Friday, August 28, 2009

Latest QBFF challenge

We were inspired when some of the mini groups in our guild showed quilts that were based on fabric exchanges. So each of the 3 of us picked out a fabric and passed a fat quarter of it to the other two.
Predictably, I picked a blue. The blue has bits of orange in it. Yes, I was going out on a color limb.
But my QBFFs picked fabrics that were not going to let me get away with something comfortable.
We ended up with this:

So, I took a deep breath and randomly pulled out a whole bunch of brighter/intense fabrics and paired some until I got 5 pairs of fabrics.
Then I made those stars I showed you a few weeks ago.

And here's what I came up with:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mountain Wild / Stacey Kayne. 2009

Today is TBR Day. I totally forgot.

Over the weekend I read an older Karen Ranney that I downloaded from Fictionwise. My Wicked Fantasy has a paranormal bent as a ghost is involved. Rather different and since this was first published in 1998, it would have been before everyone else jumped on the paranormal bandwagon. I was going to write a review because of the way the ghost is used and the hero's insistence on the cold light of logic. But then I decided I'd rather make more stars. So I sewed instead of wrote. It'll be a Phave though.

Then on Sunday I started Karen Rose's latest, I Can See You. That was a mistake because on Monday after work I was supposed to be doing a boatload of PTA stuff. Instead, after supper, I buried my nose in the book and didn't come up until nearly midnight when I finished it. There were lots of dead bodies, an incredibly sick, twisted villain, a scarred heroine, a determined hero, and Karen's trademark tight plotting. This is the start of a new series involving the detectives of the Minneapolis "Hat Squad." Oh yeah, another Phave.

So, after the ghost story and all the dead bodies (and 6 more stars--picture to come), I needed something lighter. Hey lookie here-- Kristie, Sybil, and Wendy declared it to be Western Week. OK, I'll bite. I like Westerns well enough, although I rarely go out of my way to read them. But I did have Mountain Wild checked out from the library and I figured I should read it in honor of Western Week.

It turns out that Mountain Wild by Stacey Kayne isn't exactly "light," but it was a refreshing, fast read and quite engrossing. I was intrigued by the story line that included a heroine who had been living the reclusive life of a mountain trapper all on her own for something like 7 years or more. Maggie (or Mad Meg as she's known by people nearby) meets the hero when she rescues him and his dog during a blizzard and nurses him back to health. The story of how Maggie came to be living on her own in the mountains is told in the prologue. She is betrayed by her brother who sells her to a trapper named Ira when she is 13. Fourteen years later, Ira is long dead and Maggie spends her days up in the Wyoming mountains avoiding people--until she meets Garret Daines, a rancher who lives in the valley below her home.

The first half of the book is the story of Garret's rescue by Maggie and how they get to know one another and even begin to fall in love. But when the storm ends and Garret has recovered he must go back to his ranch. Maggie stays in her home with Garret's dog until the spring a couple months later. She goes down into the valley to discover Garret is being threatened by her brother who has become a rather nasty cattle baron, determined to drive out the smaller ranchers. Maggie decides to confront her brother and exact revenge for what he did to her. And she wants to protect Garret from her brother.

These two want to protect one another and eventually must agree to work together in order to eliminate the threat hanging over their heads. I liked Maggie's determination and her ability to live life on her terms. Garret is a fairly typical hero who wants to protect his woman, but learns to accept that she will not side idly by while he rides to the rescue.

As I said, this was a quick enjoyable read and I recommend it.

Oh, I must say--I really like the banner at the top of Stacey Kayne's website. I often buy fabric in those colors.

There. I did my part for Western Week. My next western read will be in 2 weeks when Jo Goodman's newest, Never Love a Lawman, is released. Keep your eyes peeled--Wendy has exciting news regarding Jo in an upcoming blog post.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I'm seeing stars

I should be working on UFOs. Instead I started a new project recently and made some pretty decent progress today. These are HARD. Irregular angles and bias edges made it hard to piece these accurately. I ripped out numerous seams until I got the hang of how to place the edges together.

I drew a star on an 8" block of freezer paper and cut it apart.

I ironed the freezer paper templates onto two 12" blocks of fabric (stacked together right sides up).

I cut out the star block adding 1/4" seam allowances.

I sewed the blocks together.

Credit where credit is due: This pattern is from the July/Aug. 2007 issue of Fons & Porter Quilting.

I can't show you all the blocks because 1) they aren't done yet, and 2) this is part of the latest challenge my QBFFs & I are doing and they aren't allowed to see it yet. Sometimes they read this blog.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

UFO update

I actually finished this while on the way to California last month. It was a wedding gift for my niece and her new husband. This piano was made from a kit my late mother-in-law left behind when she passed away 3 years ago. I thought my niece might like to have something her grandmother had intended to make. The pre-printed piano keys and music-themed fabric made this a very easy quilt to put together. The curved seams are easier than they look and this was a very fun quilt to make.

So, one more UFO down. Gee. Only 23 more to go.

Oh. Just have to say--I'm never buying that cheap batting from JoAnn's again. It shed worse than a pet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Phyl's 5 Phaves from July, Pt. 2

Many of us readers have particular authors that we gravitate toward. Their writing and their stories have that certain "something." It was no surprise as I compiled this list to realize that the 5 authors represented here are among the ones I most look forward to reading. I have gushed over a few of them in this blog previously. Without further ado, last month's Phaves:

5. Loving a Lost Lord by Mary Jo Putney. When I started reading romance again about 6-7 years ago, Putney was one of the first authors I discovered. Her Shattered Rainbows is one of my top 10 reads of all time. Putney took a detour into the paranormal (with mixed results in my opinion) and then a publisher switch meant a two-year gap between books. It was with a great deal of anticipation that I read her first straight historical in some 5 years. The hero of this story is the victim of an accident that leaves him with amnesia. He suddenly appears in Mariah's life just when she's in the need of a protector. She tells him that he's her husband and nurses him back to health. I was prepared to dislike this because their relationship begins based on a pretty serious lie. Fortunately the reveal comes well before the end of the book. There is, naturally, a bit of a mystery to solve and the need for Adam to recall who he really is. Adam's amnesia is a convenient plot device, but I think Putney handles it well. While not as emotional as some of her previous books, this is still an entertaining read by an excellent author. I'm so glad she's "back!"

4. A Scotsman in Love by Karen Ranney. This is a Victorian-era romance with a most unusual heroine. Margaret is a woman from a poor and common background. Her artistic talent was discovered by accident when she was a young girl. A patron made it possible for her to receive training and eventually she becomes a renowned portrait artist serving in the Russian court. As the book opens we find her living alone, almost hermit-like, unable to paint and apparently barely hanging on to her sanity. She is renting a cottage on the estate of an Earl who's been away for several years. The Earl has neglected his home and property, living over in France grieving the accidental and tragic deaths of his much-loved wife and daughter. When Margaret and McDermott meet they are angry, hurting people. What follows, of course, is how their relationship brings healing to each of them. This is a rather dark book, but deeply emotional--just the way I like it.

3. Till There Was You by Lynn Kurland. This is Kurland's latest entry in her MacLeod/De Piaget time travel/historical series. Full of familiar characters, this time it's Zachary Smith who finds himself "sent" back in time to Robin De Piaget's castle where he meets Robin's daughter Mary. Mary is trying to escape an unwanted betrothal and Zachary just wants to get back to the 21st century. Naturally there are a few obstacles to overcome. And as Mary and Zachary fall in love, their relationship complicates things even further. This is a nicely plotted book with a hefty word count (you can tell because the font is small and there's not a lot of white space). I found myself deeply engaged in this story and was glad for the length that let me enjoy it longer. I have to say, though, that I needed that genealogy in the back of the book to keep track of all of the secondary characters at first. And I do not think I would have enjoyed this half as much if I hadn't read all of the preceding books in the series.

2. His Captive Lady by Anne Gracie. Gracie has become a real favorite of mine. Her books are so well-written and she has the relatively rare ability to write a book that makes you both laugh and cry. Lady Helen (Nell) is a young woman who has been badly beaten down by life, but she is determined to reclaim something very special to her. Meanwhile Harry is back in England after many years at war; he is weary and just wants to start his horse farm. He falls for Nell instantly and senses that she needs his help. I love how Nell's story is gradually revealed to us as she gradually opens up to Harry. This is just a gem of a story. It was released late last year; I'm sorry I waited so long to read it. Her next book, To Catch a Bride is due in September.

1. What Happens in London by Julia Quinn. This is a rather light-hearted book full of Quinn's trademark humor. Sir Harry is Lady Olivia's new neighbor. Harry spends all day translating Russian documents for the government. Olivia's bedroom window overlooks Harry's office and she begins to spend time spying on him, especially when she hears the rumor that he's a murderer. Harry catches Olivia spying on him and when they finally meet they find themselves attracted to one another despite the initial negative impression each has about the other. They get to know one another and that journey is just delightful. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, especially over some lurid popular fiction and the Russian delegation. The scene where Harry proposes formally to Olivia is original and priceless. This is Quinn on top of her game. I wouldn't call it her best, but it is what I've come to expect from her.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Phyl's 5 Phaves from July, Pt. 1

In June I could not muster enough enthusiasm to select 5 favorite books from what I read. Not a problem for July! Of course, with all those miles to spend reading, I had much to choose from. So as a bonus I have 5 honorable mentions to go along with my 5 phaves. Aren't you all so lucky!?
My biases are definitely showing with this group of 10. Seven of the 10 are historicals (6 of those Regency-set). Only 1 book was a new-to-me author; the other 9 authors I count among my favorites and I try (when the budget allows) to purchase rather than borrow books by these authors.
So in this post, in no particular order, are my Honorable Mentions. Tomorrow I'll post the top 5.
Jade Lee's The Dragon Earl was a fascinating tale of a lost peer who has come home to take his rightful place as Earl. In this case, hero Jacob Cato was left for dead in China when he was still quite young. He had been promised to Evelyn Stanton when they were small children. Jacob returns to England just as Evelyn is about to marry Jacob's cousin, the man who had assumed the Earldom in Jacob's stead. Jacob has to learn to deal with being English, with his anger at having been left all alone in China, and his growing attraction for Evelyn. Evelyn, meanwhile, having been raised to be Countess, struggles over just what (and who) it is she really wants. The plot concerning why Jacob's family was killed is left unresolved. This screams sequel to me, but there's no indication on Lee's website that a sequel is in the works. Meanwhile, I can appreciate why many bloggers are fans of Lee's books and I'll be seeking out more of her backlist.
Jill Shalvis' books always make me laugh. Her blog is the best author blog in the business. She has two new books out right now. I recently finished Instant Gratification, book 2 in her Wilder brothers trilogy. Snappy dialogue and great chemistry made this a very entertaining read. Oooh and look! Her other new book is a baseball book: Double Play. I can't wait to get my hands on that one.
As I continue to read my way through Shannon McKenna's backlist, I found Return to Me at the library. Not quite as heavy on the suspense, this earlier book by McKenna is a fine story about high school best friends who get back together after 17 years apart. Emma now owns a successful B&B in their home town and Simon is back after traveling the world as a photojournalist. They have to deal with their history and the menace that hovers over them. This isn't nearly as tightly written as McKenna's more recent books, but still a thoroughly engaging book. And hey! Taking Heat is out now.
Book 5, This Duchess of Mine in the Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James was released in May. The 6th and final book was released last week. That's a long series! I have found James' books to be consistently witty and entertaining. This was no exception as we finally get Jemma's story. Jemma & Elijah are master chess players and the game of chess takes center stage as Jemma and Elijah engage in a chess match both literally and figuratively as they work to put their marriage back together after a long estrangement. I love stories of people finding their way back together; forgiveness is a powerful theme.
My final honorable mention has turned into a far more interesting choice than I originally anticipated. Loretta Chase is probably one of the best historical romance authors out there. Her books are often unusual in setting and her heroines are smart, self-aware, and assertive. I love the way she uses dialogue to advance the story and demonstrate the deepening relationship between hero and heroine. So, do you smell the "but?" Don't Tempt Me, her latest release, is the story of Zoe and Lucien. They were childhood friends who were separated when Zoe was kidnapped at the age of 12 while her family was visiting Egypt. Zoe was sold into a harem and after many years of slavery she manages to escape and find her way back to England and her family. This book gripped me from the first page because Chase can write. When I finished it I could honestly say that I liked it, but didn't love it. Zoe's re-adjustment seemed too easy; the secondary characters read more like caricatures; one particular secondary character could have been fleshed out and made into an interesting counterpoint to Zoe. Then I read this. My repressed inner feminist had to admit that Jessica makes a compelling critical argument about this book and its mysoginistic attitude. Wow. And then yesterday I read this. Candy does a way better job of reviewing this book than I could and her reactions closely mirror my own. I still highly recommend this book. The writing alone is worth it. And it's good to read a book that makes us ask some serious questions.