2015 Book #5: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Gosh, I was really looking forward to this book. I just love Jodi Picoult’s books. They are always engaging and thought-provoking stories that are sure to capture me for days. As soon as Leaving Time was released I traveled to the NOOK store to check it out and buy it. I always read the customer reviews before clicking that “purchase” button, however. Oh, oh. Not everyone liked this book. Some major spoilers were dropped by some of the reviewers, (may they have tons of snow to shovel, uncomfortable nights and frozen days. Also frozen pipes. Really, I hope that raging stomach flu breaks out in their households along with the pipes, not that I mind that they REVEALED major elements of the plot before I could read this book…) and some people were disappointed that there was so much information about elephants in the book. Well, darn! Now I have a problem. Should I buy a book whose unexpected twists and turns have been partially revealed ahead of time? Do I really want to know more about elephants? Elephants! Of course I want to know more about elephants!  How can I resist reading a book that twists the plot around elephants?

Yep, that was the deciding factor. There are elephants in the book. You see, every year I showed a National Geographic video to my biology classes called Journey to the Forgotten River. This video documents the events that occurred during years of drought in Botswana, Africa when herds of animals travel from their normal habitat to the Linyanti. The great migration included herds of elephants who made the journey to this place where none of them had even been before. The memory of a safe haven at Linyanti is an ancestral one; it is inherited. What is going on in their brains, I would wonder every year? What is the biochemical basis of memory? How cool it would be to research that.

Then there was this 60 Minutes segment I saw on elephant speech called The Secret Language of Elephants. I seem to remember a researcher in the segment describing standing in front of the elephants in a zoo exhibit and feeling a low vibration; she had detected elephant speech in a register too low for us to hear. Modern elephant research now includes listening projects to collect examples of language along with other observation of their behavior; an elephant language dictionary is currently being developed. We all know that elephants have tremendous memories; evidently they also have language and culture. I’m a geek, through and through. There was no way I could walk away from a Jodi Picoult novel that included elephants even if I knew critical details of the story ahead of time. Hello, she had me at elephant!

It was a good decision.

The story in Leaving Time centers around Jenna Metcalf, a self-sufficient and determined 13 year-old hunting for her missing mother. Her mother, Dr. Alice Metcalf, was an elephant researcher who disappeared 10 years earlier under mysterious circumstances that included a dead body and (what a shock) an elephant. Driven by the need to know what happened on that fateful day, Jenna saves up her babysitting money and takes action to get to the bottom of things and find her mother. She hires a down-and-out PI and enlists the aid of a psychic. Together they investigate the cold case, hunt for answers, solve the mystery, and obtain closure. There, that is all you get about this plot because I refuse to spoil this for anyone! I will say that the themes of this book are engaging and meaningful. The book is about the bond between mothers and daughters, grief, memory, and the pervasive connections between people, between elephants, and even between people and elephants. Yep, you do learn a lot about elephants, but they are essential to the story. I was not surprised by all of the plot twists in the book, because of the evil, thoughtless spoilers, but the story held me fast, the need to solve the mystery was compelling and I cried at the end.

If that’s not a good book, what else do you need?


FO: One Yummy Shawl

It’s done, it’s done, it is done! I knitted on this all yesterday afternoon while binge watching this season’s Parenthood episodes, and finally finished it around dinner time. It was wet blocked this morning and dried outside in the breeze.

I tried getting my cat MacKenzie to model it for me with less than satisfactory results. At least you can see how nicely the grey and black in his coat goes with the shawl’s colors. 🙂 My fallback model is the maple tree, which does let you see the rows of eyelets pretty well.

Shawl in Tree
I used an online random number generator set with the digits 2 and 8 as the limits to determine the number of garter stitch ridges between rows of eyelet.

This is what it looks like on me. The color is really rich looking, and the 20% cashmere makes it nice around my neck.

Author wearing shawl.
Soft, warm and looking forward to the next cold snap. The reds, browns and grey in this yarn will make it a real work horse for me.

I know that I shouldn’t have done it, but I also cast on TWO new Hitchhiker shawls this afternoon. Really, I just wanted to see what the yarns would look like in the bias knitted fabric…

Shawl Information: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn is Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden.

WIP Wednesday: My January Resolution Sock, a Yummy Shawl and a Mitt

The sun is out today and the meltdown is in full swing. Yeah! Sunshine! It is supposed to be fairly warm for the rest of the week and I am rocking the knitting because my hands are so much happier when they don’t have to deal with single digit weather.

So, I got a lot done, but nothing is finished. I’m still working on three projects (and am resisting casting on another pair of socks. Darn it, there is a pink cashmere blend yarn that is calling to me…) Here’s where I am.

Knitting this sock is quite a production. I’m following the pattern chart, tracking the decreases for the pattern and fighting with the cats for space at the same time.

The January sock is still just chugging along, a few rows at a time. The problem is that I need to use the chart to do the pattern, and the cats have decided that they want to sit in on my legs while I knit. They dislike cold snowy days even more than I do! Today I threw them outside because it was warm and I got through the heel on the first sock and am now working my way down the gusset. Looking good!

I have made it through the heel. I like the pattern, but it is a little harder to make out then I thought it would be. Still, with colors like this who cares about the pattern?

The cashmere blend 3S Shawl is almost done! I have only another 20g left on the ball. This is easy knitting and I am doing it while watching television in the evenings. Maybe, maybe, maybe it will be done Friday. 🙂

Knitted Shawl
It’s starting to look like a shawl! I’m using an online random number generator to determine how many rows of garter to put between the eyelet rows. Geeks are Us!

Finally, I am working on the little lace mitt using 2 small cable needles. I have finally adjusted to the cables (instead of using double pointed needles) and really like how I can carry this small project in my purse without the danger of stitches coming off the needles. Looks like this project is the one that is coming in last as I’m spending most of my time working on the other two.

Garter Lace Handwarmer Mitts
Knitting on 2 cable needles. Why has it taken me so long to try this?


Project Information

Sock: Riot of Color from Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden. The yarn is Baah! Yarn La Jolla

Shawl: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn is Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden.

MItt: I heavily modified the pattern for the Sweat Pea MItts that I found in Lace One-Skein Wonders.


Introducing the January 2015 Sock

On New Year’s Eve I made some resolutions for myself. What was I thinking of? Obviously a moment of weakness! One resolution was the promise to select sock patterns from my collection of sock books, and to then knit one sock a month using only the yarn in my stash. Hey that’s a good resolution, right? I end up with at least 12 new socks and make a dent in the stash at the same time. Happy feet!! Sad wool moths. It’s all good!

I had a lot of fun the first week of the year digging through books to select patterns, but decided to finish some of the projects I already had going before I started the resolution socks. Friday I finally went digging in my yarn stash to see if I could find some fun yarn combinations to make a Fair Isle type sock. I had in mind to make the “Riot of Color” sock in Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden.  I settled on two hand painted sock yarns with the idea that they had enough contrast to show the pattern, but there would be enough overlap in colors that the pattern would fade in and out a little.

Pattern book ad yarns.
Don’t these two yarns look like they will go together well?


This is what the yarns look like when opened up. There is some color overlap but the contrast looks pretty good.

Perfect! I wound the yarn into balls while visiting one of my sons Saturday, and today I settled down to knit. This is what I had produced by dinnertime,

Knitted Sock
Here it is tonight. I changed the top of the sock as I was anxious to see how well the colors contrasted in a pattern.

Sweet! It looks warm, doesn’t it? My little feet have been really cold this week, so that is a big bonus right now.  Oh yeah, I will be knitting away on this baby pretty steadily for the next couple of weeks. Here’s my project page for this sock if you would like to get more information about the yarn colors and needle size.

Stay tuned everyone. I hope to have these done long before the end of the month. 🙂


FO Friday: Conflicted Mood Socks Are Done!

Yep, you got that right. These socks are knitted in a pattern called Chouwa, which evidently means “Harmony” in Japanese. The colorway of this yarn is “Malice”. Huh. The year is starting out in an interesting way. Anyway, my feet are happy, and that is all that matters since this is another ice-encrusted day in Colorado. I’m looking forward to the big warm-up tomorrow, but I’ll still be wearing these socks. I might even sleep in them.

They are done and my feet are happy.

Happy Friday everyone! If you’re a crazy midnight knitter like me, remember its the second star to the right and knit on till morning.

WIP Wednesday: Socks, Mitts and a Shawl

Yep, it is cold out there. I was thrilled that the driveway finally melted dry yesterday only to discover it covered with an inch of snow on top of a bulletproof layer of ice this morning. The trees had inch long hoar frost! Beautiful, but a little dicey taking the trash cans to the bottom of that driveway.

What a great day to knit. I decided that I absolutely needed to try to make a lace mitt on cable needles, so risking my life on the driveway I headed out to the LYS briefly to get two 2.25 mm red lace ChiaoGoo cable needles. I scored 16″ needles and headed home (with a side trip to IKEA on the way back to score some cinnamon rolls…) to cast on.

Yarn and Needles
It’s a start! I am tired of my mitts falling off the double pointed needles so I am going to try to make a pair using 2 small cable needles. Right now it is really confusing…

OK, it’s only the start, but they make me happy. The yarn is La Jolla by Baah Yarn. I once lived and worked in La Jolla (California), so it makes me really happy to knit this yarn. To make it even better, the colorway, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a special dye job for the owner of Colorful Yarns.  Can you tell Tiffany’s favorite color is purple?

The end is in sight. I need to stop going on knitting detours and get these done!

Now that I have cast on a mitt and gotten far enough along to see how to do it, I need to get back to the socks that I am working on right now. I’m almost down to the heel flap on the second sock, so I really do need to buckle down and get them done over the next couple of days as there is more snow coming at the end of the week. Woo-hoo! Knitting weather!

This yarn is 20% cashmere. It sure would be nice and warm to wear.

There is one more project that is slowly chugging along. It is a small shawl that I started during a trip in the car over the holidays. It’s mostly garter stitch, so it is an easy knit. Now that the new season has started on television perhaps I will get it cranked out in the next two weeks, too. No promises, as I am also itching to get started on my New Year’s resolution January sock. I’m looking at a skein of red yarn in my stash and thinking how nice it would look on my knitting needles… The red would go really nicely with my fabulous Hitchhiker shawl…

Sock pattern: Chouwa by Judy Sumner (in the book Knitted Socks East and West) Sock yarn: Hedgehog Fibres Sock, colorway Malice.

Shawl pattern: 3S Shawl by Amy Meade. Yarn: Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20

Book 1: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penney

I did it! I went to Goodreads and joined the 2015 Reading Challenge with the goal of reading 100 books this year. That was the New Year’s resolution, and I am sticking to it! Luckily the weather is cooperating. It is cold and snowing again, and the cats and I are piled in bed reading between snow-shoveling breaks. If this keeps up I will have the 100 books done in no time!

Cat in snow.
Hunting for a warm and dry patch in the yard. Sorry, guy. There just isn’t one. Too bad kitties can’t shovel snow.

No, I will not be reviewing all of those books on this blog. (Did I just hear a sigh of relief from my sister in San Diego?? )  Seriously, that might cut into my knitting time! Besides, I really have no intrinsic desire to become a book reviewer; too much like doing book reports late Sunday night like I did in school.  Every once in a while, however, there is a book that I feel compelled to write about. It consumes me while I am reading it, it forces me onto the internet to track down information, and leads me into reflection on the personalities and motivations of the story’s characters. I’m almost forced to write about it to get it out of my system.  Having said that, let me present to you the first book of 2015. Ta-daa! The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny.

I’ve been reading her Chief Inspector Gamache novels steadily since I read the first one in early December,  Still Life. What a series! I’ve grown to love the people of Tree Pines even though they seem to have too many murders in their tiny, artistic village with its great food and crazy duck-loving poet.  The complex relationships between the Chief Inspector and his staff, the hint of a conspiracy of immense magnitude, the ongoing themes and mystery plots keep me reading each new book as I care about the people in them so much.

The Beautiful Mystery is a book of many layers. In the most simple terms the story centers around the murder of a monk in a remote monastery in the wilderness of Quebec called Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. As Gamache and his second-in-command Jean-Guy  Beauvoir investigate this crime they discover that the monks, who have taken a vow of silence and devoted their lives to the singing of unique Gregorian Chants, are deeply divided and engaged in civil war. When Gamache’s superior arrives at the monastery it becomes clear that another civil war is waging within the Surete du Quebec. If that wasn’t enough, further events make clear that the monastery’s secret location and devotion to music is part of an ancient division within the Catholic Church.  Good grief! How many layers deep does this go?

It should have been a confusing book, but the many different themes and plots are skillfully woven together and the book is written beautifully. The murder is solved, some of the conflicts are resolved, and others move forward to be continued in further books. I am becoming concerned as this is the 8th book in the series, and I do hope that I will get to the bottom of this immense conspiracy within the Surete soon. Wait, forget I just said that. I think that the suspense was getting to me there. The truth is, this book was simply wonderful. It is a book about faith, love, betrayal and great divisions. It addresses addiction; to music, to drugs, to power, and what people will do to protect and secure their addictions. Easily, and too often, these addictions can lead to murder.

“The Beautiful Mystery” in Gregorian chant is the starting note for the chant; the baseline that can be used to compare all other notes to.  This book is about beginnings, but it is also about endings; the beginning of the conspiracy in the Surete has now been reveled, the sides in the civil war are drawn, the battles have begun and resolution is coming. At the end of the book it becomes clear that Gamache is much more than meets the eye; he has been engaged in a campaign of complex and long duration to clean up the rot in the Surete. He feels he has “been at sea a long time, but he can finally see the shore”.

Please, please  make it soon. I’m running out of books.

I’m starting How the Light Gets In, the next book in the series tonight!