Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Happy Holidays

I don't have much of an update this week.   With Christmas right around the corner, I'm been busy with other things. 

Despite that, I did manage to work on two projects; my dark rose sweater and temperature scarf. Both are progressing nicely.

For the sweater, I have the other front about 2/3 done. I won't post a photo at this time because it's almost exactly the same as the one I posted last week, just the other half.  Even though that's the last major piece, there's still lots of finishing touches that need to be done. I hope to have some time in the next couple of weeks to finish those off.

As for the temperature scarf, I'm a couple of days behind. With the exception of yesterday, which was almost pleasant at -2C (that's dark green in temperature scarf speak), the scarf is looking mighty blue. It's been cold here...way too cold. Here's the latest photo:

That's it for this week.  I'll be taking the next two weeks off (from needlework updates), but I'll be back in the new year with an update and hopefully a photo of my finished sweater. 

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tangled Thursday - Word

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week Tami challenged us to use a word or words in our tangle creations. Here's mine:
Tangles: Scrolled Feather, Beadlines, Auraknot
I really wanted to keep it topical this week and with Christmas right around the corner I thought "Peace" was appropriate. I had intended to do a couple more, particularly a few from Sandy over at Tanglebucket using a cool font she featured on her blog. However, time got away from me...again. Also, I haven't figured out a good transfer method for getting the printed out images onto the cardstock that I prefer drawing on. It's much too thick to see through or for use with a light table. When I'm feeling braver, I might attempt to run my cardstock through my printer. However, that might damage the print head, so I'm not keen on doing that. Perhaps a Google search will turn up some helpful information.

This will be my last Tangled Thursday post this year. With the busy holiday season upon us, I don't have enough time to devote to drawing. I will, however, be back on January 2 with another post....hopefully...or maybe January 9.

Be sure to check out the other "word" creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Knitting and Knitting or Purling and Purling

It's time again to give an update on my knitting projects.  This week I worked on two of them. 

I completed the front of my dark rose sweater. Here's a shot:

Also, I'm almost done the other sleeve; I have about 5-6" left to do. With any luck I'll finish that tomorrow, then I'll start on the other front. That's the last major piece, so I'm really happy. There's still quite a bit to do, though, including some stuff I haven't done before, like a button band. Thank God for the internet and Youtube.

I wanted to point out something very cool about this sweater pattern. Two things, actually:
  • First, it's called Garter and Cable sweater. This confused me at first. I knew that Garter stitch was all knitting and since I couldn't see where in the pattern the "all knitting" was, I figured I was missing something. It didn't dawn on me until I was about 10" into the back of the sweater that Garter stitch can also be all purling. (because purling is the opposite of knitting). Duh! That's cool, right?

  • The second thing is that both the ribs and the cables are backed or surrounded by garter stitch. If you click on the photo above, you should be able to see that. That means those stitches will be knitted, or in this case purled, on both sides. With me so far? Since the right sides of the ribs and cables are all knitting, that means the backsides are purled. Right? So if the backsides of the ribbing, cables and garter stitches are all purling....every second row in the sweater is all purling!!! That's far simpler than "traditional" ribbing and cabling, where the front side and back side are a combination of knitting and purling. If you've ever knitted such a sweater you'll know that at first the pattern is grueling to follow, but once you "see" the pattern it's much easier; the backside is often just the opposite of the front. The design/method on this sweater makes that whole pattern learning process so much easier and every second row a breeze.   I love this sweater!!
The other things I was working on is a cowl.
Remember my blue scarf that was too short to make into a double loop cowl (from Bernat). Well, I tried again with the white Bernat Boa yarn I had. I guess I really need to check my gauge using this yarn because it, too, came up short by about 8" even though I followed the pattern exactly...garter stitch and number of stitches. It still works as a cowl, sort of, more like a neck muffler. I'm going to leave it for now, but it wouldn't take that much time to rip it out and redo on larger needles.  Something to think about....

That's it for this week.

Next week, I'll give you an update on my temperature scarf, which is going to have many more blue rows. Brrrrrr...it's frickin' cold here.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

In Aunty Lee's Delights, Rosie Lee, whom everyone calls "Aunty Lee", has recently lost her husband. Instead of becoming another widow who plays mah-jongg and goes shopping, she decides to open a restaurant, Auntie Lee's Delights. When a body is found in a tourist area and one of her dinner guests fails to show up one night, Auntie Lee dons her amateur sleuth hat and springs into action to get to the bottom of things.

I really enjoyed this book. However, I didn't quite love Aunty Lee in the beginning. I couldn't get a handle on her or the other characters. However, about halfway through it all clicked for me. After that I couldn't get enough of them and the book ended too soon.

The mystery was set in Singapore, which was something new for me. It was what originally peaked my interesting in the book. The story really gave me a taste of what the country was like. It's especially wonderful that the author is from Singapore. That way I knew I'd likely be immersed in the real Singapore.

The book was billed as "witty", however, I didn't know if that was going to translate well across cultures. Humour is hard to pinpoint sometimes. What's funny to some people isn't funny to others. Add in different cultures and it could have come across as dull or anything but funny. Thankfully, this wasn't the case. It wasn't always laugh-out-loud funny, but it did have some rather amusing parts, mostly due to its wonderful cast of characters.

Speaking of characters, I especially loved this eclectic group. There was the odd pairing of Lee's stepson and his wife, a gay couple (their togetherness is still illegal in Singapore), and an older Australian couple, whose trip may not be as it seems. Then, of course, there's Aunty Lee herself, who has tons of smarts and more spunk than someone half her age.

I'm particularly fond of the following quote from the book:
...people ought to go through the ideas they carried around in their heads as regularly as they turned out their store cupboards. ... Aunty Lee believed everything inside a head or cupboard could affect everything else in it by going bad or just taking up more space than it was worth. (page 229)

Recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

Aunty Lee's Delights, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 9780062227157(Uncorrected Proof), 260p.

Still looking for gifts? How about a book from DK?

With Christmas just around the corner, I bet some of you are still looking for a few gifts. If so, you might be interested to know that DK Publishing has great deals on some of their titles for both adults and children.

I love DK books! They are high quality, very visual and always entertaining.

I've already read and reviewed a number of the books in this promotion.  They are:
Children's Book of Music
Optical Illusions
Star Wars: Year by Year
The Human Body Book
Canadian Gardener's Guide

In the coming weeks, I should have a few more reviews on these titles. 
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Endgame by Frank Brady

In Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall -- from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness, author Frank Brady takes the reader inside the world of chess genius, Bobby Fischer.

I really enjoyed this book. Of course, I knew the name Bobby Fischer, but knew very little about him. I also didn't know that much about chess. I know the pieces and their moves (mostly). However, I knew nothing about strategy, the world of chess, the other players, and the competitions. I should have realized that it was ultra-competitive, but even that was new to me. Because of all of that, the book was extremely enlightening. I still don't really know how to play chess, though, but I didn't expect to.

By reading this book, I think I have a better understanding of the Fischer and his life. Chess played a major part of his life, but he had an on-again, off-again relationship with religion, excelled at many different sports, and was a voracious reader.

As for the chess portions of the book, Brady goes through the major points of some of Fischer's most famous games, at a level that's easy to understand for those who aren't grandmasters. Like I said above, even though I'm not that familiar with the game, I found of Brady's explanations quite easy to follow and exceptionally fascinating.

There were hints that Fischer possibly suffered from some type of mental illness, possibly even more than one type. He was temperamental, grew restless easily, hated the media attention, yet wanted everyone to recognize him. He was also an absolute genius. I think, as a whole, Fischer probably was misunderstood by the general public and the media.

Besides chess, Fischer is also known for his anger and outbursts at the Russians and Jews. There's a lot that was presented that I can forgive, tolerate and even understand. His anti-Semitic tirades, however, I cannot. Unforgiveable. Period. I wish the author had addressed Fischer's reasons for these strong views or his need to lash out. Saying that Fischer thought the Russians were cheating doesn't justify it. For me, Fischer's reasons are still a mystery.

I wished the author would have just written a straight-up biography rather than try to address or dispute some of what the other sources said about Fischer. Because of the disputative asides, the book felt a little biased and defensive at times.

Highly recommended. I think it would be helpful to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the game and a little interest in it, but there's no need to be an expert. Those who enjoy reading about celebrities or biographies might also enjoy this one.

For more information about this book, please visit the RandomHouse website.

Endgame by Frank Brady, Crown Publishers (Random House), ©2011. ISBN 9780307463906(Uncorrected Proof), 384p, includes notes and bibliography.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

In The Cuckoo's Calling, Cormoran Strike is a private investigator. Things aren't going well for him at the moment. He's living in his office because of a recent breakup with his girlfriend, and creditors are chomping at the bit for payment. Then, John Bristow walks into his office. Bristow's sister, a famous supermodel, had reportedly committed suicide months before, but John refuses to believe it. He wants Strike to look into it and prove the police wrong.

I can't tell you how much I loved this book. It really was superb! While the story was pretty amazing, it was the characters in this one that kept me interested until the very end.

Rowling created two absolutely brilliant main characters: Cormoran and Robin. First of all, there was Cormoran Strike: great name, great character!! A wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Strike was too proud to tell people he was living in his office, yet he wasn't in a position to change it. In many ways, I felt sorry for him. That's no way for anyone to live. At times it doesn't look like he's going to succeed, yet somehow he makes the best of his situation and does. He's definitely not like any other private detective I've read about.

Robin Ellacott was the other main character. She was supposed to be a temporary secretary, one that Strike couldn't afford, but she was brilliant, falling in step with Strike like they'd been working together for years. She was awesome!

As I said the story was wonderful, too. The mystery is intricate, but not so much that it's hard to follow along. Also, the reader also gets to see a different side of the rich and famous, not just the glitz and glamour.

I have mixed feelings about knowing beforehand this was written by J.K. Rowling. On one hand, I read and adored her other adult book The Casual Vacancy, so I was betting that I was going to love this one, too. However, that may have left me biased. On the other hand, if I hadn't known that the writer was Rowling, I probably wouldn't have picked it up and would have missed an outstanding book.

Highly recommended. I hope she writes many more books.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Hachette's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group Canada for this review copy.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), Mulholland Books (Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group) ©2013. ISBN 9780316206846(Hardcover), 455p.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

In The Butterfly Sister, Ruby Rousseau is haunted by her college years. When a suitcase belonging to a former classmate, Beth, shows up on Ruby's doorstep, Ruby is taken aback. It turns out that Beth is missing and Ruby, despite many reservations, is drawn into the mystery and back to Tarble, her old college where the ghosts of her past await.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely adored the first half of the book and didn't want to put it down. However, halfway through the book something changed. It's almost like the author had a great idea for the beginning of the story, but didn't carry it through or didn't know how to end it. The second half was a major disappointment. One the bright side, if you can call it that, is that I didn't see those twists or ending coming.

I really liked Ruby. I admired her bravery in returning to a place that had so many bad memories for her. I'm not sure I would have done it. I was fascinated by her tendency (and frame of mind) to be drawn to books by women authors who committed suicide. I didn't realize that so many famous ones had taken their own lives. It's quite amazing actually.

I also loved Professor Barnard, at first. Her advice and guidance were awesome. I was so hoping that she'd become a ally of Ruby's and help her solve the mystery. There was one part that I didn't find at all believable. Apparently, Ruby and Professor Barnard had met before. The fact that Ruby didn't remember her didn't ring true. Even that little tidbit might be considered a spoiler to some, so I won't say more on the subject.

There were a few passages in the book that I made note of:
They say time heals all wounds. but I beg to differ. It seems time only deepens the scars.(page 96)
Anger isn't such a bad thing.... It moves obstacles. Nothing would happen without anger. It's a catalyst for change. (page 174)
There were a few more, but they didn't make sense out of context and I don't want to quote whole pages.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous and while I loved the title, I didn't quite understand the references to it in the book.

This edition of the book contains a section at the back that has information about the author and the book as well as a Q&A with the author and questions for a reading group. I always find these sections enlightening. It's definitely worth reading.

I'm not sure that I'd recommend this book. If the author writes another book, I might give it a try based solely on how much I enjoyed the first half of the book.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 9780062234629(Trade paperback), 298p.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tangled Thursday - Monotangles

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

I'm sorry for posting this so late. I had my tiles mostly completed on the weekend, however, the week got away from me. What a stressful, crappy week!!

Besides accompanying my husband to the hospital yesterday for a medical test and having to drive Mr. Dopey home in near blizzard conditions (Did I mention that I hate to drive?, Did I mention that I've never driven in snow before?, Not even in pleasant snow conditions?, Did I mention I hate winter?), I spent part of yesterday shovelling off the decks and sidewalks, then again this morning because of the additional snow and the blustery winds overnight. Thankfully, Mr. Not-So-Dopey-Anymore was able to jump on the tractor/snowblower and do the rest of the yard. I'm not sure how much snow we got, but the forecast was around 25cm (9in). I'm sure we got something close to that.

Anyway, now that the near blizzard is over, we have these frickin' cold temperatures to contend with. This 'feels like' -30C (-22F) will be around for at least a week. Brrr...

Now onto the Zentangles:

This week I suggested we tackle Monotangles.

The first one I drew using Exis. Because of its numerous variations, it's one of my favourites. Because I'm self taught, I'm not sure what to do when two different patterns/variation meet at the string. I think the string is supposed to "disappear", but it just looks like the patterns come to an abrupt stop and doesn't always look great. On this one, I added some shading, but I'm not sure it works.

I knew that I wanted to do a tile entirely in Tipple. I drew a "string", but changed it numerous times while I was drawing because I got bored of filling in the large spaces. It's not at all how I envisioned it, but it'll do.

The next one is an old standby, Auraknot. I know I've done a few of these since we started these challenges, but it's one of my favourites. I did this one using a shape I hadn't done before. I was hoping to do a little more with this one, but I didn't get back to it during the week.

I've noticed that my creations are pretty sloppy compared to other ones I've seen.  I try to take my time, but maybe I'm still doing it too fast.   Like other projects, once I start I'm anxious to finish and get onto the next thing.  Hmmm...this week I'm going to slow down and be more "zen".  Well, at least try to be, anyway.   

Be sure to check out the other Monotangle creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ten Lords A-Leaping by C.C. Benison

In Ten Lords A-Leaping, Tom Christmas, his daughter Miranda and the vicarage housekeeper, Mrs. Prowse are visiting Eggescombe Park, an English Country House. Tom has come to skydrive for charity, along with the Leaping Lords. Things don't go as planned when a rough landing and a faulty chute leave the jumpers shaken. That's not the end of it, though. Little does Tom know that before he leaves Eggescombe Park, he'll have to catch a killer.

I really loved this book, the 3rd in the Father Christmas Mystery series. Personally, I think it's the best one in the series so far. Written in the style of a traditional British cozy mystery, this book is a wonderful read with solid likable characters.

One of my favourite part of the book is the vicarage housekeeper's letters to her mother. Mrs. Madrun Prowse periodically writes updates to her mother to keep her informed as to what is happening at the vicarage or in this case at Eggescombe Park. For the reader, the letters provide a nice recap of the mystery, as well as some new information that Madrun picks up or overhears, including bits of juicy gossip. The letters are written in a conversational style, just as she would talk. She's hilarious.

Father Christmas is one of my favourite characters in cozy mysteries. What I love the most is his way of getting to the bottom of things, which doesn't entail traditional investigating. He mostly does it by asking the right questions, noticing things that others miss, and putting it all together before drawing conclusions. In this story, we get to see how vulnerable he is, both physically and emotionally. Even though he's a man of the cloth, he's not invincible, nor is he a saint.

Jane Bee, the housemaid, from the Her Majesty Investigates series, also by C.C. Bension, is a major character in this story. She's Lady Kirkbride now. I've only read one of those books (so far), but I just love her. I was ecstatic to see her in her new role and hope to encounter her again. The next book, maybe? Two other characters that I really liked were Roberto Sica, the artist, who sculpted in the nude, and Maximilian, the fanciful young boy, who kept Tom Christmas's daughter, Miranda entertained during their visit.

Despite the family tree (which I appreciated very much) and cast of characters that the author provided at the beginning of the book, I still got some characters and family relationships mixed up. Part of it was the titles, Lord this and Lady that. I didn't know that earls, viscounts, and marquesses (among others I'm sure) were all addressed as Lord. Of course, there's a similar list for females with titles, who are addressed as Lady. Anyway, I think I had it straightened out by the end of the book.

Here are my reviews for the first two books in the series: Twelve Drummers Drumming and Eleven Piper's Piping. I loved them both. I also read Death at Buckingham Palace before I started blogging. You can read what I thought of it over at Bookcrossing.

With regards to the reading order in this series, I think it's probably best to start with the first one. It's a great series and you won't be disappointed. Besides, this story contains quite a few references to other "cases". If you're not bothered by that, though, there's nothing wrong with starting with this one. As I said before, I think it's the best one to date. You could always go back and read the others.

I still have a few older books by Benison on my to-be-read shelf. I really have to dig them out.

Highly recommended. I can't wait for the next book, which should feature Tom Christmas and the Nine Ladies.

C.C. Benison is the pseudonym of Doug Whiteway. He lives in my hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

For more information about this book and the author, please visit the RandomHouse website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit C.C. Benison's website.

I'd like to thank the author, C.C. Benison, who generously sent me a copy for review.

Ten Lords A-Leaping by C.C. Benison, Delacorte Press (Random House), ©2013. ISBN 9780385344470(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 491p.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Slogging Along

Today, I bring you the latest update on my three knitting projects. First up, I've been knitting the right front of my dark rose sweater. It's going okay, but the newness of the project has worn off and I'm getting a little bored with the cables and the project as a whole. Thankfully, I'm almost done the right half of the front.  If I do a sleeve next, it shouldn't be too bad. That'll leave the left front, the collar, the button band and some finishing touches. I think part of the problem is that I'm not feeling 100%. Nothing major, just tired and not looking forward to a cold, snowy winter. Blah.

Anyway, I promised a shot of the finished back:

When I finish the right front, I'll post a photo of it.

I've also been working on a matching hat to the Bernat Boa scarf I completed last week. The knitting is complete. I just have to sew the side seam. I'm not sure what's going on with me and knitting, especially with this hat/scarf set. I'm pretty sure I used this same pattern (the one on the yarn band) when I knit the last hat with this yarn.  However, this hat is a different shape, bigger in some areas, smaller in others.  It could be that the last one has been worn and has stretched out a bit. It's still weird! I'll know more when I try it on.

Here's a shot of it:

The last thing I've been working on is my temperature scarf. I promised that one of the blues would make an appearance. I'm absolutely loving that combination of the dark green and bright-ish blue. You just never know how the different colours are going to look next to each when knitted. As I've said in the past, I'm not going to show the whole scarf now until it's all done. However, here's a snippet from the past few weeks or so:

As you can see I have tons of ends to weave in.  I realize that the colours mean nothing unless you know the temperature ranges. So here are the ones that you can see in the photo:
• Yellow - +14C to +7C
• Light Green - +6C to 0C
• Dark Green - -1C to -8C
• Blue - -9C to -15C

For us, this blue really isn't that cold. I could live and be quite happy if that's the coldest our winters got. However, it's just the beginning. Besides, these blue days weren't at all pleasant. Unfortunately, they were accompanied by strong winds which made it feel more like -30C. Brrr... Thankfully, we've only had a few so far.

I think that's it for this week.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts