 5/27

Foodie’s Reading Challenge 1/1/11 – 12/31/11 – finished 11/29/11

2011 YA Reading Challenge 1/1/11 – 12/31/11 – finished 11/26/11

Black Powder War – Naomi Novik

After the events of the last book in China, Temeraire and Laurence, and the rest of Temeraire’s crew, receive orders to travel immediately to Istanbul. The British government has bought three dragon eggs there, and Temeraire’s crew are to escort them back to England.

They’re forced to do an overland journey to Istanbul (which is an interesting journey in and of itself), and once there, find the Chinese dragon Lien has travelled there ahead of them – ready to seek vengeance for them having killed her master.

I love these books. Temeraire and Laurence are such fun characters, and the historical detail is wonderfully written, and also fun. I especially liked the part of the book that was in Istanbul – the scene and action were just wonderfully drawn. This has to be one of the best series I’ve recently read.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Live Oak Shawlette by Romi Hill from the Fall 2011 Knitscene
Yarn: MadelineTosh Tosh Sock in the Fiord colorway
Needles: Size 5 circs

I blocked the Live Oak Shawlette this weekend, partially because I realized that 2011 is rapidly drawing to a close, and since I finished it in 2011, I want pictures of it in 2011.

It’s nice little pattern, pretty easy, with interesting shaping. I’ve actually been sitting on a skein of the pattern yarn (Madeline Tosh sock) for a year or two, so it was nice to have an excuse to actually use a pattern’s yarn for a change. It is a really nice yarn to work with – I can see why it seems to be the go to yarn for fingering weight projects I’ve been seeing in magazines and online lately.

Memory and Dream – Charles de Lint

Here’s the thing about me and Charles de Lint – I almost always start one of his books a little ho-hum about the story, wondering if it was really worth picking up – and then bam – something clicks, the plot takes off, and I’m hooked until the end. This book was one of those books for me.

This is a Newford book, which if you’ve ever read one, you knows there’s a cast of characters that circle around these stories, but it’s principally about Isabelle Copley. When she was in college in the 70s, she was chosen by the brilliant, but reclusive artist Vincent Rushkin to be his student.

Vincent gives Isabelle an incredible gift – the ability to bring her painting to life – but there’s a darkness to his art, one that will exact a heavy toll on Isabelle and her friends.

The action is split between Izzy’s school days, and 20 years later, when she has moved to the family farm in the country, and no longer paints people, only abstract paintings. When one of her friends from the past comes to the farm and asks her to do some paintings in her old style again, it leads to a final showdown between Isabelle and her past.

What I love about de Lint is the incredible realism of his books – these are urban fantasy done right. The central magic to this book – the numena, the people Isabelle brings to life in her paintings – are actually regular people that only want to live their lives once they’re brought into this world.

I also like that his books deal with much larger themes – in this case, child abuse, and child neglect. Not pleasant subjects, but they bring interesting notes to this story.