Monday, January 25, 2010

Knitting: eyelet hat

I recently made this eyelet hat from the "Beach Beanies" pattern in Hats: A Knitter's Dozen. Much in this book, published in 2005, feels out of style, but this pattern appealed to the 90s girl in me. I used leftover cotton yarn that I bought for a stripe on a baby hat, so it was essentially free to make. I adjusted the number of stitches because I was using larger needles and heavier weight yarn--unfortunately, it turned out a bit too small for my head (circumference is good, but it's not quite long enough).

It was a fun, easy project that is nice a change from the typical starter hat and scarf.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

RAview: Laura Joh Rowland's The Cloud Pavilion

I'm going to count this as my first review of 12 for the Thriller and Suspense challenge, per the rules, although I do intend to focus more on thrillers, and Laura Joh Rowland's The Cloud Pavilion is a mystery. I'm not sure I entirely know the difference between thrillers and mysteries, but I think it has a lot to do with tone. In the Cloud Pavilion, readers aren't sitting on the edge of their seats in suspense. It's more of a slow reveal as we follow detective Sano Ichiro investigate kidnappings and rapes happening in his 1701 Japan.

Story line: This is the 14th in a series, but it works very well on its own, as the mystery is self-contained and characters recall events from previous books to establish context. This is a historical mystery, and the setting and details are important. Food, markets, clothing, and legal, class-related, and cultural aspects of the 18th-century Japan setting are described in rich detail. There is also a focus on samurai extrasensory capabilities, which lends an air of mysticism to the book. Although there are descriptions of violence, this is not a grisly book. There are domestic scenes among Sano and his family as well as political posturing and Sano's experiences working for the shogun.

I listened to this on audio, so pacing is more difficult for me to identify, but I would say the 10 discs felts like they were flying by. There is a sense of anticipation regarding the case, although there's not much nail-biting suspense as the characters are generally not in immediate danger through most of the story. Characters are well-established and Sano's familial and political relationships drive the plot. Despite the realities of the historical time and place (e.g., rape was not actually illegal), Sano's wife, Reiko, is pretty tough.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I've decided to post the occasional photo of things I knitted here, too, as I don't think Twitter (follow me @bananakatt) is an adequate record-keeping device. I hope this doesn't anger the blog gods too greatly. I figure it's easy enough not to read a post. Also, when the pattern comes from a knitting book, I'll mention that, too.

This is a scarf I finished about two weeks ago (no pattern used) to match a crazy looking hat my cousin has. She loves it and says it matches well, but I haven't seen the two together, and I picked the colors from memory. It's double-stranded, and I left the tails dangling to save time and because she obviously wanted something crazy looking (believe me, that hat is even more nuts than this).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

RAview: Cherie Priest's Boneshaker

First of all, long time no post, I know. Happy New Year! I have this crazy notion that once I get a Sony reader (next week!), I will magically be able to read faster, so I should be less neglectful of my little blog.

I'm also about halfway through Laura Joh Rowland's The Cloud Pavilion on audio, so there is more fun coming soon!

For now, I just finished my first steampunk novel, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. It was a lot more accessible than I thought it would be, if only because I prejudged it based on the sf subgenre's intimidating name. For the uninitiated, here's a Steampunk 101 article that helped me a lot.

The details of Boneshaker are primarily related to gadgetry/inventions/mechanics, which seems like a standard of the genre. What makes it more generally appealing, I'd say, is the characters. A mother and her son, both plagued by their family's past, end up inside Seattle's walls, where the Blight, a gas leaking from the ground, turns anyone who breaths it into a zombie--Going into this book, I didn't know there were zombies involved, and I'm a little sick of them having just read World War Z; however, they're not the main point or even the main conflict of the book, so it didn't bother me too much.

The narrative alternates between the two main characters' points of view, and they both have distinctive, stubborn, kick-ass personalities. The boy, Zeke, has the attitude and perspective of a the young teen he is. In their separate adventures, both meet sundry people in rag-tag clans who've, against all logic, made a life inside the abandoned, poisonous city. The pace is quick, as the reader knows if the two separated characters are close to each other and don't even know it or are trusting the wrong people, and the alternating chapters make for suspense as you naggingly wonder what's going on with the other character who we last left in peril.

The tone is suspenseful but somewhat uplifting, as the mom and son have left a dull life and are on a [dangerous] journey of discovery. The technology is intriguing and exciting. Transporting.

Story line: motherhood, romp, steampunk, Seattle, Victorian technology, alternating narrators, family pasts, local/underdog heroes, the drug world, zombies, airships, determination, character judgments and misconceptions.