Sunday, June 26, 2011

FO: orange socks

Details: a made-up pattern for a six-year-old
Knit toe-up until I had just under half the skein (by weight) on the sock
Includes an Eye of Partridge heel and a heel flap
Yarn: Heart and Sole, in "Tequila Sunrise", 1 skein
Needles: size 2 wooden, two 16" needles from Knitpicks

Comments: the knitting itself was quite easy. The yarn was disappointing... some underdyed spots and one long run of white (totally undyed) at the top of the right sock. Fortunately, my son declares that he still loves them. Now they go into a bag with some lavender until the cold weather comes back.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More books: top ten SF recommendations

Since I restricted myself to General Reading in yesterday's post, I thought I'd hit one of my favorite genres today: Science Fiction! A couple of the books in this list are borderline fantasy, but I maintain that anything with a scientific/rational background counts, even if the underlying tropes are closer to fantasy. So these aren't necessarily my favorites, but they're the ones I most recommend to others:

Startide Rising by David Brin - actually, the entire 6-book series is great, but this one (#2) is the best of them. This is one of the best alien-contact novels I've ever read. Despite being published in the '80s, it still feels very current. Plus - hey, talking, poetry-writing dolphins!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - this is a fantastic YA novel in addition to being a brilliant dystopian novel. While you're at it, read the entire trilogy.

HellSpark by Janet Kagan - 50 scientists from 50 different cultures, isolated on a planet to decide whether the natives are sentient. This is an adventure novel, scientific mystery, comedy, and murder mystery wrapped into one!

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker - the whole series "The Company" is just great, but this one (#1) really sets the stage for all that follows. This is a very cool time-travel concept, in addition to having love-lorn cyborgs and a great perspective on history.

Raising the Stones by Sheri S. Tepper - this might be the best Utopian/Dystopian novel I've ever read. It's the first in the trilogy that continues with Grass and SideShow.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - the best time travel book I've ever read. It's also hysterically funny. Fans of Regency romances will either be horrified or delighted.

Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold - this is fairly late in the long-running Vorkosigan Saga, but I think it's a great place to first enter the series. Any of the other books will do, too. (DH suggests Shards of Honor or Mirror Dance as alternate entry points.)

The Skinner by Neal Asher - for those who like their SF brisk and bloody, this is like catnip.

GlassHouse by Charles Stross - for those who like their SF subversive, thought-provoking, and gender-bending... this one is sheer genius.

The Prefect by Alistair Reynolds - a great SF mystery/ suspense novel. This is vaguely part of a longer running series, but takes place several hundred years before the others, so it's a good place to enter.

The Many-Colored Land by Julian May - this reads like epic fantasy but is firmly grounded in an esoteric branch of physics that allows time-travel. Yes, I just realized that I have three time-travel books on this list. In this one, they go back 6 million years and stay there, so it almost doesn't count.

And here are the ones that didn't quite make the cut:

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov - I know most people would pick his Foundation series as their representative work, but I think this stand-alone novel is his strongest SF. The alien race is portrayed movingly and convincingly.

Sky so Big and Black by John Barnes - one of my favorite YA SF novels. Set on Mars, it follows a teen-aged prospector as she searches the highlands for water with her father. The novel is set within a larger series about the take-over of Earth by sentient programs, but this one pretty well stands alone.

DragonFlight by Anne McCaffrey - this, the first in the very long series, reads like fantasy, but later volumes set it firmly within the realms of SF. The whole series is pretty good but I still return to this one as my favorite.

Dune by Frank Herbert - I feel like this hasn't worn so well as other classic works, but it's still worth reading. Don't see the movies.

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge - don't bother with the sequels, which lack the charm of this one. It's one of the coolest dual-culture novels out there, and has aged very well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

10 on Tuesday: ten books you would recommend to a friend

This is a great topic! Since I actually can't come close to narrowing it down to ten books, I think I'm going to cover this over the next few days... but for today, I'll talk about ten general-reading books I would recommend. While a few of them have supernatural elements, these were all sold out of the "General Fiction" section at my local bookstore, rather than being in a genre such as SF/F or Horror. (Actually, a couple of them are nonfiction... go figure.)

1) The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - this book is truly stunning, amazing, and life-altering. I actually have only reread it once, because so much of it makes me cry, but I still remember much of it by heart.

2) Persuasion by Jane Austen - this is the first "classic" novel that I truly enjoyed reading. I also adore the movie.

3) Sandman by Neil Gaiman - this is actually a series of graphic novels. Start almost anywhere. I don't actually recommend #1 because the series got much better after that; I think #8 ("The Sound of her Wings") is a very good place to dive in. This is tragic, literary, funny, transgressive, and amazingly moving.

4) Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond - this is actually nonfiction, but so grippingly told that it's better than most fiction out there. Have you ever wondered why Europeans ended up dominating the last few thousand years of history? Hint: it's not because they're smarter, it's because they had better natural resources.

5) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - this book makes the Old Testament come alive. It's the second thing I ever read with my book group and love of it kept me going through 4.5 years of lousy books choices after that, until we moved away.

6) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - this novel is a love letter to the vocation of the historian, in addition to having vampires.

7) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - one of the few epistolary novels I've truly enjoyed, and a love letter to the avocation of being a reader.

8) Fledgling by Octavia E Butler - another vampire novel, but so moving and personal that it transcends the genre. I am so sad that Ms. Butler passed away before she could write more in this series.

9) The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louis Erdich - a gorgeous, unexpected, moving novel about immigrants, love, and World War II.

10) Atonement by Ian McEwan - I didn't see the movie because I loved the book so much. I don't think anything can compare with the twists of Part II and Part III, as the truth of the betrayal slowly gets laid out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Books of May and early June

I just realized that, having fallen out of the blogging habit, I am very far behind in recording my books. I'm bound to miss a few today, so tomorrow's post will probably have to include the clean-up.

A Late Phoenix, His Burial Too, Henrietta Who, Some Die Eloquent, all by Catherine Aird - it's always nice to find a new-to-me author who has already published 20+ novels! These are English countryside mysteries, all starring the same essential cast, with unusually baroque plots. Lots of fun.
Witches Bane by Susan Wittig Albert - a modern mystery set in rural Texas. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the mystery and the heroine. I hope the love lasts through the rest of the series. (Note: this is actually #2 because the library didn't have #1 in stock.)
Duplicate Death, Death in the Stocks, Behold Here's Poison, No Wind of Blame, A Blunt Instrument, They Found Him Dead all by Georgette Heyer -I like her mysteries better than I like her romances, which means that I like her mysteries very much, indeed.
A Spider on the Stairs, Trick of the Mind, Village Affairs all by Cassandra Chan - while the books are long on dialogue and short on description, I really enjoyed all of them. They reminded me of early Martha Grimes, without the weird complications from the pubs. I accidentally read the series backward, as they became available at the library... now I only have to track down #1 to complete the set.

Fantasy and Science Fiction:
Septimus Heap #2: Flyte by Angie Sage - not as good as the first one; I haven't sought the rest of the series after reading this one, which probably says a good deal about how much I didn't enjoy it.
AI War: The Big Boost by Daniel Keys Moran - this was very enjoyable but not the jaw-dropping, work-stopping amazement that I had hoped it might be. It reads exactly like its predecessors. This is both a virtue (it's very funny) and a detriment (the character development sucks.)
Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth - a vampire who works for the president, and his rather hapless human aide. Good fun.

The Ghost Map by Steven Berlin Johnson - the first 3/4 were a gripping description of the cholera outbreak in London; the last 1/4 slowed a bit, but overall this was a fantastic book.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 favorite love songs

"Ice Cream" by Sarah McLaughlin
"Just Like You" by Voice of the Beehive
"Hey There Delilah" by The Plain White T's
"Sunday Morning" by Maroon Five
"Lady in Red" by Chris De Burgh
"Always a Woman" by Billy Joel
"You're Still the One" by Shania Twain
"Iris" by the Goo-Goo Dolls
"Sealed with a Kiss" by the Beatles

And the ones that didn't make the list, because even though they're romantic, they're really break-up songs...
"Strawberry Wine" by Deana Carter
"I'm Never Gonna Dance Again" by Wham!
"Last Christmas" by Wham!
"Travelin' Soldier " by the Dixie Chicks

Sunday, June 12, 2011

First woven scarf!

The pictures don't completely capture the colors in it; it's a little more green and a little less blue.

Details: Woven on a 15-inch rigid heddle loom by Schacht, with a 10-dent heddle
Yarn: Alto by Abstract Fiber
Weave: I can't remember the technical term for this... it's just a plain weave, "over under over under" for 5 yards or so.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Little Girl's Shrug #288

In the past four days, I have knit a pair of mittens (see previous post) and a baby sweater (see below). I also attended an 8-hour weaving class at WEBS and made myself a pretty nice 5 foot scarf (photos next week. I promise.)

Unfortunately, the loom I bought was missing the heddle, so I can't do more weaving until I have time to get to WEBS to replace it, and all the knitting has given me a sore left hand and elbow. So I'm going to go slowly with the crafting for the next few days!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

More mittens

Yes, that joke about how I should have chosen the blogger-name "Mitten Mama" is getting another workout this week.

Here's why:

Details: size 3 wooden needles (16" circs, two of 'em) from KnitPicks.
KnitPicks' Swish DK Superwash in black and red (about half of a skein of each.)
Mittens were made to fit a 4-year-old child.
Obviously, his initials are "JG" and no, I haven't actually seen them on him yet.

We got the invitation to the birthday party on Thursday morning. It's now Saturday evening. I knit that pair of mittens in 2 days. I think the first one took about 6 hours and the second one took about 4.5 hours.