Friday, January 21, 2011

Summing Up and Looking Ahead

I had a little look back at January's posts from 2010 to see if I'd actually done any of the things I'd planned. And the answer was pretty much a resounding NO!

I wanted to read some great new authors this year - and while I've read some good books there have been precious few of them by authors that were new to me. It seems that when my reading time is limited as it has been this year then I turn to the tried and tested, not wanting to waste any of that precious time on a book I don't like. It's not looking as though I will have any extra reading time this year either as I am now working full-time, 5 days a week. I promise I will at least try some new authors this year though - even if I just read a few chapters and don't get any further, I will try.

Crafting time has been in rather short supply too. I have done almost no quilting at all, dabbled in wire jewellery making and liked it, but haven't taken it any further due to those time restraints. When I've knitted, I've either knitted for other people - there was a lot of gift knitting this year, or I've knitted little shawls. Socks have been barely touched - I haven't even finished the two pairs of socks I had on the needles last January. However I have a few weeks holiday booked for the spring so I'm hoping to get cracking on some of the great ideas that are floating around in my head. I'm hoping to make some clothes for myself, and I'm planning to knit something bigger than just another shawlette. Much as I love to knit shawlettes, really do I need another one? What I do need are a couple of stylish, practical skirts for work, and a go-to, wear with anything cardigan. Other than that there will be more dyeing, some jewellery making, and I will try and finish the quilt that is on the go at the moment.

We did make it to Woolfest and I had a good time, despite the best efforts of Travelodge. And we had a fantastic weekend in Brussels for my birthday. Other than that we had a couple of day trips to London and a few of our pottering about days in Gloucestershire and Derbyshire. It must be time for a trip to Shropshire - eeeh we know how to have a good time, don't we? The long planned trip to Seattle is still on hold and seems to be slowly morphing into a trip to San Francisco instead (probably couldn't afford both). If it will be this year or next remains to be seen, depends on the exchange rate (and whether or not we can afford it). If the US is a stretch too far for this year then we shall almost certainly get up to Scotland again at some point, as we didn't go last year.

I would like to say that I will write more this year, but I know I probably won't. I'll keep making notes though, and you never know - another of those short stories like the Christmas one might appear here from time to time. There just isn't the space in my life for more prolonged writing than that at the moment. I'm not altogether happy about that but I'm being realistic here. The novel is just not going to happen this year.

So that's what this year has in store for me. I'm not setting any unrealistic goals, but will continue to blog as and when I can, will knit and spin and weave as often as time allows, and try and be more time efficient. Here's hoping it will be a good year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Taa Dah!!!!!

Big drum roll please to announce the ceremony for the Annual Mysterious Yarns Books of the Year Awards. I hope you all have your posh frocks on in readiness.

I've not read as many books as usual this year, with work conspiring against me. I am constantly amazed by people telling me who lovely it must be to work in a bookshop, with all those books to read. Wouldn't it be great to be able to read all day, they say. If only. Somewhere in amongst serving the customers, stocking the shelves, doing the paperwork, returning the unsold books, ordering more books to replace them and wrangling the team, I'm lucky if I can snatch 10 minutes of my lunch hour to actually read a book. Which is a shame as there is that constant flow of interesting and tempting books through my hands all the time, with not enough time to read any of them. But I digress.

My Crime Novel of the Year this year goes to Dark Water by Caro Ramsay. It was a close run thing, not many votes in it, but this just edged it over the competition. A well written, smartly plotted book with an interesting and developing team of characters. It's all I ask for in a crime novel really, so why is it so difficult to find?

Non-Crime Book of the Year goes to The Small Hand by Susan Hill. I've read remarkably few non-crime books this year, despite my avowal earlier in the year to read more general fiction. It seems that when I just want a good read I will still always pick up a crime novel, so there weren't too many nominations in this category. Runner up was also by Susan Hill with Howard's End is on the Landing, so she's done very well.

The Fiat Punto Memorial Award for the Book Hurled into the Back of the Car with most Vehemence goes to The Twelfth Card by Jeffery Deaver. Now generally I like Jeffery Deaver's books but this was an audio book, so was listened to mostly in the car (sadly not the Fiat Punto which died a horrible and expensive death this year, to be replaced by a smart VW Golf who's backseat has not yet had a book hurled at it). It seemed to go on for ever (that's the audiobook, not the car), and became very tedious with it's innumerable plot twists. That bit Deaver does in all his Lincoln Rhyme books where he sums up the clues they have on their board - let me tell you that gets very old very quickly when you've listened to it 6 or 7 times. So this audio book very nearly was actually hurled into the backseat on several occasions and it was only the fact that it was a library book that stopped me.

Sadly there is no winner this year for the I Can't Believe I Paid Good Money for That Award. Looking back over the list of books I read, there were very few on the list that I actually paid for - and those that I did buy I enjoyed. That's not to say that I didn't buy any books this year - of course I bought books, I just haven't read many of them yet. I expect there will be a few candidates for next year's award among my TBR pile.

Honorable Mentions need to go to the following books which I loved -

The Language of Bees by Laurie R King, latest in the wonderful Mary Russell series.

Sweetsmoke by David Fuller which was the first book I read in 2010 and was a fantastic read

Saints of New York by RJ Ellory which is the first of his I've actually read, despite having several of his earlier books. It's an interesting study of a cop in meltdown.

Rome by Manda Scott, taking the characters from the end of her amazing Boudica series and moving them on in time and place. I loved it and am eagerly awaiting the next installment which is not out until May.

There are some more great books to look forward to this year, with Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane at the start of February - he returns to his roots with this one which features Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, some 12 or so years after Gone Baby Gone. I got a proof of this and it's definitely been worth the wait. Most exciting for me is the news of a new James Sallis book in August. Roll on Summer.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Spinning with Corn Fibre

Every year at my spinning group we have a competition which is judged by the group and a prize awarded at the annual party. Previous competitions have been for making a peg doll, a Christmas decoration, woven squares etc. This year, as we are celebrating our 25th anniversary we came up with something a bit different. Everyone donated 50g of fibre of some kind which we drew at random and we must each make something with this fibre, in time for our 25th Birthday Party in mid-february.

I drew a bag of corn fibre. It is not something I've ever spun before but that's all part of the fun, isn't it? Isn't it? I tried to do a bit of research about how to spin this, but there was nothing very helpful out there. It's odd stuff - very white and lustrous and the fibres are very fine. I'm not sure it has a natural staple length (see below for how it gets made) but the staples in the stuff I got are about 2-3 inches. Corn fibre, in case you're not aware, sounds like it should be one of those great natural fibres like linen or flax, but the process by which it's extracted from the plant involves quite a lot of chemicals. Basically the fibre is dissolved into a gloopy substance by means of various chemicals and then is it slowly extruded into long, fine fibres. It doesn't take dye well, so I've not attempted that. It was a complete pig to spin - too much twist and the fibre snaps, too little and it just drifts apart in your hand. It has none of the crimp of wool , so it's slippery and I kept letting the strands slip through my fingers and losing them. If I didn't pay attention the fibres clumped together and I got lumps. God knows how - at other times it would barely hold together. So now I have just over 200m of this bright white shiny yarn, with a few lumpy bits in it. It's not terribly well spun - I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, it's such an alien substance, and I really wasn't enjoying the experience.

You'll have to wait and see the end results, which won't be revealed until after the party on Feb 12th. I'm not sure that it's going to resemble what I have planned in my head - we'll have to see.

Anyway you'll all be pleased to hear that the voting for the Mysteriousyarns Book Awards is now closed and the votes are being counted and verified. Results soon, I promise.