Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TBR Day. Ride with Me / Ruthie Knox. 2012


This month's theme is a book that received a lot of hype. I suppose the definition of hype can vary, but I remember seeing lots of comments on Twitter about this book, as well as positive reviews at Dear AuthorSmart Bitches, and elsewhere. At some point I was obviously compelled to buy it and it's been sitting on my Kindle for several months. I'm awfully glad I finally got around to reading this. I think I needed something with a good dash of humor. It had been a rough week. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and several times I laughed out loud. I found it smart, sexy, and emotional. Now I want to go read more by this author.

For those of you who missed the hype, Ride with Me, by Ruthie Knox is the story of Tom and Lexie, two people who are doing a cross-country bicycle tour on the TransAmerica Trail. Lexie advertised for a companion to ride with; Tom had intended to go it alone. But Tom gets maneuvered by his sister into riding with Lexie and the two of them set off together from Oregon, headed to Virginia. Tom is hoping to eventually ditch Lexie, but not until he can find her another riding partner. Along the way, Tom and Lexie develop a grudging respect for one another, which turns to liking, which turns to love.

I really liked the way Knox uses the background of the bicycle ride to develop the story. While I've never done anything remotely like this (hey! a couple laps around the neighborhood is good enough for me), I have driven through most of the places talked about in the book, and it was all very familiar. I also work with someone who did a similar bike ride a few summers ago and I was often reminded of his story. The backdrop seemed very authentic. And the three months on the trail give Tom and Lexie a lot of time for them to come to grips with their feelings and for Tom in particular to overcome the obstacles standing in the way of a commitment.

Tom and Lexie come from rather different backgrounds and Tom is covering up a world of hurt. Tom is taciturn and private. Lexie is outgoing and an open book. Yet these two opposite people share a love of bicycle touring and an interest in the same kinds of books. Tom is spontaneous, Lexie plans everything. It was great the way Knox developed these characters and gave them the ability to change and adapt to one another.

So here's to a book that lived up to its hype. If you haven't read it yet, consider this more hype heaped onto the hype that's already out there.

Oh, and one last thing. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Phyl's 5 Phaves for October

5. Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight by Grace Burrowes. My first Christmas book of the year was a very enjoyable story in Burrowes' Windham family series. Lady Louisa would very much like to retire from the Marriage Mart and head off into a life as the family's spinster aunt. But a scandalous encounter finds her wed to Sir Joseph Carrington. Louisa is a wonderful heroine. She's a very smart woman trapped in an era when women were given few opportunities to learn. In addition, both Louisa and Joseph have secrets. As their relationship begins to deepen, it's wonderful to see Joseph notice, and appreciate Louisa's talents. This makes it easier for Louisa to trust Joseph. For Louisa in particular, the demons of the past need to be laid to rest. Louisa's various family members all leap to her defense, but it soon becomes apparent that Joseph is the one who knows, and appreciates her best. Meanwhile, Joseph has his own big secret. The family dynamics are fun and sometimes funny. I've really liked this series and Burrowes' writing.

4. The Thorne Brothers trilogy by Jo Goodman. This refers to three books that Jo Goodman wrote in the late 1990's. (My Steadfast Heart, My Reckless Heart, and With All My Heart) They recently became available as ebooks and I purchased all three of them. I then proceeded to read them back-to-back-to-back. The trilogy is the story of three brothers who had been separated as boys (ages 6 months, 4 years, and eight years old) when they were suddenly orphaned. The oldest son, Colin, makes it his life's work to find his brothers. Each book mostly stands alone as the story of the particular brother. I was eager to see how they would be reunited. With settings from London to San Francisco, this was an engaging series from an author I love. I'm so glad her backlist is becoming available.

3. A Study in Seduction by Nina Rowan. Lydia Kellaway is a math prodigy who lives a very quiet life with her grandmother and younger sister. The book opens when Lydia pays a visit to Alexander Hall, Viscount Northwood, to retrieve a locket that her grandmother had pawned behind her back. When Alexander refuses to sell the locket back to Lydia, she challenges him to solve a math puzzle in exchange. Intrigued, Alexander accepts and this, of course, leads to further encounters. The book is set on the eve of the Crimean War. Alexander is half Russian and his Russian mother caused such a scandal that the family's businesses are in serious jeopardy. Alexander cannot risk further scandal and unfortunately Lydia has a significant secret that is a stumbling block to their relationship. There was a lot of interesting stuff in this book: Lydia's ability with math and Alexander's respect for this, Alexander's attempts to restore respectability to his family name, the anti-Russian sentiment of the time, and Lydia's secret (which I guessed early on). This is Rowan's debut novel, and it's a pretty good one.

2. Extreme Exposure by Pamela Clare. My October TBR read.

1. Tempting the Bride by Sherry Thomas. As I think about what to say here, I can think of a few things about the book I didn't like. Such as the length. It was too short and in some ways the resolution was too neat. Or the fact that Helena, such a strong, independent woman would moon after a man who comes across as weak and self-absorbed. But, I loved, loved, loved Hastings. Seriously. He made the book for me and this easily became my phave read of the month despite any misgivings I might have about Helena or the ending. Hastings has loved Helena since he was a teenager. He may now be an adult, but he has never been able to outgrow the adolescent way he'd always interacted with her--with mutual antagonism. Helena's indiscretions with her married lover have forced her into marriage with Hastings. Just as the wedding is about to happen, Helena is in an accident that causes amnesia. Hastings gets to start all over with her. Hastings is almost too good to be true (maybe that's why I loved him so much). Nonetheless, Helena begins to fall in love with him as she recovers from her amnesia. Then she regains her memory and all must be resolved. It was very nicely done, just too quickly. This was the third and final book in a series by Thomas and my favorite of the three. I read a library copy. And held onto it until I had to return it. Someday agency pricing will DIE and I will buy a copy for my Kindle.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Philippa Naylor, Quilting Rock Star


Philippa Naylor is an award-winning quilter whose quilts I have admired for several years. She came and spoke at my guild last week and gave a wonderful, funny, and touching talk about her journey from fashion design to quilting. The next day I got to take a class from her called "Precision Piecing" where I learned some new stuff. Lots of pictures follow.
Here is Philippa during her lecture (sorry for the grainy picture from my phone).
She brought two quilts with her. She dyes her own fabric and then densely quilts them on her domestic sewing machine.




   



For the class, this is the small project we worked on. She taught us her methods for achieving sharp points and matching seams.


Lots of helpful demonstrations.



This is my work area and my block, partially assembled, on the left.

 The class at work.

 Some of my classmates' completed center blocks.



And here's mine with the borders added. It's 22" square and it shouldn't take long to quilt it. I hope to finish it before my December guild meeting.