Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A personal update

I've been, for the most part, a pretty deep lurker during my years on the Internet. Lately, I've taken lurking to new depths. Life has taken some difficult turns, one of which I want to share now.

Last spring I experienced some post-menopausal bleeding and saw my doctor in early June about it. I'd been taking hormone replacements and I'm overweight. Bleeding is not uncommon because of the way fat cells store estrogen. I stopped the hormones and the bleeding stopped. But my doctor never saw a fat woman who could go home and forget about it. She said we still need to check it out.

The pelvic ultrasound was negative. The biopsy (which didn't happen until August, for Reasons) was not. On August 17 I learned I have uterine cancer.

People, I have the best doctor. I took her flowers.

So Thursday I'm having a full hysterectomy. The cancer cells taken in the biopsy were "level 1," which is a good thing. Still, you never take anything for granted. They'll do a pathology report and I'll find out next week what comes next. Hopefully, just radiation and lots of checkups for the rest of my life.

I'm looking on the bright side. I'll be home through the playoffs and World Series. I can stay up and watch those games that don't end before midnight and not have to get up for work the next day. I can read, and read, and read. Although I doubt there'll be a TBR post this month.

I'm good. Really I am. Cancer is a damn scary word. But so far, every indication is I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm surrounded by lots of love. I'm good.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TBR Day. Home by Morning / Alexis Harrington. 2011

It's historical month for the TBR Challenge and I want to know why we aren't talking about the novels of Alexis Harrington more often.

Several years ago I read her Harper's Bride, a book set during the Yukon Gold Rush. (The Yukon Gold Rush, people!) And when I finished that book I immediately bought Home by Morning. I can't believe I waited four years to read it.

Home by Morning is set during September and October of 1918 in Oregon, where horses are still more common than automobiles, the telephone only works during the day when the operator is on duty, and the small town of Powell Springs is more rural than not. Doctor Jessica Layton is passing through her home town on her way from New York to a new job in Seattle. Her sister Amy, Jessica's only remaining family, still lives there and Jessica wants to spend a few days with Amy before moving on. The same day that Jessica arrives, the great flu pandemic of 1918 also arrives in Powell Springs. Powell Springs is temporarily without a doctor of its own and Jessica soon finds herself taking care of many of the flu victims.

Meanwhile, Cole Braddock, the man she once loved, is working hard on his ranch while his brother is in France with the Army. Jessica and Cole had a bitter falling out and now Jessica discovers that Cole is on the verge of proposing to Amy. All Jessica wants to do is move on, but the epidemic keeps her in Powell Springs. As Jessica deals with the tragic effects of the flu and the unwanted attention of the town's minister, she also has to deal with those who don't want to trust a female doctor. Being around Cole resurrects old feelings, but she doesn't want to stand in the way of her sister who basks under Cole's attention. Eventually Cole and Jessica come to terms with what separated them, but they still need to find a way to move forward.

Harrington does a wonderful job of giving you a sense of what it must have been like during those awful fall days of 1918. We learn that Riley, Cole's brother, is suffering in the trenches of France while his wife is home, filled with worry. That Wikipedia article about the flu pandemic (link above) mentions that the American press minimized the extent of the flu to keep morale high. As a result, Jessica's ignorance about what she was facing rings very true. The minister who sets his sights on Jessica also heads up the local branch of the American Protective League. Reading that made me think that American citizens during WWI faced serious privacy issues. Threats to privacy are not new, just the methods are.

Clearly, a book set during a lethal epidemic and a gruesome war (well, all wars are gruesome, but the stories of the trenches in France are particularly awful) is not going to be lighthearted. Parts are rather heartbreaking. So be forewarned that this is heavier than many romances.

Finally, while I certainly liked this book, I wish the romance had been resolved a little better. I won't give away spoilers. I do believe in the HEA here, but it comes about abruptly and I felt it needed one more conversation between Cole and Jessica. Still, I highly recommend this book, especially if you want to read a historical that's non-European and non-19th century.

Harrington has written two more books about Powell Springs and there are some Montana-set books that I'm very interested in. The Bridal Vail looks interesting. I guess I'll be over here spending some money.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August Recap

I've been largely absent from social media of late. You'd think that would mean I got more reading done, but, in fact, I've been preoccupied by other issues the last couple of months. It's not bad stuff either--just job changes and family changes. My parents recently sold their house and moved into a retirement community, for example. There was also a lovely trip to Brooklyn for a family wedding.

All that aside, I did manage to carve out some time to enjoy several good books. Here are a few worth mentioning.

Ghost Killer by Robin D. Owens is the third book in her trilogy about a woman who reluctantly discovers that she is tasked with the job of helping ghosts move on to the next life. I wrote about the first book, Ghost Seer, last year. The three books take place over a short time span, just under a month. Owens draws on the history of Colorado during the latter half of the 19th century because the ghosts who have to move on are from that time period. The various locations are lovingly described and as I read this one, I wanted nothing more than to take a vacation out there near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. If you'd like a paranormal that's a touch different, I recommend this series. There's an excellent romance that develops through the books. Owens does not always keep her website up to date, but an Amazon search revealed that there is at least one more Ghost Seer book coming in 2016, so I'm psyched for that.

A couple of years ago I read Dani Atkins' debut Fractured. (I wrote about it here.) I read a self-pubbed version; it was eventually commercially published in the US under the title Then and Always. I really liked that book and kept an eye out for her next book, The Story of Us, which was finally published here in the US in the late spring. I also liked this book very much, but it is not a typical romance. Emma is on the verge of marrying her childhood sweetheart when a devastating accident postpones the wedding. In the aftermath of the accident, Emma gets to know the man who rescued her and also learns some things about her fiance, Richard, that has her questioning her choices. In the end, I think I liked Jack and Richard more than I liked Emma. Still, it was a compelling and emotional read that I recommend if you can handle a love triangle.

I've had Suleikha Snyder's Bollywood and the Beast on my Kindle for ages and I finally queued it up. Indian American actress Rocky finds herself in trouble with the media while working on a Bollywood film. To keep her out of the spotlight, she goes to live in the home of her co-star on the outskirts of Delhi. There she meets Ashraf's brother Taj, a recluse and former action hero. Taj was horribly injured--he keeps himself hidden away because of his scars and his long, difficult recovery. Taj resents Rocky's presence in the house and they fight from the beginning. Rocky's ability to stand up to Taj breaks down his defenses and soon they are lovers and in love. While I thought they went from fighting to loving almost too fast, I very much enjoyed this book. It was a great take on Beauty and the Beast. There was also a sweet secondary romance involving Ashraf.

I'll wrap this up by mentioning Lauren Willig's The Lure of the Moonflower. I've enjoyed all of the books in this series, including this one, but I'm glad to see it finally wrap up. It's been a great journey and I'm a fan of the humor Willig brings to her writing. Still, it was time to bring it to a conclusion and I thought Willig ended the series on just the right note. This one takes place in Portugal which got me thinking that I'm way overdue to re-read one of my favorite books of all time, The Winding Stair by Jane Aiken Hodge (originally published in 1968). Seriously, if you are a fan of Regency-era romances and want to read a classic, TWS is a must-read. And hey! There's a Kindle version. Awesome, because I have no idea where my much-loved paper copy is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Another Little One

No TBR post this month. I've not been reading as much as usual lately. A number of things have just sucked up my free time. Including this little quilt I made in just under a week back in July. I needed a gift for a co-worker who had quit her job to move to a new city. She went above and beyond last year helping me with a project and I really wanted to do something for her. So I pulled some fabrics in our university's school colors (purple and white) and made this:
Sorry about the lighting. The whites turned out yellow in the quilt and background. I wish I'd gotten better pictures but these will have to do. It's not very big--about 21" x 16".
A look at the quilting:
I added a hanging sleeve to the back and it was all done.
My 8th quilt of the year! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Recent Reads

Series, series. Everything is part of a series. I'm pretty sure I've said this before, as has every other blogger, probably.

Several months ago I discovered that my local library has the entire Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh available in audio. I've been listening to them at a rate of about 2 per month and I just finished Blaze of Memory, the 7th book in the series. First, I'm extremely glad I decided to do this re-read. It's been almost nine years since the 1st book, Slave to Sensation, was published and over the years I've forgotten as much as I've remembered. Some books have been more compelling, and thus more memorable than others. Some, like Blaze of Memory have not been so memorable. Case in point, with BoM-- as I listened I knew I'd read it before, but honestly couldn't remember any of it until near the end. And this is kind of important because Singh has carefully built the Psy-Changeling world and each book is full of clues as to what will be coming. When I finally get to listen to the latest book, Shards of Hope, I suspect that some parts of it will make much more sense than they did when I read the book in June. Anyhow, I am enjoying the re-read and the narration by Angela Dawe. Her voice goes a little lower in volume when it goes low for the male lines, which makes it hard to drive with the windows down on the freeway (I hate to use the A/C). But I figure that's on me, not her.

In between Psy-Changeling books I've been listening to Kate Reading read Loretta Chase. OMG, how I love to listen to Kate Reading! She's become my favorite narrator. Anyway, I listened to The Last Hellion and Miss Wonderful. Mr. Impossible and Lord Perfect are on deck. Many readers prefer TLH to Lord of Scoundrels and they may have a point. I had forgotten much of TLH and I think I may even dig out my print copy in the near future. Such an excellent book that had me laughing and crying.

In print I've read more of Beverly Jenkins' Blessings series. I mentioned starting it back in November. I love the concept behind this series because I so, so wish the world were really like this. That more people who had wealth would use it to invest in the lives of others. That we would pay more attention to our elders and benefit from their wisdom, and sometimes, from their mistakes. That we would find a way to help and protect the lost among us, especially children. Henry Adams, KS is not utopia, but it sure sounds like a wonderful place to live.

Fiona Lowe has two books out in a new series set in Medicine River, MT. The most recent book, Truly Madly Montana features a heroine with Type 1 diabetes. From my perspective as a mother of a son with T1, I don't think she could have nailed the diabetes aspect better. I myself struggle with not limiting my son or smothering him with my worries. In TMM, Millie doesn't want people to know she's diabetic because they'll 1) assume she can't take care of herself, and 2) automatically place limits on what she can or cannot do. Lowe covers it all: the blood sugar highs and lows, the tether to an insulin pump, the distraction of a continual glucose monitor, and the fact that a diabetic can't go more than a few hours without thinking about his or her blood sugar. And all of this was packed into a very nicely done romance with a hero who has to let go of his issues and trust Millie to take care of herself.

Finally, once upon a time I loved Anne Stuart's Ice series. I haven't re-read them to see if I'd still feel that way (I kind of suspect not), but I did read the newest book Consumed by Fire. As I understand it, this is more of a spin-off series than a continuation. A few members of "The Committee" are mentioned but don't really have much to do with this book. Anyhow, I don't have much to say about CBF other than the fact that I loved the dog. Otherwise, it's more of the same: the romance is loosely developed and the hero is a jerk.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Solar Eclipse Baby Quilt

It's been a very productive year in my Quilt Cave. This is the 7th quilt I finished so far in 2015. I should point out that I didn't actually start all of those quilts this year. The one I'm about to show you I started last fall for the baby daughter of a friend. Because my friend N. is a very patient woman, I ended up finishing several projects before finally finishing this one.

When N. announced her pregnancy I was often found salivating over Elizabeth Hartman's modern quilts. So I picked the pattern called Solar Eclipse and chose these bright colors that I hoped would complement the peach and grey of the baby's room.
Don't those bolts look pretty stacked up? I texted the picture to N. who gave the thumbs up and I got to work. Here's the end result.
I quilted simple straight lines horizontally, vertically, and then diagonally. Once again using my favorite Aurifil 40 wt. white thread.
 Those blocks are 16", so the quilt is rather large (for a baby quilt), 64" x 48".
By the way, if you didn't click on that link to Hartman's pattern to see her version of the quilt, you should. It's quite striking. So here's that link again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

TBR Day. Fool Me Twice / Meredith Duran. 2014

Meredith Duran's Fool Me Twice is up for an RWA RITA award next weekend in the "Historical Romance: Long" category. I cannot tell you if it deserves to win as I've not read any of the other nominees in this category, but I will say that I liked it well enough that I would be perfectly happy to see it win.

The blurb:
A lady with a secret...
All Olivia wants is the chance to make a home for herself. When she realizes that the infamous Duke of Marwick might hold the key to her freedom, she boldly disguises herself as the newest and bravest in a long line of the temperamental duke’s housekeepers. Little does she know that the wickedly handsome Alastair de Grey has very different plans for her. . . .
A man with a passion . . . for vengeance
Alastair de Grey has suffered a betrayal so deep that he will use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies -- even his brazen and beautiful housekeeper. But his vengeful plan fails to account for his single weakness: an irresistible and growing passion for the enigmatic Olivia...

Olivia seeks a position in the Duke's household because she believes he has some letters that she can use as blackmail against the man who is trying to kill her. Alastair has been living as a recluse since the death of his wife. After her death Alastair discovered that his wife had been betraying him and undermining his work in Parliament. The depth of his self-loathing and humiliation has caused him to withdraw into just 2 rooms of his house. When Olivia shows up hoping to get a job as a maid, the butler, seeing she's qualified for more than being a housemaid, immediately hires her as the housekeeper and soon Olivia finds herself helping Alastair get back on his feet--in part due to compassion and in part to get him out of his rooms so she can search them for the letters she needs.

As I read this, at first I found it hard to understand why Alastair had become the way he was. The depth of his withdrawal seemed out of proportion to what had happened, especially as it became clear that the activities of his late wife had never been made public. But my feelings changed as his character responded to the ways Olivia challenged him again and again. Later, when he discovered Olivia searching his rooms for the letters she needed, his sense of betrayal did seem natural. I really liked the way Duran showed Alastair at war with himself over the betrayal vs. the Olivia he had come to know. The details of Olivia's past and the reason someone sought to kill her emerged slowly over the course of the book. I liked the way that was done and that it kept me engaged and eager to read more.

This book has some beautiful prose and the bulk of the book focuses on Olivia and Alastair--one or both of them were always on the page. There's a book before this, That Scandalous Summer, about Alastair's younger brother. I read it last year, and to be honest, I couldn't remember much about it. Which proves that you don't need to have read it before reading this one.