Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer

Some time ago, I read most of the romance novels of Georgette Heyer. Even though I found some small issues with her writing, I liked it enough to read most of her romantic works. Around that time, I picked up this book at a used book fair. It looked brand new and in great condition.

I’ve been meaning to read some of the books in my collection and then donate them after I read them to free up space. I also want easy and cozy reads between my library ones.

I’ll start with the positives. I like Chief Inspector Hemingway and the other policemen in this novel. I did want to finish the novel to see how they figured it out, but I was underwhelmed by the rest.

The CI notes in the novel that the case has a lot of suspects. Too many! In fact the beginning and the middle of the book is full of red herrings. Furthermore, there is a lot of dialogue in this book that doesn’t amount to much in the end. The ending is a tad anticlimactic as a result. I much prefer Agatha Christie’s pacing and style for English mysteries.

It’s not the say I won’t try another Heyer novel, but I am less than impressed. I think I’ll try one more but then move on to other authors and books.

This was apparently the last of her mysteries so it makes me wonder if her earlier stuff was better or as meandering.

Read February 13-26th, 2018.

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

I didn’t think I’d get the second book so soon after reading the first.

This was a good sequel. The beginning was a bit slow for me as I tried to get back into this world, but I liked the addition of the new characters and the world building. It was interesting and some aspects of this world were funny. The book is partly narrated by the AI known as “Thunderhead” who is a character in the novel that also develops with the characters.

I think the return of certain nemesis was a bit corny, but still well done. I also like that certain villains didn’t turn out to be good, but more vindictive.

The ending was dramatic. There was a lot of death. I continue to like Citra and Rowan. Though I do think both of them have become the typical YA cipher heroes in that a lot of teenagers could put themselves in their situation or would want to.

All in all, a very good second installment in this series.

Read February 19, 2018

The Book of Dust Volume One, La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

It’s been awhile since I felt so warm about a novel. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is one of my favourite series and I have fond memories of reading it. The novels alongside the Harry Potter ones were seminal in my reading life as a young adult.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve read a Pullman novel and I did have complicated feelings after The Amber Spyglass, but I have always loved Lyra and Lyra’s World. Pullman has this ability to write about danger and adventure, but his characters are so human, kind, brave, and real. They feel like people you know or want to know. He has adventurers, explorers, beautiful villains, rough heroes, academics, nuns, bears, witches, and so much more.

I went into this novel with little knowledge about the premise, but I had to read it of course. At first, I was a bit sad that it was a prequel but I soon adored Malcolm and his daemon Asta as I did Lyra, Pan, and Will. This book reminded me about how wonderful it was to read The Golden Compass almost twenty years ago.

This book in particular is set before all the drama of the first trilogy so there is a sense of danger to happen early in the books, but there is a lot of coziness. The first half deals heavily with Malcolm’s life and the intrigue of Lyra’s World. Malcolm’s life in Oxford is full of chores, small adventures, and a sprinkling of food. At times, especially with Dr Hannah, the book was more akin to a spy novel than the others before it. I liked the addition of Dr Hannah too; Pullman has always done well with his female characters. I also enjoyed the growth and insight to working girl Alice.

A little quibbles about the book. Once the action gets underway in the last half and third of the book, it does get a bit long. There is one particular creepy and mad villain who keeps coming back and back. There was some odd interludes, but that’s be expected.

Overall, I gave this book five stars and firmly believe this universe is superior to Narnia. I read Narnia before these books and did love them, but these are better classics in almost every way. I also personally love this universe more than Tolkien’s as well which I know is sacrilege, but I was never a big Tolkien fan.

I read this book in one evening and stayed up as well because I had to return it the next day. However, I loved it so much that I do want to reread it. I will buy the hard cover and furthermore, I have decided to buy Everyman’s omnibus of His Dark Materials. I have the trilogy on paperback but it was the edited American edition someone gave me many years ago. I’d like a beautiful hardcover edition to pass on it and reread some of it in advance of the second volume of The Book of Dust. The next one is suppose to feature Lyra and will be a sequel which is something I’ve wanted for years.

Read February 5, 2018.

FO: Banada Cowl II – 1/6 in 2018

Bandana Cowl II

The first of six knitting projects I want to finish in 2018. This Bandana Cowl was made quickly for my partner to use, but I’ve been using it as well. If I make a third one for me, I’d make it tighter at the neck and generally smaller so it can be more of a true bandana for me.

Bandana Cowl II

Bandana Cowl II, started January 15, 2018, finished January 24, 2017. Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Bandana Cowl from Purl Soho Ravelry Pattern Page
Made for: P

Bandana Cowl II

Yarn: Briggs & Regal Little – 100% Wool in Royal Blue – used 0.63 skein or 156.7 meters (171.4 yards), 71 grams
Needles: #9/5.5mm 40″/100cm long circulars

Bandana Cowl II

Modifications & Notes: The same as the last one.
Cost of Project: The yarn cost about $4 before taxes.
Would I knit it again? I already did and probably would again

2018 Goals and Challenges

Things have changed a lot for me the last couple of years. I am busier, work more, and generally, have less time for my personal hobbies and interests. I still have many interests and with them continuing goals to exercise more, be grateful, spend time with those I care about, etc. I bake and cook a lot these days, but I do not post about it here on this blog. These goals and other more practical ones (career training, driving, and more) are still present.

The following are some goals and challenges I want to complete this year.

Books

Challenge: Read 32 books in 2018

This blog did not set out to be a book blog, but for much of its 17 year history, its primary focus was books. In fact, this goal seems piddling when ten years ago in 2008, I had read 81 books! Ahh, gone are those days. I have not read more than 50 books a year since 2014. The books are still interesting and varied in my humble opinion, but I really have less time. Shamefully, I only read 27 books in 2017. That’s the one of the lowest number of yearly read in a long time. In 2009, I only red 20 but I was living abroad and writing my Masters at the time. Now, life has done. In any case, this must change. I think 32 is reasonable and will work harder this year to read. I still love books passionately and know the importance of them in my life.

Knitting

Challenge: Knit 6 projects in 2018

I have let knitting lapse quite a bit in the last few years as well. I am getting back into it and knitting for my loved ones more. However, I do not have the fervor for it as I did a few years ago and when I started over a decade ago. I have a lot of yarn in my stash and some long term projects. I want to use up what I have and have bought a lot less yarn in the last three years. The biggest challenge is to use up as much as my stash as possible. After that in a few years, I will continue to knit, but hopefully branch out as well. I bought a sewing machine last month and haven’t even used it yet. I don’t plan on taking up another craft as I have done with knitting, but there are still some crafts and skills to acquire.

I had about 4 projects in 2017 so I think six is reasonable. I’m already working on one now and planning the next 2-3.

Write More

This is more for me to remember to journal which I have been very bad about and to write more in this blog.

Meditate

I did a form of active chanting meditation for the last few years, but I am ready to switch back to doing mindfulness and quiet mediation.

FO: First Man Socks

First Man Socks

Having knit almost 30 pairs of socks in the last ten years, I had never actually knit a pair of socks for a man. My father didn’t really want a pair and his wearing of the knit hat has been sporadic at best. Other than him, there was no man in my life to knit socks for until recently. This was the Christmas present I gave my partner. He selected the yarn in a wonderful wool shop in Toronto on a trip. I bought two balls of the yarn knowing that there was a good chance his socks would need it. The leftovers I will make another pair for myself and a sock yarn square too. He received these socks gratefully and wore them on Christmas day.

First Man Socks

First Man Socks, started October 19, 2017, finished December 12, 2017. Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Toe-up Socks by Leah Mitchell from More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts / Geschenke aus dem Wollkorb Ravelry Pattern Page
Made for: P
Size: US11/UK10 – Foot circumference: approximately 9.25”, Foot Length: 10.5”
Yarn: 1.05 balls of Jawoll Aktion Color by Lang Yarns – 75% Wool, 25% Nylon –
420 meters / 100 grams – each ball includes matching nylon thread
Needles: US1/2.25mm 40″/100cm circular

First Man Socks

Modifications & Notes: Lots of mods as I really only used the pattern for the stitch count and the ribbing.

  • Judy’s magic cast on 24 sts
  • Fleegle heel – Inc for gusset after 7”/18cm until 74 sts on it (37 on both sides)
  • Leg about 4”/10cm
  • Jeny’s Stretchy BO

Cost of Project: Two balls of the Jawoll cost $24
Would I knit it again? This is a basic toe-up sock with ribbing so not this exact pattern, but another similar one definitely.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

When I told someone I had finished a young adult sci-fi book, they asked me what I was doing reading young adult books. I find that the young adult demographic novels has had a good range of dystopian and sci-fi novels.

It also made me think about how when I was a young adult or teenager, the young adult genre hadn’t really ballooned the way it has in the last ten years. This was before The Hunger Games, Twilight, and John Green novels. I am somewhat thankful for that and it’s not that I missed much. I sent most of my teens reading classics and adult books. I did have Harry Potter and a few other series, but it was not part of the mainstream book or pop culture of the time. I digress.

Scythe is set in not so distant future, probably a couple of hundred years off. It has some dark ideas about the future and backs it up with some intriguing world building. I wouldn’t say it is the best in terms of details, but this is the first book.

This series’s ideas reflects much more on mortality which is one of the reasons I wanted to read the book. The idea of life without death is a bit abhorrent to me; I have not ever been someone who wants to live forever. I understand human ambition for it, but as this book explores, death is also what makes many people human.

As I was reading this novel, I liked it more objectively than emotionally. I think it was because I was not invested in the two teenage protagonists very much. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been a teenager in a long time. The author does not really explore them as much as I feel he could have. There is a lot of plot in this novel. I did adore two of the mentor characters.

By the end of the novel, I did like the teenagers a bit more and the plot had twisted enough that I am looking forward to the sequel.

Read January 9-10, 2018.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I found this book when searching for books about sourdough a few months ago. I looked at the reviews and realized that this was the same author as Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. I did like that book and remember certain unique passages in it even though I don’t remember all the plot details well.

This was a very enjoyable read and it was fast. I would have finished it one sitting easily too. This is the kind of book that gets me out of a book ruts as I have been in on and off for most of 2017.

What was personally enjoyable for me were all the bread baking references as I knew all about the techniques, a lot of the science, and even the various allusions to websites and figures in the bread baking movements. I got a lot more of the jokes because I have been exposed to that culture. As a bread baker who does keep an active sourdough starter, this book hit me close to the heart. In fact, I took a break to eat my own sourdough baked bread while reading this book. I did love the little magical realism aspect of the book’s sourdough culture. It sounded wonderful and I love the idea of bread as a unifier as well.

I liked the female protagonist Lois. I wanted more from her life and reflections in fact. The ending was a bit rushed and felt a bit tacked on. It was on the bombastic side and I would have been more glad of a quiet introspective end to things. Unsurprisingly, like the last of Sloan’s book, the best supporting character was the librarian or researcher. A lot of the other side characters were flatly drawn.

All in all, I really liked this novel and look forward to reading more from Sloan in the future.

Read December 29-30, 2017.

Books I Dumped in 2017

Growing up and up til about five or so years ago, I would rarely dump books. I was often dedicated to finishing series and even slow nonfiction books. As I have gotten older and busier, I have less time nowadays to read and enjoy a book. As a result, I am more discerning when I read and if I try to read a book and it’s not engaging me or if I feel it’s not going well, I will dump it. I have only done a handful of times in the past few years, but I’d like to note them more.

You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

I was looking to this as I heard a podcast interview with the author on a podcast. I like exploring taste and preferences. I made it after the introduction and the first chapter before giving up. There didn’t seem to be a cohesive presentation of ideas. The book with this topic does not need to definitely answer questions about taste or preferences, but it seemed to meander all over the place. I also did not find his interviews with experts interesting. After reading some of the first chapter, I stopped and read some online interviews which echoed my views about the disorganized presentation of ideas. I always have many other books to read so I dumped this one. Too bad.

Dumped January 31, 2017

Books that were put on hold to be read later so not dumped:

Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

I think I removed this from my Good Reads Currently Reading sometime in 2016. I own it and classic French novels in French are difficult for me to read. So maybe in the future.

Possible books to be dumped:

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

I’ve been reading this book mostly off since January 2016. I should give it up but it is so weird. Maybe I will make a dent in it sometime in 2018 but I’m not gambling on it either.

Vacationland by John Hodgman

John Hodgman is one of my favourite celebrities. This was not always the case; I had read or listened to the audiobook The Areas of my Expertise and liked it alongside his appearances on “The Daily Show”. However, it was not until a few years ago when I started listening to the Judge John Hodgman podcast that I became a true fan. It is hands down, my favourite podcast. He gives funny, sincere, and relatable advise on the show. I find the podcast so soothing yet engaging at the same time. Hodgman is a humanist.

When I heard he was doing a book of memoirs, I knew I had to read it right away. Some of these stories I know already from listening to his podcast, reading his newsletter, and other media, but some of them were new to me. There was one chapter where I laughed and the next I was on the verge of tears. Good stuff.

I probably like the book more because I have been so exposed to Hodgman, but I think there are some lovely and self-aware pieces in it. Hodgman has a way of being keenly aware of himself and observant enough to use it in his humor. It’s self-deprecating but there is a level of humility in there that’s genuine.

Read November 7-15, 2017

FO: Jacques Cousteau Hat

Jacques Cousteau Hat

This nice blue hat was made for my partner for his summer birthday. He selected the pattern amongst a number of hat patterns I showed him in early spring. He was a fan of M Cousteau growing up.

This popular pattern has been in my queue awhile. Looks great and I made a lot of mods from the pattern including using an worsted/aran yarn and another needle size. I tried 120sts on 3.5mm and it was too big. I hoped the 100sts would not be too tight and it fits well for a toque. The only thing I may change next time is that the double decreases do look abrupt at the top when you aren’t wearing it. I am not sure how I’d alter it. Other than that, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Yarn is workhorse and very twiggy. Also love using a Canadian producer.

Jacques Cousteau Hat

Jacques Cousteau Hat, started June 2, 2017, finished June 15, 2017.Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Jacques Cousteau Hat by Lalla Pohjanpalo
Made for: P – 23” Head circumference
Yarn: Briggs & Little Regal – 100% wool – 46 Royal Blue – 272 yards/249 meters – 113g – 1 skein
Needles: US6 4.0mm – 40”/100cm circular

Jacques Cousteau Hat

Modifications & Notes:

  • German Twisted CO 100 sts on 4.0mm
  • Knit K3P2 for 8”
  • Decrease: sl1, k1, psso
  • First dec row: K21 in pattern, dec, pm; k32 in pat, dec, pm; k23 in pat, dec, pm; p2.
  • Knit in patt until 2 sts before each marker, dec, slip marker, repeat
  • Knit dec for 2” then double decrease row: K in patt until 4 sts before each marker, k2tog, sl1, k1, psso, slm, rep – until 12 sts remain
  • Break yarn, pass through sts

Jacques Cousteau Hat

Cost of Project: $4 for skein
Would I knit it again? Yes and maybe decrease slightly earlier and/or make it taller.

FO: Vanilla Latte Socks

Vanilla Latte Socks

These were birthday socks for a best friend. One of the only people I knit for. She received a pair of Thuja about seven years ago and requested socks again last year for Christmas.

Originally, I started this project January 2, 2017 and worked on it slowly until June using Marks & Kattens Fame Trend sock yarn. That sock yarn was terrible. It kept knotting itself and I had to keep untangling it as I went. When I finally reached half of the foot, the yarn broke and the knots became untenable. I binned it.

I restarted with one of the loveliest yarns I’ve used in a long time. I forgot I had used the Hazel Knits Artisan Sock on another project until I finished this. This particular skein was wonderful particularly after the terrible M&K yarn. The colourway is vibrant. It is soft yet tightly wound and durable. I can’t wait to make more of my own socks with it.

Pattern is easy and simple. It goes very well with self striping or variegated yarns. Very good knit overall.

Vanilla Latte Socks

Vanilla Latte Socks, started June 26, 2017, finished July 23, 2017 (probably not the actual day I finished them but I forgot to note the real one). Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Vanilla Latte Socks by Virginia Rose-Jeanes Ravelry Project Page
Made for: S
Size: US 8/UK 5/EUR 38.5 – Foot length is around 23cm/9 ¼”
Yarn: Hazel Knits Artisan Sock – 90% Merino 10% Nylon – 365.8m/400 yds – Braeburn – 1 skein
Needles: US1/2.25mm – 40”/100cm – 2AAT on Magic Loop
Modifications & Notes:

  • German Twisted CO 64
  • K3P1 fpr 1”
  • Leg for 3”
  • Slip stitch rib heel

Cost of Project: $28CAD
Would I knit it again? Yes.