30 October 2020
29 October 2020
First of all, thank you for the anniversary wishes after yesterday's post! We had a very nice, veryveryvery low-key day, and it seemed like a long day in the best way possible.
Today I have decided that I will participate in Three on Thursday, because I have had these items in my brain for about a week, and thought you might get a charge out of them (or at least two of them which are admittedly very odd).
Three Things We Have In Our House That You Are Unlikely to Have In Yours
1. An envelope tucked into your physical, printed photo albums that is marked "Spare Heads." Years ago, before digital photographs, we would find on occasion that when we went to include photos in our albums, there would be people we no longer really liked or had not heard from for years. The solution? Replace their heads in the photos! This was when we had subscriptions to print magazines and to the one of the all-time best sources for Spare Heads, the TV Guide! We would carefully cut out the heads of celebs and replace them onto the photos. So it is not unusual to see photos of a dinner party attended by Omar Sharif and Charo, or Luciano Pavarotti with spaghetti coming out of his mouth on a picnic with us. At the time, we were finding that often we needed a Spare Head and didn't have one at the that moment, hence the envelope. Why get rid of it now?
2. Three accordions (not the ones below, this is a random Pinterest image).
28 October 2020
Today I decided that I had it together enough to post for Unraveled Wednesday, which is always fun because I enjoy seeing what everyone is reading and making. Here's my entry. 😊
I am almost finished with this book. It's pretty amazing to read, and gives you a true understanding of just where the author started out and how he fit in to his large family.
26 October 2020
I hope your weekend was as good as ours was! Even better, it seemed nice and long, but in a good way. Plus, I managed to finish what I am 99.99999% certain is really and truly the last gift knit for this year!
Project: Tim's Christmas Shortie Slipper Socks
Pattern: Just a plain vanilla sock pattern, made into shortie socks, with a few tweaks (I can share it if you like, but it's nothing new I have to warn you!)
Yarn: Plymouth Encore Worsted in the colorways Merry (main color), and Christmas Red (accents color)
Needles: US size 5
Notes: I have been wanting to make another pair of shortie slipper socks for The Tim, and when I remembered I had some Christmas-y yarns, it seemed like the perfect idea. I knew I could get them finished fairly quickly, since they were both shortie socks, and the yarn was worsted. And they did zip right along, taking only two weeks of somewhat regular knitting. I'm so thrilled with how they turned out, and have decided that this is the pair I will give him for his birthday, so that he can be wearing them during Christmastime. He has been wearing the previous pair of mismatched ones I made for him over the summer almost non-stop the past couple of days, since we've had some cool and damp temperatures.
I must say this pleases me, since I like it when I don't have a lot of yarn left over - this will be just fine for an accent on something, or even for a little decoration or ornament. 😊
Unless I come across someone who simply *must* have something very quick for the holidays, I would say I'm finished with my gift knitting - yay! Of course, The Tim has been known to casually mention something like, "Oh you know what would be nice if you wanted to knit me a gift - [insert item]." Usually, though when he sees me working on gifts, he'll mention it and so far this year he hasn't so I should be safe, to to speak ...
Yesterday afternoon, I put 4 blocks onto my Cozy Squares of Memory blanket, but other than that, right now, I have nothing going on my needles! But never fear, yesterday I wound up a skein of yarn for a pair of socks for me, and even knit a swatch for a future project. The socks will definitely be started today, and we'll see what the swatch has to say before moving forward on anything else.
I should have plenty of knitting time this week, as the only day I will be going into to work is on Thursday. I generally also go in on Tuesdays, but tomorrow morning I have a couple of medical things, and decided that instead of worrying how long anything might take, I'd just use the day as a sick day. It always makes me extra anxious to sit in a waiting room and wonder how late I'll be to work, and these days, I decided I just don't need the extra stress if it can be avoided.
I hope it will be a good week for all of us. I can't believe it's already the last week of October. Time seems to be either standing still, or zooming along - no in betweens, at least for me. Take care, and happy knitting, reading, stitching, or whatever pleases you!
22 October 2020
Say THAT one really fast! 😂
Today is Three on Thursday, with Carole and the others, and I actually have enough brain space to participate, though I have no particular "theme" going this week. But here you go.
1. I had a really hard time sleeping last night, so this morning on the way to work, I stopped to actually get a [small] coffee (I KNOW!) since I have to be at work and in meetings all day. Even if I'm not actually participating, I wanted to at least look awake. Anyway, I stopped at the Wawa, and they had a huge inflated Frankenstein holding up a sign for one of their promotions. I was waiting to pay, and the cutest little boy was with his mom in front of me (she said he had just turned 3 years old). He turned around and said hello, and I told him I liked his mask (it had pumpkins and witches on it). Then he pointed to the Frankenstein, and I said, "I know, he's so big. It's a little bit creepy, don't you think?" And he moved a bit closer, put out his hand as if to comfort me, and said, "Don't worry, it's just a big blowed-up thing." I have to say, that made my day. So remember, don't necessarily be scared if it's only a "big blowed-up thing."
2. We received this flyer in the mail the other day, and Mr. Laff Riot - The Tim - added some embellishment:
20 October 2020
19 October 2020
We had a nice weekend. I got my hair cut on Saturday morning, so that was the highlight for me, because not only did it feel good to get my hair under control, but I had someone to go, legitimately! Other than that, we did the usual - meaning we stayed close to home - but the weather was nice, and we were not on anyone else's schedule.
You may remember that last week I mentioned being behind on a couple of FO posts - the first was the Yukon Cornelius socks, which you saw here, and now here's the second one.
Project: Amir's Scrappy Hat
Pattern: St Mungo's Simple Hat
Yarn: The only scraps of yarns that still had bands on them were Ancient Arts Fibre Sock in the Orange Tabby colorway, and Nomadic Yarns Trusty Sock in the Slutty Pumpkin colorway. All of the rest are either additional leftovers, or minis from an Advent calendar a couple of years ago.
Needles: US size 6
Notes: This is the last of the hats I was knitting for Christmas gifts this year. Amir is the son of one of my nieces' partners, and though I'm not sure he will care for either the hat nor the colors, it's a gift and up to him to do what he wants with or about it.
I love the way it turned out, and again was pleased that I was able to finish off so much leftover yarn. This is the second time I've knit this pattern, and it is definitely a keeper. It knits up quickly, and you can make the yarn(s) do the talking, or just make it plain and conservative if you prefer.
Plus, the crown of the hat is just so cool!
So now all of the gifts I need to mail are finished, and it's just a matter of getting them ready for that once things get closer. But even more exciting to me, is that I've used up SO MUCH leftover yarn! I still have plenty of odds and ends left, but these projects for gifts definitely took care of more than half of what existed previously.
And because I've really liked all of the scrappy projects I've made, I have an idea in my head for one I'd like to make for myself. I don't know why I never knit any scrappy projects before, and now I'm kind of hooked on them. 😉
16 October 2020
Today is rainy and chilly here in Philadelphia, and it is a perfect day to have to be at home! Granted, we will need to take Hamlet out a couple of times, but otherwise, it's inside and cozy all day!
I have only one specific thing for this post, and then the rest is just random stuff I've thought or felt or whatever, so if you have come for compelling commentary on a particular topic, you may want to stop reading now. 😼
- First things first: Hamlet, the kitties and I are participating in the 2020 Virtual PAWS Mutt Strut next Saturday, and I'm sharing our fundraising page. Trust me, I know money is tight, so there is no pressure to contribute, but I thought you might all enjoy the pet profiles, so you should take a look anyway.
- Today when I got dressed, I pulled out a sweatshirt to wear, and I have to say, it made me so happy! I just love cooler weather and cozy clothes, and clearly I should have been born before climate change was ruining all of that.
- I am knitting another pair of shortie slipper socks for The Tim as a Christmas gift, and after those are finished, all of my gift knitting will be finished! I'm so glad that I started early, because the current pair should go pretty quickly, and it's already a good feeling to be "done" and only have the wrapping and sending left to do.
- Today is laundry day, and to be honest, there just isn't much to be washed and put in the dryer. I'm not sure why, but I am pleased to think that I will likely be finished by noon.
- Am I the only person who is surprised when people show up at the grocery store wearing their pajamas? I'm not saying I get dressed up to go, but it seems they could at least put on a pair of sweats. This morning, there was a woman heading into the market when Hamlet and I walked by, and she was in her pajamas and her slippers, and grabbed a grocery cart. To each their own I guess, but it's weird (and a little bit disturbing) to me.
- I saw this article yesterday, and it's one of the times in my life I have actually wished to be ridiculously wealthy. I just hope whoever ends up with them, they give them a good home.
- When will cropped sweaters be over? I know they are popular, but I don't like them, and it's fine that others do and look good in them. But it would be nice if the bulk of new designs had some more length varieties. And yes, I know you can knit them to be longer, but they don't always end up looking that great.
- Rhinebeck was supposed to be this weekend (I know it's still happening virtually) and for once I don't feel that everyone I know is there except for me. I do miss hearing about everyone's adventures and purchases, and seeing the photos, but it will be nice to know that everyone is in the same boat. I hope the vendors will do well enough virtually to at least make up for some of what they miss.
- Do you ever watch the Knitting by the Sea podcast? I do occasionally, and in the latest one, she talks about a movie that was made in her town last year that is now out. The odd coincidence is that The Tim and I had both just seen an ad for it and wondered what it was the day before. I'm not really planning to watch it, but it seemed like a weird coincidence to me that I chose to watch an episode where she mentioned it and that it was in her area where they filmed it.
- Karen posted a "happy list" on her blog today, and really enjoyed it. So here are some things on my happy list for today and the weekend:
cool weather ; hot apple cider ; meeting new puppies in the neighborhood ; watching the Notre Dame football game on Saturday, and then watching the Eagles play the Ravens on Sunday (and probably lose ... it can't *all* be happy!) ; reading a cozy mystery about knitting ; doing some baking ; getting my hair cut tomorrow morning ; talking to my sisters on the phone and catching up ; participating in the Here: Five Things project ; nice long walks along the river trail ; knitting
What is on your happy list??
Have a good weekend, and remember to enjoy it however you can.
14 October 2020
I realized the other day that I had forgotten to do an FO post for a couple of things, and needed to play catch up. So without further ado, here you go:
09 October 2020
Seems like a long time since I've done one of these posts, but I actually have five things, so let's give it a go.
Here are five of my favorite things from the past week.
1. The Eagles FINALLY won a game! Even though the division that they are in is made up of all teams that suck this year, this win actually put them in first place. I'm gonna enjoy it while it lasts.
2. At work on Monday, I got to pet a 6-month old baby sloth and feed her some zucchini sticks! We have an exhibit at work called "Survival of the Slowest," and Lulu the sloth is the main attraction for most people. When the exhibit first started, she was teeny, but now she is six-months old, and since the museum is open a few days a week now, she is back. The other day, her keeper had her out in the entryway (it was a day the museum was closed to the public), to get her more used to people, and all of the sounds. I was so excited to see her, and the keeper said, "If you want to use some hand sanitizer, you can pet her." And I've never moved so fast in my life. She was so sweet, surprisingly soft, and those sweet eyes were just the best. Since she was having her lunch, I got to give her a couple of zucchini sticks. This will be a favorite for more than just this week!
3. Kamala Harris pleased me at the debate. Granted, I like her a lot anyway, but especially compared to Mike Pence, she was clearly the standout. And then of course the fly - I know some people thought it was immature and stupid how people were going on about it, but I think the inner 8-year-old boy in all of us thought it was freaking hilarious.
4. I was able to do something for someone that they didn't expect and clearly appreciated, so it was a favorite for both of us.
5. The Tim and I just returned from a walk over to City Hall to drop off our ballots. Granted, it's not as much fun as actually walking into the booth and voting, but it was a lovely walk, the people accepting the ballots were pleasant and very conscientious, there was no line at the time, and best of all, we did our part to get rid of the Orange Menace and his ilk. PLEASE VOTE.
So even though there were plenty of not so great things this past week, these things all made me happy. You gotta take it where you can find it these days, right?
As a bonus, I hope this will make you smile.
Have a good weekend!
07 October 2020
One thing about quarantine - it hasn't meant I can't read anything, thank God! Yes, sometimes it's hard to concentrate, and there is plenty I read that is not great literature, but at least I'm reading, which is both enjoyable for me and very comforting.
Here's what I have read during July, August, and September, in no particular order. Let me know if you've read any of these, and what you thought about them.
Lady in Waiting : My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown, by Anne Glenconner. A friend passed this book along to me, and since it had received some good reviews, I gave it a try. But nope, I had no interest in it and passed it along to someone who actually was dying to read it.
The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves. This is part of a new series by the author of the Vera books and the Shetland mystery series.
Matthew Venn is a detective in North Devon, England. He grew up in an evangelical religious sect, but left as a young man when he started to doubt their belief system. At the start of the book, he is standing outside his father's funeral service, not daring to go in after being cast out not just by the church, but also by his parents.
While there, he is notified of a body found nearby. At first, he and his team of detectives are puzzled, because there is no ID on the body. As they find out who the person was, and more about him, there are more conflicting stories. Something about the whole case doesn't add up, and when two young learning disabled girls disappear, it seems that the two cases are linked.
Being the first book of the series, this has a lot packed into it - the story/mystery but also Matthew's background and life story. When his past life and current life seem to intersect with the case he is trying to resolve, he has to face the possibilities that maybe some of the good things about the religious sect were not that good after all.
Five Days Gone : The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance As a Child, by Laura Cumming. This book is the story of Laura Cumming's mother, though it is incomplete and cobbled together in a way that most people's lives do not unfold.
When the author's mother was three years old, in 1929, she was kidnapped from a beach in the Lincolnshire area of England. The thing is, her mother has barely any memory of any of this, and even as she grew older, her parents never mentioned it to her. She didn't even find out much about it until she was an adult, and then the whole story is just pretty unbelievable.
As it turns out, this part of her life is not the only thing that her parents never talked about. As the author begins to investigate, based on photos and other documents, she learns that her mother's family and background was much more involved than just learning that she was adopted. And that in the small town where her mother grew up, nearly everyone in the town knew her story when she did not.
This book is fascinating, puzzling, infuriating, and also sad. Laura Cumming's mother had the kind of childhood few people would want for their children, and as she learns more as an adult, she wonders even more just who she might be.
Almost Everything : Notes on Hope, by Anne Lamott. I am a big fan of Anne Lamott, I'll say that at the beginning. I like her writing, and I really like the way she approaches spirituality and faith. In this book she talks about the different ways that hope shows up in our lives, and what it means in its different guises. With her conversational style and the ability to write about serious issues in a way that sticks with you, this book again makes you think, makes you laugh, and yes, gives you hope.
The Editor, by Steven Rowley. This book is very readable, and quite poignant for many reasons. James Smale is realizing his dream of a lifetime in the early 1990s when someone at Doubleday wants to publish his first novel, which is he thinks of as fiction, though it is based on his life. At the meeting where he meets his editor, he is completely floored to learn she is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - "Mrs. Onassis" - to others in the office.
They develop both a working relationship and a kind of friendship. When she pushes him to change the ending of his book and he follows her suggestions somewhat reluctantly, he learns more about his somewhat dysfunctional family and his more or less estranged mother than he bargained for. Between all of that and the problems in his personal life, things feel as if they are beginning to unravel.
Part of the loveliness of this book is its quietness. Though James is like most of us internally, wanting to ask a million questions of Mrs. Onassis, he realizes that most of what he wants to know is not something she probably wishes to talk about, nor is it any of his business. Each moment he spends with her makes him feel closer, and she guides him along with his book, and in a lot of ways, his life. He also comes to see her as a human being, not just a famous, iconic individual, and realizes how lonely her life must be in so many ways.
Though this book is in fact a work of fiction, it has the feel of an intimate memoir, and treats a person that all of us "know" in a way that you would like to feel she would appreciate.
House Lessons : Renovating a Life, by Erica Bauermeister. I enjoyed this book. I love reading about architecture and people's homes in general, but this was someone's individual story and I found it much more interesting.
The author and husband returned from a year in Italy and she almost immediately felt that they were sliding back into the grind of American life. Longing to find a home for the family where they could reconnect, they eventually purchase a truly run-down house whose owner - an extreme hoarder - recently died. This book is the story of how they renovated it and made it their own. It's also the story of their family spending time together as it all happened. The writing is good and there are many times when you think they might just give up or go broke, but eventually the house is just as they want it to be.
Of course, this is yet another book written by someone who is financially well off enough to do all of this, but I guess there wouldn't be a book if they had not been able to afford to complete the project or even start it in the first place. The descriptive prose is wonderful, and I have to say that once I finished the book, I looked on Google for a photo of the house - it looked almost exactly has I had imagined from reading the book!
If you enjoy house stories, if you enjoy learning how people came and went and came back again to the writing life, and if you enjoy reading about families who end up happy and reconnected, I think you will enjoy this book.
Foreign Correspondence : A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over, by Geraldine Brooks. While home to visit her very ill father, Geraldine Brooks was going through some of the things in the family home to help clear out, and came across a box of things that her father had saved - it turns out to contain letters that a young Geraldine had received from her pen pals around the world.
Through this book, and those letters, we meet the entire Brooks family, and track the life of Geraldine Brooks from a quiet and "boring" life growing up in Australia to an international foreign correspondent and well-regarded writer. It's a lovely story, told with a fondness for her family that can really only come from adulthood, and a love for the land of her birth that she really only found once she was able to leave. Her pen pals are varied and interesting, and each of them served a time and place during her life for her hopes, her fantasies, and her feelings.
It's also an interesting look at life in Australia when things were just beginning to change from being a completely Anglo country to one where immigrants and indigenous peoples are both acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions.
At one point, Brooks realizes that she was more aware of the outside world in her "boring" family life than many people who lived in larger, more metropolitan areas, but seemed only aware of their own neighborhood.
I really enjoyed this book.
Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, by Peter Graham. Years ago, I saw the movie "Heavenly Creatures" and was intrigued not just by the story, but at the fact that one of the people involved is the person we know today as the writer Anne Perry.
In New Zealand in the 1950-60s, the story of Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker was something that was on everyone's mind and lips. Juliet was the daughter of a well-known scientist and academic, who had moved to New Zealand from England to become the rector at a university. Pauline was the daughter of a man who worked for a fishery company, a family of modest means. Juliet and Pauline were beyond best friends, and when Juliet's father lost his university job and planned to return to England, things came to a head. The girls did not want to be separated, and though Juliet's family may have been OK with Pauline joining them (they had become fond of her), the girls knew that Pauline's mother would not allow it. So they killed her.
That's the basic gist of things. But this book goes into much more detail about the families, the girls, and all of the events surrounding it. With a detailed look into each family, we learn about the parents and how their lives probably as much made the girls who they were as any of the girls' fantasies and ideas. During their trial, the girls were described as in a lesbian relationship, which at the time was shocking and just.not.done. There was a lot of "Oh the fishmonger's daughter brought the nice girl down," but reading the book, it's clear that was not necessarily the case. There is so much in this story, and I found it to be a fascinating read.
At the end, Graham updates us on the people involved. What I found most interesting is that Juliet Hulme/Anne Perry seems to have given a slightly different story to each person who interviewed her when her true identity was revealed. She did not strike me as particularly contrite, more in the vein of "that was a long time ago, it shouldn't matter now." Which fits with the descriptions of young Juliet. Pauline Parker/Hannah Nathan on the other hand, led a life that was somewhat reclusive, and dedicated herself to helping others, particularly children. It just seemed that in her case, she decided that it was a chance to become a better person, even if she had done something abominable when she was young.
This was a fascinating read.
Careless Whiskers, by Miranda James. I feel like this is one of the best entries in this series.
Charlie Harris' daughter Laura is set to be in a play directed by her husband Frank at Athena College, where they both work. When the person who was supposed to play the male lead has to bow out, Luke Lombardi, a somewhat well-known Hollywood and Broadway actor, is tapped to do the show instead. This is much to the dismay of Laura, who worked with him briefly during her time in Hollywood.
Luke turns out to be as overbearing as described, and though things seem to be under control, when he is murdered during the opening night of the play, right after intermission, the race to find the killer jumps into high gear. Charlie becomes involved because initially, Laura is a suspect. But when more awful things start to happen, and people's stories don't add up, it's clear something more sinister is going on.
I liked this book because it had a more developed story than a lot of the others have had. The road to a solution was not as much of a straight line as usual. This is a favorite series of mine, and this installment only makes me wait in anticipation for the next book to arrive!
"Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" : A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity, by Beverly Daniel Tatum. This was an excellent book. The author has done extensive work herself, as well as researched others' work to answer not just the question in the title, but also so many questions about racism, identity, and the social contracts between groups of people.
The book does provide in depth information, statistics, and quotes particular studies, but it is a very readable, very approachable book on the topic of racism in the U.S., related not just to Black people, but also Asians, Pacific Asians, Native Americans, and Middle Eastern peoples. Tatum writes in a style that is understandable, with numerous examples both from her personal life and professional life. Reading this book is an eye-opening experience because it actually makes you think how you would/do react, and why - without sounding preachy or judgmental. It raises all kinds of awareness that can only help in the world where we find ourselves.
The edition I read has a prologue and epilogue added in 2017, and though it brings the reader 'up to date' so to speak, I think that if you only have access to the 1997 version, you would still be rewarded with what she has to say.
After reading this book, I realized that there were so many things I had never even considered when thinking about race, and how on a personal level, there was so much work still to be done.
I think every white person at a minimum should read this book.
Kissed a Sad Goodbye, by Deborah Crombie. When Annabelle Hammond's body is found, laid out to look lovely and serene, the search begins for her killer. Annabelle is revealed to have been beautiful, but somewhat opportunistic, and determined to get her own way. Taking over her father's tea business, she has her own ideas of how to make it even more successful, even if it might take her a while to convince her family and the board of directors.
As the investigation goes on, Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James learn that William Hammond (Annabelle's father), and Lewis Finch (a local developer who would like to get his hands on the tea company's warehouse) have a long history, having both been sent to the same place in the country as evacuated children during World War II. It had a major effect on both men's lives, and as it turns out, in the lives of their children. Duncan and Gemma soon learn that the past plays a huge part in their current investigation.
In the meantime, Duncan is trying to win favor with his late ex-wife's son (who he has discovered is also his son), but work keeps getting in the way and their relationship gets rocky. By the end of the book, Duncan has worked out a way to try to make things work between the two of them.
This was a good read, with a lot of twists and red herrings.
Desolation Island, by Patrick O'Brian. When Jack Aubrey is assigned the task of sailing to Australia to retrieve Captain Bligh (he of Bounty fame), and deliver some prisoners, Stephen Maturin joins him and the set off with a shipful of sailors for Botany Bay.
Almost immediately, things take a turn for the worse. By the time the book ends, they're not even close to their destination and getting ready to return to England. They have less than half of their original crew, due to illness sweeping through on the voyage, and the ship has sustained quite a bit of damage.
This adventure had a lot happening, and it was interesting to see what could happen and how they were still able to survive. I'm really not a big fan of Jack Aubrey, but Stephen Maturin and his work as a government agent, ship's physician, and amateur naturalist is an interesting character.
Wild Game : My Mother, Her Lover, and Me, by Adrienne Brodeur. I got as far as Chapter 4, and ... nope. There is no reason for me to continue reading this book. I find the entire premise wrong, and would not want to spend any time with any of the people involved.
Beach Read, by Emily Henry. I thought this was a clever premise for a book, and enjoyed the beginning of it. Then it veered into only somewhat interesting, and then to what I found to be a disappointing ending.
The main characters - January Andrews and Augustus "Gus" Everett - were rivals in college writing classes. When January arrives to clean out and sell her deceased father's beach house after a painful family revelation, it turns out that Gus lives in the house next door. January writes women's romance books with happy endings; Gus writes more realistic fiction that does not always end well. They make a deal that each one will try to write the type of book that the other one does, and see which books sells better. Then they develop deeper feelings for each other and what started as a book about a young woman trying to come to terms with her father's death and a hidden part of his life becomes the story of two people falling in love and has a perfectly tied up happy ending.
For as complex as the characters were, and what they each had to deal with, I found the ending a bit too sappy and very disappointing.
Seaview House, by Elizabeth Fair. Edith and Rose are sisters who have come down in the world. Their father used to be the Canon of the diocese, but since his death they have had to open their home as a hotel for summer and holiday guest. Rose's daughter Lucy is nearly finished with her studies at a local technical school, where she is learning typing and bookkeeping. Their world changes when Mr. Heritage's godson, Edward Wray comes to town. He is an architect whose firm is building some new houses along the coast. Mr. Heritage is the self-proclaimed leader of town society, and though he regularly interacts with Edith, Rose, and Lucy, he becomes concerned with Lucy and Edward appear to like each other a bit too much.
This is basically a comedy of manners, and a story of quiet domestic life turned upside down. The writing is excellent and the characters are well-drawn. Some of the story is laugh-out-loud funny, as only these types of stories can be. I really enjoyed this book.
The Darwin Affair, by Tim Mason. As the character of Stefon would claim on "Saturday Night Live," this book has everything! Royalty, murder, travel, creepiness, and Charles Dickens for instance.
Inspector Charles Field, the real-life inspiration for Dickens' Mr. Bucket in "Bleak House," becomes involved in a case that starts with an attempt on the life of Queen Victoria. As his investigation goes along, he is convinced that many at a high level of science, society, and government are involved in a conspiracy to discredit Charles Darwin, shortly after the publication of his controversial work on evolution. His superiors think that he is blowing things about of proportion, but as several murders happen in London, all involving the killer leaving a severed ear behind, Field's intuition convinces him to continue to look. The killer, Decimus Cobb, is a medical student who is not just good with a surgeon's knife, but is severely demented and a sociopath. When he kidnaps a young butcher's assistant, we begin to see the story from two points of view: Field's and the young boy's.
The race to save the victims of Cobb before they are killed, as well as to protect Prince Albert, who is a strong proponent of Darwin, leads to so many twists, turns, and tragic events, that you can't stop reading this book. With some actual historical characters thrown in, and a story that is both fast-paced and disturbing, I thought this book was an excellent read.
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarity. It's very confusing to Alice Love when she wakes up on the floor of a gym (why the heck is she in a gym??), with people looking over her asking questions - she recognizes a couple of them, but wow do they look old. But when she gets to the hospital is when things really get weird. Because Alice knows it's 1998, she has just married the love of her life and they are expecting their first child.
The problem is that it's actually 2008. Alice is separated from the love of her life, and now has three children. She remembers nothing about any of this. And so the story begins, where Alice has to not just figure out who everyone is and what's happening to her, but also figure out just who *she* is - because she doesn't really like the Alice that people are talking about now.
This book is interesting and the story is fascinating, because imagine losing ten years of your life and everyone else knows all about it but you. The 2008 Alice sounds somewhat like what those of us living in 2020 would call a "Karen" and is the perfect parent in every way. The 1998 Alice is much more relaxed, kinda chubby, and seems to enjoy her life a lot more. So Alice gets to decide who she will be.
I will admit that I liked everything about this book but the ending, as I think she should have made a different decision as to her life partner. But overall, it was a good read, and it made me wonder what I would do if I had a chance to consciously decide who I would be as opposed to who I am now. Wouldn't a lot of people seriously consider a chance to do some things over?
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai. This story begins in 1985. Yale Tishman is the director for development at a new art gallery on the campus of Northwestern University. On a professional level, he is starting to soar, as he has been given the chance to bring some amazing art from 1920s Paris to the gallery to exhibit and own. This will be one of the crowing professional achievements of his life.
On a personal level though, things are bleak. More and more of his friends are dying from AIDS at a time when it was still considered the disease of gay men, and the amount of discrimination and disinformation about it was rampant. One by one his friends die, starting with his friend Nico. By the end, only Yale and Nico's sister Fiona seem to be the ones left.
In the early to mid-2000s, Fiona is in Paris trying to find her estranged daughter and granddaughter. She is staying with Richard Campo, who is an old friend from the Chicago of the 1980s, who documented the ravages of AIDS.
As the stories go back and forth, we learn more about the characters and how they survived or didn't. Yale and Fiona are the main characters, but some of the others are equally important. Fiona sees herself as the sole survivor of that time, but realizes that her entire life has been affected by her fighting for friends and loved ones.
When Richard Campo has the celebration opening his show of photos and videos, Fiona realizes that Nico and Yale are there, and that they were the great believers - in hope, in love, in life, in a cure someday for the disease, in social change - and that maybe she can honor them by doing her best to follow their example, rather than being so singularly focused on just fighting.
This is one of the most heartbreaking books I've read about the AIDS crisis and how it tore families apart and left those suffering alone. You're reading along, thinking that it will all be OK for Yale, and then suddenly it isn't. There is one chapter that is nothing but sentences of things that will be missed by those who died - and it's ridiculously simple things. One of Yale's last visitors brings Nico's cat who has been living with Yale to visit him, and as he pets the fur, he knows it's the last time he will ever touch something or someone other than a hospital staffer or medical device. That chapter and that visit from the cat were things I found the most devastating.
If you want to read a book that will let you know just how awful things were at the beginning of AIDS, read this and/or Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. You will not soon forget either story, nor will you forget how the epidemic was allowed to continue because of non-action by the government. At the very beginning of the AIDS crisis, my husband was the editor of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, and they had been getting many submissions and studies related to this "mystery" disease. I can remember him telling me that lots of people were upset that it was even being taken seriously, since who cared about gay men dying?
This book was well-written, and the characters real. It was fascinating, and in places it was very very hard to read. But it is well worth your time.
The Wedding Shawl, by Sally Goldenbaum. In this series installment, yarn shop owner Izzy Chambers is finishing up the plans for her upcoming wedding. The problem arises when the wedding group's hair stylist is found murdered in the basement storage room and office of the salon where she works. When Izzy and the other knitters start to try and put the pieces together, they realize quickly that it might be related to an unsolved murder in the town that happened years ago. As they keep investigating, the threats amp up, and everyone gets more tense. Fortunately, things are resolved by the day of the wedding, as is expected in any cozy mystery.
I enjoy this series, not just because I like the characters and of course enjoy knitting, but also because it is set on Cape Ann in Massachusetts, which is one of my most favorite places on earth. None of these books claim to be great literature, but the characters are enjoyable, as is the setting. They also eat and drink a lot wonderful things, which is also a winner for me.
After a couple of seriously intense books, this was the perfect and enjoyable palate cleanser. And there are still plenty of titles in the series waiting for me!
Happy & You Know It, by Laura Hankin. I probably should give this book more than 2 stars, but 3 stars means "I liked it," and I don't know that I can go that far. I started this book because I had it on my Nook, and I was in one of those "I want to read something but don't want to choose" moods. At first I thought to myself that it was annoying and I hated it and why was I reading it (see previous sentence); but as I kept reading it redeemed itself to some degree, and it did become more interesting, so by the end of it I decided that it was at least OK.
All of that said, we begin with Claire, who has been a member of a popular band called the Vagabond for years and has recently been ousted and replaced, partly due to her own actions. But now of course the band has a hit single. She is scraping by in New York, trying to figure out her next step. She doesn't want to go home to her parents and the megachurch she was raised in, but money is tight. As it turns out, her friend kinda/sorta knows a playgroup looking for a musician, so Claire decides to at least check things out.
The playgroup moms are all NY supermoms, with perfect lives, perfect children, and the mom who organizes the playgroup is even an Instagram influencer ("Momstagram" - the only term that could make me want to gag more than "influencer." God help us). Claire is a big hit with the babies and their moms, so they ask her to return. It's not her dream, but right now it pays the bills and so she keeps the gig, getting to know some of the mothers better along the way.
As the book continues, Claire learns that not everything is perfect in their lives, and she even starts to form a friendship with one of the moms in the group. But a shocking discovery that Claire makes inadvertently while babysitting one evening is the catalyst for a series of events that break the group apart in a manner that no one expects.
Things by the end are somewhat resolved, and most of the group carries on however they are able to do so. Claire and the mom she befriended are portrayed as having gone to a place where things might be improving for both of them, but of course the book ends before we find out.
So this book ended up being OK and even somewhat readable. But it was hard to care for most of the characters, even though you knew the author was trying to portray them in a way to illustrate the challenges of motherhood and the way society has expectations that women with children will live and behave. I just found most of them annoyingly stupid. Then again, I did end up finishing the book.
Take from that what you will.
No Man's Land : The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain's Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I, by Wendy Moore. This is one of the best books I've ever read, particularly non-fiction.
It is the story of Endell Street Military Hospital, in the Covent Garden area of London. Started in 1915 during the first World War, it was the only hospital founded by women, and where all of the medical staff (doctors, surgeons) and most of the administrative staff were women. It was started by Doctors Flora Murray and Louisa Garrett Anderson.
If you have any interest at all in women's history, medical history, and/or World War I, you should read this book. It outlines the struggles of women who were trained in the few programs available to them to become physicians. Once their training was finished, job opportunities were few and far between. The two women who founded Endell Street were also active in the suffrage movement, and during the war, proved without a doubt that women were capable of so much more than society wanted or expected them to be.
The book talks not just about the struggles of the two founders, but Britain's problems during the first world war, where to some extent, women became "allowed" to do jobs not open to them before out of necessity. Murray and Anderson started their journeys by volunteering to set up a hospital for France; once they made a success of it, the British Army took notice. And even though they were allowed to set up Endell Street, they still had to fight for so much, and were never really treated the same as male doctors and military hospitals. But in the end, they prevailed and were able to save many lives and treat hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers. When the war ended, they were still overcome by victims of the Spanish flu, and the hospital didn't actually close until December 1919.
The author introduces us to so many of the women who worked there, and gives us their stories. It's really a group of amazing people, literally operating in a world hesitant to accept them. The stories of both the women and the hospital are riveting, and full of so much information that is absorbed while reading the book that you don't even consciously realize that it's actual history.
To go into any detail would make this review way too long. So I will just say, you should read this book. It shows us how much has changed for women, and also (unfortunately) how much remains the same.
Maigret and the Headless Corpse, by Georges Simenon. Ever since I started taking French classes in high school, I have loved reading, hearing, and watching any of the Inspector Maigret stories. I have never set foot in France, but to me they are so incredibly evocative of place and time, I feel like it's all familiar to me. This review is for the audiobook.
In this story, Maigret is called to investigate when a disembodied arm is found when a boat tries to make its way through the lock. The divers eventually locate all of the body parts except the head. Due to an somewhat serendipitous stop at a local cafe, as well as some observations by officers at the scene and in the area, he begins to suspect that the woman who owns the cafe - whose husband is "out of town" - knows more than she lets on, and is likely somehow involved.
The fun, of course, is following along while Maigret collects information, eats good food, and enjoys some lovely drinks, all part of solving the case.
Missing, Presumed, by Susan Steiner. I borrowed this book from the library after reading about this author and her books on a blog I read regularly.
This was an excellent read. Abigail Hind has disappeared. Her boyfriend was out of town and had no idea where she might have gone. There is some blood in her house. Her parents, are worried, and her best friend is the last one to have seen her when they walked home together after a night at the pub.
Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw is assigned the case, and it seems to get more and more frustrating every minute. There are plenty of people who *might* have been involved, but they all turn up clean as far as anyone can tell. Abigail's father, Sir Ian Hind, has contacts all they way up to the royal family, and so the press is all over the story.
Only once a body that is not Abigail's is pulled from a lake near the family's country home do the pieces start to go together, random as it all seems By the end of the book, nearly everyone involved in the case - the police and the family - seems to have had some secrets revealed.
I thought this was a good read. The chapters go back and forth among the characters, which can sometimes be annoying, but it works here. I'm not 100% happy with how things resolved in the end, but it was interesting to wonder what had happened up until nearly the last page.
I will definitely read the others in this series, and lament the fact that the author is dying from brain cancer, because she certainly seems to have the ability to write a good book.
Please feel free to share any books you enjoyed - or even those you did not - in the comments. Yes, I have a to-read list that has way too many books on it, but I'm still always interested in finding more.
05 October 2020
[With apologies to Stephen Sondheim, but I like to think he would appreciate it.]
We had a lovely weekend at our house - perfect weather, and it was one of those weekends where the days were a combination of getting things accomplished and just enjoying the day. Topped off with a win by the Eagles last night - finally!
One thing that pleased me was finally being able to get some decent pictures of a finished project - the hat I made for a Christmas gift for my great-nephew Zach.
Project: Zach's Scrappy Hat
Pattern: St Mungo's Simple Hat, by Stephanie Offer (a free pattern)
Needles: US size 6
Yarn: All leftovers from my stash - two strands of fingering to create a DK weight yarn. The brim is a combination of leftover Hedgehog Fibre Sock in the Construct colorway, and an unknown yarn, followed by Construct held with leftover Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Mixed Berries colorway.
The bulk of the hat is Cedar Hill Farm Company Mission Sock in the Sweet Strawberry colorway, and Fiberstory Fave Sock in the Tranquil colorway.
Notes: This was a really simple, well-written pattern. The brim took the longest to knit, simply because it is really long so it can be folded up. My metric-challenged brain needed help with the measurements and needle size, but that was easily enough resolved, so don't let that keep you from knitting it if you are in the U.S.
I plan to make one more hat for a Christmas gift, and then unless something strikes me for The Tim or even for the critters, I'll be finished with my holiday gifts for this year!
This pleases me greatly.
Let's hope this week will be more pleasing to all of us - I know better than to get much more carried away than "more pleasing" ... 😉
02 October 2020
Ah yes. How many of us have said at one time or another, "I'm bored. I wish something interesting would happen?"