Saturday, March 2, 2013

Short Story Saturday - Abyssus Abyssum Invocat, by Genevieve Valentine

The first time I heard of Genevieve Valentine, I was looking at books by Catherynne Valente and happened to see Valentine's Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti.

It's a book I need to re-read, because it's been too long since I first read it. Mechanique is a story about a circus troupe made up of completely and partially mechanical performers. The circus travels the world, trying to avoid the war that seems to be going on everywhere, and performing wherever there are people to watch and pay. As they do, there is a battle going on between two of the troupe's best performers, and the clash of war within and war without is a certainty I tensely waited for as I read. Genevieve Valentine slowly reveals one detail after another about the performers and their pasts, creating a beautiful story that reads like a circus show of one astounding feat after another.

I've decided to start my Short Story Saturday series off with Valentine's short story "Abyssus Abyssum Invocat." It's a story about a mermaid and a boy and the way two people's souls call to each other. Valentine evokes a feeling of poetry and old-world storytelling, and she tells a story that is romantic, tragic, and strange. She puts words together beautifully, and I'll be thinking about her story for a long time. Because it's such a short story, I can't tell you much more without giving away the whole thing, so if you're interested in what I've already said, you should click on the title and go read it. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is purely magical. Opening its covers is like stepping into a dream from which you will never want to wake; every element of the story is almost painfully beautiful. If I were dropped on a desert island with only a single box of books, this book would be in that box.

The Night Circus is the story of Celia and Marco, a girl and a boy chosen and trained by two different magicians to compete in a game of illusion and strength. The game commences when they are adults, and it is played in a dream-like circus that travels the world. One illusionist travels with the circus while the other plays from afar. They fall in love, neither of them realizing that the game will only end when one of them dies. The circus impacts more and more lives the longer it goes on, and not always in a good way. Alongside the interplay of Celia and Marco is the story of Bailey, a boy fascinated by the circus who will play an integral role in the story as the two story lines merge.

Erin Morgenstern's book is wonderful. The setting is enchanting, story is interesting, and the prose is beautiful. The characters could have been developed further, since I feel like the defining characteristics of the main characters were quite similar (one of their major features is that they are all obsessed with books), but that is really the only criticism I have of this book. I can't wait to see what she writes next!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Girl Genius by Kaja and Phil Foglio

I have to confess an addiction to Pat Rothfuss's blog. He is a spectacular writer, and his blog is well written and funny. At any rate, after reading his recent post about Girl Genius, I proceeded to the Girl Genious website and spent the next week immersed in the comic every spare minute I had. Literally. There were times when I opened up my laptop to read just half of a page. :) I am desperately sad that I've read everything there is for now, and I'm going a little crazy in a corner of my mind that the story is not yet finished.

I cannot say anything about Girl Genious that Pat didn't say, except that, when I have $22 that's not immediately due to pay some bill or another, I'll be buying that first book, and I won't be sending it to Pat to take him up on his guarantee!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chicks with Sticks Continued...

I'm still working from The Chicks with Sticks, but I skipped the knit clutch pattern because (I'm sorry, chicks) it's one of the very few projects in the book I wasn't enthusiastic about, and I don't even use all the handbags I have.

I moved on to the Dirty Girl Washcloths, which I was excited about because they use purl stitch as well as knit, and the patterns are simple but cool (as well as useful!). I finished the first washcloth and knitted about 15 rows of the second when I realized that my stitches were twisted because I had been wrapping the yarn clockwise instead of counter clockwise. So I tore it all out and started over. Last night, I got to the point where I was when I started over, and it looks so good!

I can't wait to try out the basket weave stitch and then use these stitches on other, bigger projects. I'm sad because the book is due back to the library on Thursday, and someone else has already reserved it. I guess I'll just have to make a purchase this week. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stitched by Hand Embroidery Competition

I always find competitions and contests late in the game. The latest one is the Stitched by Hand embroidery competition being hosted by Andrea Zuill of Badbird's. The competition ends on September 30, however, and my partner's parents are staying with us until the 25th, leaving me very little time for myself. Ah, well. The competition did bring Badbird's to my attention, and Andrea's embroidery patterns are fantastic and uber-tempting. I'll have to stitch up her caterpillar as soon as I get a few minutes!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Knitting, and My Camera Woes

My lack of a camera is getting more annoying than a shirt that keeps riding up to your waist. I want to take my broken camera to Best Buy tonight, but I don't know if I'll have time. We're trying to get the house clean and put together for my partner's parents to come over (they're arriving tomorrow and staying with us for 10 days), and that so far has meant a whole lot of work and not much time for anything else. If my warranty doesn't cover it, I want to get a new camera, but new camaras cost money, an item which I am lacking in any quantity.

I recently borrowed The Chicks with Sticks Guide to Knitting from the library, and I'm so excited about it! I already crochet, but knitting is just so much more versatile, and all my favorite patterns are knit. I have to admit to having been intimidated by knitting, but The Chicks with Sticks goes through everything in a fun lesson-like format. Each lesson has a project or two at the end, and most of the projects are super-cute things that I'd love to make. So far, I love the book, although their instructions for casting on seem to be missing a step, and I had to look for an online tutorial to show me how to do it. I might actually buy my own copy, since you can only keep a library book for so long.

The first project in the book is a simple fringed scarf; it's supposed to be knit using a worsted-weight wool yarn and a sparkly lace-weight yarn, but after discovering how lacking JoAnn is in the yarn variety department (next time, I'm going to the little yarn store downtown), I decided to knit mine with only one chunky Lion Brand yarn. It's called Charlotte Blue:

See, this is where the camera trouble comes in; I want to show you how far I've gotten in just a few episodes of Top Chef and Gossip Girl, but all I can do is provide stock photos of my yarn. :( I knit while my partner watches TV, and I'm pretty happy with how quickly it's going. (In a side note, I should admit that there's a deeply-hidden part of me that loves shows like Gossip Girl, even though the rest of me knows I should be ashamed of said love. This last month is the first time I've had TV (other than DVDs) in three years, which makes it even more addictive. :))

Friday, September 10, 2010

Featured Etsy Artisans: HoopMamas

In late July, I made my second Etsy purchase. I bought a hula hoop. Now, some people may think this is funny, that a grown woman is hula hooping in her back yard every other morning, but anyone who's seen hoopdancing probably understands my excitement about this. It's so much fun! I did a lot of shopping around to find a hoop I liked at a price I could manage, and eventually fell in love with a hoop named The Temptress, made by an Etsy seller called HoopMamas. It's not the simplest or the cheapest one she sells, but I love it, and that's that. :)

The Temptress is irridescent silver and sparkly purple tape with black and teal grippy tape, and she's 41" tall. Did I say that I love this hoop? It's absurdly easy to use, practically staying up on its own. It's gotten a few dings and scratches since I got it, and it left a black-and-teal streak on the ceiling (we were painting it anyway), but it's still a very pretty hoop. And she's helped me lose a few last pounds and stay below 125.

If you have been thinking about learning to hoop (or re-learn now that you're an adult and haven't done it in over 15 years), you should check out HoopMamas' Etsy shop. Her hoops are beautiful, and she has beginner hoops, even customizable ones, for less than $20. She was really nice in all our interactions, and when I got the hoop (less than a week after I ordered it), it was wrapped in bubble wrap (no wasted packaging here!) and looked just like the picture. I found out later, through a couple of convos with HoopMamas, that the bubble wrap is biodegradable, so if you're making an effort to find eco-friendly sellers, that's yet another plus. I know I couldn't resist. :)