Fire (Kristin Cashore)

Posted in Books, Kindle, Reading on February 7th, 2011 by Janet – 1 Comment

Fire (Seven Kingdoms, #2)Fire by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s a rare book that can keep me up past my bedtime, but this one did. Like Kristin Cashore’s Graceling before it, there’s something about the Seven Kingdoms stories that keeps me reading. Fire reads a bit more like a romance, however, which did dampen my enthusiasm a bit. And, like Graceling, there are several themes in the book that keep me from confidently recommending it as a Young Adult read. Bottom line is that for me, a good story (even a predictable one), still trumps minor annoyances like Kristin Cashore’s author’s odd choices for character names.

I’d recommend it to anybody who enjoys well-crafted mythical worlds.

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The Reading Mother

Posted in Books, Family History, Kindle on December 12th, 2010 by Janet – 7 Comments

Grandmother with Cousins


Strickland Gillilan

I HAD A MOTHER who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

While it’s highly unlikely that my grandmother (pictured above with my cousins) would have been reading any medieval or European folklore, I still love this photo and seeing my grandmother with my cousins. She died about 5 years before I was born and my sisters and I grew up without our grandparents in our lives. My mother didn’t value reading as much as she valued having a well-run household, so there were always duties we might be avoiding if she found us reading. When she became a grandmother, however, she was a lot more likely to read to her grandchildren.

I’m making a list of books to read during the holiday break that begins next week; I’ll share them here as we get to them.

Hat Heads

Posted in Books, Knitting, Reading on December 5th, 2010 by Janet – 12 Comments

HatHeads: 1 Man + 2 Knitting Needles = 50 Fun Hat DesignsHatHeads: 1 Man + 2 Knitting Needles = 50 Fun Hat Designs by Trond Anfinnsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and love the concept of knitting hats and documenting with photos and bios of the recipients. The author took up knitting after watching one of his high-energy friends sitting calmly and knitting:

” . . . when he was knitting, he was at rest, gathering energy and losing himself in thought. Knitting seemed like a kind of meditation, directing his energy inward.

For Trond Anfinnsen, knitting turned out to be what he imagined it would be — relaxing and meditative. I couldn’t agree more.

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Posted in Books, Knitting, Knitting Book Review on November 18th, 2010 by Janet – 6 Comments

Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting TraditionSelbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition by Terri Shea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was vaguely aware of this book when it was published a few years ago (2007). I saw blog entries about it and noticed mittens and gloves being knit from the patterns, but I never took an active interest in it until a customer came in to the shop where I work and requested it. We ordered a few copies and I flipped through it when it arrived. The little bit of history I was able to read on the spot was intriguing enough for me to put it on my mental “might buy it someday . . . maybe” list. However, it wasn’t until I learned how to do stranded color knitting that I revisited the last copy of Selbuvotter on the shelf. Because I had recently purchased a ridiculous amount of fingering weight yarn to knit a mitten pattern, I figured I would buy the book and knit with what I knew would go unused otherwise, since I only needed a small quantity of 8 different colors for those mittens. I had no idea I’d become hooked on the compelling patterns in Selbuvotter (and stranded two-color knitting in general). While the original Selbu color palette is based on the natural wool colors of white and black, I figured I could stray from that with yarn I already owned, although now I’m exploring someday getting some actual Norwegian yarn brands to try. And now, I seem to be less interested in that mitten pattern that calls for 9 different colors.

There is a respectable dose of Selbu history and an interesting story about the first woman to knit these designs on her mittens, eventually spawning a successful cottage industry and later, a worldwide interest in Norwegian motifs.

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Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

Posted in Books, Kindle on October 23rd, 2010 by Janet – 4 Comments

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday CookingRatio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has been on my list for a while and I finally checked it out at the library to preview prior to possibly purchasing it in Kindle format. I love the logical arrangement: Doughs, Batters, Stocks and Sauces, Farcir, Fat-Based Sauces, and Custards.

A culinary ratio is a fixed proportion of one ingredient or ingredients relative to another. These proportions form the backbone of the craft of cooking.

Ruhlman makes it sound uncomplicated and logical and helps to demystify processes that might otherwise seem mysterious. After reading his book, I now know a few kitchen items that I need to buy: a kitchen scale, butcher’s twine (for trussing a chicken), and cheesecloth. Otherwise, armed with these clear ratios, I can make just about anything I’m craving:

Cookies – 1 part sugar : 2 parts fat : 3 parts flour

Naturally, he expands on the ratios and even changes them to create the desired result. It’s not a recipe book with a lot of photos or illustrations. Those are used sparingly, if at all. But each section does contain plenty of recipes and substitutions.

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Ender’s Game

Posted in Books, Kindle on October 6th, 2010 by Janet – 4 Comments

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Several months ago, when my son mentioned Orson Scott Card, I purchased a copy of Ender’s Game at a secondhand book store. He didn’t really dive in to the book right away and I’d forgotten about it until Amazon offered a Kindle version that cost under $6. (For what it’s worth, as of today, all the big 3 online e-book stores offer this for under $6).

I loved this book and as soon as I finished it, I interrupted my son’s homework to tell him that this should be the next book he reads — and I don’t recommend books lightly, especially to my kids. It’s not for everybody, but if you enjoy the Young Adult (YA) Science Fiction genre, this is a must-read. While reading it, keep in mind that it was originally published in 1985, at least 5 years before a very crude version of the internet was publicly accessible. The initial story was conceived by Card in 1977 and was surprisingly prescient given his futuristic vision of online role-playing games, for instance.

This book, along with the latest installment of the Hunger Games series, has provided a context for talking to kids about war and those who would seize and use power in order to control others, while some would choose empathy and forgiveness. It’s full of thought-provoking concepts and portrayed by innocents — children who are forced (by adults) into being tools of destruction.

As always, battle scenes and combat strategy — especially these in null gravity — are really hard for me to visualize, so I had a difficult time getting through some of the battle scenes because I just didn’t understand the strategic maneuvers. Ultimately though, there’s no quiz to see how well you understood the battles and it’s not critical to understanding the wider implications, so just enjoy Ender and his story.

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Posted in Books on September 20th, 2010 by Janet – 2 Comments

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was so heavily invested in this series and in this story that there was only one conclusion I was willing to accept when I started reading Mockingjay — my 5-star rating illustrates that not only was I not disappointed, I was fully satisfied. The provocative ideas in the final book of the trilogy have me considering questions about what we choose to believe about our friends and also about our perceived enemies. Ultimately, our enemies aren’t others as much as they are the movements or ideas that would encourage the destruction of our fellow human beings. Sometimes WE truly are our own worst enemies. We often have to fight for and discover what’s REAL and true — and that’s the battle that rages in Katniss, Gale, Peeta and others in this final book.

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Posted in Books on September 12th, 2010 by Janet – 1 Comment

Inkheart (Inkheart, #1)Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I took this book along to read on vacation, and while I liked it, I didn’t LOVE it as much as I expected to. Similar to my feelings while reading The Thief Lord, the thing that hampered my enjoyment of both books (I couldn’t even finish The Thief Lord) was the pacing. The plot just wasn’t moving along. Several times, when it felt as if things were moving along to some great development, it would slow down to a crawl, and I would find myself yawning uncontrollably. In the literary world, shouldn’t there be limit to the number of times a character can bump up against the same difficulty or obstacle and have no resolution?

One of the things I did enjoy about the book is Meggie and her father’s great affection for and appreciation of books — books that are leather bound, have titles imprinted with gold leaf, and enhanced with fancy endpapers. Meggie’s father Mo (short for Mortimer) makes his living as a bookbinder; a lot is written about their shared love for books in their physical form. Ironically, (or perhaps expectedly), Cornelia Funke‘s books aren’t available in Kindle format.

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Posted in Books on August 18th, 2010 by Janet – 3 Comments

CrossingCrossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Xing is clearly misunderstood, but his understanding of others is also shallow and one-dimensional. My feelings about Xing took an interesting turn about halfway through the book and I had a hard time reconciling some of his choices.

Bottom line: it’s tough sometimes not to default to a well-known stereotype about a group of people, or to resist the temptation to form our opinions based on what somebody appears to be when placed in the context of popular culture or mass media. I’m challenging myself to try to become more aware of my own perceptions of others rather than focusing on wrongs done to me or members of my family — I don’t want to perpetuate the myths or the stereotypes. In other words, it’s human nature for people to misunderstand or mistrust that which is unfamiliar and I can’t change that — I can only change my own behavior.

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Posted in Books on August 18th, 2010 by Janet – 2 Comments

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, #1)Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A perfect book to read while waiting for an oil change and tire rotation.

This is one of a handful of books that spawned the Chick-Lit genre. And while I think this is the only one I’ll ever read, it wasn’t as horrible as I expected it to be. At 89 cents for the Kindle version, I feel like I got my money’s worth.

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