Ten Five Star

15956524937_c04dcb37a1_z
Books on my current reading list.

A caveat, my friends: For the most part, the books I read are not happy books. They're usually difficult, heart breaking, thought-provoking, and tell a story that must be told.  This list is of the most memorable 5 star books I've read this year. ToT List for today is 10 Favorite Books of 2014. 

1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving -  This book was a page turner and I became complete wrapped up in the lives of John Wheelwright and Owen Meany. The story ran the gamut of emotions, with a focus on humor. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

2. Blue Horses by Mary Oliver - I have been opening this book to any page and reading it aloud ever since I brought it home. I copy inpiring sentences onto my chalkboard and keep them on view for a few days. My "One Word" revealed itself to me through this book.

3. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - This novella is not like the movie with Audrey Hepburn. It is darker and delves more deeply into Holly's character and her personal history. 

4. Light In August by William Faulkner - Faulkner's language soars. I was swept away with his descriptions of place and the way he had of drawing a scene I could step into. I could, also, feel the desperation of his characters and understand their struggle. The small southern town and its people surrounded me as their story was told. Faulkner deserves all the praise heeped upon him over the years.

5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - The book tells the respective stories of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy, alternating chapters between the two as they come of age during WWII. This is a book you shouldn't miss and is another I highly recommend to all.

6. A Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan - This is a brutal book, a grim reminder of the horrors of war. Few people know of the Australians held in POW camps by the Japanese during WWII or that they were forced to build the Thai-Burma death railway. Their story needed to be told, but it is one of the most difficult and disturbing books I've ever read.

7. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Adichie tells the stories of Nigerian immigrants and the challenges they face when adapting to a new country. She sheds light on the many aspects and facets of race issues in Western cultures.

8. A Marker To Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik- Marked by the Liberian war, Jacqueline, the main character, lives in the shadows on a Grecian isle. She is barely surviving, unseen, haunted, and nearly mad with grief and guilt. The story was a hard one to shake, but well worth the read. 

9. The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan - I'll admit to having a soft spot for Irish novels. Each chapter of the book is narrated by an different character, all of whom live in a small Irish town, which has been adversely affected by the collapse of the economy. The stories are poignant, sometimes funny, but beautifully full of Irish idioms. They center around the violence that affected the town in the wake of the collapse and the demise of the local building firm. I listened to this book, but it's only 150 pages, which would make a quick read.

10. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - If you could live your life over and over again until you got that one thing right, that one thing you think could change the world, would you? 

Many of the books I "read" I listen to, but some I read and, often, I'll do both at the same time. What you choose to read is up to you and I know many of the books on my list will not make it to your reading list, but if anything strikes your fancy, I hope you'll have a go.


Jump!

Reading is one of my favorite activities and I am ever in awe of good writing and the authors who deliver.  Many of the blogs I read inspire me with the way the author puts words together, too. Great writing is everywhere I look. I love words.

Flashpostcard

I am not a good writer, at least not a very adventurous one, and I've never written fiction of any sort--have never aspired to write fiction of any sort. But, a spark ignited in me when I read Beverly's post about writing on the back of a postcard. The exercise sounded "doable", interesting and scary! What gives me the right to think I can write a story?

Flashfiction

Instead of fretting over my lack of ability I decided to hold my breath and jump right in. I may not be very good at this project, but I'm going to do it nonetheless. #roadtrip

Cast On Book Tour

Many of you could not see the picture of the Basic Cast On page in Cast On, Bind Off.  I took this picture instead of using the image from the book in the hopes everyone could see it. Thank you for your many comments, but the contest is not over until midnight tonight. If you're a lurker, please don't hesitate to comment. Just go for it! Let me know how many cast on techniques you know and use.

Castonpage

Please, comment on Wednesday's post. If you've have already commented you're in the running, whether you could see the picture or not.


In the Beginning

Welcome, to new friends coming from the Storey Publishing book tour! It is my pleasure to be part of the tour and to introduce you to a fabulous new knitting reference book, "Cast On, Bind Off" by Leslie Ann Bestor. 

CastOnBindOff
Excerpted from Cast On, Bind Off © Leslie Ann Bestor, photography © John Polak used with permission from Storey Publishing

As I was reading through Cast On, Bind Off, I was thrilled to see the first section of "Basic Cast Ons" and a clear picture of nine great basics.  A knitter who knows a few good cast on techniques will have the knowledge needed to make the right choice when starting a project.  This page offers a varied list of the techniques a knitter can easily learn for the first step of a project.

Basic Cast On
Excerpted from Cast On, Bind Off © Leslie Ann Bestor, photography © John Polak used with permission from Storey Publishing

Each technique has its own page, which lists the characteristics and uses, along with a clear series of pictures and easy to follow instructions.  A big plus is the spiral binding, which means the book will stay open (halleluiah!) while you try your hand learning a new cast on.

Cablefrombook

I've taken the book along when knitting in public and friends have been able to learn their desired cast on (or bind off) by following the instructions laid out on the page.

This little book puts at a knitters fingertips, the necessary tools to make an informed choice. When knitting a sock you might try a cast on with a little stretch, like the Old Norwegian, or when starting a sweater, a clean, stable edge may be desirable and the Cable Cast on will fit the bill.  Cast On, Bind Off is a great compilation of techniques that will help any knitter make the first step a perfect beginning.

I'm keeping my copy, because there are many new to me techniques I'd like to learn, but you can win a copy from Storey Publishing by answering a question in the comments:

How many of the cast on techniques listed on the page pictured above do you know and use?  

I'll pick a ramdon winner on Friday July 13th (a great day, don't you think?) and announce the winner sometime over the weekend. Thank you for stopping by!

Follow the Tour!

7/9         Picnic Knits
7/10       Knit and Tonic
7/11       Zeneedle
7/12       Rambling Designs
7/13       Rambling Designs (Leslie Ann, guest post)
7/14       Neo Knits
7/15       Knit & Nosh
7/16       Knitting at Large
7/17       Rebecca Danger
7/18       Lapdog Creations
7/19       Nutmeg Knitter
7/20       Yarnagogo
7/21       Weekend Knitter
7/22       knitgrrl
7/23       It's a Purl, Man
7/24       Whip Up
7/25       Knitspot
7/26       Under the Humble Moon
7/27       Knitting Daily
7/28       Knitting School Dropout
7/29       Hugs for Your Head
7/30       The Knit Girllls

To the Birds

Monday I had the opportunity to listen to a local radio show* on our NPR station, which was quite fortuitous, as three bookstore owners were giving their personal recommendations for summer reads. The first book mentioned was a new book by Terry Tempest Williams and, after the description, I couldn't wait to purchased the book and hold it in my hands. Within minutes I had picked up my purse and headed out to the LBS. This is a book you need to see, touch, to thumb through, as inside there are beautiful surprises along with the amazing, poetic, and prophetic words.

Terryandthesky
It doesn't take long to connect my love of the sky to my love of birds, my watching and listening to the feathered ones outside my door. 

Sunday, from inside the house I could hear a constant, almost panicked chirp of a robin. I went to investigate and, in a nearby tree, found two robins sitting side by side on a bare branch, chirping for all they were worth. An eching of their call came from a robin on a power line. In the same tree, also chirping, albeit a little more slowly, sat a pair of gold finches.  The chorus went on for over an hour, as a neighbor and I watched in awe and wonder. 

Every day I have the pleasure of watching three scrub jays play in the cedar bushes on either side of my office door.  Their cries draw me from my office chair for a much needed break, and I often catch sight of their blue wings as they glide from a pine tree back into the cedars.  They never fail to bring a smile to my face.  

I can't wait to step into Terry's book and read her meditations on life, family, love and landscape.  Her words have always filled me with a sense of place.

*The link to the show also has a list of the books recommended by each local bookseller.  Enjoy!


Hammy Yarn Along

Hamamelis hogs all my attention, as her lace has unlocked its secrets and I can't seem to get enough. The last repeat is falling into place and will be followed by rows and rows of garter ridges, the simple elegance of which pleases me to no end.

Bluehammydandyz2

A minor (as it turned out) catastrophe befell the yarn (fortunatly not the shawl), as a dog (who shall remain nameless), whilst in the midst of an panic attack, defiled the unsuspecting ball. I did not see the nasty creature dog leave my side, but alas, he stealthily cause havoc and hardened my heart. Thinking about the yarn in its abused state saddened me.  I couldn't leave it in its state of disgrace and, of course, I could not knit with a tangled mass, and so, in the quiet hour(s) of the early evening, I carefully set to untangling. 

As the knots and tangles slowly fell from my fingertips, I listened to American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a delightful distraction. I’d have to classify myself a fan as I've read, and loved, several of his books. Instead of a picture of my iPod, the picture shows my favorite summer book, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I've read it before and, hopefully, by reading it again, summer (or at least spring) will make an appearance.

I'm happily joining Ginny, of Small Things, in her Yarn Along.


Yarning Along

This post cold also be called "At Last", as I haven't touched poor Hamamelis since January! Back then I was struggling with the pattern and watching every stitch I made. With patterning (garter stitches) on both sides, I was easily confused and couldn't (quite) see the design.

Yarnalonghammy

This week I picked the shawl up again and, even though I'd stopped in middle of a repeat, things fell into place, the design was apparent, easy to see and keep straight.  After a only a few hours of knitting, much progress has been made and I feel excited, and relieved, its going so well.

Most of my reading actually involves listening and, because of the iPod, the number of books I've read has increased. I listen when knitting, walking, and even working (slow days can be deadly dull), but the past year I decided I must take time to actively read a book.  The heft of the book, the feel of the paper and turning the pages...there really is nothing quite like it. I read one or two books a month this way and have started using the library for more than downloads or CDs.

At the moment I'm reading "How to Knit a Heart Back Home", by Rachael Herron (one of my first blog buddies!) and enjoying the beauty of a romance unfolding.  As you can see from the cover, knitting is involved, too.  On the iPod is "The Love of My Youth" by Mary Gordon.  The story takes place in Rome and her writing is lovely, which makes this a perfect book for the ear.

Today I join Ginny in her YarnAlong.