Wednesday, October 21, 2009

TBR Day. His Wicked Kiss / Gaelen Foley. 2006.

After a two-month hiatus, I'm back with another TBR review. October's theme is Horror. But I don't read horror and I've pretty much given up on paranormal, so we'll go with another Regency historical because that's 95% of what's in my TBR pile in the first place.

This month's book is number 7 in Gaelen Foley's "Knight Miscellany" series. I read the first 6 books some 4-5 years ago and I'm not sure why this one sat on my shelf for so long--I think it just got buried. I remember that I had really liked those books. But I admit I don't remember the details real well, just that I had always meant to keep reading her books.

Here is the back cover blurb:

An English rose blooming in the untamed jungles of South America, Eden Farraday lives a life of independence–unheard of for a lady–with her doctor–turned–scientist father. But Eden misses England desperately. When the dangerous and darkly charming Lord Jack Knight sails into her life, she seizes her chance to return to civilization, stowing away aboard his London–bound ship.

Roguish and charismatic, a self–made shipping tycoon with a shadowy past and a well–guarded heart, Jack is sailing on a vital secret mission. When the redheaded temptress is discovered aboard his vessel, he reacts with fury—and undeniable lust. Forced to protect her from his rough crew, the devilish Lord Jack demands a scandalous price in exchange for Eden’s safe passage across the sea. As his wicked kiss ignites an unforgettable blaze of passion between them, Jack and Eden confront a soul-searing love that cannot be denied.

I would really like to tell you that I liked this book, but this one just did not work for me. I'm not sure I can even give you a compelling reason why not. But I'll try. Jack is estranged from his half-siblings; I think this is supposed to make him come across as a "tortured hero" but since the estrangement was his choice, it's hard to feel a lot of sympathy for him. It's also hard to feel a lot of sympathy for Eden when she gets angry at Jack about 2/3 into the book. They are married at this point and have arrived at Jack's home in Ireland. He has to go on to London and decides to leave Eden alone in Ireland because his business in dangerous. She gets very angry with him, but he changes his mind, apologizes, and takes Eden to London after all. Yet she remains angry with him for weeks because she doesn't feel like his partner. That kind of attitude strikes me as modern thinking and out of place in a historical. Plus I'm just not a fan of characters that withhold forgiveness when it's been sought after sincerely.

One of the subplots of the book is Jack's work to help Bolivar defeat the Spanish in South America by recruiting veterans of the Napoleanic wars and delivering them to Bolivar. This external conflict was kind of interesting to me, but ended up being downplayed by some of the internal conflicts between Jack and Eden that seemed more manufactured than real. The Jack who appears in the beginning of the book is supplanted by a Jack who behaves irrationally and emotionally. It just doesn't jive with the first part of the book.

For the most part, I like Foley's writing, although in parts the prose is quite purple. However, this time I just couldn't get into the story. It took me over a week to finish it--I kept picking up other books instead. I understand from Foley's website that the 3 books she published after this one about Knight family cousins who come to England from India. That sounds interesting and I'll be looking for those. But this one I cannot recommend.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A UFO Finish and a New Beginning

Over a year ago my son took a beginner's sewing class & made his own pillowcase. I made him this matching throw (it's just a bit smaller than a full-sized quilt). He picked out the fabric. All that gold. Oh my.

I still have 21 of my original 28 UFOs still to finish. So naturally I started a totally new project. I took a plain sweatshirt, much like this one.

I carefully cut off the ribbing and ripped out the seams. Then I cut the body apart into a front and back. I was left with these pieces.

I spray basted the fuzzy sides to this gorgeous Jinny Beyer fabric. It'll be the lining.

And here are the strips all ready to sew to the front. Won't this be a beautiful jacket?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Phyl's 16 Phavorite Romance Novels

Jessica suggested that today, Oct. 16, we honor what would have been the 90th birthday of Kathleen Winsor, the author of Forever Amber, a classic romance first published in 1944, that some probably consider a forerunner of the modern romance novel. (I confess that I've never read this book, although I have heard of it.) Jessica credits Maili for the idea of challenge in honor of Ms. Winsor that is for us to list our top 16 romance reads of all time.

This was not an easy thing. I'd rather list at least 25. But after some thought, these are the ones that continue to stick with me (i.e. I actually remember what they were about) or I turn to when I want to re-read something familiar.

16. Parting Gifts by Lorraine Heath
15. The Price of Desire by Jo Goodman
14. An Arranged Marriage by Jo Beverley
13. To Die For by Linda Howard
12. Heart Thief by Robin D. Owens
11. My False Heart by Liz Carlyle
10. The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh
9. Tapestry by Karen Ranney
8. The Outsider by Penelope Williamson
7. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
6. The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie
5. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
4. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
3. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
2. Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
1. Heartless by Mary Balogh

The books above were the only ones of the 16 that I could find without tearing my closet apart. Plus I know at least 2 of them are on loan to a friend and one I own as an e-book.
Bonus picture! These are some of the ones I would have liked to have on the list. I found them while I was looking for the ones above.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

25 Years and Counting

25 years ago this fall I took my very first quilting class. I had moved to a brand new town and barely knew a soul. I was homesick and missing my old job. On a whim I decided to sign up for an adult education class at the local high school hoping that maybe I'd make a friend or two. Who knew that I'd walk away changed so very much? Eventually I made friends beyond my expectations and I gained an obsession that has never, ever waned.

So let's celebrate by looking back. Over the next few months I'll treat you to some of my early creations. Lucky you! Here's proof that both the fabric industry & I have come a very long way!

I ended up taking two sessions of the quilting class. We learned only hand sewing techniques which was fine by me because back in those days I was literally afraid of my sewing machine. In the first class we made 3 simple little projects. Here are the two that still survive today. I cannot find the little 9-patch red & white table topper.

I still use that Christmas wreath every year. It was the very first thing I ever quilted. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you'll see how large my quilting stitches are. I agonized over that piece, and shed a little blood, too! Next to the wreath is a pillow which was the result of learning how to piece patches together. That pillow has gotten a fair bit of use over the years although lately it's been put away in a closet.

That first class ended just before Christmas and so my mother took me to a quilt shop and offered to buy me some fabric for Christmas. I picked out six fabrics that would go into my first full-sized quilt--a sampler big enough to cover a twin mattress. So, any of you out there old enough to remember the 80s? Country blue anyone? Blue & pink calico? It was all the rage back then.

Here's what I ended up with. I warned you.

And here are some close-ups. More really big stitches. But I love this quilt. It's very warm and cozy because I used flannel for the backing. Pretty stupid considering how hard that made it to hand quilt, but the end result was worth it. And I learned a full range of techniques: applique, piecing, curved piecing, quilting designs, and full size construction.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Phyl's 5 Phaves for September

Is is October already? Don't know what it's like by you, but already it feels like November here. Yuk. I need to escape into some good books. So here are some I enjoyed in case you want to escape, too!

5. Fade to Black by Leslie Parrish. This is the first in Parrish's "Black CATs" series. The "CATs" are FBI "Cyber Action Teams" working on Internet-related crimes. This was a suspenseful, entertaining read as the team investigating a serial killer find their way to a small Virginia town because a missing girl from that town may be one of the killer's victims. The team is led by agent Dean Taggert and he works with town sheriff Stacey Rhodes to catch the killer before he strikes again. I liked Stacey because she was smart and capable, not a TSTL bone in her body. Dean is trying to juggle his job and his relationship with his young son (Dean is divorced). The characters seemed realistic and the plot was sufficiently gruesome to keep me glued to the book. I have the next 2 books in the series checked out from the library and will be reading those soon.

4. The Virgin River trilogy by Robyn Carr. There are actually at least 7 books now in this series and I believe 3 more to come in 2010. But the first three books are: Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, and Whispering Rock. These books are set in the very small town of Virgin River in the northern California mountains. It's the kind of territory that is occasionally featured in the news as being popular with marijuana growers. In fact, the growers are a small part of these stories, so it felt rather realistic as I read it. These books are about home, family, marriage, and babies. Carr's heroines have been through the wringer--the first three books feature a widow, an abused spouse, and a rape victim. A look ahead shows at least one other widow. The heroes are former marines who once served together and come to Virgin River to find peace and healing. These books are the quintessential comfort read and I found them quite engrossing. I was very caught up in the world Carr has created and am looking forward to reading more of the series. I will say that you really should read them in order from the first book. Recurring characters are featured heavily as the books move forward.

3. To Catch a Bride by Anne Gracie. This is the 3rd book in Gracie's "Devil Riders" series, but it stands very well alone. The bulk of the book takes place in Cairo when the hero Rafe decides to go there to look for a young Englishwoman who was orphaned some years previously. The girl's grandmother had believed her dead, but now has reason to believe she's alive. I totally enjoyed the unusual setting and once again Gracie gives us a book laced with humor and emotion. This wasn't quite as compelling as the previous book in the series, His Captive Lady, which was my #2 phave in July. But it was darn close. Rafe manages to find Ayisha rather quickly, but soon learns she is resistant to going with him to England to be reunited with her Grandmother. There is more to Ayisha than he realizes and the slow unraveling of the truth was an unexpected plot twist.

2. Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London. I just reviewed this a couple of weeks ago in my previous blog post. This is a very unusual romance and perhaps even rather risky. It deserves a look.

1. Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman. This was the first of Jo Goodman's westerns that I've ever read. I should try and find her old ones someday (or maybe they'll be released as ebooks--hint, hint!). I guess you could call this a marriage of convenience/forced marriage story. Rachel has inherited control of a rail spur that leads to the small Colorado town of Reidsville. The will giving her control of the rail line specifies that she marry Sheriff Wyatt Cooper and she agrees to make it a marriage in name early. But when Wyatt falls ill and the truth comes out it becomes a real marriage. Wyatt and Rachel deal with their growing feelings for one another, Rachel's hidden past, and the threat of those who would wrest control of the rail line from Rachel. I loved the setting of this book and once again Goodman uses dialogue to great effect to advance the story and help us get to know these two great characters. Goodman's website indicates there will be more books set in Reidsville and I look forward to them.