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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sarah Addison Allen's The Sugar Queen

In the middle of a two week period where I was studying for a test and researching and writing two papers and a final exam, Allen's Sugar Queen was just the break I needed -- a lovely little book* filled with quirky characters and odd events in a small town, and a touch of magic realism (one of my favorite sub-genres). The careful characterizations by Allen make this superior to other books like it; Josey, Chloe, and Della Lee are all believable characters, even if their situations are unusual, and Allen was particularly good at making Margaret an understandable, albeit unlikeable, woman. The not-at-all-surprising happy endings felt earned, and the book as a whole was delightful.

How awesome would it be to be like Chloe, and have books appear around me whenever I needed them?

*I'll avoid words and phrases like "confection," "like spun-sugar," "trifle," and "indulgent treat."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thursday Next

Having just reread the first three in Jasper Fforde's series (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, and The Well of Lost Plots) and read the next two for the first time (Something Rotten and First Among Sequels), I find I don't have a lot to say about them -- which is just as well, as I have two papers and a take-home final to complete in the next week and a half.

I will say that the Thursday Next series, set in an alternate universe where literature is taken very seriously, is a mash-up of all my favorite genres -- fantasy, mystery, literary fiction, and metafiction. The books are goofy and irreverent and fun and stuffed with neat concepts, like the Book World where texts are created for publication (or not) in the real world, and people getting trapped inside fiction, and illegally re-engineered extinct species like dodos and Neanderthals (the Neanderthal society Fforde has created is fascinating). There is one more book in the series coming out within the next couple of years, and so First Among Sequels ends on a cliff-hanger, with someone trying to kill Temperance Brennan, Next, and other heroes of book series -- a serial killer, if you will. I'm just surprised it took Fforde so long to work that in.

Every time I read the books, I find myself wishing I lived in a world where productions of Richard the Third are events like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, there are street gangs devoted to who wrote the Shakespearean plays, and people read Jane Eyre with bated breath in case a villain tries to remove her from the book. So much more interesting than our current fascination with celebrities and scandals.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Square 7:

A shisha mirror already embroidered with blue was the base.

"Twinchies" Swap

The most recent swap in my Crazy Studio Fridays class was last Friday. We decided to do "inchies" again, though with a two inch diameter. Some of us discussed doing round ones instead of squares, so that's what I decided to do.

I started with a base from the paper cloth I made a few months ago, and cut out two inch circles:

Next I ironed a little purple and pink Angelina into a sheet and cut out more circles:

Then yo-yos, from green and gold dupioni silk, purple lamé, and some sort of pinky-gold shimmery fabric (the colors are off in the photo):

Finally, buttons:

I stacked them together:

backed them with beige felt, and sewed a buttonhole stitch around them with gold perle cotton.

The finished product (minus one taken by an eager swap member):

The ones I got in return (a few swap members were not present):

Friday, April 9, 2010

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

For all that I will defend Romance as a valid genre that is nonetheless mocked and denigrated (often with a disturbing element of misogyny), I don't read very much of it. I want to like romance novels, and I periodically check out recommended titles from the library, but more often than not I am disappointed. Even the best ones -- the ones well-written and without the sexism that shows up in the worst of these -- often leave me bored halfway through.

That changed with Smooth Talking Stranger, which I read about at Smart Bitches Trashy Books (devoted to Romance novels and the industry). I devoured it in less than two days. The book wasn't that different from others I had read, and certainly many cliches of the genre were present -- the heroine with the tragic past, the old boyfriend not at all right for her, the ridiculously wealthy hero, the bitchy ex-girlfriend, an abandoned baby, the clash of different worlds, and so on. But Kleypas managed to use these elements in a different, more thoughtful way. The old-boyfriend was a little eye-roll-inducing, but a genuinely decent guy. The heroine was aware of what her childhood had done to her, had sought help, and was neither perfectly healed nor in denial. The hero was surprisingly not douchey for an alpha male type, and the relationship between the heroine and the baby was touching and real (in fact, the author herself said the true romance of the book was between them, not the heroine and hero). The bitchy ex-girlfriend had no redeeming value, but you can't win them all; significantly, she was not the source of any stupid misunderstanding between the characters. The book has the happy ending one expects in this genre, but Kleypas made a point of showing that not all aspects of life are happy, not all bad people have a change of heart or are justly punished, and that one needs to let it all go and do the best one can. This added depth to the book, and made it the best romance I can remember reading. I will be checking out other books by Kleypas, for sure.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Square 6

Easter morning, while the Beadboys were hopped up on chocolate and jelly beans and spinning around in circles, I actually found a few minutes of time to embroider this. The eggs aren't very noticeable, though, so I may replace them with beads.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Squares 4 and 5

Square 5:

It's Good Friday, so I decided to do a square reflecting that -- the three nails, and a border that looks like thorns (I hope).

Square 4:

I started it Wednesday, then promptly forgot about it until this morning when I realized I needed to finish it if I wanted to do the Good Friday square. Just some pretty flowers, because it is finally Spring. The French knot flower is a little too big for the others.

Millefiori Necklace

Browsing through a catalog a few weeks ago I spotted a necklace with millefiori charms and glass beads dangling off a long chain. It was bright and fun, and I realized I had all the supplies I needed to make my own. I dug up four different millefiori pendants I no longer wear, and found in my bead stash some pretty millefiori beads I had bought over the years -- round and square, some with one cane flower and some with dozens of tiny ones. The last element was a silver-plated long chain I bought a few months ago with no real idea of what I'd do with it.

The result:
I put the beads on headpins with little spacer beads, and linked them onto the chain every nine links (about two and a half inches, I think). I alternated single bead charms (the ones with black backgrounds) with double charms, and tried to balance the colors. Two of the old pendants I had, heart-shaped, did not make it onto the necklace, but the little red one did, and I used the biggest one for the center.

Here is a close up:
It's somewhat different from the catalog's necklace (from what I can tell -- the picture was small): I only used millefiore beads, not other glass beads, and because my beads were bigger and more detailed I did not cluster as many of them together. Nor did I intersperse lengths of chain with beads.

While rooting through the beads I found little green squares like the orange and yellow and black ones I used in the necklace. But because I had so many of the green ones, I decided to turn them into a bracelet (especially because I had been meaning to make or buy a casual green bracelet for a while, to wear with a few other ones I like to group together).
I still have two green beads left, so they may become earrings.