Tag Archive | guilt

Double book review: The Halo Effect; Crimes Against A Book Club

The Halo EffectThe Halo Effect by Anne D. LeClaire

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An airplane read.

Predictable but enjoyable story, with no real surprises. Nicely written and well-drawn characters. I especially liked Will’s struggle to reconcile his lack of faith with his acceptance of the commission to paint saints for the church.

 

Crimes Against a Book ClubCrimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do you do when you have bills you can’t possibly pay, a degree in chemistry, and a fabulous best friend with an entree into a high-society book club? You make an “ultra-exclusive” anti-aging face cream out of over-the-counter drug store lotions and, um, cocaine, and convince these women they can’t live without it.

An absolutely darling confection of a novel that I read on an airplane, smiling the whole time. Recommended for women, best friends, book club members, and anyone else who enjoys a good laugh and poking a stick at social pretensions.

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2016: Plans, not resolutions

I abandoned making New Year’s resolutions ages ago because I always ended up breaking said resolutions and then beating myself up for failure.  Now I make plans or set goals.  Because plans can change if circumstances change and no fault accrues; and if goals aren’t met, any progress made toward those goals is a win.  Baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

Reading plans and goals:  I mentioned a couple these in Sunday’s Year In Review: Books blog post but they belong in this post as well.  My goal is to read and finish 52 books; then write at least a one-paragraph review and post it here as well as on Goodreads.  I also want to read more non-fiction.  Even though about one third of the books in my house are non-fiction — history, politics, sociology, and religion, mostly — I managed only one non-fiction title in 2015, and that one (Drift by Rachel Maddow) came from the library.  Speaking of the library, that’s part of the goal as well: to continue to make use of the library and of books I already own.  I simply don’t have room to acquire any additional physical books; and spouse and I have set Trigger Warningsome financial goals that limit my discretionary spending. What discretionary spending room I have, I prefer to save for yarn.  Or travel.  More about that later, though.

A couple of LibraryThing Early Reviewer titles rest here on my desk, Get In Troublewaiting to be read:  Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman and Get In Trouble by Kelly Link.  Getting those read and reviewed will do two things: alleviate the guilt I have for letting them sit as long as they have and add toward the annual reading goal.

Other than those two specific titles, and a general notion toward adding more non-fiction, I have no restrictions or plans for my reading material.  In the past couple of years, what I read and the order in which I read it has been dictated by the local library system.  I have a wish list, and when a title on the wish list becomes available, that’s what I read next. It’s rare that I don’t have at least one title from the library checked out.  Maybe cutting down on the wish list items will aid toward reading down the physical Mt. TBR in the house.  But that’s not a priority.

Wildflower 6Yarn plans and goals:  2016 will be the Year of Knitting Selfishly. All the knitting I did in 2015 was for other people.  This year it’s all about me and it’s all about the stash.*  First thing will be to finish the Wildflower Cardigan, an Alana Dakos pattern that’s been waiting patiently for more than a year.  The partial sweater is shown at right; the yarn is Elsebeth Lavold’s Silky Wool in Acorn. After that, I want to find the right pattern for a cotton shrug I’ve been wanting to make in a turquoise Cascade Ultra Pima.  And at some point this year, I hope to find some use for the two colorways of Rowan Plaid that’s been in my stash for going on 8 years.

Needles 2*Let me say at the outset that I do NOT pledge to go “cold sheep” — that is, not buy any new yarn — because that’s a sure-fire way to set myself up for failure.  What I can do is shop the stash first and, if I go to a yarn store because I’m traveling or because I’m accompanying someone else, I can limit myself to a single skein or two of exquisite sock yarn.

Speaking of finding patterns, I’ve decided to take part in Snapdragon’s Knit Your Library Challenge (click the link to learn more).  I’m confident that somewhere within all the pattern books and back issues of knitting magazines filed away in this house is any project I could possibly wish to make.  Matching the yarn to the pattern to the mood will knit-your-library_2016comprise a major part of this challenge, I think.  Sometimes I want to knit something new, but can’t make a connection between the stashed yarn in my hand and the library patterns that show up in Ravelry.  And the reverse is sometimes true:  I find a library pattern that I love love love but nothing in the stash works for it. When I have some time to breathe, I will spend several hours matching patterns and yarns and lay them out in an organized fashion. I’ve already got a couple of matches in mind.

Technique goals: This will be the year I finally tackle a Fair Isle project: a little one, like a hat. Three stashed skeins of a fingering weight cashmere blend in complementary colorways are screaming at me, so I want to shut them up. I also want to learn some different sock heels. I’ve always done the “flap and gusset” heel, so a short row heel and an afterthought heel are on my list this year.

Finally, I intended to have this blog entry ready to be published yesterday. Remember what I said at the top of this entry about plans? The universe had plans that trumped mine. I had to take my husband to the emergency room yesterday afternoon: he is currently hospitalized and we expect him to remain in the hospital for several days yet. His condition is not life-threatening — well, not really. I mean, it could be, but mainly it’s a chronic condition that periodically flares up and makes our lives miserable. I’ll be able to catch my breath when he comes home. In the meantime, I’m getting lots of knitting and reading done while sitting by his bed, in between the times I run home to take care of the pets. Thank heavens for an understanding employer.

WIP Wednesday: What Once Was Lost Edition

A funny thing happens when one straightens up the clutter in one’s craft room. One finds a project that one had forgotten one started. By the way, one = yours truly, in case you hadn’t figured that part out yet.

Orange Sampler Afghan 1This is a sampler afghan made from some vintage Rowan Plaid (the orange multi) and a chunky wool blend (the solid) from um, Plymouth? Plymouth Encore Chunky, maybe? The ball band is long gone on the solid rust-colored yarn, so I’m relying on a vague memory. I have enough of these two yarns left to make another square plus a border. Each piece is roughly one square foot, so it currently measures about 3×4. With the addition of a thick border, maybe in simple double crochet or perhaps more decorative in some kind of shell stitch, I can finish it off at about “lapghan” size. Boom! A Christmas present for somebody somewhere.

Mom's Tunisian 16Speaking of presents, I’m also still plugging away at The Tunisian Terror for my mother. Egad, how bored am I with this project? *hangs head in shame* So bored that I look for any excuse not to work on it, but gradually the squares are adding up. Currently at 34 squares, so not quite halfway done. According to the pattern, I’m almost finished with the solid squares; the multi-colored ones are coming up shortly. At least that will be something different.

Rustling Russet 2Further speaking of gifts, and guilt, I’ve officially started my first Christmas gift of the year. I know! It’s a miracle! Here’s where the guilt comes in. I looked at my list of people I had promised to make gifts for (or had decided on my own they were deserving of a handmade item because they were generally all-around awesome human beings), and nearly fell over. This is a list of somewhere around 40 names, because it includes the last three years’ worth of “pay-it-forward” hand-made gifty challenges I had left undone. *more head hanging in shame going on* And one name that had been crossed off had to be added back because his present vanished somewhere in the mail between Atlanta and the West Coast city where he resides. (Don’t even get me started on that loss.) That being said, and no longer wishing to live as a guilt-ridden hag, I started a hat with stash yarn (Copper Corgi Savannah Sock in “Devil’s Kiss”) and a stash pattern (Rustling Leaves by Alana Dakos).

After I had gotten about three inches into the hat, I realized I should have used a long tail cast-on instead of a knitted cast-on because that bottom ribbed edge isn’t really sturdy. I mean it won’t unravel or anything, but it’s kind of wobbly and insubstantial. Stitch Along WednesdayAt that point in the knitting, however, I also realized I didn’t want to rip back the last three days’ work and start over, so I’ll persevere. I think it will be okay. When the hat is worn, no one will be able to tell, anyway, right? Right? Please tell me I’m right.
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This post is part of Stitch Along Wednesdays, hosted by Gracey’s Goodies. Click that badge over there to see what other folks are up to this week, and link your own WIP Wednesday story!

Book review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although Sharp Objects is my third Gillian Flynn novel, it’s Ms. Flynn’s first, for which she won a well-deserved Edgar. It’s beautifully written, deeply disturbing, and knock-your-socks-off holy-cow-what-the-hell-just-happened good.

Camille Preaker is sent by the editor of the tiny Chicago daily where she works back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, which is little more than a wide spot in the road, to cover the story of two murdered girls and the potential story of a serial killer. Camille left Wind Gap years ago to escape her toxic family and save her own life. She’s not sure she’s managed to do either; in Chicago, while she may have been suicidal, at least she wasn’t carving words into her own skin. Still, Camille is severely damaged. When we meet her mother and stepfather, we begin to understand why.

Because her newspaper doesn’t have the budget to put her up in a motel while on assignment, Camille must stay in her family home while she is in town. Her mother Adora, with an eye to “what would the neighbors think?”, grudgingly grants Camille shelter but insists she keep “all that unpleasantness” out of her house. All that unpleasantness encompasses not only the murders of the two girls, but anything unpleasant that has ever happened, up to and including the death of Camille’s younger half-sister Marian when Camille was 13. Camille has another much younger half-sister, Amma, whom she barely knows, who at times seems just as sickly as Marian was, but at others is robust enough to excel in her “Mean Girl” “Queen Bee” role at the local middle school. Throw in Alan, Camille’s ineffective and virtually silent stepfather, and this dysfunctional family is complete.

We see all this through Camille’s eyes; we are privy to her inner dialogue with all its twists and turns and justifications and attempts to make sense of how she ended up back in the same hellhole she tried to escape. As she reacquaints herself with Wind Gap, she recalls incidents from her past associated with each place. In the park where one girl, Natalie, was last seen alive:

The dirt from the baseball field hovered a few feet above the ground. I could taste it the back of my throat like tea left brewing too long…Garrett Park was the place everyone met on weekends to drink beer or smoke pot or get jerked off three feet into the woods. It was where I was first kissed, at age thirteen, by a football player with a pack of chaw tucked down in his gums.

And getting ready for Natalie’s funeral:

My mother was wearing blue to the funeral…She also wore blue to Marian’s funeral, and so did Marian. She was astonished I didn’t remember this. I remembered Marian being buried in a pale pink dress. This was no surprise. My mother and I generally differ on all things concerning my dead sister.

Camille is more resilient than she knows, but not quite as strong as she needs to be. She drinks too much and too often. She writes the names of the murdered girls and other words on her skin, using ballpoint pen and lipstick instead of a knife. She has questionable judgment in sex partners. And investigating these murders eventually leads her deep into her own history with devastating consequences.

In Camille, Gillian Flynn has created a deeply flawed protagonist who makes bad decisions out of weakness, out of trauma, out of a desire to flee from raw emotion, and she makes us cheer for her even while we shake our heads in dismay at her poor choices. And in the end, I loved Camille and wished her the very best future she can possibly make for herself.

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High Summer Read-a-thon

High SummerIt’s been a while.

I tell you, once our class starts and I’m teaching a couple of times a week and getting lessons finalized in the times I’m not on air, I am exhausted when I get home. Very little knitting and crocheting going on recently, but quite a bit of reading gets done on the commute.

Speaking of reading, I’m taking part in the High Summer Read-a-thon (click the pretty picture over there for the link). I happen to be off work this week, so at least one book will be started and finished. Maybe two. I might even write a book review or two this week. It’s not like I’m 40 books behind in reviews or anything… 😉

I finished Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose yesterday morning (been reading it since July 14) (it’s wonderful), and started Marisha Pessl’s Night Film yesterday afternoon. So far, Night Film is every bit as good as Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I thought was amazing, even though I have yet to write a review. (40+ books behind, remember?)

I’ll try to get a knit-and-crochet post up this week, too, because of course you want to know how many WIPs are currently floating around the house. And the new Vogue Knitting and Rowan issues are sitting here giving me the hairy eyeball.

*sigh* Projects are many. Discipline is lacking. And I’m beginning to feel the fun has gone out of blogging because it feels like a chore instead of an opportunity.

This feeling is probably temporary.

5KCBWDay7 — Looking Back, Looking Forward

Blog Week 2014 Banner

Blog prompt: Look back on last year’s Day Seven post. Did any of the techniques, ideas and hopes for the last 12 months that you wrote about ever make it onto the hook or needles? Did anyone cast on and complete the project researched in last year’s Day 2 post? One year from now, where do you hope your crafting will have taken you to? What new skills, projects and experiences do you hope you might have conquered or tried?


 
Last year I discussed several things:

  • Making the cardigan worn by the little girl in the movie The Fall.
  • Organizing my craft room
  • Attempting Fair Isle
  • Attempting Tunisian
  • Making sock puppets for my friend based on a photograph

Success rate? 60%. I achieved three out of the five goals. Behold the craft room:

Craft Room 1

And the Tunisian:

Mom's Tunisian 9

And those sock puppets, which got their own dating profile in this year’s Blog Week Extravaganza:

Avatars 1

For next year, I’m putting Fair Isle and The Fall Cardigan back on this list. Also, I want to finally write up and publish the pattern for a pair of fingerless mitts I designed as a gift several years ago.

San Luis Mitts

I’ve gotten multiple requests for this pattern, but have procrastinated writing it up for so long that I may have lost my initial notes on the project. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I originally designed the mitts in a bulky yarn and have since decided a lesser-weight yarn is a better choice.

Magazine Review: Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2009Blog content-wise, I’m considering a return to magazine reviews. I pared my knit and crochet magazine subscriptions down to two (from a high of seven), Rowan and Vogue Knitting. Back when I had so many subscriptions, I was trying to review each magazine as it came in. That meant upwards of 30 magazine reviews per year, which resulted in a stack of unread issues sitting next to the computer, giving me guilt. I don’t need more guilt, thank you very much, so I stopped the reviews. Vogue and Rowan only may be manageable: Rowan publishes two issues per year, and Vogue publishes five (six if you count the special crochet issue, but that’s not included in the subscription). Rowan CoverWriting timely reviews will require a certain amount of self-discipline. I’m not good with self-discipline, and I need to be, because the next step for this blog — not next year, but within the next five — is to turn it into something that generates a little income. That means content other than me running my mouth about my latest project or the last book I read. It means patterns and tutorials mainly; perhaps little stuffies, if I ever design any. I don’t expect to make excessive bank here, just enough to cover the domain fees.

And that’s quite enough ambition for my little corner of the interwebz.

As Blog Week draws to a close, I just want to say I appreciate each and every one of you who’ve dropped by during this past week. I found a few new bloggers to follow and hope at least one or two of you enjoyed my articles as much as I’ve enjoyed yours. See you around! And y’all come back now, y’hear?

Next project: The Tunisian Terror

Remember how much my mother wanted this afghan?

Mosaic Afghan 12
And I told her no?

I also told her I’d make her an afghan of her choosing, as long as she bought the yarn. So at Christmas, when she was here in Georgia, she looked through my afghan books and picked out a pattern. The pattern that caught her interest is pictured below:

Mom's Tunisian 3

Blue Ribbon AfghansThe book is Blue Ribbon Afghans from America’s State Fairs (click the pic to be taken to the Amazon listing), and the pattern is the Take-Along Sampler Afghan.

“Sure, Mom, no problem!” I said. “Next time I come to your house, we’ll go look at yarn.”

The day after Christmas, when all the family had gone home, I sat down and took a good look at the pattern. “Oh boy,” I thought to myself. “It’s Tunisian crochet. I’ve never done Tunisian crochet. And it’s colorwork Tunisian, no less. Oh boy.” But I said nothing to my mother, because, you know, I can do it, Mom, really I can.

The next time I was at her house (which was sometime in March), I told my mother that Tunisian crochet would be a new technique for me, but I had always intended to learn it, so this was the perfect opportunity. We went to the local yarn store with the book and ordered the yarn. The box of said yarn was delivered to my house about two weeks ago, whereupon it sat, unopened, while I ignored it and my obligation because, um, Stitches was coming up and then our anniversary trip to Savannah, and then it was yesterday morning and my mother asked me, “How’s my afghan coming along?”

Busted.

I confessed I hadn’t even opened the box, but I had read an article on Tunisian crochet the day before and I planned to start the afghan with one of the squares that didn’t involve a lot of color changes. Then I went upstairs and opened the box.

Mom's Tunisian 1

*gulp*

Wish me luck.

WIP Wednesday: Return of the Wildflowers

I’ve mentioned the endless stockinette of this piece before, right?
Endless. Stockinette.
In DK weight.
On size 3 needles.
*head*desk*

Wildflower Cardigan 3

I’m just about to the point where I shape the shoulders and neckline. But it’s taken forever to get to this point and I’m nearly burnt out on the whole thing. Add that to all the new lovelies I bought at Stitches calling my name and hibernation may be on the horizon for this cardigan. (Just like those socks for spouse that I haven’t touched in months because they BORED me!)

ab2a5-tami_wipSpeaking of those Stitches lovelies, I’m on vacation this week and expect to knock out a couple more blog entries before reporting back to work next Monday, including one with all the Stitches booty. In the meantime, this post is part of the WIP Wednesday Round-up hosted by Tami’s Amis. Click the badge over there to see what everyone else has in progress.

Egad!

How did two months go by without a single blog entry?  Well, tomorrow I’ll be at Stitches South.  I’ll have stuff to show you when I get back, so expect an update (with pics) sometime in the next few days.

In the meantime, I’m quite pleased to know I did NOT miss Knit & Crochet Blog Week. It’s next month. You can read all about it over at Eskimimi Makes. Join us!

Book review: The Enchanted Orchards by Kristin Maddock

The Enchanted Orchards
The Enchanted Orchards by Kristin Maddock
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I downloaded this book because the premise intrigued me: A young woman and her family dealing with the aftermath of the death of the younger daughter.

A year ago, Fern’s younger sister, Lily, drowned in a pond near their rural Georgia home. In the year since, their father spends all his time at work and their mother spends all her time cleaning and reading the Bible: “Her days consist of a thousand scriptures and a bottle of Clorox.” And Fern herself didn’t return to college; instead, she remained home with her parents and her grief. She doesn’t socialize much, but unlike her mother, who refuses to leave the house except to go to church, Fern visits regularly with an older neighbor, Fancy, who is every Southern Belle stereotype imaginable rolled into one flamboyant package. Fancy is fun, and good for Fern. But Fancy has issues of her own.

The story starts out beautifully, almost lyrically:

It was sunshine that liked you best. It followed you wherever you went, turning to you like the sunflowers turn their faces to the sky. With your obsidian hair and ivory skin, you were like an ethereal sunlit goddess, too beautiful and too perfect for this world.

And:

You didn’t leave me utterly alone. Still, there are times I forget that detail. It feels odd to think there are others with me in the house. But there are. I have two parents and I suppose in a way they disappeared the same day you did. Though here in form, their bodies are like empty, listless shells. Something inside them has been extinguished and they move about like shadows, dull fragments of their former selves. It isn’t a particularly large house, but apparently it is big enough for three people to lose each other in.

Okay, both those paragraphs could use a little editing, but do you see what I mean? There’s good stuff in there. But then we start getting this:

I scrape the remaining bit of pie into the trash very conspicuously so that Luanne and the other cooks won’t see…

And this:

He makes me weak in the knees, he makes it hard to breath…

And so on and so on throughout the rest of the book.

If I hadn’t liked our narrator and the rest of the characters so much, I’d have given up before getting to the 25% mark. But the story itself is good, and there are bits and pieces of some fine writing in here. Unfortunately, it’s all mixed up with the plethora of not-so-fine bits. This is a failing with nearly all of the self-published novels I’ve read: they suffer from a desperate need for a good editor and an anal-retentive proofreader.

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