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Monday, March 18, 2019

Jewelry Round-Up

Tassel necklaces are trendy, so who am I to resist? I didn't have enough beads to go all the way around, though, so I'm not entirely thrilled with the result.

My husband gave me this leather wrap bracelet for Christmas:

I love the charm, but more is more so I punched some extra holes (the bracelet was also too big) and added a couple of vintage milagros, a green bead that is a tiny image of the Virgin Mary, and a quartz chip that looks like a coarse grain of salt.

I bought a kit to crochet three bangles in the best colors ever (don't look too closely at the first one I made; this kind of bead crochet took a while to get the hang of).

I love these bracelets so much I made matching earrings -- brick stitch with loops instead of the traditional fringe.

Instagram is filled with lovely spring bracelets made from a motley of pastel stones, so I made my own (although my bead stash leans more towards bright colors).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Declare by Tim Powers

It makes me angry that books like Dan Brown's novels and the Left Behind series are massively popular, while something as brilliant as Tim Powers's Declare goes unnoticed by the public at large. Declare is a spy thriller with a supernatural twist, involving secret groups, devious plans, dangerous men (and women), political intrigue, magic, and faith, all told in Powers's smart, thoughtful, engaging prose.

Powers specializes in so-called "secret history" narratives -- he heavily researches events, people, and periods that interests him and then crafts a story that is meticulously accurate in its historical details but fills in the gaps, so to speak, with an overarching plot straight from his imagination. In this case, He weaves together the true history of the notorious double agent Kim Philby, Communist Russia, and the English Secret Service, but gives them all a secret motive involving ancient beings and the promise of unlimited power and eternal life.

 And that's not it -- Powers tosses in World War II, Arabic mythology,* Bible stories, Lawrence of Arabia, spycraft, radio technology, and the Heaviside layer (and here I thought it was Cat Heaven). The result is a fascinating story that I did not want to end. Some of Powers's insights on faith and fear had me gasping out loud.  The ending is wonderfully satisfying in a low-key way, befitting a novel which is skeptical of power and might and calls on the characters to decide what they really believe in. I cannot recommend this book enough, and I look forward to rereading it (after I read even more of Powers's work).



*Reading both Declare and City of Brass has made me aware of how limited Western education can be. Like many other literature-loving Americans, I know a whole lot about Greek mythology, English folklore, Germanic fairy tales, and the Christian Bible. But I know almost nothing of Arabic culture and folklore, pre- and post-Islam, and I wonder how much I haven't quite understood in these two novels as a result.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Book Round-Up: Bibliomysteries Edition

The Mysterious Bookshop in downtown Manhattan is publishing a Bibliomystery series, short stories or novellas by various mystery writers that center around a book, bookstore, or library. When I went for my birthday, I picked up a few.

The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository by John Connolly: this was a fun little story about a bookish accountant who stumbles upon a special library housing not only first editions, but a number of characters from those books that have come to life -- shades of Eileen Favorite's The Heroines and Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair.

The Book of the Lion by Thomas Perry: A lost Chaucerian manuscript is being held hostage by a nefarious character, and a professor and his billionaire friend try to claim the manuscript before it is destroyed forever. It was entertaining, but I think I would have preferred a longer work, and more time spent on the lost manuscript (it apparently did exist at one point).

The Little Men by Megan Abbott: This story mostly takes place in the former apartment of a bookseller, but it ultimately was a psychological thriller that had little to do with books.

Reconciliation Day by Christopher Fowler: I liked this one a lot (no surprise, I like Fowler's Peculiar Crimes series, too).  It involves the original manuscript to Stoker's Dracula, and is appropriately creepy and weird.

Seven Years by Peter Robinson: of all the ones I read, this one was probably closest to a traditional mystery -- a cryptic inscription in an old book leads to an unsolved death and a missing person. It had a distinctly Christie-ish vibe.

Bibliotheca Classica by Simon Brett: The choice of a deeply unreliable narrator made this a lot of fun to read. Professor Rounsevell is curious to discover the origin's of his bowdlerized copy of the Bibliotheca Classica, but being both a snob and a technophobe he leaves most of the work to his long-suffering wife. I was tickled to learn that the more common name for the text is Lempriere's Dictionary, which is the title of a (disappointing) Lawrence Norfolk book I read ages ago.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Jewel of the Nile

 I've had a fascination with Ancient Egyptian jewelry ever since I was a child; one of my favorite books to browse through was an enormous pictorial on "The Treasures of Tutunkhamun" exhibition of the late 1970s. This was shamelessly copied from a ring I saw on pinterest:

I can't get enough of peyote rings, either; so addictive to make:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Three of Hearts

I planned to make only one heart this year (I have a lot going on), but it quickly turned into three.
The crochet heart was a free pattern from Fresh Stitches, and perfect for the small skein of pink yarn I had.

The mixed media heart is from the latest issue of Quilting Arts. I layered different yarns and scraps on a fabric heart, covered it with netting, and secured it with machine stitching. I then beaded and embroidered the top, sewed on a backing heart, and stuffed it.

The last heart is made of beaded filet stitch from The New Beadweaving by Ann Benson. I'm glad I tried this new stitch (based on filet crochet), but it was pain to work with.

May this next year be filled with more love for our fellow man.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Genevieve Summerford Mysteries by Cuyler Overholt

A Deadly Affection and A Promise of Ruin are the first two novels in this series about a female doctor in 1907 New York whose practice is at the forefront of modern psychology; its setting, then, is similar to The Alienist, although the tone is quite different. Whereas that novel was quite bleak and disturbing, Overholt's works are lighter in their feel -- she doesn't shy away from the injustices and challenges of the age, but she doesn't wallow in them, either.

It also has a distinctly feminist perspective. The upper-class Genevieve has defied her upbringing by entering medical school; delightfully, her father is disappointed in her, not for becoming a doctor at all, but for becoming one of those newfangled psychiatrists rather than a medical doctor. Her mother worries about her finding a suitable husband, but also takes a genuine interest in her work. And Genevieve herself doesn't feel the need to denigrate the lifestyle of her friends, even if she does not wish it for herself. It's refreshing to read such a balanced approach to feminist pioneers; it wasn't all unrelenting oppression (although of course the fact that Genevieve is rich and white helps quite a bit).

The stories themselves were also satisfying, although I found the second one (about forced prostitution) not quite as engaging. The romantic subplot was good, too, and I hope Overholt doesn't drag it out over too many books.  There's no word yet on a third, but I can only assume it's in the works.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Stitch 9 Challenge

Since I recently joined the 21st century by getting a smart phone, I decided to check out that instagram thing everyone's talking about. It's fun! And Farmgirlstitcher (I think she has an account on Flosstube) has created a challenge for the new year, to finish stitching nine projects, whether they are brand-new starts or long-standing works in progress. I'm hoping it will motivate me to finish a few lingering projects I have.

And I've actually finished the first one! It's a tiny design, made even tinier by me (to fit a 3-inch hoop), but still!

The design is a freebie from Plum Street Samplers, by Paulette Stewart. I stitched it on a scrap of 40-count fabric, using variegated threads in five colors rather than the two called for by the pattern (one can never have too much color).

Next up is the Sagittarius pattern by Satsuma Designs, which I've been dying to stitch.