Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

In The Silkworm, Cormoran Strike, a private detective, is hired by the wife of novelist Owen Quine. Quine has gone missing and at first his wife thinks his just gone away for some alone time. However, it's quickly discovered that it's much more serious than that, especially after Quine has been found brutally murdered. As for suspects, there are plenty. His newest manuscript portrays almost everyone he knows in a very bad light. If it's published, many lives would be ruined. Strike and his young assistant, Robin Ellacott, have their work cut out for them in dealing with this most callous killer.

I loved this book! The story grabbed me right away and I couldn't wait to see what happened to Quine. The storyline about publishing was revealing and exciting to read about.

Both Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott are terrific characters and complement each other perfectly. I loved that we got to read more about them and the others in their lives. In Strike's case, we learn about his brother or rather half-brother. They share the same famous father. With Robin, we got to read more about her relationship with her husband-to-be. I really like Strike, but it's Robin who's the highlight for me in this series. She's just awesome.

The book does start out with a bit of cussing, but it doesn't last long. It just lasts a few pages and isn't really that bad or disgusting. Hopefully, it won't turn off too many people.

I liked the first book in the series better than this one. While I loved this book as a whole, I didn't love (or even like) the story or excerpts of the manuscript that Quine wrote before his disappearance. It wasn't my type of book and frankly reading those sections made me uncomfortable. It was just too weird. I'm definitely not into shock art and/or satire. I think parts of this could have been cut without jeopardizing the storyline. It may have even made it a better book and condensed the story a little.

I found one passage in the book that particularly liked. For me, it perfectly describes the murder of Owen Quine:
This murder was elaborate, strange, sadistic and grotesque, literary in inspiration and ruthless in execution. (page 147)

This book is the second in the series, but it can really stand on its own. I think I think there are some references to the first book, but there are no spoilers. So far, the books can be read in any order.

Besides the Harry Potter series, I've read two other books by this author: The Cuckoos Calling also featuring Cormoran Strike and a standalone book, The Casual Vacancy. I still count this book as one of my all-time favourites.

Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit Hachette's website.

For more information about Robert Galbraith and the other book in the series, please visit Robert-Galbraith.com. For more information about J. K. Rowling, please visit J. K. Rowling's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group Canada for this review copy.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, Mulholland Books (Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)), ©2014. ISBN 9780316206877(Hardcover), 455p.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - From head to toe

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

This week I worked on two knitting projects. Last week, I showed the beginnings of a beanie or light toque I was knitting for myself. I finished that, but I'm not really thrilled with it. I could explain further, but I'd rather just show "the good side" and be done.
 
I'm currently working on the matching scarf and I don't like it any better. Moving on....

The other project I worked on was the felted slippers from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month. I'm really surprised at how quickly they worked up. A quick knitter could probably make them in a couple of hours. It took me a bit longer than that, but I made a mistake and had to rip back quite a bit. I felted them this afternoon (twice through the washing machine with detergent and hot water) and I'm quite pleased with them.  Here are the photos of one slipper: 

Before felting

After felting
 
It's like magic!!!!  The length is perfect for my feet, but they are still a bit too wide.  However, I didn't want to chance one more time through the wash.  Oh, well.  The slippers are still air drying and I'm wondering if that'll make them shrink a bit more.  Once that's done, I'll sew on the purely-decorative straps and buttons and model them next week.

Sorry for the glare.  That's the overhead light reflecting off the kitchen counter.  I was too lazy to retake them.

That's it for this week. I'm going to be looking for a larger project or several smaller projects to do in the next week or two. I wish I could do something else in front of the TV, but for me knitting is the best.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.   If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tangled Thursday - P

Tangled Thursday is an occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week Elaine suggested using the letter "P" for inspiration. I chose to learn a few new (mostly) "P" patterns for my creation. Here it is:
 
Tangles: Puf, Puffle, Paushalöv (with Tipple and Zinger), Popsicles, Panthe
 
All of them are new-to-me except Panthe (bottom right), which I did only once before.  I wanted to do that one again because I wasn't satisfied with my first attempt.

I love Puf (top left) and will likely use that one many times.  Likewise with Paushalöv (bottom left), but here I think I left too much white space.   My attempt at Puffle (top right) is just a scribbled mess.   Meh.

Thanks for the challenge Elaine!!!

Be sure to check out the other "P" creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Knitting...Again

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

After having abandoned (temporarily?) the scarf I was making last week, I scrambled to find another knitting project to do in front of the TV.

I've had two balls if Kroy Sock yarn sitting around for some time. I didn't love the socks I made from this yarn, so I searched online for something different. I found a pattern for a beanie online. I don't think a "beanie" is appropriate for someone my age so I'm thinking of it as a light toque. I was planning on making a narrow scarf with the second ball, but it looks like I'll have to dip into the first one to finish the hat.  I'm already into the decreasing section at the crown of the hat (I've done more than in the photo below), but had I known that sooner, I could have made a contrasting strip with some other leftover Kroy yarn. I might figure out something yet.

This hat was supposed to be knit in the round, but since I didn't have the proper circular needle and didn't want to buy one,  I decided to knit it on two needles and have a seam down the back. I'm hoping it's going to work out.

What I didn't anticipate was how differently the colours were going to be "scattered" around the scarf from knitting back and forth instead of in rounds. I know it doesn't really matter, but it's not something I considered when making the decision to go with two needles. Here's how it looked a couple of days ago:
 


My next project in the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month arrived yesterday. This time it's Felted Slippers. I've never felted before, but I've seen projects for it and have been curious about how it's done. Of course, I didn't have the proper needles, so that meant a trip to a specialty yarn store in the city. I can't see me using these needles (4 double pointed 8mm needles) that much, so I wasn't that happy to have to shell out another $18+ for this project. Sure, I could have bought plain metal ones for about $13, but these bluish wooden ones are kinda pretty, so I went with them. In hindsight, I should have bought the metal ones and saved a few bucks, but it was a long day, I was tired, there was a line-up at the store, and I just wanted to go home. Here's the project:

 
...and the new needles:
 

Pretty wood grain, eh? 

I'm not excited that about this project. That's because I only knit for myself and I don't usually wear slippers. I wasn't that excited about last month's project either, the carry-all bag, which I've yet to use. I'm finding that I have to keep reminding myself about why I joined this club...to experience new things, patterns, yarns, stitches, techniques, etc. In that regard, the club is doing what I wanted it to do for that's exactly what's happening. I've had to look up online a number of new-to-me things in the last three months and have learned some new abbreviations as well as techniques. I just wish I loved the items more or found them more useful and that I didn't have to go out and buy new needles for every new project that arrived in the mail. ***big sigh*** Oh, well. 

After complaining last week about the cabled scarf I was knitting but not loving, I received a comment from Heather, who suggested smaller needles. Thanks Heather!!!  I'll probably try that this week.  Hopefully, I'll have a photo to share in the next week or two.
 
Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.   She's finished her beautiful year-long temperature scarves which are 17 feet long!!!   If you haven't seen them, you can find them on her blog.   Also, if you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Frustrated Knitting

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

These last two weeks were mostly frustrating when it came to knitting. Two of my projects were not working out, so I put down the needles until I could figure out what I wanted to do with them.

If you remember a couple of weeks ago I was working on the latest project from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month, a mesh type carry-all bag. Well, I finished the bag, after making more mistakes in the mess pattern, and started on the handles. The pattern said to make 2 handles 19" long and attach them according to the photo. That's where the problems started. In the photo, it looked like the bag only had 1 handle worn over the shoulder. After some measuring, I determined that the handle had to be longer than 19" if I (or most adults) wanted to use the bag as pictured. Dilemma! I decided to follow the pattern, make 2 handles, and figure it out once they were done. Well, that didn't work out so well. The handles were too short to put over my shoulder, yet too long to carry in my hand without the bag and all of its contents dragging on the ground. Darn! So,  I then decided to make 1 long handle by adding onto one of the handles using the yarn from the second handle. It's better, but I somehow managed to sew the handle on backwards the first time! I think it looks okay now, but it was frustrating figuring it all out.

 
I'm hoping I have more luck with the next pattern, which should be here in a week or so.

The other bothersome project was a cabled scarf I was knitting for myself. First of all, I had lots of trouble following a pretty straight forward pattern. I read the pattern and knew how it should look like, but when I started knitting, it didn't turn out. I'm chalking it up to being distracted by the TV rather than several senior moments. ;)  Then, I got about 3" done before I decided I didn't really like it. I'm using a 70% acrylic, 30% wool worsted weight yarn with the suggested needle size of 5.5mm. That size might be a little too large because it's coming out lacy, light and airy and not really thick and cuddly like a winter scarf should be. Uggg...After knitting my husband's scarf that seemed to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r, I certainly don't want to make a scarf for myself that I don't love. So, it sits in my knitting basket at 3" long.  By the way, the colour is a bit off in the photo.  It's a cream-coloured fisherman's Aran yarn. 
 

I like the middle cable section, but that's where it's the most lacy.  There are holes big enough for my fingers to pop through where the two cable lines come together and then split apart.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet.  I guess one option is to use smaller needles.  The yarn has been sitting around for years and I was trying to use it up for something/anything, so scrapping it all together isn't a big loss.  Another idea is sure to come along at some point. 

You'd think after all of that I wouldn't try to do any more knitting, however, I'm still working on my temperature scarf. Luckily, it didn't give me any trouble. Here's the latest, with a side-by-side comparison with the scarf from two years ago (old one on the left, new one on the right).


It's a little hard to see, but we've had fewer hot days (red) and more cooler days (light yellow), but a longer more consistent "middle"/orange range.  I'm running out of orange and hope I have enough to finish the scarf in May/June next year.  Perhaps I should go purchase more now before they discontinue the yarn or something. 

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts. If you've done any crafting this week, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so other can enjoy your creations.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Night Before by Lisa Jackson

In The Night Before, Caitlyn Bandeaux wakes up one morning, covered in blood. The night before she was supposed to meet her sister, Kelly, for drinks, but Kelly was a no-show. That's all she can remember. Soon, she learns that her ex-husband was murdered last night and she doesn't have an solid alibi. Did she kill him? Could all of this blood be his? Or was he killed by a serial killer that has taken others over the years. Others who've been known to Caitlyn. Fearing that she's losing her mind, Caitlyn turns to a Adam Hunt, a new psychologist, who contacts her after her regular therapist disappears.

I enjoyed this book first book in the Savannah series. I really liked the way the story unfolded and the way Jackson revealed certain parts of the story. It was really suspenseful, but perhaps a little long. I wasn't bored at any point and I can't think of specific anything that could have been cut out, but my overall impression was that it was longer than needed to be.

As the story progressed, I feared that it was headed for a dreaded clichéd ending. I won't say what I thought was going to happen because that would give too much of the story away. I will say that I'm so glad I was wrong. It was much more complicated than I had imagined.

I liked a number of characters in the book. What I enjoyed the most about the characters was the way Jackson held back some details of the relationship connections and character traits until later in the book. It left me wondering about some of their motivations at times, but it really added a lot of suspense to the story. As for specific characters, Caitlyn was a little flighty, but considering everything that had happened to her, that's understandable. I liked her regardless. I also liked the police officers, Detectives Pierce Reed and his partner Sylvie Morrisette, who were assigned to the case. Their back and forth banter and Sylvie's filthy mouth made reading about them more fun.

Some serial killer novels come across as believable; other ones, not so much. I'm afraid that this one falls in the latter category. It was just too fantastical and "out there" to be plausible. Despite that, the book was entertaining and fun to read.

I've read one other book by Jackson and really enjoyed it. Tell Me is the third book in the Savannah series featuring Pierce Reed, Sylvie Morrisette, and Nikki Gillette.

Highly recommended. I have the next book in the series, The Morning After, in my to-be-read pile. I hope to get to it soon.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Lisa Jackson's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

The Night Before by Lisa Jackson, Zebra Books (Kensington Publishing), ©2013. ISBN 9781420133714(Mass Market), 444p.

Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista

In Extraordinary Rendition, Byron Carlos Johnson volunteers to defend a man, Ali Hussein, who's suspected to be the banker for Al Qaeda. Almost immediately, Johnson's life is under scrutiny and in danger from both the government and terrorist operatives. To get through this case, Johnson must use his all of his skills to outwit those who have surrounded him, in a world where no one is who they say they are.

When this book first arrived, I found the description intriguing. I don't think I've read a book before that focused on the American legal system at a federal level. Having said that, I wasn't at all sure I was going to enjoy it. I thought it might be beyond my understanding because I don't follow American politics or the war on terror that much and figured that most of it was going to be inaccessible to someone like me. However, that wasn't the case at all! I really enjoyed it. It was immediately engaging and interesting enough that I really didn't want to put it down. It really is a great book!

I think the author could have explained the title a bit better. According to Dictionary.com, the term extraordinary rendition is defined as "the process by which a country seizes a person assumed to be involved in terrorist activity and then transports him or her for interrogation to a country where due process of law is unlikely to be respected". Essentially, detaining then sending a prisoner suspected of terrorism to a country where he can be treated inhumanely in exchange for information. Since I was unfamiliar with the term, I was left wondering what it really meant. If the term was spelled out in the book, I don't think it was done as clearly as this.

While the author included some details of Ali Hussein's treatment, he didn't go overboard with the gory or horrific bits. I think that would have made it too hard to read. That isn't to say he minimized them or trivialized them. What happened to this man at the hands of a supposedly respectable first world country is inconceivable. Generally, the book left me appalled by what a government can do all in the name of fighting terrorism. It's sad, really. But this is fiction, right?

The ending surprised me at first. However, upon further reflection it couldn't have ended any other way. Overall, it's top notch story telling!

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book or to purchase it directly from the publisher, please visit the Astor + Blue Editions website. Other retailers: Amazon, B&N.

I'd like to thank Nicole at Astor + Blue Editions for this review copy.

Extraordinary Rendition by Paul Batista, Astor + Blue Editions, ©2012. ISBN 9781938231261(Trade paperback), 314p.