Monthly Archives: March 2013

1356 – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The St. Zita Society by: Ruth Rendell

The War of the Roses  by: Alison Weir

Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem by: Neal Stephenson (And the giant clock still continues to tick.)

I always like a good MacGuffin.  They make me smile inside.  1356 by Bernard Cornwell presents us with another fine MacGuffin.  Which is appropriate as the book is the follow up to his Grail Quest Series.  Which also had a fine MacGuffin in the form of the Holy Grail.

In 1356 we are treated to a chase across France after the Sword of St. Peter.  The sword, one of many things that Joseph of Arimathea seems to have dumped in England, is supposedly the sword that Jesus stopped St. Peter from using on the night Jesus was arrested.  As such it is either holy, or cursed.  Maybe both.  Throw in a priest with a bird that blinds people, a cardinal that wants to be Pope, some Scotts,  an English Prince, several armies of varying size, a French King,  a virgin knight, and a countess who is seriously not a virgin.  Now there is an adventure.

Sir Thomas of Hookton, returning hero of the Grail Quest series is ordered by his English liege Lord to find the sword.  Thomas who seems to be living happily in France as a war lord for hire, is not thrilled but can’t seem to escape involvement.  A constant theme in poor old Tom’s life.

I did not review the books in the Grail Quest series when I read them.  I didn’t hate them. I didn’t love them.  I assumed the subject matter was the problem.  Grail lore is just not my thing.  I hope some day they find dozens of first century clay cups in Glastonbury.  It would do my heart good.  However, 1356 leaves me with the meh as well.  It is not bad.  It is not great.  I enjoyed reading the book.  It was nice to have some follow up on Thomas. I probably would never read it again.  I can think of other books by the same author that I’d much rather reread.

There are of course the usual number of bloody battle scenes and rape victims everywhere.

I think the interesting part of this for me is what Cornwell is going to do next with this series.  If he does anything at all.  Both the Sword and the Grail have been disposed of by Sir Thomas in fairly lackadaisical ways.  It is entirely possible one or both could be resurrected.  Not entirely unlike another far more famous MacGuffin, the Ark of the Covenant.  Government facilities being what they are.

Enjoyability:  I give it four stars.  Not the best ever.  But good.

Where to read this book:  I probably should have taken this one the coffee shop.

Further reading:  Probably The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett.  I’m fascinated.  There is a character in it named Percy Blakeney.  Two points for anyone who can tell me without looking it up, what other Percy Blakeney I’m thinking of.

Unnatural Habits – Review

Currently on Loan from the Library:

1356 by: Bernard Cornwell (Yay!)

The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

The St. Zita Society by: Ruth Rendell


Other Books I’m Reading:

Anathem: by Neal Stephenson (Yes.  Still.  I’m enjoying it.  Yet, as books go, it is on the tome side of the line.)

I don’t usually pick up a book based on the cover art.  However, the light and breezy cover art on this book, juxtaposed with the title “Unnatural Habits” was just too much to resist.  As it happens I’m thrilled that I didn’t resist.

Our hero, one Phryne Fisher, is a 1920’s Australian adventuress.  She is a lovely, intelligent, and audacious sleuth, with a cadre of quirky friends, contacts, and family.  When pregnant girls start to disappear from the care of the Magdalene Laundry, and a reporter investigating the disappearances goes missing as well, Phryne get involved.

This book did not really keep me guessing about the ultimate answer to the mystery of the missing reporter.  I got that about half way through. Still there are two other mysteries in this book, and Phryne solves those too.  In the end, the lack of suspense didn’t matter much to me.  The charters are vivid and interesting.  The plot moves along at a steady clip.  There are some red herrings, but mostly it’s a book about following clues, and hunches to their ultimate end.  Which makes it a refreshing read.

I am stunned to find that I’ve never heard of the author Kerry Greenwood before.  Kerry apparently has more than 40 novels to her name.  This book is the nineteenth in the Phryne Fisher series.   I shall clearly have to do some more research and reading.  Yes, that’s right.  The sound you hear is my must read pile getting higher and higher.  I feel critical mass may be near.

There are no actual scenes of corporeal exuberance in this book.  Although it is made very clear that Phryne has a Chinese lover.  He only shows up once, and does not derail the action of the book.  I always appreciate it when a writer feels they have enough material, that we don’t have to pause for the porn break in the middle of the adventure.

I also appreciated the light handed but clear handling of social issues in this book.  It’s not preachy, but the social concerns of the time are very present.  Naturally Phryne has her views, and she is not shy about expressing them.

All in all a well crafted book.

Enjoyability:   Five stars.  


Where to read this book:  Anywhere.   It’s got a great non-lurid cover.  


Further reading:  Okay, we all know that I started the Cornwell as soon as I got it home from the Library.  

Coming Soon!

It turns out I don’t  just write for my blog.  Which is good since I haven’t been much lately.  But there’s a really good reason for that.  I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my first novel.

Here’s a link to the announcement:


The Perfect Shawl

It’s been snowing here like crazy.  Which has been great.  Living in Virginia for all those years, my kids had barely seen snow.  By comparison DH and I have missed it something fierce.  Snow.  Which of course has the lovely by product of providing me time to knit, and feel all nice and cozy.  So it was clearly time to work on what I’ll be wearing this spring.


Starting with the last project finished first, I give you this DK weight alpaca shawl.  I have finally made the perfect shawl for all those women who think that they can’t wear shawl because the shawl would always be falling off.  I love this shawl.  It’s soft.  It’s a pretty color.  It will go with much of much of my wardrobe. It generates static electricity like crazy.  I had to peel it off.  I couldn’t have dropped it accidentally if I’d wanted to.  Which is great if like me you are in charge of small children on a regular basis.

Here is the free pattern link:     It’s a very nicely written pattern.  The shawl should adjust easily to any weight yarn, given the correct needle size.

Next there is a hat.  I admit it, I’m one of those Downton Abbey people.  While watching the most recent season I decided I wanted to try knitting a cloche style hat.  I look ridiculous in most hats.  I had no reason to suspect this one would be different.  I  happened  to remember this pattern from an old Kitty issue:   and decided to give it a try.  It came out great!  Also, if you want to


get many second glances at the local Wal-mart I highly recommend this pattern.  Although I’m not sure if the second glances were a product of the hat pattern, or the colors I chose to work it in.  The world may never know.

Lastly there is the first project I finished.  This is another half-circle shawl, this time worked in cotton.  I enjoyed this pattern as well, but it is not for beginners.  There were a couple of stitches involved that I had to look up.  Which doesn’t happen to me often.  It’s got a nice romantic name too.  Dinner at the Eiffel Tower.  Here is the link to the once free, but now reasonably priced pattern:   I added the beads in the broken rib portion myself.  I think they came out great.  I can’t wait to wear this.  As soon as the snow melts.


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