The Clockwork Scarab

I’ve probably mentioned a time or ten that I have a longstanding affection for Sherlock Holmes and related adaptations/spinoffs, which these days seems to mean a more or less endless list of things to read. (And watch – I’m perhaps the only person who was kind of lukewarm about the BBC Sherlock. The idea/aesthetic of it was cool, but the actual plotlines were kind of hit and miss. )

Which is to say¬† The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason is right up my alley because it’s about Sherlock Holmes’s niece Mina (Alvermina actually, in keeping with the Holmes famly’s taste for “ridiculous” names.) Also Bram Stoker’s sister Evaline, a vampire hunter who inspired his book. (I read Dracula in grade 9 and haven’t looked it since – I keep meaning to.) They get to solve a mystery in an alternate universe London where vampires are real, electricity is outlawed and Irene Adler works at the British Museum for some reason.

It’s a fun premise and a good bus read and they get to be in the British Museum after hours (I have a deep and irrational affection for being places when they’re closed.) And yet I found the characters to be two types that I’m kind of tired of individually and annoyed me together.

Miss Holmes is so very smart and capable – she’s learned a lot from her uncle, and is keen to put it to use. She’s not attractive but it’s cool because she’s to busy being smart to care about something so trivial. No one invites her to parties but it’s for the best because no one would ask her to dance anyway. So naturally male characters (au pleurial!) are obviously into her. And naturally she doesn’t notice because she’s so busy being plain and clever. It’s hot to be smart, you guys! Seriously, can’t a heroine be nerdy without those gentleman callers in the background reassuring us that of course she’s beautiful after all?

On the other hand, Miss Stoker is pretty and, unlike so many characters, has actually noticed. But she’s too cool to care, you guys! She picks her clothes for practicality and keeps stakes in her coiffure. She does get invited to parties but hides the invitations from her well meaning sister-in-law because obviously going would be a waste of time. Eligible young men are always asking her to dance and it’s so annoying. What’s more empowering than a strong female character who hates on stupid girly stuff?

Not like either of these is inherently the wrong way to be. (Although if you’re so! very! observant! maybe try to notice if people are flirting with you?) But I found myself thinking about a time I was at a bar with my gorgeous, charismatic friend and some guy said to me “So, you’re the smart one and she’s the pretty one, right?”

And I was like “……I disagree with the premise of your question.”

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Ah, fall! Prime knitting season! Lately I’ve been plowing along on that shawl from before. I’m onto the border, which feels like you’re almost done – it’s like a bindoff! And yet also like you’ll never be done – you knit 40-odd stitches for every stitch bound off. I just had to check the correct spelling of Sisyphean. As you do.

On the bright side, I did turn the corner yesterday:

Which means I’ve passed the halfway mark, which surely means it might be done someday. Right?

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The Madman’s Daughter

Lately I’ve been somewhat distracted from my usual knitting/reading/tea routine what with how the world seems to be full of portents of the apocalypse. All these hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires and Donald Trump have me thinking I should probably give Revelations a read soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Sheperd. The premise is fun – a re-telling of The Island of Dr Moreau from the point of view of his daughter. And don’t we all want to escape to a mysterious island somewhere? (Just maybe not in the Caribbean right now…) Alas, in keeping with the world in general it was kind of disappointing.

It takes a while to get to the island. There are a lot of ominous hints and I wonder if it would be more effective for people who haven’t read Moreau because I already knew where we were headed. But then isn’t the audience of a re-telling mostly hooked because they know the original? Then we get there and things take a love triangley turn.

Y’all, if you have a mysterious island full of creepy experiments do you really need to take the love triangle road?

On the bright side, I don’t think Revelations has a love triangle.

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Catch Up: Books

People always talk about summer like it’s all picnics and trips to the beach, but in my experience there’s usually a lot of days were it’s too hideously humid to go outside and I’m not going to hang out in the park in the hot sun. I’ll be sitting next to the air conditioner with a book instead. At least I’m getting lots of summer reading done.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman: Do you have a hard time deciding whether you want to be a librarian or a secret agent? I mean, who doesn’t? Here you can be both and travel between alternate universes to collect books. As a bonus, hang out with a detective. Fun. Although the part with the silverfish is gross.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson: Ursula mysteriously gets some life re-dos. And some of her lives really need do-overs. Set in the early twentieth century which does seem to lend itself to bad outcomes what with all the wars and stuff. I never much cared for the name Ursula but it kind of grew on me. Maybe one day I’ll have a cat called Ursula and call her Little Bear.

The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb: Ah, refreshing! The Little Mermaid with opera. Nifty premise although I didn’t buy the ending. But at least it doesn’t cut out the grim parts a la Disney. That’s the interesting part to me – how the mermaid makes some steep and perhaps ill-advised sacrifices.

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner: Oh, how I love these books. Not my favourite so far but that is a pretty high bar.

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Catch-Up: Knitting

It’s July, which means it’s often too hot to go outside and also there’s always the Tour de France to keep me company while knitting by the air conditioner. I love cycling because it doesn’t make me feel bad about my life. Like, sometimes when I watch stuff I find myself thinking “Hey, I should be out having adventures/torrid love affairs/fighting crime too instead of sitting here.” But when I see people riding bikes up a mountain on a hot day, I think “Better you than me. Should I get a beer?”

Also, there are ample boring parts should one need to count stitches and stuff. (I’m given to understand this is part of the appeal of baseball but I always feel like there it’s more a wait than a lull and it drives me nuts. Just throw the pitch already!)

All of which is to say, I’m knitting a lace shawl – this one, but mine still looks like this:

I’m past the easy part and at the part where you have to pay attention and also where the rows get long.

I’m also making a boring blue sweater. When I dug out my summer office sweaters they were fewer and shabbier than I was expecting. I searched the mall for some light cotton sweaters but, given the complete non-availability of such a thing, apparently I’m the only one who expects to spend much of the summer in an air conditioned office. (Probably everyone is out having adventures/love affairs/etc. Huh.)

So I bought yarn instead. At the rate I’m going I should have my summer sweater just in time for fall.

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Long Weekend Socks

Ah, Canada Day! When there are usually train rides and fireworks. I’m from Ottawa and generally try to go back for it, unless July 1 is a Wednesday or something. (When I found a nation our national day will always be a Saturday. I was going to say there would be beer but I think my current nation pretty much has that covered.)

Whenever I go home, I suffer from the delusion that in addition to the train ride, I’ll be lounging around, sleeping late, reading, knitting. Why, I’ll be able to knit a whole pair of socks with no trouble at all!

I cast on on the train.

(Still life with train pretzels.)

This is about how much you can knit between Toronto and Ottawa:

(Still life with train port.)

But then I invariably spend the whole time running around town, trying to catch up with various friends and relatives while still spending enough time with my parents that they think it’s worth hosting me. And people say I’m not an optimist.

It rained a lot though, which was a plus on the socks side – although a minus in pretty much every other way. While eating dinner on a friend’s balcony in a thunderstorm she said this would be pretty cool for a spooky holiday like Halloween but not so much Canada Day. I tried to make up something where we were being haunted by the ghost of Sir John A. MacDonald but somehow I don’t think that will become a beloved Canada Day tradition.

As it turns out, you can knit most of a pair of socks on a train trip and a rainy weekend.

And if you suck it up and knit them Tuesday night instead of doing something useful like getting groceries,:


Specs: Plain old stocking stitch socks in Nerd Girl Yarns Stomp & Bounce; colour is How Do You Polish Rust. (I am apparently insufficiently nerdy to get a lot of the references in the colour names. Who knew I could be described as “insufficiently nerdy?”)

If I were really organized I would have used some appropriately Canadian yarn, but you can’t have everything. Do you think John A. MacDonald will come and haunt me?

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

After being pleasantly surprised by Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter a while ago, I thought I’d give Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a try when I found it in the pile of cast off books in the laundry room. (Sadly it seems the people who had good taste in books have moved away. Lately someone has unloaded a lot of French grammar books. I don’t know how many editions of the Bescherelle have been published but there’s a pretty substantial percentage of them on offer downstairs.)

Anyway, I was feeling kind of optimistic about this one but alas, it meets the expectations I originally had for Abraham Lincoln. I mean, in a way I feel like I shouldn’t complain since it does what it says on the tin – yes indeed, there is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Elizabeth and Darcy get together with occasional intervals to fight zombies or discuss same. But the zombie plot doesn’t go anywhere. They just kind of lurk in the background looking for brains and being a nuisance. It’s like the opposite of every action movie with the gratuitous and distracting love story. I hate that too.

Well, I guess maybe I’ll head to the laundry room and start working on my French. Hey neighbours, get better taste in literature.

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