Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

If last year was any indicator — which it probably was — this may be the last fiction book I read with any kind of efficacy for about 9 months.  Sniff.  There aren’t many complaints I have about grad school, but at the top of a very short list is this: my reading is taken up by articles and nonfiction, which taxes the brain and the soul.  I need my fiction, people!  I don’t know when most of you read books during the day, but before bed has always been a favorite for me, with quiet afternoon a close second.  Bedtime after a long day though is disastrous for remembering plot points and characters, no matter how poignant or abrasive or thrilling the story.  The Paris Wife is next on my list, so let’s hope I don’t let poor Mrs. Hemingway languish for months and months as I read one page per day.

Swamplandia! had all the weirdness I want from a book — a story about a family of alligator wrestlers who fall on hard times when a rival theme park moves in and takes away their customers.  It really turned out to be three sections — the first section about the family members finding outlets for their grief after the mother’s death (not a spoiler), the second an unintentional group of short stories going back and forth between Ava and Kiwi’s respective journeys, and the third a “dark night of the soul” type ending that culminates suddenly in the most Pollyanna way I could imagine.

I liked the quirkiness of the first section.  The family history and the set up of the Swamplandia! park and especially the descriptions of the mother were heartening with just the right amount of darkness to them.  Russell created a family that was wacky, quintessentially American, and easy to love.  Then in the second section everything falls apart, and although the humor is still pushing around in the peripherals,  it just seems like nothing is actually going to go right for anyone and the whole book becomes hopeless and dismal.  The reader watches characters make choices that seem not only weird, but are definitely bad. It’s not uncomfortable exactly — dismal really is the right word.

And then every bad thing you imagined might happen to the characters after their bad decisions (which, by the way, work because they are adolescents.  I didn’t feel any kind of sympathy for Chief Bigtree, the father, because there’s just no world that exists in my head where a parent should make the decision he does) DOES happen to them.  But suddenly!  The great Deus ex machina to the rescue!  And abruptly everything’s back to the tone of the first section again — the family is going to make it through this together, yo ho ho, isn’t the world funny?

Not really.

I haven’t read anything else by Russell, and I did really enjoy her writing early in the story.  I just appreciate consistency in the books I read.  If I should be ready for a long deep look into the evils of the human psyche, I can do that and appreciate that.  If I should be ready for a lovely story about the strengths of families and the storms they can weather together, I can do that and appreciate that.  But I can’t switch back and forth between the two.

I hear good things about Russell’s first book, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves, as if that title wasn’t enough to make me want to read it.  And although this is largely a complainy post, I really did enjoy the book — just not as one unit.  So I will check out this other novel, if only to see how many girls are raised by wolves and whether St. Lucy makes it through alive.

In about 20 minutes, I’m off to my first class of fall quarter.  Good bye, summer!  Good bye, fiction books!  It’s me, not you!  I’ll try to keep in touch, novels!

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A Marvelous Trio of Books

This summer has been super duper cool, temperature wise, and therefore a great time for reading some non-academic tomes. I also finally got a library card to my new library — Patrick and I went to check it out one day.  He had a little trouble with the quiet part, but shelves and shelves of books?  He was sold.  And the best part is I finally figured out how to get library books on my Kindle!  2004 here I come!

So I first checked out Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  The creepy cover got me interested, but having the author stand behind us in a line at the LA Times Book Festival got me even more intrigued.  You mean he’s a real person?!?!?  Yes, a real person with a fabulous kate spade typewriter satchel.  The story was fantastic, and definitely one that did give me pause to read right before bedtime. The monsters in this one, and the heroes too for that matter, are skin-crawly creepy sometimes.  There are pictures, real pictures, all throughout the book which fit with the story or reveal things about the plot or characters, or sometimes just creep you out.  The macabre in me really enjoyed this book, and I’ll definitely check out the second one when it comes out.

I was way behind the curve on the next book, but I am so glad I read it.  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead takes its inspiration from A Wrinkle in Time, and I still have vivid memories of the Children’s Theater adaptation from the early 90s.  Now when I read young adult novels, I really get interested in the parent characters — go figure, right?  Miranda’s mom and her soon-to-be step-dad were excellent, and the little glimpses we got of Annemarie’s dad made me want to know her family more.  I guess it’s only natural that as I grow older, I’m more interested in the hesitance towards commitment in Miranda’s mom than I am in the difficulties the kids themselves are having at school.

The third in my trio was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and wow.  Heavy, dark, and excellent.  While dealing with his mother’s illness and impending death, the adolescent main character “accidentally” calls a monster to help him.  The grieving the protagonist goes through is realistic — messy, confusing, heartbreaking.  And the illustrations reminded me of the ones from Scary Stories to Read in the Dark…so, pretty creepy also.  But this book made me cry in the end, and not because of anything sappy.  Unexpected from the cover art.

All three books gave me little thrills and chills — shimmy shivers, as I call them.  There were moments for each of them when I was a little afraid to get up in the night, and when for sure I didn’t want to brave the walk up to the marina bathrooms after dark.  Shimmy shivers.  But they all had strong main characters that I could really feel for, and get involved with, which is just the kind of release and literary relationship I’m looking for in a summer read.  I recommend them all, if you’re in the market for a summer read that will help you work some emotions out and release some pent-up stress with good thought and deep feelings.

Since I haven’t written in a while, here are some of the other books I read this spring with abridged reviews.  They each deserve their own feature-length extravaganza, but the books keep coming, and any specific thoughts I had about them are a little lost in the haze.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson — amazing supernatural/religious/sci-fi mash-up with great twists!  Put it on your list!

Broken Harbor by Tana French — I loved French’s first two books, the third was too similar to the others, and this fourth one was void of surprise and overtly gruesome.

Anasi Boys by Neil Gaiman — LOVE!  Can we get more stories from the American Gods world, please?  Please?

Villette by Charlotte Bronte — This book changed my thinking.  Whatever was going on with those Bronte sisters, man, they made it happen.  I assume this one takes the back seat to Jane Eyre because the ending is…unexpected, but I think that maybe… … MAYBE… … I liked this one better than Jane Eyre.  Read it.  Do it now.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente — Fun, but I think it would have been much more meaningful to me if I knew more about Russian mythology or fairy tales.  I was able to figure out who some characters were, but ultimately, I was an outsider on the inside jokes here.

Catching up – Quips!

I am alive!  Who would have guessed it?  Not anyone reading this blog.  You would have thought I had finally nailed myself into a coffin with my worsted weight noose, but NO!  I am still here!  I am still knitting and reading, but with this PhD program, suddenly writing isn’t something I really want to do in my spare time anymore.  Which is a pity.  So we’ll have ourselves a little catch-up post here, and then maybe I can keep a little better track of things after that.

So last you heard, I had read The Beautiful and the Damned and it was a stirring experience.  After that, I figured it was time for some comfort food…book style.  So I used the power of my Kindle to find all those wonderful little Arthurian romance/legend novels I loved so much.  I read Persia Woolley’s Guinevere Trilogy, which is a long time favorite of mine.  I found the third book at a library book sale back in late middle school.  The cover was SUPER romance novelly — Guinevere sitting on a throne with billowing red hair, an look of defiance, and full, painted lips with a brilliant velvet dress spilling onto the floor around her.  It was definitely a cover I was embarrassed to be seen with — I think I read most of it at home.  But you know the old saying…regardless of the crazy artwork, the third book is fantastic — the fall of Camelot, with relate-able characters who I really grew to love.   Eventually, I went back to the library and found the first two books, which were fun, too, but the third one takes the cake.  Rereading them again after so many years was comforting and provided a fantastic escape from the stress of starting my graduate education.

I also struck out on new Arthurian territory, with a book called Gawain and Lady Green by Anne Eliot Crompton.  The author has also written an excellent and unique Arthurian legend called Merlin’s Harp, which I devoured in high school.  Merlin’s Harp is a feminist retelling through the eyes of Nimue, but it isn’t easily recognizable as the Arthurian tale.  Not at first.  The main character only hops in on the tale we’re all familiar with every now and then.  Gawain and Lady Green is, as you English majors out there might expect, a retelling of Gawain and the Green Knight.  It’s cute, and also comfort-foody, and unique again — if you don’t know the story of Gawain, you might not recognize the novel for what it is.  But I’m not sure you can only enjoy it if you know the story…I could see many a young adult enjoying this book simply for itself.

I also received a book from meine Mutti-in-law, called Bringing Up Bebe — One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman.  HIGHLY recommend!  Especially if you’ve ever been weirded out by the stress American culture brings into parenting.  If you’ve ever stumbled upon the kind of crazy that only we Americans can come up with on Facebook or blogs — fatwa on [insert trend here], why aren’t you afraid of this?  don’t you realize how your child’s life will be RUINED if they do thing x? — then you know what I mean.  This book is the perfect remedy.  It helped me breath a sigh of relief, that we weren’t raising Patrick like a weirdo — we were kind of raising him like a little Frenchman.  Which he is, to a certain percentage point.  The section on food is fantastic.  I wish I could enroll in a creche and eat like that — amazing.  A really fun read that helped me feel like I wasn’t the only one who thought our society’s expectation that being a mother = living in a constant state of freak-out is a bogus expectation.

Devil’s Advocate: Obviously, if you’re not freaking out, you’re not paying attention.  Am I right, America?!?  Who’s with me?!?  Let’s be sure to stress ourselves out about every feature of our child’s life, because if we don’t, then mass ax-murdering is CERTAINLY in their future.  (Did I conjugate that correctly?)

Then, Christmas rolled around, and I got a couple books for the jolly holiday!  The first one I read was from Drew, a T.C. Boyle novel that took place in our new home.  It’s called When the Killing’s Done and it was excellent.  By far the best of his novels I’ve read.  Subtle themes that progressed as the plot unfolded, characters who were true to themselves throughout, and realistic to boot.  Really excellent.  A literary treat, after all my Arthur comfort diving.  It also takes place in …drumroll… the Channel Islands National Park!  Right across the ocean from us!  And parts of it take place in our HOME — Ventura, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Ojai — so fun!  Nothing like a book based on where you live to make you feel special.  Of course, almost all the boats in it sink to the bottom of the sea, and it does live up to it’s title, but…it’s still kind of a trip.

Let’s start with that for now.  I’ve got three more books to add, plus the one I am currently reading.  But I think if I don’t publish this post now, it may be the end of poor little Knitquip: the blog.  And I can’t have that.  PUBLISH!

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I do recommend this book. I do not, however, recommend reading this book while first packing up your entire life into storage, moving to a new state, unpacking a fraction of your life onto a boat, enrolling your two-year-old in a new school, and then enrolling in a new school yourself.  Because, if you do that, just like me, your experience with this book will be more damned than beautiful.

The only novel of Fitzgerald’s I had read was…drumroll, please…you’ll never guess…did you guess yet?…The Great Gatsby!  (Were you right?)  As every high school student with half a brain knows, it’s a great book.  So when Drew and I watched Midnight in Paris, I felt like I had to read something else of his.  I actually looked high and low for Zelda’s book about their relationship, but it’s not available on my Kindle, and I already had this one downloaded for free, so…Scott won.  I’m so sorry, Zelda — I promise you I won’t let him have the last word.

I spent the first part of the book being fascinated by what an emotional writer he is — phrases of a few words would make me feel like I had known that character my whole life, or sometimes, as though he was actually writing about an experience I had.  But it was all so sad.  Not like I didn’t expect that from Mr. Fitzgerarld, but…so sad.  Or maybe sad isn’t the right word — something else.  Nostalgic for the past with the knowledge that you can never go back or change it.  Of course, that’s not one word, so we’ll settle for “sad.”  It starts with just hints at it:

It seemed a tragedy to want nothing–and yet he wanted something, something.  He knew in flashes what it was–some path of hope to lead him toward what he thought was an imminent and ominous old age.

Not so bad if it just stopped there.  But it doesn’t — he searches for what’s most true and unavoidable about the continuation of time and decides to make you consider it before you can move on to the next plot point.

There’s no beauty without poignancy and there’s no poignancy without the feeling that it’s going, men, names, books, houses — bound for dust — mortal…

It is in the twenties that the actual momentum of life begins to slacken, and it is a simple soul indeed to whom as many things are significant and meaningful at thirty as at ten years before.

In his moments of insecurity he was haunted by the suggestion that life might be, after all, significant.

…that illusion of young romantic love to which women look forever forward and forever back.

Are you still here?  Haven’t decided that F. Scott has shown you how dreadful life can be, even if it is so wonderful at the same time?  Haven’t decided that that means you need to go out right now and make your life more meaningful or that it’s just not worth it anymore?

I loved the juxtapositions in this novel — beauty, significance, damnedness — powerful in a self-reflective way that was not altogether welcome at this moment in my life.  BUT!  Now that a few months have passed since I’ve finished it, and the election turned out well, and the momentum of life is picking up rather than beginning to “slacken,” the book is now a tender reminder of all the difficulties a life can bring.  You can’t turn back the clock, just like Gloria and Anthony lamented — but you can wind it up again.   And their tragedy is that they never figured that out.

Seasons — Summer 2012

Wow.  A big one, for sure.  This summer was filled with…

…happiest places on Earth…

…lots of goodbyes to much-loved stuff…

…beach business…

…9 years of luv…

…handy beginnings…

…and handier endings.

On to Fall!

 

Sweater for Mom

When searching for the right pattern for a sweater for my Mom, I was way more particular than I probably needed to be.  But, I mean, come on!  This is my Mom we’re talking about here!  She’s also a knitter, so the pattern needed to be complex enough to impress but still something I could begin and complete over the summer.  To find both the right pattern and the yarn, I went to my new local yarn store, Anacapa Fine Yarns.

I chose the pattern during a morning visit with Patrick in tow.  Not the most productive or enjoyable way to shop in a yarn store.  He had only just turned two, and was so excited to be on an outing with me.  He was really good while I found the perfect pattern — “Dean” by Manos del Uruguay, with great cables and sides in double seed stitch — but once I found that and started looking at yarns, he wanted to explore the store.  Not, however, in the same way I wanted to explore.  Patrick took his first opportunity to run between one of tall yarn shelves and the window all the way to the far corner behind another shelf where I couldn’t reach him but he could see me through the crack between the shelves.  “Momma…I SEEEEEE you!”  A good time to leave.

So I went back during nap time and found an extremely helpful clerk — friendly, knowledgeable, excited to help me find the right fit.  Together we picked Lamb’s Pride Wool in the color Orchid Thistle for the pattern.  When I was younger, my mom and I made the same cabled sweater pattern in cotton yarns — mine in white/blue variegated and hers in a pastel pink.  I thought I remembered that her sweater was on its last legs, so it seemed like she might be ready for another pink to be pretty in.

I didn’t start the sweater until we had moved — I was still finishing Las Vegas scarves in the meantime — but as soon as I did, I worked quickly and diligently on it to make my due date.  Once Patrick was in day care, Drew and I would spend our afternoons on campus, watching Netflix on our computer while I knitted in the University Center.  I drew some stares from the uninitiated, but haters can hate — this sweater was for my mom, and no amount of skanked-up undergrads giggling at me was going to deter me from my mission.

I am VERY happy with the final product!  There came a time, midway up the front, where I worried that it wasn’t as complex as I wanted.  Gulp.  But now, looking at the pictures, and seeing how great it fits her, I know I worried in vain.

It’s so nice to work with wool again, too.  I’ve put wool aside while living in Las Vegas, and, obviously, there’s no problem making a wool sweater for my Minnesotan Mom!  But in a cooler climate now, I hope I can make myself a nice wool something-or-other soon, too.  It’s so nice to work with, and it takes to the cables so well, and….well,…I really love cables.  They are so fun to make.  In, out, around!  Love it!

And I love my mom!  I hope she gets lots of cozy wear out of her sweater!  It’s like a portable hug she can take back with her to Minnesota!  It really is the least I can do to say thank you and happy birthday to such a special woman!  I love you, Mom!

 

Scarves for Las Vegas friends

Leaving Las Vegas was just as difficult as the Sheryl Crow song makes it sound.  Although neither one of us had any kind of gambling addiction, so I guess not quite as bad.

But we made some wonderful friends in Vegas, people whom we hope to keep in contact with for years to come!  For some of those folks, I was able to make scarves before we moved, so those are the scarves I’ll share here.  All of the scarves were made from yarn straight from my stash, and most of the patterns were ones I had either been waiting for the right time to try or were patterns I already knew would be perfect.

First there was our favorite family, the Wiks!  Jenn was my “neighbor” at Liberty, and was the first person I met when I was new.  She was (and is) one of the most hospitable and genuinely friendly people I’ve ever met.  She also has a fabulous sense of style, so I wanted to make a scarf for her that would hopefully go with outfits she already had.  It’s called a Golden Threads Boa, and I made it with a black ribbon yarn from Berroco, black Fizz yarn and black sequined thread.  The pictures don’t do it justice — I think it turned out very elegant, and it had a great drape to it.

Then for Josh — the funny man and all-around friendly guy.  It’s always tricky to find a pattern for a dude, but luckily I had just bought a new book called One Skein Projects, and the book had some really nice simple cable rib patterns that would work well.  I used a yarn made from camel hair that was soooo soft and lovely to work with. I had two skeins of the yarn in two different colors — teal and white — and thought rather than trying to create stripes that were evenly spaced, I’d just split the scarf in two colors — right and left side.  Sort of a wrong-colored port and starboard. The end result is the scarf I think I’m most pleased with.

Then for the Wiklets!  Gavin has been Patrick’s buddy in daycare since they were born, so I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to make for him, and Emma has been Patrick’s little “momma,” so she needed a scarf that would be glamorous and delightful.  Here’s what I made for them:

Gavin got a Gator Scarf.  This is one of my favorite scarves ever — a Morehouse Merino pattern that has so many different options to it!  This one is made from a green wool blend, perfect yarn for a little kid.  I also took out a couple rows of scales to make it a little shorter. 

Then Emma got a scarf made from acrylic yarn with fun little kernels of color in it.  The base kernels were pink, so I thought that would appeal to a lovely lady like Emma!  The pattern is meant for bulky alpaca yarn, but I think it works pretty well as a working kid’s scarf.  Sturdy, washable, and ready for a chilly day!

After making scarves for the Wiks, I made this scarf for “Auntie Ro-Ro.”  Ro-Ro is a waitress at Amore’s Taste of Chicago, the best pizza place in Vegas, but she was so much more than that to us.  We’ve known her since we started going to their restaurant on Friday nights, and she was so excited for us when we became pregnant.  And Patrick loved her so much — she lavished attention on him!  She would always threaten to bite his cheeks someday — which is a tempting proposition, seeing how apple-y they are.  But she helped organize his baptism party at Amore’s, always brought him his own soup in a little bowl, and treated him like the special little guy he is!  We already miss seeing her once a week, and will be sure to visit her when we are in town. It’s a horizontally striped scarf in red and white Lily Chin wool with an extra stripe of red sequins.  I really like how this one turned out — no pattern here, just cast on for about how long you want it to be, and then knit like crazy in garter stitch!

And last, but not least, is a scarf for someone who has been a mentor to me in many senses, but most as an ELL teaching guru — Connie!  I have missed her when she got transferred to another school, but now I’ll miss her even more when I’m in another state!  She was so helpful with all of the applications to grad school, and with great ideas for teaching, and also just for life in general.  For Connie, I made the Golden Threads Boa also, but you’ll see that the effect is very different.  I used black Fizz again, but for the base yarn, I used a novelty ribbon yarn with some really pretty colors in it.

We will miss all of these friends and more dearly, but we are so excited to be starting up again here in California!  I’m already on the next project — it’s a big one, so go ahead and start feeling the suspense now!

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Ahh, Persuasion.  This is my favorite Jane Austen novel, and for good reason.  It is so mature, and so…perfect.  I read this one in high school, and, when I recently decided to read it again, I couldn’t quite remember what is was about…but I remembered staying up nights to finish it, something I usually reserved for the Bronte books in high school.  The reread did not disappoint.  In fact, I think I enjoyed it more now than I did then.   I fell in love with Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth a little more this time…their slow joining is so wonderful.  I read the last pages about three extra times, from Frederick’s romantic and impassioned letter to their exclamations of love for each other.

But really what I love best about this book is how mature their love is.  They are both older — they know what they have missed these past 8 years since their estrangement.  When they finally are able to reveal their feelings for each other, they immediately seem like husband and wife — no overly gushing scenes, no teasing or playing.  There is something so real about it…I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is wonderful.

And the MOVIE!  After I finished, we watched the 1995 version.  Perfect!  Apparently there’s another more recent version that Austen-internet-groupies seem to love.  As long as it doesn’t have Keira Knightley in it, I’ll check that one out too.

The minor characters are delightfully wicked, and I cheered for Anne and Frederick at the end, as they put aside the fruitless “persuasions” of the world around them and followed their hearts.  Sounds corny as I describe it in a lacking summary here, but not in the hands of Austen.

Also, now I’m excited to make the Sweater for Anne and the Sweater for Frederick from Interweave Knits!  They’ve started putting out a fabulous new knitting pattern magazine called Jane Austen Knits — all of the patterns are based on characters from her novels or inspired by the events.  The two sweaters are pictured here — and although these models look bored and a bit sullen, I’m sure Drew and I will be smiling when we wear them.  No word on when I’ll get to that yet, but as soon as I can persuade myself to purchase some yarn, they’ll be made.  Probably…in 8 years?

Labyrinth Scarf for Karen (“Kah-nin”)

We have been so blessed during our time in Las Vegas to find such wonderful, caring people to help us with Patrick.  First, there was Patti, who was so fantastic as a daycare provider.  We were so sad to see her go, and so was Patrick!  It was difficult to believe that we’d be able to find someone else who would care for Patrick with just the right amounts of love, humor, knowledge, and boundaries.

But Karen was definitely that person!  It made me feel so good at the end of the day to pick up Patrick from her house, where he was excited to see me, but so bummed to leave her.  He learned so much from his time with her — manners, how to be a good friend to others, and of course, the fist bump followed by the elbow bump followed by a kiss or a hug (that’s my favorite thing).  It’s difficult to quantify your gratitude to a person like Karen into a farewell gift, but all I knew for sure was that a farewell/thank you gift was TOTALLY necessary.

So here it is!  Karen’s Labyrinth scarf, made with Lily Chin wool yarn in an amazingly regal purple and bright white.  The yarn was a DREAM to work with — super strong but soft and pliable — and the pattern was really fun.  On the close-up picture you can probably see how the pattern gets its name, but it’s just a simple knit or purl stitch all the way through.  It took a little while to get the rhythm of it down, but once I did, I was able to keep my eyes off the pattern.  Loved it!

If I’d had more time, I would have loved to have done more for this amazing lady.  But I just hope, as with all gifts, that the scarf will remind her about how much we appreciated all she did for our little guy this year.  AND I hope it will keep her warm — that’s important too.  🙂

The Girl Who Played with Fire AND The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larrson

The conclusion I’ve drawn from these books is that Sweden is a terrible place.  It’s always dreary.  The men are either sex offenders or waiting for an opportunity to become a sex offender. And it’s cold.

I assume, for the Swedish people’s sake, that this book is not an accurate portrayal of their country.

But the books were great!  I know I’m a few years behind it all, reading the Millennium Trilogy waaaay after the song by the same name was on the charts (remember that?  Some British artist who was super hot at the moment, and it recycled a lick from a Bond song?).  The plot was still hair-raising and suspenseful — I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen in the end.  And the HUGE cliffhanger at the end of the second book — well, I had to start right in on the third immediately.

But, as most riveting plots do, I think my family was happy to see the end of these books for me.  As twist after twist occurred, I couldn’t put it down. I was reading on my Kindle, which became an enabler to my desire to read this book at all times.   I would set it up to read while I was brushing my teeth for bed, I would set it up to read while I was blow-drying my hair in the mornings, I would sneak it out while waiting for lunch dates — it went with me everywhere.

And the trial at the end was really gut-wrenching.  What was going to happen?  How was she possibly going to get out of the quagmire she was in?  I’m trying to be vague here, in case you haven’t read the books — hopefully I’m not ruining anything for you.

And as a follow-up to my post about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, where I really hated on the character of Lisbeth Salander (which I stand by), I will say that with the events at the beginning of “Played with Fire,” I was with her all the way.  She grew up as a a character, and she learned from her past mistakes, and she became stronger and got me to like her.  A good switch-around for any character.

But yeah — not visiting Sweden any time soon.  At least not until I become a better hacker.

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