Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nancy Drew: The Ringmaster's Secret - Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew: The Ringmaster's Secret - Carolyn Keene
Nancy Drew #31: The Ringmaster's Secret
Carolyn Keene
Grosset & Dunlap
Copyright : 1954
978-0448095318

The amazon.com product description:
Nancy is given a beautiful gold bracelet and finds that one of the charms is missing. When she learns the unusual story behind the jewelry, she sets out to solve the fascinating mystery. The bracelet had been presented to a former circus performer by a queen who loved horses. For some reason the performer had to sell the bracelet but would not reveal her true identity. Clues lead Nancy to Sims’ Circus, where she meets Lolita, an unhappy young aerialist who has a horse charm wrought exactly like those on Nancy’s bracelet. Will Nancy be able to find the original owner of the bracelet?
As a kid, I collected and read my way through quite a few of the original Nancy Drew series, and I still have several boxes of the books I loved as a kid stashed away around the house. This was one of my favorites. It held up fairly well on the re-read too, even though I'm now way, way out of the target age range. That, I think is the cause of any of my gripes with the book and the series.

Nancy Drew: The Ringmaster's Secret has held up pretty well. It's now 60 years old and still in print, which is pretty amazing in itself, but the story still works well too. Everyone loves the circus, and horses are always a draw too - that's what pulled me into this book if I'm remembering correctly from the first time I read it.

Now, though, I found myself gritting my teeth at the writing - had to remind myself that this book was really geared for kids between 9 and about 15 years old. Which is most definitely no longer me, and also that the characters and setting are those of the mind 1950's. With that in mind, I still found it an enjoyable and quick read - a bit of a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Nancy's a clever character. None of my gripes can take away from that, nor do I want to. However, I did find that everyone around her was a bit too helpful - making it so that things came to her a bit too easily. Maybe that's just modern-day cynicism on my part though.

As a kid, I loved these books and collected any of them that I could. Always the original series though. For some reason I never did like any of the more modern versions. The same thing held true for the Bobsey Twins, Hardy Boys and the Cherry Ames series of books. Since then, I've recommended the original Nancy Drew books many a time when I worked in the bookstore. I still would recommend them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Choice Of Anglo-Saxon Verse - Ed. Richard Hammer

A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse - Trans. Richard Hammer
A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse
Ed. Richard Hammer
Faber and Faber Limited
Copyright: 1970
978-0571228362

The amazon.com product description:
 This new edition contains the Old English texts of all the major short poems, such as "The Battle of Maldon", "The Dream of the Rood", "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer", as well as a generous representation of the many important fragments, riddles and gnomic verses that survive from the 7th to the 12th centuries, with facing-page verse translations. These poems are the wellspring of the English poetic tradition, and this anthology provides a unique window into the mind and culture of the Anglo-Saxons.
I bought this a number of years ago, just after I finished taking an introductory Old English course at university, but only just got around to reading it over the last month and a bit. Of course, after the number of years it's been, I've completely forgotten everything about Old English that I learned at the time.

That said, this is a facing page translation edition, so you don't need to know any Old English to read it. Even without that knowledge it's interesting reading.

Each poem has a short introduction where the editor/translator talks a little about the poem, scholarship, translation issues etc, giving some context for the reader. There's also a short bibliography for each poem as well - usually one to three items.

I do have one minor quibble that I hadn't realized about until I started reading A Choice of Anglo Saxon Verse: this edition is actually from 1970, not the 2006 that Amazon gives. That surprised me, and leaves me wondering if scholarly opinions and translations have changed any over the last 40 or so years.

A Choice Of Anglo-Saxon Verse was read for two separate challenges: my own Pre-Printing Press Challenge and for the Mount TBR Challenge.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin Of The Rings DVD

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Rings
Run time: 63 minutes
Copyright: 2001

The back cover blurb:
Circles & Rings...
Dragons & Kings...
An unauthorized tribute
Perhaps the greatest book of the 20th century, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" is the epic of epics. This timeless story of good vs. evil. complete with Wizards, warlocks, elves armies of terror and heroes has inspired authors, filmmakers and fans alike.

Join Michael Coren Author of "J.R.R. Tolkien: The man who created The Lord Of The Rings" on an epic journey - take a brief walk through the novels, speckled with biographical info on Tolkien and explore fantasy fiction as a topic in itself.

Lord of the Rings. The story behind the Myth. If you've ever wondered about life in a fantastical place, we beckon you to take a stroll into the magical and wondrous world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Leave your spell books at the door and join the epic adventure behind the myth.
I wasted an hour of my life yesterday on this dvd. That's honestly how I feel about it, which is a pity because it was a gift from someone who knows how much I love Tolkien's books. I'd had my doubts about the dvd from the start, mostly because I don't remember thinking too much of Michael Coren's biography of J.R.R. Tokien. I much prefer the Humphrey Carpenter biography.

My fears were borne out. The basic biographical information about Tolkien was there - in very brief form, although the filmmakers dwelled on a spider bite that JRRT received as a young child far more than was needed, at least in my opinion. However, they left a lot out from his life too, leaving a completely different impression than does the collected volume of Tolkien's own writings.

For example, there is no mention of any of Tolkien's writings pre-dating the Hobbit. It's suggested that all of the detailed back-story and language creation was part of the process of writing the Lord of the Rings. However, the world of Middle-Earth had been evolving well before that point, as had the languages, with the first stages appearing much earlier - the stories we know of as the Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2, thanks to Christopher Tolkien's editing and publishing them as part of the History of Middle-Earth series.

Strike two against the DVD was their "summary" of the Lord of the Rings - it bore no resemblance to the books as I know them. If my memory serves, it suggested that the Ring itself was the cause of all the wars and fighting.

Strike three, and by no means is this the last, is their panel of experts. There's a professor of English Literature from the U of T, the author of the Bone graphic novel series, a children's book author and a few other miscellaneous people. None of whom have any reputation as Tolkien specialists.

The next thing that bugged me about the J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Ring dvd was that they talked about Tolkien inspired artwork while showing pictures that weren't by the artists being discussed at all, in this case the Brothers Hildebrandt - not my favorites by a long shot, but still... Going in the same vein, was the whole chunk of time they wasted on the DVD discussing the costuming of the actors they used to set the mood for some of the scenes.

Overall, the whole DVD had a very cheap feeling to it - some of which may be accounted for by the fact it was made in 2000/2001, but I don't think so. I think the makers just didn't have much of a budget to work with - but some of that could have been compensated for by better research and being more on topic.

I really can't find anything positive to say about this program, and that honestly disappoints me a lot.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

I just found out that there's a new edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil that was released today. It's not just a re-print, but apparently also includes some new material:

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
J.R.R. Tolkien
HarperCollins
Release Date: Oct 9, 2014
978-0007557271

The amazon.com product description:
This revised and expanded edition of Tolkien's own Hobbit-inspired poetry includes previously unpublished poems and notes, and is beautifully illustrated by Narnia artist Pauline Baynes. 'Here is something that no devotee of the Hobbit epic can afford to miss, while awaiting a further instalment of the history of these fascinating people - a selection [of verses] offered as an 'interim report' to those interested in Hobbit-lore, and to any others who may find amusement in this mixed bag of old confections.' One of the most intriguing characters in The Lord of the Rings, the amusing and enigmatic Tom Bombadil, also appears in verses said to have been written by Hobbits and preserved in the 'Red Book' with stories of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and their friends. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil collects these and other poems, mainly concerned with legends and jests of the Shire at the end of the Third Age. This special edition has been expanded to include earlier versions of some of Tolkien's poems, a fragment of a prose story with Tom Bombadil, and comprehensive notes by acclaimed Tolkien scholars Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond.
One thing I know with this book: Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have a very, very good reputation in Tolkien scholarship circles. I know I've eagerly collected quite a number of the books they've either written or edited on various Tolkien-related subjects.

Based on that alone, I'm going to be hunting this book down, even though I've already got at least one edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil already. Not that duplicate copies are at all unusual in my collection.

Closer To Home - Mercedes Lackey

Closer To Home - Mercedes Lackey
Closer To Home: Book One of The Herald Spy
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: October 7, 2014
978-0756408992

The amazon.com product description:
Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?
This was a great, if short read, but one I found a bit unusual for the first book in a series. Usually, when I've picked up a new series in the world of Valdemar, it feels like a new series - a bit of an introduction to the world of the Heralds, an introduction to the characters, all the things a new reader of any of the Valdemar books would need in order to gather an understanding of the world Mercedes Lackey has created. Not this time. Closer To Home picks up after the ending of Bastion, the final book in the Collegium Chronicles series, and it doesn't feel like a new series at all. Instead, it's a continuation of the previous books. Now, by no means is the above paragraph a complaint!

I loved the book, and I'm looking forward to next year and the next book in the series. It's just that if you're thinking that this, being the first book in a new series, would be a good introduction to the world of Valdemar, you might want to try Foundation instead. That's the book that's going to introduce Mags, Bear and Lena (only mentioned in this one), Amily etc to you.

I do recommend this book and any other of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books quite highly. None of them to date has been a disappointment to me, and most I've read several times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catullus: The Complete Poems - Trans. Guy Lee

Catullus: The Complete Poems - Trans. Guy Lee
Catullus: The Complete Poems
Trans. Guy Lee
Oxford World's Classics
Copyright: 1990
978-0199537570

The amazon.com product description:
Of all Greek and Latin poets Catullus is perhaps the most accessible to the modern reader. Dealing candidly with the basic human emotions of love and hate, his virile, personal tone exerts a powerful appeal on all kinds of readers. The 116 poems collected in this new translation include the famous Lesbia poems and display the full range of Catullus's mastery of lyric meter, mythological themes, and epigrammatic invective and wit.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
It's taken me a few months, but I've finally completed my read through of the complete poems of Catullus. This book counts for two different challenges: first, my own Pre-Printing-Press Challenge, and second, the Mount TBR Challenge. It's certainly been on my list for a few years now. This was one of my textbooks back in university, but we only had to read selected poems from the book.

Now, on to my review:
The Oxford World's Classics series has a very good reputation - at least three of my classes used their translations and editions for textbooks while I was at both college and university. I'd say that Guy Lee's translation of the poems of Catullus is no exception.

At least a third of the book is detailed notes on the poems - translation quirks and explanations, identities of the people mentioned in the poems - at least as much as we can guess at, poetry formats and many other little details.

If you're a student of Latin, there's another feature of this edition that makes it stand out: it's a facing page translation, one of only a few that I've seen other than the Loeb series. At the same time, the translations are flowing and fit the meter of the poetry as far as I can tell. To be honest though, my Latin is nowhere near good enough for me to be able to compare the translations of the poems with the originals. Still, I had fun picking over some of the poems to see how much I remembered. Both more and less than I though.

Catullus's poetry makes for interesting reading. The subject matter ranges from myths and legends to the small and everyday, from praising the people around him to cursing them with invective. It's definitely an interesting window onto the Roman world, though I'd have to say it's quite biased.

I'd also say this is a book to keep out of the reach of children - Some of the poems get fairly crude, and the sexual language is fairly frequent; adultery - definitely a common topic, incest, sexual relationships and insults are themes in quite a few of Catullus's works.

And yet, there's a lot of emotions visible in the poems as well: sadness, scorn, pride, love, anger, the book touches on the whole spectrum of the human experience.

I would definitely recommend this for any student of Latin or of Roman history.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wool-craft, knitting, crochet and Outlander

This is a clip from the latest episode of Outlander, Rent. At least, it's the latest episode for me, as I'm in Canada and I think we're about two weeks behind the US for air dates.

I've been admiring the various bits of knitting in the costuming on Outlander, shown on Sunday evenings on ShowCase, and keeping a close eye out for any hints of the making of them. This is the first hint of wool-working in the show, and it absolutely made my day to see it:

Waulking wool, the final step in the weaving process as far as I'm aware.
So neat to see in this, though I can't remember if it's actually a scene in the book or not. If not, I admire the research the show crew did to add scenes like this to the show.

The only other time I've seen anything like this was on the second dvd of Norman Kennedy's From Wool To Waulking workshop.

I certainly hope to see more of these kinds of scenes in future episodes of Outlander. Also nice would be to see some more patterns for some of the knit-wear on the show. Some people have already created some patterns and uploaded them to Ravelry. Mostly for knitted items. I'd like to see some adapted for crochet.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The iPhone hype has gone too far

The hype over the new iPhone 6 and 6+ has gone way too far. I say this as someone who's thinking of upgrading to one of them too. However, I am not going to do so without having the chance of handling one or both to see what I think of them. Personally I'm a bit skeptical of the larger sizes that smartphones are coming in these days.

I say the hype has gone too far though because of what happened when I went into a phone store today to see if they had any demo models I could look at.

I was asking the salesman about the new iPhones, and he wanted me to order one. "Nope" said I. I want to check out how they feel before I make a choice. This was his response: "How they feel doesn't matter. What matters is the new software."

OK. So, which one is going to be more comfortable for me to hold is immaterial. I still use my smartphone as a phone and want something that I can hold to my ear comfortably. Ridiculous! By what I was told, I must be in the minority in using my phone as a phone.

Not to mention, I like my phone to be able to fit in my pocket sometimes for convenience. The new, largest phones won't be able to do that. Again, I must be in the minority there, because actually, the larger size of the phone is something that's actively making me think twice about upgrading, even with the soon to come lack of support for my current phone.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Upcoming Books

Here's another selection of upcoming books that have caught my eye. One or two of them I've already pre-ordered too on the recommendation of one of my friends.

Closer To Home - Mercedes Lackey
Closer To Home: Book One of The Herald Spy
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: October 7, 2014
978-0756408992

The amazon.com product description:
Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?
Mercedes Lackey has started a new series about Mags, the main character in the Collegium Chronicles books. Based on the blurb, I'm looking forward to reading Closer to Home when it comes out. I do want to know how this situation that she's setting up is going to work out, and I really enjoyed reading the previous Mags books.

No True Way: A Valdemar Anthology
No True Way: All New Tales of Valdemar
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: December 2, 2014
978-0756407698

The amazon.com product description:
In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book about a magical land called Valdemar would be the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles.

Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astouding adventurerers in sixteen original stories.
After two years where the annual anthology was from the world of the Elemental Masters, it's going to be nice to return to the world of Valdemar. I've been enjoying these anthologies since the first one came out years ago.

One oddity though, it's currently only available to pre-order in the kindle format. I sincerely hope there's going to be a paper-book release as well. I'll be quite disappointed if these books go to e-only.

The Amazons: Lives And Legends Of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World - Adrienne Mayor
The Amazons: Lives And Legends Of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World
Adrienne Mayor
Princeton University Press
Release Date: September 22, 2014
978-0691147208

The amazon.com product description:
Amazons--fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world--were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons.

But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have never been seen before. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.

Mayor tells how amazing new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons prove that women warriors were not merely figments of the Greek imagination. Combining classical myth and art, nomad traditions, and scientific archaeology, she reveals intimate, surprising details and original insights about the lives and legends of the women known as Amazons. Provocatively arguing that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons, Mayor reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories. The Greeks were not the only people enchanted by Amazons--Mayor shows that warlike women of nomadic cultures inspired exciting tales in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Central Asia, and China.

Driven by a detective's curiosity, Mayor unearths long-buried evidence and sifts fact from fiction to show how flesh-and-blood women of the Eurasian steppes were mythologized as Amazons, the equals of men. The result is likely to become a classic.
This is the book that I've pre-ordered on the strength of a friend's recommendation. It looks absolutely fascinating, and I know that Adrienne Mayor is an excellent writer, having read and reviewed one of her previous books, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Freedom's Challenge - Anne McCaffrey

Freedom's Challenge - Anne McCaffrey
Freedom's Challenge
Anne McCaffrey
Ace Books
Copyright: 2009
978-0441006250

The amazon.com product description:
The alien Catteni invaded Earth and enslaved thousands of humans on the planet Botany, where they struggle to survive while colonizing the world for their overseers. Now that they’ve proved Botany is capable of sustaining life, Kris Bjornsen and her fellow settlers have no intention of surrendering the home they’ve created for themselves…

Armed with the knowledge that the true enemy behind the Catteni is the Eosi race, Kris has begun a campaign to free Botany’s settlers by raising a rebellion among her people against their parasitic oppressors.

Aided by her Catteni lover, Zainal, Kris and the colonists manage to steal warships—and discover dissidents on other Eosi-controlled worlds. If all of the subjugated races join forces, they will have an army large enough to win their freedom and their worlds.

The war of liberation has begun.
Freedom's Challenge is the third book in this series, following on Freedom's Landing and Freedom's Choice. Interestingly, this is also the book where certain scenes had stuck - vaguely - in my head from the last time I read it, back when the book first came out. Most notably, the scenes on Catten itself. At the same time, I'd forgotten enough of the read that it was like reading the book for the first time.

One note I have to make - the cover art above is the new art. Honestly in this case I really prefer the original cover art style.

Anyway, this was another book that I ended up racing through while on a camping trip. Loved it. However, I'm having trouble finding a way to describe the story and style without giving a ton of spoilers, or being confusing because by this point, a lot of the storyline really requires knowledge of the previous books in the series.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Booking Through Thursday - Your Recommendation

This weeks question over at Booking Through Thursday is a simple one for me to answer:
If a friend asks you to recommend a really good book—good writing, good characters, good story—but with no other qualifications … what would you recommend? 
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
As far as I'm concerned, there is only one answer: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

There's something for everyone, at least everyone who likes fiction, in this book. The world is so deep and fully realized - there are things mentioned which clearly have their own history, known to the characters, but not required for the story.

Consistency is well done throughout - Tolkien was even carefully checking the dates for the phases of the moon to make sure that the characters, separated were looking at the same moon on the same day.

The devil is in the details people say, and Tolkien put a lot of effort into making sure those details were all consistent throughout the story.

The same thing is true of the characters. They have depth, history and motivations which make them into real people who grab your interest and hold on to it until the last page is turned.

Personally, I love all the description, but I know some people have said there's too much of it. For me, it's that description that helps add the depth to the story - I can almost feel myself in Middle-Earth at times.

Tolkien knew language and how to use it, and that shows in every carefully chosen word in the book. Prose, poetry and song were all carefully written to best effect.

I could keep going for a while, but I won't. The Lord of the Rings has been my favorite book for about two decades now, and it shows.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crochet and Spinning Update

I'm pretty proud of myself for this, but for the last two months or so, since the TDF on Ravelry, I've been managing to spin and/or crochet at least a little bit nearly every day. I think I ended up missing only one day so far. This is a track record I want to keep going indefinitely.

It hasn't reduced the number of projects I have on the go at all though. As usual, I'm better at starting a project than I am at finishing it, although I did finish one small project, and one of the longer-running projects I've mentioned here before is nearing completion. I'm hoping to get it done this month.

In terms of spinning, I've added one project, with a new spindle: the fibre is something of a mystery, but I have four ounces in three roving strips, all different colors, and I'm spinning it as finely as I can on my new(ish) Snyder Mini-Turk. In the photo the colors are showing as more blue than they actually are. In reality, one strip of roving is purple, one is turquoise, and the third is striped in black, blue and purple. I've torn the roving into small patches, and I'm spinning them in order: turquoise, purple and then the multi-color. Right now, it's on the multicolor and I guess it is fairly blueish in tone.

I'm trying a new technique as well: Ply-On-The-Fly, so all of the spun fiber on the spindle is finished. The process is to spin a length in one direction, wind it off on your hand and then chain ply that section before winding the finished length (now quite a bit shorter) onto the spindle. The other neat thing with a turkish spindle is the way the cop ends up being a work of art in and of itself - if you're careful.

The downside to this method, especially with my effort at keeping the cop neat, is just how slowly it progresses. Of course, I have to admit that part of that is because I'm not doing too much of it at any one time.

The other spinning projects I'm focused on are:
1. A merino-silk blend I have on my wheel in shades of blue. There's 200 grams of this fiber, and I'm about half-way through spinning it. Eventually, my plan is to chain-ply it as well.

2. Alpaca fiber on my supported Ghstworks spindle. This is a one ounce sample that I got from the Spin-Off kit. I'm maybe a third of the way through it. Again, it's slow going.

3. Multi-colored sprinkle-dyed merino fiber on a plain drop spindle. I'm finally seeing the end of this spinning project after three or four years now. Enough is enough, but it's my fault because I bought four or five 100gram bags of it. This one's being spun into singles on the spindle, but I have a bobbin on the go on my wheel that I'm using to chain-ply the singles.

Going over to crochet, the list of projects is about the same length, perhaps longer, and definitely longer if you include photos.

1. The Elise Shawl. This is a project that's gotten a lot larger than it was intended to be when I started it back in May. Back then, it was a one-skein shawlette, but I decided that it would be too small for my tastes, so I'm expanding it. Thankfully, I chose to use undyed Madtosh yarn, so matching colors and dye-lots wasn't a problem. I also decided to add beads to the shawl, using a second crochet hook. As I've said a few times since, "why did I think that would be a good idea?". I'll be glad when this project is done with, but I've got two more skeins of yarn to cake and add, so I'm not even half-way at the moment.

2.  The Goldberry Shawl. No photos for this one right now, but I'm about seven rows from finishing, so I'd like to get it done by the 22nd of the month - Frodo and Bilbo's birthday. The rows have gotten long though - one of the stumbling blocks of this shawl, I'm finding.

3. Another Bernat Mosaic Shawl in the Optimistic colorway. I like to have these to work on in the summer, though maybe I should have picked another color. It's a bit boring, because I just finished one of these a couple of months ago. Still, they work up pretty fast. The other advantage of these is the yarn isn't expensive, so I don't worry about taking one of these to the beach or camping.

4. The Triumph crocheted sock pattern. This one shouldn't really be on the list as I'm not working on it at all. I'd have to say that the socks triumphed over me. The one sock I mentioned last year fit perfectly, but I really screwed up on the second sock. It's way too small, so I now have to unpick the whole thing and start again. I haven't been able to gather the will-power together for it yet.

5. My first attempt at a carry-bag. It's from the same magazine as the basket I did earlier in the year. I'm not entirely sure what I think of the result though. The bag turned out to be a bit smaller than I though it would be for the medium size based on the picture in the magazine. Some of that might be the yarn I used being less stretchy than the yarn the pattern called for. On the other hand, I haven't actually tried filling the bag with anything as a test yet.

 I made one change of my own as well, adding a couple of extra rows to the handle to make it a bit wider. I was afraid the handle as it's written in the pattern would be narrow enough that it would cut into my hand or shoulder too easily.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1612120423/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1612120423&linkCode=as2&tag=alboup00-20&linkId=JSBIQJPTNA6ICG25
6. The Bristleberry scarf pattern from the Crochet One Skein Wonders book. The most recent addition to my in-progress list. Not that I needed to start another project with all the ones I have on the go right now, but I couldn't resist buying a skein of  Madtosh Lace yarn when I saw it in the store.

This is going to take a while because the yarn is so fine that each row doesn't add very much to the project on it's own. Then, after a few rows, you look at it again, and all of a sudden you can see the difference.

I love the way it's working up. The pattern is simple enough that I'm not too likely to make any mistakes, at least if I'm careful, but just different enough to keep my attention. And the colors are absolutely spectacular!

Freedom's Choice - Anne McCaffrey

Freedom's Choice - Anne McCaffrey
Freedom's Choice
Anne McCaffrey
Ace Books
Copyright Date: 1998
978-0441005314

The amazon.com product description:
Abducted by the alien Catteni, Kristin Bjornsen was one of many humans brought to the planet Botany as part of an experiment to see if it could support life. Enslaved and forced to colonize a world not their own, the settlers have accepted Botany as their home—a home worth fighting for…

Kristin’s people have learned that the aliens responsible for their imprisonment are merely mercenaries, subjugated by the parasitic Eosi Race, and that Botany is being farmed remotely by some unknown species—a species that may be sympathetic to the colonists’ struggle for freedom.

The “Farmers” refuse to join the humans in their rebellion against the Catteni, but they agree to use their technological skills to shield Botany and hide it from its enemies—buying Kristin and the settlers time to build up their forces and liberate their world…
The second book in the "Freedom" series, this is the sequel to Freedom's Landing, which I raced through a couple of weeks ago. It's taken me until now to get to this book because I had to wait for it to arrive. The first, third, and fourth books in the series I had found at my favorite used bookstore. They didn't have this one though, so I ended up ordering a copy, which finally arrived on Friday.

Freedom's Choice - Anne McCaffrey (New Cover Art)
That was a bit of a surprise too, because there are now some new covers for this series. I kind of like the new cover too, but at the same time, it's the odd one out because the other three all have the original cover art. As I've said before, I'm a bit odd about changing cover art in a series. Even more confusing, the Amazon listing for Freedom's Choice in the mass market edition still shows the original cover art. I had to pick up the correct cover image from the Kindle edition listing.

Anyway, the wait was worth it, although I'm now having a bit of trouble reviewing Freedom's Choice because I raced through it and then on to the third book, Freedom's Challenge, and I'm now well into the fourth and final book in the series, Freedom's Ransom.

There's plenty more universe-building going on, as well as more information about various things that were hinted at in the first book: the Farmers, also called the Mech-Makers, the Eosi; who they are and how they work etc.

Overall, a very fun read and a book I know I'll be re-reading again in the future.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Snow Queen - Mercedes Lackey

The Snow Queen - Mercedes LackeyThe Snow Queen
Mercedes Lackey
Luna Books
Copyright: 2008
ISBN: 9780373802654

The amazon.com product description:
Aleksia, Queen of the Northern Lights, is mysterious, beautiful and widely known to have a heart of ice. But when she's falsely accused of unleashing evil on nearby villages, she realizes there's an impostor out there far more heartless than she could ever be.

And when a young warrior disappears, Aleksia's powers are needed as never before.

Now, on a journey through a realm of perpetual winter, it will take all her skills, a mother's faith and a little magic to face down an enemy more formidable than any she has ever known…. 
I've read and reviewed The Snow Queen before, but it had been a while. This is one of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series of fantasy romance novels based on fairy tales, often with interesting twists, especially as each story doesn't always follow only one fairy-tale.

Imagine a world where fairy-tales are real, and they don't always have a happy ending. What's more, if your circumstances even vaguely match the setting for one of those tales, your life will be forced into following that tale. That's the world of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Not even the Godmothers, one of the forces that try to either prevent the Tradition from steering people into those tales, or at least to give them a happy ending, is immune from the force of the Tradition.

Even so, these stories fit the romance mold, which means that the characters are going to have their happy ending. That's a given, right from the start. The story, and the fun of the read are all about how they get there.

I enjoyed the read this time, as much as I did last time. Especially as it's been long enough now that I felt like I was reading The Snow Queen for the first time again. One thing I noticed on this read was the number of spinning and weaving references. Being into fibre-crafts myself, they almost jumped off the page for me - weaving a cloak at the beginning of the story, one of the background characters doing some tablet-weaving and another spinning with a drop spindle in one of the scenes.

Overall, a fun read.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales - Adrian Raeside

No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales: 30 Years of BC Ferries Cartoons
Adrian Raeside
Harbour Publishing
Copyright Date: April 11, 2012
978-1550175967

The amazon.com product description:
As a part of our provincial highway system and a lifeline for coastal communities, BC Ferries plays an integral part in British Columbians lives. This is especially true for cartoonist Adrian Raeside, who has been drawing cartoons portraying the ferry fleet for over thirty years. From breakdowns, groundings, the Fast Ferry Fiasco, the Sunshine Breakfast, German-built ferries, the Million Dollar Man (David Hahn) and fuel surcharges, Raeside has covered it all in his unique style. The best of these hilarious and sometimes poignant cartoons are for the first time compiled into a book, a unique chronicle of our ferry fleet and a must-read for anyone who has ever endured a two-sailing wait at a ferry terminal.
One of the books I re-read over the weekend was this one, and a funnier read I haven't had in a long time. My original review was from two years ago, August 2012.

I'm using BC Ferries a lot more these days, so some of the issues really resonate still. Others are slightly more dated, and one in particular was very touching: his honoring of the two who died in the ferry sinking a couple of years back. Very poignant and special.

Otherwise, every single page left me laughing. If you know the BC Ferry system you'll recognize at least some of these issues: the Sunshine Breakfast - a regular appearance in this book, sailing waits (the two sailing wait mentioned above is nothing compared to one I had a couple of years ago, where we were stuck for two sailings outside the terminal, and then another sailing or so inside, before we finally were able to get on the last sailing of the day), Ferry fares - always going up, and strikes.

As I've said before, I'd be very surprised to find Adrian Raeside's No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales in the BC Ferries gift store. The cartoons aren't very flattering to BC Ferries. On the other hand, editorial cartoons are usually pretty critical of whatever they're about - that's half the point.

Probably more of a local interest book, but one of the funniest I've read in a while.

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