what I like in a book

First of all, thank you so much to all the Ravelry users for the warm response to my pattern! There are 40+ likes and lots of queuing as of this morning. I really didn't expect so much! Now that it's there, I'm feeling a little more confident, I think it looks quite nice. I have to give Mr. HeyLucy some credit for helping with the photography, too. 

And now, I think it's about time for a book report. I didn't read nearly as much in 2011 as I did in 2010, but I did read a few very good books. I've also gotten a couple advance reader's copies from publishers, so I wanted to be sure and let you know about those. There were two, in particular, that I recently read, and they got me thinking about just what makes a good book. The Night Swimmer was just released, and is the story of an American couple that win an Irish pub on the southern tip of Ireland. They have high hopes, but things don't quite work out as expected. Matt Bondurant is an eloquent, gifted writer, but there was a subtlety to his storytelling that I never really understood. I'm still not sure just why certain things happened as they did. I found it interesting to read a story told in a female voice, written by a male author (as I would if roles were reversed). He was convincing, and yet I never really cared all that much for Elly, and I didn't understand her attractions to swimming in the ocean and to her husband Fred. I need to feel like I know and understand the characters in a book to really like it. So my review, in this case, is a totally subjective two-and-a-half out of five stars. I think some readers will love it, in all its subtlety, but even the intriguing location of the story wasn't enough to win me over. 

And now, a brief intermission, so we can enjoy this entertaining video: 

Okay, next up on my ARC list, History of a Pleasure Seeker, which comes out February 7. It's just after the turn of the century in Amsterdam (+1, I particularly like this time period and location), and handsome, talented Piet is attempting to rise above his station and secures a job as tutor to a troubled boy in a very wealthy family (+1, I can get behind that, it's an interesting challenge). Told in vivid detail, the author successfully brings a glamorous world to life (+1 for descriptive writing). Ultimately, however, the negatives are glaring. Piet is quite devious and while he admires his employer, he takes advantage of his trust (-1, first and foremost, he is a selfish bastard). He does succeed in helping some of the other characters, but often inadvertently, while single-mindedly pursuing his own interests (-1 more for more unlikeability). There's also an awful lot of excruciatingly detailed sex, both hetero- and homosexual (-1 for unexpected erotica). I prefer a more subtle approach, and there was just more than I thought was necessary to move the plot forward. I don't want characters in a book to be perfect, but when they succeed time and time again, despite their flaws, I find that they grow tiresome. So the pluses and minuses end up cancelling each other out. I'll be generous, however, and give it three out of five stars. 

My very favorite book of 2011 was Ready Player One. I actually listened to the audio version of this one, read by Wil Wheaton, who was pitch perfect as the voice of Wade Watts, treasure seeker/hacker/80s pop culture expert. Set in a bleak and hopeless 2044, most of humanity spends it's time plugged in to the virtual OASIS, where they attend school, work, and socialize. The developer of this virtual world has died and his will stipulates that the person who can unlock the three hidden gates and solve the subsequent puzzles will inherit the entire thing. It's been years, and so far no one has made any progress until one day when Wade finds the first gate, and the competition heats up fast. As a child of the 80s, the nostagia factor was high for me. I really grew to care about the characters, and the action and suspense kept me listening. It was just so, so much fun.

Currently, I'm in the middle of Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks, and I'm loving it so much. She has a way of giving her characters a voice that really expresses who they are. I recently finished Year of Wonders, and had the same feeling. I enjoyed the whole book, until the ending, which felt rushed and was so unlikely, I found it hard to believe. Fingers-crossed that it doesn't happen again, it was so perfect up to that point. 

What was your favorite book of 2011? What do you like in a book.   

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I have a whole bunch of recommendations for you in this post, but mostly I want to talk about the book in the photo up there. I was quite lucky to be offered a copy from the publisher to read and review quite a little while ago, and I finally managed to site down and read last weekend. 

The Butcher and the Vegetarian was written by Tara Austen Weaver, author of the lovely Tea and Cookies blog, which I don't know how I've missed all this time, but it's now bookmarked in my cooking folder. In her book she tells her story of her encounters with meat (recommended by her doctor to help her overcome some health issues) after a lifetime as a vegetarian. There are a lot of books out there these days about our food supply and eating responsibly, and I've found some of them to be rather preachy and alarmist, but this was much different. Tara is very balanced in her book, and she writes with warmth and a little self-deprecating humor that I really connected with. I have actually been thinking about eating less meat, and eating better, more humanely raised meat when I do. I especially liked the sections  where she visited some smaller farms where the farmers are doing just that, and I definitely want to start looking for some sources for those types of products in my area. I was just the sort of thing I've been wanting to learn more about.

I think a lot of this thinking on my part has come from having my chickens for the last three and a half years. I love gathering and cooking their eggs, knowing that they spend their days wandering wherever they please, pecking and scratching and eating a diet with such variety. Those girls are spoiled, I tell you. They get fruit and vegetable scraps from the little cafĂ© at work, all sorts of bugs, a handful of scratch every morning, and also their regular chicken feed. When I hear about factory egg farms, and how the birds are treated I know I never want to have a store bought egg again. 

So anyway, I highly recommend The Butcher and the Vegetarian, it's a good read, particularly if you are thinking about improving the way you eat.

So here are some other things I recommend right now:

  • In my continuing quest to drink more water, I've started filling a pitcher with water filtered in our Brita filter and then adding ribbons of cucumber sliced lengthwise and a few sprigs of mint. So much better than plain! I'm not sure why, but I think it is much more thirst quenching.
  • Netflix has all eight seasons of McLeod's Daughters, and I've been totally addicted. It's an Australian series about a bunch of women ranchers. I have to say, however, it went downhill into soap opera territory the last couple seasons. I loved the first three seasons the best. 
  • I've reviewed a lot of cooking apps for the iPhone over at APPlesauce, and now that I've been trying them all out for a little while, the Epicurious app seems to be winning as my favorite. It's free, which of course earns it bonus points, but I would have paid for it if I had to. 
  • My current favorite podcast (well, videocast, really) is Working Class Foodies. They're quick, just six or eight minutes, and full of all sorts of delicious recipes and tips, and everything is fresh but also cheap.

I bought some tiny Forelle pears, just because they were so pretty. 



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reviews and opinions

Good grief it's been gloomy and dark around here. I attempted to take some photos of knitting projects Monday morning and this was the best I could do:


I know I have my Ravelympics project, and I have been working on it, but it's laceweight yarn, and I needed a break. This is the opposite of laceweight, it's two strands of yarn held together and knit on giant (size 17) needles. Plus, it's a blanket, so it kept me warm while I was knitting it. This pattern is from Lion Brand, it's called Cascading Colors blanket, and it's made with Lion Brand Jiffy and Cotton Ease. I love the colors. It's pretty small, but just perfect for a stroller or car seat, or for a toddler to drag around. I blocked it by throwing it in the washer and then in the drier, and the Jiffy yarn got pretty fuzzy and pill-y. Also, every single end that I had carefully woven in popped through to the front side. I trimmed everything neatly, and now it looks pretty good, If I do say so. 

And now I have some opinions and reviews for you, whether you want them or not. I splurged on a set of Zephyr knitting needles from Knit Picks, since they are on sale right now. They're clear acrylic, and I think I rather like them. They're slick, although not as slick as nickel-plated needles. I switched my Featherweight cardigan from a pair of plastic needles to these, and it's going much more smoothly. The yarn slides nicely, and the tips are nice and pointy, so they're especially nice for this very fine yarn.

I watched Bright Star this week. My goodness, it was boring, but so very beautiful. I'm not really one for wimpy poets, and Fannie was kind of bratty, but her clothes were wonderful and every scene was like a painting. I could look at it over and over. How's that for the oddest review ever? I loved it, even though the story was slow. Maybe I'll just let it play without sound next time, and enjoy the eye candy.

I went to the Asian grocery store and bought ingredients for Tom Yum soup, which is very easy when you use the paste mix from a jar. I got a big bag of shiitake mushrooms for just $2.99 a pound. When I was at Vons a few days later, I noticed their price for shiitake mushrooms was $15.99 a pound. That's just crazy, how can they do that? My cheap mushrooms were delicious in the soup, they absorbed all that sweet and sour broth and just melted in your mouth. I don't think they would have done that if I had paid $15.99 for them. 

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of books

Aww, you guys! I can’t believe how fast the chick and pincushions went. There will be more of both just as soon as I can get to them. Too bad I have an actual full time job. It just keeps getting in the way of the fun stuff! My biggest problem during the week is actually being able to take pictures. It’s dark now when I get home, and mornings can get a little hectic. I’d like to make a light box, but I’m really trying to clean my workshop out so I can paint and fix it up all pretty, not bring more stuff in. There must be a space-saving light box contraption out there somewhere, or maybe I just have to invent one myself.

This picture was not taken with the use of a light box, just the pale morning light from my kitchen window, which is quite nice, really. If only it didn’t hang around for such a limited time each day.


Enough about that, I actually wanted to talk about books again! First of all, I finished one of two books I’m working on for the shop, and have listed it. The second one is a little bigger, and nearly done too. I’ll let you read all about it over there, if you are interested in that sort of thing. I think I have enough of this lovely French printmaking paper left for one, or maybe two more books. I should look for a less expensive alternative, but it’s just so nice, and stands up well to ink and watercolors. It’s just right for a commonplace book, or a travel journal.


I’ve also squeezed in a bit of reading, some from the list, and some not. First of all, those of you who recommended The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, what are you trying to do to me?! Heart-wrenching would be the best description I can give you. For those of you interested in WWII/Holocaust books, put this one at the top of your list right now. And even if you’re not interested in that period of history, it still should be high on your list.

I’ve also continued with the Fablehaven books, and I think they are getting better. I finished the second and just started the third. I think kids that are Harry Potter fans and looking for something else to read would really enjoy this series. Fantastical, magical creatures are always fun, and the stories are suspenseful and keep you reading.

The Dew Breaker is also on my list, and I have the CD recording of it from the library, so I can listen while driving to and from work. I have to be in just the right mood to listen to a book, so maybe I’ll get to this one later this week. Looking at my to-do list I don’t see any spare time for reading, so this may be the best way to fit it in.

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a few pictures from the farm and a list

I’m still trying to learn how to use my zoom lens, and I was practicing this morning. Sally kept walking closer and closer. I think I have a picture that is nearly all beak. In this one you can see her pretty blue eyes. Er, eye.


The dogs run through the dew and drink out of Sally’s pool in the morning, then go lay in the dirt, so they’re always a bit disheveled looking in the morning. Here’s Winston’s dirty face:


There has been quite the chicken soap opera going on around these parts, but it will take several entries to share that tale. In the meantime, meet Colonel Sanders:


Something I really need to work on: check the white balance before taking pictures! I was so concerned about my aperture and shutter speed that I forgot that the last time I used my camera I was taking pictures in the kitchen in the evening and had the white balance set on incandescent. Doh! So that’s why everything is blue. That’s also not the first time I’ve done that. When will I learn?

And now, a list of movies that should not be viewed on an empty stomach:

  • Big Night
  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • Howard’s End
  • Mostly Martha

Do you have any to add to the list? I’m just trying to serve the public here at Hey Lucy, and prevent any unnecessary hunger pangs.

I watched Mostly Martha last night, but it was after dinner, so I was okay. Next on my Netflix queue is No Reservations. I’m going to see how it compares to Mostly Martha. I usually hate Hollywood remakes (for example, Shall We Dance, the Japanese version, is far superior to the U.S. version), so I have very low expectations.

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