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Archive for May, 2011

Happy Birthday, David!

Quick entry today to just say that my husband, my love, is turning 26 today.  We have a big BBQ planned, hopefully the weather will cooperate and it will be fantastic.
 (David is seen here learning how to fire spin, two weeks ago at a friend’s house).
Happy birthday, hon.  I love you!
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I love a good three-day weekend.  And I can’t tell you how excited I am that after today, I won’t be in the office again until Tuesday.  It’s been a rough few weeks here at work, between being sick and just not feeling it, and being stuck in a rut.  It will be good to get out this weekend.  Plus, it’s David’s 26th birthday tomorrow!  So lots of excitement happening over the next three days.  I’m going to be very busy, but I can’t wait.

And…I finished another book!  Number 44 for the year…we’re getting to the halfway point!  No hopes of getting to 50 before the beginning of June, but I’ll definitely be there (or past there) by the month’s end!

Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is by far one of the quirkiest, most bizarre novels I’ve ever read.  Our heroine, Rose Edelstein, is only nine years old when she takes a bite of her mother’s special chocolate lemon cake, and realizes that she has a strange gift — the power to taste the feelings of other in the food that they prepare.  Daunted, Rose treats her secret like the affliction she believes it is, feeling utterly alone in the world and in her special knowledge that she find herself incapable of sharing with the world.  But through the years, Rose begins to understand that she is not alone with her “gift”.  Though she believes it to be a curse, Rose realizes that there are many, many people who have abilities that they cannot share with others.  The book begs the question of the reader…is having a special power or talent a gift, a burden, or a liability?

To say that I found this book bizarre is a rather large understatement.  When I picked it up and began reading it, I believed that I was reading contemporary literature.  Yet by the end I realized that I was reading contemporary fiction with a touch of fantasy or the supernatural — not something I was expecting.  Bender’s writing style is very fluid and elegant — I was reminded of Janet Fitch’s White Oleander several times — and my one complaint is her lack of quotations, a la Frank McCourt, of which I have said before I am not a fan.

The twist in the plot really stunned me, to the point where I was thinking I must be crazy, this isn’t where this book is going, is it?  Am I nuts?  When I finished Lemon Cake, I hopped onto Goodreads and checked the other reviews, and lo and behold, I was right.  Bizarre, but interesting. 

This is a book really requires a second reading.  Unfortunately, with my goal to read 100 books in 2011, it’s going to have to go on the shelf until 2012 along with my other “to be re-read” books, such as The Hunger Games series, Bumped (I feel like I missed a lot when I read it the first time around, and I want to check and make sure I didn’t miss stuff) and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (which I just loved).  Fifty-six books left to go before I can re-read.

Rating: *** and 1/2

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It’s been FOREVER since I participated in a Wednesday Yarn Along!  This was mainly due to my complete lack of inspiration (and being stuck on the same pair of socks forever).  But the socks are finished, and I figured it was time to get back into the game (seeing as my blog is called “Read, Knit, Blog” and I haven’t knit in forever).
I started the Lady Bertram Shawlette last night (against my better judgment), but I didn’t get far before I decided it was getting late and I should really be getting to bed.  For the record — learning a garter-tab cast on?  Sucks.  I recommend Youtube.  Suffice to say, I managed the cast on after two attempts, and am ready to start the actual knitting later today.  
Several months ago (yes, before David and I were married), I started knitting him Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Sweater (yes, I am aware of the sweater curse, but considering how slowly I knit, I figured we’d be married long before it was done, and I was right).  I got cold feet and put it aside sometime in August (also, I was bogged down with wedding planning).  Picked it up this morning and realized that it is right around the mid-chest area, and I am about six inches away from needing to put it aside to do the sleeves.  I’m making it out of (what else?) Cascade 220 in the “irelande” shade (appropriate considering that David is very Irish, as is our last name).
As for my book, I’m reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which I picked up at Borders the other day (oh shush, I had a 40% off coupon).  I’m about halfway through; so far, so good.  It’s a little difficult to get into (like Frank McCourt, Aimee Bender doesn’t use quotation marks, so that’s fun) but the premise — a story about a girl who can taste the emotions of the people who prepare the food she eats — is an interesting one.  I will probably be done with it within a day or two.  Depending on how the hockey playoffs go (go Bruins!) and how much time I’m willing to put aside my knitting.
Happy Wednesday!

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For some reason (like clockwork), my knitting mojo always comes back when I reach an emotional low point.  And this is one of those times, unfortunately.  I don’t talk about it much on this blog, but I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and car accident-related PTSD back in 2008, and this is one of those so-called “low points” that I get to every so often.  I don’t know what triggered it, I’m not sure, and even if I went back and retraced my steps, I don’t think I would find it.  But in the past few days I’ve been having tiny, harsh panic attacks every so often.  They’re not the full-blown, suckass ones that I used to get, but they’re short, and harsh, and sharp, and they suck.  I don’t see them coming, they just happen…and I’m left to counteract the results and wonder what the hell I’m doing wrong this time.
Fortunately, as I said a few months ago…there are many, many babies being born into my circle of friends this year.  So I’ve no end of knitting with which to occupy myself.  Knitting is one of those perfect activities to do when anxious.  It has the benefits of both calming the nerves and giving you something to occupy yourself with, while also letting you think (unless you’re knitting something complicated — then you’re on your own).
Today I’m knitting another of Ginny’s Newborn Hat with a Hint of Lace.  This one is for another member of David’s family who is having a baby (not finding out the sex.  Yarn is something I bought on sale at WEBS, just  because it was soft and shiny and on sale and I was weak.  I don’t remember the color name or the name of yarn (it’s a pretty shiny silvery color).  I’m knitting it on US 3’s.  It’s even coming out a little big, which kind of surprised me.  On 3’s I expected it to be a little smaller than normal.  But.  That’s the way knitting goes, I guess.
I’ve really been thinking a lot about the Lady Bertram shawlette kit that I picked up a month ago.  I don’t know if starting lace is the best idea right now (baby hats seem so much safer).  But it can’t hurt to just wind the yarn, right?  And should I feel confident enough, maybe I’ll give it a whirl.
And with any luck, be feeling more like “myself”, soon.

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While having a cold affects your productivity in a lot of ways, it certainly doesn’t hurt your reading!  I tore through two books yesterday on my self-appointed “day of rest”, and now I will review the second.  But a note first, so that (hopefully) I’ll look back on it and remember.  Pushing myself to get better has the opposite effect on me.  It only makes me worse.  I took one half day this week in an attempt to rest up and get better.  This was clearly not enough, as I spent the latter half of the week in a zombie-like state.  Taking Sunday off to sleep, rest, and read was the best decision I could have made.  Maybe I’ll be smarter next time.
Anyway.  On to Number 43 of 100.
The Birth of Venus is historical fiction set against the backdrop of late 15th century Florence, Italy, during the city’s control by the ruling houses of Medici and Borgia.  A young woman, Alessandra Cecchi, is torn between her family’s wishes for her and her own great desire: to become a artist.  When her family brings in a painter to decorate their personal family chapel, Alessandra is immediately drawn to him and his work.  But the politics of Florence on the brink of invasion by the French, along with the loud protestations of Friar Savonarola, lead Alessandra into a hasty marriage that has serious repercussions.  As Florence and its inhabitants are caught up in the whirlwind around them, Alessandra takes her destiny into her own hands and makes the only decisions she knows she can, in order to secure the future.
This book was not easy to get into.  The prologue has a great hook, but the first few chapters are slow and difficult at first.  I put Venus down to read Bumped, I will admit.  The story doesn’t really pick up until after Alessandra is married.  After that turning point, I found it much easier to stay involved with the book.  The ending is unfortunately, as another reviewer put it, a “cop-out”.  Alessandra’s much-beloved painter is never named.  Also, the title is misleading — I believed until about midway through the book that the painter was Sandro Botticelli, the artist who painted the titular “Birth of Venus“.  After that, I was lost until I got to the afterward — and even then, author Dunant never explicitly says who the painter was…it’s more of a hint. 
It’s an extremely vivid book, however, if one is interested in both historical fiction and art.  I took a class in Art History my freshman year of college, and Renaissance artwork has always been a favorite era of mine (I would dearly love to travel to Italy and see these masterpieces first-hand).  Dunant is very good at painting a vivid picture (excuse the pun) of Florentine life around this turbulent period.  The book definitely makes me want to learn more about Italian history, particularly the Medicis and the Borgias, who are hinted at throughout the book.  However, it’s not something I’m likely to reread, and I submitted it on PBS right after I was finished.  Good, but not a re-read.
Rating: ***

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Louisa May Alcott first wrote Little Women as a submission for a newspaper column’s call for “a girls’ book” — and that really is, at its heart, what Little Women is.  I’m sure there must be some men who enjoy it (I don’t know any) but it is a book about and directed towards young women.  A unisex book, this very much is not.
Alcott patterned the titular “little women” of her book after herself and her three sisters, which may explain the very lifelike characters and very obvious failings of each girl (except for Beth, of course, who has no failings — more on that later).  Gentle Meg is sweet and nurturing, but her vanity and covetous nature often lead to heartbreak.  Tomboy Jo is always blundering into one mishap after another, though she has a heart of gold and a fervent desire to do good.  Pretty Amy is spoiled and pettish, but quick to repent of her wrongdoings.  As for character development — the book is rife with it (and should be, since it takes place over the course of fifteen years), and the girls’ natures are tried and changed throughout.
The language is antiquated and can be difficult, not to read, but to endure without eye-rolling at times. Despite their clearly-outlined weaknesses, the girls speak like “Mary Sues” at times, parroting their elders and, when criticized, falling docily into line.  Also, there’s the issue of the character of Beth.  *sigh*  There is a reason why nobody ever says that Beth is her favorite character.  Because Beth doesn’t really have much of a personality.  Sure, she’s sweet and good, but that’s it.  The only chapter in which one really starts to feel any sort of emotion about Beth is where she visits the Hummels when the baby has scarlet fever.  Other than that, she’s relatively forgettable.  Perhaps the personality was true to life — Alcott modeled the character of Beth after her own younger sister, Elizabeth Sewell Alcott — but when compared to the vivacious and entertaining personalities of Meg, Jo, and Amy, Beth fades into the background and becomes largely forgettable.
I think I loved this book more when I was a teenager, because it is more a teenager’s (or even a child’s) book.  Not necessarily because it has a happy ending (it doesn’t in the fairy tale sense), but because it truly is a story about “little” women coming of age.  Nevertheless, I will keep the paperback on my shelf, to hopefully share with a daughter of my own someday.
Rating: *** and 1/2

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By rights, I should have had a FO to show you today.  I have finally finished the stupid pair of Noro Silk Garden Socks.  Unfortunately, as soon as I finished the second sock, I realized that I have somehow misplaced the first sock.  Fail.  They were meant as a gift, too.  So I figure I’ll be spending the better part of the weekend tearing the house apart in search of that sock.
I bought myself a new bag this week.  I’ve been admiring Vera Bradley for awhile (my future SIL has a few beautiful pieces) and I decided to pick up a sale piece for myself.  It’s the Vera Bradley Villager and I bought it in the “Sittin’ in a Tree” motif, which is now discontinued, but you can still get it through the website.
I LOVE this bag.  Very soft, very big, tons of space.  It holds pretty much everything I need to carry on a regular basis, and it slings over my shoulder comfortably (and stays there).
Inside (try not to judge): Knitting, The Tudors DVDs, a paper book (The Birth of Venus), Kindle, wallet, cold medication (I’ve been sick all week), and that’s not even looking in the pockets, which are also full.  Good stuff, right here.
I’m also working on a number of baby hats, as I said before.  There are still three new babies coming into the world this summer, and all will be kitted out with new hats.  I have one (a girl’s cap) finished already.  The other two babies’ sexes haven’t been determined yet, so I am making them of unisex colors (and stashbusting at the same time).
I leave you with this last picture — a little Eye Candy for Friday.  I received a pretty pink plant as a “thank you” from someone at the church, and it’s been flourishing!  The started baby cap is next to it — still have a long way to go, but it’s a start!
Happy weekend!

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