Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Reviews: 26 - 30 of 2017

Flowers for Algernon is the story of Charlie Gordon, a mentally handicapped thirty year old man with an IQ of 59. Charlie wants more than anything to be smart after being told he is dumb his entire life. He signs up for a research study to try to increase intelligence and he is chosen as the first human to undergo the surgery. He quickly goes from having the understanding of a 10 year old to surpassing phds and college professors in their ability to understand complex concepts, languages, and much more. All the time that Charlie is improving, he is monitored and put through tests to verify his progress. He has emotional struggles he has never had before, so he must go through therapy. Life in general becomes much more complicated as he overcomes great odds just to be considered "normal", but when he goes past those around him they start to resent him. All the while Charlie is very interested in what happens to Algernon, the laboratory mouse who was the first successful test subject of this surgery before himself, to see what may become his own fate.

This was a very interesting story, and I love the way it was written. The book is first person narrative, and you can easily track the difference in his intelligence just from how he describes the world around him. In his natural (lower IQ) state, Charlie is very superstitious and thinks that everyone he interacts with are his "friends" in spite of the fact that they are making fun of him constantly. As he improves, he loses his "friends" because they feel he's become too high and mighty for them. He also has more and more memories from his childhood come to mind that he had locked away somewhere in his brain, shedding light on why he responds to somethings in some ways. Overall this book is a great look into how psychology works and begs the question of if it is right to give someone the gift of intelligence if it could be taken away. Is it better to be blissfully ignorant to what is considered "normal life" or is it worth knowing what you are missing later on? All good questions. I very much enjoyed this book, and if you are interested in psychology I definitely recommend it. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Into the Water follows the history of a small English riverside town with a dark past. When yet another local woman dies from apparent suicide in the water, investigators are sent in to determine what is going on. Was this suicide or was someone in the town upset that this woman was writing a book about "the drowning pool"? I liked the way the book progresses through each character's point of view. The story itself was definitely reminiscent of her previous book, The Girl on the Train. I like her writing style and it kept me guessing. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Good Omens is a hilarious story by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It's the story of the apocalypse interpreted in extremely random ways. I don't want to give too much away, but it's awesome and you should read it, lol. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
Everything Is Illuminated has been on my "to-read" list since college (when it was new), and I think I might have become too cynical in my years since because I just don't "get" this book. I love the story of Jonathan and Alex's trip through Ukraine - having loved the movie so much, this is the story I expected to read, but better than the film. The side story about the completely fictional history of Trachimbrod on the other hand ... what the heck? I've even gone to the extent of reading the reviews of others to see if there is some big point I missed, but I guess I'm just not in the early 20s mindset to appreciate this section of the book or something. I've read some reviews that say this section is Foer's attempt at philosophy, but I don't see what possible philosophy one could gain from this story. The characters are over-sexualized, as if sex is the only thing that motivates anyone no matter how young. It's just felt so odd and forced. I'm not generally a prude with what I read, but this was a bit over the top. The other, "modern" story makes up for this disappointment though, in my opinion.  I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.
We Should All Be Feminists is a very short and to the point essay on feminism. The author really breaks through all the preconceived political nonsense people attach to the word "feminist" and describes it at its core: the fact that women and men should be treated equally. She even speaks out against the excuse of, "Well EVERYONE should be treated equally, so why are you trying to put women above men?" by explaining that of course everyone should be treated equally, but it is only women who seem to need to demand this treatment in order to not be pushed aside. Men don't have this problem. Thus, we should all be feminists. This really put into words the way I have always felt about gender equality. It is not loaded with other hidden motives - it is a basic explanation of the issue we face throughout the word. We should all be feminists, and we should all read this book. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

FO: Irma

Have you ever had a project that you've intended to make for a long time but just never got around to it? While packing to evacuate for Hurricane Irma, I planned several projects to kill the time I might have during and after the storm hit. The lions and birds came first, but I knew I may have more time on my hands then just those toys would fill. So I deliberately packed coordinating colors of yarn (that I was able to use for all the projects) and grab my Super-Scary Mochi Mochi book as well. I never want to be caught without a project, and what better opportunity to make the pattern that made me buy the book? So after making my other little critters, and after quite a bit of debris clean up, I cast on my dream monster. I call it Irma :)
This is the Hurly-Burly pattern from Super-Scary Mochi Mochi by Anna Hrachovec. The whole book is filled with cute/scary monsters (mostly cute) like werewolves, little witches, rats, etc. I like a lot of the patterns, but the Hurly-Burly pattern is what made me buy the book. Want to see why?
Wait for it...
Almost there...
Just tuck those legs all the way in...
And you have a different monster :) Isn't it great?! The monster eats itself, lol. I just love it. I'm a bit partial to the orange and yellow side - aren't her pigtails cute?
I love how both sides have stripes but on the purple side they are half the size. It's a cute touch. The stripes look particularly neat on the back:
Like a bull's eye, right? I also love the arms and legs - they are so cartoony and cute.
The only change I made from the pattern was to put the eyes a few rounds lower then the example, and I really like the result.
And the yellow back - see how the stripes are wider? This was a very straight forward pattern as long as you don't mind keeping up with the stripes. I decided to go with the colors she uses in the example mostly because I couldn't figure out any other colors at the moment I was packing and I already knew I'd be bringing these. The yellow is Red Heart With Love in Daffodil, the orange is a mystery thrift store acrylic, the dark purple is I Love This Yarn in Grape, and the light purple is a mystery acrylic I've had since high school and no longer know what it is, lol.
I love the individual touches of each side with their hair - see his little stubble hair?
And her pigtails?
And the feets.
And for the girl.
I'm super thrilled with how this turned out, and having this made up has given me great ideas for this year's MochiMochiland Photo Contest :) At the moment, this is sitting on a shelf in my sewing room and it makes me smile to look at it. And what better name than to call it after the storm that made it possible?

Monday, October 9, 2017

I'm Joining the Salal KAL

I always enjoy Andi Satterlund's Fall Knit Along. I've participated for the past 3 years and it's always lots of fun to join with everyone, plus I tend to get more opportunities to knit this time of year. I'm particularly excited about this year's pattern as it was just the one I was hoping for: the Salal Cardigan. It's a vintage style cardi (as per Andi's usual aesthetic - which I love) with a cropped waist, 3/4 sleeves, and a lovely lace detailed yoke. Andi released the Salal last year in her new knitting magazine, Stranded. It's a lovely magazine, but being a devout sweater knitter I just didn't need to purchase the entire issue. I've been holding out hope that Salal would be released on its own in time, and now my patience has finally paid off. Plus I just finished my most recent sweater, so the timing really couldn't be better.
I dove in my stash to find something appropriate and came out with this Cloudborn Fibers Wool Worsted Twist in Emerald Heather. Cloudborn is Craftsy's new in house label, and in their mega sale over the summer I grabbed a couple of sweater quantities to try out simply because I couldn't resist the price (5 skeins for $15!). I really like this color though, and it's different from my other sweaters in this style. I've now made enough sweaters that I have to consider if I already have made one in that color/style so I don't get duplicates. I actually bought this yarn in another colorway too (Teal Heather) which would've been lovely, but when I look at my finished sweaters I already have my Marion and Anaheim cardis that have a similar shape and are some variation of teal, so I decided to go different and pick the green. I've already swatched my yarn and I got gauge, so at this point I'm just waiting for the knit along to officially start on October 15th so I can cast on.

Will you be joining the knit along? You can get 20% off the pattern until October 15th if you use the code SALALKAL on Ravelry :) Join us! Head over here for more info.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Hurricane FO: A Pair of Birdie Rattles

After making my Lions on Saturday night, I had to get situated for another project on Sunday night (when the worst part of the storm passed through). When packing my yarn, I deliberately chose colors that I could use on multiple projects for multiple babies. Next up were a couple of birdies!
This is the Sweet Tweeter! pattern from Modern Baby Crochet by Stacey Trock of Fresh Stitches. I just love her books, and I love this pattern. It's so simple (and quick) to make, but babies seem to love the shape and they make for a fun opportunity to use bright colors. This one is for a particular little girl, so having already made a pink one I wanted to make this different and chose purple. I used I Love This Yarn in the hGrape colorway for the body and Red Heart With Love in Daffodil for the beak.
And of course I added a rattle :) Rattle all the things! I haven't seen the baby this one is intended for in a while, but I'm hoping she likes it.
Since the storm was still raging, I settled in to make my second bird rattle of the night. This is where I had to do a lot of starting and stopping as well as crochet by candle light and/or flashlight, lol. Our power kept going on and off while I was making the body of this birdy, but I was undeterred.
This is another bird intended for a baby girl, and I just love this color so I try to fit it into projects wherever possible. I used Red Heart With Love in Jade for the body and the same Daffodil for the beak.
And this has a rattle as well :) Don't you just love their little faces? I used 10 mm safety eyes for both birds, and I like to put them a little closer together then the pattern calls for.
And here are both birds just after I finished them :) This picture was taken by candle light and with my camera flash, lol. I hope the little ladies I made these for like them and have as much fun shaking them as I do!