Thursday, December 26, 2013

Love Overdue / Pamela Morsi. 2013

Hello friends! Sorry for the long silence of late. I'm still here, still reading and quilting, and still hopeful to find time to share more of it with you. I read this book the other day and am anxious to talk about it. So here goes.

I have to start out this review with a little conversation about me :)

I'm a librarian who has spent her career in the technical services (cataloging and acquisitions) departments of 3 different academic libraries. Despite spending a few years doing some fill-in Sunday reference work in a large public library, I really have no significant public library experience. Like many of you reading this, I am a huge user and supporter of my local public library. Most of us academic types are far more used to the Library of Congress (LC) classification system. It's very different from the Dewey Decimal system (DDC) used in most public and school libraries. The DDC was created in 1876 and while it has been revised and updated nearly 2 dozen times since, its "bones" reflect the world as it was understood in the 19th century. LC was created not too long after, but really developed in the early part of the 20th century and it reflects the collection of the Library of Congress. They are very different beasts.

Despite the fact that I've been using LC in my work for the last 30 years, I actually cut my eye-teeth on DDC, because my first library job was at one of the few large academic libraries that had never made the switch from DDC to LC. I have a soft spot for DDC despite my academic snobbery which insists LC is better. I have an old t-shirt (that will someday make its way into a quilt) from that first job with the picture of a woman cataloging books and labeled with the Dewey number for baseball (796.357) and Cuttered with my last name. Each of us in the department chose a Dewey number for their favorite hobby or pastime.

Anyhow, Pamela Morsi's latest book, Love Overdue, uses the DDC in the most awesome way. I can't begin to tell you how delighted I was as chapter by chapter, Morsi took me through the DDC as she told her story about a small town librarian who rediscovers the love of her life. Imagine the thought and craft that had to go into telling a story while finding elements that correspond with specific class numbers in almost all of the major divisions: Philosophy (100's), Social Sciences (300's), Languages (400's), etc. And to do it in a progressive fashion, i.e. start in the 000's and progress to the 900's, just the way you might walk through the stacks of any public library. The result is chapter headings such as "304.3: Factors Affecting Social Behavior" and "631.2: Agriculture: Techniques, Equipment." Morsi did a brilliant job of incorporating the concepts of the various DDC numbers into those chapters.

Love Overdue is the story of Dorothy (D.J.) Jarrow, a librarian who has moved to the small town of Verdant, KS to assume leadership of the Verdant Public Library. D.J. had a lonely childhood and after college, graduate school, and a job working for a boss from hell, D.J. is anxious to find a place to call home. (Oh, did I forget to mention the homage to Wizard of Oz?) D.J. arrives to find an interfering landlady, a library that's dark, unwelcoming, and way behind the times, and typical small town characters who know everything about everyone. D.J. also discovers that Verdant's resident pharmacist, Scott Sanderson, son of the interfering landlady, is also the sexy guy D.J. had had a one-night stand with many years earlier while on Spring Break on South Padre Island.

Scott knows D.J. is familiar, but he doesn't recognize her as the girl who's haunted his dreams all these years since their hook-up. The night was embarrassing for D.J. and she's not anxious to admit they'd met before. D.J.'s initial mortified reaction to meeting Scott has him sensing her hostility and in no mood to try and get to know her. But his (interfering) mother convinces him to spend time with D.J. and in time she lets down her guard enough that they really get to know one another, even as D.J. continues to keep secret their previous encounter.

See, that night was so embarrassing for D.J. that in the years since she made herself into a conservative, up-tight woman--thereby meeting the popular librarian stereotype. As we get to know D.J., though, she is not that stereotype. She has modern ideas of what a library should be and she's willing to make whatever changes she has to in order to make her library the centerpiece of Verdant. And Scott, who had been burned before (and not just by that encounter with D.J. all those years ago), begins to believe that he has met the one woman for him.

There are so many things happening in this book: D.J. and Scott take center stage, but there are issues of death and grieving, finding ways to help people cope with change, breaking down stereotypes and assumptions, and even life in Kansas during the wheat harvest. Sometimes a book will hit all the right buttons and make you stand up and admire the work and craft that went into writing that book. Love Overdue hit those buttons for me. That I could also thoroughly invest in the romance made the book doubly enjoyable.

So, how much did I love this book? The copy I read is one I borrowed from my public library. When I finished it, I bought a copy for myself.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TBR Day. Ghost Planet / Sharon Lynn Fisher. 2012

This month's theme is books that received lots of hype. I don't really have anything like that in my TBR pile, so I decided to go off in a totally different direction and review the first SF romance I've read in ages. This book was a finalist this year in the RITAs and the description was intriguing so I picked it up several months ago. I finally read it this weekend and I really, really liked it. Fisher was nominated in the "Best First Book" category. If this is her first book, I'm definitely looking forward to more.

Earth is in a bad way as the environment has become extremely toxic. A new world has opened up that has incredible potential to provide the sustenance Earth needs. But there's a very strange phenomenon on this planet. Whenever a new human arrives on the planet, someone from that person's past is reincarnated into a very human-like body and is somehow tethered to their human. Everyone has a "ghost" trailing behind them. The ghost is fully aware of who he/she used to be. Yet for the human, it can be extremely unsettling to have this person trailing around behind them. It's one thing if your ghost is a beloved spouse or an old friend. It's another if your ghost is an abusive parent. So a Ghost Protocol has been initiated to keep ghosts in the background, shunned and ignored. Ghosts become pale imitations of the humans they used to be.

Elizabeth Cole is a psychologist who has traveled to this new world to work with the psychologists who help people acclimate and learn how to deal with their ghosts. When the book opens she meets Murphy, her new boss and creator of the protocol. It turns out they'd met once before, back on earth. There's an instant attraction between them. And then it turns out that Elizabeth died when her ship crash-landed and Elizabeth is a ghost--tethered to, of all people, Murphy. Elizabeth goes instantly from being a welcomed and respected new colleague to being shunted to the side. And Elizabeth isn't going to take it lying down.

As Elizabeth digs deep to discover what exactly it means to be a ghost, she manages to get Murphy to really look at her and not ignore her. Their attraction deepens and it becomes imperative to understand the nature of their symbiotic relationship and the ramifications that has for the development of the planet. Meanwhile there are other people at work who want to exploit the ghosts and the planet's resources for commercial gain.

A book about reincarnating the dead brings up numerous interesting questions. Fisher doesn't necessarily answer all of those questions, but she does delve into issues of control and responsibility for those who didn't ask to find themselves in the position of being a ghost. It was particularly interesting to see that the treatment of the ghosts was important to the planet's ability to be developed for humans to use.

The book is in 1st person from Elizabeth's POV. This is perfect for seeing her dismay, confusion, and anger upon realizing she's a ghost. It's also great for seeing her wrestle for the control over her own life that was lost when she "died." I enjoyed the romance that developed between her and Murphy just as much as I enjoyed the world Fisher created. Frankly, I'd love to see more books set here, although it doesn't appear right now that Fisher is going to do that. Still, what a lovely debut. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes SciFi Romance.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves from July

Yes, yes, I know. It's November. I don't want to admit how long I've had a draft of this post waiting to be published.

5. Her Best Worst Mistake / Sarah Mayberry. (2012) This book received a lot of attention when it was first released, so I was pretty eager to read it. Plus, I've liked most of Mayberry's books that I've read. This is an enemies to lovers story, and really interesting in the way Mayberry's characters, Violet and Martin, shed the assumptions each has had about the other. This book runs concurrent to Hot Island Nights (which I haven't read). Elizabeth and Martin had been engaged for years, when suddenly Elizabeth flies off to Australia in search of her biological father. She leaves her best friend, Violet, to break the news to Martin. Martin and Violet have never gotten along. Violet thinks Martin is all wrong for Elizabeth, and Martin objects to Violet's flamboyant ways. On the surface they seem so different for one another, yet when Elizabeth's flight gives them the opportunity to get to know one another better, they find they had more in common than they anticipated. I think the development of Martin and Violet's relationship is well and realistically done. I liked this book very much.

4. VJ : the Unplugged Adventures of MTV's First Wave / Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Allan Hunter, and Martha Quinn. (2013) For several years in the early 80's, after MTV came on the air, I treated MTV like a radio--keeping it on in the background while I did other things, looking up to watch the videos when my favorite songs and artists came on the air. These days I have a satellite radio that I carry around to plug into my car, my office, or my sewing room. The '80s on 8 is one of a handful of stations I listen to regularly. I was eager to read this book that, using a conversational style, chronicled the early years of MTV. It was enjoyable on a number of levels--for the personal look into the lives of the four authors, for the look into the business of starting up a music cable channel, and for the stories behind music and events I remember quite well. This is a great read for anyone who enjoyed the early years of MTV.

3. Betrayal / Sandra Schwab. (2013) This novella is Schwab's newest book in ages. I'm so glad she's publishing again. Betrayal will remind readers of the Disney movie The Parent Trap, which was actually based on Erich Kastner's Das doppelte Lottchen, a German children's book. Georgina is living in Germany where she welcomes home her son who had been travelling in Italy. It is not long before she realizes that this boy is not the son she knew, but his twin who she'd left behind when she fled her husband, Ash. Her sons met one another in Italy and had traded places. Georgina needs to take this twin home and confront the painful past she left behind. This is a nice angsty, emotional read, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

2. The Heiress Effect / Courtney Milan. (2013) Oliver Marshall is a man with a mission. He is the bastard son of a duke, raised on a farm, yet given a gentleman's education. His goal is to be the voice of the people and sometimes that means doing somewhat distasteful things to secure the support of the rich and powerful. Jane Fairfield is an heiress with poor social skills and a terrible sense of style. In reality, Jane is trying to repel those who would marry her for her money. As Oliver is thrown into her company, he sees that there is much more to Jane than most people see. But what is he to do when he has to make a choice between Jane and achieving his goals? This is an interesting look at the slippery slope our choices can take us down, as well as the politics of an era when the people were gaining a louder political voice. There's also a secondary inter-racial romance involving Jane's sister that I wish had gotten even more attention. Still, I loved this entry in Milan's Brothers Sinister series.

1. Honest Illusions / Nora Roberts. (1992) This title appeared on one of the AAR staff's top 10 picks and since I enjoy going through Roberts' backlist, I picked it up at the library. I'm so glad I did, because I think it will go down as one of my top 5 Nora's. This book is really different from most of hers that I've read. It's more of a saga as it takes place over a couple of decades. It's also really dated--in a good way. Modern technology would change this book in so many ways that I'm not sure the story could be told the same way today. Anyhow, Roxanne Nouvelle is the daughter of a renowned magician who is also a jewel thief on the side. A significant part of the story takes place during Roxanne's youth when her father takes in a runaway boy and makes him part of the family and the magic act. As kids, Roxanne and Luke battle one another all the time, but as young adults they fall in love. Just as it looks as if they're ready for their happily ever after, Luke disappears, and it's years before he comes back. There's someone who haunts Luke's past and he's determined to keep him from the family that took him in when he was young and desperate. I laughed in spots, I cried in others, and I was swept away by the drama. It was interesting that the main characters were thieves and yet they were the "good guys." I'll read this again.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall Leaves

Three weeks ago I found I needed to whip up a quick gift. I would like to have made something more elaborate, but being short on time, I decided to choose this very simple pattern. Leafdrops was designed by Cheryl Wittmayer of Sew Be It. The pattern actually makes a much larger quilt. This is about 22" x 32". I went with just 2 blocks using a gorgeous, rich golden leaf fabric and a brown print.
The pattern included some quilting designs that I really liked. I quilted the veins of the leaves and then mimicked that in the borders. I think the veins also resemble empty tree branches. I love the effect.
To quilt this design I lightly drew it in chalk and then just free-motioned over my chalk lines. The dark brown frame is ditch stitched. I love to quilt with Aurifil thread and I used two colors (a brown and a bright golden yellow) for the quilting and for the machine applique.

 Here are a couple of views of the back.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

TBR Day. The Protected / Shiloh Walker. 2013

OK, this book has been in the TBR pile 3 weeks max because it was just published last month. But since it fits this month's theme--paranormal or romantic suspense--by being both, and because I was dying to read it, I didn't really look for anything else to read.

This book is part of Shiloh Walker's FBI Psychics series. The FBI Psychics are part of a task force that sort of flies under the radar. FBI officers with special psychic abilities work to solve various crimes. In this book one of the members of the task force, Vaughnne MacMeans, is charged protecting a young boy with strong psychic abilities that others want to exploit. Young Alex, along with the man watching over him, Gus, have been living on the run, hiding from criminals who want Alex. But Alex's untrained psychic abilities make him a beacon. Vaughnne wants to help keep Alex and Gus alive and teach Alex how to shield himself and use his gift properly.

Vaughnne is a woman who's been on her own since she was 18 and is coming off a very difficult case when this book starts. Gus has been on the run with Alex for several years now and trusts no one. He's tired and it bothers him to see the fear and anger in Alex. Vaughnne and Gus are immediately attracted to one another, but protecting Alex is their priority. So in this fast-paced book they are on the run from the bad guys (with help from other members of the FBI Psychic team), trying to create a safe and secure place for Alex, and dealing with their feelings for each other.

This is another great entry in the series. I really enjoyed it. There's lots of action, some hot romance, some interesting secondary characters, and I thought the psychic stuff was done pretty seamlessly. Frankly, though, if you're interested in this, I'd recommend that you go back to the first book, The Missing. I think there's a real interesting dynamic between the members of the team and you'd miss some of those nuances by starting here. Plus, I have enjoyed all of the entries in the series so far. Walker has created some interesting psychic gifts, so each book is quite different. I happily recommend this book today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TBR Day. Wild Sweet Love / Beverly Jenkins. 2007

This month's TBR theme is Western and this book begins and ends in the west, with a huge middle part set in Philadelphia, my favorite city. So it's a win on all counts. I picked this up a number of years ago at an RT book-signing where I briefly met Beverly Jenkins and purchased an autographed copy. I still have a whole stack of books from that day that are blocked from view by all of the other TBR books that have been acquired in the meantime. I ran across this when moving the stacks around a while back and pulled it out to save for western month. It is a sad thing when one forgets a whole stack of books.

Wild Sweet Love is loosely connected to two of Jenkins' previous books (Something Like Love and A Chance at Love) that I haven't read, but I didn't feel lost at all. This book stands on it's own nicely. This is also the first book I've read by Jenkins. It won't be the last, that's for sure.

WSL tells the story of Teresa July, a Black Seminole, who, along with her brothers, is notorious for her bank and train robbing days. The book opens in the 1890's in the Arizona Territory where Teresa is finally arrested and sent to jail, presumably somewhere in southeastern Pennsylvania. From there she is paroled into the custody of Molly Nance, a widow with a grown son, Madison our hero. Molly opens her home as a sort of halfway house to help Teresa on the way to a more productive life. Molly does this despite the fact that the previous prisoner she helped stole from her and ran off. Teresa, though, recognizes that this is an opportunity she cannot waste and vows to do whatever Molly asks of her, even if that means turning her into a proper lady.

Madison does not like the idea of Molly taking in a notorious outlaw and his distrust of Teresa is obvious. Teresa resents the way he pre-judges her and the two get off to a rocky start. Eventually, for Molly's sake, they declare a truce and as they get to know one another their mutual dislike turns to friendship, to lust, and to love. I love the way their relationship develops over the course of the book and a lot of the dialogue between them is sharp and funny. Teresa is very rough around the edges compared to the other women Madison has known. She's competitive and would far rather be riding a horse in her leathers than learning etiquette in a gown. Madison has long since outgrown his wilder days and is now a banker in Philadelphia's Black community. He has become respectable and a leader. Teresa is not the sort of woman he thought he would be attracted to.

As the story moves along, Madison has to deal with threats to his bank and Teresa longs to return home to Kansas, which she eventually gets to do, taking Madison and Molly with her. There Teresa needs to resolve issues from her past so she and Madison can have their happy ending.

Along the way, Jenkins gives us a look at the effects of segregation and discrimination in that era and the fight for equal rights. Political corruption was rife in that era-- in every community, at every level-- and a good part of the book is about Madison trying to fight the corruption in Philadelphia's Black community and do right by his customers who would have no fair access to similar services at white banks. We also get a look at an all-Black town in Kansas, typical of several similar communities founded after the Civil War. Jenkins is deft at including period details without info-dumping. I found it both interesting and enlightening.

I've read wonderful things about Jenkins' books in the online community for some time now. I'm glad I finally dug this book out and read it. I definitely am going to read Nate & Olivia's story as well as several of her other books. The settings and story lines look very interesting. I'm happy to recommend this month's TBR read.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

One Baby Quilt finished in July

My sixth and final UFO project for the shop challenge I entered this year was to make something out of that little purple packet of Moda Fabrics' pre-cut charm squares that's on the right in the picture above. At some point after buying that charm pack I had also picked up a couple yards of one of the fabrics in the collection. I figured that together they would make a nice little baby quilt. I didn't use a pattern. I just laid the squares out in a grid, cut some white sashing strips, and sewed the whole thing together. The completed top measures around 45" x 49".

For the quilting, I did straight lines horizontally and vertically. Pretty basic stuff, but I like the simple look of it.

Sadly, I never did win any of the gift cards, but it's a total win that I got these 6 projects done. I'll have to come up with some way to challenge myself to keep plugging away at all of the unfinished things in my sewing room.

And for 2013 we are up to 11 quilts in 7 months.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TBR Day. Escorted / Claire Kent. 2012

This month's TBR theme is hot and steamy. I rarely read erotic romance, so I was about to pick something else for this month when I remembered I had this on my Kindle. I think it was free for a while, or at least very cheap. Escorted, by Claire Kent, is the story of Ander, a male prostitute, and Lori, a best-selling romance writer. Lori, at age 27 is still a virgin and she decides it would be easier to hire someone for sex than go through the angst of sex with someone who would expect her to have more experience. Since I've read a fair share of historicals featuring a female courtesan, this turnabout was kind of interesting.

The book is told entirely from Lori's perspective, although in the 3rd person. I thought Kent did an excellent job of letting us see Ander's feelings through Lori's eyes. There's a lot of awkwardness as what begins as a business transaction turns into a relationship. Lori is unapologetically inquisitive; we learn about Ander through her persistent questioning. I liked how Lori is up-front about her curiosity--and that she gives Ander permission to tell her to shut up if she doesn't want to answer a question. He does indeed tell her to stop when she gets too personal.

Frankly I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. There is, of course, lots of sex, but there is a lot about both Lori and Ander, what motivates them and what they're looking for. Their relationship progresses at a believable pace; if I recall correctly, the book takes place over at least a six-month period. There are numerous obstacles they both need to get over and I liked the way Kent wrote her characters through those obstacles. Once I got into the book I had a hard time putting it down. I'm awfully glad I gave it a try.

I see that there's a sequel to this told from Ander's point of view. I think I will give that a try, too.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves from June

Oops! It's been exactly a month since my last post. Sorry about that. But any of you who visit here regularly don't really expect consistency from me, do you?

I enjoyed some interesting reads in June. It's a good thing, because in some ways, June was a hellish month. Reading was a wonderful refuge from the stress. As was social media where I learned about 4 of the 5 books listed here (the exception being Heart of Obsidian since the Psy-Changeling series is an auto-read). I don't put myself out there much, but I'm grateful for the people who do and talk about what they're reading. Those folks inform my choices and lead me to some great stuff; my June Phaves are evidence of that.

5. The Turncoat / Donna Thorland. (2013) Heh. Just now when I was capturing the link to Thorland's website I noticed its subtitle: "Sex, Violence and History." And doesn't that say it all about her writing. I picked this up after seeing a glowing mention somewhere (probably on Twitter) from author Pamela Clare. Thorland's book is set in the middle of the Revolutionary War and Thorland does not shy away from the nasty realities of war and the brutality of an occupational army. This book is not an easy read, but it is an illuminating, interesting, and well-written historical romance. It's probably higher on the historical than the romance; since I was fascinated I didn't mind. British officer, Major Lord Peter Tremayne meets Kate Grey, a quiet, bookish young lady, when he commandeers her home. Bent on seducing Kate, Peter isn't aware when the dispatches he is carrying are stolen. In turn, Kate is forced to flee her home. Months later, disgraced and trying to rebuild his career, Peter encounters Kate in Philadelphia where she has remade herself into a glamorous woman engaged to his rakish, dissolute cousin. Kate is, of course, spying on the British, and Peter doesn't know whether to turn her in, or find a way to protect her. The title should give a hint as to Peter's ultimate decision, but it's not an easy journey for either Peter or Kate. It's definitely worth a read if you are interested in the Revolutionary War period and can handle the difficult bits.

4. Making Her Way Home / Janice Kay Johnson. (2012) This book was nominated for a RITA in the Long Contemporary Series Romance category this year and I read and reviewed it for the SBTB RITA Reader Challenge 2013. Typical of Johnson, who routinely tackles difficult topics, this is a very unusual romance. Ten-year old Sicily goes missing and the investigation brings together the child's aunt Beth and the detective trying to find the little girl. I really liked this book, perhaps especially because the romance had to take a back seat to the safe return of Sicily. Yet the romance between Beth and Mike is realistic and touching.

3. Fractured / Dani Atkins. (2013) The Kindle edition I own has a 2009 copyright date, but Atkins was never able to find a publisher. In early 2013 she self-published the book and I learned about it in June when Maili tweeted out the first couple of lines of the book. At $.99, it was worth buying and subsequent tweets by SonomaLass had me reading the book right away. Shortly after buying the book, Atkins got a publishing contract for it and, for the time being, it's unavailable. It will be out in paper and ebook in the UK later in the year--November I think. Hopefully it will also be available world-wide at the same time. Anyhow, this unusual, but fascinating book is about Rachel, a tired, grieving, and sick young woman who goes home for a wedding, suffers an accident, and wakes up to find herself healthy again in a world where the previous 5 years did not happen the way she remembers them. She re-connects with her childhood friend, Jimmy, who had always been in love with her. But Rachel is confused over what she remembers vs. what everyone else says happened. The first couple of chapters come across a bit confusing, because we the readers are as confused as Rachel is. The story is emotional and touching. It is also very bittersweet at the end. I am so glad I took a chance on this book. I loved it and thought about it for days. Watch for its publication--it's worth the read. Oh, and after Maili, SonomaLass, and I read the book we had a fun Twitter convo about it. Atkins' daughter found our tweets and jumped in to answer some of our questions. That's when we learned that Atkins now has a three-book deal. I am very interested in reading more of her writing.

2. Heart of Obsidian / Nalini Singh. (2013) Kaleb Krychek, the enigmatic Councilor who has been featured briefly throughout this series is the hero of the latest book in Singh's wonderful Psy-Changeling series. He's hard and he's cold. He's also been working for a long time to rescue Sahara, a specially-gifted Psy, from those who imprisoned her in order to exploit her abilities. Sahara saved herself from being used by burrowing deep into her own mind. This book is wonderful in the way that we see Sahara slowly come back to herself and Kaleb learn that he is capable of more than he imagined. It's hard to talk about this book without entering spoiler territory, so suffice it to say that as a fan of the series I absolutely loved this latest installment.

1. Let it Be Me / Kate Noble. (2013) I have to confess that I tried to read some of Noble's earlier books and just couldn't warm up to them the way others did. As a result, I was not particularly inclined to try this one. But glowing reviews and a story set primarily in Venice caused me to go ahead and pick it up and I'm awfully glad I did. Bridget is an incredibly talented pianist and unfortunately she's also a bit of a social disaster. She's overshadowed by her beautiful younger sister and because she's a woman, her musical talents are underappreciated. She longs to study under renowned Italian composer Vincenzo Carpenini, and she finally has her chance when she, her mother, and younger sister travel to Venice to get away from London for awhile. It's the composer's friend, Oliver, who helps Bridget as she begins to study under Carpenini and when she allows herself to be used in a piano competition. Oliver is also something of a misfit; he feels more at home in the world of the theater in Venice (his late mother's home) than he does in London (the home of his estranged father). This is a rich story about both Oliver and Bridget finding themselves and having confidence in who they are. I especially loved the way the theme of music was woven throughout the book. All-in-all, a very romantic book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

TBR Day. Dearly Beloved / Mary Jo Putney. 1990

This month's theme is Classic Romance. I really don't have anything left in my TBR pile that meets that definition. Since Mary Jo Putney has written at least one romance that I do consider classic (Shattered Rainbows, how I love you), I picked up this one, which is one of her earlier books.

Gentle reader, I could not read this book. I didn't throw it against the wall. I threw it away.

The book opens when a semi-drunk Gervase, having made a tryst with a serving girl at the inn where he's staying, stumbles upstairs, goes to the wrong room and proceeds to rape 15-yo Diana. Despite the fact that she's screaming her head off, he assumes it's the serving girl just playing games. Her screams bring her father who then forces the two of them to marry. When Gervase sobers up, he refuses to consider that he might have gone to the wrong room. He believes he was entrapped. So he writes a letter to his lawyer instructing him to pay Diana an annual allowance under the condition that he never see her again.

That's the first chapter. I decided to skip a few hundred pages and see if I could find any reason to keep reading. Stuff had happened. Diana was left pregnant. She makes a life for herself and her son. Then she must decide her life is boring, so she hies off to London so she can become a high-priced courtesan where -- ta-da! -- she runs into Gervase. She can't tell him who she is or she'll lose her annuity. But, hey, she'll become the mistress of the man who raped, impregnated, and abandoned her.

I skipped a bunch more pages. There's spy stuff and a villain and a cute kid. And love, I guess. They love each other, but can't be honest with each other. OK.

Oh look! The truth comes out! Gervase has been betrayed by her deception! She's evil, she must leave! Opps the villain tries to kill Diana. Gervase to the rescue. Love, love, HEA. No. Just no.

Warning! Major spoiler ahead:

See, one thing I did see as I skimmed the end was that as a young boy, Gervase had been raped by his own mother. He grows up traumatized and feeling self-hatred. Now, I have no intention of belittling what happened to Gervase. But how are we to believe that Gervase's behavior is acceptable while Diana's is not? In the few passages I read, I saw nothing in Gervase that made the way he treated Diana both in the beginning, and especially later when she finally tells him who she is, that made Gervase hero material.

Maybe, just maybe if I'd read the whole book I'd think differently. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. Not when I have so many other choices of reading material.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters. 2012

For a long time I've wanted to add reviews of quilting books to this blog. And here we go with the first one. I hope to do 2-3 per year, to highlight how I use my library of quilting books.

When I was preparing to quilt my Asian-themed quilt, I had only the vaguest idea of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do a straight-line plaid stitch through the 2-inch blocks. I knew I would do a simple little curvy stitch through the first narrow border. Like this:

Next, I knew I wanted each panel to have its own all-over design that would in some way reflect the fabric. But I did NOT know how to achieve the results I wanted. That is, I knew I wanted something that looked like water in one panel, leaves in another, etc. But I had never actually stitched designs like that before and I was feeling rather adrift and panicky.

Then I stumbled across this book at my local quilt shop. I had no idea who Angela Walters is. I discovered she's quite well-known among modern quilters for her quilting. She uses a long-arm machine and quilts for clients as well as for herself. In fact, she recently had an amazing quilt featured on the cover of the June/July issue of Quilters Newsletter. For a look at something different, go here.

Anyhow, when I opened the book and saw this page and knew I'd found the answer to my quilting dilemma:
The quilt on the page above features different designs in each panel. I looked at the one called "wood grain" and I thought that if I made my swirls rounded instead of pointy, the panel would look like moving water. I saw leaves and a flower design that looked like the chrysanthemums in one of my fabrics. If I could duplicate her results, I was saved!

This book is a wonderful collection of 28 different quilting designs. There's a wide variety of designs to suit a wide variety of quilts. Each design is featured with step-by-step instructions like this:
The photography is so well-done. You not only see how to do the stitching, but what it would look like when executed in a quilt. She discusses how to use the designs in various types of quilts. There are some great examples. Following her instructions, I practiced drawing the designs on a blank piece of paper. Then using a small practice quilt sandwich, I quilted a small section of each design so I could get a sense of rhythm. Then I went to work. Of the five large panels in my quilt, four of them use designs in this book.

I outlined the printed ginkgo leaves and then stitched Pebbles (p. 26) around them, as if the leaves had fallen on a path.

Flower Power (p. 67):

Allover Leaves (p. 66):

Water (adapted from Wood Grain with Knots, p. 70):

The fifth panel was little flowers that I just copied from the printed fabric:

Finally, the border was meant to look like grass; I've quilted this design before:

I do not use a long-arm machine like Walters. With a long-arm machine, the quilt is stationary and the machine is mounted on a track, has handles attached, and is moved around by the quilter. I have a mid-arm machine set into a table. In my case the machine is stationary and I move the quilt around with my hands and quilt in small sections at a time. The fabulous thing about this book is that her instructions were easily adapted to the kind of machine I use. The only difficult design was the water because I had to pull the quilt through the machine to stitch from end to end. It was hard to keep my stitching smooth and even. The other designs that I could do in small sections were much easier to execute.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for someone who is looking for inspiration when quilting their quilt. I know that I will be using this book again and again in years to come.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Quilts Finished June 2013

My June UFO project was a big one. I had pieced the central portion of this quilt in February at my guild's retreat. And by the terms of the UFO contest at my local quilt shop, I only needed to finish piecing the top. Then I made the rather insane decision to enter it in the June NQA show. That meant it had to be fully finished by the 20th of June in order to have it to the show on time.

I didn't want to take the easy way out by doing an all-over (i.e. boring) quilting pattern. I wanted the quilting to reflect the themes of the Asian fabrics. So each large panel across the quilt is quilted differently. From top to bottom I quilted small flowers, water, leaves, chrysanthemums, and ginkgo leaves fallen among pebbles. The border fabric is printed bamboo, so I quilted long, skinny leaves--they kind of look like grass. Oh my, was that a ton of work. But I am so pleased with how it turned out:

This picture shows a little more detail of the quilting:

Here's a shot from the back:

I didn't win any ribbons, but I did have the pleasure of seeing it hang in a national show. The judges remarks were very complimentary. They were also spot-on when they said my quilting needs improvement. My skills are definitely improving, but when I compare my work to the ones that won ribbons, well, I know I have a long way to go. BTW, I have a flickr set of pictures from the show. The first 23 pictures are of the quilts that won ribbons in my category. Please go take a look if you're interested in seeing how my work compares to others.

The minute I had that quilt shipped off to the show, I turned my attention to this cheery little wall hanging. A long-time co-worker was leaving at the end of June because she, and too many others, were victims of a staff reduction where I work. D lives out in the country, loves the outdoors, and is a talented photographer. These bright flowers remind me of her personality. Anyhow, I whipped this puppy out in 4 days.

The little squares of green, as well as the flowers and leaves were fused down. Then I went around each and every shape with a zig-zag stitch to applique them down. Then I quilted the background.

I don't want to admit how dirty my house was by the end of June. Fortunately I was able to catch up on that.

My YTD tally is 10 quilts in 6 months. I need a nap.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves from May

For a variety of reasons, June was a particularly busy and stressful month. I've spent this first week of July taking a few deep breaths and relaxing. Blogging has not been high on my list of things to do. I did finish 2 quilts. One had to be ready for the annual NQA show and another had to be ready for a goodbye party. I'll be posting pictures of those soon.

Meanwhile, here are 5 books I remember really enjoying back in May.

5. Shattered by Karen Robards. Years ago I read as many of Robards' historicals as I could find in my local library. At the time I wasn't too interested in RS, so I didn't continue to read her. A friend recommended Shattered to me and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Lisa Scott grew up in privilege in a small Kentucky town. After working for a large law firm in the big city she's back home to care for her mother who is slowly dying of ALS. She goes to work for DA Scott Buchanan, former neighbor whose upbringing was as different from Lisa's as could be. While working for him, Lisa is assigned to log cold case files. A co-worker shows her a file that includes a picture of a missing family-- and the mother bears an uncanny resemblance to Lisa. Lisa goes to Scott and their efforts to solve the cold case and discover the truth about this missing family lead to attempts on Lisa's life and the uncovering of decades-old secrets. Meanwhile, Scott, who had had a thing for Lisa when they were teens, and Lisa grow closer together. This was an entertaining and suspenseful read and I suspect I'll be reading more of Robards' RS in the future.

4. Her Hesitant Heart by Carla Kelly. Click that link! Look who finally has a real honest-to-gosh web site! The banner across the top is very pretty. Anyhow, Kelly's latest isn't a Regency, but a Western set in Ft. Laramie, WY several years after the Civil War. Susanna Hopkins is practically penniless when she arrives at the fort to begin teaching the officers' children. Army surgeon Joe Randolph is immediately drawn to the sad, quiet Susanna. Both of them bear the scars of the past; Susanna is particularly anxious to hide hers as the truth about her divorce would cost her this job and leave her destitute and alone. As usual, Kelly does the angst well amid the fascinating details of life in a 19th century army outpost. I enjoyed Joe and Susanna very much and I was intrigued by the very real class distinctions that existed between the officers and enlisted men, that carried over to their families. I really loved this book and perhaps the only reason it wasn't #1 this month is that the character of Joe was so very much like Jesse Randolph in The Wedding Journey, a book I re-read shortly before this book. Western lovers should definitely read this for the authenticity and period detail as well as the emotional and touching romance.

3. Kill and Tell by Linda Howard. This was my May TBR read. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this very over-the-top RS.

2. The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand. This is another winner for me in Florand's Chocolate series. This one takes place in the south of France instead of Paris where top chef Gabriel Delange has a famous restaurant. Once upon a time, Gabriel had worked for Jolie Manon's father in Paris, and Gabriel has never forgiven Manon for what Manon stole from him. When Gabriel sues Manon to stop publication of a cookbook that has Gabriel's creation on the cover, Jolie comes to Gabriel to try and repair the breach. Gabriel falls hard for Jolie almost immediately, but Jolie is conflicted over what she sees as her duty to her father. Jolie is a mass of insecurities that almost became too much. Fortunately there was so much to love: Gabriel's big personality and persistent pursuit of Jolie, sexy and witty dialogue between the two, vivid descriptions of the village, and of course the food porn. Honestly, I just loved it and in less than a year, Florand has become a must-read author for me.

1. Aftershock by Jill Sorenson. OK, so here's how old I am. I came of age during the "golden age"* of disaster movies in the 1970s. My personal favorite is The Towering Inferno, but Earthquake was awesome with the introduction of Sensurround that made you feel the earthquake and its aftershocks sitting there in the theater. Reading Sorenson's Aftershock was a bit like revisiting those riveting movies of my youth. With more romance. Paramedic Lauren Boyer finds herself trapped in a large cavern created by the collapse of San Diego freeways when a huge earthquake hits the city. She's trapped with a number of other survivors, including Garrett Wright, an Iraq war veteran. Soon, not only is it a battle to merely survive, it's a battle against fellow survivors. I tell you, once I started this I did not put it down. I intend to get around to reading the sequels, too. Meanwhile, this book was awesome. Seriously.

*Disaster movies at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

TBR Day. Lord of the Night / Susan Wiggs. 1993

With the annual RWA conference around the corner, this month's TBR theme is books that won or were nominated for an RWA RITA award. A list of past winners can be found here. I had no luck finding a comprehensive list of nominations, which is unfortunate as I'm sure some of those books also reside in my TBR pile. When I scanned the list of winners, though, I immediately remembered that I had Susan Wiggs' Lord of the Night on hand. In 1994 it won the RITA for Best Romance of 1993. According to Amazon, I bought this back in 2005, and I'm going to assume that I bought it after seeing it discussed on one of the old AAR message boards. If I remember correctly, this book had its lovers and haters. One big reason for the hate is the fact that the hero is 39 and the heroine is 18. In fact the hero, a widower, has 2 grown children.

Lord of the Night takes place in 16th century Venice and centers around Sandro Cavalli, who holds the title Lord of the Night-- he is captain general of the Night Lords of Venice, the city's police force. The book opens when he calls upon the artist Titian in the course of investigating a particularly gruesome murder. There Sandro finds Laura Bandello, naked and posing for the artist. Laura is momentarily alone when Sandro walks into the studio and Sandro is immediately bewitched by her beauty. Sandro is uncomfortable with his own reaction to her and as they talk it's clear that she doesn't fit into his own neat boxes for women. Laura is an artist. She models for Titian in exchange for lessons. She grew up in a convent and has no desire to take the vows. As she points out to Sandro, women have three choices: to be a wife, a nun, or a whore. She has decided to create a fourth choice for herself: become a courtesan and earn enough money to set herself up independently as an artist. Laura aspires to be admitted into Venice's Academy of the Arts which would lead to commissions and the ability to earn an ongoing living.

Sandro has come to Titian's studio because he needs to question the artist about the murder he's investigating. Laura becomes a part of Sandro's investigation which leads to numerous interactions between them. Sandro is distressed by his strong reaction to Laura. Laura, in turn, finds him attractive, but she owes a debt to the owner of a high-class brothel. Laura's services as a virgin are to be auctioned off at an upcoming festival. Despite Sandro's attempts to dissuade her, Laura is determined to go through with the commitment to the auction as she sees it as the only road that would allow her to become an artist.

In some ways, both Sandro and Laura are stock characters and the conflict between them is typical. Sandro is rigid and unyielding, but of course he has a core of compassion and honesty. Laura is beautiful, talented, wise beyond her years, and determined to walk a path normally not allowed to women. Laura softens Sandro, to the surprise of his friends and family. Naturally, it is Sandro who places the high bid when Laura is auctioned off. Then, when it becomes clear that Laura is in danger from whoever is committing the murders, Sandro whisks her out of town where they enjoy an idyllic time of loving and Laura paints and paints. But the murders need to be solved and their relationship comes to a head when Laura refuses to be set up as Sandro's mistress.

I admit that when I first got the book, I couldn't get past the opening chapters. Laura didn't strike me as "real" and other than some normal male lust, I didn't understand what Sandro saw in Laura. This time I kept reading. The villain became apparent early on, although there is an unexpected twist at the end. I still never really warmed up to Laura, although I appreciated her determination to stay true to herself. At the end, when Sandro realizes he wants to marry Laura, he cannot do so without losing his title or lands; class divisions were extremely strict. So with a little deus ex machina a happy ending is achieved. (There's a great definition of deus ex machina here at Wikipedia that describes exactly what happens at the end of the book.)

I would love to know what other books were nominated for Best Romance of 1993. I have to admit, I did not love the romance in this book, but I did enjoy the descriptions of Venice and its politics. I found the book engaging and easy to read, just a little too formulaic. And as I indicated, Laura's character didn't seem as believable as Sandro's was.

Here are the other 1994 RITA winners. I've only read the two by Jo Beverley. Both were far better books, in my not-so-humble opinion.

1994 RITA Winners
Best Romance of 1993Lord of the Night by Susan Wiggs
Best First BookA Candle in the Dark by Megan Chance
Best Contemporary Single TitlePrivate Scandals by Nora Roberts
Best Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal RomanceFalling Angel by Anne Stuart
Best Historical SeriesMy Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley
Best Historical Single TitleUntamed by Elizabeth Lowell
Best Long Contemporary Series RomanceDragonslayer by Emilie Richards
Best Regency RomanceDeidre and Don Juan by Jo Beverley
Best Romantic SuspenseNightshade by Nora Roberts
Best Short Contemporary Series RomanceAvenging Angel by Glenna McReynolds
Best Traditional RomanceAnnie and the Wise Men by Lindsay Longford
Best Young Adult RomanceSummer Lightning by Wendy Corsi Staub

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sneak Peak

I'm working under a couple of deadlines, so I don't have much time for blogging. Nonetheless, here's a peak at what I'm working on now. The first two pictures are the quilting on the quilt I started in February at my annual guild retreat (scroll down).

When my shoulders get tired from pushing that big quilt around, I work on this little wall hanging. Here's the background waiting for a few big and colorful flowers. This is going to be fun.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves from April

April feels as if it was many months ago rather than just one. Life has been busy and sometimes I have a hard time making myself write. But I do want to say something about the books I really liked each month.

So, the April phave list includes two non-romance books. I should read outside the genre more often. The variety is nice.

5. Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner. This mystery/suspense novel is the first book by Gardner I've ever read. It is clearly connected to a previous book, and while I was somewhat intrigued by the back story, I doubt I'll go back and read that one. However, I think I probably will read Gardner going forward. In this one her characters were well-developed, and I liked the way she wrote from several POVs. Interestingly, one particular character was written from the 1st person POV. What an unusual way to tell a story. Normally I'm not overly fond of mysteries, but this one sounded too interesting to skip. An entire family goes missing and there's not a single trace of evidence to help detectives figure out who took them and why. The bulk of the story takes place in Boston, but it also shifts to rural New Hampshire. I loved the way the differences in policing were described between the two places. There are lots of lies and betrayal, and of course, money is at the root of it all. I had fun with this book and it made for a nice change of pace. And hey, there were even little seeds of a romance planted. Nice.

4. Turning Up the Heat by Laura Florand. This is a lovely novella about a couple, married for 10 years, who have gotten so caught up in the busy-ness of their lives that they've lost touch with one another. The story begins when Léa, needing to take a break, runs away to Tahiti. A frantic Daniel soon follows and slowly, but surely, they begin to really communicate with one another. For a few years now they've been living on assumptions that have long since ceased to be relevant. They married young and their early years were spent saving her father's restaurant, raising Léa's younger siblings, and turning Daniel into one of the most well-known and popular chefs in the world. With those goals accomplished Léa is at loose ends. Meanwhile Daniel has thrown himself into a life he no longer really wants. I enjoy books that take us past the very beginning of a relationship and let us see what happens down the line. Habits need to be adjusted, conversations held, and new plans need to be made. There was no magic formula, just a need for long conversations, patience, and lots of love. I thought this story was nicely done.

3. Crazy Thing Called Love by Molly O'Keefe. This is the third book in O'Keefe's trilogy surrounding a couple of hockey players in Dallas. There's a brief prequel novella to this called "Naughty & Nice" which tells the story of Maddy and Billy eloping as teenagers. I wonder if I would have liked this as much if I hadn't read the prequel because it does a good job of describing how young Maddy & Billy were when they first got married. It also gives a rather vivid description of how bad Billy's home life was and what an oasis Maddy was to Billy. But their marriage does not survive Billy's success as a hockey star. Now on the downside of his career, he finds himself playing for a losing team in Dallas where, coincidentally, Maddy has remade herself into Madeline, host of a very popular morning TV show. Madeline has become closed off emotionally and career-driven. She's not particularly likeable. Billy is the team bad-boy, the one who starts the fights on the ice. He has a hard time controlling his temper. When her producers want Billy to come on the show for a makeover, Madeline is resistant because no one knows she and Billy used to be married. Billy recognizes this is a chance to get his Maddy back and he's willing to do whatever it takes to prove to her he's changed. Things become a little more complicated when Billy finds himself taking custody of his late sister's two children. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, to be honest, because I thought Madeline's aloofness was a little overdone. But O'Keefe tells a good story and I found Billy's character to be believable. He had a lot of anger he needed to learn to deal with and I liked his willingness to learn to make the necessary changes.

2. The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly. This was a re-read prompted by the fact that this book was recently re-published as an ebook. I could have sworn I owned it in paper, but I couldn't find it, so I must have borrowed it from the library when it was first published. I loved this book then, and loved it again now. Jesse is a surgeon with the British Army during the Peninsular war. Nell is the daughter of a debt-ridden soldier and when her father dies, Jesse marries her rather than see her fall into the hands of a brute who owned many of the father's debts. Jesse had been in love with Nell for years, but is so shy she is unaware. The army has to march to Portugal for the winter and the nasty man who wanted Nell and is also in charge of ordering the march "accidentally" leaves the hospital group behind. The journey is the story of this small group of wounded men, their doctors, and Nell, trying to get to Portugal ahead of the French. Told in Kelly's inimitable style, Nell slowly falls in love with Jesse as they struggle to get to safety. Kelly doesn't gloss over the horrors and atrocities of war, but she doesn't dwell on them either. Life is never easy, but the worst is far more bearable with the one you love.

1. All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg. I am a regular listener of ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike In the Morning program. Greenberg has written a couple of semi-autobiographical books and he spent some time this winter talking about his first foray into fiction. I cannot tell you how impressed I was by this look into the lives of three women battling three different forms of breast cancer. Greenberg and his wife lost a dear friend to breast cancer. That experience resulted in this book which is written in 1st person from the three points of view of the women who learn they have the disease. The first part of the book (a little over 50%) is the women telling the story of their lives up to the moment just before they learn of their diagnoses. Each of them have ties to the same Connecticut town, but they meet via an online forum for women with the disease. The second part of the book is about how they deal with their cancers, their careers, their families, and life in general. Each woman is very different, and in one case it was hard for me to agree with that character's choices. Yet the whole book felt authentic. The women come from positions of privilege--that is they have the financial resources that most of us don't enjoy. Greenberg himself, as a well-paid radio host, also enjoys that position of privilege. I suspect he wrote what he knew. He took a risk writing womens' voices and I think he succeeded very well. My only criticism is that I wish the first part, the backstories, had been shorter and the part about the women connecting with one another had been longer. Still, this is a book that I found touching, even funny in parts, and most importantly, hopeful. I was thinking about it for days after I finished it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


This is my "Quilts Finished in May" post. It's the only thing I'll actually finish this month, although I've been hard at work on two other quilts. One is a full-sized bed quilt that I'm just starting to quilt; the other is a small hand appliqued, hand quilted wall hanging that I just may finish in June. In the meanwhile, this was my May UFO that I took by the quilt shop this afternoon so I could get myself entered in the May drawing.

This is from a pattern called "Take Four" designed by Cary Flanagan of Something Sew Fine Quilt Design. I bought the pattern and the fabric pack used to make them last summer at one of the quilt shops I visited near Bremerton, WA while on vacation out west. It's a very clever way to use four fabrics and they were quick and easy to make. I know I'll be making more of these!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TBR Day. Kill and Tell / Linda Howard. 1998

This month's theme is "more than one," i.e. multiple books by the same author sitting in the old TBR pile. In addition to this RS title, I had one of Howard's older category romances which I think I'll save for later this year or next year.

Kill and Tell begins with the shooting death of Karen Whitlaw's father. His body is left in an alley in the French Quarter of New Orleans and detective Marc Chastain is assigned to the case. Marc believes his victim was homeless and estranged from his family, so initially the detective assumes the elder Whitlaw was the victim of random violence. He contacts Karen so she can come to New Orleans to claim the body.

Karen is a nurse in Columbus, Ohio. Her father, a Viet Nam vet, deserted her and her mother when Karen was 7 and Karen's had almost no contact with him since. Her mother had had occasional contact, but over time Karen had refused to speak him when he would call. Now Karen's mother is also dead. Still reeling and grieving from the loss of her mother, a rather wooden and shell-shocked Karen heads to New Orleans to identify and claim her father's body.

At first Marc is inclined to dislike Karen; he has strong beliefs about taking care of family and he makes the assumption that Karen and her mother had abandoned the father. It doesn't take much time at all for Marc to realize he was wrong and instead he finds Karen to be a person he both admires and is attracted to. So he offers to help Karen with burial arrangements and is there to support her through the brief funeral ceremony. She, in turn, allows herself to accept the emotional comfort he offers when she breaks down under the weight of all she's had to deal with. All of which leaves to a night of intense lovemaking.

Meanwhile, a number of things just don't add up about the father's death. He was pretty healthy for a homeless guy and then another body is discovered in Mississippi that is clearly tied to the Whitlaw homicide. The second body triggers the interest of the CIA. Then things become even more complicated when Karen goes back to Columbus and is nearly killed twice in less than 24 hours. Because it turns out that Karen's father left behind a record of his sniper kills in Viet Nam and that book has some damaging information that someone wants to keep very private.

This is a fairly credible suspense story wrapped around a hot and fast romance. The characters of Marc and Karen are well fleshed-out. Karen's initial aloofness makes sense given her family background and the depth of her grief. Howard uses a small secondary story of Marc's police work to show us how he feels about his job. One of the things he wants to be able to do is talk about some of the darker aspects of his work with someone strong enough to understand what he goes through. Howard makes it clear that Karen and Marc are a couple who can be very supportive of one another. I appreciated the descriptions of the French Quarter and the Royal St. police station; Howard made these places come alive. I also had to laugh at one of the scenes set in Columbus. Marc and Karen go to the storage facility to find something Karen's father sent her mother just before his death. The name of the storage facility is "Buckeye Stockit and Lockit." Howard nailed it. Believe me, every third business in these parts is named Buckeye Something or Another.

Now, given this is a Linda Howard book, it should surprise no one that parts of it are rather over the top. Karen and Marc are in love by Day 3 and ready to make babies on Day 5. {Eye Roll.} And the villain acts a little too stupidly at the end. Still, these are minor quibbles over a book I literally inhaled while I spent 5 hours in the car on Saturday.

Oh! And there's sequel bait! A mysterious and shadowy CIA character struck me as hero material. So I had to look it up and lo and behold my book is the 1st of a trilogy. Mr. Mysterious is hero of Book 2, All the Queen's Men, which now proudly resides on my TBR pile. Here's the funny thing. Each month there's always a book that someone blogs about that sounds so intriguing I have to get my hands on it. This is the first time MY OWN BOOK caused me to add to Mt. TBR. Boom!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Quilts Finished in April

Well I'm half way through my local quilt shop's UFO Challenge and so far so good. I've finished the three projects I'd intended to do. Sadly I haven't won any of the monthly prizes, but I am loving the incentive to get these things done.

First, I need to remind you of this quilt that I made a couple of years ago:

It was for the great-nephew of a co-worker. She commissioned me to make a baby quilt for him. We talked about colors and I found this great space fabric that I thought would be fun for a boy. Only it turns out that the baby's mom hates orange and other bright colors. So we went with Plan B, the blue and brown quilt above.

But that left me with this quilt top. I set it aside to quilt later. And here it is, done at last. I love this version so much. It's bright and happy.

For the quilting, I did free-motion stars all over the whole thing. They're very funky looking. Here's the back where you can see them better:

But of course, this wasn't my only April finish. Don't forget my color wheel challenge quilt.

So, I'm now up to 7 finished quilts in 4 months. However, all but two were started before 2013. Still, I'm feeling rather accomplished.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Phyl's 5 Phaves for March

March was a most excellent reading month. It was good to catch up on a number of books I'd been wanting to read for a while. Here are the ones I liked best:

5. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I know I've said I avoid paranormal these days, but the Mercy Thompson series is one I've always wanted to read-- I've heard so many good things about it. It turns out we actually drove through the Tri-Cities in Washington, where these books take place, on our way home from Oregon last summer. We camped a bit to the north of the city and below is one of my pictures of the sunset from our campsite. So while we didn't actually stop and spend time there, I have some sense of the terrain of the area which I think helped my enjoyment of the book. I've already gone on to read the second book, Blood Bound, and I like the way Briggs has created her world, slowly revealing details across the books. I love Mercy--her independence, her determination, and her sense of humor. There's very little romance so far, but you can see her relationship with Adam developing. I'm sure I'll be all caught up on these books by the end of the summer. Great fun.

4. The Conquest of Lady Cassandra by Madeline Hunter. This is the second book in Hunter's latest series and while it helps to have been introduced to some of the other characters, I think it stands alone pretty well. Lady Cassandra had been compromised some years back and shocked society by refusing to marry the man who had compromised her. She's now living quietly with an elderly aunt, the only member of her family from whom she is not estranged, but finances have become a problem. When Cassandra attempts to sell some of her aunt's jewelry, she runs afoul of Viscount Ambury, who just so happens to have been good friends with the man who compromised Cassandra. That man is now dead, having died in a duel. May people, including Ambury, believe the duel was over Cassandra. No one is telling. The carefully constructed plot includes possibly stolen jewelry, a beloved aunt slowly sinking into dementia, a controlling older brother, and lots of simmering sexual attraction. Ambury is a fairly typical alpha male, thinking he knows best and used to getting his own way. Cassandra is not such a conventional heroine and she is the best part of this book. She accepts the fact that by choosing not to marry the man who compromised her she is left living on society's fringes, ignored by most of the people who once knew her. She respects herself, stands up for herself, and makes hard choices, without making stupid choices. Cassandra marries Ambury in large part because he will help her protect her aunt. Ambury and Cassandra learn to give a little-- both because they've fallen in love and because they want their marriage to succeed. I always enjoy Hunter's rich prose and characters who have a lot of depth to them.

3. Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb. After 40-some installments in the "In Death" series, I am sometimes surprised that it manages to continue to hold my interest. This latest book didn't have any particular surprises or twists to the overall story arc. It was just another solid entry that kept me entertained and enjoying my visit with some of my favorite fictional characters.

2. Did You Miss Me by Karen Rose. Rose's latest suspense thriller continues with characters introduced previously in her Baltimore series. While there are quite a few dead bodies, this time the killer has a very specific target--prosecutor Daphne Montgomery. The killer weaves a very elaborate plot, that includes kidnapping Daphne's 19-year old son, Ford, to lure her into his net. FBI Special Agent Joseph Carter is drawn into the investigation when Ford goes missing. It just so happens that Joseph has been attracted to Daphne for a long time, but never acted because he mistakenly believed she is in a relationship with someone else. As Joseph and Daphne are drawn deeper into the killer's plot their feelings intensify. As usual in Rose's books, the romance is present, but is very much in the background throughout. In this particular book it was nice to have an somewhat older hero and heroine (Daphne was a teen herself when Ford was born). Each of them has had to deal with some pretty significant stuff to reach this point in their lives. An awful lot happens in this book in a short period of time. No pun intended--Rose's books are always a significant change of pace from what I normally read and I always enjoy them. And when I'm done, I'm happy to read something much lighter, lol!

1. Unforgivable by Joanna Chambers. I'm going to state up front that I flat-out loved this book. I'd really like to go back and read it again soon. I thought it was that good. Unforgivable is the perfect title for this story about two people who are so deeply angry or hurt that it seems impossible that they could ever forgive one another and move forward together. Viscount Waite, Gil Truman is expecting to marry the woman he loves when he learns that his father's gambling debts are so great that he has no choice but to marry the weak and sickly Rose Davenport. Rose is not aware that Gil is being forced to marry her and she falls a little bit in love with him when she meets him the first time. But after the wedding and an ugly wedding night, Gil abandons Rose to an estate in the country and heads back to London. Gil may be married to her, but he intends to have nothing to do with her. After five years, Rose is healthy and strong so she decides to head to London to confront her husband. Gil is astounded at how different Rose is--and now he's interested in her. But from here they both have an awful lot to work through, and forgive, in order to have a meaningful marriage together. I really appreciated how Chambers' writing made me connect with, and care for these characters. There is no magic bullet for them. They have a lot to work through, Gil especially. I liked how their story slowly unfolds. It felt natural and real. Well done.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Color Wheel Challenge

The president of my guild issued a challenge last fall. Make a quilt that displays the 6 main colors of the color wheel. The quilt has to show the progression of the colors, although it doesn't matter which color you begin with. They were due at our April meeting. Here are a few of them:

That one above is made of yo-yos, appliqued to a black background. It is simply stunning in person and was voted favorite quilt by the members of the guild.

As you're about to see, it's clear I have a thing for squares. I was inspired by some colorful, whimsical artwork at the local children's hospital. I decided it would be fun to go through my stash and see how much variety I could find. This was my entry. 

Below is a close-up of the quilting. I made a fundamental mistake with my straight-line quilting, going back and forth rather than starting each line of quilting from the same end. It caused some tugging on the fabric and distorted my squares. I almost ripped out all of the quilting, but what the heck. It's not as visible from further away.
  Sometimes it's all about what you learn along the way.