WIP Weds ~ the long overdue update

Hi there! It’s Wednesday and I’m posting a blog! Fancy that.

So, WIP Weds have been absent not because there has been no progress, but instead because I have been too lazy to take pictures of the progress. We’re going to do a really quick one today, and I’m sorry (well, not really) but one of the “WIPs” is actually an FO.

We will start with a true WIP, though. Here is the current progress of my Dark Side of the Moon socks:  

I love how the striping is perfectly matched and I DIDN’T HAVE TO DO A THING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN THIS WAY. I love this yarn. And I would happily buy any of their other OCD sock skeins.

Another WIP, and another sock-in-progress is the Flutterby Socks. I don’t have the first sock to show you, because when I gave the first one to my niece to try on, she didn’t want to give it back. However, here’s the status of sock #2:  

I need to get cracking on that one before she outgrows the pair. (However, since I could nearly get the first one on, I think it will still be a while before that happens. On the other hand, she’s young and not used to putting on handknit socks, so it’s still a good idea that I finish these soon.) I do still like the pattern, though not as much as when I started the first sock.

There are other knitting WIPs that I could show you now, but it’s harder to get pictures of them. (Shawls-in-progress at a certain point just look like blobs of yarn.) Instead, I’ll show you the FO I mentioned at the beginning of this post:  

This is the Della Wallet Clutch by Swoon Patterns. It was surprisingly easy to make. The hardest part was turning the wallet right-side-out at the end of the project. I also had to do some online surfing to find the findings at the size listed (my local JoAnn’s has a limited size selection on purse findings), so that was a bit of a pain. However, the wallet itself was easy to sew, fun to make, and I learned some new techniques. I love it! And I loved making it. I will be making more for gifts, and if I ever decide to start an Etsy store, I will probably make some to sell as well, since the designer allows you to sell bags made with this pattern.

Anyway, that’s the WIP Weds for today. Hope you have a great day!

Ten on Tuesday ~ Blueberries for me!

the Ten on Tuesday topic for 7/28/2015 is 10 Favorite Things To Do With Blueberries.
Have fun!

Yum, blueberries. You remember the picture book Blueberries for Sal, right? I do. At the time I read it, however, I was a little unclear on the difference between blueberries and blackberries. Possibly because where we lived, blackberry bushes could be found occasionally, but there weren’t any wild blueberries. Anyway, I love them both, but here are my favorite things (in no particular order) to do with blueberries. (Truth be told, though, I can happily do most of these with just about any kind of berry.)

  1. Bake them in scones. Yum!
  2. Eat them plain! They’re awesome as-is.
  3. Eat them over vanilla ice cream for dessert.
  4. Fruit salad!
  5. Bake them in muffins.
  6. Freeze them (preferably with a mix of other berries) and then blend them up for a quick, no-sugar-added ice cream substitute.
  7. Serve them with yogurt and granola for a home-made breakfast parfait.
  9. Did I mention just grabbing a handful of them and eating them plain? Because that’s probably my favorite way to eat them.
  10. Mixed-in to ice cream (a la ColdStone). I haven’t found a commercial blueberry ice cream that I like yet, but that would be wonderful!

What about you? Any favorites I missed?

Friday Reads: The Shape of Desire

4-3 ShinnThe Shape of Desire
by Sharon Shinn
(contemporary fantasy, mild romance)

This is a really fun novel. I think it’s a standalone book, though it’s possible that it fits in with Shinn’s other shape shifter novels. I have at least one of those on my TBR pile, but since I haven’t read it yet, I’m not sure if this one is in the same universe as that one.

At any rate, the basic premise is that there are shape shifters in our world and we don’t know about them. They change shapes at different rates, some completely at the whim of nature, and others with more control over their changes. Similarly, they don’t always change into the same shape, and most have little to no control over what shape they change into.

For this book, we mostly follow the heroine (and POV character), Maria, as she tries to cope with having a real life and a life with her shape shifter boyfriend, Dante. Dante is animal more often than human, so Maria’s life is strange to say the least. I will admit to getting annoyed with her several times when she was moping over Dante. It was realistic, don’t get me wrong, but it was the kind of attitude that I would smack a friend for. Maria gets mopey when Dante’s an animal, and only gets happy when he’s human or about to become human again. However, this is only for the first part of the book. Then Maria starts to get more involved in her co-workers’ lives (only partly her own doing, and partly in spite of herself) and this makes her a much more interesting character than she was before.

Going much further with the plot would get deep into spoiler territory, so I won’t. However, Shinn is a master of misdirection, and this book has a very fast pace towards the end. In fact, the whole book was a page turner for me. (Maria wasn’t annoying for very long, or I wouldn’t have finished the book.) I ended up finishing it in less than a day, because I needed to know how it ended up. Definitely worth picking up!

Friday Reads: Some Like It Witchy

SomeLikeItWitchySome Like It Witchy: Wishcraft Mystery #5
Heather Blake
(mystery, contemporary fantasy)

Heather Blake’s Wishcraft Mysteries are one of my favorite guilty pleasure reads. They are fun, they are mysteries, and they have magic. What more could you want from a summer beach read? (Not that I have ever read one on the beach…) If you are looking for a deep book, a commentary on the state of society, look elsewhere. But if you want a fun romp through a contemporary magical village, pick these up. (Start at the beginning for the most enjoyment, though if you’re willing to put up with a little minor character & worldbuilding confusion you can really start anywhere. But as with any cozy mystery series, if you don’t start at the start, there will be series spoilers throughout.)

As you would expect, this book starts with a murder. And, as usual, our heroine (Darcy) is the one to discover the body. One of the things that happens more in this book than the others of the series is that we get into Darcy’s specific past a little more than we have since the first book. It’s a nice insight into the personality of the main character. And it’s good to get more history of the town and some of the other characters. I really do enjoy this series, and will keep picking them up from the bookstore for a while yet.

Do they have much re-readability? Well – does any mystery, really? If you want to, you can re-read it to try to find the clues for yourself. I haven’t ever re-read one of this series yet, though, because for me the fun of a cozy mystery is the discovery of the plot. Once I know the plot, I’m not as interested in re-visiting it. Maybe later, after I’ve had a chance to forget the details, and maybe even whodunnit. (In that respect, this is very different from the most classic mystery, like Agatha Christie’s. I could re-read those right away to see if I can pick up on any of the clues, because the writing style is different. Neither is “better,” though. They’re merely different styles.)

Anyway – I do recommend this series if you’re a fan of the cozy mystery genre, especially if you like fantasies as well. This is a good blend of the two genres. Two thumbs up!

Ten on Tuesday ~ We All Scream

The Ten on Tuesday topic for 7/14/15 is 10 Favorite Ice Cream Flavors. Have fun!

Well, this sure is a summery prompt! My top favorite ice cream flavor is the same (has been since I was little), but the rest of my favorites are subject to change. So let’s see what they are today, shall we?

  1. Cookies & Cream
  2. Cherry Garcia
  3. Mocha Almond Fudge
  4. Fudge Ripple – IF you can find a version that has REAL FUDGE as the ripple, and not some lame fake fudge
  5. Vanilla Salted Almond Toffee – from my favorite local ice cream shop, Lottie’s Creamery
  6. Mint Chocolate Chip
  7. Mint Chocolate COOKIE (I think it’s a Ben & Jerry’s flavor)
  8. Coffee
  9. Cherries Jubilee
  10. Americone Dream

Great. Now I want ice cream.

Have a great summer!

Friday Reads: Books 2 and 3 of the Elfhome series

How about a dual book review today, since I’ve devoured this series too quickly for individual reviews? No complaints? Good. (Even if there are, tough. This is how I’m going to do it anyway.) I‘ll try to keep them from getting too long individually, so that this post as a whole doesn’t get too huge.

Wolf Who Rules: Elfhome #2
by Wen Spencer
(fantasy, futuristic urban fantasy, slight romance)

Book one of this series has only one POV character: Tinker, the title character. This second book has two POV characters, both Tinker and Wolf Who Rules, this book’s title character. It’s not at all confusing, in my mind; since Tinker’s world is expanding, it just worked to slowly get to see more of it than what she personally experiences. (Unlike a certain dystopian YA series I couldn’t finish, this switch worked. Probably in part because it’s not a first-person-present narrative.)

Anyway, about the book. This picks up right where the first one left off. It works well, since there is a distinct separation between book 2’s plot and the series arc. (It’s harder to see the difference in book 1, since that novel is setting up the whole series.) This novel’s plot focuses mostly on how the elves will deal with Pittsburgh now seeming to be a permanent part of Elfhome, and how they will manage both the human and oni threats. (The human threat is more of a long-term one, but there are certainly tensions ramping up between the humans and the elves.) To that end, a group of Stone Clan elves are called in to help the Wind Clan, and that causes all sorts of drama.

I really enjoyed reading more about the elven politics. And I enjoyed reading this one for myself (I listened to the audio book for book 1). While I enjoyed the narration for TINKER, I loved reading the elven words for myself. Having at one point started the language creation process for myself, it was really neat to see how the different endings were used to indicate gender, possession, and other little tweaks that are harder to distinguish when listening to the words. That could just be me geeking out over language creation, but that’s okay.

 Elfhome: Elfhome #3
by Wen Spencer
(fantasy, futuristic urban fantasy, slight romance)

In keeping with the POV expansion of the second book, this third installment has no shortage of POV characters. In addition to Tinker and Wolf, we also get POV from Oilcan and Tommy. (At a minimum. There may be others I’ve forgotten.) I have no problem with this, as it makes it more clear that this is not a romance series even though there are sex scenes. This is a fantasy series, and as such multiple narrators is a common thing.

And, as before, this picks up immediately after the events of book 2. (Spoiler alert: I know that there is a book 4, which does NOT start right after book 3 but instead catches up other characters to the “present” time. There is also a planned book 5, which DOES start right after book 3, because — as you will find out if you read this one — the book’s plot is nicely tied up, but the series plot is still wide open for more.)

I devoured this book. I started it Thursday morning, and had finished it by Friday night. And yes, both of those were work days, and I only read during my lunch breaks and once I’d returned home for the day. I found the action nicely spaced with dialogue and more introspection, but the book as a whole was so well paced that I didn’t want to put it down.

I am looking forward to the next installment — or at least, the next installment of the main plotline. I have read the blurb for book 4, and I’m not sure that it’s as interesting to me. I will probably read it, but I might see if my library has it before rushing out to buy it. Book 5, however, will be one I buy.

Tuesday Reads: The Red Plague Affair

(Ooops! I thought I scheduled this as a Friday post, but I guess not!)

 The Red Plague Affair: Bannon & Clare book 2
by Lilith Saintcrow
(steampunk, historical fantasy)

I really enjoyed THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR, book one in this series, so when I saw book 2 on the shelf I had to buy it. And I’m glad I did! It’s another enjoyable romp through the alternate steampunk & sorcery world that Ms. Saintcrow has created.

About this book: first of all, it doesn’t pick up immediately after where the first book left off. Shortly after, I imagine, but not immediately. This is obvious due to the actions which start off the second book: Clare is hunting down his arch-nemesis (Vance) in the sewers, and there seems to be history between them which I do not remember reading about in book 1. However, the reader isn’t lost among this additional backstory. It merely serves as background, and is brought up when relevant to the current events.

Secondly, like the first book, it is nicely and evenly split between the two main characters. I appreciate having them get equal screen time. I still am not sure which of the characters I like better, Bannon or Clare. They have their own peculiarities, and I like each for different reasons.

In some ways, I wish I knew more of the real historical background so that I could better enjoy the changes made for this alternate steampunk history. However, even without knowing the real stuff, I still found that I enjoyed this book immensely, and I got enough of the references (and am quite capable of Googling anything I’m truly curious about) to be entertained instead of annoyed.

This book does make it clear that there is still plenty of room for more books in the series without ending on a cliffhanger or with an only partial ending. (I do appreciate complete endings in books, even when it’s clear that there’s plenty of room for a series. Thank you, Ms. Saintcrow!) And at least for now, I will be continuing with this series. It’s a nice world to play in. I do appreciate a good steampunk, where the steampunk part has a point other than “to look cool,” and it’s given purpose in this world. The steampunk is a nice balance to the magic, and works really well with the Holmsian geniuses that also populate the world.

This novel is definitely worth a read, if you haven’t yet, though I HIGHLY recommend starting with book 1. You could technically start with book 2, but there would be tons of book 1 spoilers, and the nuances of the world would make a lot more sense starting at the beginning. (Another thing I appreciate about Ms. Saintcrow’s work – she gives you the history of the prior book without babysitting you through a complete outline. But it does mean that if you miss a book, you will miss many details that would help your enjoyment of the current book.) Anyway, long story short: I am a fan of this series.