Thursday, 10 May 2012

Books 2012, #11-20

Liz has posted more reviews. I can't help noticing her reading is far more varied and, ahem, intellectual, than mine. I have also been thinking recently that I've never been one for reading the classics. Therefore I went to the library yesterday and marched towards the classics section. I looked carefully for books that met my requirements, e.g.

  1. They were by an author I recognised
  2. They were short (gently does it)
So expect a bit more variation in my next bunch of reviews. Maybe. 

#11 The Floating Admiral by Members of the Detection Club
The premise of this book is quite interesting. You take the key detective fiction writers of the time and ask them to write a chapter each of a detective novel. Each one has to take what the previous one has written and add to it. The list of names includes many immediately recognisable and others now forgotten: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, G K Chesterton and more. So does it actually work? From my point of view the answer is...kind of. It's interesting to recognise the styles of each author (you are told who is writing each chapter) but the story suffers from a lack of planning and meanders all over the place. If you are a fan of classic detective fiction then I would recommend you give it a go but otherwise this is not something to read just for the story. 

#12, 13, 14 The Case is Closed, Lonesome Road and The Silent Pool by Patricia Wentworth
I took a couple of these to Amsterdam with me as they are pure comfort reading. I am still 100% committed to becoming a knitting detective once I am suitably old and have acquired the old fashioned furniture that is always mentioned. No arms on the chairs - useful for knitting, the reader is always reminded. Personally I don't mind arms and sometimes rest my elbows on them, although I have noticed that tends to lead to achey shoulders. So maybe Miss Silver knows what she's about. You see - that's where the benefit of age and experience comes in. Clever Miss Silver. To get back to the actual books, these all feature the usual woman in distress, a love match that has been derailed for some reason and which will be reconciled by the end of the book and an unsuitable man. Relaxing and lightly engaging. 

#15 I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
This book came out in 2010 and usually I would leap upon a Pratchett and devour it on the day of publication. The Tiffany Aching series though have not captured me in the same way as Discworld in the past although this one pretty much changed my mind on that score. Although aimed at younger readers this one covered some mature issues and did it very well. At the same time the Pratchett humour was there and old and new characters combined effortlessly. The ending did feel a little rushed but I still hugely enjoyed this book and will reread it in the future. 

# 15, 17 Bury Her Deep and The Winter Ground by Catriona McPherson
Parts of the Dandy Gilver series - I have quickly grown to love these! Set in the wilds of Scotland, wife and mother Dandy (short for dandelion) seems to have fallen into detection and is trying to hide it from her husband who is a local nobleman trying to keep his family estate afloat. I am reading them out of order so have missed some of the back story but by The Winter Ground Hugh has twigged what is going on and doesn't approve while grudgingly accepting that the extra income helps maintain the grounds. The Winter Ground features mismatched married neighbours and an entire circus wintering in their grounds. A member of the circus dies in an accident - or is she killed? Dandy investigates. Not knowing much of scottish nobility, circus life or even which period the books are set in I cannot say whether these things are covered correctly but they are blended well and the books work. If you like a traditional whodunnit I would recommend giving these a go. 

#18 Oscar Wilde and the Vatican Murders by Gyles Brandreth
Yes - *that* Gyles Brandreth. But don't judge - these are really rather charming. You do need to suspend reality though. There is historical evidence he and Arthur Conan Doyle met but not that they had the kind of friendship that pops up here. Nonetheless if you can get over that, this series is entertaining. Unfortunately this particular book is one of the weakest of the series I have read so far. I can suspend reality with the best of them - I just watched the Avengers film for a second time - but this pushes it. I admire the way Gyles weaves together the different threads but I think the cleverness gets in the way of the story and Oscar's creative deductions (the implication is that he is the real Sherlock Holmes and directly inspires the character of Mycroft) can come out of the blue in exactly the same way as Holmes' do in some of those stories. Not fair to the reader who is trying to work out the culprit for themselves. I would recommend this series but maybe A Game Called Murder or Ring of Death as a starter. 

#19 Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie Van Der Linden
This book was a present and an *extremely* welcome one. There are some brilliant socks in here. It also illustrates a phrase I like but always feel slightly guilty about using in public in case it is rude - "Different strokes for different folks". The one pair I really don't like have beaded peacocks on them. Read the reviews on Amazon and you'll see that was the go to pattern for one reviewer. There are socks for everyone - simple and fiendish, colourwork, cables, travelling stitches, textures, lace...yup - this has got it all. All the yarns used are Regia so easily available and easily substitutable. I'm very glad to have this in my knitting collection. 

#20 Pawing Through the Past by Rita Mae Brown
Oh you didn't seriously think I could go for a month without reading a book where the cat solves the murder did you? Yay for Mrs Murphy, Pewter and even for the dog Tucker. I think of him as a cat. Just to help me get over the whole dog aspect. Now for something you didn't see coming - this one was really pretty bad. A very serious crime is treated very lightly and without much sympathy. The characters are acting out of character and the story was all over the place. I adore this series. It pains me to say this was a rotten one but it was. Really wouldn't recommend it at all. On the plus side here is a cat. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

I Wasn't Going to Start Anything New

I particularly wasn't going to buy stuff so I could start something new. Then I went to Canary Wharf (and fell off a Boris Bike in the process) and bought a duvet cover. It came with pillows. They were plain blue. They're not now.
Bunting Pillow Cases
I've started doing the same thing to the duvet cover. It's actually really time consuming.
Bunting Close Up
Going to take much longer than I thought.

Then when I'd decided to stop that for the day I pulled out the small towel and facecloth I wasn't going to do anything with because I wasn't starting anything new.
Cloud Bathmat
The edges are curly at the moment because I zig zagged them and the blue lines around the edges are a water soluble marker but both with sort themselves out once it has a first wash.

I'm very happy with how both have turned out but also kind of angry with myself for making them when I could have been working on existing WIPs. Speaking of which - this is the shawl I blogged about last time.
I have decided to keep going and finish it but I'm still not sure about the colours. The person it is for has the same colouring as me and I think it looks ok colourwise.
You can see what I mean though about the colour transitions looking better over the small number of stitches (the bit closest to my fizzog). Ah well, we live and learn.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Everything Seemed Normal at the Doctor's Surgery

She waved at the Doctor looking out of the top window as she walked past.

But then she realised....

....that was no Doctor.



Spots or Stripes

Anyone remember how Cadburys launched this big spots vs stripes concept a year or so ago? Apparently the campaign has ended. I can't say it had a great effect on me except that i have tended to buy my Wispas in the spotty wrappers just because polka dots are my first love. However, when spots are not available, stripes are my next choice.

In Amsterdam I bought a couple of Zauberballs in the same colourway intending to make a striped shawl along the lines of one of the Stephen West ones. I have used Zauberball to make socks before but thought the yarn was a bit too woolly to really do the job.
Love Heart Socks
When I got back I started swatching in various patterns. By swatching I mean I cast on since this was going to be a fairly plain V shawl so it made sense to do the swatches like that. I did this four times. Ripple in 4x4 stripe with garter row, ripple in 2x2 stripe, 2x2 plain stripe, 4x4 plain stripe. It wasn't working. So I switched tactic and looked for shawls previously knit in Zauberball that looked good. I settled on Whippoorwill. Thing is though - in the large size you've got 500+ stitches on the needles. Zauberball is meant to make nice socks at 60-70 st per row. At that row length the colours gradually fade between one and the next. At 500 st you basically get stripes. The samples I'd looked at that looked nice were the small sizes and I was knitting the largest one. There's a life lesson there. Meh. Photos to come.

Something I have done rather better on is my Sister's wedding quilt. I'm not putting the photo here as she might peek but if you click here you'll see it.

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