Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ready for the auction!

Tonight I finished my happy rainbow quilt and emailed a picture to Brenda Novak to list on the auction site. Hopefully it'll appear there within a day or so. Meanwhile, here are some fun facts about this quilt:

1. This quilt is a traditional 9-patch design. The layout, though, is a modification of a design by Jean Nolte that appeared in the 2010 March/April issue of Fons & Porter Love of Quilting magazine. That quilt, "Dream in Color" emphasized value placement. I decided to play with color placement.

2. This quilt is made entirely from my stash (see picture in the sidebar). I have been quilting for over 25 years and collecting fabric for most of that time. I found one fabric with a copyright date of 1989 in the selvage. Another fabric I remember purchasing last summer while on vacation. I am certain several other fabrics are at least 15 years old.

3. There are 1,053 individual 1.5" squares in the finished top. It measures 54" x 40.5".

4. I began this quilt on or about March 14. It took me just over 6 weeks to finish it. I used up a 500-yard spool of thread for the quilting on top. That means I used another 500 yards in the bobbin.

When the quilt gets listed on the auction site, I'll post a link on my blog. Please feel free to copy that information into your own blogs. I also give free permission for this photo to be used to publicize the auction elsewhere. If you want me to email you a copy of the photo, write to me at the email in my sidebar.

Finally, on May 1, GO BID!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TBR Day. Breathless / Laura Lee Guhrke. 1999

Despite the quilt and the kid's track meet, I managed to finish my TBR read! (There's a fair bit of down time during a track meet.)

But I have no time to write a review.

Not that it matters. This is a much-loved book and now I know why. I loved it. Wonderful. Engrossing. There was no excuse for letting it sit on the TBR pile so long. I think I forgot it was there.

My copy, which I bought off Amazon Marketplace, is a castoff from the Dallas Public Library. How about that? I must now pass it along to the QBFFs and a few others to read.

And now, back to finishing that pesky Happy Quilt.

Too busy quilting for TBR Day

I'm working hard to get this finished so I can get it bound and a decent picture taken to send to Brenda for the auction. My goal is to be done by Monday. Tonight I finished the quilting.

No TBR book this month.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Wild Marquis / Miranda Neville. 2010

Almost exactly a year ago, I read Miranda Neville's first book, Never Resist Temptation. It was an April 2009 Phave. At the time I remarked how surprised I was at how much I liked it, because, frankly, I expected another wallpaper historical. That is not what I got then, and that is most definitely what I did not get with Neville's latest, The Wild Marquis. Sadly, the title does lend itself to thinking "Wallpaper, ahoy!" but honestly, just like with a Harlequin Presents, you cannot judge a book by its title. And while we're at it, don't judge this book by its cover either.
TWM is Neville's second book and I found myself liking this one even more than her first. It is not connected to NRT. This book is about Juliana Merton, a widowed bookseller who is barely able to make ends meet. Despite her extensive knowledge of books and the book trade, book collectors, who were mostly men, were unwilling to trust her abilities or hire her to act as their agent during book auctions. She is barely scraping by. And a rather larger and important book auction is looming. Juliana needs a patron for the auction so she can bid on a particular book that has sentimental meaning for her, not to mention so she can earn enough to support herself.
Enter the hero, the "wild Marquis" of the title. Cain, the Marquis of Chase has a very unsavory reputation. Thrown out of his home by his father at the age of 16, Cain lived mostly on his wits until his father died and Cain came into his title and fortune. He remains estranged from his mother and sister and is clearly a hero with some issues. Cain is interested in buying a particular book that is about to be auctioned at Sotheby's because he recognizes it as something that used to belong to his father. He is curious as to how it ended up in the auction in the first place. Cain hires Juliana to represent him at the auction and Juliana has the opportunity to recover that book she wanted.
Both Juliana and Cain have mysteries they want to solve, and of course, the mysteries intersect at the auction. These mysteries keep the plot moving forward, but I didn't think they ever overshadowed the developing relationship between Juliana and Cain. As in her first book, Neville writes clever dialogue and intelligent characters. Once again I liked how this book takes place in Regency England, yet with a setting that is most definitely off the beaten path. Neville writes knowledgeably about the book trade and the auction process without overwhelming the reader with trivial detail. A good bit of the story takes place in Juliana's little shop or at the auction house.
There is much more to this book, though. Cain has a complicated relationship with his family and he sets about repairing some of that. The secondary characters are interesting and while there's some sequel baiting here, it's lightly done.
This is just a gem of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and am happy to recommend. I was also lucky enough to buy it as an ebook just before April 1 when the Agency 5 pricing model kicked in. In other words, I got it at a discount. Hopefully the discounts will be available again when the next book comes out later this year.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fear of Quilting (the quilt)

I realized recently that I have a tendency to do everything I can think of to postpone the moment when I will finally put the first quilting stitch into a finished quilt top. After all, I've worked so hard to get the right combination of colors together and done my best to see to it that all the seams align as well as they can. Then I lay it out with a backing and batting and I have my quilt "sandwich" all ready to be quilted. Like this:

Sometimes it can take me weeks, and yes, years, to get around to finally quilting a top. Because figuring out how to quilt it and which thread to use can be very intimidating. It's a good thing I am on a deadline with this one, or I think I would not have started.
I have been calling this My Happy Quilt. Flowers also make me happy. So I decided to free-motion quilt flowers. And while at the retreat 10 days ago, as a friend helped me pin the layers together, she also gave me some wonderful advice about which thread to use. And she was so very right.
This past Sunday I finally started in on it. It took me a couple hours to arrange my sewing space "just so." I was procrastinating. I had to just DO IT.

And once I got into the rhythm it wasn't so hard after all. This beautiful, shiny rainbow thread from Superior Threads changes color every inch and matches my fabric so well. I wish these pictures did it justice.

Here it is Wednesday and I'm already a third of the way through it. I need to finish so I can send pictures to Brenda. Soon.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Phyl's 5 Phaves from March

I have to look back and thank March 2010 for being an unusually pleasant month. Normally, March is anything but pleasant around here. It's usually cold and damp and busy. Yet after our record-breaking snows of February, spring burst upon us. We had quite a bit of sun. I had ample time to read. I even liked most of what I read. And then I made a happy quilt for the Brenda Novak auction. Really, I do hate to see April arrive. Because there's that little matter of my taxes...

Before I list my top 5, I have to give an honorable mention to The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, a re-read that I liked just as much this time as I did the first time around. Another book that almost made the cut was Karen Ranney's A Promise of Love. This is one of her earlier books. Twice widowed, Judith is a woman who has suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her second husband. She is unwanted by her family, so her father sends her off to Scotland to a man who survived Culloden and has watched his people struggle after they abuse they've suffered at the hands of the English. This book has a lot of dark moments. But the book is also about healing, so is ultimately positive and satisfying. Nonetheless, not a light read.

5. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. This little book is yet another gem by Allen. Perhaps it's best described as a tale of second chances. There is far less romance in this book than in her previous two, although once again food plays a significant role in the story. Even though it's short, Allen manages to draw you into her story with her descriptive writing and quirky characters. I like the book so well that I really wish it were longer and deeper. Still, a very enjoyable and satisfying read (although it really made me crave some cake!).

4. Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan. This is Milan's debut novel (she had a RITA-nominated novella published late last year) and I really liked it. Jenny Keeble is a woman who has done what was necessary to survive without falling into prostitution. Jenny is known as Madame Esmerelda, a fortune-teller, and she has come to the attention of a powerful Marquess, Gareth. Gareth is determined to prove that she is a fraud, in order to "save" his cousin Ned. Both Jenny and Gareth do a lot of growing in this book and I liked these somewhat unconventional characters. When I was done I thought the book reminded me a bit of Lydia Joyce's books, although not so gothic.

3. Something About You by Julie James. James' latest book has received some well-deserved positive reviews out in blogland. This story of a U.S. Attorney who needs to be protected by the FBI as she's the sole witness to some events surrounding a murder. One of the agents assigned to her case is an agent she has negative history with. And of course sparks fly and attraction ensues. This book has wonderful, funny dialogue and a fast-paced plot. The mystery is well-balanced with the romance and nobody behaves stupidly. Thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.

2. Heart Change by Robin D. Owens. I blogged about this book at the beginning of the month. I just love this whole series and thought this was an excellent addition to it.

1. Naked Edge by Pamela Clare. This romantic suspense novel is part of Clare's I-Team series about a group of investigative journalists at a Denver newspaper. Besides being a pretty decent suspense story, the book featured a serious look at Native American culture through the character of the heroine, Kat. Clare's obvious love & respect for Native culture shines through the story. The book features some past characters from earlier books in the series, but mostly this is Kat & Gabe's story. Like the Julie James book, there is a great balance between the romance and the suspense. Like the Allen book, I was craving food when I was done. Numerous mentions of Navajo fry bread have me anxious to try making it in my own kitchen.

Hmmm. Maybe there's a theme here. Books that feature food are sure to be a Phave?