Thursday, October 27, 2011

Girls in White Dresses

book review thursday

book review thursday I powered through Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close immediately after finishing Storm Front. I finished Storm Front on morning of the 15th, and powered through until I finished it the next night. It was not the most enjoyable experience.

This novel consisted of a collection of short stories that spanned multiple characters' lives from college through their early thirties. The only likeable character out of the "main character" was the one you hardly ever saw. Mary was given a ridiculously small chunk of the novel, and because of this, the author didn't have the opportunity to really devolve her character into a petty, insecure drunken bitch that the other two main characters quickly desscended to. Isabella and Lauren were nothing if not pathetic. They spent the majority of their time either obsessing over how horrible their lives were, or making fun of other people. It was like being in the middle of a stereotypical TV high school. (Apparently, I was lucky in that my high school experience was nothing like how it's portrayed in the media. I didn't know any bullies, I had large groups of friends, and there were no "popular" clique- at least not one I knew of).

I admit, I'm not the target age demographic for this book. I have yet to go through many of the experiences that are portrayed in this book. While I understand many of the events are relatable- hell, even though I hadn't gone through many of them, I felt as though I could relate, the book still failed to make me care about a single character. I rather wanted to shake them all.

The biggest problem I had (other than the incredibly negative tone the entire book had) was that theses women settled. Maybe I've been lucky so far, but I never felt resigned to be with Monkey. I love him, no ifs ands or buts. He's the only person I want to be in a relationship with, and even though he drives me crazy approximately eight million times a day, I feel incredibly lucky to have found him. These girls have zero connection to the men that they date, or the men that they finally end up with. It seems very "well, I don't want to wind up alone..." sort of thing. While I know that you shouldn't see your significant other as "perfect" because they're not (believe me, there are a couple things that I can't say I wouldn't be happy if Monkey changed... like his refusal to go to the doctor for his sleep apnea), but these women have absolutely no real excitement for their significant others.

Seriously? You can't even portray the giddy feeling that they have when they first meet, flirt, and date their significant others? When the real main character, Isabella, constantly worries about losing her boyfriend, I had to wonder why. She showed no real attachment to him, other than in her fear of being left alone. Him as a person? Not so much.

The characters did grow a tiny bit less vapid as the novel wore on, but not enough to change my mind about the book. The book finally ends with what is supposed to be a Very Grown Up Decision for Isabella, and all I could do was roll my eyes. How was it a grown up decision if it's the same decision she would have made at the beginning of the book? Her constant insecurities and fear of being left her alone are what would have driven such a decision.

Ugh. I'm just incredibly frustrated with this. I was expecting light-hearted chick lit, and instead was saddles with immature, insecure twits. If I wanted to listen to that drivel, I would have gone and found a middle school girl.

(1/5 stars)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Return of Noro: A Horror Story

finished object friday

I totally didn't finish these ages ago.

Oh no, these are fresh off the needles! (Say whaaaat?)


Alright, I admit it. I finished these ages ago. I may be the worst liar on the face of the planet. But, I assure you, I'm not lying when I say that these mitts, the camp out fingerless mitts, are my new favorite mitten pattern ever. The cuff really makes the construction just interesting enough to really make me love the pattern. A definite win in my book, especially when paired with a color changing yarn like Noro. I can definitely see myself making quite a few of these in the future.

That being said, this yarn was a dud. I made it out of Noro Kureyon and I absolutely *hate* it. I knit this to match my entrelac scarf and while it matches enough to suit my sensibilities (which I have to admit, sometimes resembles those of a stubborn three year old), it's not perfect. When I knit the entrelac scarf, I noted that the yarn was by far overpriced and over-hyped for being such poor quality. The sheer amount of veggie matter, knots, and joins were ridiculous for the overall accepted price. On top of that, the yarn was barely soft enough for me to wear. I told myself that I wouldn't purchase that particular type of Noro again.

entrelac scarf
(Oh, hey, there's the scarf in question!)

These mittens weren't any better. While I did use a different yarn (Kureyon rather than Taiyo), the quality issues were actually worse in terms of softness. It was like wearing Brillo pads the first time I put them on. To say I was frustrated was an understatement. Nevertheless, I decided to try to soak them with conditioner to see if it helped matters any.

It did- slightly. Instead of feeling like Brillo pads, it now feels like I'm wearing mitts made brush bristles. Not unbearable, but not like wonderful softness I've felt with practically every other wool I've used. So I'm chalking this up to another line of Noro that I won't be purchasing again.

(Please ignore the iPod in my cleavage. I'm such a classy dame.)

Another thing I've noticed with the two balls is that the color I deem the ugliest in the colorway is invariable the one that is the majority of the skein- half of the skein I used for these mittens were brown! Ugh.

Overall, these are definitely wearable. I can actually see myself wearing them quite often- aesthetically, they rock. They yarn just didn't meet my expectations of quality.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dresden Files: Storm Front

book review thursday

book review thursday After finishing Before Versailles, I immediately jumped into a book that had been in the periphery of my reading queue for ages. The first time I had heard of the Dresden Files was in an art class during my senior year of high school. One of the girls there was absolutely phenomenal at art. It didn't matter the media, she was just utterly fabulous. She was also that sort of self-assured geek that proudly declared her interests.

Naturally, I spent most of my time idolizing her.

At any rate, when I wasn't terrorizing my other friends in that class, I'd often listen to her talk to one of her friends about the various television shows and books that they love. Of the many things they talked about, all I can really remember now is Doctor Who, Dresden Files, and Death Note (apparently words that start with a "D" are memorable). I've since gone on to adore Doctor Who, though I'm sadly, not caught up on the current season, nor have I seen the older episodes. When I went to explore Dresden Files, I wound up stumbling across the short lived TV show first.

The TV is everything I like in a show- just cheesy enough to be silly, not dramatic enough to be ridiculous, and with a great sense of humor while still being able to carry a serious story. Sadly, it was cancelled after one season. And that was the end to my experience with the Dresden Files, at least for a few years.

A few months ago, when I was first exploring the overdrive website for my local libraries, I stumbled across the first book of the series, Storm Front. Without giving it much thought, I added it to my hold section and went on my merry way. A few weeks ago, I was able to download the book and pushed it to the side, as a reward for finishing the slog that was Before Versailles. When Monkey brought up the series a short while later after stumbling it in his now monthly search for new, nerdy obsessions, I became even more excited.

All that led to extremely high expectations when I started actually listening to the book. It didn't hurt that James Marsters, aka Spike from Buffy, was the narrator. Normally, you know where high expectations lead me, right? Disappointment. For once, this wasn't the case. There are a few, small nitpicky things about the audiobook that I didn't like. But the book itself? Utterly fabulous. It's like every great detective movie that plays on Turner Classic Movies, but with supernatural elements. Harry Dresden, the lone hero, trying to understand dual mysteries, escape trouble at every corner, and avoid his supposed fate. All while including a dry wit and great inner dialogue. The way the author incorporated magic was utterly fabulous. It was believable, easy to understand, yet still mysterious. I also really loved how he took the quintessential mystery plot- two, unrelated cases suddenly become interconnected- but did it in a believable, interesting way. Every time I read or watch a plot like that, I think of the movie "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" with Robert Downey Jr., one of my favorite movies of all time. This is the supernatural book equivalent to that movie, with sarcasm and an unlucky narrator to book. Utterly fabulous. While the writing was a bit cliche, the book was still immensely enjoyable, and it was a great start to a series. If, as I've heard, the author's writing matures as the series goes on (I believe he started this book while in college), then the series will be more than awesome- it'll be amazing.

The audiobook, on the other hand? Oh dear. First off, I don't think James Marsters is a bad narrator. In fact, I think he's rather good. He does sound a bit inexperienced though, and the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired. There are parts of the novel that jump in volume, for no apparent reasons. Marsters's voice is great for this kind of protagonist, and not what I was expecting at all. While I'm not too sold on his voices for women, they don't take me out of the story at all, which is more than I can say for many narrators. What does jar me out of the story is the stupid "please change disks now" voice at the end of each segment, said by another person. Since this is a library copy, I'm not surprised, but at the same time, it's incredibly offputting. I'm glad I never was interested in audiobooks while they were on tape or CD. I'm hoping that as the series progresses, the audiobook quality improves. I really enjoy listening to Marsters, so I have no intention of switching to e-reader or hard copy format.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes the SciFi channel, or televisions shows like Castle, or really, anyone. I think it was a great start to a series, and I loved all of the characters. I can't wait to listen to the next book! And until then, here's a preview of the utterly fabulous Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

(4/5 stars)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Virtual Knitting Retreat

I'm going on a fiber retreat!

Okay, it's a virtual fiber retreat. The Stash Knit Down group on ravelry is hosting a virtual knitting retreat to help us focus on the yarn we already have. Instead of going out, fonding, and hoarding yarn, we're encouraged to finish UFOs, cast on years old stash, and generally rekindle our love for the yarn we already own. They've hosted a few before now, but this is the first that I'm "attending". It lasts starting October 15th to the 23rd, the perfect time for me as it involves two days of three hour car rides, a relatively easy week of classes, and this weekend, where Monkey is out of town.

Utterly fabulous. These are what I "packed".


The hideous clown barf thing in the corner is the second fingerless mitt made of my Malabrigo from hell. It's an attempt to use up the ugly skein, and I'm unimpressed with the results. In any case, I just want to get rid of the yarn, so I'm trying to push through and just finish this mitten. Plus, I need the needles to cast on the yellow ball of Malabrigo Sock that will hopefully become a Springtime Bandit. Really, it would be a fall bandit, based on the beautiful color of the yarn. I'm a malabrigo virgin, so I'm super excited to knit up this yarn.

The extremely messy ball of mini mochi is going to be come an utterly fabulous Cable Braided Necklace. I'm so excited for this project as well. I absolutley adore the colors- they remind me of the beach, and winter all wrapped up in one. The pattern looks deliciously simply yet intersting, so I can't wait to cast this project on.

Finally, there's the little ball of Shepherd Sock that has gone through hell and high water to finally find a project that I like. It's going to be a Beekeepers Quilt, a pattern that the absolutely wonderful HappyCat gifted me in a random act of kindness. Seriously. You've got to love knitters. I've since knit eleven of these teeny hexipuffs, a paltry sum compared to the eight zillion I'm going to need for the size blanket I want, especially when you factor in that my hexipuffs are smaller than they're supposed to be. But I'm loving this project so far. I'm probably going to want to jump off a bridge when it comes time to seam them together, but that's another matter. I'm actually thinking that I'm going to use CrochetAmy's mods and connect as I go, once I get my shipment of new yarn.

Um, did I mention that I ordered my first yarn ever online? After quite a few pathetic emails to my mother, she told me to go ahead and order the yarn I needed from knit picks. Right now, this is my goal for the color scheme.

hexipuff planning

Since I'm going to run out of the shepherd sock before the end of my blanket, I intend to take a random color and duplicate stitch some of the lovely charts that knitters have provided. I can't wait to have adorable animals on my blanket. My only fear is that it'll turn out to look more along the lines of Dora the Explorer's color scheme than the pretty golds and pinks that I've picked out.

As for entertainment on this knit down, I've already churned through one audiobook, and I have two more queued up to go, as well as an e-book that's waiting for me to check out. I have plenty of TV shows to catch up on (Ringer, Castle, Doctor Who, Playboy Club, and so many more have fallen to the wayside in favor of school). I'm going to really enjoy myself this week. Tomorrow, I intend to throw in a batch of laundry, do homework until it's time to flip it, then do homework until it's time to flip again, over and over again because I think the last time I did laundry was a month ago and I'm running out of comfortable clothes.

I'm so excited. Can you tell?

Blue Velvet

cupcake saturday

I haven't had one of these in a million years!

Okay, first off, I want you to know that these pictures are from a month ago, and the cupcakes were quite a few days old by the time I took this photo. I promise, they looked *awesome* on the day of.


So what is this disgusting mess I'm looking at? It's a blue velvet cupcake!

I've never eaten, or baked, red velvet before, so I'm not entirely certain that the taste was on. For one thing, the recipe (this recipe) used coffee. I wound up coloring the cupcakes and frosting blue because it is my sister's favorite color- plus I thought it was a really fun change up. I can definitely see myself baking these in all sorts of colors- purple, pink, green, and so on.


The frosting was heavenly, albeit unbelievably rich. However, coupled with the cupcake, it was perfect. I'm just going to put it out there that I'm not a coffee person. I take my coffee the way I take my man- sweet to the point of a diabetic coma. So I wasn't expecting to like these cupcakes. However, they were just perfect with the icing. I also piped the icing in the cupcake as a filling and topped with an M&M.

Again, I apologize for the horrendous picture of the cupcake. I promise, these rocked.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wow Eliina, way to be a pain the ass

So, uh, what have I been up to lately?

Certainly not writing blog posts, despite the fact that I've had plenty to write about.

I'll make it easy on myself. Oh hey, look over here! Is this a finished object I see?


A FO I finished a billion years ago, that also, coincidentally took a billion years to finish?

Yes, I do believe it is. This is my eliina shawl, made out of Jojoland Harmony. That yarn made me fall in love with cobweb weight. That yarn also made me hate deceptively wound skeins of yarn (I thought this was a center pull, it wasn't. I got to fight tangles every three inches and lost probably a third of the damned ball in breaks), math (apparently, I can't count. There's a random number of rows between eyelets, so my math was torqued), modifications (I decided to make it larger since my rows were off anyway and I wanted to use up all of the skein. This promptly bit me in the ass in the end when I ran out of yarn on the last row before the BO- because of the aforementioned skein breaks), and finally, rainbows (I thought this yarn was going to be blue and pink because those are seriously the ONLY colors you could see in the ball without decimating it. I was very, very mistaken).


Also, apparently I no longer know how to take a photo that doesn't look like I took it with my cell phone from 2001. Please excuse me. I have no idea what went wrong, other than everything with this project. Seriously. EVERYTHING. I can't tell you how many times the yarn came off the needles, or I lost count, or I had to tink back because I dropped a stitch, or I broke the yarn trying to detangle it.

No wonder it took me about eight million months to finish.

Have I mentioned that I wore it quite a few times as well? And then it got hotter than blazes and I decided to pull it out in January when it might actually be less than 100 degrees outside? And that I still love, love, love this project to death even though I feel about 160 years old when wearing it? Seriously. I'm in love. I love the weight of the finished shawl. I love the delicate edging, I love the points and the size and everything. If only this hadn't been so painful to knit...

So, someone please explain to me why I'm looking at a new lacey shawl pattern and wondering where the easiest place to pick up more Jojoland Harmony is? Actually don't explain- I know the answer. I've gone off the deep end, that's why.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Before Versailles

book review thursday

book review thursday I don't usually do this, but I'm just going to throw out a disclaimer right here and now. I did not enjoy this book. This is entirely my opinion, and I'm sure others will find it more enjoyable than I did, but this was definitely not m cup of tea.

I struggled with reading Before Versailles by Karleen Koen for was seemed like eons. My favorite historical figure has been Louis XIV for as long as I knew about him. His court, his lifestyle, and his relationships are all fascinating to me. I would love to visit Versailles today. I've previously enjoyed other, non-fiction, works on the sun king (including Love and Louis XIV), so I was really excited about this book. I've been reading historical fiction since I was a kid- my favorite novels were Royal Diaries (no, not the ones by Meg Cabot), and later, I also really enjoyed Philippa Gregory's works. I haven't delved into that literary world in quite some time, so I was really excited about this book.

I think my main problem was the lack of cohesiveness in terms of point of view. The novel jumps to different characters without any real warning. One minute, you're in the head of Louise, the supposed main character of the novel, the next, you're in Louis XIV, or Phillip his brother, or Henriette his wife. It's incredibly confusing and chaotic. The overall story lines weren't difficult to follow, but it was incredibly jarring for such point of view switches.

Honestly, I felt it was incredibly amateur, which is something I found surprising considering how many praises I had read about this author for her earlier works.

Because of the point of view changes, it was incredibly difficult to get attached to any of the characters. Louise was annoying, and incredibly Mary Sue in my opinion. I really enjoyed her initial innocence, especially her shock in dealing with her flamboyant cousin. However, as time wore on, she neglected to either appropriately lose that innocence, or retain enough of it to be really believable. Instead, the author left Louise at an uncomfortable middle ground that failed to really bring a dynamic quality to her character.

The allusions to homosexuality and cross dressing were incredibly awkward, in my opinion. While Phillip was actually known to engage in both, I felt it was handled rather awkwardly in the novel- almost like it was there for pure shock value. I really enjoyed Louis' interactions with his brother Phillip and the boy in the iron mask, especially in regard to Phillip's masochistic and heartbroken character. The way Louis treats both characters was a great dynamic.

I also really enjoyed the fact that there are little allusions to other literary works and myths scattered throughout the novel. That was one of the redeeming qualities. However, I absolutely hated how the author portrayed Athenais. She was derogatory enough to make it unrealistic, and gave her an awkward part in the book- too large to be a cameo and too small to really fit her future importance.

Ultimately, however, I was incredibly bored with this novel, despite the great ideas. Because of that disconnect with the characters, I had a hard time following what was going on. I'm going to give this a big thumbs down. However, I've heard great things about another one of Koen's novels, so I might investigate that whenever I next get the historical fiction bug. However, I won't hesitate to abandon that book if I decide it's as hard to get into as this one was.

(2/5 stars)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In which I am still a television junkie

I have come to a conclusion:

The Closer is my favorite television show ever. Last week stressed me out to say the very least. I pretty much had zero free time and didn't get a lot of sleep either. To make up for it, I've been marathon watching The Closer. I remember when the show first came out, I was intrigued (and somewhat annoyed) by the show. I watched the first few episodes of the first season and then lost interest.

Somewhere around the premier of the third season, I got caught watching a TV marathon and fell in love. However, due to my apparent inability to watch television when it actually premiers, I didn't get to see much after that point.

Fast forward to this summer, when essentially all I did while trapped on campus by myself. I started watching it, again. I LOVE it. I love the quirky characters (especially Provenza and Captain Raydor). I love the sly little comments and Brenda's utter ridiculousness at times. The candy bit initially annoyed me, but now every time I see her candy drawer, I giggle. Sometimes, the show can be predictable (as in, Brenda talks to Fritz and he says something that inadvertently allows her to solve her case), but the individual episodes are unique enough to really engage me.

In short, I'm obsessed. While it certainly hasn't been helping me in getting my homework done, it at least has been helping me in my knitting. I've made significant progress in at least one WIP, but I'm beginning to wish I had a bout of startitis. Ever since I finished my vest, I've been unexcited about my knitting. I'm sure the numerous attempts at finding a project for my Shepherd Sock Stripes has been a huge part of that problem (in fact, I'm still disappointed with the project I finally settled on- not because of the appearance but because I know I won't finish for quite some time, especially because I don't even have all of the yarn for it). So I suppose I really should start trolling my ridiculous queue for something that speaks to me. Until then, I'll still be working on UFOs. And hopefully, listening to audiobooks as well- I currently have four checked out and only one of them I've started.