My post was shared, thanks! I wish I could see what you said about it…

I got a notice from WordPress the other day that said something to the effect of “Hey, your traffic is way up!  Congratulations!”  Huh? thought I — because I don’t market this blog worth a damn and a high traffic count is unusual.

Mosaic Afghan 12So I did a little poking around in the stats section to see what that was all about.  As near as I can figure, somebody shared a particular blog entry (about that afghan to the left) on Pinterest and Facebook , and all those folks came to take a look at it.  Nice!  But then I was puzzled, because I couldn’t find details on the sharing itself — what was said when the blog entry was shared, what comments were made on that post, and so forth.  (Comments on the blog entry itself are closed — it’s three years old; and my experience has been that leaving comments open on old entries invites spam, so I close them after a certain length of time.)

I get pingbacks if someone links to one of my blog entries on WordPress or another blog platform like Blogger, but apparently not when something is shared elsewhere.  A cursory search through WordPress Support seems to indicate no one gets a link to where a post is shared using one of the social media “share” buttons; just the fact that it was shared is registered.  I sure would like to be able to take a look at those shares, wouldn’t you?

Something else, though: Askimet does a pretty good job of stopping spam in its tracks.  Maybe I should reconsider the notion of closing comments on old entries so people who see them years later can still comment on them?  What has everyone else experienced in this regard?

Oops, I did it again.

I have new pretties to show you for “Stash Enhancement Saturday”.  It’s all Alice’s fault, of course.  I’ve mentioned Alice, right?  She’s been my partner in yarn crime ever since I taught her to knit a couple of years ago.  We go out for coffee, we end up at a yarn store.  It’s inevitable.  It’s a good thing our respective schedules keep up from getting together more than about once a month.

Sprout Spanish Moss 3Our coffee date in February resulted in me taking her for a first-time visit to The Needle Nook, one of my favorite yarn shops in Atlanta. I managed to limit myself to one skein of sock yarn.  That bit of loveliness is Sprout by The Fiber Seed, a “heavy” sock yarn — heavy in the sense that it’s slightly denser than your usual 90% merino, 10% nylon blend, but it still works up at 32 stitches in 4 inches.  The colorway is “Spanish Moss”.  Isn’t that a lovely name for a lovely hand-dyed yarn?

Aura Northern Lights 2The next time we went out was in March to the Atlanta Spring Fling, an annual event held in the ballroom at one of the hotels at the north edge of town. This was a dedicated yarn event, so new acquisitions were no surprise.

Aura Sweet Violets 2 The two colorways at right were bundled together as a “kit”, more or less, but the shawl pattern they were intended for was not part of the deal.  I bought them anyway because they’re spectacular together and equally gorgeous on their own.  The yarn is a 65% superwash merino/35% bamboo sockweight called “Aura” from Silver Threads and Golden Needles, and clocks in at a generous 560 yards per skein.  The greenish colorway is called “Northern Lights”; and the purple is “Sweet Violets”.  I haven’t decided if I’ll use them together or separately.  If history is any indication, they’ll marinate in stash for at least a couple of years before I make any sort of decision about their fate.

1502-Birdsong-cover-rav_small2The other Spring Fling purchase was Birdsong, a pattern book from Classic Elite.  Twelve pretty patterns, mostly pullovers and cardigans, designed for use with cotton and mostly cotton yarns.  I’m totally in love with the cabled top shown on the cover; I even have yarn suitable for it in stash.  The cabled V-neck cardigan with short sleeves and a casual rolled-edge hoodie are going into my Ravelry queue as “must-makes”, and a couple others are on the bubble.

The news that Hancock Fabrics is going out of business and closing all of their stores was surprising.  I’ve shopped at Hancock Fabrics for decades, and had no idea the company was in trouble.  Of course, I seldom pay attention to business news, so my surprise isn’t surprising.  Anyway, last week was the beginning of their clearance sale, and I went to check out the bargains.  I rarely sew these days, but I wandered through the aisles of fabric to see if something jumped off the rack into my arms.  Nothing appealed.  I looked through the patterns; nothing spoke to me there.  I knew most of their yarn wouldn’t be to my taste — I have become a yarn snob, and I’m not ashamed to admit it — but I hoped to find one of the acrylic brands that I like to use for blankets.  No luck there either.  Just when it looked like Hancock wouldn’t get any of my money that day, I wandered into the button aisle.  Success!

Purply Buttons 1These abstract purplish floral buttons screamed at me, so I grabbed all three cards.  They’re 1.25″ in diameter, made out of a layered laminate-type material.  I envision using them on a flyaway cardigan, maybe, or even a rustic button-up cowl.

The button aisle held other temptations but I held back; my time was a little short and I had somewhere else to go.  Hancock wasn’t done raiding my wallet just yet, though.  On my way to the check-out line, I passed by the rack of books and magazines.  One of the Interweave publications I had eyed over the last couple of NewVintageLaceyears jumped off that rack and into my hands, so I brought it home with me as well.  New Vintage Lace by Andrea Jurgrau is chock full of gorgeous lace accessories, mostly shawls, based on vintage doily patterns, and even several doilies themselves.  My favorite of the patterns is Diospyros, a rectangular stole; and I’m rather taken with the half-circle Blue Dahlia shawl, as well.  The Clematis and the Peaseblossom hats will probably end up on my gift-making list.  (“Peaseblossom” as a pattern name makes me smile:  it’s also the name of a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I never played one of the fairies, but I’ve been Hippolyta and Philostrate.)

Finally, there’s the membership gift that came when I renewed my Rowan subscription:  the scrumptious and versatile Rowan Colourspun in the Hubberholme colorway.  Because I managed to buy two years rather than just one year (and duplicated my subscription), there are three more balls of this same colorway to come.  And Rowan’s excellent customer service department fixed Colourspun Hubberholme 2my goof, extended my subscription through next year as pre-paid, and didn’t make me return the duplicate issue of Rowan 59.  If I weren’t already impressed with this company, I certainly would be now.

I gave the duplicate magazine to Alice.

I have just one or two more book reviews to write and then I’ll be caught up.  I hope to get those done in the next few days and schedule them for publication.  Our anniversary trip is coming up shortly and we’re headed to New York for almost a week.  I can hardly wait.  Along with the usual tourist attractions, I have a line on a vintage button store near Central Park, and I hope to visit at least one LYS while in the Big Apple.  If the spouse doesn’t mind.  Probably even if he does.

Book review: Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet, #2)Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in the same world as The Giver, Gathering Blue provides a look at a way of life far different than that of the previous novel. Kira lives in a rough-and-tumble village with no technology and a ruthless intolerance for weakness or deformity. Kira, born with a malformed leg, is lucky to be alive at all and, now that her mother has died, she fears she will either be killed outright or driven out of the village to starve and die in the wilderness. But Kira has a gift for weaving and embroidery that the village leaders find valuable; thus, she is taken into their care and set to work repairing the Singer’s Robe. As did our young protagonist in The Giver, Kira soon discovers all is not as it appears, and the leaders of the community are keeping secrets from the general population.

I enjoyed this story more than I did The Giver; this time my expectations were lower and I read it for what it was: a story aimed at young people. It’s still simplistic; the characters are still undeveloped; and the plot is paper-thin; but for an audience of, say, 12-year-olds, it’s perfect. Like the other books in this series, this one is scarcely the length to call a novella, and was easily read over the course of about two, maybe three hours on one evening. As such, it was a pleasant way to pass the time. I’ll get the rest of the series from the library soon.

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WIP Wednesday: The never-ending Wildflower Cardigan

Wildflower 12Don’t look now but this yarn and book blog has actual yarn content today.

I’m still plugging away at the Wildflower Cardigan. The right and left fronts are finished, and now I’m working on a sleeve.

Progress is slow but steady.  Mindless stockinette makes for easy television knitting, but I do get bored after a while.  I’m glad to be working on the sleeve because, hey, increases and counting rows!  Something to pay attention to.  And soon, the shaping of the sleeve cap, woo hoo!

In looking at this picture, I see how the tweedy silky texture in the Silky Wool gleams in the flash from the camera.  I really like this yarn, even if it does contain the occasional twig.  And it’s a good thing, too.  That I like this yarn, I mean.  Because I have, um… * counts * … four other colorways of Silky Wool in stash.  You can thank one of the vendors at Stitches South for that.

This post is part of the Knit Your Library Challenge hosted by Snapdragon Crafts.  Click that badge down there — the one that says “knit your library”, of course — to learn more about it.

And while we’re posting badges — yes, we have to show you these stinkin’ badges — you can click the other badge to see who else had something to show for the Stitch-Along Wednesday roundup.

knit-your-library_2016Stitch Along Wednesday(I don’t think these badges stink at all, by the way. I just couldn’t resist making the movie reference…)

Book review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and DisturbancesTrigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is it a sufficient enough review to say Neil Gaiman is a genius? No? Didn’t think so.

He is, by the way. At least to my way of thinking. He writes the kind of short stories I love: stories that are odd and creepy and disturbing and off-kilter. Is it too much to say I consider him the man who now sits on Ray Bradbury’s throne? No, it isn’t. That’s a fair non-hyperbolic assessment.

The stories in this collection are mainly reprints gathered from various anthologies published over the past few years, with one brand new story in which we revisit the world of American Gods. I had read only one of them before; fittingly, that was “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” from Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, a collection that I encourage everyone to read right fucking now. Well, you can wait until after you read Trigger Warning. But I digress.

Yeah. This book. It’s mostly short stories, with some bits of poetry intermingled here and there. Like all anthologies, some tales resonated more than others, but there isn’t a clunker to be found. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “The Thing About Cassandra” explores the ramifications of telling your friends about your imaginary girlfriend.
  • “The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains” is all about consequences of past actions.
  • “Nothing O’Clock”, a story of the 11th Doctor and Amy Pond and a monster hidden inside Time.
  • “The Return of the Thin White Duke”, about a monster in search of a heart.

And several others. But the stories I loved won’t necessarily be the stories you love. You should have the joy of discovering them yourself. So go out and do that. Right now.

Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to read this book.

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Book review: Written in Fire by Marcus Sakey

Written in Fire (Brilliance Saga, #3)Written in Fire by Marcus Sakey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The United States is in shambles and it’s all the fault of those dirty “brilliants”. Or so goes the thinking of the “normal” population, including what’s left of the U.S. government. Nick Cooper is wanted by his former law enforcement colleagues because it looks like he sided with the brilliants. Well, he is one of them, after all.

Confused? You won’t be if you’ve read the previous installments in this series, Brilliance and A Better World. Which you should. They’re pretty good. Quickly: some 30 years ago, children began exhibiting unusual traits and abilities: in intellect, in musicianship, in physical attributes, and even psychic abilities. These children became known as “brilliants”. As this first generation of brilliants grew up and the extent of their attributes became known, mainstream society began to fear them. Eventually, young brilliants were taken from their families and placed into special schools, away from the “normals”. Problem solved, yes? Of course not. The schools were a step above hellholes; brilliants rebelled; an underground leader of the brilliant movement emerged; and now the United States is two steps away from nuking its own people.

This series works on a couple of levels: on the surface, it’s your standard thriller about a devious mastermind with a plot to take over the world and the hero/anti-hero who risks life, limb, and family in an effort to stop him. And it works as the story of how society regards the “other”, those who are different, those who threaten the status quo and our own self-image. Put any minority population in the place of the brilliants and you have an excellent — if exaggerated — story of racism or homophobia as public policy.

All in all, a satisfying and somewhat open-ended conclusion to the trilogy.

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Book review: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

William Dodd, a history professor, was appointed as Ambassador to Germany in 1933, when Adolf Hitler was Chancellor under Hindenburg. In 1934, after Hindenburg’s death, Hitler became the head of state and began a systematic implementation of his plan to rid Germany of its “undesirables”. And Dodd began sounding warning bells.

Sadly, those warnings were unheeded, and even resented, by State Department bureaucrats in Washington. A particular cadre within the State Department was determined to undermine Dodd at every turn. His reports on Hitler’s actions and worsening conditions for German Jews were minimized and dismissed.

One can only wonder if the 20th century might have been less bloody had someone, anyone, taken Ambassador Dodd’s reports seriously.

It was strange and disturbing to read this while living through the 2016 Republican race for the Presidential nomination. While Hitler was already in a position of power and Trump,, were only jockeying for one, the parallels were more than a little unsettling.

By the way, Erik Larson spent a great deal of time on Martha, Ambassador Dodd’s daughter. While her exploits were marginally interesting, I ultimately didn’t care who she married, how many people she slept with, or what her political views were. To me, the real story lay with Dodd, Hitler’s government, and the U.S. diplomatic corp. Larson apparently didn’t think that story had enough meat in it. Or enough sex. Thus: Martha. And three stars. Because Martha. *yawn*

So, other than the Martha digressions, this is an excellent book, well-written and documented.

Oh, and it didn’t really take me five weeks to read this book. I had to put it down for most of the month of February because I was doing a play — rehearsals and performances took all of my reading time. Once I had the time, I was done in about four days.

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Book review: The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

The Museum of Extraordinary ThingsThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Coralie’s father runs a sideshow on Coney Island, although he prettifies it by calling his establishment a museum — the museum of the title, to be precise. And he’s groomed his daughter her whole life to become one of the exhibits in that sideshow. With Dreamland, the amusement park, undergoing expansion just a short walk away, the Professor (as he prefers to be called) is struggling to hold on to the tiny niche he’s carved out for himself. With Coralie as his living mermaid, he thinks he’s found his draw. Coralie, a dutiful daughter, does as she’s told, and doesn’t truly understand how she’s abused. This treatment is her norm, although she doesn’t like it, and she practices tiny rebellions to alleviate her miserable existence.

Eddie, an erstwhile tailor’s apprentice and bookmaker’s runner, left his father and his Jewish heritage behind with scarcely a look back, and currently makes a living as a photographer, stalking the streets of New York in search of news, and occasionally wandering into the wilds along the Hudson to shoot nature and commune with the quiet. As you may expect, eventually Coralie’s and Eddie’s worlds collide, and therein lies our story.

New York in the early 1900s makes a bustling and dramatic backdrop for our hero and heroine to play against: both the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the conflagration that destroys Dreamland figure heavily into Hoffman’s plot. And I know I’m not doing that plot justice with this synopsis. Let me just say that within the confines of this novel you’ll find people of all sorts: beautiful, disfigured, frightening, gentle, loving, manipulative, terrified, overbearing, wealthy, destitute, determined, hopeless, and most of all wonderfully human: people who are making their way the best way they can in the cold cold city.

A sweet and unsettling story.

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Book review: Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Get in TroubleGet in Trouble by Kelly Link

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had forgotten this was a collection of short stories, so when I pulled it off the shelf of the books waiting to be read, I was a little apprehensive. Most of the modern short stories I’ve read, especially those by authors I don’t know, present people in situations without conflict or resolution, just the guy at the bus stop in the rain, musing about the things he sees while standing under the shelter, and they end when the character gets on the bus. That’s a writing exercise, not a short story. You see, I want my short stories to tell me a story, like Shirley Jackson or Edgar Allen Poe or Ray Bradbury.

I’m happy to say Kelly Link has succeeded in that regard. In fact, I’d even compare her stories to those of Ray Bradbury or Shirley Jackson or Neil Gaiman. They have that little touch of oddity, of you-are-not-quite-safe, that I love so much. They’re eerie and disturbing and creepy and altogether lovely.

The standouts, to me, were “The Summer People”, in which a teenager takes on the task of tending to a vacation home for some unseen and decidedly odd visitors; “I Can See Right Through You”, in which a movie star visits the on-location set of his former lover’s reality TV show; and “Two Houses”, in which the crew of a spaceship tell each other ghost stories as they continue on their journey without their companion ship. My least favorite was “The Lesson”, in which a couple attends the wedding of a friend while awaiting the birth of their child by surrogate mother.

This is a collection that I’ll keep for a while to re-read.

Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to read this book.

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*pokes head in*

I haven’t been here in weeks.  Play rehearsal, performances, plus another go-round with bronchitis have all left me with no energy and no time.  I haven’t even read anyone else’s blog entries; it’s all I can do to stay caught up with my friends on Facebook.

Five more performances of Clybourne Park and done.  Then I’ll be back.  In the meantime, here’s a picture of a goose.  Because who doesn’t love a goose?