Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review - Challenge Update - August 10, 2018

I finished up 2 books over the last week.  The first was Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrless.


Book Summary:  Lud-in-the-Mist, the capital city of the small country Dorimare, is a port at the confluence of two rivers, the Dapple and the Dawl. The Dapple has its origin beyond the Debatable Hills to the west of Lud-in-the-Mist, in Fairyland. In the days of Duke Aubrey, some centuries earlier, fairy things had been looked upon with reverence, and fairy fruit was brought down the Dapple and enjoyed by the people of Dorimare. But after Duke Aubrey had been expelled from Dorimare by the burghers, the eating of fairy fruit came to be regarded as a crime, and anything related to Fairyland was unspeakable. Now, when his son Ranulph is believed to have eaten fairy fruit, Nathaniel Chanticleer, the mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist, finds himself looking into old mysteries in order to save his son and the people of his city. 

My Review:  I loved this little book.  Beautifully written, lovely language and a story about the power of the love for your child (as well as yourself).  There are echos of Tolkien in this book - things like the Bracegirdle's, and a bit of a Hobbiton feel to Dorimare. Another one recommended by my dad that I probably should have read years ago but am really glad I've read it now. 

Next up was A Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber. 



Book Summary: An intellectual property lawyer is at the center of a deadly conspiracy and a chase to find a priceless treasure involving William Shakespeare. As he awaits a killer—or killers—unknown, Jake writes an account of the events that led to this deadly endgame, a frantic chase that began with a fire in an antiquarian bookstore.

A distinguished Shakespearean scholar found tortured to death . . . 

A lost manuscript and its secrets buried for centuries . . . 

An encrypted map that leads to incalculable wealth . 


My Review:  I wanted to like this book a lot.  A historical mystery around finding old letters that tantalizingly lead to the possibility of a missing play by William Shakespeare sounded like a brilliant plot.  Sadly, while this was an okay book, it wasn't a great one.  It could have used an editor with a stronger pen for sure - by the middle third of the book, it was wallowing along in too much character development and digressing plot lines that didn't advance the story.  Probably a read for folks who like Dan Brown - it felt a lot like his writing, but for other folks looking for a great historical mystery, probably not. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

July 2018 WIPocalypse Check-In

Just two projects that I've worked on this month:

First, I finished stitching Believe, which is a Mill Hill Buttons and Beads kit.  Super fun to stitch and I love the finished product.  I replaced the perforated paper with a 14-count hand-dyed Aida in Balsam from Hand-Dyed Fabrics by Stephanie (which was part of a Stitchy Box from 2017).  I also went ahead and finished it up with a "faux Xmas package" finish look this weekend.  I love how it turned out and can't wait to display it over the holidays.


The other project I've worked on in July is my Witch Way full-coverage piece, charted by Heaven and Earth Designs with artwork by Molly Harrison.  Here's what it will look like when it's finished:


And here's where I am currently.  Still working on page 1, and while I thought I might be able to get a page finish this month, I don't think that'll actually happen in the next couple of days, so I'll hold that over until September. 





Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Tour de Fleece - Week 2

We are mostly thru week 2 of the Tour de Fleece, heading into the final days.  (The Tour finishes up this year on July 29th).

I finished up another spin, which is the 80/20 merino/silk roving from The Yarn Yard.  I finally dug out the information on it and it was from a co-op-type fiber club where we had 6 different indie dyers sending out packages that shared a common theme for the 6 months. The theme for this one was "Scottish Fauna", and I do think it did a great job of portraying salmon, red deer, rainbow trout and heather.


I spun up a 2-ply sportweight yarn with 294 yards/3.5 oz in the final skein.  I love the fall-ish colors in this one and the hues are close enough, I think it almost works as a neutral.  No specific plans (I'm a broken record with that, aren't I?) but one more out of unspun stash into yarn stash. 


Next up, I've put a Three Waters Farm SW merino/merino/silk blend on the wheel.  The colorway for this is "Satisfied With Summer".  Hoping to finish this before the end of July!




Monday, July 23, 2018

Book Review: Infernal Devices

This past week I finished up K.W. Jeter's Infernal Devices.  This is for the week #32 topic - an alternate history book.


Book Summary: He inherited a watchmaker's store and a heapful of trouble. But idle sometime-musician George has little talent for clockwork. And when a shadowy figure tries to steal an old device from the premises, George finds himself embroiled in a mystery of time travel, music and sexual intrigue. A genuine lost classic, a steampunk original whose time has come.

My Rating/Summary:  3 1/2 out of 5 stars. This book was one of the first "steampunk" books written - and if Wikipedia is to be believed, KW Jeter is the writer who actually coined the phrase "steampunk".

Steampunk:  A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology. 

Interestingly enough, this book really doesn't have much in the way of steam-powered machinery.  Instead, the concepts are focused around sort of seismic vibrations and clockwork.  Both of which the main character is completely clueless about although he is thrust into an adventure that requires knowledge of both.  I basically enjoyed this one - lots of clever (although maybe almost too clever) plot twists) and interesting characters who kept me guessing.  Lots of adventures and romps across England and unlikely red herrings strewn throughout the book, so it was an entertaining read.  I felt the ending maybe tied things up a bit to easily/quickly, but otherwise, if you like steampunkery, you'll probably like this one too. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tour de Fleece - Week 2

I'm pretty happy with my progress for the Tour so far this year!  I've been trying to have a goal of 15 minutes of spinning a day, or 30 if I can make that happen.

I finished up the Two If By Hand Polwarth roving, dyed in the "Calavera" colorway and LOVE how this one came out!


I wound up with 204 yards of a super squishy 2-ply worsted weight; final skein was 4 oz.  No specific plans for this one yet, but the little bright pops of jewel tones are so pretty.

Next up, which I just started yesterday is a braid from deep deep stash. This was part of a co-op type dyer's club where a different dyer sent out a braid each month based on a "nature" theme.  I can't remember what the inspiration for this one was, but it's 80/20 merino/silk and reminds me of fall leaves. 


This one went on the wheel yesterday, so not much in the way of progress to show yet. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Stitching Progress

I used late June to do a bit of a check-in on my stitching projects to see where I was with regards to my goals for my yearly stitching resolutions:

I am trying to get my active WIPs down to 12 by 2019.  Good progress on that front, as I am down to 13 as of this week. I finished the stitching for the Mill Hill Buttons and Beads "Believe" Santa. It needs a press and to be fully finished, but I'm counting it as done.  Super fun to stitch, but whew - a lot of work as it has tons of beads and is basically full coverage.  I did switch out the perforated paper that came with the kit to put this on a 14-count hand-dyed Aida.  I've got some blueish-green batik fabric to back this with.  Undecided on a flat fold or a little pillow, but since I'm waiting on the fabric, I've got time to decide.


Also got my The Winter Garden back from the framer and they did an amazing job - I absolutely LOVE how this one came out.  The combo of that antique barn red mat with the slightly distressed, whitewash-looking frame absolutely delights me!  I couldn't wait until the cold weather to display this, so it's out on my sideboard already. 


My other goal was to get a page finish on all of my full coverage pieces this year too.  I've currently got 4 in progress: Winter's Encounter, Six of Swords, A Stitching Shelf, and Witch Way.  All but Witch Way have had a page finish, so I'm tackling that one next.  Here's the current progress:


I'm going to work on this for the remainder of July or until I get this page done, whichever comes first. 

I'm looking forward to taking a bit of a break from monogamous stitching to participate in Arbitrary August.  That'll be a randomly-generated WIP to work on each day in the month (minus a few days I'm on travel), so I'll be able to at least put a few stitches in multiple different pieces and should be a nice way to work towards my final goal of the year which is to touch all of my pieces at least once. 

Still on the fence about a new start for my birthday this month.  I'm so close to reaching my magic number of 12 active WIPs, I sort of hate to bump that number up again - and since I've got a couple of weeks until my birthday, I 'm going to mull it over a while longer. 



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tour De Fleece 2018

The annual Tour de Fleece is always great fun and a really nice way to focus on some spinning over the summer.  The Tour officially kicked off on Saturday, July 7th, and will run through Sunday, July 29th.  I'm a bit late getting started since I was in DC until Tuesday, but I did get home with enough time on Tuesday the 10th to at least put the start of a spin on my wheel.  (If you're a spinner and you'd like to come join Team Wooly Wonka, we've got a lovely small group of like-minded folks here.  Very casual - you can spin anything you'd like!)

My first spin for the Tour is another one out of stash.  This is Calavera from Two If By Hand, on Polwarth wool.


I decided I would try to get through a couple of braids in the next week or so at a DK-ish weight before I knuckle down and try to work on a thinner-grist spin.  I've got 2 Two If By Hand braids earmarked for the heavier-weight items and I think I'm going to tackle a small amount of a 50/50 angora bunny/silk blend I've got as my lighter-weight yarn - but that is subject to change based on my schedule of things around here. 

I've started the first half of the singles and hoping to get the first half finished up tomorrow.  Here's where that stands so far: 


I'm really looking forward to working on some more deep stash fibers for the Tour!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: Dreamer's Pool

I finished up another book this week.  This one is for week 39, a book with a form of punctuation in the title:  Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier.


Book Summary: Award-winning author Juliet Marillier "weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page" (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland...

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she'll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. 

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

My Review/Rating: 4 stars.  Another one by this author I loved.  I had actually read the second book in this series, and backtracked to this one which takes place before the other one I had read.  I love how this author skillfully combines Celtic mythology and fairy tales, and breathes life into the characters set in this time period.  Her characters are beautifully created and one of my favorite tidbits is that she can so nicely slip back and forth between Blackthorn's voice and Grim's voice as the story unfolds.  I loved having more of their back story, and the tale of Prince Oran and Lady Flidais is everything you'd want a classic fairy tale to be.  A recommended read and I plan to pick up more of this author's work in the future.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

I finished up this book last week for my Around the World in 52 Books challenge: A Court of Thorns and Roses. 



Book Summary: Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

My Rating/Review: 4 1/2 stars.  I really enjoyed this book - I think would have enjoyed it even more if I hadn't read An Enchantment of Ravens more.  They are similar in many ways - human female, Fairie courts who are brutal, and a bit of romance across the human/fairy boundaries.  The main character in this is a great, strong female lead.  There's a tiny bit of Katniss and The Hunger Games in there as well.  I liked the plot twists - there's a lot going on and of course, quests of an epic nature.  I think a very good read for the YA genre.  I also liked the retelling/reshaping of the classic Beauty and the Beast concept.  A few positive points taken off for my current pet peeve - a book within a series that leaves some unanswered questions, but overall, one I'd recommend if you like this sort of fantasy genre. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

WIPocalypse June Check-In

I've worked on 3 projects since my last update.  First up, Six of Swords with artwork by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.  I'm happy to report I finished up page 1!


This is a (relatively) smaller full-sized piece.  I think it has a total of 36 pages (as opposed to 94 or some insane number in A Stitching Shelf), so 1 of 36 done!  I'm stitching this 1 over 1, full crosses on 25-guide Magic Guide with DMC.

I then decided to tackle one of my older WIPs, The Winter Garden, with pattern by the Drawn Thread. The original supply list called for NPI and Dinky Dyes silks, but I opted for Gentle Arts and Colour and Cotton hand-dyed cotton threads and I think it turned out really beautifully.  This is stitched 1 over 2 on 32-count Belfast from Wichelt in the Smokey Pearl colorway (which is the called-for fabric).   It's DONE!  So happy with how this turned out!



Right now, to finish out this last week in June, I'm working on my Desert Mandala from Chatelaine.  This shows the finished upper center landscape vignette.  I'm currently working on the upper border and the bear totem section.  I want to get the bear done before put this away for the month.  I've got backstitching in his body left to do and the backstitching that outlines the cacti and adds in the thorns on those.  Then whatever time I have left, I'll keep working on the upper right-hand border(s).  It's nice to have gotten to the upper edge of the piece so I can sort of feel like I'm now just working to complete things rather than continuing to make the piece bigger!


Friday, June 22, 2018

Spinning Friday - June 22, 2018

I haven't done a Spinning Friday update in eons and since I finished up a spin yesterday, I'll count this as perfect timing.

I pulled out a roving I had been gifted in a swap from the Alaska Yarn Company, a 70/30 wool/alpaca blend, pin-drafted roving. The colorway was Silver Blues (a handpaint colorway).  Dyed over the natural gray of the roving, I really liked how the jewel tones were softened and made a bit more subtle.



There were only 3 oz of this, but I divided it evenly.  (Or so I thought - turned out I was actually pretty far off and I lost about a half an ounce when I got to the end of one bobbin while plying).


This is a 2-ply, fingering weight yarn with 200 yards and 2.4 oz in the finished skein.  It is lovely and soft with a nice gentle halo from the alpaca.  I plied it a bit loosely to maintain the drape, and I think, with the limited yardage, it'll likely grow up to be a cowl or something I can wear and still feel the softness of it.  It also nicely fit the "blue" prompt for the June Wonkapalooza craftalong, so I'm counting it for that too!


Book Review - Challenge Update - August 10, 2018

I finished up 2 books over the last week.  The first was Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrless. Book Summary:   Lud-in-the-Mist, the capital...