Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Week 13


This week, I read River of Doubt by Candice Millard.  Let me say first off, it's kind of hard to write a bad book about Teddy Roosevelt.  Bigger than life in everything I've ever read about him, this book does nothing to dispel that image.  The book tells the story of Roosevelt's journey down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon, and the hardships (and calling them "hardships" is really the tip of the iceberg here) the exploration party encountered during the trip. The group of explorers that went on this trip was probably the best suited to explore this area, in an era where no one got to pop off to REI for a nice lightweight canoe that folded up and army rations for food.  The twin leaders of the group Roosevelt with his larger-than-life personality, and the Brazilian explorer, Candido Rondon, a taciturn military man, are polar opposites about many things, but both of them knew a thing or three about seemingly unworkable odds for a good outcome of bad ventures.  The group experienced setback after setback, and Roosevelt himself winds up injured and extremely ill during the exploration trip.  (At one point in the book, he tells the group to go ahead without him.  He's got raging fevers and a horrible infection in his leg with abscess formations and can scarely walk.)

The book is a blend of naturalist facts about the Amazon, the river itself, the rain forest, the creatures in it (this was, in theory, also a trip to catalogue flora and fauna of the region, as well as map The River of Doubt itself) and a history of the explorer's trip.  The author does a fantastic job weaving historical tidbits about each of the members of the expedition together with world history at the time, and anecdotes about Roosevelt himself.  Well-written, engaging and fascinating - I highly recommend this one!  (I also appreciated greatly the extensive followup section that chronicled what happened to the main members of the party after the expedition finished up - that was worth the price of admission for me right there.)

I've now started Belle Cora, for week #27 - a book with a beautiful title.  I've read the first quarter or so and I'm really enjoying this one. It's a historical fiction book spanning the early 19th century through the Great Earthquake in San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th - told from the perspective of a young woman who became a well-known madame in San Francisco after growing up in a fervent Evangelical household in the 1840s.

The 2016 List
1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't
2. A book set in a different continent
3. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 (winner or nominated)
4. A book by an author you discovered in 2015: Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr - DONE.
5. A book with a title beginning with the 1st letter of your name:  Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose - DONE.
6. The highest rated on your TBR
7. A book about books
8. A classic book with less than 200 pages:  Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence - DONE
9. A book that was mentioned in another book
10. A book by an author you feel you should have read by now
11. A book from the Rory Gilmore challenge
12. A childhood classic
13. Reader’s Choice:  Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell - DONE.
14. A book with one of the five W’s -or H in the title (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) What She Left - T.R. Richmond - DONE.
15. A book set in the past (more than 100 years ago):  Cervantes Street by Jamie Manrique - DONE.
16. A book from the top 100 mystery novels
17. A book with a beautiful cover: Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
18. A book on a summer/beach reading list
19. A non-fiction book
20. A book with a first name in the title
21. A book from the Goodreads Recommendations page
22. The first book in a new to you series
23. The next book in a series you are reading
24. A "between the numbers" book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.):  The Three Monarchs by Anthony Horowitz - DONE.
25. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you
26. A book everyone is talking about
27. A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion): Belle Cora - Richard Margulies
28. A biography, autobiography, or memoir
29. A book by an author who writes under more than one name:  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) - DONE.
30. A fairytale from a culture other than your own
31. A work of young adult fiction:  The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge. DONE.
32. A historical fiction book
33. The 16th book on your TBR
34. A book about mental illness: Adeline by Norah Vincent - DONE
35. An award winning book: River of Doubt by Candice Millard - DONE.
36. An identity book - a book about a different culture, religion or sexual orientation:  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - DONE.
37. A book that you've seen the movie of but haven't read
38. A book about an anti hero:  Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace - DONE.
39. A previous suggestion that did not make it into the list
40. A novella from your favorite genre:
41. A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction)
42. A top 100 fantasy novel
43. A book about a thing that goes bump in the night
44. A book you're embarrassed to read in public
45. A book related to a hobby or passion you have
46. A crime story:  The Cutting Season by Attica Locke - DONE.
47. A book with a type of food/drink in the title
48. A dystopia
49. A book with a great opening line
50. A book originally written in a language other than English:  Tove Jansson's The Summer Book - DONE.
51. A short story from a well-known author
52. A book published in 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Week 12

I was under the weather this weekend, so I did a metric tonnage of reading while I knit on some plain vanilla stripey socks and couch potato'ed it.

I finished up Cervantes Street for week #15's topic: A book set in the past, more than 100 years ago.  Lots of information in this (fictional) account of Miguel de Cervantes's life - about which not much is known.  In theory the book purports to create the world behind the writing of Don Quixote but since there is so little known about the author that can be validated with extant historical documents, take it with a grain of salt.  I'll admit that my knowledge of mid-16th century Algiers and the Turks is limited, so I enjoyed filling in some of the gaps of that with the storyline of this book.  I had a hard time switching between the 3 voices the author used to advance the narrative: Cervantes's himself, a rival writer whom he knew in school, and a clerk turned spy hired by the rival writer to spy on Cervantes.  I found myself having to reread the beginnings of chapters as I missed the change in voice and was confused about who was speaking.  I'll give it an overall B-.

I then moved onto week #4's topic: A book by an author you discovered in 2015.  If you kept up with my list from last year, you'll know that Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See made my top 5 list for books read in 2015.  Four Seasons in Rome, which I chose to read for this week's topic, is a completely different book but all the things I loved about his writing last year held up in this book too.  The book chronicles the 12 months he and his wife and their twin sons (kudos to his wife for embarking on this adventure with a set of twins less than a year old - she's a trooper!) spent in Rome after he receives an appointment/stipend to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  In theory, he is going to use that time to write a book on the WWII resistance in France, but instead what falls from his pen is a love story about Rome and about writing.  His writing is so evocative, so lyrical, it makes me want to grab Pliny the Elder's Natural History and sit and read it (which is saying something). His dry wit combined with perfectly chosen words to capture a moment, a burst of sunlight, a tree's bark in the winter made this a contemplative read that I savored every word of.  Highly recommended.

I then picked up a quick palate cleanser with Anthony Horowitz's The Three Monarchs, to fulfill week #24 with a book between other books.  This is a short story based on the Sherlock Holmes's characters (a missing Dr. Watson chronicle, if you will).  Horowitz's Sherlock Holmes stories - he has other full-length ones - are brilliantly done.  I read The House of Silk by this same author and loved it (I'm a Holmes fan).  He completely captures the writing style of Conan Doyle, and brings the great detective back to life, along with his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson.  A fun read - one I thoroughly enjoyed for a little mind candy.

Up next, which I've just started is River of Doubt by Candice Millard, is my book for week #35 for an award-winning book.  This history tells the story of Theodore Roosevelt's journey down the Amazon to an uncharted tributary of the great river and the hardships the exploration party encountered during the trip after Roosevelt's election defeat in 1912.  I know nothing about this story, but 3 chapters in, I'm already waiting to see each page of the adventure unfold.  Even better that it's not fiction.

The 2016 List
1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't
2. A book set in a different continent
3. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 (winner or nominated)
4. A book by an author you discovered in 2015: Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr - DONE.
5. A book with a title beginning with the 1st letter of your name:  Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose - DONE.
6. The highest rated on your TBR
7. A book about books
8. A classic book with less than 200 pages:  Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence - DONE
9. A book that was mentioned in another book
10. A book by an author you feel you should have read by now
11. A book from the Rory Gilmore challenge
12. A childhood classic
13. Reader’s Choice:  Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell - DONE.
14. A book with one of the five W’s -or H in the title (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) What She Left - T.R. Richmond - DONE.
15. A book set in the past (more than 100 years ago):  Cervantes Street by Jamie Manrique - DONE.
16. A book from the top 100 mystery novels
17. A book with a beautiful cover: Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
18. A book on a summer/beach reading list
19. A non-fiction book
20. A book with a first name in the title
21. A book from the Goodreads Recommendations page
22. The first book in a new to you series
23. The next book in a series you are reading
24. A "between the numbers" book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.):  The Three Monarchs by Anthony Horowitz - DONE.
25. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you
26. A book everyone is talking about
27. A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion)
28. A biography, autobiography, or memoir
29. A book by an author who writes under more than one name:  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) - DONE.
30. A fairytale from a culture other than your own
31. A work of young adult fiction:  The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge. DONE.
32. A historical fiction book
33. The 16th book on your TBR
34. A book about mental illness: Adeline by Norah Vincent - DONE
35. An award winning book: River of Doubt by Candice Millard.
36. An identity book - a book about a different culture, religion or sexual orientation:  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - DONE.
37. A book that you've seen the movie of but haven't read
38. A book about an anti hero:  Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace - DONE.
39. A previous suggestion that did not make it into the list
40. A novella from your favorite genre:
41. A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction)
42. A top 100 fantasy novel
43. A book about a thing that goes bump in the night
44. A book you're embarrassed to read in public
45. A book related to a hobby or passion you have
46. A crime story:  The Cutting Season by Attica Locke - DONE.
47. A book with a type of food/drink in the title
48. A dystopia
49. A book with a great opening line
50. A book originally written in a language other than English:  Tove Jansson's The Summer Book - DONE.
51. A short story from a well-known author
52. A book published in 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Week 11

This week, I finished reading Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.  This was for week #36's topic - an identity book and really, this one fit the week's topic better than I thought it would upon initially reading the first few chapters.  Yes, it's a book about a person who genetically is a man, but raised as a girl, and the complications that occurred when he reached puberty, but it is ALSO a story about family and how family shapes one's identity.  The main character, Calliope Stephanides, is the second child born into a Greek family living in Detroit.  The first half of the book, however, really focuses on her grandparents and their life in the Old Country, before immigrating to the US, their struggles to assimiliate into the American culture, and then how her parents met and the years during World War II when her father is in the Navy.  This is NOT in any way, shape or form, a sensationalistic telling of a transgendered person.  It's really a story about family and nature versus nuture.  Well-written, engrossing, and an overarching good story made this one a Good Read for me.  I'm glad I added it to this year's list.

I just started the next read on my list - Cervantes Street by Jamie Manrique.  A little slow going here in the first few pages - but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt.  (For week 15's topic - a book set in the past more than 100 years ago).  It's a novel about Miguel Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote.)

The 2016 List
1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't
2. A book set in a different continent
3. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 (winner or nominated)
4. A book by an author you discovered in 2015
5. A book with a title beginning with the 1st letter of your name:  Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose - DONE.
6. The highest rated on your TBR
7. A book about books
8. A classic book with less than 200 pages:  Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence - DONE
9. A book that was mentioned in another book
10. A book by an author you feel you should have read by now
11. A book from the Rory Gilmore challenge
12. A childhood classic
13. Reader’s Choice:  Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell - DONE.
14. A book with one of the five W’s -or H in the title (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) What She Left - T.R. Richmond - DONE.
15. A book set in the past (more than 100 years ago):  Cervantes Street by Jamie Manrique.
16. A book from the top 100 mystery novels
17. A book with a beautiful cover: Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
18. A book on a summer/beach reading list
19. A non-fiction book
20. A book with a first name in the title
21. A book from the Goodreads Recommendations page
22. The first book in a new to you series
23. The next book in a series you are reading
24. A "between the numbers" book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.)
25. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you
26. A book everyone is talking about
27. A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion)
28. A biography, autobiography, or memoir
29. A book by an author who writes under more than one name:  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) - DONE.
30. A fairytale from a culture other than your own
31. A work of young adult fiction:  The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge. DONE.
32. A historical fiction book
33. The 16th book on your TBR
34. A book about mental illness: Adeline by Norah Vincent - DONE
35. An award winning book
36. An identity book - a book about a different culture, religion or sexual orientation:  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - DONE.
37. A book that you've seen the movie of but haven't read
38. A book about an anti hero:  Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace - DONE.
39. A previous suggestion that did not make it into the list
40. A novella from your favorite genre
41. A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction)
42. A top 100 fantasy novel
43. A book about a thing that goes bump in the night
44. A book you're embarrassed to read in public
45. A book related to a hobby or passion you have
46. A crime story:  The Cutting Season by Attica Locke - DONE.
47. A book with a type of food/drink in the title
48. A dystopia
49. A book with a great opening line
50. A book originally written in a language other than English:  Tove Jansson's The Summer Book - DONE.
51. A short story from a well-known author
52. A book published in 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

WIP Wednesday: March 9, 2016

And here's what I'm working on this week!

Sekret Knitting:

  • More by the skin of my teeth than I'd like, I got the final magazine deadline project out the door.  (And no, it wasn't overnighted but I have issues about paying the Post Office a gazillion dollars to ship something, so I just power knitted for 2 days and shipped it out Thursday a.m. so it would arrive Monday via regular Priority Mail.)  Whew!
  • I've moved onto a design I'm working up for Jen at Spirit Trail Fiberworks for her booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  While I can't share the design details with you, I can show you the fantastic colorway she sent me to work with.  This is on her Sunna fingering weight, which is a 75/15/10 blend of superwash merino/cashmere/bombyx silk.  She will have some of this colorway (Angel's Trumpet) up on the website shortly if you don't have plans to attend Maryland and want to pick some up.  It's a seriously beautiful yarn and I'm thrilled with the design so far.  This will be a summer/warm weather garment, with a bit of lace and minimal finishing that you can toss on for all sorts of occasions.  I'm just about finished all the upper portion of the bodice and I'm ready to start the lacey bits.  My plan is to have the sample finished by March 18th, so I'm focusing primarily on this right now. 


  • Next in the design queue will be the Heroines shawl for May 1st.  I've got the yarn dyed for my sample and have the basic construction plotted out.  I need to tweak charting before I start knitting, but that'll be my focus project for the end of March. 
Personal Knitting:
  • I'm still working on the sample sock(s) for the self-striping colorway for April.  I should have the first sock finished up at least in time for my podcast next week.
  • And I cast on Kirsten Kapur/Through the Loops gorgeous Seastripes shawl pattern.  I'm knitting this with a handspun gradient that I spun last year with fiber from Hilltop Cloud.  I'm a wee bit farther along than this picture shows, but still working on the garter stitch section at the top of the shawl and just enjoying the knit.  I'm saving this as a relaxing and fun project for weekend knitting, so no real goals or timeframe on it.  I'll just work on it over the course of the month and see how far I get.

Monday, March 7, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Week 10

This week, I finished up Margaret Atwood's Bluebeard's Egg, which fulfills week #17's topic for a book with a beautiful cover.  I loved the artwork on the edition I read.  The book is a collection of her short stories, and they are pretty eclectic, but all deal with human relationships - some good, some kinda in need of lots of therapy.  I enjoyed the handful of ones that were about her growing-up and childhood and her parents.  Some of the others I was more "meh" about, but in general I love short stories, so I read them all contentedly.  A very mixed bag of things in this one.

I've then started Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides for week 36.  This book isn't exactly what I expected - it's so far really more a historical fiction tale about his grandparents (and I've just started generation #2's history about how his parents fell in love), and less about the main character's transgender issues, which most of the reviews (and we all know you can't necessarily trust those!!) I had read focused on.  I'll save more details and thoughts on this until I've read the entire thing as I suspect this is one of those books that unfolds more completely in the final chapters.  That said, what I have read so far I've been engrossed in - it's a great story spanning immigration and the industrial changes in Detroit at the turn of the 19th-20th century.  My plan is to finish that this week.


The 2016 List
1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't
2. A book set in a different continent
3. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 (winner or nominated)
4. A book by an author you discovered in 2015
5. A book with a title beginning with the 1st letter of your name:  Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose - DONE.
6. The highest rated on your TBR
7. A book about books
8. A classic book with less than 200 pages:  Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence - DONE
9. A book that was mentioned in another book
10. A book by an author you feel you should have read by now
11. A book from the Rory Gilmore challenge
12. A childhood classic
13. Reader’s Choice:  Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell - DONE.
14. A book with one of the five W’s -or H in the title (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) What She Left - T.R. Richmond - DONE.
15. A book set in the past (more than 100 years ago)
16. A book from the top 100 mystery novels
17. A book with a beautiful cover: Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
18. A book on a summer/beach reading list
19. A non-fiction book
20. A book with a first name in the title
21. A book from the Goodreads Recommendations page
22. The first book in a new to you series
23. The next book in a series you are reading
24. A "between the numbers" book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.)
25. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you
26. A book everyone is talking about
27. A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion)
28. A biography, autobiography, or memoir
29. A book by an author who writes under more than one name:  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) - DONE.
30. A fairytale from a culture other than your own
31. A work of young adult fiction:  The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge. DONE.
32. A historical fiction book
33. The 16th book on your TBR
34. A book about mental illness: Adeline by Norah Vincent - DONE
35. An award winning book
36. An identity book - a book about a different culture, religion or sexual orientation:  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
37. A book that you've seen the movie of but haven't read
38. A book about an anti hero:  Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace - DONE.
39. A previous suggestion that did not make it into the list
40. A novella from your favorite genre
41. A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction)
42. A top 100 fantasy novel
43. A book about a thing that goes bump in the night
44. A book you're embarrassed to read in public
45. A book related to a hobby or passion you have
46. A crime story:  The Cutting Season by Attica Locke - DONE.
47. A book with a type of food/drink in the title
48. A dystopia
49. A book with a great opening line
50. A book originally written in a language other than English:  Tove Jansson's The Summer Book - DONE.
51. A short story from a well-known author
52. A book published in 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

Spinning Friday: March 4, 2016

I've kind of lost track where I am in showing my spinning projects after the week-plus hiatus to and from Stitches West, so I'm just going to jump in with my most recently finished project (and if you want to see where I am in the crazy 52 spins in 52 weeks project, you can always go here.)

This week, I worked on a Spin the Bin fiber from deep stash.  This was 4 oz of mixed BFL from Funky Carolina in the custom colorway "Adler".  A moody-broody blend of dark pine green and a deep plum and herby greens.  The original roving looked like:




I split the braid in half, and then split each of those halves again lengthwise - one half I split into 4 pieces and the other into 8.  I then spun each of those halves into singles, and then plied them together for a 2-ply heavy DK weight yarn with 224 yards in the skein.


My grist was a little bit wonky on this one - I spun it in small bits of time this week (like 15-minute sessions) and it was much harder to keep a consistent size for my singles.  I also purposefully spun this with a light twist, trying to keep the BFL loftier, as I think it's slated for either mittens or a hat, and I wanted it a bit soft and squishy (and normally my BFL winds up being very worsted-spun with a tighter smooth twist).

Next up, I'm starting a spin with 2 coordinating braids of Finn from Three Waters Farm for a challenge in their group.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

WIP Wednesday: March 2, 2016

The newest podcast, episode 6, is now live - which has lots of info about what I'm working on.


But for those of you who just want the facts, ma'am.... here they are!

Sekret Knitting:

  • SOOOOOO close to finishing my last deadline knit that I'm working on for Interweave.  The main garment is blocking and I have 1 piece left to finish, which I am off to do immediately after I hit "Post" for this. 
  • Lots of things in the up-and-coming list, but I'll worry about that once I get this March project done and off the needles!
Personal Knitting:  None right now (see above).  But I have plans to cast on a new handspun shawl shortly and of course, I'm always knitting some stripey socks in bits and bobs of time. 

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, o...