Reading

Ready-Aim-Fire: An Unraveled Post

I'm happily knitting away on my "arrows" project . . . 

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After a summer of knitting that included lace and mosaic and beads and all the attention and counting that kind of knitting entails, I'm just thrilled to be working on a projet that is free-form and open-ended and not restricted in any way at all.  (It's kind of like knitting dishcloths, but with much nicer yarn.)

I love just being able to follow a basic recipe . . . while just riffing with color and texture.  This kind of project is very forgiving.  If I don't like what I see, I can just . . . end it.  Try something else.  Grab a different color instead.  Throw in a garter ridge or two.  And if I make a mistake of some sort?  Well, I can just work it into the project and no one will ever be the wiser.

I also like creating such a colorful, bold accessory for myself.  Because I love looking at the bright and the wild . . . but I don't really like wearing it.  Unless it's an accessory!  So perfect, non?

Finally, though, I have always love the symbolism of arrows.  Movement.  Direction.  Strength.  Grace.  Power.  Give me an arrow anytime!

So, basically . . . this is just what I need to knit right now.

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As for the reading, I've just started Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (one of my favorite authors) (this one was on the Man Booker long list).  Over the weekend, I finished Autumn by Ali Smith (another of my favorite authors) (this one made the Man Booker short list).  I loved Autumn, although I'll readily admit that it won't be to many readers' tastes (so be warned if you like your books strong on plot with few holes by the end of the book) (just sayin').

How about you?  What are you knitting and reading?

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This post is part of Kat's Unraveled Wednesdays.  To read more knitting and reading posts, click here.


Back in Business

After a summer of rather uninspired knitting, I picked up my needles again last weekend. . .

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and started making arrows!

For many reasons, this seems to be the Perfect Knit for me right now.  Mainly, it allows me to wander.  Following a basic recipe, I can just dabble.  And do what I want.  With any colors; any stitch patterns.

It's wonderful.

And freeing.

And meditative.

(I'm also considering sweater patterns and doing a bit of swatching.  More on that another day.)

As for reading . . . well.  I'm suffering slogging through another of my book group's selections - Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden.  I know many people who consider this a beloved novel, but it's just . . . not me.  (Too long, too dramatic, too predictable.)  It's particularly sloggish right now when there are so many great books (books that I am so excited to read) being released this month!   Oh, well.  Only 3 hours left to listen (thank goodness for 2X narration speed. . . ).

How about YOU?  What are you knitting and reading?

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Today's post is part of Kat's Unraveled Wednesday.  Click here to read what other bloggers are knitting and reading.

 


And All the Rest

It's just about time to wrap up another season of Summer Book Bingo.  Quietly - and without fanfare - I finished the summer with a coverall.

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Here's a quick rundown of the books I read that I haven't already identified:

Outside your comfort zone - I read Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith.  Why was this book of poetry outside my comfort zone?  Why . . . because I'd never read Tracy K. Smith before.  But when she was named the current U.S. Poet Laureate, I decided I needed to check out her poetry.  Let me just say -- it is lovely!

Any book (free square) - I could slide a couple of different books into this square (because I actually read a few books beyond the 25 Summer Book Bingo squares) but I decided that another book of poetry would fit perfectly here in this free square.  I read Rain in Portugal, a new collection of poems by Billy Collins.  What a treat!  Billy Collins remains one of my favorite poets of all time.

About art/artists - I read A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass.  When it first came out, I read Three Junes, Julia Glass's first novel.  It was fabulous, and I hold it up as one of my favorite reads of recent memory.  I keep reading her follow-up books as they come out -- hoping for another Three Junes.  But . . . nope.  This one wasn't it either.  Still enjoyable - in that summer, beach-read kind of way.  But certainly not another Three Junes.  (Oh, well.)  (I could have also plugged A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume into this Bingo square.  It's a very good book; interesting perspective -- but probably not for everyone, and certainly not a summer beach-read.)

Thriller - I read Magpie Murders by Alan Horowitz.  Not exactly a "thriller" . . . really.  More like a "cozy mystery," I guess.  But the closest thing to a "thriller" I'll read this summer (my bingo; my rules).  Although rather light, the concept was interesting and unique -- and it kept me entertained for a couple of days.  

Classic - I re-read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  I first read this one as Le Petit Prince - en français - as a high school sophomore.  It is a very sweet story - although I must admit to being much more taken by it's message as a high school French student than as an adult in her fifties.  Still . . . it's fun to re-read beloved books from other eras of your life.

Audiobook narrated by the author - I listened to David Sedaris read his newest book, Theft by Finding.  I am a big fan of David Sedaris, so I enjoyed this book.  But . . . if you aren't already familiar with his work, this is NOT where I would start.  (It starts out very dark, and the whole thing is a bit choppy if you're not already familiar with the people in his life and the stories he tells.)

Set in a place you'd like to know more about - I struggled with this category.  Because I just didn't want to choose a book based on setting alone.  So . . . (my bingo; my rules). . . I'm going to fill this square with Bear Town by Frederik Backman.  (Because I am always interested in knowing more about Sweden.)  I loved this book!  Excellent writing, a solid story, Sweden . . . and hockey.

And . . . that's a wrap, my friends!  Another summer.  Another Summer Book Bingo coverall.

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If you're interested in seeing the rest of the books in my Summer Book Bingo squares, you can check out this blog post.  And this one.


Falling Like Dominoes: A Book Bingo Update

It always happens like this . . . 

I read and read and read with nary a bingo.  And then - suddenly - there they go.  One bingo after another after another!

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Want to see what I read?

Let's take a look at the first row, moving across:

Biography - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot) - So, technically this book isn't a "biography."  But it's a book about a very REAL person, so I'm counting it as a biography.  (My bingo; my rules.)  I found this book fascinating and Important -- with a capital I.  (And some of those researchers?  Despicable.)

Set in more than one time period - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Borrowed - The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (Lisa See) - I borrowed this book from the library, and read it quickly over a weekend up north.  It was much more compelling than I expected it to be, and I enjoyed learning about tea along the way.

An author with a disability - Last Night in Twisted River (John Irving) - John Irving has dyslexia.  I am a fan of John Irving, and I have read most of his books.  If you're not already a fan, but want to try one of his books, I wouldn't suggest this one for starters (go with Owen Meany or Garp or Cider House Rules instead).  It's definitely not his strongest novel -- but I still found it worth the slog.

Backlist from an author on your current year favorites list - The Gifts of Imperfection (Brené Brown) - I'm working my way through Brené Brown's books as part of my look at all-things-balance this year.  If you're looking for a bit of self-care and personal reflection, her books are not a bad place to start.

BINGO!

Next up, let's check out the last column, on the right, going down:

Backlist from an author on your current year favorites list - See above.

That you want to read because of the cover - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Banned in a country outside the US - Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi) - This book is banned in Iran. Hmmmm. Although I really wanted to like this book (after all, I am a lover of the classics, and particularly interested in the overall concept of the book), I just . . . didn't. I found it a far more tedious read than expected. Great concept; strong and interesting women; just . . . not quite captivating.

Alternate history - The Yiddish Policeman's Union (Michael Chabon) - Tom read this book when it first came out, many years ago.  It was just sitting there . . . on our bookshelf . . . waiting for me.  As usual, Michael Chabon doesn't disappoint.

Bird or animal on the cover - The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry) - Okay.  So a "serpent" isn't really an animal.  And there isn't really even a serpent on the cover (although there is the strong suggestion of one).  But . . . my bingo; my rules.  I had wanted to read this book since I first heard about it (when it made the long list for the Women's Prize for Fiction this year), and so . . . by gum . . . it was going to fit into one of my squares!  Lovely book.

BINGO!

And there's one more -- the fourth row across:

About a person with a disability - Shtum (Jem Lester) - Just as we were all sorting through our Bingo cards for the summer, I happened to be driving and caught an interview with Jem Lester on NPR.  I was hooked!  If you're interested in a rather gut-wrenching story about what it's like to live with a severely autistic child, this is your book:  Love. Commitment. Struggle. Redemption.

Wanted to read for more than a year - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Passes the Bechdel-Wallace test - Chemistry (Weike Wang) - Ah . . . the Bechdel-Wallace test.  For those of you unfamiliar with this category, let me explain a bit.  The Bechdel-Wallace test (or sometimes just called the Bechdel test) was originally applied to films, but has been expanded to include fiction.  The qualifications for passing the test?  The work must include two women who talk about something other than a man.  (Sometimes it further requires that the women be named.)  And this test, my friends, is oh-so-much harder to pass than you might think!

I decided to just . . . read . . . this summer -- fiction I would choose just as I always choose -- with the Bechdel-Wallace test in mind.  I continued to be disappointed.  Because in each book I read, women talk about men!  It really is rather infuriating when you think about it.  Finally, as I read Chemistry, I found two women who talked about something OTHER than men.  They talked about grad school and work in the lab and their careers.  Eureka!  I found it.  But . . . no.  Eventually, our characters ended up . . . talking about men.  But.  This one is the closest I came to reading a book that - at least for a portion of the novel - passes the Bechdel-Wallace test.  (Of course, the characters aren't named.  But that is the style of this particular book.  The characters are the narrator herself and the other woman, known simply as The Best Friend.)  (Further irony?  The only named character in the book is a man.)  No other book of fiction I read this summer came even close to meeting the Bechdel-Wallace test.

As for the book itself, I think I liked it because of the chemistry.  Having gone through Tom's chemistry graduate school experience along with him - and seeing what life was like for the (few) women grad students in his lab - I could really relate to the story and situations.

Thriller - Covered in my last bingo-update post.

Alternate history - See above.

BINGO!

Like I said . . . falling like dominoes.

 

 

 


No Time for Unraveling

My knitting has been very slow this summer.  A row here; a row there.  Some days, not even a stitch.

I finally finished this earlier this week . . . 

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That's Kirsten Kapur's Mystery Shawl 2017 -- in all its unblocked glory.  (I don't have a good place to block up north, and the well water is just kind of . . . well, smelly.  I will block when I get home.)  

And now, I'm working on this blob of lace weight . . .

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Because, really.  With less than 3 weeks until a wedding, shouldn't every mother-of-the-bride be working on a lace shawl with beads for her daughter?  (Like the title says, no time for unraveling.)

(If you hear maniacal laughter in the background, just smile and look away.)

Reading continues apace.  I may get a Bingo coverall after all, but it's hard to tell at this point.  Right now, I'm slogging through John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River (we'll just say . . . this one is NOT A Prayer for Owen Meany* - although it's every bit as long -  and leave it at that).  I've also just started Beartown (Fredrik Backman) -- which is, so far, everything you've already heard it is.  (Watch for a Bingo update post tomorrow for a more detailed look at my recent reading.)

How about you?  What are you knitting and reading today?

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Today's post is part of Kat's Unravled Wednesdays.  See what everyone else has to say here.

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* One of my top-5 favorite books Of All Time.


At Last ... A Book Bingo or Two

I've been reading and reading this summer.  But until I was on my way home from visiting Erin in California earlier this week . . . no actual bingos to report.  

And then, suddenly, there were two!

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Want a closer look?

Here's what I read for the second column, going down:

Set in more than one time period - Dark Circle (Linda Grant) - While most of this book is set in the early 1950s, the last part of the book is set in the current day - serving as a then-what-happened conclusion.  So . . . definitely two time periods, and a book worth reading.

Part of a series - Blue Lightning (Ann Cleeves) - This is the 4th book in the Shetland Island mystery series -- and this one has quite a surprise at the end!  (Can't say I was sorry to see her go. . . )

Recommended by a librarian - Necessary Lies (Diane Chamberlain) - This is my book group's August selection, and was also recommended by my local librarian.  Alas . . . not for me.  I found it tedious and flat.  Much eye-rolling.  Enough said.  (I am just not a fan of "chick-lit" -- even when it revolves around a meaty social issue.  There are many, many fans of this book.  Just . . . not me.)

Wanted to read for more than a year - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (Susan Cain) - This is an excellent book, well-researched and just plain interesting.  Especially for an introvert . . . who is married to an introvert . . . and who raised at least one (and possibly two) introvert children.

Non-fiction about science - Storm in a Teacup (Helen Czerski) - Physics demystified . . . with everyday explanations.  What's not to love?  (I will think of this book every time I handle an egg.) 

BINGO!

And here's what I read for the 2nd row, going across:

Already own - Anything is Possible (Elizabeth Strout) - I wanted to read this one so badly that I just couldn't wait through the incredibly long library hold list.  So I bought it.  If you loved Olive Kitteridge and Lucy Barton, this one will not disappoint.  Another beautiful, stark "necklace of short stories."  (My kind of book.)

Part of a series - (See BINGO above.)

Written under a pseudonym - The Running Man (Richard Bachman, aka Stephen King) - This one was a bit out-of-the-box for me, but I tend to enjoy Stephen King books (he's a great storyteller) . . . and every once in a while, a little dystopia is good for the soul.  Apparently, there is an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie based on this book (I've never seen it) that is terrible and not at all like the book.  Anyway, this was a very fast read for me.  Because Richard Bachman/Stephen King always sucks you right in, y'know?

Written in the first person - The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy) - Okay.  So the whole book is not written in the first person, but one of the major characters' "sections" is written in the first person . . . so I'm counting it!  Because, let me tell you, this book is an Investment (time, attention, sanity) -- and it needs to count for something.  (If you're looking forward to reading this one because you loved God of Small Things . . . let me tell you, this is NOT God of Small Things.  At all.)

That you want to read because of the cover - The Lonely Hearts Hotel (Heather O'Neill) - This is the book I was reading as Book Bingo began, back in May.  The cover . . . is the best part of the book.  And we'll just leave it right there.

BINGO!

How's your reading going?


Unraveled . . . Tales of Stitching and Reading

These days, most of my "creative time" is spent out in the garden (and my fingernails really show it . . .), but I still try to find time to stitch every day.

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No unraveling this week.  (At least, not of the knitting or stitching variety.  In the garden, though?  I have a MAJOR unraveling going on, but I'll save that for another blog post.)  

The Colorwash Scarf continues to be a joy to knit, and it's growing quickly.  I'm hoping to be finished before Kirsten Kapur releases the first clue (June 15) for this year's Through the Loops Mystery Shawl -- but I'll have to knit quickly.  Because . . . 

See that sort of mustard-y green pile of fabric underneath?  Well.  That's my basic Alabama Chanin Factory Dress . . . and it's hogging most of my stitching time these days.

As for reading, in the ears I've got David Sedaris' newest book, Theft by Finding (audiobook-read-by-the-author, if you're following along with Summer Book Bingo).  In print, I'm reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (biography).  Earlier this week I finished The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (borrowed).  

How about YOU?  What are you reading and unraveling this week?

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Today's post is part of Kat's Unraveled group.  Click here to see more posts about stitching and reading.
 

 


Unraveling . . .

Here's what I started knitting yesterday . . . 

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It's Kirsten Kapur's Colorwash Scarf from Wild Yarns, the Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide No. 3.  I've been planning this knit for weeks -- but wanted to finish a few other things before casting on.  I had planned to only knit with the "wild" yarn" (some lovely stuff I picked up at Rhinebeck a couple of years ago), but after I saw Vicki's finished Colorwash Scarf, I decided to throw in a contrast color.

(And hoo boy . . . so glad I did!  Because for the first several rows, I kept forgetting to pass the slipped stitch over.  If I'd been using just the one color, I would have had to unravel constantly.  With two colors, well . . . there is immediate accountability.)  (And I only had to unravel twice.)  (Full disclosure.)

Anyway.  This design hits all my knitting-buttons:  rhythmic pattern, fun color changes, and stripes.  Those three features can keep my interest for hours at a time!

As for reading . . . right now I've got The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill, borrowed through Overdrive, on my iPad.  (This title was on the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction long list this year.)  I've only just read the first 75 pages, so I'm guessing this will be my first Bingo square (although I haven't quite figured out which one yet. . . ).

Speaking of bingo, don't forget that Summer Book Bingo begins this Saturday, May 27.  Check out the sidebar on Mary's blog to learn more.  Grab your card and read along!

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I'm joining along with Kat's Unraveled group today.  See what everyone else is . . . unraveling . . . here.


Readers . . . Start Your Engines!

When I was a little girl, I always looked forward to the Summer Reading Program at my local library.  I got so excited when my mom would take me to the library to sign up!  (The librarians loved me.)  I would faithfully use whatever reading checklist they had designed that season to track my progress and, ultimately, claim my certificate at the end of the summer.

Now, as a grownup, I still look forward to summer reading with . . .

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Summer Book Bingo!

Mary has been promoting Summer Book Bingo (a feature born of the old Books on the Nightstand podcast) through her blog for several years now.   With the end of the BotN podcast, Mary decided to carry the Summer Book Bingo torch on her own, keeping it alive for summer reading grownups . . . like me.   (All Hail Mary, Queen of Summer Book Bingo!)

Mary has created an inspiring and comprehensive list of reading categories and a set of Summer Book Bingo rules -- which you can access on the sidebar of her blog.  She's included the link to a bingo card generator -- so you can create and print your own bingo card.  (Go ahead and click the "Get a New Card" link a few times until you find a card that looks good to you.)

Here's the card I'll be playing this year . . . 

Kym's Summer Book Bingo Card 2017

(Although I'm curious about what "Alternate History" is, actually.  Anyone?)  
(Maybe something filled with "alternative facts" . . . hmmmm?)

I hope you'll play along!  Summer Book Bingo is a fun thing to do in the summer -- especially if you enjoy reading anyway.

It's fun to be part of a larger group of readers, all working toward a similar goal.

It's fun to use your bingo card to plan and track your summer reading.

It's fun to challenge yourself to read books you might not otherwise choose to read.

Heck . . . it's just fun to cry BINGO! every once in a while!

I hope you'll play along.  Set some summer reading goals for yourself.  Maybe you want to get a BINGO.  Maybe two or three?  Or maybe you want to cover your whole card this summer!  It's a lot of fun.

Let's READ.

 

 

 

 


Action Tuesday: Let's Read

I just love Goodreads!  It's like a virtual library . . . you can wander through all the virtual bookshelves you could ever imagine.  It's such a handy place to keep track of books you've read, books you want to read, the books your friends read.  You can write reviews and award stars.  There are even virtual book groups and author book talks.  

And, best of all, at the end of the year, Goodreads provides you with your reading stats.

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In looking through my year-end stats on Goodreads, I see that I gave 26 books a 5-star rating. In fact, my average rating for the year was just over 4 stars . . . which tells me I'm a pretty good judge about the kinds of books I'm going to like to read!

If I were going to pick my 5 favorite books in 2016, it would be these:

I've already made a good start with my 2017 reading.  I have a few specific goals.  

  • First, in terms of quantity, I set my Goodreads Challenge at 75 books this year.  This is an increase, but manageable.  And, truth be told, much more in line with the # of books I typically read in a year.
  • Next, in terms of quality, I always have a goal of reading many/most of the nominees from my favorite book awards:  The Orange Prize, The Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Award.  (I have never read ALL of the nominees.  Ever.  But it's always my goal!)
  • And, new for me this year, I want to try to read books that will shake up my perspective and worldview a bit.  You see, since the election this year, I have come to realize that I really and truly hang out in a very specific . . . bubble!  I need to get outside that bubble - even if I don't want to, and even if it's going to make me uncomfortable.  

In other words, this year I'm going to read a few books that I might never (in a million years) choose to read otherwise.

It's another way to take ACTION:  to learn; to expand our perspective; to get out from under our bubbles.  In the words of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat*, reading books that critique Western liberalism can give us a "clearer sense of [our] own worldviews, limits, blind spots, blunders and internal contradictions."

With that it mind, I'm planning to read a couple of books already on my Goodreads To-Read shelf.  These two are books that might help me understand the "red state" thing from a different perspective: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning in the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

I'm thinking about reading How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley.  Although this one looks a bit ... academic ... it might help me understand how propaganda is working to undermine democracy, and maybe get my head around this whole "post-truth" concept.

I'll definitely read this article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  His writing always challenges my  thinking -- and it's essential to understand the racial element of Trumpism.

Ross Douthat of the NY Times recommends The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch and Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington.  According to Douthat, both of these books illustrate how Western elite has "burned the candle at both ends," resulting in a rather gross mis-read of the political situation in both Europe and the United States.  

These books will not be "light" reading at all, and - in fact - many of these titles sound downright disturbing to me.  But.  I will be reading at least a few of these books this year.  Because it's important to understand the context of our world.

Bottom line?  READ something unexpected.  Step out of your bubble.  

That's ACTION!

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You can read Ross Douthat's recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Books for the Trump Era, here.