Sunday, December 31, 2006

Books, Books, Books.

Apologies for the lack of book news recently. I shall endeavour to make up for it now.

I finished reading Saturnalia by Lindsey Davis. This was a proof copy that I had to review for Eurocrime, and I've written the draft of the review now, so it will be with you in a couple of days, Karen. Sorry for the delay. I did enjoy the book, but was slightly dissappointed by the ending. I shall post a link to the review on the Eurocrime website once it's up.

After that I read A Stain on the Silence by Andrew Taylor. I loved this book, thought it very well written, a wonderful evocation of a life unravelling, deftly written in 2 time periods. Andrew is a great writer, and doesn't get the recognition or popularity he deserves. If I had a criticism at all it was that I wanted the "crime" committed all those years ago to be more shocking somehow, although I can see why he wrote it the way he did. I can't say more without giving away the plot, which I don't want to do. Let me just say that I sat down and read this in 2 days, could not put it down, something that rarely happens to me now.

The Andrew Taylor was a book for Reading Group, although I'd had it in my TBR pile since it was published, waiting for the chance to read it. Anyway Reading Group is on Wednesday night this week so I thought I'd have time to fit in another book from the list. My choice was The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and Desert Places by Blake Crouch. Now, while the Lovely Bones is really a book I should be reading, I'm just not in the right frame of mind for it at the moment, so I chose Desert Places. That'll teach me!

It starts with an author who gets a note telling him that the body of a local missing woman is buried on his land, covered in his blood. Now, apparently, because he's a famous writer of suspense thrillers, he gets this sort of stuff all the time, but there's something about this letter that makes him keep it. But does he do what anyone in their right mind would do, and call the police? No, no, because he knows how they work, and he knows he'll get arrested!! Oh, really. So, of course, what he does, is he goes off and looks for the body and finds the place its supposed to be and digs up the body to check, and then he reburies it. Like you do, when you find a body. Hasn't this man ever watched any horror films? So then he rings up the writer of the letter, who, like, really has his attention now, and starts to do what he's told, including flying across the country and checking into a strange motel. That's as far as I got. I managed 21 pages before I metaphorically hurled the book across the room. (Only metaphorically though, because it is a library book, though I am tempted to stick a post-it-note inside warning others not to bother reading this.) Perhaps if the beginning had been a little more plausible I might have persevered with this, but I can only suspend disbelief so far.

Now, I have another book to review for Eurocrime, but in order not to taint my view with bad thoughts about the previous book I shall read something completely different first, so I've started March by Geraldine Brooks. This is the story of the Rev. March, father of the girls in Little Women, while away during the Civil War. See, I do read books that are not crime fiction, well, sometimes anyway....

The link in this post are all to for convenience, but as usual I would urge you to support your local independent bookseller if (while) you still have one.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Greetings of the Season to All!

Merry Christmas, or the seasonal greeting of your choice, to everyone.

I had a wonderful Christmas Day with many many knitterly gifts, and a wonderful lunch cooked by Pete.

I think I can safely say that I've never had such a relaxing Christmas Day, as all the cooking was done by Pete. There was no stress, no hassle, just lots of lovely food. Thank you to both Pete and the Evilpixie for a great day.

And there were gifts too! Lots of wonderful knitterly things -

The fantastic Stitch 'n Bitch Calendar, with hints, tips, patterns etc for every day of the year.

The very funny, Not Tonight Darling, I'm Knitting by Betsy Hosegood.

Mason-Dixon Knitting, which looks really great, from my SIL, Beryl and her husband Roy.

I've already seen several things I want to knit from it.

Spin to Knit by Sharon Okey. I really can't wait to get stuck back into trying to learn to spin, so I can attempt some of the projects in this book.

Greetings from Knit Cafe. This is real eye-candy stuff. Now why is my LYS not like this. Probably just as well as I'd never ever leave.

And just to show that I did manage to get the Christmas knitting done - here is Pete modelling his new Camoflage Dog-Walking Socks. I also managed to finish the Evilpixie's stripy hat. Photos tomorrow.

And just in case you thought that booky things were not received too I also got this - 501 Must-Read Books. I'm quite pleased to say that I've actually already read 65 of the books listed. I'm determined to try and read a few more over the next year. I was a little disappointed with the few crime novels that were selected, not what I would have chosen as ones that must be read. But that's a whole other post.

Finally, just a little postscript, which is in memory of my father who died five years ago today. He was a lovely man, with a wicked sense of humour. I still miss him loads. I got my love of books from him, which is probably the best thing anyone could ever give their daughter. He introduced me to The West Wing (which is my favourite TV programme ever) and I introduced him to the novels of James Lee Burke. I'd say that was fair exchange, wouldn't you?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tribute to my Mother

Just a short post today, as it's Christmas Eve.

Today's post is in tribute to my Mother, Ethel Patricia Duncan (nee Garden), who died on this day seventeen years ago.

She was a wonderful woman, with a great sense of humour, and she taught me the most important thing I ever learned - that life is more important than housework.

Thanks for that, Mum, and for everything else you taught me along the way.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Have Pictures.......

It's my last day off before Christmas. And for once there is enough light to take a few photos.

So we have -

Things that came in the post today (both bought on eBay) -

That's the first issue of Yarn Foward (new UK-based knitting magazine) which looks great, a vast improvement on what was available before. And 100g of navy blue Online sock wool so I can knit Pete a replacement pair of dog-walking socks.

Large bowl of Chicken Liver Pate with the clarified butter on top still waiting to set (artistic swirl done by Pete). Ready for Christmas. Diet? What diet?

Amorphous mess. Still looks a bit messy, still not sure all the holes are in the right places - just could not seem to follow the pattern right. Anyway I'm hoping it will look better when blocked. Still loving the colours. The manufacturer has given this yarn the rather uninspiring name of "Green / Pink Mixture". I'm tending towards calling it "Blood in the Trees". Is it possible I'm reading too much crime fiction?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New Knitting

I finally succumbed to boredom with the socks, and with some other secret knitting I'll tell you about later (in case the recipient should read this), and cast on something new.

I realise this looks like an amorphous mess at the moment but it's going to be this. At least I hope it will be, I'm having a little trouble with the pattern. I'm knitting it in Marble from James C Brett, colourway MT6 which is a lovely combination of pinks and greens. It is acrylic but it feels really soft and knits well, so I'm forgiving it its man-made origins.

The rest of the day has been devoted to housework and other such chores. Any fellow Golden Retriever owners will know only too well the struggle it is to keep dog hair to a minimum, especially when your dog is moulting, like Bubba. As I've been working a lot recently the situation was becoming desperate and the dust puppies of dog hair that tend to collect under the sofa and behind the door were beginning to grow into Great Danes and starting to roam the house in ravening packs. Today order has been restored and the dust puppies have been banished. Already however stray tufts of dog are beginning to lurk on the living room carpet. It's like painting the Forth Rail Bridge - as soon as you get to one end of the house with the hoover, it's time to start over again at the other end. What I think I need is one of those robot hoover thingys that goes around by itself perpetually sucking up dog hair - trouble is it would need emptying about every half hour or so. Mr Dyson, if for some strange reason you should happen to be reading this - I see a gap in the market here - please invent me something to help. I want a self-running hoover that empties itself and doesn't scare the dog to death by sneaking up behind him when he's not paying attention. That's not too much to ask is it???

I guess in theory you could spin yarn out of all this dog hair and make a jumper but if you got caught in the rain you would smell awful!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Knitting and Books - sheer heaven

I've had a day off today - they were forecasting this to be the busiest retail day of the holiday season so quite how I managed to score a day off I'm not sure, but I wasn't complaining. I'm off tomorrow too so will get some serious knitting done, and will take photos, honest!

I got to go to S&B in Birmingham, and I went to the remaindered bookstore and bought a couple of books, and I even bought a little bit of wool (Who, me? Wool? No, that wasn't me!). Photos tomorrow I promise.

There's not much to blog about apart from that but I wanted to point you in the direction of yesterday's great post by Ms Knitingale. It had me giggling all day, thinking about it. She's so funny. I wish I could write comedy like her.

Talking of writing, my short story didn't win the WWC competition, but it was a close contender apparently. If anyone would like to read it send me an email and I'll forward it to you as it's way too long to post on the blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stay Safe Out There

Something is rotten in the county of Suffolk. The events unfolding in Ipswich are terrible and my heart goes out to those poor girls, their families and friends. For those not in the UK, I should perhaps explain that in the small town of Ipswich, five prostitutes have been murdered in the last month. The population of Ipswich is only about 100,000 and it has maybe 30 or 40 girls working the streets in its small red light district. For five of these girls to be killed in one month is just terrible. The people of Ipswich must be terrified, especially the women. I hope the police catch whoever is doing this quickly, before anyone else is killed. Then I think we need a debate about whether or not prostitution should still be illegal in this country, forcing these women to work in badly-lit streets and dark corners. Take care everyone who is out and about this Christmas.

OK, rant over.

On to knitting now.

Jill asked about the Opal wool for the socks. It's Dreamcatcher in colourway 1237 and I've finished the first one and am progressing with the second.

Pete has worn completely through the lovely 100% wool ribby dog-walking socks I knitted him so I need to get hold of some tougher wool/nylon mix yarn to knit him another pair pronto.

I forgot to tell you last week but Bubba lost 2kgs in the first 2 weeks of his diet so that seems to be working, though he's still not very keen on the kibble - it's the first time ever I've seen him walk away from food.

I finished Echo Park by Michael Connolly, and while I enjoyed it I didn't think it was his best work. The plot didn't really grab me, although I did like the further revelations about Harry Bosch's past interesting. I am now reading a proof of Saturnalia by Lindsay Davis, not due for publication till next year, but I'm reviewing it for Eurocrime. So far, so good, a great romping, hilarious plot in typical Falco style.

I'm working Thursday and Friday and then I have the weekend off so I shall hopefully get to Stitch 'n' Bitch on Saturday.

In the meantime, stay safe, whereever you are.

Friday, December 08, 2006

An Evening In

I'm looking forward to a rare treat this evening. Everyone is out, so I will have the house to myself. This means a nice relaxing evening with a film of some kind (probably some sort of chick flick that Pete would never watch), a glass or two of wine, and a bit of knitting.....sheer bliss.

I rather expect I shall need it after a day at work. People are definitely starting to get that look of Christmas panic in their eyes, and we are much busier in the shop now than we were. I can relax, safe in the smug knowledge that I have done all my Christmas last minute dashes to the shops on Christmas Eve for me. Well, not unless I realise that I've completely forgotten something desperately vital. This is entirely possible.

I must respond to some comments. I'm very bad at that. Maxine, I'm afraid I have to shatter the picture you may have of me - much as I would like to claim that I am sitting here day after day dilligently inserting the stripes and patterns into my Opal sock, I have to confess that all the beautiful work is done by the wool. This is what is known as self-striping sock yarn. All I have to do is knit row after row of plain jane knit stitches and the wool is cleverly patterned so that it comes out looking stripy or mottled or fair isle-ish. Self-striping yarn is one of the many wonders that have happened to knitting since I gave it up way back in the early 1990s - and I think it's wonderful. Someone remarked at work that I was doing "clever knitting", to which I could only reply - "not clever knitting, just clever wool".

Hi Jo, welcome to my blog. It's nice to meet fellow knit swappers and I've been looking at your blog - you're doing some seriously lovely work there, girl. I have to admit that I've had to put progress on the spinning to one side until after Christmas as with working 4 days (or more) a week I'm just not finding the time to be able to focus on it. Come January however I shall start to go to our local spinning group and will have more free time to devote to practising.

There are no photos this morning as it's still dark, and as it will be dark again when I get home from work don't be holding your breath for some later either. I totally forgot to take my camera to the reading group party (see I told you I was an idiot), but we had a good time, even if some of the quiz questions had us stumped. I came back with a huge pile of books. Some from Karen to review for EuroCrime. Thank you Karen, I will get the reviews off to you as soon as I can. On the reading group list for this month is the new Andrew Taylor - A Stain on the Silence. I already have this on my TBR pile and have been looking forward to it. Andrew is a great writer and a lovely man too. Also on the list is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I've been meeaning to read this for a while but haven't found the time yet. Sooooo many books..........................

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Day Off

I've got a day off today - well that's a day off from the part-time retail job anyway. Still have to work in our own business, so that's what I've been doing this morning. Then I went to the supermarket and now I've managed to get some photos taken even though it is still grim and dark here - at three o'clock in the afternoon.

First there is the progress report on the Opal socks -

Going has been slow on these as I'm only really knitting them in my breaks at work, though I did a couple of inches last night while watching "Cathy Come Home". Great vintage TV drama with Carol White and Ray Brooks (who I had forgotten was in this).

Also there is the now completed Sideways Gilet which I absolutely love. I wore it to work the other day and got lots of compliments on it (which is nice.)

It's fastened with a hair stick thingy from Claires Accessories which has beads and wire wound round one end. The wool was a jumper bought at a car boot sale and frogged so I've no idea what it is but the colours are wonderful. The gilet itself is a simple garter stitch knitted from edge to edge as a large rectangle with armholes in the relevant places. I'm really pleased with the end result especially as I spent so long trying to make it a cardigan - if had gone wrong again this time I think I'd have given up!

Tomorrow is my reading group Christmas party and quiz which should be fun. I'll try and remember to take my camera to record the festivities. I'm very bad at that - I never remember the camera until I'm out somewhere and see something I want to photograph for the blog.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Grim, Dark Saturday Morning

It's still dark here, so there are no photographs today. I'm working all day today but I thought I'd better blog just to show that I'm still alive.

Knitting news -

I'm still knitting the Opal socks. Still on the first sock, but I've done the heel turn and the gusset decreases now so it's a straight run to the toe. Progress is slow on these as I'm only knitting them in my breaks at work.

I have finished the sideways gilet that I started with the wool that used to be the wrap-over cardigan. I finally figured that it was trying to tell me something - it just didn't want to be a cardigan. I took me about 8 failures to get the front the way I wanted it before I realised this. Photos will appear later this week when I finally get a day off (not until Tuesday!).

Reading news -

I finished Sharpe's Fury by Bernard Cornwell, which was exactly what it said on the tin. You can rely on Cornwell for a rattling good plot. He's very good at putting in the historical detail without it reading like he's trying to teach you something. That's a great skill. I am indebted to Mr Cornwell for almost all the English history I know. The Sharpe books are not my favoutite series by Cornwell, I really like the Starbuck Chronicles, but as he's said he's not going to write any more of those until he retires, the Sharpes will have to do in the meantime.

So back to the present day and Echo Park by Michael Connelly. I'm a big fan of Harry Bosch so I've been looking forward to this one. It was a little slow to start with I thought, but that may have been because I came to it straight from the Sharpe which just belts along. Anyway it's picking up now and I'll report on how it proceeds when I get a bit further in.

Writing news -

As usual there is no writing news.