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Monday, February 12, 2024

Annual Late Winter Jewelry Photo Dump

 My mom bought me a Riverstone bracelet for Christmas. It was lonely so I made two more:

Humblebeads had a cute, Spring-y necklace made with waxed linen and assorted charms and beads; I used dyed hemp cord (so rough, my poor hands) and beads and charms from my stash, making it the perfect easy project.


I bought this lovely Anne Choi bead decades ago and made it into a necklace that I really liked but never wore:

So I remade it as a chunky bracelet. I hadn't intended a Valentine theme but that's how it worked out; fitting, given the inscription on the bead: lux et umbra vicissim sed semper amor.

 I've been telling myself for two years to make a pair of small brass earrings to wear with brass necklaces. I finally did!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Book Round-Up: Better Late than Never Edition

The Shape-Changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn: Shinn's debut novel is about an apprentice wizard who studies under a powerful mentor and his odd wife. It's often (rightly) compared to Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn in style and vibe, but it also reminded me of Naomi Novik's Uprooted.

In Search of Lost Books by Giorgio van Straten: This is less a deep dive into known books that have disappeared, and more an idiosyncratic meditation on those books colored by Straten's tastes and experiences. Enjoyable as it it, but I would have preferred a more investigative work.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: My battered paperback disappeared, so what better excuse to buy a lovely hardcover with Gaiman's preferred text? It's a gritty, magical, weird exploration of an alternate London that also forces us to think about the parts of society we'd rather not deal with.

Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter: The premise is that of a TV producer who creates a true crime show to explore a brutal death that happened in his childhood. The text, then, is a transcript of the shows, plus emails and research, that gradually reveal what happened. But transcripts are an awkward thing to serve as the bulk of a novel. The mystery wasn't hard to figure out, either, but it was enjoyable enough.

Cat Tales by James Herriot: A collection of some of his anecdotes and stories involving cats, and just as sweet and comforting as you'd expect.

Monday, January 29, 2024

This Bird has Flown by Susanna Hoffs

It took me a shamefully long time to realize Hoffs' debut novel is a riff on Jane Eyre. Jane, a one-hit-wonder trying to make it many years later as a singer-songwriter, flees a bad breakup and a bad gig by hopping a plane to London. On that flight she meets her Rochester, and their relationship develops astoundingly quickly while Jane also prepares for a musical comeback. The book is full of literary references and song lyrics, and I'm positive there are many more I missed (like, say, the really BIG one I almost did!).

Modern retellings of Jane Eyre sometimes flatten Jane's morality, misunderstanding her integrity as simply a certainty in the correctness of Christianity, and try to present a more inclusive point of view; this is partly why I think Margot Livesey's novel, while thoroughly enjoyable on its own, failed as an Eyre retelling. Hoffs, on the other hand, understands that Jane's integrity is what matters. Like Livesey's novel, the antagonists are not caricatures of evil. Tom's ex does some bad things, makes some poor choices, and even starts (accidentally) a little fire, but she is neither evil nor crazy, just suffering deeply. Tom's handling of the matter is terrible, but not because he is arrogant or misogynistic; he just truly doesn't know what to do. And when Jane learns the truth, she is compassionate and understanding, but it doesn't stop her from doing what she knows is the right thing, no matter the cost to her personally. It makes her a character to root for whole-heartedly.

And it's not just in love that Jane keeps true to herself; the B-plot of the book is about her comeback performance with the mega star* who wrote the song that made her a star. Jane wants the acclaim (and, more importantly, the steady income) that a collaboration will bring, but she can't quite manage to stop wanting success on her own terms, in a way that is meaningful to her. The novel is full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but through it all Jane does not lose her core; as a result she gets what she wants, even if it doesn't quite look like what she thought.

*Clearly an analog for Prince, although I sincerely hope he was a better person to Susanna.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Book-Round Up: Christmas Edition

 Blackmail and Bibingka by Mia P. Manansala: I didn't love Manansala's third in the series as much as the first two, but it was enjoyable and I'm looking forward to the fourth, which I hear is very good.

Winter in the Air and Other Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner: Not all of the stories in this collection were wintry, but they were thoughtful and melancholy, with hints of Warner's sly wit. Many of the stories depicted characters on the verge of a transition, looking uncertainly to the past and the future -- appropriate for end-of-year reading.

Another Little Christmas Murder by Lorna Nicholl Morgan: An old-fashioned Christmas mystery, complete with a snowstorm, impassable roads, eerie manor house, and suspicious characters trapped together. A fun read for the season.

The Little Library Christmas by Kate Young: I loved this mix of recipes, memories, and literary quotations, and I wish I had time this season to make some of the delicious (I assume) food. Next year!

Holiday Romance by Catherine Walsh: This was a step above the usual Christmas romance, with endearing relationships (including the protagonists' families) and low-stakes but meaningful drama. I highly recommend it.

An Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne: I wanted one last holiday read for the season and I found this on the Libby app. I enjoyed it while I read it, but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get with some of the decisions the characters made.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Holiday Stitching Photo Dump

 Well, December did not turn out like I had expected. My oldest went in early on for surgery and ended up getting very sick after, not coming home until New Year's Eve. A lot of stitching got done in his hospital room, but very little social media and posting.

But before then, I participated in Wild Olive's ornament SAL in November, which gave me an excuse to finally make some of the designs from one of her patterns, which I bought ages ago.

Beatrice's 2022 Adventrees pattern was the perfect thing to keep my hands occupied during the long hospital stay. I had lots of fun choosing stitches and colors for each tree.

At night I got a little cross stitching done, enough to finish Praiseworthy Stitches' Snowflake Dreams and Elizabeth's Needlework Designs' Red Bird.

In early December I traced and cut out all the felt and fabric pieces to make a bunch of "bowl fillers" from Debbie Busby's Jingle all the Way pattern book; none of the stitching got done until January, though.

The mat is a design by Annie Lippincott, from an old issue of American Patchwork & Quilting.

Not a bad amount stitched for a crazy season!

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Primitive Tarot

 I couldn't resist Wild Violet's primitive "tarot" trio: The Stitcher, The Ripper, and The Snipper.

 They are stitched on 18-count aida; I hate aida, and I'm trying to use up my stash. In keeping with the primitive vibe of the design, I died the fabric myself with tea and a little baking soda (to set the color).

They remind me of the Three Fates, which might be intentional.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Changing Planes by Ursula K. LeGuin

I don't know when or why I got this set of stories, but I'm so glad I did. Inspired by the tediousness of air travel, LeGuin posits the ability to take that tedium, and the accompanying stress and misery, to change planes (get it?) and visit another world.

The stories that follow are thought exercises on different aspects of humanity, each reflected in the culture and history of alien races. They are by turns satirical, melancholy, threatening, and wistful, and the last one is a mind-bender that left me feeling destabilized -- not something I often feel when reading. 

They remind me greatly of Jorge Luis Borges's stories, in that they are driven by philosophical concepts rather than plots; no surprise, though, given that LeGuin has cited Borges as an influence. This is not the book for someone looking for a traditional story, or even well-rounded characters. But if you want something that will make you think about what it means to be human, this is perfect.