Jane Steele by Lydnsay Faye

I read this novel over a month ago, and started this review but never completed it.

This an nice and twisty suspense romance inspired by Jane Eyre. When I first started it, I was not sure how romantic it would get.

It started off more like a gothic horror novel with a lot of Dickensian reveals. It didn’t get romantic until the last half and I was surprised how much I liked it. I found the romance built up well and in a similar and less creepy fashion than Jane Eyre.

There is a lot of violence throughout the book and often conducted by the protagonist or even other females. I like the heroine is actually more an anti-herorine vigilante. She is not a typical character even in urban fantasy and steam punk novels.

I’d recommend book to people who like Jane Eyre, gothic horror, and can stand to take some violence.

Read May 6-10, 2017.

Monstress, Vol 1: The Awakening by Marjorie Liu

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog and wrote a book review. I’ve read a couple of very small books since then and they weren’t worth the post. My time has become precious and am trying to read more again with difficulty.

I had to write a review for this graphic novel. I had read reviews about this last year and it sounded intriguing with its dark and Asian inspired themes.

I loved it. I haven’t been so impressed with a graphic novel in years; it can easily be among my favourite graphic novel series ever which include Alan Moore’s Promethea, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and Craig Thompson’s Blankets. I do not read a ton of graphic novels, but I do read a couple every year. For the most part, they are fine and fun, but not memorable or as engaging as the aforementioned novels or Monstress.

I loved the visuals by Sana Takeda. It is very dark, but for some reason, it never felt sensationalist or violent and gory for its darkness sake. Every panel and piece of dialogue seemed to deliver story points or character development. I found it one of the most well crafted stories I’ve read in a long time.

It is a novel which has predominantly female characters. Feminism is not about injecting women in the media or giving them prominence for the sake of representation. It’s about real characters who happen to be women and have problems associated with it, who are nuanced and three dimensional. There are so many wonderfully drawn characters in this and I wish more things in popular culture were like this work. It’s a story by women about women but it’s a story for everyone who enjoys dark fantasy.

There are themes of war, discrimination, genocide, gender, and self-destruction. It is also a story of bravery, friendship, fear, and overcoming it.

This graphic novel is fantastic. I can’t wait to read more from the series.

Read May 3, 2017.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This was my first book in awhile. I was doing so well in January and February, but things went to the wayside I guess. The dragging winter has made me more lethargic.

In any case, I finally read this on a tired Friday evening. It was due soon and I have not read a novel in a little bit. This is Young Adult so I knew it would go quickly.

I have never read Diana Wynne Jones that I can remember. I love the movie from Studio Ghibli and I’ve been rewatching many of the movies the last couple of months. I wanted to read this novel finally in preparation,

This started off well and there was some slowness in the middle I think, but the ending was lovely and showed how much the characters loved each other. It was a more clear cut good vs evil fairy tale than the movie one. There are more characters in the book though.

This is a series, but a friend of mine told me that the other books were more about stories in the same universe. While the book was a nice read and the ending was satisfying, I don’t really feel the need to read more form this universe.

Coincidentally got the movie a day later from the library and love the movie even more in some ways having read the book.

Read March 24, 2017

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

This is my third Gretchen Rubin book. I think I like this one less than her last too on happiness, but it’s still a good book. While Rubin’s nature is more extreme than a lot of people, I actually relate a lot to her in a few ways. We both like research, analysis, introspection, and literature. She is a personal writer too and most of the books have a memoirs and reflective nature similar to journaling. Her writing is quite life affirming as well. I do not buy all the things she advocates, but she is very thorough and reflective.

There were a couple of good tips about habit forming such as starting small, scheduling leisure activities (been trying to do more of this lately), pairing activities/habits, and not giving rewards but giving treats. I have found that when I make a goal, I think the goal itself should be the reward rather than getting myself anything. Rubin’s books often stir my own constant self-awareness and introspection. I like it reflected back to me when I read a book.

This book also introduced the Four Tendencies. I am a Questioner which doesn’t surprise me. I’m probably a more in depth questioner than most. Rubin will have a new book out exploring these tendencies later in the fall.

Alright and easy read for me. I do like the use of quotations.

Read February 14-23, 2017.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

This book about the dangers of Big Data and algorithms primarily in the US. It is a book discussing ethics in Big Data and the lack thereof.

For most of the time I was reading this book, I was a bit dejected by work so reading this book made it even more depressing and despairing. Every chapter focused on how Big Data and algorithms are used for profit and as a result, hurts individuals. The premise of the book started with teachers and there is a significant focus on the effects of Big Data algorithms in an already flawed American education system.

The conclusion chapter is the only one with hope. However it is not enough. I wish the book had given more ideas on how the audience could be aware of new issues in Big Data so that we wouldn’t have to suffer from it. I think the book is an interesting primer for those who know very little about Big Data. However, it also feels like it’s written in some ways for people who know enough of it.

The book has a lot of data and studies and there are end notes. I am going to recommending the book to my Data Scientist colleague.

Read January 31 – Feburary 10, 2017.

FO: Cabled Dad Hat

Cabled Dad Hat

With so much leftover from the Lion Brand Fishermaen’s Wool, I decided to make myself a hat to match my cowl.

Cabled Dad Hat, started November 16, 2016, finished November 2, 2016. Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Cabled Dad Hat by Alexis Winslow Ravelry Pattern Page
Yarn: Lion Brand Fishermen’s Wool – 100% Wool – much less than one skein.
Needles: US 6 – 4.0 mm and US 7 – 4.5 mm long circulars

Cabled Dad Hat

Modifications & Notes:

  • German Twisted CO 96 instead of 120
  • 1×1 Twisted Rib for 3.5”
  • Knit the main rep almost 7.5”. I should have knit more because I didn’t realize how fast the hat decreases. Not a big fan of how the hat decreased as the pattern has them too quickly and on dec rows, right after another.
  • If the hat were the original 120, it would have been too big. I do think going up to 5.0mm would have been good to make it a smidge bigger.

Cabled Dad Hat

The modifications resulted in a slighter tighter band if the band is flipped over. The best thing is that when left unflipped, the hat fits my hair bun wonderfully. I think I could have made the rib 4″ which would have been very slouchy, but my hair would have fit nicely in there.

Cost of Project: This was one third of the skein which cost $7 a skein years ago.
Would I knit it again? Yes.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

I think I got this book from some of the recommended new and critically acclaimed lists I get. I like children’s and YA literature even after all these years. The cover art looked interesting so did the premise about the relationship between a fox and his boy owner.

I am not sure if I was expecting too much from this novel, but it did not impress me as much as I wanted to. I have been reading a lot of nonfiction lately and hoped this novel would break it up. It did not quite do that. The book has a heavy anti-war theme which felt a bit overdone. Maybe it’s because it’s been awhile since I read a YA book with such an overt theme. Every chapter basically said how humans are stupid when it comes to war. The ending was anticlimactic in a way. Heartfelt but less than one would think in a story about a boy and his fox.

Having said that, it is by no means a bad read. The main characters are interesting and all develop pretty well. I really liked Vola who is a supporting character and mentor in the book. I also enjoyed the illustrations by Jon Klasen. There weren’t enough of them!

I’d recommend this to children. It’s not a classic for me, but nice enough to read for younger readers.

Read January 24-25, 2017.

The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin by Charlotte Cho

As I have taken on skincare more seriously as a hobby the last few months, I decided to read this book.

I have always had an interest in skincare so wearing SPF, moisturizing, and keeping out of the sun have been habits I have employed since I was a teenager. As I am Asian, a lot of the little quirks and beauty care in East Asia does not surprise or shock me.

What is nice about this book is that if you truly unfamiliar with Asian skin care and beauty, this is a good initial primer on it. I knew most of the information in the book from other sources on the internet, but it is collected here in an easy to read and cutely illustrated book.

There is a very cute section about travelling to Seoul as well. I really liked the book, but I would not necessarily follow the product recommendations. Charlotte Cho does own a curated beauty store so there are incentives for her to sell products she and her company import from Asia. Still, I recommend this book if you have an interest in skincare.

Read January 19-20, 2017.

32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

This was my first book of 2017 and the first since I started my new job. I have been busy and tired with work and the holidays to read. I really missed it. This was a good book to go back to reading. It was short, easy to read, and relatively light for a memoirs.

I have followed Ripert for a few years. I have seen him on Bourdain’s shows and Ripert’s own internet shows. I like his calm, collected, and effortless manner. I found this memoirs a quick read. It engaged and even shocked me at one point. Veronica Chambers who wrote the book from Ripert’s stores did a very good job. I do feel the book was almost too short in a way. It ended when Ripert left France. Does this mean there are plans for a sequel? I feel like there should be more and I’d have been interested to hear more about his friends and family.

In terms of chef memoirs, this was another good one and I wish it had been longer.

Read January 16-18, 2017

Monthly Movies – Autumn 2016

Dark Shadows (02 10 2016) – I was feeling under the weather and nothing was on. I am over Depp and Burton films, but I do like Eva Green and Michelle Pfeiffer. It was an alright movie. Meh.

Maleficient (02 10 2016) – Only watch 2/3 of this film. I like Angelina Jolie.

The Vow (20 11 2016) – Romantic drama staring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. This was only interesting to me because I like the actors, but plot was a bit thin and slow.

The Secret World of Arrietty (24 12 2016) – REWATCH. Oh Ghibli.

Finding Dory (27? 12 2016) – Enjoyable sequel. There are many worse sequels out there.

Zootopia (01 01 2017) – Most of the movies I’ve been watching lately are meh, but this one was definitely one of the best. One of the most subversive and well done animated movies I’ve seen in a long time. I really hope there is a sequel.

FO: Bandana Cowl

Bandana Cowl

I wanted to make and send a gift to a dear friend of mine in Australia. He told me that it does get cold enough in Sydney to warrant scarves so I decided to make up a small cowl for him. Unisex and not too bulky. Fit was good. If it were met, I’d have made it tighter but he couldn’t try it one as I made it.

Nice, simple pattern that I would make again.

Bandana Cowl, started November 6, 2016, finished November 11, 2016.Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Bandana Cowl Ravelry Pattern Page
Made for: Mark and sent to Australia.
Yarn: Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool – 100% wool
Needles: US9/5.5mm

Bandana Cowl

Modifications & Notes: This pattern was made for thicker yarn. Next time, I would add one row between the first few decrease rounds for the point to be less pointy.

CO 97 German Twisted CO. Adapted heavily from happygolightly’s Bandana Cowl on Ravelry.

Set-up Round: Purl all stitches.

Round 1: K47, S2KPO, knit to end of round. (95 stitches)
Round 2: P46, S2KPO, purl to end of round. (93 stitches)
Round 3: K45, S2KPO, knit to end of round. (91 stitches)
Round 4: P44, S2KPO, purl to end of round. (89 stitches)
….
beginning the short rows:
Row 5: K48, wrap and turn.
Row 6: P7, wrap and turn.
…..

Set-up Round: K20, place marker, k49, place marker, knit to end of round.
……
knit 3 rounds after the first decrease.
* decrease round
then knit 2 rounds and repeat from ! 3 times.

** decrease round
then knit 1 round and repeat from !! 6 more times.

Bandana Cowl

Cost of Project: This yarn was part of 2 skeins I bought to make other things and have gotten a couple of small projects from it. I’d say this was $2 in terms of percent in yard or even less.
Would I knit it again? Yes. I was even considering making one for myself.

FO: Sport Spice Man Socks

Sport Spice Man socks

Sport Spice Man Socks, started June 12, 2016, finished July 20, 2016.Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Spice Man – Basic toe-up, all sizes Ravelry Pattern Page
Size: US 6.5/UK 4/EUR 36
Yarn: This is some clearance yarn I bought years ago. It had a simple label indicating that it was Needful Yarns Perform Sock Yarn – 50% wool and 50% CoolMax – a wicking fibre. No other info on gauge, washing, or yardage.
Needles: US1/2.25mm 40″/100cm circulars. My standard sock needles.

Sport Spice Man socks

Modifications & Notes: Since this is a basic sock pattern, modifications are necessary and encouraged. I wanted to learn this heel for the first time.

  • Using my standard 2.25mm for sock knitting; with this yarn, it results in a tighter gauge about 40sts over 10cm rather than the 32sts/10cm in the pattern – prefer tighter gauge sock yarn especially for my sport socks
  • 2AAT on long circular, but this did not work out as I had to do heels and heel flap separately
  • Really like the heel flap and the gusset; would definitely use the techniques again except I’d have to do it separately when I got to the heels
  • Knit leg for about 3” and cuff for about 1”

Lessons Learned: Another heel flap and gusset technique for toe-up
Cost of Project: $2 for the yarn!
Would I knit it again? Sure.