• Books

    The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

    The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

    An enjoyable historical piece. I picked out this book because it is set in an era that I don’t read much of, I am fascinated by Louise Brooks, and it got good reviews.

    This read went by much quicker than I thought. I think because I became quickly absorbed into the story of Cora. The book isn’t about Louise Brooks; she’s just a sideline character and an anchor in a way. The novel was interesting in a few ways. First, Laura had layered Cora’s life in such a neat and well written way. She kept building onto slowly and there were a couple of good surprises; however, she does them without being gratuitous or shocking.

    Louise was annoying through all of this novel. She isn’t an overly developed character in this novel, but she isn’t one dimensional either. The writer makes it that Cora observes Louise and herself in those heady days and weeks they spend together in New York.

    I adored the period setting. Moriarty seemed to really capture that time not only in the details of clothing, the current events, but in the mentality of people. At least, as much as you can writing a book 90 years from the time. As a modern reader, one may not really understand Cora’s views about prohibition or clothing, but you can at least understand it being a product of her time. Still, Cora was very forward thinking compared to many of her contemporaries and that is what makes this novel work its pathos and attachment. I found the character real through her sadness, shock, disappointments, happiness, and goals.

    As both a character novel and one about the early twentieth century, I liked this novel.

    Read July 29th 2012.

  • Books

    Sunday Salon: Gone with the Wind Reading Challenge

    Sunday Salon

    This week I read and finished Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte.

    I started reading Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont the other week (but haven’t read it due to other things). I also started Little Women by Louisa May Alcott on Friday, but I think I will read The Chaperone by Lian Moriarity. It’s due back at the library by tuesday so I will try and read it the next two days.

    The Olympics have started and whenever that happens, I have the TV on most of the time. This Olympics also makes me particularly homesick or miss England and London. Still good, so I am watching that more. It may take more reading time, but that’s alright since I need some time to knit as well. I can take a break before I start Austen in August and other planned reads.

    I’ve joined another reading challenge/readalong! I really did miss these when I wasn’t blogging because they do hold me accountable for the books I want to read. Also, I find it difficult to name my Sunday Salon posts so a reading challenge post is a catch-all.

    Gone with the wind readalong

    The goal is to read Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell from September 1st to November 7th. The final review post will only be published on November 8th which was Margaret Mitchell’s birthday.

    I know this is a popular and classic book that I have been meaning to read for awhile. I look forward to it; I’ve already seen the movie. The readalong will have update posts for the end of each section, but I will save all my thoughts for a big post at the end since that is what I am use to. I’ll be reading it on my Kindle; I would try for a library copy except the book request queue for it is long that I won’t be able to start in September.

    Join us if you haven’t read this book or want to do a reread.

    On a final note, I am considering running my own reading challenge or two. Since I graduated, I haven’t been reading nonfiction as much; I always think I need to read more nonfiction. Then novels, fiction and dramas lure me in. Another challenge that I am considering is poetry. Would anyone else be interested in these kind of reading challenges? I’m happy to host it. I’ll just need to make some graphics and be more organised if other people are interested.

    That’s it for today. I will get busier as the summer goes on I think.

    How is your summer reading? Have you read the books you set out for the season?

    Literary Links
    Haven’t done this in years.

    The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – A modern day Youtube adaptation of Pride & Prejudice

  • Books

    Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

    Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

    My first Anne Bronte work. I had to resist reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall for just a bit longer since I had this already on the Kindle and knew it to be Anne’s first novel.

    This novel is somewhat autobiographical in nature, it’s not Roman √† clef, but when reading this novel, it felt like a lot of the scenes were nonfiction and had actually happened to Anne Bronte. It is a novel about a governess and what it is like to live in that nebulous social position in a household where you are a lady, but also a servant; a caretaker, but not a mother who can discipline. A lot of the scenes felt sadly real and frustrating.

    The writing is mature, advanced, and modern. I was aware of Anne’s style being more realistic and forthright than that of Charlotte or Emily. This is why I think she will become my favourite Bronte. There is a sense of modernism in her works. While the tone is still very Victorian, there are moments that could be in any novel after the 1900s. While I really liked Jane Eyre, and I have read Wuthering Heights, neither of those books are particularly realistic in terms of their plot. This one is the opposite. Though, I like Jane Eyre because Jane was so relateable as Agnes is in this book.

    A nice passage which builds Agnes’s character, having arrived after a long journey to her second job:

    I sat down beside the small, smoldering fire, and amused myself with a hearty fit of crying; after which, I said my prayers, and then, feeling considerably relieved, began to prepare for bed

    I love that line, “a hearty fit of crying”; I’ve certainly done that.

    Some parts of the novel were difficult to read because it was frustrating for Agnes and for the reader. She really suffered in her jobs, especially her first. She was patronized, neglected, ignored, and had to content with little sociopaths and insufferable spoiled snobs. It was evidently demoralising for Agnes and for Anne Bronte as well. There were a couple of instances of coyness and sense of humor in the writing that once again shows how forward and engaging a writer Anne is.

    Religion has more of a presence in this novel than in the other Bronte novels I have read. Anne is allegedly the most religious of the Bronte sisters. I do think the writing shows that she has a strong sense of what is right and wrong. While I do not think the book is moralistic or heavily religious, I was less interested in biblical discussions in the book, but there are only a couple. They act as a good showcase for the time and from a character point of view, you can see how Agnes (and probably Anne in real life) endured her work and life owing much to her faith.

    I liked this novel. I think it has a lot of pathos and realism. For a first novel, it is very good, and I look forward to more of her writing.

    Read on Kindle from July 23-26th 2012.

  • Knitting & Crafting

    FO Friday: Niddy Noddy

    Smaller Niddy Noddy
    Handle lengths: 4.5″/11cm. Center piece: 9″/22cm.

    This isn’t a fibre FO, but it relates to my fibre crafts.

    Since I wanted to learn to spin, I realized that eventually I would need to make my own skein of yarn. I could do with a chair or my knees, but then I found these tutorials on how to make a Niddy Noddy out of PVC. I wasn’t going to be able to make it for $5 because supplies have gone up in price and Canada is pricier than American. Still the Canadian Home Depot website told me I could make the thing for around $8. Great, except there were issues.

    Basically, I had a lot of problems looking for the supplies. I went to Home Depot and another hardware store and the former told me they were no longer ordering any PVC anymore and phasing them out. They only had 3/4″ connectors instead of the 1/2″ that I wanted and other stores didn’t have PVC altogether. After thinking about, I decided to go for the 3/4″ because that’s just a bit thicker, but then I found out they didn’t have the Tee connectors I wanted so I had to get cross connectors so that’s why my Niddy Noddy has a weird top and bottom in the middle. I thought Home Depot had a machine to cut, but the guy there hand sawed mine (while I helped). That took awhile. Also, it ended up being much more expensive than I anticipated.

    Larger Niddy Noddy
    Larger size niddy noddy with the same two cross connectors. Handle Length: 6″/15.2 cm. Center piece: 18″/45.7cm

    I am one of those people that commits to something, I want to finish it. I guess this is a good trait because that means I rarely give up a book, craft project, movie or anything in my life. I try to do my best to finish it and see it through even if I rush it. I got it set into my head to do this project, so I went out and got the supplies. I do feel now that I should have saved $16 and not made it and saved for a proper wood Niddy Noddy.

    However, the benefits this were that I did get two Niddy Noddies out of it and you can dye/paint on PVC more easily than you can do wool. I much prefer the smaller size, pictured at the top. The big one is too large and unwieldy. It is neat that I can interchange the noddy. I haven’t used it yet so if they are rubbish, I can’t judge that yet.

    PVC Niddy Noddy, July 2012.
    Pattern: Slip Stream Fiber Arts & The Anticraft.
    Yarn Materials: 3/4″ PVC Pipe (10ft I think), 3/4″ PVC Cross Connectors
    Modifications: 3/4″ instead of 1/2″. Cross connectors instead of Tee connectors.
    Tools/Notions: Home Depot employee
    Cost of Project: About $16CAD.
    Would I knit make this again? No. Even if I did, I doubt I could find the materials in the future.

  • Books

    Booking Through Thursday – Reading

    On BTT this week:

    Do you have a favorite season of the year that you read more? (Example: during snow storms, rainy weather, or sunny and warm weather) Sorry, that was the best I could come up with.

    Where is your favorite place to read? On the beach? Inside/outside?

    When I was younger, I did read more in the summer. I spent a lot of time at the library just looking through the shelves for new books. Nowadays, I go to the library to pick up requested books and maybe check out express reads. It depends on the library.

    I think I prefer to read indoors. I like being outside, but usually when I am, I am walking or travelling so I can’t really read. Even on trains, I prefer to look out the window and look at the scenery than to read. I feel most absorbed in a book indoors, usually at home or wherever I am calling home at the time. I’ve never had the chance to read on a real beach, but I expect that would be very nice indeed.

    As for seasons, this doesn’t really matter so much since I try to read all year round. If I don’t go two weeks without reading a book, I ask myself what is going on with me.

    How about you? When and where do you like to read?

  • Books,  Knitting & Crafting

    WIP Wednesday: Spinning Progress

    Spinning!

    Last week, I wanted to post a WIP Wednesday, but found I hadn’t progressed very much either in spinning or my knitting. Mostly because this has been the hottest summer in my hometown. We do not have air conditioning so it makes me averse to knitting a giant wool blanket. Having said that, it cooled down for a few days, and I have been crafting again.

    An important thing is that I bought Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle from Chapters online. I usually buy new books online from Amazon, but I found that they didn’t have the book in stock (would take 1-2 months for delivery). I also had to replace one of my Harry Potter hardcover books, so I was able to get free shipping. I do not recommend buying from Chapters online though because the Harry Potter book came dented, ripped, and dirty. I returned it at a Chapters locally, but had to pay an additional $12 just to get one off their shelf. Blah. I usually do not buy new books. The last time I did was the Boxing day sale on BookCloseOuts which are very below average retail price. I love new books, but I can’t really afford to buy them even occasionally. I digress.

    I didn’t plan on buying a book to learn spinning because I have library books (but my library doesn’t carry Respect the Spindle) and the internet. I bought Stitch and Bitch when I started knitting, but I didn’t use it much then and I rarely look at it now. One book to start off a hobby is reasonable though and I’ll have it always to refer to.

    As for the book, I’ve looked through it, but I actually plan on reading it cover to cover which I don’t usually do with my crafting or cook books. This spindle book seems concise and well written though.

    As recommended, I have been spinning every day when I can. I think my drafting is getting better. I am slightly more consistent in drafting out something thin.

    I am spinning, more or less. I am parking and drafting. It is taking forever, but it is coming out sport to lace thin now which is what I want as opposed to the chunky to fingering I had going on
    before.

    More spinning
    The thick strand on the left is the original loosely spun worsted single ply yarn.

    There are still a few problems. My drafting comes out sometimes too thin, and as a result, it overspins and snaps. This has happened a few times. I think I need a smaller spindle? Secondly, I have not achieved any rhythm. I spin, stop and draft carefully, repeat. It is a time consuming to get one yard, but it is getting therapeutic and less frustrating.

    I am spinning leftover worsted weight single ply yarn. The drafting of that is different than if I did it off a roving, but I am reusing yarn and it’s working. I really hope it holds up. This is my practice yarn so I may use this when I learn to ply as well. I’ll wash it first to see how it handles as a single ply though.

    Now that I am spinning more, I am susceptible to spindle lust! I can’t wait until I get another spindle or two. I have my eye on a trindle, not to mention getting a tiny turkish spindle from the someone people who made mine above. Eee! Hobbies require money!

    Girasole

    As for knitting, I think I’ve knit about ten rounds on the Girasole. I am on my second skein of Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool. I’m having a hard time photographing the thing because it is so big now so it’ll be macro shots from here on out.

    What are you crafting lately?

    For more WIP Wednesdays, visit Tami’s Amis.

  • Books

    Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

    Cotillion

    When I first heard about Georgette Heyer years ago, this was the title that I remembered. I could not find at this at my library, but I got it and a few other Heyer books on Kindle just for the event that I would run out of library heyer books.

    Similar to other Heyer books, there is a large ensemble cast of characters, but I found them all more defined than usual in this. There were actually three couples in this novel, perhaps one could say four, and there was even more than one love triangle. There is usually very to no little triangles in Heyer books which is a good thing actually.

    Also, there was a villain in this story in the form of Jack. While not a classic villain in the sense that all the other characters detest or are afraid of him, he is decidedly very selfish, arrogant, and lends a negative atmosphere whenever he was on the page. It was interesting because Heyer hasn’t written many characters like Jack, and while he never does anything really dastardly, one can clearly see that Jack is a scuzzball.

    Kitty is a decent Heyer heroine, but not as good as some of the other ones. She develops through the novel, but she is just a few pence/pennies short of being as interesting as Sophy, as forthright as Frederica, and as introspective as Annis. She had potential and showed it throughout the novel, but something wasn’t there to make her one of the better Heyer heroines.

    I often find that I always love one out of the characters in main couple of Heyer’s novels more than the other. It’s not like that in Jane Austen, where I often find I like both the characters as much as the other. In Heyer’s case, I usually find one much more interesting and well developed than the other. There are exceptions to this such as A Civil Contract, but I found Freddy more interesting than Kitty in this novel.

    Freddy admits to have no brains and not being as sauve as Jack, but he trumps all the men in the book of course. In the Heyer, where she gives her romantic male leads some deficiencies, but you clearly see how good and true men they are. Freddy seems to be this young man with not much going on and then when he does Kit this favour, you can see his good heart and his quick wit. I was indifferent to Freddy for most of the novel, but the way he acted in the last couple of scenes was lovely. He made the book for me as it sometimes happens with Heyer books.

    Read on Kindle July 19-21st 2012. 42nd book of the year.

  • Books

    Sunday Salon: Pickings

    Sunday Salon

    Hello, world! The weather has cooled down this week, and that was the best thing about it really. It was an ok week. Since last Sunday Salon, I read Lady of Quality and Cotillion by Georgette Heyer (review up tomorrow).

    I read the latter book yesterday, and today, I am not sure which book I will read or start. There isn’t a lot of time for reading this weekend, but that’s fine since I did a lot of it last weekend.

    Last Sunday, I started, read and finished two books: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer. It was a hot day, and I try to devote most my Sundays to reading now as I can only really read that day. Still, I was exhausted by the end of the day. I have only ever read that much for fun a couple times before. I don’t really make a habit of it, but both books were a breeze to read and get through, but still tired me out.

    As a follow up to what I mentioned last week about Austen in August, I am not only going to read Mansfield Park. I somehow found I had 3 other Austen books I wanted to read on my Kindle. Here is my Austen in August list:

    Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
    Lady Susan by Jane Austen – I don’t remember what happens in this and if I even finished it. I think I did, but it’s hazy. I have this on Kindle.
    Death in Pemberley by PD James – I have this on Kindle and remembered this week. I read page so far.
    P&P&Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Stephen Hockensmith
    Shades of Milk & Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal – Does this count? It’s basically Regency mixed with urban fantasy from what I have heard.

    If I have time:
    Jane Austen: The World of her novels by Deirdre Le Faye.

    Anyway, back to today. I think I will start Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. I haven’t read anything for the Victorian Reading Challenge in a couple weeks, and I need to read some Anne finally!

    I will start it and make some blueberry jam later in the day. I went out blueberry picking yesterday. I do love summer!

    What did you do this weekend? What are you reading?

  • Beauty & Skincare

    Remington T Studio Pearl Curling Wand

    Remington T Studio Pearl Curling Wand

    Finally! I can curl my hair!

    I’m one of those people who can’t seem to use a normal curling iron. In fact, I bought a curling iron with a clamp years ago, but have never successfully managed to do a decent curl. It only fried and crimped my hair. My hair is pin straight; it can’t even hold a decent bun unless I use hair screws or Goody spin pins. The thickness of the hair is about medium, and I have a fair amount of it. It doesn’t hold a curl for very long. In the past to make it a bit wavy, I’ve braided it. My hair is also very long. It is about half way down my back.

    For many years, I’d heard about the clampless irons especially the Conair Infinti YouCurl. I was originally going to get that one, but I found the Remington T Studio Pearl Ceramic Curling Wand which is cheaper than the Conair for about $5CAD less at Walmart ($13 less since I got it on sale). It has a lot of good reviews too. I would have liked to get the bigger 1″- 1 1/2″ curling wand, but they don’t seem to sell it at the Canadian Walmarts.

    Price: On sale at $24.95CAD before taxes at Wal-Mart. Regular about $32.97. I don’t think many other places sell this in Canada other than London Drugs which I do not live near. In the US, this retails for about $24.99 at Target.

    Pros

    • Affordable!
    • Multiple heat settings.
    • Heats up in under 30 seconds. Auto-shut off in one hour.
    • The On/Off and lock functions (press and hold the Negative sign) for 2 seconds. I like the digital display.
    • It works! Smooth, static free curl quickly. Lasts for days. It is easy to use.

    Cons

    • The handle and the non ceramic part of the wand feels a bit cheap. It’s basic plastic and I found a little chip on the stand. This is a minor quibble since the barrel is fine.
    • The glove is made of standard material, not anything specifically heat resistant. Buy a real glove or don’t use it at all.
    • If you have long hair, I recommend the bigger barrel one as this is a tad small.

    Conclusion: I like this tool a lot. You need to take some time to learn to use it, but even when I used it for the first time, I managed to get a lot of volume and curls to my hair. It’s worth the price I paid for and I am not someone who is a hair junkie. I like my hair straight, but it’s good to have this tool for when I want to go out or change it up.

    General Tips

    1. On clean, dry (or very nearly dry) hair, I spray heat protectant. I use TRESemmé Heat Tamer, but I hear the Got2B one is good too.
    2. Comb through to evenly distribute the product and turn on the curling wand.
    3. Section hair for 3 or 4 sections. I recommend at least sectioning it in two to make it easier unless you have very thin hair to begin with.
    4. Take smaller sections of hair for tighter curl or bigger for more wavy look. Take the wand and put it behind your head with the handle up and the barrel pointing down. Wrap backwards onto the barrel or forwards if you want to alternate.
    5. Try to wrap so as to leave spaces between your hair around the barrel instead of it bunching together. It’s difficult especially if you have long hair, but it does create a better looking curl.
    6. Hold for between 4-10 seconds. Release into your hand if you can and curl and adjust.
    7. Touch up the ends especially if you very straight hair and layers.
    8. Finish off combing through with fingers to make it more natural. You can apply hairspray or styling product to keep the curl.

    Attempts and Tests

  • Books

    Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

    Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer

    I did not know until writing the end of this review that this was one of Heyer’s last novels; it was definitely her last romance. This novel was not the most exciting of Heyer’s, nor did it have the best characters, but it was one of the most introspective about romance and love. There wasn’t a lot of it, but the main protagonist did think and talk about it more than any other Heyer heroine I’ve read yet.

    Annis Wynwood is an independently wealthy nine and twenty year old. Like a lot of ‘older’ Heyer heroines, she is clever, sensible and head strong. She has been living away from her family for about four years and likes it. When she receives an offer from a ‘rake’, she considers it:

    It was easy enough to undersand why she should so often hate him; nearly impossible to know what it was in him that made her feel that if he were to go out of it her life would become blank. Trying to solve this mystery, she recalled that he had told her not to ask him why he loved her, because he didn’t know; and she wondered if that was the meaning of love: one might fall in love with beautiful face, but that was a fleeting emotion: something more was needed to inspired one with an enduring love, some mysterious force which forged a strong link between kindred spirits.

    When she asks her intended if he is sure he wants to marry her and whether they will be happy, he replies

    “Well, I can’t answer you. How can I be sure that we shall be happy when neither of us had any experience of marriage? All I can tell you is that I am perfectly sure I want to marry you, and equally sure you are not a ‘mere passing fancy’ of mine!”

    I rather enjoyed these exchanges. I’ve experienced the first one and some people I know have. Not necessarily with a rakish person, but falling in love isn’t determined by one factor.

    On a downside, there was not enough page time for the romantic male lead. I could have had more of them interacting like they did above. I was a tad indifferent to him until the final pages. Also, not much actually happened in this novel which isn’t what I expect from a Heyer novel. Sometimes, the couple are driven by other calamities and friends, but in this one, it was mostly centered on the main couple, but even then, mostly on Annis. The other characters seemed more superfluous than usual.

    This Heyer novel was also notable also for its number of kisses described. Usually there is one or two embraces, but in this novel there were at least five. I like how you can clearly see the progression of Heyer’s writing from when she started in 1921 to this, her last romance book in 1972.

    Read July 16-18th 2012.

  • Books

    Booking Through Thursday – One or Many?

    On BTT this week:

    Series or Stand-alone?

    I actually answered this in my reading habits survey a couple weeks back.

    Most books are stand-alones, and some of my favourite books, such as the classic ones, are stand-alones. Often, I do want to know more about my favourite characters, and that is the mark of any good book.

    Of course, I do like series though, Harry Potter being my favourite one. I have read a lot of good series over the years, but I also have read some mediocre. If I find the first book OK, I will try to finish the series. This is what happened with Twilightand also the Dan Brown books I mentioned last week. Sometimes though, I do not want to read another book after I find the first one not to my taste. This happened with the first Artemis Fowl and Flavia de Luce novels because one thing I realize I can’t stand is overly precocious/genius child protagonists.

    I do feel that the older I get, I feel less inclined to finish a series if the first two books are not that great. I need to be really attached to the main characters for that to happen. Life is too short to keep reading if you think it won’t be worth it.

  • Books

    Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer

    Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer

    The ending of this book surprised me. Actually if the ending happened as I expected and have come to expect from Heyer novels, I would have given this book a very low rating.

    It features the most annoying of any of the Heyer’s characters I have read yet. I hated the odious Wilfred Stearne. Even though he came in two thirds of the way into the book, his one scene with Simone irked me so much, I was ready to skip the whole chapter. I also didn’t like his father and Hetta’s mother. There were a lot of annoying characters in this book, more than any of the Heyer books I have read.

    On the other hand, the book’s saving grace is its protagonist: Lord Desford. He is a good man, son, and friend. I also like his best friend Hetta. In Regency terms, she is twenty five year old old maid. I like that as I read her later works, Heyer is writing more about women who are not as “fresh”. Specifically those in their early or mid twenties which is equivalent to ten to fifteen years older now. I prefer to read a girl like Hetta than to read a girl like Cherry, the eponymous character, who is innocent, cute and charming, but as Hetta says, “a bit of a goose”. Not enough sensibility. I don’t necessarily think this is my modern interpretation either.

    Another Heyer book for my consumed list. It’s a bit odd for me to have read so many Heyer novels. I don’t usually read this many works from one author in such a short span of time but they are so very easy to read. Also, rather addictive and there are so many of her books. They are perfect for the summer and are extremely light. I’ve read most of the ones at my library now, and the ones they don’t have, I have already put on Kindle. I am not going to read every Heyer book, but overall, it’s been fun to read many of them.

    Read July 15th 2012. I read and finished two books this day and I felt exhausted by it. In a good way of course, but rarely do I finish two books in one day or three books in one weekend.