Thursday, October 29, 2020

Kumihimo Necklace

 I posted this yesterday and accidentally deleted it today! Bill had it in his reader, so was able to copy and paste the text to send me so I could repost. Thanks, Bill 😀

I love simple kumihimo. I've seen some beautiful intricate work with lots of beads and fun patterns, but I'm a textile gal and for me, the point is the yarn/thread I use for the braids. I also like it that doing the basic 8 strand round braid, called kongogumi, is pretty mindless. It's the perfect kind of project to have in progress to be picked up and put down as desired. When I'm tired, I can pick up a disk and do some braiding without counting or having to pay attention. Back in the day when we could get on a bus and go somewhere, it was the perfect portable project, too. I just tucked the disk in my bag and braided away when I felt like it. It's great for scraps, too and I've had a lot of fun trying out different yarns together, seeing how colours, textures and weights work together and seeing what effects result. I like fringe, so I just knot the ends and leave the fringe. In more elaborate work, it's typical to glue or wire findings at the ends, but to be honest, I am not keen on that look, particularly since, for me, it's all about the yarn/thread. 

I've made a lot of colourful braids over these last several months, but recently I decided I wanted a more autumnal braid, so I got out some scraps of dark brown thin mercerized cotton yarn and cut two strands. Then I pulled some brown/white textured chunky cotton/acrylic yarn that I got in a charity shop last year. I'd made a hat with it and had some left. I cut 6 strands of that. I loaded the disk and started braiding. I finished the braid last night and this morning, I dug out my collection of beads, pendants, and other bits from deconstructed charity shop jewellery. I knew I had some wooden beads and I was going to those, deciding on the wooden tube beads to go in between the large round ones. I sewed them into the braid and called the necklace done. I am quite smitten with it.

This is the disk I used to make it:

To make the basic 8-strand braid, I simply cut 8 lengths of cord/yarn/thread and knot at one end, leaving some fringe (this could have beads attached later, in which case I would leave a longer fringe). Then you stick the knot through the hole in the centre and stick the strands in the slots on either side of the lines. I start at the top, to the right of the 1 and move the strand to the slot between 15 and 16. Then the strand between 17 and 18 is moved up to between 31 and 32. The disk is turned 1/4 turn and the process is repeated over and over again until the braid is as long as I want it. Then I pop it off the disk, knot the end, trim, and embellish if desired. Different effects and designs result from using different colours and textures.

This is a great craft/ art form. It can be simple and mindless or complex and intricate. The materials can be very inexpensive. The disks are cheap and the materials used for the braid can be as well--I use scraps of yarn and thread or embroidery floss. The cords can be used for various things. I mostly use mine as necklaces, but I've also made some mask ties with a couple of long braids. I've also made ornament hangers. There are some excellent videos on you tube showing the process. I particularly like the Prumihimo channel. Her video on the 8-cord braid is here

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Almost, But Not Quite

 I've been working on this pair of socks on and off for months:

I made them with a strand of sock yarn and a strand of mohair held together for the foot. The cuff is made with the sock yarn alone. I started them months ago, but didn't work on them during the warmer weather. When I did work on them, it was a little at a time because of the tight gauge, which was tough on my hands if I worked on them for long stretches. So it took a while, but little by little they got done and now they're ready for me to pop on my feet in colder weather. They are especially cosy with the mohair.

I got the mohair 5 1/2 years ago at a charity shop. I paid 5 euro for a large cone. Bill said he was surprised I bought it because it's pink. While it's true that pink--especially this pink--is not my favourite sort of colour, it is mohair, it was cheap, and the money went for community projects. I knew I;d find a use for it and so I have. 

The first thing I made was a lacy bed jacket/sweater thing. I use it a lot. 

After that was done, I still had a lot left on the cone.

I made some smaller things, like brooches, using some of it. I made a couple pair of socks using it held together with other yarn. I wore out the first pair I made, but the second pair, made a few years later, is still going strong. I thought this new pair of socks might just finish off the cone, but not quite. I still have a wee bit left.
I'll probably hold it with a strand of thin yarn and weave some squares on my pin loom with what's left on the cone. This cone of mohair went a loooong way!

Monday, October 26, 2020

A Wish to Start the Week

 This tag was on a tea bag. I wish the same to you.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

In the Good Old Wintertime

 We changed the clocks back last night, so we're now in wintertime--yay! It's chilly enough for flannel sheets and a wool blanket on the bed--yay! I always sleep so much better with heavy blanket(s) and at this time of year. 

It's been raining for most of the day--very cosy. I spent a quiet afternoon drinking tea and weaving on my pin loom with scraps of mohair yarn I'd picked up at charity shops. I am making a bunch of squares with wool and mohair scraps, which I will put together into a funky sweater when I have enough. 

I do love my little loom. It's a great way to use scraps, because each square uses very little yarn. I wind off enough yarn for each square to do a crocheted border (slip stitch around) which frames the square nicely and allows for a neater and more secure join when it's time to put the squares together. 

I hope it's a cosy day in your neck of the woods, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

My Kind of Day

nowhere I must be
so home with music, books, tea
window full of rain

Monday, October 19, 2020

Green and Gold--Colours of Donegal

 white petals have gone
golden balls amidst the green
Donegal colours

These golden balls are what remains of the daisies that once bloomed here. I think they're just as lovely now in their own way. Green and yellow are the colours of the Donegal flag.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Ribbon of River


ribbon of river
dances through rocks to the sea
 plants lean in to watch

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Beautiful Colour

 This bush is nearing the end of the blooming season, but it's still trying to bloom:
While some other flowers have come and gone:

I love the (almost) bare trees against the sky

I also love the deep colours of some hydrangea plants. This one looks more burgundy than pink in real life.

Orange, green, and brown:

May you have many opportunities today to stop and notice something beautiful!

Friday, October 16, 2020


 The tide was out, but there was still a bit of sky reflected in one ribbon of water:

I like these windows:

I'm not sure whether the building is inhabited or vacant.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Critters Were Here

 Bird tracks in the sand when the tide was out:
They flew away when we were on the pier heading in their direction.

Some poor wee doggie lost a treat. 😲
I hope there were plenty more where that one came from!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Hard at Work

 These sheep are hard at work making new wool. 😃🐑

I appreciate their dedication. 

One day we were walking to the grocery store when we stopped to talk at some sheep in a field across the street from the one above. Bill wanted to take a picture, and as he lifted his camera, all the sheep but one turned away from him. Shortly thereafter, I was flipping through a cross-stitch Christmas ornament magazine our daughter sent me a year or two ago and came across an ornament featuring sheep. I used part of the chart, adapting it to fit a narrow scrap of aida cloth I had to make him a bookmark.
When I completed the sheep, it wasn't quite as long as I wanted it, so I added the 'BAA,' frayed the edges, and called it done.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Weird Women

 A couple of months ago, I read about this book in, I think, a LitHub email.

I am quite a fab of short story collections by women writers. I especially love collections that feature the work of women who have been 'forgotten' and whose work is no longer published or known, so when I read about this book, which is all of these things, I knew I wanted it. I clicked over to Book Depository, found it and Bill ordered it. I thought it would be a while, because the publication date listed had not yet arrived, but they shipped it within a few days and it quickly arrived. I set it aside to save for October, since Halloween month seemed like a perfect time to read these stories. 

It is a fabulous collection. I am so happy to own it. I read work by women I had never heard of and found a few of them on Project Gutenberg, so I will be able to read more of their work. The book includes an introduction which discusses the ways in which writing was empowering for women. During the years covered in this book, women were able to support their families through their writing and could earn as much as men did, particularly if they used initials instead of names that would identify them as women. There was a market for short stories in periodicals, which many women took advantage of.

I highly recommend this book!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

I Can Relate

 A friend sent me this yesterday--I don't know where she found it. I nodded along as I read--I can relate. I bet those of you who are also book lovers can relate, too. 😃

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Autumnal Scribbles with Yarn

 I finished this shawl earlier this year, but by the time I did, it was too warm to wear it. Now that we're past the yucky part of the year, I've got it on as I type. I couldn't get a good pic of the entire thing, so here it is in parts.

I crocheted it with a thicker wool (bought at a charity shop) with an 8mm hook in a basic lace stitch pattern, consisting of chains and single crochets (double crochet in UK terms). Then I took scraps and leftovers and did some surface crochet chains around in a random, abstract way. I made some simple motifs and sewed them on here and there. I love it! It's perfect for this time of year when it's not really cold--nice and cosy without being too heavy. 

I'm so happy to be back in wool season! 🐑😁

Sunday, October 4, 2020

September Books: 2000s Nonfiction and Poetry

 I am ending my September book list with the nonfiction and poetry I read. While I am not currently jazzed about recent fiction, I am still interested current work in these genres.

Build Your Own Boat by Camonghne Felix (audiobook read by the author)

This poetry collection is a new addition to the e-audiobook selection on the library website. The poems are powerful, but often difficult to listen to due to the subject matter. The poet writes about her life, from childhood on, as a Black woman in the US. 

The Adventure of English: 500AD to 2000 The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg

This book belonged to a friend’s late wife. I never met her, but I am told that, like me, she enjoyed Melvyn Bragg’s show on BBC Radio 4 called In Our Time (I listen to the podcast). In listening to that, you can tell that he has a great curiosity about many aspects of life. This book also reflects that. In the introduction, he states that, ‘This book is about where the English language came from and how it achieved the feat of transforming itself s successfully.’(p. ix) His writing style is much like his podcast, where he asks questions of experts that regular people without a specific background in these subjects might ask. He tries to get beyond the jargon specific to each discipline. This book is a fascinating look at the English language. It is written in, well, plain English, so a background in linguistics is not necessary. I found out that this book came about as a result of a TV series on the topic that the author hosted.

‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay (audiobook read by the author)

From the blurb on the library’s e-audiobook listing:

‘Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat . . . but 1.4 million NHS staff are heading off to work. In this perfect present for anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious, horrifying and sometimes heartbreaking peek behind the blue curtain at Christmastime.

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas is a love letter to all those who spend their festive season on the front line, removing babies and baubles from the various places they get stuck, at the most wonderful time of the year.’

There were parts of this book that had me laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face and there were sad parts as well. I will give a warning to people who do not like harsh language that there is a lot of that in this book. Also, he worked in urology and gynaecology so many body oarts are discussed, sometimes in slang terms.

The author has another memoir as well, but I haven’t read it. I might in future.

The Knitting Map: Textiles, Community, and Controversy, edited by Jools Gilson and Nicola Moffat

Until I saw a piece about this book in a book-related email, I had no awareness of this project--The Knitting Map--that took place over a couple of years (2004-2005) in Cork, when it was named a European Capital of Culture for 2005. I quickly googled and discovered that it was a collaborative project, mired in controversy at the time, that combined performance, technology, and knitting. The latter was done mostly by older, working class women in Cork. I immediately clicked over to the library website, found the book, requested it, and eagerly called Fiona (our local librarian) when it came in, to avail of the call and collect system now in place.

The Knitting Map itself is a large piece of knitting that is 300 square metres (the size of a tennis court). It was knit in strips by over a thousand women over the course of a year. It is not an actual map, with streets in grids and stuff like that. It is a record of the activity and weather in that particular place during that particular year.  It was the brainchild of a duo called half/angel, one of whom is a performance artist and one who deals mainly with technology and art (of course the technology was very different in 2005 than it is today). How the knitters would knit was determined by both weather and the amount of activity on a given day. The latter was determined by CCTV cameras set up at 4 points around the city that would measure the density of traffic (both pedestrian and on wheels of some sort) and the amount of movement. This was translated into code, which was then translated into knitting stitches/patterns. The more movement and density, the more complicated the patterns. The weather determined the colours, which were all chosen to correspond to colours in nature. The knitters would sit in a circle with computer monitors in front of them. The monitors would display the patterns and colours they were to use. So the digital technology was used to translate data into meaningful symbols so that natural materials (wool) could be manipulated using digits (fingers).

The knitters themselves were part of the performance, as people came to watch and photos were taken, but it also proved to be a wonderful experience for them. They talked with each other and shared stories of their lives with one another. They got to participate in an art project in a way that does not usually occur and they felt a sense of pride in the work that they did. I learned that someone did an oral history project with these women and I have requested that book as well. In some ways, I think I will like that book even better than this one, which tends to be a bit dry and academic at times, albeit fascinating.

In addition to the performance aspect of the knitting itself, one of the organisers of the project went out into the community throughout the year preceding the start of the knitting and taught people to knit in car parks, on buses, and even to people stuck in traffic. She got an enthusiastic response to these activities as well.

In spite of the response by participants, however, critics, other artists, uninformed journalists and members of the public who read their work were often extremely hostile. Many of these people did not even bother to see the work or try to understand what it was about. There was some of the usual snooty crap about how this cannot possibly be art. There was the usual sexist, classist claptrap about how it cannot be art if it’s women (and working class women at that!) doing what is traditionally women’s work. There was the usual jealousy about the fact that the project got funded when others did not. Having spent a fair bit of time involved in a couple of local art communities, all of this is familiar. There can be a gazillion paintings, photos, and prints of a local landmark or some other overdone subject matter and that’s art, but do something actually original and the torches are quickly lit. Like so much else in life, art is subjective, but when there’s money to be had, things can get ugly.

There was also some Ireland/Cork-specific dismay, in that many commentators thought it reflected badly on the place that this was the central artwork of the Capital of Culture year. Interestingly, when the finished piece spent a year in Pennsylvania, it was enthusiastically received. 

In 2015, there was another exhibit of The Knitting Map, to celebrate the 10-year anniversary. This book is a collection of 13 essays reflecting on and analysing the project and the response, and situating it in the larger context of women’s work and textile art.

Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer by Maya Angelou (audiobook read by the author)

I quite enjoyed this short audiobook. Not only did the poet read her own work, but she described what the poems were inspired by—even singing some spirituals that inspired one of the poems—and she told the listener who each poem was written for, whether as a gift or as a result of a commission.

May October be filled with many excellent books! Happy reading!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

September Books: 2000s Fiction

 I must admit that I am not really feeling the love with more current fiction at the moment. Still, here are the recent works of fiction I red last month.

My Name is Monster by Katie Hale (audiobook read by Christine Hewitt)

The book begins when a woman, who has always been called Monster, washes up on the shore of Scotland. She was in the seed vault in Svalbard when the final episode of ‘the war’ occurred. This had been going on for some time—sometimes the bombs dropped were nuclear and sometimes they dispersed ‘the sickness’ when detonated. Society had already deteriorated, with people having to try to get into safe camps and stay away from each other, but the final flurry of bombs wiped everyone else out, Monster assumes. She gets on a boat and heads towards Scotland, where she grew up, knowing her parents are dead, but wanting to see her old home. She goes into homes along the way to get food and othet necessities for herself. Eventually, she comes across a farmhouse and decides to settle there. It is near enough to a city where she can go and get supplies. In one trip to the city, she finds a feral girl in a small shop. She takes her home and gives her the name Monster, taking Mother for herself. 

This book started out really well. I was hooked from the start. The reader is really good. But as the book progressed, it got tedious, particularly in the second part, when the narrative shifted to the girl’s point of view. The ending was too saccharine for my taste. In the end, it was a disappointment, in spite of the writing, which was good and the reader, who really added to the story.

The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack (audiobook read by Pam Ward)

Every September, I click over to the e-book/e-audiobook section of the library website to see what new Christmas titles they have. I don’t like to read such books after the season is over and if I wait too long, the queue grows and I won’t be able to borrow them until the new year. This title was new to the library and available, so I borrowed it. It’s part of the ‘cozy culinary mystery series.’ I am unfamiliar with the series, but it seemed like it would be a pleasant thing to listen to, if the reader was good. She is quite good. The book, not as much. It was OK, but I don’t see myself seeking out any other books in this series.

The detective is Sadie Cunningham, who used to be a private investigator, but now apparently just stumbles into various crimes. She writes detective stories with a culinary theme, although that was really just mentioned in passing a few times and didn’t factor into the story, other than a focus on her enjoyment of cooking and baking. Sadie’s good friend and former neighbour, Mary, is in her 90s and living in a sort of care home/hospice situation. She can barely see or cannot see at all due to macular  degeneration (at one point the reader is told that she can see a little in her peripheral vision if she moves her head a certain way, but in the course of the story, people move around her room as if she was completely blind). Sadie wants to help Mary have one last special Christmas so she brings Mary’s ornaments from a storage unit and decorates the tree a granddaughter has brought for her room. Sadie discovers that these ornaments are very valuable antiques and when some of them are stolen from the tree, she is determined to find them and return them before Mary knows anything about it. 

The story was predictable and it was clear who took the ornaments well before the end. Other aspects of the story were also predictable. It was also a bit preachy at times, particularly when Sadie was in ‘conversation’ with certain people—it was like she was wagging her finger at them and lecturing them about how naughty they were. 

Murder on Birchardsville Hill by Ruth Buchanan

This was an e-book I found at the library website when I did a search of the Christmas books. Had it not been quite short, I would not have finished it, since I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen almost from the start. Because it was short, I decided to read on and see if I was right (I was). It was also very religious, with several attempts to evangelise. Not my thing, so I skimmed over the ‘Jesus is king’ speeches, which oddly appeared suddenly and out of nowhere near the end of the book. 

The book is told from the point of view of Morgan Scott, who was orphaned as a young child when her parents were killed in a car crash. Her original name was Chen Meifung. She was in and out of foster care until she was 17, when she was adopted by an elderly couple with no other family so they would have someone to inherit their wordly goods. Morgan, who lives in Florida, is currently a historical true crime podcaster, although she used to be a journalist. It was in the latter capacity that she covered the trial of a guy who killed his family, shopped up the bodies, and dumped them in the Everglades for the alligators. She subsequently wrote a book about him. He hates her and continues to threaten her life. She wants to forget about him and a stalker fan, so she asks her assistant, who she has only met digitally, to book her a trip to Birchardsville Pennsylvania, where she will spend Christmas. She goes there, which is in the middle of nowhere, because a fan has sent her a whole packet of information about a crime that took place there in the past. Being from Florida, she is unprepared for the cold, which is much discussed. She meets her fan, the killer escapes, and the assistant posts her location on a social media platform. On Christmas Eve, mayhem ensues. 

This was easily the worst book I read in September.

Too Good to Be True by Ann Cleeves (audiobook read by Kenny Blyth)

I like Ann Cleeves Vera series, but I’ve not read any of her other series featuring Jimmy Perez. This novella is one of the latter and I enjoyed it. I would read more of them. In this book, Jimmy’s ex-wife calls him and asks him to come to the village where she lives to investigate the death of the local schoolteacher. Village gossip was that her current husband, the local doctor, was the culprit.

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah

This is the fourth book in the author’s Hercule Poirot continuation series. For some reon I have yet to figure out, I do not like these as much as I like the original Poirots, but I like them well enough to read them when they come out. This one was somewhat predictable, which is unusual for Hannah.

Friday, October 2, 2020

September Books: 1900s

 I've been reading a lot of older novels and short stories lately. Most of these are from the earlier part of the 1900s, although there is one that was published in 1999.

The Clue by Carolyn Wells

This was the author’s first book with her series detective Fleming Stone, who does not actually appear until a few chapters before the end, when he swoops in and solves the case. This is an author I learned about from reading a LitHub article, I think, so I went to Project Gutenberg and got the book, which was originally published in 1909. I enjoyed the book enough to get more of the books in the series. I think there is something of a resurgence of interest in her work.

The book takes place in New Jersey, where Wells was born. In this book, people are gathered in a large home to celebrate the wedding of the young woman who has inherited it from her uncle. The night before the wedding, the groom finds her dead. Who could have done it? Suspicion falls on the people in the house, since it was always locked up tight at night. The groom’s friend and a friend of the bride investigate, but eventually Fleming Stone is called in.

Death at the Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh

I was in the mood for a mystery, so turned to the Golden Age and continued with the Roderick Alleyn series. I only have a few books left to read. It will be sad when I am done, but I still have Margery Allingham's Campion series and the works of Josephine Tey to explore.

In this book, an old legendary theatre called The Dolphin is literally crumbling. A playwright and director goes to look at the ruin and harbours dreams of it being restored. These are dreams, not plans, until a weird set of circumstances makes his dream a reality. He writes a play inspired by a glove that was made for Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, which had been in the possession of a strange rich guy. Of course, there are a lot of personality clashes, relationships, and, well dramas between the actors. Things take a very ugly turn when the watchman is found dead and a child actor is injured. Alleyn is called in.

Murder at Christmas by various authors, edited by Cecily Gayford

This is part of a series of similar books, most of them Christmasy, but one is a collection of summer stories. This one came out last year, but when it popped up in the e-book section of the library website there was already a queue and I knew it wouldn’t be available until after Christmas, when I don’t care to read Christmas stories. I got in early this year. These are good collections. Here’s the description. 

A rich collection of classic Christmas mysteries

    ' Christmas is a season of overindulgence. For most of us, that means an extra mince pie, a second helping of turkey, or perhaps a third glass of mulled wine. But for some among us, the festive season is a time to settle old scores, dispatch new enemies and indulge ... in murder.

Here, ten masters of the genre serve up mystery and mayhem aplenty. From a dowager's missing diamonds to a Christmas party gone horribly wrong, these classic crime stories will delight, puzzle and satisfy long after the last strands of tinsel have been packed away.'

I'm including it in this post because all of the stories were originally published in the 1900s.

A Highland Christmas by M.C. Beaton (audiobook read by David Monteith)

This is a seasonal novella featuring the author’s series detective Hamish McBeath. It is set in the north of Scotland and is filled with quirky characters and village hi-jinks. As the story opens, Hamish is facing a solitary Christmas, because his family (siblings, aunt, etc) have gone on a trip which his aunt won in a contest in which people were asked to submit a slogan for washing powder. One of Hamish’s superiors was taken ill and he had to take over. He needn’t have worried, however, because there was plenty to keep him busy. Who stole the town Christmas lights and tree? What happened to Mrs. Gallagher’s cat? Will Morag’s parents lighten up?

This was a pleasant book to listen to while I knitted and the reader was quite good.

Crime at Christmas by C.H.B. Kitchin

I was recently reading an article in a CrimeReads email about forgotten authors of the Golden Age. This author was included. I thought I’d seen his name in the e-book section of the library website, so I clicked over to look. This book came up and was available, so I borrowed it. It is the second of four mysteries that Kitchin wrote, published in 1934. They feature Malcolm Warren, a stockbroker, who finds himself in the middle of unexpected situations.

In this book, he goes to spend Christmas at the large home of a wealthy client, Mr Quisberg. He is good friends with the client’s wife and so is looking forward to seeing her. This is the wife’s third marriage and her children are from the previous two. They are there, as are a doctor friend of Quisberg, Quisberg’s personal assistant, and the assistant’s mother. There are also servants. It’s a full house and Warren is given a small room with a shared balcony. One morning, he wakes up to find the body of the assistant’s mother hanging over the railing. There are tensions between people in the family. Suffice it to say, it’s not a very merry Christmas.

I enjoyed the book, although the ending was rather abrupt. This was followed by a strange ending chapter, in which ‘reader’ interviews ‘Malcolm Warren’ who narrates the book throughout. It is in this chapter that loose ends are tied up and details are provided.

Tomorrow, I move into the current century.😊 Happy reading!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

September Books: 1800s

 October has arrived! Yay! I am always so happy to get to this time of year. 

As is the case every month, September was full of books. I loved some and was disappointed in others. I will begin with Victorian novels today and move on from there in the days to come.

Wives and Daughters: An Everyday Story by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is Gaskell’s last novel and widely considered to be her best work. One scholar called it the most underrated novel in the English language. I did not realise it was unfinished, but she was nearly at the end when she died. The original publishers added an epilogue in which they drew on her notes and conversations with the author’s family and friends to tell readers how everything was to end. She was close enough to the end that it could all be assumed anyway, but it was a good addition to the book. 

I loved this book. The main character is Molly, a girl whose mother died when she was quite young. Molly lives with her father, a doctor, in a rural area and through her, we meet many of the quirky characters who also live there. When her father remarries, Molly gains a sister. The story moves back and forth between families and characters and there are many different storylines. Through the different stories and characters, Gaskell explores a time of change within England politically and culturally. I look forward to reading more of Gaskell’s work.

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

This is the first book (of 6) in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series. The story revolves around Septimus Harding, who is the warden at a home (overseen by the church) for poor retired labourers with nowhere else to go, some of whom are in ill health. Many years previously, a man had stipulated the creation of the home in his will, laying out how much was to be spent on various things, including an allowance for the residents. Harding is considered a good and kind warden, who cares for the men and even provides them with an extra allowance out of his own pocket. He lives in the warden’s house on the grounds with his daughter, Eleanor. His older daughter is married to the archdeacon, whose father is the bishop. It is through the bishop, a very old and dear friend, that Harding got the job in the first place.

Enter John Bold, a young man who grew up in the area and who returned when he inherited his father’s house, in which he lives with his sister, Mary. The Bolds are good friends with Septimus and Eleanor. John is a ‘do-gooder’ who gets involved in situations where he sees injustice and tries to remedy this. He decides that the men at the home are not getting as much money as they should be and raises a stink. Things spiral out of control and there are unintended consequences.

I enjoyed this book a lot and am looking forward to continuing on with the series. Bill found the books on ebay, being sold by a library in The Cotswolds, so it was a win-win. I got some books I wanted while supporting a library. He also found Middlemarch there. I’m always happy to support libraries!

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope’s

This is the second in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series. It continues the story of Mr Harding and his daughter, Eleanor. In it we revisit some of the people we met in The Warden and are introduced to many new characters. I loved this book. There is something quite appealing about immersing myself in a big book with multiple storylines and characters, written and set in a different time and place. I think the next book in the series will focus primarily on other characters, but some of those in the first two books may make appearances.

Miss Meredith by Amy Levy

I had never heard of this author, but she was mentioned in a booktube video I listened to recently and I decided to look her up. Based on what the booktuber said and what I read, I decided her work was worth checking out. I found four of her books (two of them poetry collections) on Project Gutenberg and downloaded them. 

This short book is about Elsie Meredith, who is a young woman in her early 20s. She lives in Islington (England) with her two sisters and her widowed mother. They don’t have much money, so when Elsie gets a job offer from a friend of a friend that would provide her with a good salary and would require her to live in Italy, she takes it. She sets off for Pisa, where she will live with an aristocratic family and teach music and English to a woman only a few years younger than she is. The story is an account of her journey, her culture shock, her experience of that particular region of Italy, and her attempts to adapt.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (audiobook read by Anton Lesser)

I love this story. I listen to various versions every year—radio adaptations and one audiobook reading. I have a couple of different audiobook versions, but had never heard this one before, so when I saw it in the e-audiobook section of the library website, I put myself in the queue early so I would get it before Christmas. This is a good version—the reader does a good job for the most part, although it seemed a bit weird to hear Jacob Marley sounding like a young punk. Scrooge sometimes seemed to sound like he was from Scotland. This is not the best audiobook version I have heard—Geoffrey Palmer does the best reading I’ve heard—but it was pleasant.