Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blood Rites AKA Jim Butcher's Personal Fantasy

book review thursday

book review thursday

Blood Rites made me seriously wonder if Jim Butcher has ever spoken to a female without her running screaming in the opposite direction.

No, seriously, I actually wondered.

This book took every criticism I had for the previous books, and made them a thousand times worse. Rampant sexism and one-dimensionality to female characters? Check. Gratuitously lecherous inner dialogue? Check. Unbelievable action scenes and save the day heroics? Check. Inability to write a conversation that sounds even one iota like something you'd overhear in real life? Check. Cliches at every turn? Check.

I could go on, but I won't. I knew I wasn't going to like this book as soon as the porn aspect was introduced. Not because I have any problems reading stories that center around that setting, but because I knew that Butcher was going to turn into a drooling hornball forcing Harry to live out his own fantasy involving oogling attractive women and being heroic. Ew.

I think the reason I might be so incredibly frustrated with this book mainly stems from the potential. Butcher has created a great concept, a great world, and a logical premise for magic. He really did a fantastic job with that. I just wish he could have handed the reins over and let someone else actually write the books. I admit, I like some of Dresden's one liners. They're cute and catchy- but they're also incredibly unbelievably. Throw one in during a conversation, but don't pepper each line with them!

Thinking about this book really frustrates me. I know, I just know that I can't stop with this one, I'm going to have to read until the end (or there's no doubt in my mind that Butcher is getting his rocks off with every single scene. I think it might have been every other scene in this book, but I digress). I keep hearing about how Butcher's writing gets better and better, and I'm beginning to suspect that really, the reader is getting more and more accustomed to his bad writing habits.

(1/5 stars)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Clearly I'm Optimistic

wip wednesday

There's no other excuse for it. Either I'm batshit crazy (entirely possible), or I'm too optimistic for my own good. Remember how I was going to finish that shawl for the Ravellenic Games? Remember how I had a ball of 800 yards of lace weight yarn and beads?

I'm sure all of you saw it coming.


I clearly did not finish the shawl. In fact, I didn't even come close to finishing. I almost got finished with chart one, but I didn't even finish that. But hey, that's okay, the games are about challenging yourself, and honestly, getting it even on the needles was a challenge in itself.

Still, I thought certainly I would be finished before I had to move! I happily continued to knit, knit, and then move, and then keeping knitting.

And keep knitting.

And keep knitting. It's been almost a month since the Games ended. Finally, finally the end of this shawl is in sight. Am I anywhere near finishing?

Frozen Leaves Shawl WIP

Uh, no. I'm on row 13 out of 16 for the last chart, and I strongly suspect I'm at a billion stitches because it takes an hour to do one row- and not even the beading rows. I can't even imagine blocking it.  It'll take up my entire apartment because I can already tell it's huge. It's huge and heavy and fun to knit. I actually don't even mind that I have to look at charts to knit it. It's the power of beads I tell you. I am going to be so excited when it's done.

If I ever get there that is...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Am Half Sick of Shadows

book review thursday

book review thursday

I just finished with I Am Half-Sick of Shadows , and it left me so incredibly sad. I've always been particularly empathetic to fictional worlds. Whether they exist in books, movies, or even commercials, I've found myself holding back sobs at some depiction of sadness or incredible happiness. I think that's one of the reasons I found such solace in books as a child. Whenever I was unhappy, or bored, I could just plant myself in the narrative of someone else- feel their emotions for a while. I think most voracious readers experience this. After a while, I had to learn to disengage myself. Often, if interrupted during a particularly intense scene, I tend to take out the emotions of the character- or the emotions I feel on behalf of the character- on those who surround me.
I've had to be wary of particularly depressing books for this reason. When faced with a work of fiction that isn't concluded happily, or has significant amount of sadness throughout the story, I tend to become melancholic for long periods of time. It's why I never saw P.S. I Love You, or read the novel. I can usually tell right off the bat which books are just going to make me miserable.

That's why this came as such a surprise. I expected a lighthearted mystery and adventure through the eyes of a precocious little girl. Instead, what I got was transported into an incredibly lonely childhood. I'm not sure what exactly made this book more sad than the others in the series. Perhaps it's the Christmas setting- a time normally reserved for fiction devoted to familial  togetherness and good cheer. Perhaps it was just that the actual murder mystery was rather lacking. The plot was rather thin, and clues were never really thrown in properly. Rather than a long, drawn out puzzle in which red herrings are eventually explained, and motives are really schemed at, you get a few scattered clues and a speedy end to the overall mystery (though I was left with quite a few unanswered questions- like what the hell the chauffer had to do with anything).

In any case, this book reminded me of the loneliest times of my childhood. In that respect, Alan Bradley did a wonderful job of creating an entirely believable girl. I could remember doing foolish things at that age, without thought of consequence (though never on the scale of setting off fireworks). I can remember trying to build inventions that would "catch" the tooth fairy. It also hit home that this little girl who has faced so much death and has missed out on so many potential friendships is my sister's age. An age of awkwardness and isolation that can only really be endured by having at least one good friend who is going through the same thing. Flavia lacks this. 

Perhaps another reason the depression resonated with me is because I'm still missing Monkey. While he at least has phone access at this point, it almost makes it harder. Feeling lonely has become a bit normal for me. At least, unlike Flavia, I do have friends, and this feeling will be over in less than two weeks.  

I think I'm going to have to at least start reading a happier book before I'm able to go to sleep tonight. The last thing I want to do is go to bed with that sort of depressing aura.

(3/5 stars)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Italian cream cupcakes

cupcake saturday

Yet another delicious cupcake! I seem to be on a roll with picking out delicious recipes!

This time, I ventured into a traditional area that I had never tried before. I had originally intended to make an Italian cream cake, but after some persuasion from my mother (who had to bring said dessert into work, and consequentially was all for portability), I decided to go back to my old standby.

One of these days I'm going to actually bake a real cake.


My only other experience with Italian cream cake was a frozen slice from the cafeteria my freshman year of college. Not exactly the most appealing treat. However, I knew that the cake had potential- I lve coconut, I love nuts, and most of all, I love cream cheese frosting.


Boy was I right! These cupcakes were delicious! They had the perfect ratio of nuts to cake, and the coconut was just right. Instead of leaving the frosting as is, I wound up dipping the cupcakes in some of the left over coconut flakes, which gave each cupcake the final touch it needed.

This definitely isn't my prettiest cake. The nuts prohibited me from using a frosting bag, and I didn't want to get too thick with the frosting, as I thought it might be overwhelming. It didn't matter though- between my mom's coworkers and my family, we wolfed down these cupcakes before anyone could take a good look!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The eventual bootees

finished object friday

Keeping with the theme of the results from the Ravellenic games, I submit to you my second medal winning FO!

I bought a bag of Cascade's Pima Tencel approximately a year and half ago, if not  more. I had originally intended to use up all those deliciously soft skeins in a sweater, but post February Lady, I still had more than a few skeins left. So I knit a mini February Lady, but I still had skeins leftover. Bootees would fix that lingering problem, right?


Fast forward over a year later. I still hadn't made those bootees. Talk about a challenge! That's what prompted me to throw these in for the competition: I just could not motivate myself to knit them!

I'm not sure what was stalling me out. When I eventually knit them, I discovered that the Saartje's Bootees weren't hard to knit. The pattern just flew by,  and it was  so interesting in terms of construction. I managed to finish them during two of my sister's volleyball lessons, earning quite a few stares from some of the kids there. I really do love this pattern and all of the different variations that people have made.

Unfortunately my intentions toward destashing didn't go so well; I still have quite a few more skeins of this yarn left over. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the rest! There's a definite limit as to what babies can wear!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Eyre Affair

book review thursday

book review thursday
I hate to use the word unique, because honestly, it seems like that word has become over-used, but I'm at a loss for another appropriate word to describe The Eyre Affair. After some serious searching on GoodReads, I stumbled across the title and was delighted to see that it was available at my local library. Not as an audiobook, unfortunately (I'm beginning to suspect that one of my first indulgences post-graduation and steady employment will be an Audible account), but a paper copy.

As I've mentioned countless times before, once I started up knitting, I've been seriously disinclined to reading paper copies of books. E-Books are slightly more likely to be read, but for the most part, I stick to the audio version. It's just easier. Luckily, the library copy of the book was both hardcover an well read, so it lay flat on the table and I could happily knit away as I read it.

The spine was well used for a reason- the book was just what I was looking for! Jasper Ffore managed to weave a story incorporating some of my favorite literary themes. A dystopia/evil government, a plucky heroine, parallel universes, fabulous books, and a decent mystery. I absolutely adored it, and can't wait to read it again and again. In fact, I fully intend to rush to the library upon opening hour.

(5/5 stars)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Call Me Maybe?

a few of my favorite things

Someone shared this on Ravelry the other day, and I can't help but crack up every time I watch it... And yes, there have been multiple times. I absolutely love the ones that totally get into it and sing along.

Of course, watching this video means I get the most earwormy song of the summer stuck in my head, but it's totally worth it!

Also: I'm moving tomorrow. Eek!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The first gold medal

finished object friday

It's time for a finished object- and my Ravellenic glory!


I finished my brompton after only about four days in a row in which I was utterly convinced that I was going to be done that day. Darn those button band and sleeves!

Just kidding. The entire project was absolutely lovely to knit, and I sped through it consequentially. The yarn was super soft, and it had decent stitch definition, and is a great neutral color. I can see myself wearing this over and over again.


Unfortunately, so could my mom. I had to literally wrestle it away from her. She was quite content  to wear it for all of eternity. And this is the woman who is never, ever, ever cold!

The pattern was really pretty, though there were some parts that I found incredibly confusing. I actually wound up ignoring the instructions for the sleeves and just picked up six stitches when I got to them because I just couldn't wrap my brain around what she was saying. It turned out lovely anyway, with no holes in the armpits.


I did do one modification- I didn't knit the cuffs flat. I knit half of one, decided I just didn't have it in me, and instead just switched to my size twos and knit in the round with no  increases. I made a button hole in the begining of the last repeat, finished both sleeves and weaved in  all the ends and sewed on all the buttons... and realized that the button holes are on the same side. So instead of them both being on the outside of my wrist, one is on the inside and one is on the outside.

BUT, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.


I can't decide whether I like the sleeves unrolled or cuffed better! Either way, I can't seem to keep this sweater off me, even though it's approximately 111 degrees out. I just can't get over the fact that I knit an entire sweater in a week and a half. Seriously. I am a  true knitting athlete.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bookmarked for Death, or at Least a Bad Review

book review thursday

book review thursday
I am so disappointed by Bookmarked for Death. The first book promised an interesting setting, quirky side characters, and a great concept. The writing wasn't the best, but it was enjoyable enough to make me excited to see how the author grew as a writer in the rest of the series.
This book completely changed my opinion. The flaws of the first book seemed even worse in this novel. The main character is an absolute shell, as is her boyfriend. I can't think of any adjectives to describe either of them, apart from "perfect". She's generous, intelligent, thin, and a great boss. Apart from that? There was no spark of life in her. No soul to her. In a genre where likeable characters is imperative, the author really missed the mark.

The plot? Incredibly predictable. The minute the topic of food poisoning came up, I instantly knew who the killer was, so there was no fun in guessing. The "red herring" the author threw out there was incredibly unbelievable.

The ending was really what clinched my dislike. There was a sitcom-esque wrap up where everyone talked about how grateful they were for the main character. The only thing that was missing was a rousing chorus of "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow". I really don' think I'll be continuing this series- again the disappointment! I absolutely adore the concept, but the delivery is just too unreadable.

(1/5 stars)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

This is a marathon, not a sprint

wip wednesday

The good news is, I finished my Ravellenic sweater. It's fabulous. It was such a joy to knit, and I'll be talking about it more on Friday.

The bad news is that finishing the sweater meant I had to turn to my other daunting goal for the games: a beaded shawl. I had originally intended to knit a Laminaria, during a quick search after I purchased the yarn. I wanted something BIG and LACEY and easily beaded to suit the fine, beautifully colored yarn ($7 for 1200 yards. Can you believe it?!). I have no idea why I chose the Laminaria pattern because it wasn't easily beaded and frankly, it's not really my aesthetic, nor did it look easily memorized. So after realizing that I was really stalling on knitting this shawl, I decided on a quick change of venue.


Instead, I cast on for a Frozen Leaves and happily began. Not only is the pattern easily beaded, I got to go bead crazy. I'm opting to put beads on the center of the leaves of every other row on chart A, and i'll figure out what to do about the transition rows.

Again, I love beading. I hate working from difficult charts, but I looooove beading. This shawl is turning out to be the best of both worlds because two repeats in and I don't have to look at the pattern, plus I get to spill beads everywhere.

It's actually faster going than  I thought it would be- I'm working on size four needles, and it's producing a lovely airy product that almost looks good enough to leave unblocked. It's still going to be difficult to finish on time- I'm planning on making this extremely large to use up as much yarn as possible, so I still have a good chunk of yardage to go- which is why I spent all day working on it!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

If you're not into yoga / If you have half a brain

cupcake saturday

Well, see, I made these really delicious cupcakes. I mean really delicious. They were so delicious I might have gobbled them all up before I even took a picture.


Just kidding! I took two photos. Then I gobbled them all up. How could I resist? They were pina colada cupcakes with oh my goodness, the best frosting in the universe. I could have sat there with a spoon, which is saying something, since I don't really like frosting.

The cupcakes were super moist and delicious. I wound up adding a bit more pineapple than called for because I wasn't paying attention and had dumped in half a can before I realized what I was doing. I think it actually could have used more pineapple and still would have been delicious, but I tend to add extra fruit in whenever I bake something with a fruity flavor.


I think these actually might have been my favorite cupcakes this year to date- definitely on my repeat offenders list. I can see it now... an entire party with drink themed cupcakes- root beer float, pina colada, and grape soda. I'm begining to suspect I should never have started studying accounting, I should have just started catering kids' parties.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Slight Setback

finished object friday

My Ravellenic knitting hasn't been going as well as I hoped. It hasn't been going poorly, just not as quickly as I hoped. I finished the majority of my Brompton and promptly got sucked into a knitting black hole. I've been a few hours away from finishing for a few days now. I was hoping to make this post my first Ravellenic victory, but that's going to have to wait until I finish a sleeve and half. Maybe tomorrow!


In it's place is a project that was a challenge for an entirely different reason. My Saroyan was absolutely frustrating to knit. For starters, the yarn was gross, as I've mentioned before. It was so underspun and splitty that it honestly felt like I was knitting with a bunch of my hair. That wasn't really the gross part, though. This yarn pilled like crazy, and took nothing to break apart. Literally, I'd tug a little and it would snap in two. I think it might have also contained catnip because cats who normally care nothing about yarn (or alpaca normally) went batshit over it, which was even more frustrating because even the tiniest bat would split the yarn. I think I wound up weaving it over a dozen ends, despite only using two, knotless skeins. It also had horrible stitch definition, which made all of my hard work feel rather useless. I may eventually reknit the pattern in a yarn that shows it off better.


The pattern itself was easy to memorize, and would have been quick and enjoyable, had I not been forced to frog it several times. I wasn't entirely certain how wide to make it, as I don't have a scale to measure properly. I wound up ripping it out halfway through and doing nine increase repeats.


I really do like the finished project! Well, I did once I washed all the cat spit out of it. While I still don't like the sheen on the yarn, the color is a beautifully warm brown, and the coupling of yarn with the pattern remind me of a cozy fall day. I can't wait to wear it, snuggling up with some apple cider and a good book!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Killer Pancakes

book review thursday

book review thursday
Again, another book that I'm feeling pretty ambivalent about. I'm not sure if it's because I'm ready to move on from the genre, or if it was the book itself, but Killer Pancakes by Dianne Mott Davidson failed to grab my attention.

There was nothing in particular I could point out about why I never really was fully invested. Maybe that was part of the problem: it was so bland. It wasn't good, wasn't bad, just... bland.

It wasn't memorable either- I'm writing this a few days after I finished it and I'm struggling to come up with the plot. Beauty Counter drama! The lack of Marla, and emphasis on Goldie's appearance made the book lackluster.

I have one more cozy mystery checked out from the library, and three non-cozy mysteries as well. Hopefully that break will be enough to give me back my enthusiasm!

(Also: shortest review ever.)

(2/5 stars)