Adventures In Knitting & How Not to Read a Book

Why_Kill_InnocentAll this week, I thought “How the mighty are fallen” and “pride cometh before a fall” … as I struggled to finish one book, just ONE, C.S. Harris’s thirteenth Sebastian St. Cyr historical murder mystery and part of my favourite series EVER; romance, mystery, history — it has it ALL and you should read it from its glorious beginning, 2005’s What Angels Fear, to its … well, whatever volume Harris is at. (Book 14 is out, Who Slays the Wicked, but I have to await the paperback to afford it. I try not to think about it.)

As I’ve spent the last two posts waxing on and on about the freedom to read whatever I feel like, leaving the ARC TBR behind, blah blah blah … I imagined luxuriating (it would be positively sybaritic, I thought, smirking) in my reading and went on a Amazong ordering frenzy (good thing is, I now have copies of Kate Ross’s Julian Kestrel series, which I’ve wanted to read for years). Sadly, I’d forgotten how work, taking out the garbage, and making my lunch sandwich take time! Also, sleep, many a morning I woke to the alarm bells and ereader screensaver staring at me.

Mit_2More time suck resulted when I revived my love of knitting (the only reason I stayed sane during grad school) and struggled with mastering the art of the fingerless glove and “the horror, the horror” of double-pointed needles. My spare half hour to catch up with the shitstorm found nightly on CNN (I really should stick to the staid CBC and our staid Canadian politics, but I can’t resist that KA-BLAM of *BREAKING NEWS*) was spent contorting fingers and flailing knitting needles to produce one awkward, misshapen Fingerless Thing with Inelegant Protuberance (aka thumb gusset) … (pictured here as I writhe in neo-knitter’s shame). Mit_1

And so, my drib-drab reading of C. S. Harris’s always-magnificent St. Cyr mysteries.

Read it I did, with a sigh of utter contentment and love when I tapped the final page on the fascinating author’s research note at near-midnight last night. In this second-to-latest volume, the frisson-inducing-sexy Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, living his best HEA with wife, Hero, Baby Simon, and cat Mr. Darcy, investigates, with Hero’s help,  the death of Princess Charlotte’s piano teacher, Jane Ambrose. As with every St. Cyr iteration, I found much to love. How do I count the ways and where do I being? I’ll start with the evolution of Seb and Hero’s marriage, one of “true minds” and truer hearts. It isn’t only that they love each other, share a healthy sex life, and adore their son, it’s their compatibility, companionship, and shared purpose that make them perfect for and with each other. Moreover, Sebastian gives Hero her space, to do her sleuthing, to pursue her causes, to venture into the world as a person of worth and intelligence in her own right.

Moreover, in a minor key, Harris sets Why Kill the Innocent in one of London’s worst winters: at the tail-end of The Great London Fog and a London soon thereafter beset by snow, ice, and dangerous cold. Several key scenes are set during the Frost Fair, which was organized to make entertaining use of a frozen Thames (with one adorable scene when Seb and Hero take one-year-old Simon to the Fair and he gnoshes a square of gingerbread). Atmospherically, Harris evokes weather, time, and place and imbues her novel with reader-transporting descriptive detail.

In a major key, I did think deeply about what makes this series satisfying to me and concluded that it’s a perfect marriage (like Seb and Hero’s) of love and justice. The characters who seek justice for the “innocent,” like Jane Ambrose, are they who are capable of great love. Simply put, they care: a murder isn’t a puzzle to be solved, but a human being who deserves redress, who may be disadvantaged by her society by virtue, in this case, of gender and class. To those who care, Seb and Hero, magistrate Lovejoy, Seb’s doctor friend Paul Gibson and Paul’s doctoring lover, Alexi Sauvage, giving a murder victim redress allows them to set the world, always askew, in one small space, in order. I loved this passage of Sebastian pondering while looking at a portrait of the victim, Jane Ambrose:

Rather than looking outward at the viewer, Jane had her head turned, her attention all for her children. A gentle, loving smile softened her features. Sebastian found it profoundly disturbing to be given this glimpse of her as she’d once been — so warm and glowing with life and love — and then remember the way he’d last seen her, a cold, bloody cadaver on a stone slab in a surgeon’s dissection room. And he knew a powerful surge of fury directed at whoever had robbed her of her future and left her only a memory. 

To Seb, Hero, Lovejoy, Paul, and Alexi, an unsolved murder is a test of their humanity, their belief in the value of every life. There is no higher order or calling for them than to redress a wrong, to give those whose voice has been silenced, justice. The ways of the world, its political expediency and dog-eat-dog ethos are not what they live by. Testament to this and evidence of are Sebastian’s confrontations and conflict with his realpolitik father-in-law, Lord Jarvis. Here, they exchange “words”:

“Curiosity is a dangerous weakness. You should strive to overcome it.”

“This isn’t about curiosity. It’s about justice for a vital, talented young woman left in a snowy street with her head bashed in.”

“Justice.” Jarvis rolled the word with distaste …

Because Jarvis does not love, he can only see finding Jane’s murderer as an intellectual exercice at best, the whim of an idle aristocrat-dabbler at worst. Seb, on the other hand, recognizes Jane’s value and humanity. Though Hero is a of cooler temperament, she is driven by the same. Sentiment like this is not often seen as the core of worthy literature: it still resides in the humble recesses of romance novels and some crime fiction.

Now that I’ve near-caught-up with my favourite series, I have a yen to read a romance novel again, so back to the former-ARC TBR I go. I want to continue with Sayers’s Unpleasantness At the Bellona Club and finally write my memento mori post. A Betty Neels is never far from my nightstand. Sadly, MacCulloch’s Christianity reading has stalled till things calm down again work-wise. What have you been reading, crafting, or thinking about?

24 thoughts on “Adventures In Knitting & How Not to Read a Book

  1. I went back to CS Harris after many years away — I started at the beginning again. I’m getting them from the library, so I won’t be a quick glom. I’m looking forward to getting past the familiar ones (the first two or three). I’ve been in a mystery mood lately, thanks to Faith Martin’s Oxford-set DI Hillary Greene series. The first one was free through Kindle Owner’s lending, and it was set on the canal — I have spent more time on the Oxford Canal than any other, I think.

    I’m reading the most recent book in one of my favorite series, Jodi Taylor’s Historians of St Mary’s series about time-traveling historians. It has a great central romance. In actual romance, I read both Lucy Parker’s and Sara Mayberry’s latest, Nisha Sharma’s The Takeover Effect, and a very angsty but good pair of books, Sunny and Warm by Jamie Pope,.

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    • Thank you for your comment, it sent me scrambling to find these series you’ve been reading and off on Amazong frenzy I go … YAY for good books and friends who ensure your TBR never goes out of style! ‘sides, Faith Martin appears to be a #feralspinster, must support them whenever and wherever I can. The Jodi Taylor looks delightful too!!!

      Hmm, I loved the Lucy Parker, I hope you did too. *expires of curiosity* What did you think of the Sharma?

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  2. The Sebastian St Cyr series is one of my favourites. I usually listen to the audiobooks, but try and find some time to listen without too many interruptions. I have the latest waiting for the long flight from Australia to Europe in a few months, and Why Kill the Innocent kept me occupied for a good section of a flight on last year’s holiday. I also reaaly like the way Sebastian and Hero’s relationship has developed, as well as both characters strong sense of justice.

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  3. I love this series, but it’s one of the ones I always get from the library. I have a very strict Amazon book budget, supplemented by paperbackswap.com, a Scribd subscription, and the public library (both paper and e-books). My Betty Neels books arrived in the mail, and I started with “The Promise of Happiness”.

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    • You are so well-organized when it comes to your books!!! I wish we had better libraries than we do in Montreal: the main branches and offers are in French, so I rely on Amazong a lot. I almost never walk into Chapters-Indigo for fear of what HORROR of purchases I may walk out with. The important thing is what a great reader you are, thank you for sharing! I find these things FASCINATING!

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  4. I have found a way to knit and “read” at the same time: audio books! My only problem is that when I get so absorbed in the story, I make more mistakes in my knitting. Given that I make a lot of knitting errors anyway, resulting in strange thumb gussets just as you describe, I figure this is a small price to pay for such overall enjoyment. Thank you for the recommendation about the St. Cyr series. I just downloaded the first one and was thrilled to learn that one of my favorite readers, Davina Porter, is the narrator.

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    • YES! Audiobooks are the only reason my couch-lolling self gets off the couch and takes a constitutional. I tend to get distracted by birds and things on my walk, so I use the “back” button a lot. I like to do the knitting while watching TV b/c it’s my mama-bonding time with me elderly mum. I knit, she scoffs at TV shenanigans and we while an hour away together. I have to admit the latest PBS Les Miserables is so viscerally good and horrific in places (Fantine, ah, Fantine) that I credit it with that truly-tortured stitch-error near the top-left of the fingerless glove. I love knitting and, like you, will keep sawing away with my needles irrespective of dubious stitches. I must say the second fingerless glove-mit is turning out much better, but they won’t make for a good even pair … sigh.

      I listened to the first ELEVEN St. Cyr books on audio, that narrator is AMAZING. You’re going to really enjoy them!!!!

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  5. What a lovely, lovely catch-up. I so love the fingerless gloves! I’m going to ask my mom to knit one for me! 🙂 My mom loves knitting and is the crafty one. Her other love is cross-stitch. My craftiness is in the form of cooking—I love to cook and bake and feed friends and family!

    Reading wise, I’m halfway through Michelle Smart’s the Sicilians bought Cinderella. I think I picked it up at your recommendation! I’m loving it! I will try writing about it, even though it maybe just a few lines.

    Also reading and LOVING Emily Nagoski’s Come as You Are. I can’t say enough good things about it. I’m just a quarter way through and it has ALREADY been of immense help to me and my husband, sparking the sexual ember in a truly fantastic way for us!

    I’ve also started making my way through Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series from the beginning. Finished the first two, of which I really enjoyed the first one, though the second was nice too!

    And I am going to begin Penderwicks at Last WHICH I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT. I love love love this series about five kids and their dog. Well that’s how it started at any rate! Jeanne Birdsall is marvelous. I would love to meet up and personally thank her one day!

    🙂

    I am loving writing this all. Thank you for such a warm, lovely post inviting your readers to share!

    thought wise—I am loving my daily meditation breaths. I do three broad categories: inner peace and strength, gratitude, and loving-kindness. And oh my, I adore how the whole way I see the world changes simply by spending time each morning in feeling for, and settling myself in my inner world.

    I do find what you say about sentimentality thought-provoking. I’d love to see mainstream lit-fic stories that place joy at their center.

    You’ve also made me curious about the Sebastian St. Cyr novels! Going to look them up!

    I hope you have a great day and weekend, Miss Bates!

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    • And thank you for sharing of yourself and what going on with you!

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Smart: I love her categories and she’s as close as I can get to my sad-sad-loss to women’s fic of Sarah Morgan, one of my favourite sexy category writers.

      I adored the first Penderwicks book, I really should read the rest of them. So many books, so little time. This seems to be the theme of every post I write these days.

      Your meditation discipline is truly impressive. I try to follow through with morning and evening prayers, but the morning usually sees me rushing off to work (or the Costco on Saturdays, church LOL! on Sundays results in me saying, “I’m going to the prayer place, so let’s take some time to slap on some make-up.”). The evenings are better unless I fall asleep … I try to stay upright, that helps!

      I’ve been trying to learn to bake too! I can make a mean banana bread (who doesn’t always have over-ripe bananas lying around?) and today, I’m making the ultimate comfort food, chocolate pudding.

      You enjoy the weekend and have a wonderful week too!!

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      • I love Sarah Morgan too. Sunita turned me on to her! And I really hope she continues writing some category romances too!

        I totally know about the rushed morning effect. I have a toddler. On days that I don’t feel rested enough to wake up early, it’s difficult to find the time to do any of this. (Evenings I am exhausted and just want to fall in bed!)

        Ooh! I love banana bread! And chocolate pudding sounds lovely! I love anything chocolate! 😀 hope you enjoyed it a whole lot!

        (All these comments have made me put the first book in the series on hold!)

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        • I’m excited you’re going to read the series!

          A toddler: you’re a great mom! How cute, but yes, they can be quite exhausting and delightful all at once. Carve out what time you can for yourself, but heck, if sleep’s what you need, go for it. Happy reading and wishing you a great week!

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  6. I’m a tad embarrassed to admit this, but … here goes. I’ve never read this author/series! What I’m getting from your review is that I should, must, and absolutely have to. I’ve heard good things about both writer and books in this series, but I haven’t actively searched for these on Amazon or at my UBS. But I will! Needless to say, SOLD! My only question is this: if I start with this one will I ruin the previous ones in the series? Should I do as Cole Porter recommends and begin (at) the begin(ning)? I reckon I can always reread this latest one after catching up with the others.

    Thanks for the heads up. This time I’m paying attention.

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    • Kathy–I’d say start at the beginning. The better to watch Sebastian’s character development and the better to understand the enmity between Lord Jarvis and himself. Be aware that the personal sub-plots of the first three are very much a soap-opera in nature. I sure was glad when the author got all that out of her system and started focusing more on Hero.
      Anyway, that’s my advice–what what it’s worth…

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    • I’m going to echo what Barb said: I think you’d enjoy it even more if you started “at the beginning”. I also totally agree with what Barb said about the first three books, but they’re important to Seb’s development. And they’re still, hands down, absolutely marvelous, despite the soap-operish tones. I’m afraid, my dear, you’re about to find yourself a whole new reading WORLD!!!! It’s epic, like discovering our beloved Neels.

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      • Er, my TBR has begun to expand once again. For a very short time, I fooled myself into thinking that I would one day clear all the shelves and plastic containers and boxes I’ve squirreled TBRs in and actually see my spare bedroom again. Mt. TBR is, of course, having the last laugh. And, once again, you are a gracious and kind friend, Kay, but I deserve a swift punishing kick to my posterior for not being more proactive in hunting this series down and if I could figure out a way to execute such an anatomical impossibility, I’d do it too.

        Thank you both for the guidance! I value both your guidance and Barb’s. As my momma used to say, she didn’t raise no dummy who ignored good advice when she hears it so of course I’ll begin at the beginning. Also,I fear my OCD would have reared its ugly head had I jumped into to the deep end before getting to know everyone’s backstory/development. I can’t wait to begin this reading adventure. I’ve got “good book” tingles just thinking about it. Thank you both, again!!

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        • You’re welcome!!

          Bwahahahahah … the TBR expanding, I know it well, my friend. Let’s not punish ourselves with thoughts of shelf-clearing and pristine rooms, devoid of carefully curated *in future reading order* piles of books. Let us embrace our anti-Kondo *ALL MY BOOKS MAKE ME HAPPY* and let the dustbunnies do what dustbunnies do …

          Joking aside, my OCD-like tendencies would be right where you are. Happily, this is going to be a great reading adventure for you! Enjoy!!

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  7. Miss Bates–your review of ‘Why Kill the Innocent’ was so lovely. As I knew it would be. Le sigh… I do so love this series.
    I feel for you with your knitting endeavors. I used to try to do counted cross-stitch while ‘watching’ TV. Alas, I could not multi-task! I also used to quilt. But the demon arthritis has made holding a needle impossible, so I no longer do those sorts of crafts. (I got the quilting bug from my mother’s mother. My mother did needlepoint. No knitters in the family).
    I am lucky enough to be surrounded by fabulous libraries. Thank goodness, else I would be in the poor house–I read a lot! I am anxiously awaiting the new Guy Gavriel Kay “A Brightness Long Ago”. I love his work; historical fiction with a slight twist into an alternate, but still very recognizable, world. His prose is just so luminous. Words always fail me when I try to describe his books and how they affect me.

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    • Thank you so much! It was definitely inspired by my great love of this series and words can never encompass what I feel and t think of each and every book. I can also say with confidence that I’ve never recced it to anyone who didn’t end up with the same words-can’t-express LOVE.

      I’m so sorry about the “demon arthritis”. I have it in my thumb and fingers too, but I persist. If I overdo the knitting, then, it gets worse. As long as I limit myself to no more than an hour, I’m okay. I’m afraid hands, age, eyes, and knitting, cross-stitching become harder and harder. I think quilts are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but that is one art that I’m in awe of.

      I hear so many good things about GGK, he’s beloved of many readers I know!

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  8. Oh great, so I’m offline when you cover reading *and* knitting! And you are way too modest, your fingerless glove is beautiful. Most of us wind up with dorky-looking thumbs, unless you are really skilled at thumb gussets. Mine look like pipe segments. But no one cares when they’re wearing them. 🙂

    Also: Juhi, your baby is a toddler now? Noooo, it was only yesterday …

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    • Sunita, I know you’re a knitter too!!! Not that I would ever wish you the Giant Rigatoni version of the thumb gusset, but your comment is a great comfort to me. 😉

      I unravelled it, actually, did a better job with the right and will reknit the left. At least my tension is better now.

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