Plans for today

Taken at: Saddle Ridge, Calgary

Today’s plans? Settling in with a new book, knitting on a sock, and cuddling up under a warm blanket.

Long, long ago, I mentioned that the first couple of adult books I remember reading (or at least, remember being caught reading by adults who were probably right in assuming I was too young to be reading them) were novels by Stephen King and Jackie Collins. I still like scary books. The home library has expanded over the years.

One of the highlights from Christmas 2017 was Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I’m currently reading through it and enjoying the heck out of it. I’ll have to remember to write a review of it once I’m done.

Because I was fairly young when I started reading scary books, I’ve developed a short list of rules for reading them.

Not before bed. Pretty self-explanatory. This rule has saved me many times from nightmares.

Not when home alone – at night. Because nothing freaks you out more than hearing the furnace kick in when you’re all alone in the house at, say, 3am. Heck, I don’t even need the added incentive of a horror novel to make me paranoid – I’ve been known to hear snow falling off the roof and think someone’s trying to break in. Best not to make the paranoia worse.

If it’s getting to you, do something else. This is the last-ditch effort of someone who can’t use stairs or go into the basement because House of Leaves OMG WHAT.

Trust me, having a few rules helps. Update them as necessary. When I was 10 years old, the word “ghost” near bedtime used to trigger nightmares for me. So I started substituting the word “it” for “ghost” whenever I was reading in bed.

Then, sometime around 1987, Stephen King wrote “It“.

Yeah.

That didn’t work out very well.

Book Review: The Peripheral by William Gibson

The Peripheral Book Cover The Peripheral
William Gibson
Science Fiction / Fantasy
Putnam Adult
October 28, 2014
PDF
496
Prix Aurora Award reader's package

Depending on her veteran brother's benefits in a city where jobs outside the drug trade are rare, Flynne assists her brother's latest beta-test tech assignment only to uncover an elaborate murder scheme. By the best-selling author of Zero History. 100,000 first printing.

Yes, yes, the Prix Aurora Awards are long over by now, but I wanted to still put up my review of William Gibson’s The Peripheral. It’s taken me a while to be able to sort out my thoughts on the book.

What is the outstanding “trend” in the book? (ie: outer space, aliens, dragons, elves, parallel worlds, etc):
I would say that parallel worlds sums this one up.

Is there a Message?:
Not really, I don’t think. It didn’t clobber me over the head with anything. If the message was that being poor sucks, well, we all know that’s true.

Any other genres incorporated into the book? Was it done well?:
This one seems to be straight-up science fiction/fantasy. Once I knew what was going on, it worked really well.

Is the “trend” realistic?:
Kinda? Will explain down below.

Was the book easy to get into?:
Oh hell no. I actually needed a glossary to finally understand what the hell I was trying to wrap my brain around.

Did you have to do any homework (pre-reading) to really understand the book?:
No previous books set in this world, no. At least, that I know of.

Was the world believeable?:
Once I figured out what I was reading? Possibly? The best way to describe how the worlds worked is to say that it’s like one future has the ability to play with alternate dimensions of the past the way that some of us play The Sims. The overarching plot after that (character sees a crime committed and has to provide evidence) is just gravy.

Were the characters believable?:
Yes. The characters were all very well realized. It’s one of Gibson’s main talents. Once you figure out which world you’re in and the world-building that surrounds it, the characters themselves are a treat.

What “problems” did you have with the book?:
There was a lot of slang. A lot of slang. Parts of the story are set in a world not too far ahead of us, and another that’s a few decades ahead of that. Apparently a lot changes in between those times, which made it hard for me to read the book without some form of translation.  So I looked up a helpful glossary online that told me what things meant without spoiling the story. Problem solved.

Actually, the site that I’ve linked as the glossary pretty well sums up my issues with the book right in the introduction. I was confused to the point that I almost put the book down a few times…and having that one or two extra bits of explanation really helped me to relax and enjoy it.

What did you like about the book?:
Once I understood what I was reading, I really did enjoy the story. As mentioned, it was a standard “protect the witness” plot, but with some really interesting twists. It also didn’t end the way that I thought it would…the few Gibson books I’ve read have had some really grim endings, and this one was surprisingly upbeat.

Last Thoughts:
Reading comprehension has never been a problem for me before this point. To be honest, Peter Watts’ books operate on a level that I have difficulty grasping. This one was worse. I’ve waded through medical journal text that was easier to understand. To be honest, I felt downright stupid for the first quarter to half of the book before I found the glossary and the little lightbulb went on. I really don’t like feeling that way, particularly when reading a book by an author that I admire. Some like the discovery that comes from being in the dark…I just felt like I was obviously too dim to understand what I was reading — which was a rather glum thought, and before finding the glossary, had me wishing I’d bought the  hardcover* so I could pitch it across the room with a satisfying thud.

I was very happy to find out that the fault really wasn’t with me, but the fact that Gibson seems to have gone out of his way to obscure the story. I suppose I might have been a little more good-natured about the whole thing if I hadn’t been on a very tight reading schedule at the time.

Do I recommend it?  Oh most definitely yes!  The story, once you get past the stumbling points, is wonderful. If you need the glossary, here it is again. My suggestion is the same as the glossary authors – don’t read it unless you find you need it. It’s very possible you’ll click with the story a lot sooner than I did.

 

* I’m still going to buy the book, though. It’s actually a really good story, so it will be going into The Library.

Well that’s that (Prix Aurora Award voting done)

I submitted my final votes for the Prix Aurora Award this morning. I have some mixed feelings about it.

First, I feel happy that I looked over as much of the work as I could within the time I had. I feel like I’m coming to know Canadian SFF fandom a bit better, and I am glad I had the opportunity to read and view some excellent and/or interesting work. Continue reading “Well that’s that (Prix Aurora Award voting done)”

Reading for the Aurora Awards

I haven’t disappeared! Particularly after the promises of my last post.

I’ve been on vacation the past 2 weeks. You’d think that would mean I had time to do things like write. Unfortunately, no.

I spent my time putting together IKEA, cleaning house, and hiding from the big, hot sun. When it wasn’t raining. I’ve had a lot of headaches this past couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to Instagram pictures where possible.

I did, however, sneak in a little time to read two of the contenders for this year’s Aurora Award for Best Novel. I’m working my way through the nominees so that I can make an informed choice. I’ll post my full opinions when I can figure out a format that adequately explains my reasoning in a positive manner. While saying negative things about $10 bottles of wine is fun, it’s not so nice when it’s a book that you got for free because you’re judging it. Unlike the cheap plonk, the book was someone’s labour of love.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

 

I really can’t say too much about the books yet. I’m still trying to parse them. My Real Children, for instance, seemed really close to the Women’s Fiction genre with Science Fiction elements. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good book, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

The Future Falls by Tanya Huff

The Future Falls, on the other hand, was Urban Fantasy. Not long after beginning it, I realized it was the third book in a series (that I haven’t read). There was a ton of world-building even though it’s set in Calgary (my current home town!), and took quite a while for the actual plot to get going. Most of the first third of the book was backstory on the characters, their family, and their particular dynamic within the world.

Both books took less than 24 hours for me to read. That is to say, I devoted one day each to reading and not getting distracted by the internet or what the husbeast was watching on TV. As a comparison, My Real Children seemed to go fairly quickly. The Future Falls, while it was closer to my preferred genre, was a bit of a slog. I put it down at one point and felt disappointed that I was only 58% through the book. I’m blaming it on the file type.

Duck and cover! Incoming Rant! (sorta)

If I don’t have a hard copy of a book, I will generally use my Kobo. It’s nothing fancy – the Kobo Touch has been out for years now, and as I haven’t managed to drop it in the bath tub yet, I don’t need a new one. I’m sure it would be nice to have more of a tablet-style e-reader with glossy colour pictures, but the e-paper on the Kobo is wonderfully readable. If it’s dark, you get a book light.

This has caused issues in the past where my book light died for some reason other than battery failure, and telling the staff at Chapters/Indigo that their selection of replacements was piss-poor sparse garnered the response of “just buy a new Kobo with onboard lighting.” I think I understand my parents better now because every time I countered with the fact that my OLD Kobo is still perfectly fine, thank you very much, I just got a blank stare in return.  Just puts me that much closer to yelling at the neighbourhood kids to get off my damn lawn.

At any rate, I chose the Kobo because it handles a large amount of file types, particularly EPUB. I love EPUB. It has no bells and whistles and it’s generally DRM-free. I can read it on my Kobo. I can read it on my computer. I can read it on my phone. I can take it with me wherever. The Kobo will also handle PDF files, but since the screen is about the size of a paperback novel, you have to jump through some hoops to actually read anything. To give the guys at the Aurora Awards their due, they mention that you can use a program to convert the files. Unfortunately, the way that the PDFs are formatted, it affects the way the text flows in the EPUB.

My Real Children was in EPUB format when I got it, and is wonderfully readable. The Future Falls was in PDF, and was horrendous to try reading in EPUB. Part of the slog I mentioned earlier was due to zooming, resizing and repositioning the PDF version every time I turned a page (because it was the more readable version). The Kobo Touch isn’t a high-powered device, and it takes a while to do this. Woe betide I skipped a page somewhere and had to go back after doing all the adjusting.

The Husbeast was impressed I could read the PDF at all as the text was really tiny when I’d zoom to fit a full page of text on the screen. I now know for certain that I need to get my eyes checked as I had to take off my glasses to read comfortably. Hooray myopia?

A Play of Shadow Echopraxia The Peripheral

I have two more books in PDF format that I have to read through: A Play of Shadow by Julie E Czerneda and The Peripheral by William Gibson. Thankfully, Peter Watts included the EPUB for Echopraxia.  I’m going to have to see if I can tweak my conversion program to get rid of the junk text in the EPUBs because I’m really looking forward to the Gibson book and I really want it to be a comfortable read.

Also, because “Best Novel” isn’t the only category that involves novels. There’s a full slate of Young Adult SFF books that I’m going to have to go through. I just figured I’d start with the books that likely have the higher word count.

Blindsight

I’m currently working my way through Blindsight by Peter Watts, as Echopraxia is a followup.  I’ve had Blindsight in the house for years, but have never gotten around to reading it. Shame me if you must, this is definitely a shame-worthy offense as we’ve actually met Peter (through a mutual friend). I’m only 13% into it, but that will change quickly. Having to go back to work is the only thing holding me back from another 1-day marathon read.

If you’re Canadian and think that you can bust a move reading a whole bunch of really good SFF books (and short stories, and…) by October 17th, feel free to join me! Membership is open to all Canadians and landed immigrants. Sorry, but I can’t share the books with you. Membership has its privileges 😉

Oh…and if anyone from the Aurora Awards ever sees this…may I recommend EPUB versions of the reading material next year? They tend to convert really well to the other file-types that people prefer, better than PDF.  Please?  Please with upgrades to appearance and sweetness? 😀

 

Edited 20-Aug-15: Apparently when I’m in a rush to post, I get my English and French words mixed up. So the Aurora Prize (Prix Aurora) has been edited to Aurora Award. #CanadianProblems

The reading list

I keep meaning to update with what I’ve been up to but my mind has been jumbled all over the place. I’ve been taking a bit of a break from knitting, and trying to get in a little spinning each week. The biggest difference is that I’ve been doing more reading and writing.

Yes, writing. Just not on the blog. Ouch.

I mentioned previously that I’m trying to do more fiction-reading. I’ve been fairly successful at that. Here’s the most recent picture of the stack o’books:

The stack sits on a side-table in our living room and just seems to be growing as I find new books to add. The Husbeast has not been helping the matter, as he keeps adding more books that he thinks I should be reading (Trainspotting, Raw Shark Texts and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union are prime examples). What the stack doesn’t show is the sheer amount of books loaded on Kobo hiding as an unassuming black book up near the top of that pile.

Since my last post on Ready Player One, I’ve finished the following books (with notes):

The Marrow of the World by Ruth Nichols
— I vaguely remembered this book from elementary school, and somehow managed to track down a paperback copy on Amazon. Good middle-grade book set both in Canada and in a parallel fantasy world. Definitely exceeded my nostalgia-tinted expectations.

House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
— Finally finished this, and quickly realized that I definitely need to re-read it. Taking time off in the middle of reading made a huge difference in impact. Better to keep reading it and deal with the fear and paranoia the book was giving me than to stop and lose the suspense.

The Dresden Files: Skin Game by Jim Butcher
— Enjoyable escapist lark. Nominated for a Hugo. Not sure how I feel about that. It’s a good book and a fun read, but I didn’t find it terribly world-changing. I enjoy the Harry Dresden series and would recommend it to anyone because it entertains and does it well.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris
— I think I maybe saw half of the first season of the TV show before I gave up on it as “not my cup of tea”. I couldn’t get past parallels to a World of Darkness LARP run amok with too many sex scenes and far-fetched plotlines. It definitely works much better as a book for me. I totally enjoyed the first novel and look forward to picking up more in the series.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
— Finished this after a year of procrastinating. As good as The Shining? Maybe not. Entertaining, escapist thriller that I’ll likely read again.

Feast of Fear: Conversations with Stephen King by Stephen King, Tim Underwood, and Chuck Miller
— Interviews with King from 1973 to 1989. Someone on Goodreads criticized this as being repetitive. I can see that, though I prefer to think of it as an exploration of the retelling of stories. Every so often something new crops up to illuminate a point or clarify a fact. Not sure it’s reading that everyone would enjoy, though.

Neuromancer by William Gibson
— Awesome heist story set in a highly imaginative future. A bit dated due to the way that technology has evolved since the book was written, but the story holds up either way. Having been influenced by my Dad’s love of Science Fiction, this is a satisfying read.

Monster by A. Lee Martinez
— A quick read that took maybe a day to get through. I liked the humour and premise, but ultimately thought something was missing. Left me with a vague feeling of “Ok, now what?” I have a couple more books by the same author, so we’ll see if maybe I’m just overthinking things a bit.

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
— Another quick read, but this one was much more satisfying. I gather it was meant as a middle-grade horror novella, if such things exist. A fun adventure in a wonderfully imagined and realized world. Definitely recommend to anyone who likes fantasy, horror, or a mixture of the two.

That gets me caught up to the present. I have a couple of new purchases on the Kobo that I’m thinking might be the next couple of reads. In the meantime, I’ll try not to take as long between blog updates!

Little Red in the City

Little Red in the City Book Cover Little Red in the City
Ysolda
Knitting
2011
264

"From ... designer Ysolda Teague comes Little red in the city. Part pattern collection, part resource book Ysolda shares all of her tips for successful sweaters that perfectly fit your body. Each of the seven inspiring designs is modelled by Ysolda herself and by her friend Amanda Allen, showing the garment in two different sizes and helping you envision how each design will look on your own shape. 15-17 sizes are included in each pattern, ranging from a 28-60" finished bust"--P. [4] of cover.

I meant to blog this sooner, but the weather wasn’t on my side. For really nice photos, I like to have a goodly amount of natural light. The past couple of days?  Rain.  Either way, this little gem arrived in our Superbox sometime on the weekend or very slightly prior to that (when we wouldn’t have checked the mail).  Yay!  I’ve been eagerly waiting for my copy of Little Red in the City!

I will give full disclosure here…I bought the full version, which means that I not only bought the physical book, but also the e-copy in .pdf form. What’s even better is that Ysolda has provided both the full book as a PDF as well as each section / pattern as separate files. I like the e-version for the plain fact that I will likely print out each pattern that I work on so that I can take it with me & write all over the margins. It keeps me from having to do things like crack the spine of my book to fit it onto the scanner / copier in the home office.

The reason I wanted the actual book?  I like the fact that I can pick up the book and hold it.  I can smell the fresh ink on the pages. I can scan through quickly to find what I want, and I don’t have to worry about screen glare distorting the colour. I love books. Though the world is trying to gravitate towards the paperless lifestyle, I will never be fully paperless as long as authors and designers continue to create books that can be appreciated for their beauty as well as their content.

Speaking of cracking the spine, though… My copy seems to have come with a bit of a flaw.  The binding is cracking down at the bottom of the book. A few of the pages threaten to separate from the book as a whole, making me wonder if they are going to paint themselves blue and start crying “Freedom!” as they make a break for it (for those of you who don’t get the joke, I’m referencing the Mel Gibson movie “Braveheart” as Ysolda Teague, the author of Little Red, just so happens to be Scottish.) I’m thinking I may need to contact Ysolda for advice on what to do about this. I sure as heck haven’t folded, spindled, or mutilated the book, so I’m not sure what might have caused the cracking.

The patterns themselves are gorgeous for both slender ladies as well as those of us with a bit (or, okay, a LOT) of meat on our bones. I’m particularly drawn to Chickadee and Cria as possible projects, though my whim could change at any time. For more information, I highly recommend checking out the project pages on Ravelry.

About the only thing I’m *not* seeing in the book is a sweater with a bit more room and drape. Most of the sweaters are fairly form-fitting, and unless you have a fairly outgoing personality, a big girl like me could find the sweaters a bit daunting.  Melia and Cria are the loosest patterns of the bunch, but I would have loved to see something that flowed just a little more.  Yes, I know that some styles can contribute to a look of pregnancy, but styles that are a little *too* fitted tend to make some of us look somewhat sausage-like.

That said, I love Ysolda’s design sense, and the thought and care that have gone into the patterns and the directions to get the best look and fit. As a person who has read her blog, she’s previously indicated that she gets quite a bit of her construction information from fairly classic sources, particularly books from the early-to-mid 1900s.  This is a wonderful thing, as many of the knits I admire most are from the 30’s to the 60’s. There’s just a particular way that knit sweaters were fit to the female form in those years that emphasized the feminine. It’s stunning to see a modern take on the classic sweater without turning it into a shapeless, baggy object.

I definitely recommend picking up a copy, whether it’s in e-book or physical book form. Her website has all the ordering information you need!

Chicks Dig John Taylor

Talking to Girls about Duran DuranI’m reading a new book that I picked up called “talking to girls about duran duran” by Rob Sheffield. It appears to be a kind of memoir, with different songs punctuating different parts of the author’s life. I will admit that this strikes a chord with me. I think we all have soundtracks to our lives, whether it’s wailing along to one of your Mum’s old 60’s records about unrequited love, or the first pop album your babysitter brought to the house, or whether it was the first cassette that your parents bought you because you asked for it (for the record, that would be Dusty Springfield’s “Stay Awhile/I Only Wanna Be With You”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and Duran Duran’s “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” respectively). Sheffield goes into stories about dancing at Discotecas in Spain, working on the city garbage crew over a summer…basics about his life in the 80’s, and how the music influenced his outlook on life. He also ties parallels to the present. All in all, I’m enjoying it as a pleasant read. I’m considering seeing if I can find his previous book, “Love is a Mix Tape“.

I think I’m going to co-opt this idea a bit. Every so often I will choose a song or an album or artist, and just write about it. Music was a very large part of my life for a long time; it’s only in the past year that music and playlists have been supplanted on my portable player by podcasts and videos. Even then, I still tend to keep The Really Good Stuff close by.

I’m not going to go in any particular order, either, so we’ll likely be hopping randomly through time. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Stringchronicity Episode 17: Knits for Men

Listen Here!

We are out of quarantine!  Self-imposed, of course, but it gave me quite a bit of time to knit…
I had a birthday, and we got snowed in!  Oh noes!  The three books I mention were bought at Shelf Life Books, Calgary’s newest Independant Bookseller.  Support your independant local businesses!  The books: On Tender Hooks by Isabel Samaras, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.

Things I mentioned off-hand:

The song “Wuthering Heights” and blanked on the singer.  It was Kate Bush.  My bad…
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series
Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling by Bike Snob NYC (Eben Weiss)
Kobo, Kindle and other e-readers
Shipwreck Shawl
Beadspinner: Beadalon Spin & Bead
Beadspinner Tutorial on the Knitgirllls website
Signature Needle DPNs

On the Needles (kinda)

No new progress on the February Lady Sweater or the Noro Two-Row Shawl
MIL’s Socks by Sue Grandfield: The February Socks are off the needles!
“Secret” Sock: Something I’m working on developing.  No details available at this time.  I can tell you that I’m working with the Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Multi in Robot Overlord.

Knitting for Men

I review Knits Men Want by Bruce Weinstein.  I also look at it from my own point of view as a person whose grandmother seemed to know exactly what it was you had to do to get a guy to wear a hand-knit sweater.

Shoutouts:

Challee, who left us a really nice review on iTunes
Check out the Knitviews videocast by Kristin!

Outro music:

IKEA by Jonathan Coulton

Quiet Birthday

As I alluded a couple of days ago, there was a birthday in the household recently.  Actually, there were two (kinda).  I would have posted something up on the actual date, but things were a little out-of-the-ordinary around here.

Last weekend we had a weather warning for heavy snowfall, so I had headed out to the store to pick up anything we’d need for a couple of days.  It just turned out that my birthday, February 7th, was the day we wound up being “snowed in”.  We were also under self-imposed quarantine due to Robin’s shingles.

Luckily, Robin had gotten his birthday shopping done earlier in the week (before his condition presented itself) with the help of our friend Chelsea.  Together they found the only Independant Bookseller in town & also hit the yarn store.  According to Robin, his directions to Chelsea were to show him “The good stuff.  The stuff that Maire always looks at, but never buys because she doesn’t want to spend too much”

So, the books are: On Tender Hooks by Isabel Samaras (an art book that combines classic art with pop culture and pinup art), Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and The Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. I’ve never gotten around to reading the latter two, and the art book is the kind of interesting that Robin and I enjoy, and our friends would find awesome, but might not be suitable for the older generation to pick up on the coffee table (though they might surprise me).

The Yarn!  The Yarn is Handmaiden Camelspun, and Malabrigo sock.  Chelsea knows that I drool over Handmaiden whenever I get a chance and have been wanting to try the Malabrigo for quite a long time.  I’m glad that Robin had her guidance!  I’ve been instructed to use the yarn for my own purposes instead of being “nice” and making gifts for other people out of it (which I am known to do…set aside my own yarny wants & desires to give to others).  I figure that the Camelspun will make a lovely shawlette & the Malabrigo will make wonderfully cozy socks.  Squee!

This is my niece Georgia.  She turned 5 on February 7th.  Georgie and I have been sharing our special day now for awhile, and I think we’re finally starting to get the hang of it.  Her Dad (my brother) gave a call on Monday and Georgie and I got to have a chat.  While I think my yarn and books are great, I think she figures she got the better part of the deal.  She got a fairy costume (I really can’t argue with that). Interesting Trivia: Georgie and I not only share a birthday, but we’re both redheads who love the colour pink.  You’ll often see us from a mile away if you get us together in the same place!