Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Report on a Friday

I would recommend The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin to anybody, whether or not you feel you are happy. I'm a pretty darn happy woman and I found things in that book that I never even thought about, simple things. One of Rubin's is reading children's books. One of my simple things is knitting (and especially yarn-shopping on the web). In the Project, which she spent a year starting (it's a never-ending pursuit; what could be better?) she chose several things each month to see if they made her happier or not. Mostly the things she did did improve her outlook but a few she left by the wayside.

One of her objectives was to start a blog and add to it every day. She always has something interesting on the blog. This is not about being a Pollyanna; it's about finding the things that truly make you happy and assimilating those things into your everyday life.

If you're happy in yourself, then you will make other people happy too. The opposite of that works as well: make other people happy and you will also be happy. That's my observation. I also think that happiness is a choice, but it's not that simple. Other people do not make you happy but you can avoid letting them make you unhappy by your approach to them. I'm probably confusing the hell out of everybody, so just read the book. You, too, can be happier.

Crazy Aunt Purl's Home is Where the Wine Is by Laurie Perry is her second book. In both books, some of the chapters are taken from her blog (Crazy Aunt Purl), with a little tweaking here and there, and some stuff is new. In the current book, her last chapter is very thoughtful and insightful. Perry writes well, with humor and compassion. She has also worked at understanding what makes her happy and then implementing those things in her life. She's not as systematic as Gretchen Rubin, but it's interesting and empowering reading.

He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum is one of those Scandinavian mysteries that I love. This one takes place in Norway. Our sleuth is Inspector Sejer. Our suspect is a schizophrenic named Erkki who has escaped from a mental hospital. The victim is an elderly widow who is killed with her own garden hoe. It's a complicated story and throughout you find yourself sympathizing with all the characters, even Erkki. I want to tell you how I felt when the story ended but I'm afraid I might give away some of the plot twists. Fossum really sweeps you away with her excellent storytelling.

In Fire and Ice, J.A. Jance brings together two of her series. Part of the story is told from J.P. Beaumont's point of view (from Seattle) and the other is told from Joanna Brady's POV (Bisbee, Arizona). This one involves a Mexican drug cartel and a series of murders in Washington State. The story starts out by relating the grisly murder of a young woman by a man who is afraid of what will happen to his wife and two little boys if he does not kill the woman. He kills her in the mountains in November and her remains are not found until the next spring. The investigators only have a few clues, but it gets them started. While Beaumont is dealing with the serial killings, Joanna Brady is having her own problems down in Arizona. You have to read for many chapters before you find out how the two situations are related. By then you are so engrossed in the book it's impossible to put it down. I like the way Jance switched from one POV to the other. It made the story more compelling. J.A. Jance is one of my favorite storytellers and reading just one of her books will tell you why.

I hope some of you are inspired to read any of these books. Every one of them was well worth my time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I finished my Knitting Olympics project, wimpy as it was. As slow as I knit, I figured that any project I finished by a deadline was an accomplishment. The Yarn Harlot made the most beautiful sweater for her project. It would have taken me years to finish something like that. I'd love to see pictures of all the Olympic knitters' projects. I'll bet they're all wonderful. I made my Mistake Rib scarf for my friend Theresa (of Knitting Non-Pareil), my enabler when it comes to knitting. She's an inspiration, too. She knits fast and beautifully. Here's a picture of the scarf.

This picture doesn't show the true color. It's called Blackberry Heather and it's really darker than it looks in the picture. I made this from some Brunswick yarn that I bought years ago. It's 55% Orlon and 45% wool. (I don't think Brunswick is in business any more; don't know why.) I enjoyed making the scarf, especially as I had the TV on the Olympics in HD (WOW!).

In other news, we celebrated Richard's birthday recently. For the past couple of years he has been cooking his own birthday dinner, trying out new recipes. This year we had lobster bisque, a spicy shrimp concoction wrapped in phyllo, sour cream poppy seed cake, and ice cream. I made the cake. Richard even made the ice cream. Everything was especially good.

Richard mentioned that I haven't written anything about my reading lately, so here goes. Since the first of the year I have read The Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith, Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank, and Knit Lit edited by Linda Roghaar and Molly Wolf.

The Black Dove is the third in Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series. This one takes place mostly in San Francisco's Chinatown. It has its funny moments, but it deals with the very serious subjects of racism, prostitution, and gangsters. Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer are wonderful as usual and Hockensmith knows how to tell a good story. Several characters from the previous book (On the Wrong Track) appear in The Black Dove.

Shem Creek, the novel, takes place in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Shem Creek, the creek, runs through Mount Pleasant. That's the place where many shrimp boats dock, and there are seafood restaurants lining the banks. The novel is a pleasant, easy-to-read story that involves a quest for a new life, coming of age for a teenager, a love story, and some conflict and a near tragedy. Dorothea Benton Frank sets her stories in the South Carolina Low-country. I think I may read some more of them.

Knit Lit is an anthology of stories (non-fiction) related to knitting (you probably figured that out already, didn't you?). Each section in the book has a theme, covering a wide range of topics. For the most part they're all well-written and eloquent. I have a few favorites, particularly the story about "Mom, Molly, and Me" and another written by a "Seafaring Knitter."

Currently I'm reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I'm finding it fascinating, mostly because quite a few of the suggestions she makes for making yourself happier are things that I already do. We all have room for improvement, though. Just reading the book makes me happier. Rubin also has a website which you might want to check out.

That's all for now. I mostly just wanted to brag on my knitting.