What I Loved in Blogs This Week

imageI want to write about things I love in my everyday life. But I want to read about them, too, and connect with other bloggers who are writing about the same topics.

This week, it’s all about books.

So Many Books talks about Books I Won’t Read… and asks what topics you tend to avoid in books. (For me, it’s books about sisters.)

Meanwhile, in my own reading: I was going to give up after the first 50 pages of Fool’s Errand by Robin Hobb. But I had a good feeling about it, so I looked up some reviews. Adventures in Reading straightened me out with a spot-on explanation of why the first hundred pages are so slow, and he was right: it was worth the wait. Now I’m in the middle of one of my favorite activities: binge-reading a completed trilogy all at once.

Not really a blog post and definitely not something I love, but news anyway: I’ve been a Paperbackswap member for eight years, so naturally it shook me up a bit this week when they announced that they are moving to a fee-only service and closing the forums to non-members. For me, it’s not that I mind paying a small fee myself; I just think the overall quality of the service will be diminished due to reduced membership. After the closure of my local used bookstore earlier this year, this is a tough blow…

Readers: What was your favorite blog post (not your own) from this week?

Review: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

peaceriverI’ll admit it: I’m already getting cabin fever.

Winter is the time of year I look forward to. The reading! The blogging! The crafting! When it gets here, I find that as much as I love all of those things, I need a balance in my life. I’m missing sunshine. I’m missing exercise. There are only so many treadmill runs a girl can do.

Luckily, I have had a few really good books to keep me company lately.

One in particular is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. After Modern Mrs Darcy recommended it again and again and again and again, saying wisely

The jacket description didn’t sound interesting to me, so don’t worry if it doesn’t sound good to you either. – See more at: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/?s=peace+like+a+river#sthash.2oGzgwLq.dpuf

I finally gave in and opened this not-my-usual read. 11 year old boys don’t always make the best narrators when you’re reading as an adult woman. Set in the 1960’s in rural Minnesota and North Dakota, it had very little regional appeal to me. Also, the book echoes (parallels? parodies? uses as metaphor?) classic Westerns. And finally, almost all of the goodreads reviews I read carry on about how this is a great Christian novel – which I don’t object to in the abstract sense, but let’s face it: Christian fiction has a long and glorious history of being really boring.

I opened the book and all of those stereotypes and judgements fell away. Right away, it’s clear that we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. Not the really hardcore kind that is lying to you or crazy (or is he??…)  It’s just that as an 11-year old kid, Reuben has a bad case of hero worship for his dad, who he believes is a modern day prophet and miracle worker, and for his older brother, who he views as a Western-style hero. He views his kid sister Swede as very ordinary and down-to-earth, even though she may be the most extraordinary character in the book.

The reality comes out more slowly, and due to the limited viewpoint, you really have to look for it. For me, that’s part of the magic of this book: on top of the obvious mystery/manhunt plot, there’s also this question of what is really happening all around Reuben. Who is his dad, really? What happened to Swede? Who shot those two teenage boys, and why? In the end, although we have some answers and a few good guesses, we also realize that some questions will never be answered.

In the same way, I think you have to read this book for yourself and see what you get out of it. For those who either loved or hated the Christian theme: that’s a very literal reading where you’re buying into Reuben’s 11-year-old, near-magical viewpoint. And that’s OK, if that’s what works for you. But if you approach the limited narration with a little bit of skepticism, I think the novel you end up reading will be a lot more cynical, and perhaps more realistic, too.

Thursday Quotables: The Sense of Style

quotation-marks4I’m currently reading The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker, after reading So Many Books’ review.

It’s incredibly interesting, but also a very slow read. I’m slowly digesting a page or two at a time. Some parts are revelatory, and others — like this one — are just plain funny:

Like an actor with wooden delivery, a writer who relies on canned verbal formulas will break the spell. This is the kind of writer who gets the ball rolling in his search for th eholy grail, but finds that it’sneither a magic bullet nor a slam dunk, so he rolls with the punches and lets the chips fall where they may while seeing the glass as half-full, which iseasier said than done.

Avoid cliches like the plague — it’s a no-brainer.

Thursday Quotables is a weekly event hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies!
style

 

Teaser Tuesday: Dreamer’s Pool

tteTeaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Conmael seemed to think I could slip right back into being a village healer. But I’m not sure I can. Part of me has turned wild, and another part’s turned dark as endless night, and I’m not going to change back just because someone says I must.

Blackthorn, from Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

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Let it Twist: Overcoming Perfectionism to Finish Projects

100_0510My first lace weight project took me nearly a year to complete.

Here’s what really happened: It took me eleven months to start and a week to finish.

I was making the Shell Net Cowl from Crochet One-Skein Wonders as a gift for my sister. I special ordered Malabrigo Lace in the Lime Blue colorway, because its blues, greens and yellows have special significance for her. I made the base chain successfully; normally that’s the hardest part of any project for me, because I get distracted in the middle of the count. Then I set to work making a series of tiny shells and chains to form the first row.

The instructions said: DO NOT TWIST THE CHAIN!

CrochetOneskeinThey might have also said something about curses or woe if I were to twist the chain. Except my teeny tiny laceweight chain was almost impossible to see, much less keep straight. So I went to the kitchen table, smoothed out the entire chain, and very carefully laid in a shell with the chain in the correct orientation.

I did about three more, and went and did something else.

This went on for months. It’s a cowl that can be doubled over at least twice, yet I crocheting shells two or three at a time. Something about having to get the project out, orient it on a table, and carefully hold it still while I made the shell… ugh.

Fast forward to November: it was time to give the gift and I had maybe 30 shells done. Time for a new strategy. I threw all of the chain twisting rules out the window, picked the project up and held it like I normally do, and charged forward. If the chacowlin twisted, screw it! It was a mobius cowl anyway; what’s the worst that could happen? In fact, nothing bad happened at all.

In this moment of truth, I learned something about crochet, and about myself. Following every pattern to the letter – requiring yourself to have everything just perfect before you move on – can keep you from doing anything at all. Sometimes it’s better to have a few twists in your chain, but a finished project, than to have empty hands.

Readers: have you ever gotten stuck on a particular pattern instruction, or on a tricky aspect of a pattern? How did you move forward?

 

Review: The Killer Next Door

killerI enjoy reading a strong debut novel.

But I really love reading a great second novel. That’s what I got in The Killer Next Door, by Alex Marwood.

It starts with a house. A house in a seedy, almost-ready-to-be-trendy-again neighborhood in London, divided up for six tenants. We meet the tenants one by one, along with the landlord. Marwood has thrown six completely different people together, each one unique. It’s a recipe for personality clashes and drama.

They all have two things in common, though. In one way or another, they are all killers. And they are all running from, or afraid of, something.

So instead of the plot being about their differences, we watch four of the six tenants grow closer together, and learn more about their similarities. Because of their secrets and their fears, they can’t call in the police. As the bodies begin to pile up, they must rely on each other to eventually find a way out of their situation, and out of the house which has become a prison to them.

Oh, and the debut novel I mentioned? The Wicked Girls was one of my top ten reads in 2014. (Thanks to Sow_girls Many Books for the recommendation.) It is completely consistent in style with The Killer Next Door, while still being a unique novel. If you like one, you’ll like the other, and they’re unrelated so you can read them in any order.

Have you read either book? What did you think?