Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2012 Auction Quilt Revealed

And the winner was .... author Dorothy St. James! Dorothy has previously written in several genres as Dorothy McFalls. Now she has a mystery series out (book 3 is due in April) centered around Casey Calhoun, the White House Gardener.

When Dorothy won the Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes Research last May, she only had covers for two of her books in the trilogy. I was happy to wait until she received the 3rd cover before beginning work on her quilt. In the end we agreed I'd start after the holidays; I finished it last week and shipped it to her. Now that I have word that it safely arrived I can show it off.

Essentially I chose to mimic the look of a triple picture frame. The covers themselves are beautiful, but busy. So I decided to go simple and drew inspiration from the White House and the color red to symbolize the fact that the books are murder mysteries. I found a fabulous white batik fabric with very subtle blue, yellow, green, and pink shading. You might be able to see it by enlarging one of the pictures below. Next I needed a narrow dark border. I was going to go with a dark green, but Dorothy suggested blue as it would give a patriotic theme. Brilliant call on her part! It pulls the blues out of the covers; there's already plenty of green and the blue I found transitions nicely into the pretty soft floral fabric I wanted to use for the outer border.

Here are some close-ups of the quilting. There are simple little daisies in the cornerstones and leaves in the sashing. I practiced those leaves like crazy before finally putting them in the quilt. I am thrilled with how they turned out.

There is no quilting in the bookcovers. I didn't want to detract from the pictures. Instead I used a fusible fleece and added an extra layer of batting to stabilize the covers and they puff out a bit.

And here are some views of the back.

My thanks to Dorothy for bidding on my quilt and for her enthusiastic participation in the project. May 1 is only 35 days away and I'm offering a t-shirt quilt again. Please bid, or share my item with your friends.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

TBR Day. Desired / Nicola Cornick. 2011

Desired is Nicola Cornick's 5th book in her 6-book series "Scandalous Women of the Ton." I have enjoyed all of the entries in the series, including this one, for their unusual heroines, settings, or situations. Desired is the story of Tess, Lady Darant, a thrice-widowed woman with a huge fortune and a reputation of licentious and careless behavior. If she is received anywhere respectable it is more likely because of her sisters Joanna (book 1) and Merryn (book 3). Owen Purchase, Viscount Rothbury, is a former American who inherited the title and somewhat run-down estates from a distant cousin. He is a good friend of her sisters' husbands.

We learn at the book's opening that Tess is really not the woman painted by her reputation. She was horribly abused by her second husband and she hides her pain behind a carefully constructed facade. She has no desire to marry again and spends her time secretly aiding radical causes and drawing political cartoons. Owen is working for the government trying to find the source behind the cartoons and it doesn't take him long to figure out that it's Tess. Meanwhile Tess is confronted by a blackmailer who wants to use Tess's reputation against her so he can marry her 16-year old stepdaughter. She realizes that she needs a respectable marriage to protect her stepdaughter from the blackmailer. Afraid of any kind of physical intimacy, she needs a husband who won't expect to sleep with her. She had heard a comment indicating that Owen had suffered an injury rendering him impotent, so she goes to him and proposes marriage.

Of course, Owen had suffered no such injury, but he's not aware of Tess's thinking. He is intrigued by her, attracted to her, and could certainly use her fortune to restore the estates he's inherited. He can also protect her from the government's investigation and makes her promise to stop drawing the cartoons. He agrees to marry her and they begin to spend some time getting to know one another. Owen sees there's more to Tess than he expected, but he also sees that she's afraid of intimacy and it doesn't take long to figure out why. As Tess begins to trust Owen with her secrets and her past, she is also able to begin to trust him physically.

While this wasn't my favorite entry in the series (I especially liked #1 and #4), I thought this was a solid, well-done story. It was emotional in spots and I liked the way Owen and Tess gradually get to know and trust one another. Nothing was instant, nor was it drawn out too long. Cornick is good at dropping in lots of period details and describing parts of London that don't appear in a typical Regency. I liked it and am looking forward to reading the 6th and final book of the series, Forbidden, which features a ladies maid as heroine!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Quilts finished in February

February was a pretty productive quilting month. I attended my guild's annual Retreat where I managed to get most of a top done. And I made some progress on the book cover quilt I'm making for last year's winner of the Brenda Novak auction. As a matter of fact, that quilt is very close to being done. As soon as the author receives it, I'll be posting all about it. As for actual finishes, though, I got one done. But this was the one I'd entered in the local shop challenge. Unfortunately, I didn't win the February drawing. But, for the win I can say I at least got one done! I'll take it.

I started this quilt top at the 2009 guild retreat. It was a mystery quilt where we were instructed to bring a variety of light, medium, and dark fabrics. It's a fun study in values. I chose all green fabrics. If you look closely you can see that the dark values run across the quilt from the top right to the bottom left. The medium values run from the top left to the bottom right. And they're set off by the light values. I like this quilt a lot. And I think it'll make a nice baby gift, so I won't be keeping it.

For the quilting I did a simple cross-hatching. The fabrics are a mix of cotton prints and cotton batiks.
If you're keeping score, that's three quilts finished so far in 2013. All of them were begun prior to January 1, though.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Phyl's 4 Phaves for February

Since I prefer to write about the books that were especially memorable for me, and since I am reading fewer books on average, I am preserving the alliteration in my title by only mentioning four books this month. Everything else that I read was pretty enjoyable and three of the books books were re-reads so not mentioned here. It was a good month.

4. Promoted: To Wife and Mother by Jessica Hart. TBR Day hostess SuperWendy reviewed this book and her enthusiastic review combined with a most excellent price point for Kindle convinced me to buy this book. I ended up reading it almost right away and I'm glad I did. I'm not going to bother with much description; Wendy does such a good job in her review. I will tell you why I liked it though: hero and heroine in their 40s, teenagers (I have one of my own), dealing with the failing health of a parent, and finding time for romance between job and family responsibilities--that last one is darn hard. I thought Hart put all of these things together so well. I enjoyed the humor and the way Perdita and Ed responded to one another. I don't know whether to love or hate TBR Day. It always costs me money. In this case it was well spent.

3. The Lass Wore Black by Karen Ranney. This book is the sequel to A Scandalous Scot which was a Phave last July. While in many ways this book stands alone quite well, I think it would help to have read ASS before this one because of the backstory involving the heroine, Catriona. In the previous book Catriona is a very beautiful and frivolous young woman who makes some poor decisions. Frankly she wasn't very likeable in that book. As this book opens, she has an unexpected encounter at a party in London with one of those poor decisions. She leaves the party only to suffer a bad carriage accident that leaves her horribly scarred and a shell of her former self. Catriona retreats back to Scotland and moves in with an aunt. Her aunt hires a doctor, the hero Mark, to help Catriona out of her depression. Mark pretends to be a footman at first and doesn't reveal to her that he's a doctor. He challenges Catriona and their encounters help Catriona to essentially see what's most valuable about life. For me, the best part of this book was seeing how Ranney transformed Catriona into a character I liked and respected. I also really liked Mark and the way he comes to understand, and love, Catriona.

2. The Departed by Shiloh Walker. I've deliberately steered away from paranormals lately, but 1) I like Walker's RS books, and 2) I was intrigued by this series of FBI psychics. I meant to read The Missing, which is the first book in the series first, but I accidentally picked this up instead. Fortunately I don't think it mattered. This stood alone just fine. The heroine in this story, Desiree, or Dez, can hear ghosts of those who have not yet crossed over to the other side, or departed. They call to her and Dez helps her team discover the circumstances of the death and bring justice. Her boss is the team's leader, Taylor. Dez and Taylor are attracted to one another, but have never allowed a relationship to develop. But when Dez is shot and nearly killed, Dez and Taylor have a brief and intense encounter while Dez is recovering. But then Taylor pulls back and Dez decides to leave the FBI and strike out on her own. Several months later Dez finds herself pulled to the small town of French Lick, IN, which just so happens to be Taylor's home town. Dez is led by a ghost to save the life of a young woman and then she and Taylor uncover the truth behind the ghost's death. Along the way, Dez helps Taylor solve the mystery behind the disappearance of Taylor's little sister, who had been missing two decades. And of course Dez and Taylor resolve their relationship. I loved the characters and their backstories. The suspense was well done and took an interesting twist at the end. I'm anxious to go back and read The Missing before moving on to the newly released The Reunited.

1. A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan. I had this before Christmas but decided to re-read the previous books in the series before reading this. Milan's books are a treat to read and I suspect I'll re-read them frequently in the years to come. This Christmas novella is the story of Lydia, daughter of a wealthy merchant, and Jonas, a doctor who knows Lydia's deepest secret. Lydia's behavior towards Jonas is often rude because she can't stand to be reminded of what he knows. She's a cheerful person by nature and prefers to put the past behind her. But Jonas has fallen in love and he patiently waits for an opportunity for her to get to know him. I liked his patient pursuit, he's not obnoxious or overbearing. This novella is a wonderful character-driven story and an excellent read whether it's Christmas or not.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow Day

Most of the big snow storms missed us this year by going just to the north or just to the south. Now that it's March and the days are longer, most of us are tired of the cold and ready for spring. Heck, my tulips are starting to come up! But last night we got one of those rare wet and heavy snow storms that made for some pretty pictures this morning. As I write this, the temps have been above freezing for almost 8 hours and with the sunshine it's melting fast.

But my kid got the day off from school and I got a two-hour delay so I could sleep in. I'll take it.