Month: April 2013

The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

This is the seventh Thursday Next book. It’s been a over a year since I read the last one. So much has happened in this series since I started it years ago. It remains one of the most unique and fun series I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Sometimes it is all over the place, but I feel that Fforde has streamlined a lot the subplots. I really should reread them all one day when he completes the series.

As usual with a Thursday Next book, earlier characters and villains are prominent and conflicts arise very quickly. I find these books satisfying because a lot of the new plot lines and the ones from previous ones are resolved by the end of the book. Thursday has a lot of enemies so there’s an ongoing supply of antagonists, but it does feel satisfying when she wins at the end of the book.

There was more religious satire in this one and I love this series for being one largely about books and literature. The series now has spanned about twenty years in Thursday’s life and I’ve liked the progression of her and the other characters. I like Thursday as a mother and as a detective/heroine entering her 50s. The spirit of the books is always fun and infectious.

A lot of technology has advanced in Thursday’s universe, but I still like the idiosyncratic nature. I like the idea of that those inhabitants love toast enough to permit restaurant a Toast restaurant chain. I do miss the Book World plots, but there are hints that will return soon. I mostly do not want this series to end though

Jasper Fforde always seems like a cool author. He and Nick Hornby always come off so well in their books as in writers I’d like to have a pint with them. All in all, another very fun Thursday Next book.

Read April 24-25 2013.

Where'd you go, Bernadette

This was fun and escapist. It feels like a few weeks since I escaped and became engrossed in a book that felt faraway with characters unlike that in my life. I consumed this book quickly forgetting about my life.

The novel is told mostly through letters, emails, faxes, and transcripts. This technique is employed well. The pacing of the book is quick when compared to other epistolary novels which often drag a bit. It is set in Seattle with privileged and highly educated characters. The book is being sold mostly by its humor, and I do think it is wry and has some very good satire. It’s not always funny and has a couple of touching moments. I did laugh out loud in one instance.

I could not really relate to any of the characters, but they were entertaining. I did like reading about the characters and cared about them even when I could not relate to any of them. I think it’s a mark of good character writing if an author is able to do that. As a result, I felt for most of them even Bernadette who has an anti-Canadian stance. I do think the character has a point that Canadians don’t really celebrate great individuals. I’ve seen this in Canadian culture myself (e.g. Lester B Pearson and more), but I digress.

The author quickly made it clear that none of the characters were perfect and all of them were flawed. The ending was rather neat (maybe too neat and happy) and everyone got a good ending except maybe for Soo-Lin.

I thought the book was well paced, amusing at times though not as funny as the marketing makes it to be, and neatly wrapped up. It was not extremely literary either, but a contemporary novel that has a clear start to finish. It has just enough depth about the characters and the plot.

Read April 21-22 2013 (but mostly it was the 22nd).

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week

One year from now, when the 5th Knitting & Crochet Blog Week rolls around, where do you hope your crafting will have taken you to? What new skills, projects and experiences do you hope you might have conquered or tried?

This could be anything from mastering a technique (broomstick lace, entrelac, etc), trying a new yarn or skill, or a long term wish to crochet only from your stash, or knit every stitch in one of the Harmony Guides. Maybe you have no desire or plans for your craft at all, no new element of knitting or crochet that you dream of mastering, in which case write about why that might be. In a year’s time participants will be asked to look back to see if they achieved any goals, no matter how general, and see which house conquered the art of looking forward.

I have mostly middle to long term goals. I don’t necessarily think I will have done most of these things in the next year, but I do want to do them over the next couple of years. In order that I want to do them in:

  1. Start Sylvi this year. I’ve had the pattern for about a year, and I was able to get 15 skeins of the Peruvia Quick for it in March. The yarn thing was just luck and circumstance, and it is an investment. It will also take a lot of time and skills because I am not a big seamer. This project will test me in many ways.
  2. Hexipuffs: The beginning
    Work on my two sock yarn blankets. I am really wondering if I will ever finish the heixpuff quilt. I am about halfway on the Barn Raising Quilt. I have 44 out of 72 squares I want so far. I am knitting more socks just so I can work on these more. I only work on them a couple of times a year in batches.
  3. Less yarn buying. HAHAH! Well, I’ve cut it down to once a month now which is better than some other times.
  4. More spinning

    More spinning. I really don’t know when or how. Also no more buying of fibre until I actually do spin more. Sadly, I haven’t picked up my hand spindle in months.

Longer term goals (hopefully within the next 3-5 years): learn to crochet, get a sewing machine, steek a sweater, install a zipper in a sweater.

I love to knit and craft, but while I have added onto it a bit over the last year or so, I do feel that it’s slowed down. I no longer feel the need to always pick up a project right after I finish the last one. Even more, I am less obsessed with finishing projects. I am enjoying taking it slow, but of course, I won’t ever really drop it for too long like I did in 2009. I’ll keep it up even just for my wrists and hands.

How about you? What are your knitting and crafting goals?

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week

Write about your favourite knitting or crochet (or spinning, etc) tool. It can either be a tool directly involved in your craft (knitting needles or crochet hook) or something that makes your craft more pleasurable – be it a special lamp, or stitch markers.

Is it an item that you would recommend to others, and if so for which applications/tasks do you think it is most suited. Conversely, do you have a tool/accessory that you regret buying? Why does it not work for you?

Well, I definitely do love my needles. My favourite needles brand is Hiya Hiya. I really do like their stainless steel needles. Most of my needles are generic bamboo needles, but they work fine. I like bamboo over aluminium because they are not cool to touch.

Other tools I use a lot of: Susan Bates Knit Chek Needle Size and Size Gauge Card, clasp stitch markers, row counters, highlighters for charts, tapestry needle, and project or ziplock bags. I also really like collecting buttons.

I have a handmade Turkish hand spindle which I like. I purposely bought a Turkish variety so I could wand a ball on it.

I’d recommend all the above and my new favourite tool, the OttLite:


This is just one kind of OttLite lamp, but there are many other styles

I bought this last Boxing Day from Michaels. I’d read some good comments about the OttLite from Ravelry forums, and it is a great lamp. It is bright and reduces eye strain when reading. It is much better than conventional florescent and incandescent lights. I also like halogen lamps to.

As for tools I regret buying, I don’t really have any. I definitely have a weakness for project bags which no one else really sees because I mostly knit at home. I also got one of those chart readers for free in a yarn club package, it’s nice to have, but not necessary in my opinion. While I think it’d be nice to have an umbrella skein and a ball winder, once again, I don’t really find them that necessary given the price of a good ball winder is $50 these days.

Now let’s talk wishlist. Continue reading →

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week

What are your favourite colours for knitted or crocheted projects. Have a think about what colours you seem to favour when yarn shopping and crafting.

Only after writing this part of your post should you then actually look to see what colours you have used in your projects. Make a quick tally of what colours you have used in your projects over the past year and compare it to the colours you have written about. Compare this, in turn, to the colours that are most dominant in your yarn stash – do they correlate?

Now think back to your house animal – do the colours you have chosen relate to your animal in anyway – if you are in the house of peacock, for example, are your projects often multicoloured and bright?

I am starting Knitting and Crochet Blog Week a few days late on Day 4. This colour question is always pertinent. I love colour and knitting has definitely opened my mind what I colours can and can not use, together or separate. Since I knit mostly for myself, I try to find colours that would look good on me.

Colours I seem to favour: Red, Purple, Blue, as well as neutrals like White and Grey.

This post is a bit image heavy. Continue reading →

1. Do you read books about sports?
2. How about AT sporting events? (Kid’s soccer practice?) – BTT

In general, I have not really read many books about sports. Even though I am more physically active and have tried to be an active person most of my life, I actually do not really like participating in competitive team sports. I have watched a lot of sports on TV, but less so in the past few years. Similarly, I rarely go to sporting events, but I enjoy myself when I do and I don’t read at them.

Having said that, one book about sports that I really like is Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch which his ode to football (soccer) and his team Arsenal. Aside from his literary essays, I think that is my favourite book of his because he captured the feelings of loving sport and supporting one’s team so well even though I have never really supported just one team. I read the book at the height of my Premiership viewing. I use to watch football matches every Saturday morning with my Dad, and it’s his sport of preference so the topic is close to my heart in a way.

I’ve also heard good things about the Friday Night Lights book (love the TV series), but I have not found the time to read it.

Any other recommendations for sports books?

Bear by Marian Engel

This Canadian novel is notable for its erotic scenes between a woman and bear.

I sheepishly admit that do not actually read that much Canadian literature. I picked this up as an attempt to rectify that. Once in awhile, I try to be a good Canadian reader. Why not since this book has an interesting premise and it is short. I did not expect a lot, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

The prose was very nice. The sentences in this book are short almost clipped, simple, but elegant and full of good diction. The book is dated with its use of the word “Indians”, but in general there was something quite timeless about it. Having been in Northwestern Ontario, I could see the scenery and setting. She was able to elicit visuals and imagery with very few words. It was just very well-written in its simplicity and brevity.

The controversial moments of the book were a bit strange and discomforting, but I understood her exploration of Lou the protagonist. The book has Feminist undertones as well in the midst of the Canadian wilderness. I understood the themes and the metaphor all wrapped up in tasteful prose.

I’m slightly surprised because I think this may one of the best written Canadian novels I’ve read in a long time. I think this woman can rival Magaret Atwood.

I had written this review after reading the book, but I lost it.

Read April 20th 2013.

If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino

This was a unique book. It was interesting and postmodernist. It was also strange and got a bit creepy in some parts especially towards the end.

It features a lot of theme on reading, books, writers, fiction, narration and more. It is hard to describe, but it is a novel about a reader told in second person narrative who reads other novels that begin every other chapter. It does feel like you are reading a short story collection at times. Each of the book the author reads is from a different time, setting, and sometimes mood. Still, the style remains. The plots varied and some were quite esoteric and a bit out there which is standard for this kind of postmodernist style.

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas was influenced by this novel, and I can see the literary merit of Calvino’s work. I would not reread it because it I actually felt not connection to any of the characters in the books within the book or the real Reader/Protagonist. I did like the a musings about reading though. I also think the book has a couple of clever techniques.

As a translated work, I was impressed again by William Weaver. He has also translated much of Umberto Eco’s work including The Name of the Rose which I have also read. Weaver is wonderful writer and this work was named as one of the best literary English translations in the last fifty years.

Read on book and Kindle from April 14th-20th 2013.

Brief Encounter

Some years ago, I requested this book from the library thinking it was the movie. When it finally came, I realized my mistake and got the DVD as well. I thought I may as well read the screenplay. It has been awhile since I read a play rather. Actually, I don’t remember the last time I even read a screenplay.

This is a story about two people who fall in love at the wrong time. It is a story full of observation, simplicity, introspection, and Englishness. It has characters who are repressed, restrained yet they are still capable of deep love and feelings. It captures the yearning and initial rush of new love. It is excellent directed and has a great soundtrack featuring Rachmaninoff.

There is a saying that to make a relationship work you must have chemistry and timing. Alec and Laura had chemistry; there is an almost unexplainable attraction to one another. It is not as if Alec or Laura seem to be terribly unhappily in their marriages or at least in Laura’s case. We know less about Alec. The one thing I am critical about is that Alec is not as developed as Laura; the audience never quite get to know him. Maybe that is the point from Laura’s perspective too. She fell deeply for a man she barely knew, but they had a great yet short time together and she knew that and her own desire for him.

Maybe it is the romantic in me that believes that two married people could fall in love so suddenly because their lives had become so dull and pedantic. It is believable that neither of them seems to have actually ever been in love with their partner. I actually think this story is rather realistic or has emotional reality.

The film portrays these feelings and interactions perfectly.

Continue reading →

I saw a Latin edition of “The Hobbit” last time I was at the bookstore… Do you read any foreign languages? Do you ENJOY reading in other languages?BTT

Yes, I do read in French, and I aim to read one French book a year. My French is not fluent, and it is actually my third language. I can only read in two of three languages that I speak (also with varying influence). I do enjoy reading in other languages and languages in general, but when I read in French, it is often slow because I often have to stop, reread, or look a word up in the dictionary. I talked to another Anglophone who reads in French and we both commiserated that reading in French sometimes feels like watching the events of the book through a screen. I do think I did a little better this past holiday with Bel-Ami, but that’s probably because I often read some of the English chapters afterwards.

I definitely think reading in another language not only keeps up your skills in it, but also challenges your brain. Reading is a good mental exercise after all.

How about you?

It’s been awhile since I put up a WIP post, and I almost forgot about it. Since April 1st, I’ve been working on the Welsh Country Stockings by Nancy Bush from Folk Socks:

WIP Welsh Country Stockings

Nancy Bush is still my favourite sock pattern designer even though I always modify her patterns. This one I went all out and converted it to toe-up which meant changing the heel, the toe, and due to shortage yarn, the colour scheme too.

I am using the fabulous Hazel Knits Artisan Yarn which I got through the sock club last autumn. I still have three skeins of this year which is beautifully dyed and tightly spun. I hope it wears well over time!

I am working on the leg of the socks. I’ve already done one set of 4 increases and will slowly work up to 72 or 80 stitches depending on how bored I get with them.

On a final note, I am going to take part in next week’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.This will be my first time participating. I will not answer all the prompts, but there are a couple that I want to post about.

Have a good Wednesday!

Have a good weekend! For more WIPs, go to Tami’s Amis.

 BRTC Aqua Rush Water Drop BB Cream

To test out another BB cream, I decided to order samples of the BRTC Aqua Rush Water Drop BB Cream. This BB cream is targeted for dry and sensitive skin types. It is one of the more expensive BB creams from BRTC, so before actually buying the product, I wanted to sample it.

This is not a full review since I usually need to try a product for weeks to really see how it affects my skin. Since I only had such a small packet sample of each, I managed to get about 3-4 applications of it. I could have gotten more, but an unsealed and unprotected product is probably not ideal for testing.

As a reminder, my skin is normal (dryer in winter), I use an SPF moisturizer before BB application, and sometimes my homemade Vitamin C serum. I am a MAC NC20.

Price: $3.20US for three samples from eBay seller “sing-sing-girl”. Full product regular retail is about $35US from the BRTC online store.

From the BRTC website: “Anti-oxidant, anti-aging and nourishing BB cream with nutrition from deep ocean water & 7 flower extracts. Absorbs and retains moisture, keeps skin dazzling and healthy. Dermatoligist test completed, and mineral oil free. It has SPF30 and uses AHA/BHA to “naturally lift skin cells”.

This product does not contain adenosine, a popular BB cream ingredient to whiten skin and prevent wrinkles. I would say this is BB cream is for dry, sensitive skin types who want sunscreen and some anti-aging.

Texture: Gel like, less liquid than the Lioele Water Drop.
Scent: Faint, quite subtle fruity-floral.
Moisturizing: Slightly more moisturizing as the Lioele one.
Finish: Smooth and a bit dewy, but I think that it mostly due to my Vitamin C serum which has vegetable glycerin. Most BB creams are smooth and more “matte” for me because I do not have oily skin.
Coverage: Buidable up to Medium. Less so than the Skin79 Gold. I do not use a lot, but I do have to be careful as this can make me look very pale. There may be a bit of a white cast.
Verdict: Mixed because I think this is slightly better coverage and moisture than the Lioele Water Drop, but costing eight to ten dollars more. I also found that this was harder to wash off than the Lioele. I am also becoming a bit wary with BB creams as I do not really see the benefits for someone like me who needs little coverage. I think this a decent BB cream though and good for people who have normal or good skin. It oxidized very well and left no grey cast.

Have you tried any this BB Cream or have any others to recommend?