Friday Reads: Staked

61s9Za+blKL._SL300_.jpgStaked: Iron Druid Chronicles #8
2016 Book Challenge: a book set in a different country
by Kevin Hearne
narrated by Luke Daniels

I enjoyed this book, but I find myself hoping that the series ends soon. I still like the characters, but I’m ready for the series arc to be over. I would, in some ways, be happier if the Iron Druid Chronicles ended, and a new series took its place. I guess it’s selfish, but I want the series to finish while I’m still enjoying it.

As you can tell from the title, this book is essentially Druids vs. Vampires. And it’s mostly action, with only a few humorous moments. Fortunately, we do get sections with both wolfhounds being silly, but nothing near as silly as Oberon was in the first couple books. It was good to see some of the characters from early in the series return, but I won’t go into who in case you don’t want spoilers. There were sad moments too, but again I’m not spoiling that.

In general, I feel that this was a good installment in the series, but almost that it was a stepping stone to the endgame. Yes, it had a distinct book plot separate from the series plot. It was well written, has good characters, etc. But it still partly felt like something that had to be done to get us where we need to be for the final battles with Loki.

I really can’t say much of anything about the plot without getting into major spoilers, so I won’t. However, if you are reading this series mostly for the humor instead of the plot or character development, then savor the part with Nigel in Toronto at the beginning, because humor mostly comes in one-liners once the book gets going. There is a lot of plot and character development going on to fill the gaps, though. LOTS going on. I do enjoy the bits of Granuaile’s character development especially. But this is a darker book than many in the series, and not just because they’re fighting vampires at night.

Anyway, I still enjoy the books. And I especially enjoy the narration. Luke Daniels does a great job of keeping all of the characters distinct, and even manages to be understandable when he’s switching between accents. I am glad I started out with this series on Audible. It adds a lot to the enjoyment factor for me.

WIP Weds ~ Retro GAL

(No, that’s not Retro Gal, as in a girl who is retro. It’s Retro GAL, as in a retro Geek-A-Long square. But yes, the pun is intentional.)

Today’s WIP Weds has two Works-In-Progress to show you. First is the aforementioned Retro GAL Square:

The Mario Mushroom GAL Square from 2014! I know, there are still Mario games around and about. But I feel that the mushroom is more representative of the classic Mario games, and so qualifies as retro. (YMMV, of course.)

Second up we have the spinning I got done for the Tour de Fleece:

Tour de Fleece 2016

(The yarn is more purple that it looks on my monitor. There are also some fun sections of chocolate brown, royal blue, and baby blue. Plus IT SPARKLES.)

Yes, I realize that since the TdF is over, this could be considered a finished project and not one in progress. However, since I still have more of this fiber to spin which I haven’t gotten done yet, I’m considering it still a WIP. I’m definitely over half-way done, though! I’m looking forward to having all the spinning finished for this project so I can start the knitting.

Ten On Tuesday ~ Heatwave

The Ten On Tuesday prompt for July 26, 2016 is 10 Ways to Beat the Heat.
Have fun!

Sounds like great timing! We’ve been getting hot weather now in my part of California. While I loved the spring-in-July we had been getting, this is more “normal”. If the weather patters can truly be said to be “normal” anymore.

Anyway, here are the first 10 ways I can think of to beat the heat:

  1. Go swimming.
  2. Ice cream!
  3. Watch a movie in an air conditioned cinema.
  4. Take a road trip to somewhere with snow. (Provided you are lucky enough to live close enough to one of these places. We used to go on vacations that took us places like Mt. Shasta, and snow in summer was always a weird thing for me.)
  5. Shave ice. (We usually got ours at the Boardwalk.)
  6. Afternoon naps. (Alas, work gets in the way. When I’m able, though, I love napping in the afternoon and staying up later at night when it’s cool.)
  7. Sit / lay on tile floors. (Our pets have this one down.)
  8. When you go outside, wear tank tops, shorts, and big floppy hats. (And lots of sunscreen.)
  9. Popsicles! (We used to love combining a Popsicle with vanilla ice cream. Home-made creamsickle in any flavor!)
  10. Root beer floats. (Yes, ice cream features in a lot of my ideas. What of it?)

Try to stay cool! (Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. And then I guess it would be “try to stay warm.”)

Friday Reads: the life-changing magic of tidying up

download.jpgthe life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing
2016 Book Challenge: a book that was originally written in a different language
by Marie Kondo
(non-fiction, self-help)

I picked this book up from the library after seeing several references to the KonMari Method on Facebook and among the various Bullet Journal groups I follow. I know that it’s been around a while – the book was published in 2011 (though I think the original Japanese was published earlier) – but it’s only recently come to my attention. The premise sounds good: clean up your life by cleaning up your living space. And it’s Japanese: from what I’ve heard, Japanese homes tend to be smaller (sometimes MUCH smaller) than what Americans are used to. With less room, they have to have some trick of keeping everything organized, right? At least, that’s what I was thinking when I picked up the book.

And the truth to it? Well, while I was reading the book, I wasn’t visualizing Japanese living spaces unless Marie specifically described them. I was thinking about (American) homes I’d lived in or seen. I was thinking in terms of Western housing, and the method still (mostly) worked. There were some things that I have a harder time visualizing – for instance, unless it’s a walk-in closet, I don’t know that Western closets will fit everything she suggests storing there. But the way of choosing what to keep and what to discard, which is at the heart of the KonMari Method, will carry over across cultures.

“Does it spark joy?” is what you’re supposed to ask yourself when deciding what to keep. For some people, this doesn’t need any further elaboration. Other people will have lots of questions. Marie tries to cover all aspects of what this could mean, but there’s one category where I think she falls a little short. For me, I have things which don’t spark joy themselves, but which I use for things that make me happy. For instance: my mixing bowls. These are not designer bowls. Yes, I have seen some lovely mixing bowls, and they would probably make me happy to own them. Mine are not like that; they are simple metal mixing bowls. When it comes down to it, they’re just bowls. Useful but basic. However, they are easy to use and make cooking easier, and as such I enjoy my cooking more. Not because of the mixing bowls themselves, but because of their usefulness. I have read other reviews where the readers couldn’t make this leap, and they were complaining that some items were just items and didn’t need to “spark joy” – that joy wasn’t their purpose. In some respects I agree with them, but I think that by taking the implications along with what Marie actually wrote, we can get a better use out of the book.

(Random thought – what if your house itself doesn’t “spark joy”? Or your car? Those are a lot harder to discard and replace, but if I’m understanding the KonMari Method correctly, you’re supposed to discard everything that doesn’t spark joy. Hmm. Interesting thing to consider.)

So, that’s a bit of what I think of the method. What about the book itself?

There are times when it’s clear that the book was translated. Every now and then the word choice seems to be a little more suited to the Japanese then English language. However, in general it is a smooth translation and seems to maintain the author’s original intent. The writing is clear, and I found it to be a fast read. One of the main things which I had to keep reminding myself of was that in this case, “tidying” meant “decluttering.” Day-to-day cleaning wasn’t what was being discussed in this book. This isn’t the magic of vacuuming, but the magic of getting rid of unwanted belongings.

At times I did think there was a little (or a lot) more repetition than was necessary. I had to remind myself, however, that this is a self-help book, and some people need the content described in different ways in order to fully grasp it. Marie could have stuck to one example each, but that would not have been serving her audience well since some of her readers wouldn’t have connected to her examples and therefore would be unable to translate the KonMari Method into their lives. It got a bit annoying to me, but not so much that it stopped me from reading the book. (On the other hand – I had checked out both this book and Spark Joy from the library, and the repetition in this one made me return the second one unread.)

This is definitely worth picking up if you think you need help with getting your house in order, or if you want suggestions on a good way to keep your space tidy. It seems that the KonMari storage method will work quite well, though I’m guessing since I haven’t tried it yet. One word of warning: if you pick this up because someone else thinks you should, I don’t think it will be any use at all. As with most self-help books, it will only do you any good if you actually want it to.

As a sidebar, you may recall that I added the KonMari Method of tidying to my 101 in 1001 list of things to do. I had started this book when I wrote that list, but I hadn’t gotten very far into it by that point. I had planned to wait to start implementing the KonMari Method until I had a little more free time. However, now that I have finished the book, I find that I’m excited to start it NOW. So I’m going to start now, while the inspiration is there. I realize that this means I’m starting to tidy while I’m already busy with other things, so I might not move as quickly through the process as intended. However, Marie also mentioned that this one-shot tidying could take 6 months, so I guess I’m not expected to finish in a weekend or something unreasonable. Also, it is possible that the act of tidying will free up space in my home and life for the other things which are keeping me busy.

I do still intend to work at the KonMari Method for 3 months, and see at that point how useful I feel it is. I may keep going indefinitely; I may adapt the method at that point to suit my needs and desires; I may quit entirely. Some of the aspects of KonMari make a lot of sense to me (such as organizing by category and not by location) while others don’t make any sense at all. For instance, I scoff a little at the thought of talking to my things to thank them. (My attitude seems to be more common among Westerners, yet I do recall seeing some anime films/shows where the characters thank inanimate objects. I suspect it’s cultural.) But I will try it, since that is part of the KonMari Method. Who knows? 3 months of thanking things before I donate them may change my mind. It will certainly have the bonus of making me aware that there is always something to be grateful for.

WIP Weds ~ and the GAL keeps going

It seems my WIP Weds posts have been all Geek-A-Long, all the time these days. I guess that’s what happens when you commit to a year-long project. So, here’s more of the GAL progress! First the square I finished over the weekend:

Finished GAL Pac-Man square

Pac-Man, woot! I love the way this turned out, even though I did tweak the colors slightly. (As I mentioned in my prior WIP post about it, the hot pink “should” be red, and the purple-pink color should be a more true pink. But oh well, I like these colors. Also, they’re what I already had, and I’m trying to not buy any more yarn for this.)

Here’s the back side, which is also fun but which I don’t like quite as much:

Finished GAL Pac-Man square

And of course since I finished a square there has been progress on a new square. This one is a 2014 square, but which fits in perfectly with the 2016 video games theme: the Mario Mushroom!

I’m enjoying this one, too. I have gotten a little further along than this picture indicates, but not too far yet. I decided to use this highlighter color for it instead of red (as the original was designed with) because – again – it’s what I had that felt appropriate. It’s a fun color which makes me smile, anyway.

And there’s a new project, too! This one is the Leaving Cowl, and it’s the start of my Christmas knitting.

There has been more progress on this too, but since it’s my current work break knitting I haven’t had a chance to get an updated photo lately. I’m doing the picot edge option for this cowl, and am using yarn that I had originally bought for the 2015 GAL blanket, before I decided that I didn’t want to spend a full year on a double knitting project in sport weight. (I much prefer DK in fingering weight.)

Anyway, that’s what I’m up to. Hope you’re doing something fun!

Friday Reads ~ The Carpet People (& Book Challenge Update)

I haven’t done an overall Book Challenge update in a while now, have I? Well, I’ll do one today. Here’s the updated picture with my full challenge progress, and my weekly book review will follow:

Book Challenge 7-7-16

I’m certainly making progress, but there’s still a long way to go! And now for this week’s review:

17836100The Carpet People
2016 Book Challenge: a popular author’s first book

by Terry Pratchett

To start with, I didn’t even know this book existed until I started looking up debut novels by popular authors for this challenge. I figured I’d get to re-read the first Discworld book or something. Instead, I found that Sir Terry published his first novel at the age of seventeen and it had nothing to do with Discworld. So of course I had to read it, if for no other reason than to see how his writing style evolved.

After I read the book, I read a few reviews of it, and was a bit surprised by some of them. They complain that the book feels like someone trying to copy Pratchett’s style, except that it’s actually him. Well, duh. Did you not see the publication date, or the note in the introduction that says he was seventeen when it was published? He *was* trying to copy his style. He was trying to figure out exactly what that style was, I suspect. And yes, the version I read was not the first edition, so it had been revised a bit by the author later in life, once he’d figured out his writing style.

Anyway, about The Carpet People: it is an amusing book, as you would expect. It has Pratchett’s typical puns, and though they may not be quite the same as the Discworld puns, they are still enjoyable. I got an impression that there were more puns that I wasn’t aware of, due either to American vs. British pronunciation or due to contextual references that we don’t usually get on this side of the pond. This didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story, however. It was still a quick, fun read. (I read the ebook version, and have no idea how long the book would be in paper format.)

I enjoyed trying to figure out the references to human objects. Sometimes it was easier than others. “Achairleg”, for instance, was an easy one. Others were more difficult – and I’m not going to describe them here, in case you want to read the book yourself. It’s certainly worth checking out, and half the fun is in the discovery.

The illustrations included are also a lot of fun. They were drawn by Pratchett at the same time the book was written. Very silly drawings, and they did add to the story. Speaking of adding to – the ebook version I read also had the very first published appearance of the Carpet People at the back, after the story was over. It was published in serial form, and while it’s not the same story, it has the same character names and basic ideas. Even as it was fun to see how Pratchett’s style evolved from The Carpet People to Discworld, it was also fun to see how the Carpet People themselves evolved.

So, yes: this book is worth checking out. Granted, I think you will enjoy it most if you read it as what it is: the debut novel of a very popular and prolific author, written when he was a teenager. But if you enjoy Pratchett’s style at all, I do think you will enjoy this story.

WIP Weds ~ the good and the bad

Today we have a blog post about the good and the bad of knitting. The good (details and pictures at the end) is the Geek-A-Long blanket. I’m still really enjoying knitting that, and am surprising myself by still working on it. Usually by now with a KAL I would have given up or lost interest. I’m not sure if I’m “on track” with the GAL knitting (and I’m not looking it up just now because I want to focus on the fun I’m having with it) but I’m still working on it and that is something great!

The bad is… well, less great. I’ve been working on the Noro Feather & Fan Socks lately as my work knitting, and while I enjoy the yarn and the pattern, I don’t enjoy them together. To top it all off, the socks don’t fit right. So, it’s off to the frog pond with this project, and I’ll find something else to knit with the Noro yarn that I love. Maybe a scarf or a shawlette? Noro is such a fun yarn that it deserves to be loved and not tolerated, so I want to be sure to do right by it.

Frog pond!

It can be rough frogging a project, but in this case it was rather cathartic. I wasn’t enjoying the WIP anymore, because the combo of yarn and pattern just wasn’t cutting it. I’m happy to be able to reclaim the yarn for something it will work well for. (It might help that I was frogging while reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, AKA the KonMari method. This sock wasn’t sparking joy.)

Something that is sparking joy, however, is the GAL Blanket. I’m really enjoying all the squares I’ve knit so far, and the latest square is no exception. This one is the Pac-Man square.


I’m enjoying knitting this one up a lot. This is the first square with stripes where I haven’t used a self-striping yarn, because the stripes on the striped yarn I have are too small to cover the whole ghost, and each ghost really needs to be the same color. And yes, I know mine aren’t the “real” colors for the Pac-Man ghosts. (They’re supposed to be orange, blue, pink, and red, and I’ve substituted in a pink-ish purple for the pink. You also can’t tell yet, because it’s not in the picture, but I’m going to use a hot pink for the red.) I think they’re close enough and they’re what I wanted to use. I’m having fun, anyway, so it wouldn’t matter if I picked COMPLETELY wrong colors for the ghosts instead of just SLIGHTLY wrong colors.

Hmm, did I show you the finished Dragon Age square? I don’t think I did, so here it is now.

GAL Dragon Age square

This one was a lot of fun – for some reason this pattern was just really easy and fun to knit. Some of the double-knitting squares just seem easier than others, and this was one of those. I also enjoy the colors, which ended up being very close to the original square’s colors. I didn’t intentionally plan it that way, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

Oh! And there’s one more WIP for today’s post:

Tour de Fleece spinning! This is the third bobbin I’ve filled with 2-ply yarn for this year’s TdF. I’m not positive how much yarn that is yet, but it’s a little over 3 oz of fiber total spun so far. There will be more. For the record, this is the Purple Majesty yarn that I listed on my 101 in 1001 challenge. I’m hoping to get it all spun up by the end of the TdF, but if not I will keep spinning until it’s done. I can only do a bit a day with all the other things I have on my daily to-do lists, but even if I can get no more than a bobbin filled a week I will still finish it semi soon if I just keep spinning. (We saw “Finding Dory” last weekend, so I’ll leave you with that thought. Just keep spinning, just keep spinning…)