Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Book Goals Update #1

Goal 1: Read 150 books I have not read before.
So far no re-reading, but I've "fallen behind" the schedule, according to Goodreads. I've also decided to qualify the rereading part of this goal. I'm planning on reading the more recent volumes of Bill Willingham's Fables, but it' been a while since I've read any of the issues, so I am going to spend quite a bit of time rereading to refresh my memory. Thus, rereading for a purpose will count toward the 150.

Goal 2: Complete Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge.
I've completed 3 out of the 24 tasks and here's my take on the books I've completed.

  • Task 8: Read a book by an African author. I chose Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox. My take: "I enjoyed the interspersing of St. John's stories with the main characters' lives, but I wish there was a little more resolution."
  • Task 20: Read a graphic novel or comic book. I chose Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona. My take: "I enjoyed the it. The addition of the culture clash between Kamala and her immigrant parents to the superhero origin story gave a new twist to the secret identity trope of superheroes. I do think the rejection of the blonde alter ego was handled a little abruptly and that villain still needs to be flushed out a whole lot."
  • Task 16: Listen to an audio book. I chose Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy. My take: "An intimate look into the "Monster" of homicide rates among young black men in South Central Los Angeles. Leovy centers her book around the death of a L.A. homicide detective's son and the 77th Division's homicide detectives. The book shows the failings of the policing system, not focusing blame on the victims or the detectives working the cases, instead showcasing the entrenched indifference and ignorance of the system and society as a whole. On another note, I typically listen to comedic celebrity memoirs as audio books, so this was a bit of a change. I had the listen harder to follow the story and I found I really couldn't do anything else that engaged my thinking brain while doing it (the TVs at the gym were very distracting)."
Goals 3 and 4: Read books from my To Read list and books that I own.
Of the 9 books that I've read, 5 have been specifically on my To Read list and 3 I own. I am also currently reading two books that fit both goals.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 Book Goals (Belated)

After finishing the mammoth The Bully Pulpit, I am finally able to focus on creating goals for this year's reading.Thus my four part challenge for 2015.

  1. Read 150 books that I have not read before. Last year I read 147 books, but several were revisiting favorites. I'm not saying that I won't reread this year, just that they won't count toward my goal.
  2. Complete the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge. It's a great list and will help me continue to widen my reading after the diet of brain candy I'd been reading during college. I don't think it will be too difficult, with a few exceptions: the poetry (I much prefer to read a straight narrative), the indigenous culture (not an area that I've really been interested in), and the self-improvement book (though the "non-traditional" caveat will help somewhat). A self imposed limit is to not double-up on any book for the challenge, so 24 different books.
  3. Cut down on my Goodreads "To Read" list. At this posting it's an impressive (and intimidating) 563 books long. This is even after a generous purge. I've forgotten about so many books on this list that it's time I really focus on it.
  4. Read books that I already own. I went through a really expansive book buying phase in high school, instead of make-up, I bought books. So I have bookshelves full of canonical "classics" that I have never read and only bought because they were "classics." (If you can't tell I was fairly pretentious). I recently did some pruning, but there are still many that I have always intended to read and haven't gotten around to it.

My collection still packed from the move.

And those are the goals. Stay tuned to see how I do.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crushing the Bug-crusher

To start off, the term "bug-crusher" in the S/F world (S/F meaning "speculative fiction," "science fiction," or "sci-fi/fantasy" depending on who you ask) refers to HUGE books, at least 700+ pages or 3 in. thick, that can easily be used to crush small-ish insects. In their purest form bug-crushers tend to be hardback rather then paperback for that extra heft needed to kill.

However, bug crushers need not be limited to the SF genres, recently I've been reading histories and my current project is Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. It's a monster of a book coming it at 910 pages, 750 of which are actual content and not notes or the index. I started the book before Christmas 2014, but have been struggling to finish it, even with my two weeks of vacation. When I'm in the story it's very interesting, but after putting it down picking it up again seems such a chore, and not just because it's soooooo heavy.

To finish the book I began employing a tool I used to get through horrible reading assignments.

Step 1: Figure out the number of pages you have left to read.
Step 2: Divide that number by the number of days you have left to read the book (in my case it was either the due date of the assignment or the library due date).
Step 3: Read the resulting amount of pages each day.

Sounds simple right? It should be but isn't always because... life. One tip is to keep the number of pages manageable, 100 pages is just a little too much, 50 or 60 isn't too bad, but 20 or 30 is very doable. The other tip is to use two bookmarks to keep track of how far you have to read, please see Exhibit A.

Exhibit A
I'm almost done! (It's an excellent read, btw).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Crochet Diary: Peacock Feather Patchwork Afghan

For my sister's upcoming graduation I decided to make her an afghan as a present, since I made one for my brother's birthday last year. Her colors tend toward purples and blues, peacock colors; that theme was confirmed by some trolling on her Pinterest wedding board. So when I found Banana Moon Studio's "Peacock Feather Square" it was too good to be true.

I made a test square and it came out pretty small, about 4 in. by 4 in., and after I checked out some of the finished projects on Ravelry, I didn't like the look of an entire blanket of just those squares; they were way too busy. As I like the look of patchwork afghans, I decided to mix the "Peacock Feather Square" with a few different squares including "Double Crochet Granny Square" from Robyn Chachula's Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia, Chris Simon's "Pavo Square" (I didn't notice for awhile, but apparently the square is named after a southern constellation called the Peacock), and "Openwork Square" and "Lacy Cross" from Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet Blocks.

Here is the pattern as originally planned, but I think I'm rotating the "Peacock" and "Double Crochet" squares so that the solid purple is parallel to the other solid colored squares.

If you can't read my writing, the bottom bit of the pattern lists 7 "Pavo" in green, 7 "Openwork" in blue, 7 "Cross" in gray, 42 "Double Crochet" in purple, and 42 "Peacock." I wanted a mix of open/lacy squares with more solid ones. The larger squares are about 8 in. by 8 in., to match the 4 in. by 4 in. of the "Peacock" and "Double Crochet" squares.

For the yarn, I went with Red Heart Super Saver, my go-to because it's easy to care for, has many shades, and is inexpensive. The green is Tea Leaf, the blue is Blue, the purple is Medium Purple, and the white is Soft White. The gray is Caron One Pound's Soft Grey Mix, because I couldn't find a Red Heart gray in stock that I liked.

As of today's date, I have all of the squares made and am about to start the seemingly, unending process of sewing them together with an invisible stitch.