Sunday, May 05, 2013

52 Books: #8 - Island of Bones

Island of Bones by Imogen Robertson

This is the third in the series about Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther, set in the 18th Century.  Harriet is a women of independent means and independent spirit. She is beginning to make a name for herself as an investigator of sorts. Gabriel is a pathologist at a time when pathology was in its infancy. The pairing make for an interesting and intelligent read.

Harriet is recently widowed (in the previous book, which I haven't read) and she is seeking distraction from her grief.  When she is invited to travel to Cumbria to the former family home of Gabriel to investigate a mysterious body, she leaps at the chance.  Gabriel is less keen to rediscover his family history which is a grim one.

I really liked this, thought it was clever and atmospheric, with interesting characters. I'd read the first in the series which is called Anatomy of Murder and liked it. I do have the second one somewhere but half of my books are in boxes so I'm just reading what comes to hand.

Anyway I enjoyed this and will certainly read the others.

Spinning stuff - finally

I know I said there would be spinning stuff a couple of weeks ago. I can't believe you all fell for that old chestnut.  You should know me by now - it always takes far longer for me to get around to writing a post than it should.

But today I do actually have some photos of spinning to show you.

Way back last year sometime the lovely people at Storey Publishing sent me a digital proof of a new spinning book called Spinners Book of Yarn Designs. I loved the book and I even blogged about how good I thought it was.  I even went and bought my own copy when it was published.  And I thought it would be a good idea to try some of the techniques in the book, to try and expand my skills a bit.

So I sat down one afternoon and spun a lovely fat singles yarn from some unidentified fibre that was probably merino. I had carded this fibre a while back and I never remember to label anything. Anyway I was pretty happy with the resulting yarn which holds together and is balanced and is a pretty cool colour too.
And, no, since you ask I have no idea what I'm going to use it for.
At the same time, I took the chance to free up all my bobbins of odds and sods that were cluttering up my spinning basket.
So there's some bright red and pink merino bought from the Threshing Barn and spun into a lovely loose, sqwooshy 2-ply yarn that will make a beautiful hat. Of course it's too warm now to wear a hat but there's always next winter.
And then there is the last few yards of a merino/silk blend which looks like one of those Ashford blends but I can't think where it came from.  There was about half a bobbin left unplied so I Navaho plied it just to free up the bobbin and it's come up very nice.  I had more of this but it wasn't so nice as a 2ply. That'll teach me to sample, won't it.  Actually it probably won't. I hate sampling.
Finally there is a full bobbin of loveliness -

That's a laceweight alpaca spun with some beautiful alpaca fibre that I bought from Fleecewitch at Alpaca Futurity 2013 at the NEC.  Alpaca Futurity was a blast. We (that's the Walsall Handspinners) met lots of spinners and potential spinners. We made a few new spinners. We made new friends. AND - we made a blanket from handspun alpaca fibre which we then knitted and crocheted into squares and sewed together.  The lovely alpaca people auctioned it at their dinner and raised £1050 for Birmingham Children's Hospital.  How brilliant is that!

Back soon(ish) with a mega book update, because I'm still trying to do that 52 books thing.


Monday, April 08, 2013

Pastures New

I know I promised the next post would be about spinning but life has been a bit hectic and I have news.

Meet my lovely new friend. He's so new he doesn't have a name yet. He's an alpaca and he was bought for me by my wonderful friends and colleagues at Waterstones Walsall as a leaving gift.

I've got a new job at Waterstones Stratford-upon-Avon. I've just finished my first week and I'm loving the job, though I'm having to travel quite a lot to get there which is curtailing my knitting/spinning/weaving time rather.  It was a big wrench to leave Walsall where I've been for six years and I miss my fantastic team there, but the time was right for me to move on.

This is not the only move I'll be making this year as we've come to the conclusion that we have finally filled Austin Towers to bursting point so we will be moving to a larger house, most likely in Wolverhampton.  We still have some packing up of books, comics, wool, craft equipment etc to do before we can put our house on the market but we've made a start.  We just have so much stuff!

Back soon with that spinning post.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

52 Books: #7 - All My Friends are Superheroes

All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

This is a slim volume, more a novella than a full blown book.  This means it is a really quick read, something that I shall try more of as I try and fit 52 books into this year of reading.

Anyway, the plot is that Tom is married to The Perfectionist who is a superhero. Her power is to make everything perfect. Tom is normal. On their wedding day The Perfectionist is hypnotised by another superhero so that she can no longer see Tom.  After a few months of waiting for him (when he's already there, she just can't see him) she decides to move away and start a new life. Tom has until the end of their flight to make her see him.

I liked this book. I really did. The concept was interesting and well handled. I thought the book was also the right length for the story (Life of Pi could have learned something here, IMHO).  Interspersed with the ongoing plot are little vignettes about superheroes, some of whose powers were pretty ordinary. I liked that it suggested that we are all superheroes inside if we can just recognise that.  You could read this just as an entertaining story with intriguing characters (which is pretty much what I did as I was having a busy, complicated week) or you could delve into the hidden metaphors of the book and explore it more deeply. Having read it on a superficial level I will definitely go back to it at some later point and read it again.

This is definitely one I would recommend.

Next post will be about spinning. It's my day off tomorrow and I have no car so I have no excuse not to spin the samples I've been thinking about for ages.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

52 Books: #6 - The Life of Pi

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

People have been telling me that I should read this for a long time.  Pete loved this book when he read it.  I resisted because it did win the Booker Prize and you know how much I hate Booker books - they're always such a disappointment. 

Anyway this was 20p for the kindle so I bought it and started to read. Boy was it tedious.  I just wanted it to cut to the chase and for something to actually happen.  I realise this is probably literary heresy - but I really had to make myself finish this. It just seemed to drag on forever and it was a struggle to make myself pick it up and read it.  Once he gets on the boat with the tiger it gets a little better - at least things are happening, well some of the time anyway.  So I'm afraid this has just confirmed all my prejudices against books that win literary prizes. (And it's done nothing to persuade me to try Wolf Hall again.) 

There is nothing on earth that could persuade me to watch the film of this.

P.S. - I did like the tiger.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

So I promised you knitwear...

..and here it is.   This is the Sweet Scarborough pattern from Drops. It's a free pattern and I adjusted it a little bit. It's supposed to have orange and mustard in the Fair Isle section but I did it just in the red and white. I knitted it in the suggested yarn which is Drops Karisma. It was a lovely yarn to work with.  The only thing about this project was that the first time I knitted it I thought it might be a little big but I wasn't that bothered as I'd probably wear it over another sweater anyway, but when I soaked it ready for blocking it grew and grew until it was so huge it reached my knees.  I had to rip it all out and re-knit the whole thing. This time I knitted it on a smaller needle (I swear I had gauge the first time, really.) and I knitted it a size smaller around the yolk, though I kept the original size round the bottom as I'm wider there. 

I love this now that it's finished and wear it a lot, one day soon I might actually sew on the buttons.

I see from the website that there's a pattern for matching socks. I might have to knit those.

Friday, February 15, 2013

52 Books: #5 - The Killing Floor

The Killing Floor by Lee Child

I've read lots of Lee Child's books but I'd never read the first one, so I thought I'd go back and rectify that.

This opens (as several do) with Jack Reacher being arrested as he eats breakfast in a diner. He's never been in the town before, only just arrived there, knows no-one, but finds himself charged with a murder that happened the previous evening.  I'm not going to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't read this by telling you anything else about it. I'm only going to say that this is really good and that I found the early Jack Reacher quite different from the later one. I wasn't expecting that. Next up some knitting news - including a finished project. I know. Actually finished. How amazing is that.

52 Books: #4 - The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters.

I have a bit of an addiction to these books.  I did start trying to read them in the right order but I've been distracted by a couple of the later ones. There's a really good one about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (and how much help the Emersons were to Howard Carter).

Anyway this is one of the earlier ones and comes just after The Camel Died at Noon which is the first one I read.  In this book the Emersons are in Egypt on their own, having left the children at home for once. Emerson gets himself kidnapped and hit on the head. Peabody goes to rescue him to discover that he's lost his memory and has no idea who she is.  Much hilarity ensues as you can imagine.  If you want a bit of light relief then these books are just the ticket.

Friday, February 01, 2013

52 Books: #3 - The Likeness by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana French

Detective Cassie Maddox gets called to a crime scene where the murder victim bears a startling resemblence to herself.  This gives her old boss Frank an idea - if Cassie goes undercover as the victim then they might find out who killed her.  This puts Cassie into a pretty dangerous position, impersonating someone who's actually dead but who the police have said is just injured, to a houseful of friends who may or may not have had something to do with killing her.   It's a fascinating concept and the plot is pretty intriguing too as Cassie gets more and more involved with her "housemates" and their laid-back Bohemian lifestyle.  I'm not going to say anymore about the plot as it would only spoil it for you. Suffice to say that this was another big hit and I'm on a kind of roll here with good books, even if I am only 3 books into what is looking like a bigger challenge than it seemed three weeks ago.!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

52 Books: #2 - The Rough Collier by Pat McIntosh

The Rough Collier by Pat McIntosh

I'm in danger of falling behind - not with the reading but with the blogging!

A nasty cold put paid to any thoughts of catching up at the weekend, as I could barely bring myself to squint at the computer screen. Anyway I am much better now so will try and get back up to speed.

This is fifth in this series, set mostly in Medieval Glasgow and featuring a young lawyer called Gil Cunningham and his lady Alys, who in this volume he has just married.

This one is set among the coal-workers of Lanarkshire and I found the background detail of the colliers' lives absolutely fascinating. Pat McIntosh always manages to teach me something in the course of a book, and without any hint of lecturing.  A body is discovered in a peat bog and Gil, who is visiting his mother nearby, is asked to look into the death and determine whose body it is.

This is a lovely book, full or period detail and atmosphere and I like how the characters of Gil and Alys are developing through the series.

Definately one I would recommend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

52 Books: #1 - The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.

One of the things I wanted to do this year was explore different books. I hardly ever read SF. In fact I think it's been about 15 years since I last read an SF novel, which is pretty odd when you consider that I love SF TV and films.

The Forever War is the story of one man, William Mandella. At the beginning of the book he's just signed up to fight in the war against Taurans, an alien race who are threatening the Universe.  The war is happening at various far distant points in the galaxy which are reached via Stargates, however these gates alter time and by the time you come back through from whatever point in the Universe you've been to the Earth has aged, sometimes by hundreds of years. You however remain the same age.  That's quite an interesting concept. For the soldiers it's like coming back to a different planet as political and social views have changed over time. Of course there is nothing on this new Earth for them so they re-enlist and become perpetual soldiers.

I really liked this book and will probably read the next one in the trilogy too at some point.  So I feel vindicated by my decision to start off my year of books with something out of my comfort zone.

Next up a more familiar genre.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The 52 Book Project

Could I read 52 books in a year?  Do I have the time in my life to even attempt such a task?  But really when you break it down it's just one book a week isn't it?  I can manage that. Can't I?

So I'm going to give it a go.  Here are the rules I've set myself.

One short post for each book completed.  For the sake of my sanity I can opt to not finish a book but I need to have read at least 100 pages before I give up. Only books read in 2013 are eligible. This includes audio books.

OK then. First up is The Forever War by Joe Haldeman.