Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TBR Day. To Scotland with Love / Patience Griffin. 2014


To Scotland with Love is Patience Griffin's debut book. And it's the first book in her "Kilts and Quilts" series. Quilts! Quilts! ..... Oh, what's that? The theme this month is the holidays? Never fear! While the grass is green on the cover, the first two-thirds of the book take place in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas and it ends a few weeks after Easter. Lots of holiday stuff within. And quilts.

Cait Macleod moved to Chicago from Scotland with her parents when she was 13. A short time after that, Cait's mother died of cancer. Cait grew up, began a career as an investigative journalist, but gave it up to marry her husband, Tom. He turns out to be a serial cheater and dies in the middle of sex with another woman. I assume Cait's father is also dead because Cait decides to sell everything she owns and move back to her home town in Scotland where her only remaining relative lives, her maternal grandmother, Deydie. Cait and Deydie haven't had much contact with one another over the years. Deydie is angry that Cait's father took his wife/her daughter away and that she died far from home. Cait hasn't wanted to admit that her marriage has been a spectacular failure, so she has avoided talking to her grandmother. But Chicago holds nothing but bad memories and Cait needs to start over. Why not go home?

On her first night back she runs into Graham Buchanan, a major movie star. Graham is known for keeping his personal life very private and he often disappears for weeks at a time. No one knows where he goes. When Cait runs into him, she realizes that her hometown is also his hometown and she may have stumbled upon the scoop of a lifetime, something that would surely jump-start her career again.

Cait's reunion with her grandmother does not go well, and it's Graham who acts as a bit of a buffer between the two. Also acting as a buffer are the ladies of the village who gather at Deydie's every week to quilt together. Cait remembers quilting with her mother and grandmother, and in fact has also become a quilter. She immediately joins the ladies and their sewing projects. Soon Cait is getting to know the people in the village again, and getting to know Graham much better. She postpones her plans to out Graham's whereabouts, especially as she begins to develop feelings for him.

This book is not at all an inspie, but it does deal with Christian themes as Christmas day approaches. Cait is angry at men, angry at God, and finding it hard to enter into the required religious activities given her feelings. I thought Cait's attitude toward the old rituals was rather realistic given her past. I liked that the book even dealt with that aspect of Cait's feelings.

One thing I found hard to believe was that in this day of TMZ, no one on the planet knew where Graham disappeared to when he wasn't working. Sure, the villagers vow to keep his secret, but I wasn't buying that no one was telling. Graham has his reasons for keeping his home secret and they make him an interesting character. The sparring between him and Cait was funny in spots.

All in all, this was an enjoyable debut and even without the quilts I would probably read the next book. But since there are quilts, I will definitely read the next one which is due in early January.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"One" Leaf

Judy Niemeyer is a quilt teacher, pattern designer, fabric designer, and all-around very creative person. She and her family run a company called Quiltworx.com and I highly suggest you click on that link, go to the Products tab and select Patterns to see the wide range of exquisite quilts she has designed. Her stuff has become very popular of late. Her patterns use a unique paper piecing technique that is remarkable for the way it helps you organize all of the pieces you need to make her designs. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I took a class in November from my local quilt shop using one of their most basic patterns, called One. It is a long curved leaf sewn to a two-color background. It makes a nice table runner or a nifty wall-hanging.

Here is half of my leaf before it has been trimmed:
Here are both halves of my leaf, trimmed, but not sewn together:
Here are a bunch of leaves held by some of my classmates:
Here's my leaf, all finished and quilted:
Close-ups!


I doubt I'll ever make one of the big quilts, but I would definitely make this one again and some of her other smaller designs. It was fun and quite fast once I got my pieces organized.

This quilt is a retirement gift for my boss, the Director of the library where I work. He has been my boss for the past 26+ years and I could not have been luckier. He has been kind, encouraging, flexible, and supportive. It's going to be hard to walk back in there after the Christmas break and know he's not around anymore. Godspeed, D.

Monday, December 1, 2014

November Reading

In November my re-reading continued via audiobooks, most notably Joanna Bourne's The Spymaster's Lady and My Lord and Spymaster. Her newest book, Rogue Spy was released this month and when I heard that it overlaps some of her earlier books, I decided to re-read them all. And this time to try the audio versions. I like the way narrator Kirsten Potter reads these books and I'm looking forward to listening to Black Hawk next.

A comment by Emily Jane on Twitter reminded me that Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins has been in the TBR for a few years now, so I moved it to the top of the list and I'm glad I did. This novel is not a romance, although it has some romantic elements. It's a fascinating story that was touching, funny, and thought-provoking. Set somewhere in modern-day, rural Kansas, it uses as its backdrop the history of freed slaves who migrated west after the civil war and founded towns that thrived for generations. Today, only Nicodemus, Kansas remains. Jenkins' fictional town of Henry Adams is on its last leg, so the town leaders decide to put the town up for sale on Ebay in hopes that someone would invest in the town to keep it together. The buyer turns out to be Bernadine Brown, a woman with a huge divorce settlement who has a vision to turn Henry Adams into a home for foster children and the families who take them in. There is an ensemble cast of characters with multiple points of view. I laughed and I cried and became really invested in the various story lines. I've already finished the 2nd book in the series, A Second Helping. It appears there are now 5 books in the series and I'm anxious to read them all. I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for something a little different.

There was lots of normal romance reading this month as well. A favorite was Kristen Ashley's Breathe, part of her Colorado Mountain series. The heroine of this book is Faye, the town librarian. Ashley uses every librarian stereotype I can think of describing Faye--she's shy, retiring, and walks through town with her nose in a book. Still, Ashley makes more of Faye than those stereotypes. Faye becomes concerned when she notices a young boy who frequents her library, but appears to have been abused. As she becomes involved with Chace [that's how Ashley spells the name], a police officer, they join forces to rescue this little boy. It's very typical Ashley and I really enjoyed this one.

Also worth noting is that I read The Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev. This book received a lot of positive buzz which was well-deserved. Mili has come to the States to study; she was married at age 4 in a traditional village ceremony, but hasn't seen her husband since. She's been waiting patiently for him to come for her. But it turns out he wants a divorce and he allows his brother, Samir, to go to America to secure the divorce for him. When Samir arrives, a series of mishaps leaves Samir caring for an injured Mili and thus they get to know each other. But Samir doesn't reveal who he is and why he is there. That bugged me, I have to admit, although not enough for me to stop reading. I thought the book was mostly fun and funny. Dev is a talented author and I look forward to reading more from her.

Before I close, I guess I should mention that I got a start on my Christmas reading with Sarah Morgan's Maybe This Christmas and Marion Lennox's Christmas at Waratah Bay. I thought Morgan's was a really well-done conclusion to her 3-book series. I have quite a few Christmas titles queued up on my Kindle for December. Some will be re-reads. I've found it very relaxing to go back to old favorites, so I'm looking forward to them.

You can see the rest of what I read by taking a look at my sidebar.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Bag

I think I've become overly fond of making bags. I now have quite a collection of them and I show no signs of stopping. They seem to multiply much like my book collection does. I especially like the patterns from Pink Sand Beach Designs. Not only are they attractive, but the pattern instructions, complete with color photos, are very easy to follow.

The Hamptons Handbag is the 3rd PSBD pattern I've made. It's designed to use 5" charm squares, typically sold in packs of 40. I love the batiks used in the pattern's picture below.

But I had a set of charm squares from the Sphere collection by Zen Chic that I thought would work nicely and I wasn't disappointed with the results.
Inside there are 6 pockets and it closes with a magnetic snap.
I used Aurifil thread, Light Turquoise (#5006) 50 wt. to make it and it was the perfect color, especially for the topstitching.

Beside the charm pack, I had some larger pieces of the collection for the lining, bottom and straps. I used scraps from those for a new coin purse and Kindle sleeve.
I'm looking forward to using these!

Monday, November 3, 2014

October Reading

October was a weird month. A rather distressing one at times, given some of the news and behaviors affecting the online community where I lurk. I hope November turns out better. I didn't read as much as usual. I think I spent more time sewing, which may account for some of it. I also spent more time doing online Jigsaw puzzles. That is one addictive website.

There were several books that I enjoyed, but not to the point I couldn't put them down. Average and mildly entertaining is the best way to describe them. This includes Counterfeit Countess by Lynne Connolly and two more of Kristen Ashley's backlist, Creed and Lady Luck. Lauren Willig's The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla was fun, but I think I'm worn out on this series. I hope it's true that the next book is the last one.

Speaking of series, as I write this I realize that the only book this month that wasn't part of a series (as far as I know, anyhow) was Connolly's. So, there were three new entries by authors who are auto-reads for me. Jennifer Ashley's Rules for a Proper Governess and Elizabeth Hoyt's Darling Beast were both above average, but Indecent Proposal by Molly O'Keefe was my favorite book of the month. This was the only book of the month that I put down only when I absolutely had to.

Two were first books in new series. Nalini Singh's Rock Addiction was rather disappointing. I ended up skimming the latter part of the book. However people seem to really like the next book Rock Courtship. I'll give that one a try, but I'm not sure I'll keep going after that. I really liked new-to-me author Penny Reid's Neanderthal Seeks Human. The heroine was so charming and the humor in the book appealed to me. I am looking forward to reading the sequel Neanderthal Marries Human. (Can you consider the latter title a spoiler?)

I continue to explore my library's audiobook collection. I've been limiting myself to the ones in MP3 format available via Overdrive because they're a snap to download to my phone. The selections there are not overwhelming, but it did lead to me trying a new author.

First, I listened to a really old Linda Howard, Midnight Rainbow. Taciturn hero and perky heroine. This has been done elsewhere by Howard herself much better than this, but it wasn't awful either. Then I revisited an old SEP, First Lady. I last read this 10 years ago and I don't really remember how well, if at all, I had liked it. I was not so fond of it this time around.

My third and final audiobook was Laura Kaye's Hard As It Gets. This was the first book by Kaye that I'd ever read and it's first in her Hard Ink series. And today I finished listening to the second book in the series, Hard As You Can. Frankly, parts of both books seemed a little too far-fetched, but they were entertaining and had me pretty engaged. What I find interesting is that the books are structured to actually overlap one another. Not just continue one another, but whole scenes are played out again, this time from the POVs of the h/h of that particular book. I haven't listened to it yet, but the next book, a novella (Hard Ink 2.5), will surely have scenes that are repeated or expanded because the h/h of 2.5 are featured prominently in 2.0. It's a clever way to engage the reader in the entire series, but it hasn't all been published yet and I'm totally going to forget stuff between now and whenever I get to the books coming in 2015. There's a suspense thread that runs through the whole series which means that this will continue to be on my radar because I want to know how it's resolved. I have A Theory.




Friday, October 24, 2014

Paint Chip Challenge 2015

In the wake of Halestorm (#HaleNo), lots of book bloggers are taking a break from normal reviewing for several days. I doubt I would have blogged books this week anyhow, but to show some solidarity here's a quilty post that had been brewing.
One search phrase that frequently sends folks to this blog is "paint chip challenge" because I had participated in one back in 2010. You can read more about that with the series of posts here. It was such a fun thing to do that when I became president of my guild this year, I decided to issue a similar challenge to guild members. I passed out close to 100 paint chips at our September and October meetings. They were in sealed envelopes, so no one knew what color they would receive. The rules are as follows:

  1. Use the color family represented by your paint chip as closely as you can manage.
  2. Use a minimum of 3 (three) tone-on-tone and/or solid colored fabrics.
  3. Use ONE multi-colored fabric or ONE neutral fabric (black, white, grey, etc). Remember, one or the other. NOT both.
  4. Use any technique or combination of techniques. There is no size requirement.
  5. When your quilt is revealed in June 2015, pin your paint chip to the front of your project.
  6. If you absolutely hate your paint chip, you may trade it in for another. But remember, the goal is stretch yourself, to try to use what you received.
Yes, a few people did opt to trade for another color, but most have stuck with what they got. I got this bright blue palette.

I've already found a couple of fabrics that are perfect! I'm doing mine in batiks. That's all I'll say.

For fun, here's an update on my Aviatrix Medallion project. I've made the 40 blocks for the next border. Aren't they pretty all lined up together?



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I just need to say Thank You

The best part of my online life over that last 10 years has been that corner of the book world -- including both readers and authors -- where people talk openly and freely about the books they've read. Whether the reaction was love, hate, or something in between, those reactions are probably directly responsible for 99% of the books I've read (or added to the TBR pile) in that time span. Whether I've been introduced to a specific title or a specific author, I've derived countless hours of enjoyment devouring one book after another.

Look, I mostly lurk on the internet. I don't engage very often. In the almost 4 years I've had a Twitter account I've amassed a whopping total of 1,697 tweets. I blog here, what? -- maybe twice or three times per month. It's not in my nature to put myself out there. I'd rather read or sew. Still, I've managed to make some wonderful connections and discover where to go for the next great book to read. I'm so grateful for that.

So to all of you who take the time to give an honest opinion about a book, whether it be in 140 characters or in a 1500-word essay, THANK YOU. Seriously, thank you. Given the crap that has been happening to book bloggers over the last month, what you do is amazing. And appreciated.