Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Sussana Clark

This book was recommended to me when it came out awhile ago and then was recommended to me again a couple years ago by Joy Killyjoy, the ’52 Spitfire. They told me that it was a “winter book”. And, I took that to mean that it is a book that should be read in winter (Although, I think what they meant was, “This is a book you should read when you don’t have a lot else on.”) It is a gorgeous book with a really muted color palette (can books have color palettes?) I pictured everything that happened in this book, even the parts that happen on the plains of Spain, were tinted with grey. This is the story of Mr. Norrell, the last real magician in England, and his apprentice Jonathan Strange. It chronicles their rise to stardom in the public eye, their eventual break as master and apprentice and the aftermath of that break. It was a really fantastic read. I enjoyed the characters, even when I found them haughty and overbearing. (I suppose if I were trying to revive English magic, I too, might come off as a complete dick or a stick in the mud.) And, the supporting characters were fantastic! The subplots that follow Stephen and the wives really kept my attention. The tale of the magicians is also bound up in the history of magic in this alternate England, and that was also really interesting. To introduce all of this alternate history, there were a lot of digressions and footnotes. I found this amusing but I could imagine that others might not be so keen on all the footnotes.

This was an incredibly long book, though, and I think the only reason why I was able to read it during the school year is that I wasn’t reading it but listening to it. (This novel fueled my before bed knitting of the Accola shawl that I knit during the Olympics.) I got this book from Audible.

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Review: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

This is the next book in the Vampire Academy series.  At the end of the last book there was drama and the drama continues.  Rose still has to finish her training and so she’s deep into that when a family is attacked and killed along with their guardians.  This sends everyone at the Academy into a panic, and around Christmas! So many plans are canceled and rearranged. Then, someone books a ski resort and everyone, students and parents, are transported there for the holiday in safety with all the extra protection. Of course, things don’t go according to plan.  More people are killed, teenagers go on revenge sprees.  They meet another Moroi who controls spirit.  I really enjoyed this one and I’m looking forward to the next one.  

This brief review is brought to you by my good friends at the Erie County Public Library

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Reversible fabric

So, I’ve been trying to give myself things to do at the end of my Work Jail days:  like knitting.  Last night I finished a piece for my sister.  The shawl from the previous post.  I still have to block it, but the main work is done and I’m so happy with it.  I just hope I can get it in the mail and to her before Easter.  But, the big exciting thing I decided to let myself do was pick a craftsy class and give that to myself as a treat before every night.  The class I picked is Alasdair Post-Quinn’s class on Double-knitting.  His patterns are fun and I really like the idea of creating reversible fabric.  So, I casted on the first project, the Duvino cuff using stash yarn.  I picked a green cotton blend and a multi-colored wool blend.  Both of them are sock yarns that I purchased at the first fiber festival I ever went to.  It was the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival in Hemlock New York back in 2008.  That was a special weekend because my parents were visiting. We drove out to Hemlock and watched Sheep dog trials and looked at demonstration and bought some sock yarn (socks were my thing in 2008.  Everyone got socks for Christmas.)  There was a hitch, though.  I have discovered in my stash that I have a moth infestation.  Devastation.  Tragedy.  But, I was determined to see it through and make the most out of my yarn.  Even if it means I have to weave in 11, 000 ends.  



This is the finished project.  I love the look of it.  I was planning on making a second one until I realize that it fits around my 1 pint and a half mason jars that I use with my cuppow to cart herbal tea and smoothies to and from campus.  (One has to keep one’s hydration up.)  

The next project in the class is a hat and I might hold off on moving forward in the class until Next Fall.  We’ll see, though.  It is hard to predict what will tickle my knitting fancy.

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Picking the right project

My sister was just here visiting and we had a lovely time.  It’s always so nice to see her and it’s always so hard to put her back on the plane.  But, now I’m sitting at my desk trying to motivate myself back to the level of last week’s productivity (I had jury duty last week and I was worried I’d get called so I while I waited for my number to be called I think I got a little extra done.)  Anyway, while my sister was here I started knitting a shawl for her.  I’ve had the wool since last Fall, so it was nice to sit down and start it and get her opinion on the pattern and the colors as it knit up.  I made tremendous progress while she was here and this morning, it occurred to me why.  It wasn’t that we spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking.  And, it wasn’t that we watched a lot of movies and caught up on TV shows we both watch (Teen Wolf is good this season, y’all!) It was that the colors are so bright and cheerful and Springy!  

This shawl is a little like an Easter egg.  I tried to knit it up last Fall but I couldn’t get over how bright that one pink is (It’s Knit Picks Palette Cosmopolitan).  But, now I crave it.  I don’t want to say that I’m tired of winter and that I want it to go away.  I’m grateful that we have winter and this period of rest and renewal for the Earth.  And, when I’m cold I have so many lovely knit things I can wear that it’s not a huge deal.  (Plus, two cuddly cats who have made peace with each other and will share my lap).  But, I am starting to look forward to Spring.  I’m curious about what all of this rest and renewal for the Earth will bring.  

And, I’m very happy to realize that, even though I would like to finish the other projects in my knitting queue, that sometimes what’s called for is a pattern that reflects the mood and the spirit of the moment instead of a head-down, power-through attitude on a project you’ve already got on the needles.  


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Review: The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell

Another Kurt Wallander novel.  This one is set in the early ’90s.  Dead bodies in a life raft wash up on shore outside of Ystad and Wallander is called in to investigate.  They discover the life raft probably came from Latvia and a Latvian detective comes to help investigate.  When things are wrapped up, the detective is sent home and is murdered upon arriving.  Wallander then gets involved in a lot of really intense intrigue.  Wallander has to sneak around and shake tails and evade secret police.  This is an intense story from the end of the Cold War.  Quite the adventure.

Another review brought to you by my good friends at the Erie County Public Library

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Review:Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

This is the first of the Kurt Wallander books.  These have been made into a TV show in the UK starring Kenneth Branagh. They also have a young Tom Hiddleston in them.  This book is about a shocking killing in farm country.  A farmer and his wife are found murdered (or nearly murdered).  Wallander is called out to investigate. There is no rhyme or reason apparent to the killings and the police are worried that panic will spread through the community.  Then, to make matter worse, a rumor that foreigners were involved in the killing spreads through the community and refugees are attacked because of it.  Now, Wallander and the police have to solve multiple related crimes:  The killing of the farm couple and attacks on refugees.  

I found Kurt Wallander to be quite likable.  He’s broken in places, but he’s a hard worker and he cares about solving crimes.  His relationships with people are complicated and that just makes him seems more real.  I checked this out of the library and as soon as I finished it I checked out the next one.  I listened to them both of my Spring Break, able to finish them both because I got the flu.  Thanks, virus!

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Review: Maze Runner

More dystopian teen fiction.  Ah, how I love it.  This is the tale of Thomas who wakes up not knowing where he came from in a box on his way to the center of a maze. He takes his place amongst the other teenagers living at the center of the maze.  The maze is full of dangers, including awful mechanical drones that will stab you with poison and kill you dead.  He and his new friends have to defeat the maze or else the maze will kill them.  That’s the scoop.  It was a pretty good story and I have put myself on the waiting list for the next one in the series, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of Ender’s Game while I was reading it. (In case you didn’t know, that’s not one of my favorite books.)  They’re making this into a movie with Dylan O’Brien from Teen Wolf and since he plays my favorite TW character, I’m pretty stoked about that.  I’m not sure I’m dying to read the rest of the books in this series, though.  It’s an interesting premise but I’m not sure it’s going anywhere groundbreaking, or different in an interesting way.  

Another review brought to you by my good friends at the Erie County Public Library.

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I don’t quite know how I discovered Marc Smollin’s work, but I did.  He designs really color and bold. I fell in love with the pattern megalodon immediately when it was released a year ago but it has taken me this long to get it on my needles.  What I liked about the pattern was that it used some really basic techniques (garter and stockinette stitches, basic lace increases and short rows) that come together in a really interesting way that really shows off colors.  Plus, every picture of a completed one I’ve seen has looked great.  As you know, I’m stash-busting this year (or half a year) by going cold sheep and not purchasing yarn and it turned out that I had an embarrassment of riches when I went to pick out what I wanted my colors to be.  I only needed three, but I settled on four.  For my base color, I’m using natural wool from Ross Farm Fibers that I purchased at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival last fall.  I love this yarn.  It’s Leicester long wool and a really rich dark brown/black color.  This base color really makes color B pop.  (Although, you’ll see in the photos below that color B probably didn’t need help popping.)  For the short row wedges, I chose a bamboo yarn I got as my travel souvenir when I was in Huntsville last summer.  This was locally made yarn that was made just for the shop that we stopped at (Mad props to my Huntsville friends for finding a yarn shop even though they aren’t textile people!) and it is such a bright color.  If it hadn’t been the home yarn, I probably never would have bought anything in this color, but it is very Springy so I’m very happy to have it.  For the stockinette insets, I’ve gone with some handspun made by a friend of mine (Joy Killjoy, the ’52 Spitfire) that I’ve had for a couple of years now but I just haven’t found the right project for.  It is a lovely shade of teal and I have enough of it that it will appear again in at least one more project.  Also for the stockinette insets I have some sinfonia sport cotton yarn that I used for one of my first pairs of socks.  It is a variegated blue and I think it adds just the right about of whimsy to make you look at something other than the bright green bamboo.  I started this shawl while I had the flu over spring break, and both of these things cut into the productivity of my dissercation, but what can you do.  If you’re not well, you’re not well.  (And, if you’re not well, you really need something to distract yourself from that feeling!)  The garter stitch main sections were great because they required almost zero concentration, which is what I had to give.  I can’t wait to be done with this shawl so I can show it off!


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Work Jail

A friend of mine has introduced me to the concept of “Work Jail”. Work Jail is a place where you go when you have a bunch of looming deadlines and you need to just get that stuff done. But, unlike other kinds of jail, you can have as many visitors as you like (and you and/or they can bring treats) as long as those visitors are willing to abide by the rules of work jail and just get stuff done.

It is Spring Break. I am in work jail. (Which is a bummer, because I thought I’d be on dissercation. (This is a vacation that you take from everything but your dissertation.) I’ve had the pleasure of being part of a large, multi-person study while I’ve been working on my PhD and right now we’re trying to disseminate our awesome findings through a series of papers. Of course, this has meant a lot of writing and a lot of creating and checking, re-checking, double-checking and double-re-checking of graphs and models. Which is cool; I like the work. But, I also have a lot of dissertation stuff to attend to as my first field trip for collecting dissertation data draws ever closer. (True, I won’t be going until this summer but I have to be prepared for the field trip and preparation takes time.) And, I’ve hit a snag. Typically a snag is just an opportunity to learn how to do something (or learn how to do something better.) I’m not sure with this one. I keep getting an error that doesn’t exist when I google it. That doesn’t happen very often; usually you have a problem that someone else has already had and asked the internet about. The collective power of people on the internet has solved a lot of problems. (It’s also caused a lot of flame wars, but that’s a discussion for a different day.) But, the problem needs to be solved so solve it I must.

When you have a problem that you can’t seem to solve, what is your go-to for finding an answer?

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To sum up, February was busy but March might be busier still.

My big goals for February were another grant deadline for my dissertation. Reading some books and articles for my dissertation. Transcribing and then coding some data for a secondary project. Participating in the Ravellenic Games. Brewing. And, finally starting the literary podcast that my sister and I have been discussing for well over a year. I was pretty successful at accomplishing these things. As you know from previous posts, some brewing did take place. And, I made my grant deadline and got some reading done. I also transcribed some audio recordings and am about to start coding the data for the secondary project I’m working on. While the podcast is still in discussion phase, I did manage to complete the Accola shawl (post to come.) February may have been short, but it was mighty!

March is shaping up to be quite busy. I have a lot of dissertation deadlines looming. I also am working on some papers with some colleagues. I’m looking forward to those being submitted! Talking about your results is a good time! I started a shawl for my sister during her recent visit to my fair city and I would like to finish that. After that, though, I think I will be taking some time off of knitting to focus my down time on another one of my textile related hobbies: spinning. I have some really interesting color combinations I’m looking forward to trying and I would like to do some fractal spinning. I went a little crazy at the Fiber festivals last year and so I have a lot of stash to bust this year. Finally, one of my new year’s resolutions was to blog more about general linguistic topics. I hope to get the first of those posts up in the month of March.

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