Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Catching Up

So it's the last day of July which means that this is the last day of this segment of Project Spectrum. So I have for your delight and titification - metallic books.

I struggled with these. I knew there weren't many on my shelf with metallic covers but I thought there might be a better selection with metals in the title. Apparently not. I give thanks therefore to Lindsey Davis who saved my bacon with her Falco novels. Some of the others are a little tenuous. The bottom one, in case you can't see, is Dan Dare - Marooned on Mercury. It's a reprint of the old Dan Dare story from the Eagle comic. Fabulous artwork by Frank Hampson.

I have totally failed to complete any projects in the Project Spectrum colours for this period, but I am playing with that black recycled sari silk -

I started knitting a modified Clapotis with it. It will be heavily modified as I don't have enough of the silk to knit the pattern as it is written. I hope to do better in the next slot for which the colours are brown, orange and purple. I have the Sonnet cardigan (brown) ready to be sewn up and button added, plus I have some orange Rowan Tape that I have been saving for just this time (it's going to be a vest top - especially as it looks like we might finally get a little bit of suitable weather for it), and I have been spinning some lovely purple shaded roving which I hope to knit up in the next few weeks.

Yesterday I managed to get a little bit of dying done. There is some fantastic rainbow roving which I will be knitting socks with. I'm hoping to start spinning it later today. I just can't wait - it looks so scrummy. Here it is drying in the sunshine. (Yes, I know, sunshine!!!!!)

And some other pink and purple splodgy stuff - I'm calling this colourway "A Spot of Bother".

We nearly had a purple dog while I was doing this as Bubba decided he was going to help me. I was dyeing in the garden, on the patio so I could lay out the roving for the rainbow stuff. Trust Bubba to come and stick his nose in! In the end disaster was averted, but I did end up with a purple / orange finger as one of my gloves sprang a leak.

I got my invitation to Ravelry last week and have been browsing the site. I'm not sure I will use it to track my stash. This would only be helpful if it actually came round and found the stuff I was looking for. I know I have a skein of pink hand-dyed sockwool, bought at the Knitting Show at the NEC last year, but can I find it? Anyway, I think for me the best bit of the site will be seeing what everyone has done with various patterns and yarns. Lots of inspiration I hope.

I have also failed to finish the Karin Fossum I was supposed to read for Reading Group tomorrow night. Instead I read The Riverman by Alex Grey. It was interesting, but there were a lot of characters introduced in a very short space of time and it took a while for me to sort them out. Also I'm not sure I got a very good feel for the detective, he seemed a little one dimensional. Maybe I missed something by starting several books into the series. (This is the 4th one I believe). By far the most interesting character in the book was the Riverman of the title - the man whose job it is to fish bodies out of the River Clyde. I have to admit I was far more interested in him and the work he did than in the police in the book. There just wasn't enough of the man with the boat.

Now I'm reading Boudica by Vanessa Collingridge. I don't know much about our most famous warrior queen, other than from the fictional Boudica series by Manda Scott. I loved her portrayal of the Boudica and the Iceni people. Collingridge's Boudica is a very different kettle of fish, at least so far - much more Romanised than Scott's very Celtic woman. As we know very little about Boudica, apart from the Roman views of Tacitus and other later descriptions, I guess you can pick which portrayal you like best. We're probably never going to know what her life was really like.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Red Books

I give you a random selection of red books from my shelf -

The one on the top is Emperor: The Field of Swords by Conn Iggulden. I picked it off the shelf to photograph a couple of days ago and started to read it as I'd just finished the previous one. I am therefore no further along with Karin Fossum. Atlantic Canada is from a brief period when we flirted with going to live there, before we concluded that we'd rather live somewhere warmer (though I'd still like to spend a bit of time there). Ray Bradbury - because I love his short stories. Sue Grafton - because she missed out on being in the black books last week. This one is D for Deadbeat. Michael Connelly - needs no explanation! The Picador Book of Crime Writing. The Best American Mystery Stories Vol 2 (from 2003) - I like these because I can get a taste of some new authors. And finally 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die - I haven't read nearly enough of the books listed here, though there are some that I have no wish to read, and there is nowhere near enough crime fiction!

In answer to your question Karen, the Fossum we should be reading is He Who Fears the Wolf. I've read about 60 pages and am struggling to make myself read any more. The theme for the month is "On the Couch - Crime and the Mind". I have no idea what the other selections were though I think there was a Frank Tallis. It must have been a selection that didn't appeal to me much if I ended up with the Karen Fossum!

I have run out of yarn for the Ribwarmer - I kind of thought I was going to, after I weighed the first half and the yarn I had left, but I was hoping for miracles. It will have to wait until after the weekend now as I'm working Friday and Saturday and to get more wool I need to get into Birmingham to Rackhams.

I started a triangular shawl with some black recycled sari silk I bought from Hipknits a couple of weeks ago - well, it was in the sale! However the shawl is not looking right so it might turn into something different - it's difficult to get any stitch definition with the hairyness of the sari silk. Needs a bit of a rethink.

And I have been spinning - some of the unidentified British Wool that I dyed last month in very subtle shades of purple and blue. I'm going to ply it with some vintage art silk/cotton that I found in the stash. Photos after the weekend if the deluge has abated and the light is a little better.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Stuff

Another random Monday stuff post, because I'm still a bit brain-dead after working in the shop the whole weekend.

Of course it was Harry Potter weekend and we were very, very busy, and a lot of work had gone into making the shop look great, and making sure everything went smoothly. Saturday was very manic and just the slightest bit weird. Hats off to booksellers everywhere though for getting into the spirit of it all and making sure the customers had a great time. I have to admit that yes, I have read the ending so I do know what happens, but no, there is no way I would reveal it and spoil the book for anyone.

There has been knitting in between the bouts of Harry madness. I started Elizabeth Zimmermann's Ribwarmer and I am more than half way done now. Here's the first half -

It's in James Brett Marble DK in the pink/green colourway which I had almost 2 balls of in the stash. I love the way the colours are merging into one another. It looks completely different from the Cloud Bolero which was what I had previously knitted in this yarn. I'm having a little bit of fun trying to make the two halves match up colourwise, and I'm not entirely sure that I have enough yarn. But I should be able to get another ball easily enough, and it wasn't expensive. It is 100% acrylic and so it's not something I would normally choose (as I do prefer pure wool) but I remember liking it last time I knitted with it and it's proving just as nice this time. I think I might have to get some more of this in other colours sometime.

I've been reading too, though not the Karin Fossum I should be reading for crime fiction group. I've run up against that old problem I have with translated crime and particularly it seems with Scandinavian translated crime. I just find it very difficult to read. Something about the language sounds slightly off to my ears, seeming stilted somehow. It just doesn't seem to flow like it should. Now I don't know if this is a problem with the translation or if it's the Scandinavian intonation and thought process that doesn't come over well. Anyhow, I just wasn't enjoying it. Instead I read the second book in the Emperor series by Conn Iggulden. This is called The Death of Kings. I am liking this series a lot. I've been on a bit of a Roman kick recently - watching the BBC/HBO series Rome, which finished last night. The Iggulden series revolves around some of the same characters and it's fascinating to link them all together. My knowledge of Roman history is a bit limited - coming only from fiction - Lindsay Davies and Steven Saylor - and from watching I, Claudius when I was young.

While I'm on the subject of TV series, I must remind you that Heroes (which I have been banging on about for months) finally starts on BBC2 on Wednesday night. Trust me, it's great stuff. Save the Cheerleader, Save the World!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Between Projects

I find myself between knitting projects. This is a situation that always makes me a bit twitchy. The twitchiness in this case seems to be magnified by the fact of being between projects in life at the moment also.

I am fighting the twitchiness by drinking too much coffee and eating too many jaffa cakes. Neither of these things help in the slightest. (I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone).

I seem completely unable to concentrate on any one thing for more than about twenty minutes, which makes reading books very difficult. I've started three in the last 2 days. At the same time I am desperately hunting though knitting pattern books and magazines for something that I want to knit (but it has to be something I can knit from the stash) and nothing is quite right. Tomorrow I am going to have to delve deep into the boxes that contain the stash and hope something (other than a large spider) leaps out at me.

In the meantime I have spent the afternoon reading Knitting Rules by the Yarn Harlot, accompanied by a large hairy dog on my lap. Bubba is very frightened of thunder. Storms can only be endured by sitting as close to me as doggily possible while holding a stuffed lion in his mouth. You won't tell anyone will you? He doesn't want anyone to think he's a wuss.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Some Favourite Books

When it comes to "black books" I am rather spoiled for choice, so instead of the usual 12 random books I have selected 12 favourite books from my shelves.

I had some difficulty with this, more than I expected, as not all of my favourite books are immediately accessible, buried on shelves behind boxes. (We are still trying to reclaim parts of the house from the mountains of stock.) However I came across enough books to select a dozen I would call favourite, or which represent a favourite author or series.

So we have these -

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky - because Paretsky was the writer who got me into crime fiction in the first place, so deserves a special place in my heart. I haven't read any of her more recent work but I did love those early VI Warshawski novels.

Backhand by Liza Cody - another of my favourite feisty women detectives and this one is set in Sarasota, Florida (one of my favourite parts of the world). It's a shame that Cody stopped writing these, though I did like the ones with the wrestler too.

Hurricane Season by Mickey Friedman - another Florida-based mystery, this one selected for the opening passages which are in my opinion some of the best I've ever read. (and its not just my opinion, as I think it was Sue Grafton who alerted me to this book in a writing manual about crime fiction). Sadly the rest of the book doesn't quite stand up to the excellence of the beginning.

Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell - say what you like about her later work, this is still a classic. I only wish this was the highly valuable first edition and not, sadly, the book club edition that it is!

The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb - I love this series, set in the Appalachian Mountains.

Mystic River by Dennis Lehane - because it's a wonderful book, but also representing all his other books, including the totally fantastic series featuring Patrick McKenzie, Angela Gennaro and Bubba Rogowski (everyone's favourite sociopath).

An Air That Kills by Andrew Taylor - the first of the Lydmouth series. Andrew's a great writer.

And then there are these -

Story by Robert McKee - The best writing manual I've ever read. Actually written about screenwriting but very applicable to the novel.

Boudica - Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott - a great first book in a series that just gets better as you read on. Her crime novels are good too.

Coronado by Dennis Lehane - Yes, I know we did him already but I couldn't miss this one out. Probably the best book I've read so far this year and containing one of the my favourite short stories of all time.

Final Edition by Val McDermid - One of the Lindsay Gordon mysteries, which were where I started with Val's books. My favourite of her books is probably The Mermaids Singing (despite the gruesome bits) but I can't find it (though I'm fairly sure it has a black cover). I like all her detectives, Kate Brannigan is another of those feisty females! Pete has just walked into the other room and picked Mermaids Singing off the shelf where I had been looking for it for about 10 minutes - don't you just hate that!!! It does have a black cover.

The Black Ice by Michael Connelly - the second of the Harry Bosch novels, selected because this is in better condition than The Black Echo, which is the first Bosch book (and a rather battered paperback). Michael Connelly was the writer who finally got me off the feisty females and into stoic, grumpy male detectives. I started with the Poet (my copy doesn't have a black cover) then I found Harry Bosch and I've been with him ever since.

The White Road by John Connolly - this was the only one I could lay my hands on easily but it represents all the Charlie Parker novels, which I have loved since the very beginning.

OK, so that's the run down on some favourites. But even now as I'm typing this I know there are books that are missing from this list. There is no Ian Rankin - my favourite is Black and Blue and it's missing from its shelf for some reason. I don't seem to have any Lawrence Block handy and I love the Matt Scudder books (though not any of the others for some reason). Nor have I listed any James Lee Burke though I think I have a full set. (I'm such a completist). I know there are others that I've missed, Carol O'Connoll and Laura Lippman, GM Ford and PJ Tracy. I can see I'm going to have to come back to this theme sometime. Favourite detectives, favourite amateur sleuths, favourite duos, favourite Americans, favourite Brits, favourite Scots, favourite feisty females......oh, god..Kinsey Millhone, how could I forget her?

Next up...later in the week probably - red books........

Monday, July 09, 2007

Luna Moth

Look, look, the Luna Moth Shawl - she is finished and she is beautiful......

Here's a close up of the pattern -

I am inordinately proud of this. It's my first real attempt at lace and although it wasn't the most complicated pattern ever I have managed not to make any glaring errors, or had to tink too much of it too many times. Almost no swearing was involved in this shawl, which probably means it wasn't very complicated at all really. But I don't care.

Today has been a running around catching up sort of day, as I have worked 6 out of the last 7 days. So there was some hideous housework to be done, even ironing (not my favourite). And all sorts of other dull stuff. But I have got 2 reviews almost finished and am started on a new book so I'm making headway with the backlog.

And after a couple of days when I was almost without knitting (shock horror) I have succumbed to the temptation and cast on the French Market Bag from knitty.com. Yes, I realise that this is yet another adventure with felting, which may not appear wise after the last failure, but I totally blame Celtic Memory Jo and Lene because they gave me the idea in the first place. And Lene's bag is totally wonderful - mine will have no beautiful embroidered butterflies, but I hope will be sturdy and useful, which is the general point after all. Mine will be blue/grey, using some aran weight pure wool from the stash.

And, yes, I have knitted a swatch, and run it through the washer to check it would felt. What kind of an idiot do you think I am? Answers on a postcard....

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Best Laid Plans.....

This week I was a woman with a plan. I had three days off in the middle of the week and I was going to use them wisely.

I was going to finish painting the living room. I was going to finish knitting the Luna Moth Shawl. I was going to catch up on the books waiting to be read and write the outstanding reviews.

Instead I was offered three extra days work in the shop so I've done none of these things. My only day off this week will be Saturday when I plan to collapse in a heap and do absolutely nothing (except possibly eat, and drink copious amounts of coffee).

Oh and just one other thing. Could whoever it was who left the rain running please go and turn it off now. I've had enough.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday Already!!

Where has the week gone?

It's been a busy week here at Austin Towers. The Evilpixie had her very first driving lesson. She was very nervous, bless her, but she managed alright and didn't crash the car or anything. You should note that neither Pete nor I am teaching her to drive. That would be way too much to cope with. She's got another lesson tomorrow so hopefully she won't be as nervous this time.

I've been dyeing again. I got a fresh batch of colours from D&T Crafts and dyed some commercially spun yarn for a change. So here are the results -

This is double knitting, about 50g, and there there is some 4ply -

and -

None of these coloursways have names yet, so suggestions are welcome. There's about 50g of each of the 4ply, which should be just about enough for a couple of pairs of short ankle socks.

Today I've been faffing about trying (without much success) to make a belt, first a knitted one, then I tried in macrame. This is in aid of a medieval costume I have to come up with for Saturday when my spinning group will be demonstrating at the Lichfield Medieval Market. I shall have to get hold of some linen fabric this week and make a bodice thing, and find a leather belt. I promise pictures!

I've been cracking on with the Luna Moth shawl and am on the final rows of the last repeat so it should be finished this week (it the sewing doesn't take up too much time).

I've also been reading a bit. I finished The Riddle of the Sands which I enjoyed but I think it has dated rather. Still it was a fascinating read though. The narrator's voice was most interesting and kept me enthralled. I also finished The Harper's Quine by Pat McIntosh, set in Medieval Glasgow (which has really got me in the mood for the market next week). This was really good. I'm not one for historical crime as a rule but I thought this was great and shall now track down the rest of the series (this was the first one).

So, I'm all up to date with books for reading group now and shall be starting the latest Denise Mina this evening. Also set in Glasgow of course - is there a theme developing here? It's been on the shelf for a while now and I gather the next one is due shortly so I'd better get cracking.