Book Review: “Spin Art:

Spin Art: Mastering the Craft of Spinning Textured Yarn, Jacey Boggs
originally published: November 2011
finished reading: 30 December 2011


I must admit, the first time I saw Jacey Boggs’ yarns I wasn’t impressed. As a knitter and a spinner, what use did I have for yarn with felted eyeballs in it? I figured she was a fad and that she’d blow over and disappear, leaving the field for serious spinners. I can’t tell you how wrong I was and how happy I am to have been so wrong. 


This last summer I took a 3-day class with Jacey at the prodding of a fiber friend. My mind was blown. Apparently, when she takes on a challenge, Jacey jumps in head first and completely immerses herself in the task. When she started spinning, she spent 4-6 hours a day making yarn. That’s pretty incredible for a new spinner. I’ve been spinning for almost 20 years (off and on) and she said things that made me re-evaluate what I was doing and actually do it better.


What does that have to do with this book? Let me tell you. Boggs spent so much time spinning in order to figure out what the fiber will do so that she could then make it do what SHE wanted (know the rules so you know which ones you can break). If you understand the structure of fiber and the effects of the work you’re doing, you’ll understand the resulting yarn and be able to incorporate it into your own work very precisely.


Spin Art is essentially a multi-day workshop with Jacey sitting next to you and showing you what to do. She starts you off with easily do-able yarns. Even if you’ve never tried “art yarn”, you can make these first few. Once you conquer those, you will be able to work your way through the book trying everything. The pictures are wonderful and while her descriptions may seem strange, do exactly what she says the first time through. It will all become clear, I promise.


One of my fiber challenges for 2012 is to work my way through this book. I expect to be hung up on a few once I actually get started, but I plan on spending as much time as I need to get a good, usable yarn before moving on to the next one. I have plenty of stash for this project and I plan on turning it into some incredible yarn. 

Book Review: “My Friend Dahmer”

My Friend Dahmer, Derf Backderf
originally published: March 2012
finished reading: 29 December 2011 (review copy)




Extremely disturbing. I have this fascination with serial killers and I’m not sure where it comes from. I love watching the shows where they take you into a prison to talk to the prisoners and look into why they committed their crimes. My husband frequently says, “Why do you watch that stuff?” I can’t answer.


My book rep friend had this on his shelf of things I could pick through and of course I snapped it up. As graphic novels go, it’s dark and the drawings are kind of chunky, but I think that adds to the alienation of the subject matter. Backderf actually knew Jeffrey Dahmer in high school and brings a unique perspective to his life.


Dahmer was a complex guy and Backderf shows his high school career through a teenager’s eyes. All of the friends knew something was wrong with Dahmer, but they incorporated his weirdness into their own lives – up to a point. Backderf illustrates how each of his close friends interacted with Dahmer until they had enough, an encounter that felt so wrong they stopped seeing him as a harmless goof and saw a glimmer of the monster he really was.


Interesting book, but deeply, profoundly disturbing. Backderf brings up a point throughout the story – how did all the adults in Dahmer’s life miss what was really going on? Saying that it was the culture of the 70s only goes so far. How does an alcoholic teenage boy who has a thing for taking apart road kill just keep flying under the radar? I have no answers, but what I keep coming back to is, how many more of them are there? It’s been keeping me up at night.

Book Review: “Poisoner’s Handbook”

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, Deborah Blum
originally published: January 2011
finished reading: 28 December 2011


I almost gave up reading this book halfway through the first chapter. I’m intrigued by any book using science to figure out how people died, but the first chapter was full of the politics of how the medical examiner’s office came into being. I kept thinking it would get better (and I was right) but I almost missed it.


I think what I wanted more of were stories. I watch shows like Law and Order, because they pull the science and the work behind the scenes into every day life. I want to see how the science fits into figuring out what happened. Blum takes us through the labs in New York City, but how many times do I need to be told about grinding organs into paste and distilling them down into their components? Let’s face it, it’s more interesting to actually be doing that work than it is to be reading about it (over and over).


I learned a lot and was mostly interested throughout the book. It’s a good read for those of us curious about the science that goes on in the background. If you’re looking for in depth stories about the victims, look elsewhere.

Book Review: “Ladies First”

Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman, Queen Latifah
originally published: 2000
Finished reading: 17 December 2011


I love music, always have. My tastes are all over the board, hard rock, country, even rap. However, have a couple of rules when I listen to music: 

  1. I have to be able to understand what they’re saying 
  2. There’s a no repeat rule (repeat something too many times and they’re gone) 
  3. No misogyny 


Queen Latifah has always followed my rules and she’s frequently in my playlist. I love that she’s a strong woman, doing what she loves, and doing it well. Ladies First is an explanation of how she got to be so strong and the amazing support system she’s built that keeps her that way. 

I want to give this book to all the young women I know. Actually, all the women I know, young and old. Everyone could benefit from Latifah’s wisdom and the way she’s dealt with the tragedies, triumphs, and even the bad decisions she’s made.



I admire her so much for her art. What I’m taking away from this book is her ability to re-evaluate her choices, to learn from her mistakes, and to keep moving forward. A good lesson for everyone at any age.

Book Review: “We Wish to Inform You…”

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch
originally published: September 1999
finished 12 December 2011

I have always felt an obligation to read books like this – books written about the terrible things human beings do to one another. In 1994, I was safe in my little house taking care of my 3-year-old son. Not worrying that we would be hacked to death by our machete-wielding neighbors. People we’d lived next to for years without incident.

I read these books to try and understand why. I know that it’s unlikely I’ll ever be satisfied with the answer, but I continue to try. Gourevitch does an admirable job interviewing people who lived through the genocide in Rwanda – either as victims or perpetrators. He provides a history of the region that includes how the Hutus and Tutsis came to this crossroads, how the colonization of Africa contributed to the divisions, and how the western world was aware, but did nothing to stop the bloodshed. I was ashamed at the time that we did nothing. I’m still ashamed.

Maybe I read books to convince myself that if I had been there, I would have acted differently. I like to think I would have been a righteous gentile during World War II. I like to think I would have been someone who stood up to the interahamwe when they came to kill. I don’t know, I will continue to be grateful that I’ve never been in the position to find out.

Book Review: “It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ “

Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, Paul Deen and Sherry Suib Cohen
originally published: 2007
finished reading: 4 December 2011

I love biographies, always have. I’m in the middle of reading another non-fiction book that’s really bringing me down and needed something to pick me up. Paula Deen fit that bill. I loved that the book sounded the way she sounds on her show (and I’ve been dropping the “g” off all my words for the last several days). She pulled no punches when talking about her life – the times when she was mean to her boys, her failings in her first marriage, approaching her step-children – it’s all there. Instead of making me judge her, these revelations made me like her even more.

I found Deen’s book inspirational in a way that a lot of self-help books are not. This woman struggled a lot with the deaths of her parents, being married very young, having little to no money, and yet she came out on top. This is the American dream. A woman with very few options took the bull by the horns, gritted her teeth, and built herself up step-by-step. She pulled her family up with her and they’re all still going strong. I’m looking forward to seeing Paula Deen cookin’ with butter for a very long time.

How is this related to creativity? Here’s the thing, Paul Deen picked herself up and was her own best advocate. When she finally found the thing she loved to do best, that’s what she threw herself into. That she’s become an author, TV host, product spokeswoman, multi-millionaire is all the result of finding her bliss. If that’s not creative thinking, I don’t know what is.

Edited to add:
I actually wrote this post yesterday. Then discovered that the batteries in the trackpad had died. Would you believe we were completely out of AA batteries? Why did I throw away all the corded mice? I couldn’t post until I got new batteries and re-connected the dang wireless trackpad. It still counts, right?

Book Review: “Imagine: How Creativity Works”

Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer
originally published: 13 March 2012
finished: 30 November 2011 (galley copy)


I have a friend whose husband is a book rep – she passes me the books that she thinks I’ll find most interesting, so I lucked into a galley copy of this book. I consider myself a creative type and have often wondered why sometimes the ideas flow easily and other times it feels like trying to squeeze a hammer through a tube of toothpaste. Lehrer gives a good, scientific basis for why the brain works the way it does. Interesting, but I can’t really do anything about how my brain works, can I? 

The genius of this book is the way he explains how other people are creative. How Bob Dylan dropped out and experienced some of the most creative times of his life. Why cities are such hotbeds for new ideas. How the Pixar team created a space where people have chances everyday to “run into” their co-workers and discuss the work. Why Elizabethan England gave us so many great playwrights. Is 3M one of the most creative companies because they give their employees the time and space to “make connections”? By looking at how others are creative, Lehrer provides a kind of road map on how you could make more creative space in your own life. 

Imagine gave me hope that I don’t have to wait for a muse to hit me over the head. I can take steps that will open the tap of creativity in my head and keep it flowing. That it’s not just a matter of talent but a mixture of planning, work, and perseverance that will allow me to create the life I want to live – both professionally and personally. 

This is another of those books that you can’t speed read through. I read it a chapter at a time and let it sink in. I almost handed the book to my boss, he needs to read the chapter on the “Q” factor (the idea that you have to bring in new people every now and again to juice up everyone on the team). I can think of several other people who will get something out of Imagine – they’ll be getting copies as well. Well worth reading.

Book Review – “The Hypnotist”

The Hypnotist, Lars Kepler (audio)
originally published: 2009
translated from Swedish: June 2011
finished: 16 November 2011

I loved the Stieg Larsson books. Enjoyed reading them, enjoyed the movies – all of it. When a friend of mine suggested that I read this one (listen really) I jumped at the chance. I was hoping to get another great Swedish mystery that would keep me hanging to the very last page. What I’m left with is the same sort of feeling I get when I eat too many cookies. Slightly sick to my stomach and disbelief that I finished all of them.


I hated most of the characters in this book. The main one, Joona Linna, who is the police officer at the center of it, was at least palatable. No so for everyone else. Each member of the family featured is self-centered and whiney beyond redemption. The wife is ridiculously shrill, the husband is a pill-popping narcissist, and the teenage son is overly dramatic and spoiled. By the end I was hoping the bad guys would get them all.


Why did I finish? The bones of the story were good, although I did figure out “who done it” long before the big reveal. I was also trapped in the “maybe it will get better” vortex. I kept thinking, “everyone likes it so much, it must get good”. Wrong.


Don’t waste your time. I listened to it on my commute into work, so I don’t feel too bad. If I had actually bought the book and spent time reading it, I would have felt very cheated. I don’t even like Joona enough to want to listen to the next one. 

Book Review: “The House at Sea’s End”

The House at Sea’s End (Ruth Galloway #3), Elly Griffiths
originally published: 10 January 2012 (I read a review copy)
finished: 11 November 2011


The third in Ruth Galloway book is a wonderful addition to the series. There are several things I love about these books: the setting (bleak English coast), Ruth’s job (forensic anthropology), and the characters. They are regular human beings – no one is a super hero – they could be the people you see on the bus every morning, just going about their lives.


In this installment, Ruth is back from maternity leave and is juggling her feelings about new motherhood with going back to teaching and catching a new case. Griffiths neatly ties what’s going on to a previous point in Ruth’s past – giving us a little insight into Ruth’s present. I found the story line that ties back to World War II very interesting. Clearly the war is still on the minds of many Brits – much more than for Americans. There are some twists and turns, and I can never figure out who the criminal is, but it was a good ride.


Griffiths is getting better and better at telling her stories. While I object to the way she constantly lets us know that Ruth is fat and feels badly about it, it’s clear that she does care about her main character. The other characters are developing as well. I hope Cathbad continues to show up, he’s great comic relief in his flowing cape. Well worth the time spent reading and I’m looking forward to Ruth’s next adventure.

Book Reviews – June

I resisted reading this for a long time – mostly because I didn’t know what it was about and I hate to read a book because everyone else is reading it. It came up as a selection in one of my book clubs and I thought, “Oh why not”. I’m so very glad I did. Even my mother, who doesn’t much like crime stories is enjoying it.

I loved the characters and enjoyed their eccentricities (who doesn’t have a crazy friend?). I’m waiting for the second book in the series, but rather sad th…moreI’m printing all my book reviews for June at one time. I’m lazy – sue me.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson, originally published in 2008
I resisted reading this for a long time – mostly because I didn’t know what it was about and I hate to read a book because everyone else is reading it. It came up as a selection in one of my book clubs and I thought, “Oh why not”. I’m so very glad I did. Even my mother, who doesn’t much like crime stories is enjoying it.

I loved the characters and enjoyed their eccentricities (who doesn’t have a crazy friend?). I’m waiting for the second book in the series, but rather sad that there will only be 3.

It’s not a beach read, there are too many things happening. It is a good summer read.

Bicycling Magazine’s Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills, edited by Ed Pavelka, originally published in 1998
This is a collection of articles originally published in Bicycling Magazine. There are sections that cover basics, essential skills, traffic safety, riding stronger and longer, off-season training, how to eat to ride, and medical concerns.

This is the perfect book for a beginning cyclist. There’s so much I don’t know that I didn’t know where to start. Essentially I walked to the sports section of my local book store and started pulling books off the shelf. A lot of them are way over …moreThis is a collection of articles originally published in Bicycling Magazine. There are sections that cover basics, essential skills, traffic safety, riding stronger and longer, off-season training, how to eat to ride, and medical concerns.

This is the perfect book for a beginning cyclist. There’s so much I don’t know that I didn’t know where to start. Essentially I walked to the sports section of my local book store and started pulling books off the shelf. A lot of them are way over my head, but this was fit perfectly. I have a feeling that I’ll refer to it for a long time and eventually pass it on to someone else.

My  Lurid Past, Lauren Henderson, originally published in 2002
The one word I would use to describe this book is filthy. The main character is a food public relations person representing a young chef who’s doing his best to “shag” all the girls, snort all the cocaine, and drink all the alcohol in London. Juliet is doing her best to keep up with him. While I don’t live like this, it was fun to read about other people who do. And as filthy as it was, it was the first book in a very long time that made me wish I was at home reading every second. 
Too Many Blondes, Lauren Henderson, originally published in 1998

There’s is nothing like a good British mystery to keep me reading. The main character of this one is a sculptor who moonlights as an aerobics instructor. Henderson has taken me through the rave clubs of London and I enjoyed every minute of it. Plus there’s quite a good mystery to solve. A fun summer read.