Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Review: Death at Devil's Bridge

Death at Devil's Bridge (Robin Paige Victorian Mysteries, No. 4) Death at Devil's Bridge by Robin Paige

My review

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
What I found most interesting about this book was the setting: a motor car exhibition in the late 1890s. This allows the authors to talk a lot about the early development of the motor car, including some fascinating details about the relative benefits and costs of steam, electric, and gasoline powered cars. Given that we're trying to wean ourselves off of oil today, it was neat to hear some of the reasoning behind choosing gasoline engines in the first place.

The mystery itself ends a bit oddly, with an abrupt, less-than-pat conclusion. I was surprised by this, but it did make a refreshing change from the usual happy ending. The authors also spend some time developing tension in the Kate/Sir Charles relationship, which I am sure will continue in the rest of the series.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: Death at Daisy's Folly

Death at Daisy's Folly (Robin Paige Victorian Mysteries, No. 3) Death at Daisy's Folly by Robin Paige

My review

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
This mystery series has not been "knock my socks off" good, but it has been enjoyable. Each book is short, but not too short (270-290 pages). If they were any shorter, the mysteries would feel rushed. If they were any longer, they would lose their light feel by dwelling too much on the mystery or characterization. I am especially pleased at the way the relationship between the two protagonists, Kate and Charles, has developed. Both characters are described as independent and intelligent. Given that, it's refreshing that they approach their relationship with honesty and open communication. There are few drawn-out misunderstandings between them. If something is wrong, they talk it out quickly. Most mysteries with romantically involved leads do not follow this pattern.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Book Review: Death at Gallows Green

Death at Gallows Green (Robin Paige Victorian Mysteries, No. 2) Death at Gallows Green by Robin Paige

My review

Rating: 3 of 5 stars
I just finished this up this morning. I read the first installment in this series several years ago, and I remembered liking it. Thus, when I saw this in a local mystery book store, I decided to give it a try. It was a pleasant, quick read. The mystery isn't super-difficult to solve, but that is appropriate for a book of this length. The characterization of the two lead sleuths, Kate and Sir Charles, was good. I look forward to future developments in their relationship. My one major annoyance was the quotations printed at the beginning of each chapter. Although they were somewhat relevant to the content of the chapters, they came from such diverse sources that it seemed as if they were drawn at random from Bartlett's. This was distracting, in that I was always wondering why these sources were chosen. The one exception was quotations from Beatrix Potter's books, since Potter appears as a friend of Kate's.

I did see from the inside cover that one of the authors (Robin Paige is the pen name of a husband and wife writing team) has written a series of Beatrix Potter mysteries. I want to try those, since Potter is an interesting figure, and she was well-written in this book.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Best Picture Round-Up 2008

I know this is super late, but I did see all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscar ceremony. My thoughts, in brief:

Sean Penn gives a beautiful performance, as does Josh Brolin. The pacing was a little off (particularly during the portions dealing with the second boyfriend), but the ending was very powerful.

A very simple, yet compelling film. The performances are tight. Ron Howard's direction is controlled and appropriate. I wouldn't expect any less from the director of Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man.

Slumdog Millionaire
A beautiful movie, though the game show framing mechanism is both creative and a little forced.

The Reader
My favorite of the 2008 Best Picture nominees. This film shows how personal pride leads one woman to destroy hundreds of lives. It's examination of German guilt for the Holocaust, both for individuals and the nation as a whole, is both fascinating and sobering.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Interesting, but way too long for what it was. I was surprised that the movie was framed by Hurricane Katrina. I suppose they felt they had to deal with that, given that the film is very much about New Orleans.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Craft Circle

I participated recently in a craft circle, where I sent out crafts to five people, and got five crafts in return. Here's what I sent:

A crochet rabbit amigurumi:

Crochet cupcake pincushions:

Crochet flower pins:

Badges from my badge-maker:

Crochet bird pins:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Knit Garters

A Pair of Period Garters

Notes: These are building upon my interest in period knitting, following Taylor's Mitts from a couple years ago. These are meant to hold up the cotton or wool stockings worn by women in the 18th and 19th centuries. You tie them around your leg right below the knee. They were inspired by the many extant examples of garters shown on the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a specific extant example to base these on, so they are more "inspired by" than fully accurate.

Finished Size: These are quite stretchy, but they were made to fit around a leg of 13" circumfrence.

Materials: Way less than a ball of Paton's Classic Merino or similar worsted wool yarn (Cascade 220, Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, etc)
1 set of US 4 needles
Medium (about a size F) crochet hook
Darning needle

Gauge: 8 stitches=1.25" in garter stitch (row gauge is unimportant)

Garters: cast on two stitches using a long-tail cast on, and leaving at least a 6" tail.

Knit into the front and back of each stitch, so that you have four stitches total.

Knit back and forth in garter stitch (knit every row) until the garter measures 10.5".

K1, m1, k2, m1, k1, giving six stitches total. Work one row even in garter stitch.

k1, m1, k4, m1, k1, giving eight stitches total.

Continue working in garter stitch until the whole garter measures 19". On the next row, k2tog, k4, k2tog, giving 6 stitches total. Then work one row even in garter stitch.

K2tog, k2, k2tog, giving 4 stitches total.

Continue working in garter stitch until the garter measures 30". Then k2tog, k2tog, giving 2 stitches total. Finish off by cutting a 6" tail and pulling it through the two live stitches with a crochet hook.

Repeat for the second garter.

Tassels: cut six strands of yarn about 3" long each. Lay these side-by-side and fold the whole bundle in half. Tie a piece of yarn around the bundle just below the fold, making a loop, and knot it off securely. Attach this tassel to one of the garters by threading the 6" yarn tail through the loop a couple times and knotting off. Repeat for the three other ends of the garters.