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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Beckett's novel was inspired when he asked himself "what if there was a fantastical cause underlying the social constraints and limited choices confronting a heroine in a novel by Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë?" As a result, the first part of the novel owes a heavy debt to Pride and Prejudice, the second part is a mash-up of Jane Eyre and The Turn of the Screw, and sprinkled throughout are Dickensian touches.  Beckett clearly meant this to be a pastiche, but I could not help thinking that a little more originality in the plot would have been good.

Where he is original is in the magical details of the world -- an ancient and dangerous wood, seven houses of power, magical schools, troupes of illusionists, mysterious planets, threatening aliens, and a wackadoodle rotational period causing the number of hours in a day to vary wildly.  All of this is fascinating in an of itself, but at least so far (this is the first book of a trilogy), it does not cohere, and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out whether the variations in the length of days were remotely plausible and what exactly were the rules of the (apparently) two kinds of magic.  Moreover, the question that inspired the novel, which I find quite interesting, is not answered.

Which is not to say I did not enjoy the book; to the contrary, despite its flaws I found it enjoyable.  This book contains the bones of a very good story, and I am looking forward to the next two novels to see what happens.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Brought to You by the Letter Q

The idea of a "letter wall" has been floating around the internet for a while (and apparently I'm not the first to think of this title).  I wanted to keep it to one letter and get variety via colors, textures, and materials, but what letter?  Most people seem to use their family initial, but Mr. Beadgirl and I have different last names.  Using my first initial seemed solipsistic, so I picked Q, which is a pretty albeit useless letter.  Q Q Q Q Q Q QAren't they curly and elegant?

My latest Q was inspired by the 3 Rs Blog via pinterest,  who covered a Z with lots of bottlecaps and even wrapped the edges around the letter.  I didn't go through nearly as much work as she did, especially since I had a minion.  We made a good team -- I used pliers to turn up the fluted edges, then passed them to Beadboy2 who gleefully smashed them flat with a rubber mallet.  E-6000 glue seems to be successfully holding them in place:

My button Q:
 Hot glue is not all it's cracked up to be; periodically a button falls off and I have to glue it back on.

Glitter Q:

Let's not discuss how many coats I had to do because I am glitter-impaired.

Fabric Q from Anthropologie:

As Beadmom says, odd is better than even, so I better get cracking on another Q.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Good Thing About Liturgical Calendars

is that they give you more time to finish projects.  It's still the Easter season, technically, so it's ok that I only now just finished the bunnies I've been stitching:

The patterns are from the "Bunny Collection" by JBW Designs, which was oddly insistent that they be used as baby gifts.

I'm not sure how I will finish them -- perhaps make each into an oval ornament and link them together with ribbon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, a Retelling by Peter Ackroyd

Like every good lit major I read the original in college, but this prose version by Ackroyd got such high praise I couldn't resist it.  I mentioned in my review of Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars that I was saddened by the knowledge that future generations will need to read translations of Shakespeare. This is even more the case with Chaucer, because he wrote in Middle English, not Early Modern.  I was able to read the Tales in the original, with the help of a glossary and a very slow pace, and so I got to enjoy the exotic (to us) rhythm and sounds which are lacking here.

On the other hand, by using Modern English Ackroyd made it easier and faster to understand the actual content of the Tales (I suspect this version may be used by students who can't quite bring themselves to buy the Cliffnotes version).  Of course Ackroyd didn't create just any old translation -- he manages to capture the feel of the original by his use of rhythm, dialects, colloquial expressions, and slang.

Which brings us to the Tales themselves.  Reading this book I was struck over and over by how very exuberant the stories are -- passionate, crude, funny, pathetic, religious, romantic, cruel, sly, blasphemous, and very real.*  Life back then was often brutish and unfair, but it is fully embraced by the characters.  Modern fiction, particularly that depicting so-called "first world problems," seems downright neurotic by comparison.

My cats liked the book too:

*Not literally real, of course -- the stories are littered (heh) with magical creatures, mythical beings, and improbable circumstances.  But that kind of realism not the point, despite the fact that a distressing number of the students in my Medieval Fiction class could find nothing to say about Chaucer, Boccaccio, and Marie de France other than "it's not realistic!"

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dressing up a Skirt

I had a lovely weekend visiting Beadmom and Fr. Beadbrother recently.  One of the things we did was trek out to a quilt store I had read about in Quilt Sampler at some point -- Quilter's Corner.  That's where I found some gorgeous ribbon by Kaffe Fassett, including a black ribbon with brightly-colored floral bullseye thingies.  I picked it up without any idea of how I would use it, of course, but as it was being cut I realized it would be perfect at the hem of the 15 year old short black skirt I wear all the time (boy will I be sad when that skirt finally falls apart). 

When I got home I set to sewing the ribbon on.  The skirt is very slippery, so I was too chicken to do it by machine, but I think the handstitching will hold.

A close-up of the pretty, pretty ribbon:

The back is as pretty as the front.  I may make a bracelet from it:

For a mother's day present, Beadmom treated me to beads.  Among others, I picked up this pendant by Gaea Handmade:
I think it would look great strung on the hemp cord, with carved bone beads and green powder glass beads from Africa I also picked up.  I'm looking forward to rummaging through my stash to find more
 for the necklace.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

B Is for Book

And for Birds, as in killing two of them with one stone.  I've been meaning to create some sort of banner for this site, and I thought I'd find different crafty ways to spell out the title.

I've also been wanting to start an alphabet series.  While I hesitate to call myself a synesthete, all my life letters have had a color in my mind (so do numbers, something I didn't even realize until recently).  Not all the letters have a really strong color, and in some cases the meaning of the word can change the color a bit, but yeah -- B has always been reddish-orange, like the Bittersweet Crayola marker I had as a teen.

So combining these two projects was pretty obvious.  The B I printed up and oh-so-carefully-but-not-very-smoothly cut out.  I glued it onto a pretty floral segment from a card I received ages ago (I knew I was saving it for a good reason!) and then sandwiched the whole thing between two panes of glass;  soldering sealed it up.  It's only the second thing I've ever soldered, and you can tell.  But I am very grateful to Simple Soldered Jewelry and Accessories, which taught me an alternative to a "beaded" soldered look -- a thick, rounded edge of solder rather than a flat painted edge -- which I had a hard time with on my first soldering project.