Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lady of Hay

Okay, last night when I was talking about destroying yarn to see how much stress it can take, I mentioned finishing a really good book.  It's called Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine.  I downloaded it as a free book through - I had heard of it through a newsletter called Pixel of Ink.  Wow, this site and newsletter has me stocked up on free or really cheap books to last quite a few years!  :-)

Anyway, back to the book...

I almost didn't download this book because I thought the title was kind of weak - and well, it is.  It almost sounds like a cheap romance novel.  Oh, but this book is so far from one of those sleazy romance novels.  Once you get all of the characters straight, it's so hard to put the book down!  I was reading it a little at a time when I first opened it and it took more than a week to read it.  I do have to say that the last half of the book was read in just a couple days though.

Okay, so here is the basic concept of the story: The main character, Jo, is a reporter who is researching the whole concept of using hypnosis to regress people to find out if (or about) their previous lives.  Well, Jo finds out that she did live before as a noblewoman in the 12th century.  Then there is an interesting twist to the whole story... apparently a few of the main players of Jo's previous self from 800 years ago have also found new lives in the 20th (current time in the story is 1985) century and are trying to change what had happened before.

Once that whole twist was introduced it was a little confusing remembering who everyone was and how they played in the story, but once I got my characters straightened out, I was able to pick up speed in the story.

I was really impressed with the amount of research that went into this book!  I was reading the timeline and authors notes about this book and the characters from the 12th century were real!  Now, the story that she wrote for them may not have been, but she work off of speculation and legends from the area.  I love knowing that a writer put that kind of effort into an story.  It makes me appreciate it even more.  :-)  :-)

What is also fun about this whole story is the concept of reincarnation.  Do you believe it or not?  I guess it all depends on what kind of religion you've grown up with or what kind of religion you are now... but after reading this book it kind of did make me think.  :-)  And thinking about it is also half the fun.  Coming up with all of the "What if..." questions and wondering.  If it were really possible to get hypnotized and regressed like this book talks about, it would be a cool way of jumping back in time to see what life was really like back then... "then" being whatever time frames your previous life lived.  :-)  I love to read about history and historical novels like this one, but sometimes the details are just not detailed enough.  To tell you the truth, I've always wondered how certain hygiene habits that we take for granted today were dealt with back then.  Daily showers?  Deodorant?  Dental floss?  Feminine hygiene products for menstruation?  Not very many books talk about that - at least none of the books I've read.  :-)  :-)

I also loved the writing style for this writer.  It was smooth but not over worded.  Maybe that's not the right word I'm looking for... I don't believe that something can be over worded.  It's kind of like trying to tell someone that a certain piece of music has too many notes.  But some authors take description a little overboard.  Some people like it; I personally don't.  With this writer, I got a good sense to where she was and what the castle, room or whatever she was describing and the actions and feelings of the characters were excellent.  When Mathilda was starting to suffer from arthritis, I could almost feel her pain.  The stress and anguish she must have felt when she was abandoned by her husband when he didn't show up with the money he owed the king... it's painful to read that kind of sadness but the writing was so well done that I could almost imagine what she was feeling.

I do have to warn you though, this book is long.  I don't know how long because Kindle doesn't give me page numbers, but it did take me a while to read it.  I don't think she would have been able to write such a good book in less pages.  I personally think that she could have gone into just a wee bit more detail in certain areas, but the book is a wonderful story either way.  :-)  :-)  I was a little sad that the story didn't turn out like I wanted, but then, I didn't write the book now, did I?  :-)

I have a feeling that this book may have been written around the same time as the book's timeline - 1985 - so this book may have been out for a while.  There has to be someone that has to have read it that would like to talk to me about it....  :-)  Please feel free to email or leave a comment.  :-)  :-)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How do you know?

Oh my goodness... I just finished one of the most awesome books since the Promises to Keep series.  But I'll have to tell you about that later.  I don't have the energy to write about that now.

Amazingly enough, though, I do feel like writing about a common problem that so many of us may have with so much of the yarn in our yarn stashes/reserves/pets/whatever you want to call it.  :-)  :-)  Let's say that you want to use up some of that stash on a baby blanket or baby toy but you're not sure what these various little balls of yarn are or know if they'll be strong enough?  I can tell most of the time just by look and feel (and sometimes memory) on what brand each ball of yarn may be.  But sometimes it's not as easy - especially if you've just inherited yarn from someone else's stash.  :-)

So, other than the usual burning test to see if the yarn is acrylic or wool, you can do the stress test that a friend taught me years ago (can you believe that I almost typed 'yarns ago'?  :-)  :-)

I like to use this especially when I'm making something that has a good chance of being abused.  Baby sweater/toy/blanket.  It can even work for socks or mittens.  :-)  You need to use a yarn that is going to be fairly sturdy and will  not disintegrate too easily with lots of abuse.  So, you get a couple yards of yarn and try the following:

Make a chain (finger or you can use your crochet hook) for the entire length of yarn.  Make a chain with that chain, and if you can, make one last chain.  Make sure when you finish off at the end of each chain that you don't tighten it up too tight because you'll need to take them out next.

Holding the chain in your other hand as tight as you can, pull chain to undo it (or frog it).  When you hold the chain tightly in your other hand, it causes a lot of friction in the  yarn.  At this point, you should have seen a few fragments or shedding of the yarn.  If it hasn't fallen apart completely, then you know that the yarn is a little strong.  Unravel the second layer of chain, and possibly the third (all while holding tightly in the other hand), then look at what you have left.  The yarn will look like total crud.  Not much gets past this unscathed, it will have untwisted a bit, it will looks a bit fluffy where most of the abuse was given... grab an end in each hand and give it a nice tug.  Does it fall apart or break?  No?  Well, then you have got yourself a really strong yarn!  :-)  This will probably survive the abuse that any baby/toddler/child can give a blanket, toy or sweater on a hourly basis.  Make a quick swatch with this bit of yarn, and no, it does not have to be in the stitch that you will be using.  Just stockinette or single crochet will do, then wash it.  It doesn't matter what you wash it in, you want to see if it will survive the gazillion washes that most kid stuff must endure in it's lifetime.  Then, throw it in the dryer - I personally throw these swatches in with the whites where it not only takes further abuse by being washed in hot water, but also bleach.  Then, you'll undo one of the ends and holding it tightly again, take it apart.  How does the yarn hold up now?  :-)  :-)

I've only known two brands that have survived both the chain torture test and the wash test, but I'm not going to tell you.  Put your favorite brands to the test and let me know.  :-)

I will need to tell you that most of that fun and fancy lace weight yarn falls apart really easy.  But then, I'm not going to spend a million hours on a lace shawl and give it to a baby now, am I?  :-)  I have also noticed that home hand spun is stronger than heck and back, but others don't survive the first layer of torture.  So, what kind of fiber is stronger?  Or can it all go back to the spinner?  :-)  :-)  Don't know, I just do the test.  :-)  :-)

I need to get batteries for my camera and take some decent pics to post.  I'd love to hear your comments though so please share!  :-)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Two short stories

I'm a little (okay, I'm actually very behind!) on sharing my thoughts on the last few books that I've read in the past couple of weeks.  I've actually read some really good ones - including two short stories.

The first one is called The Second Ward by Robert DeCoteau.  For a short story, the writer sure has a way of pulling you into the story quick!  The story kind of reminded me of a movie that I watched a long  time ago but I don't remember the whole story - something about a bumble bee - but anyway, the story is basically about a kid in a mental institution that has been there since he was 9 years old.  Everyone claims to want to help him, but he really doesn't understand what is wrong with him.  He keeps having these dreams about driving a car but no one wants to talk about it.  Neither his doctors or is he really allowed to talk about it in the group sessions either.  I feel really bad for this kid - he doesn't know anything about the outside world and wants to escape so badly.  His parents no longer visit and he's basically all alone.  The story takes an awesome turn and really picks up, then bam!  You find out what was really going on to this kid.  I didn't expect it at all and when I can't predict how the story is going to finish, I am pretty surprised.  I didn't even realize that the story was over!  I suppose that this short story can eventually lead to another book, where this other plot left off.  If the writer can tell a tale this good, I can't wait to read more.

The other short story I don't really think was meant to be a short story.  It went by really fast but since the Kindle doesn't have page numbers, I have no idea how to figure out how long the book actually was.  The book is called 8810 by Nicholas Taylor.  Where the last short story was serious and in a way, a bit disturbing, this book was funny.  The whole story takes place in an office - the whole corporate world.  If you've ever worked for a large company in any department, you'll find the same kind of personalities and the same kind of activities going on.  In a way it almost made me miss working a little bit, but only for the entertainment value.  When I had the time, it was kind of fun to see all of the personalities interact with each other.  I guess this book could have been a little boring to someone that couldn't relate, but since I could, I found it just so much fun to read.  :-)  It was really short - I guess that's why it was a 'short' story - but I really liked the way this writer told his story.  Nothing was too serious even though it could have.  The beginning of the story started with the whole Monday morning moodiness routine and the first day on a new job.  The main character could have been written as being a bundle of nerves, jumpy or even a little too anxious.  Instead, the character had an almost cynical (but funny) "Holden Caulfield" (from Catcher in the Rye) attitude to the whole thing.  No, he didn't call everyone phony, but he just kind of went along with everyone until they did something stupid, then he let his true opinions about them come out; but for some strange reason, he still maintained a almost friendship with them afterwards.  The paranoid guy that kept thinking that everyone was against him was made a little more paranoid, the guy that always ate lunch in the park got a lunch partner every once in a while (who got the same nasty looks from the play ground moms)... unlike the Catcher in the Rye guy, this guy (oh, what the heck was his name again!) was a little more light hearted.  I'll be curious to see if this leads to another book because this one was fun to read.  The writer had a good way to keep the mood fun in the book which also made it so neat to read.  :-)