Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Recent Reads

Series, series. Everything is part of a series. I'm pretty sure I've said this before, as has every other blogger, probably.

Several months ago I discovered that my local library has the entire Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh available in audio. I've been listening to them at a rate of about 2 per month and I just finished Blaze of Memory, the 7th book in the series. First, I'm extremely glad I decided to do this re-read. It's been almost nine years since the 1st book, Slave to Sensation, was published and over the years I've forgotten as much as I've remembered. Some books have been more compelling, and thus more memorable than others. Some, like Blaze of Memory have not been so memorable. Case in point, with BoM-- as I listened I knew I'd read it before, but honestly couldn't remember any of it until near the end. And this is kind of important because Singh has carefully built the Psy-Changeling world and each book is full of clues as to what will be coming. When I finally get to listen to the latest book, Shards of Hope, I suspect that some parts of it will make much more sense than they did when I read the book in June. Anyhow, I am enjoying the re-read and the narration by Angela Dawe. Her voice goes a little lower in volume when it goes low for the male lines, which makes it hard to drive with the windows down on the freeway (I hate to use the A/C). But I figure that's on me, not her.

In between Psy-Changeling books I've been listening to Kate Reading read Loretta Chase. OMG, how I love to listen to Kate Reading! She's become my favorite narrator. Anyway, I listened to The Last Hellion and Miss Wonderful. Mr. Impossible and Lord Perfect are on deck. Many readers prefer TLH to Lord of Scoundrels and they may have a point. I had forgotten much of TLH and I think I may even dig out my print copy in the near future. Such an excellent book that had me laughing and crying.

In print I've read more of Beverly Jenkins' Blessings series. I mentioned starting it back in November. I love the concept behind this series because I so, so wish the world were really like this. That more people who had wealth would use it to invest in the lives of others. That we would pay more attention to our elders and benefit from their wisdom, and sometimes, from their mistakes. That we would find a way to help and protect the lost among us, especially children. Henry Adams, KS is not utopia, but it sure sounds like a wonderful place to live.

Fiona Lowe has two books out in a new series set in Medicine River, MT. The most recent book, Truly Madly Montana features a heroine with Type 1 diabetes. From my perspective as a mother of a son with T1, I don't think she could have nailed the diabetes aspect better. I myself struggle with not limiting my son or smothering him with my worries. In TMM, Millie doesn't want people to know she's diabetic because they'll 1) assume she can't take care of herself, and 2) automatically place limits on what she can or cannot do. Lowe covers it all: the blood sugar highs and lows, the tether to an insulin pump, the distraction of a continual glucose monitor, and the fact that a diabetic can't go more than a few hours without thinking about his or her blood sugar. And all of this was packed into a very nicely done romance with a hero who has to let go of his issues and trust Millie to take care of herself.

Finally, once upon a time I loved Anne Stuart's Ice series. I haven't re-read them to see if I'd still feel that way (I kind of suspect not), but I did read the newest book Consumed by Fire. As I understand it, this is more of a spin-off series than a continuation. A few members of "The Committee" are mentioned but don't really have much to do with this book. Anyhow, I don't have much to say about CBF other than the fact that I loved the dog. Otherwise, it's more of the same: the romance is loosely developed and the hero is a jerk.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Solar Eclipse Baby Quilt

It's been a very productive year in my Quilt Cave. This is the 7th quilt I finished so far in 2015. I should point out that I didn't actually start all of those quilts this year. The one I'm about to show you I started last fall for the baby daughter of a friend. Because my friend N. is a very patient woman, I ended up finishing several projects before finally finishing this one.

When N. announced her pregnancy I was often found salivating over Elizabeth Hartman's modern quilts. So I picked the pattern called Solar Eclipse and chose these bright colors that I hoped would complement the peach and grey of the baby's room.
Don't those bolts look pretty stacked up? I texted the picture to N. who gave the thumbs up and I got to work. Here's the end result.
I quilted simple straight lines horizontally, vertically, and then diagonally. Once again using my favorite Aurifil 40 wt. white thread.
 Those blocks are 16", so the quilt is rather large (for a baby quilt), 64" x 48".
By the way, if you didn't click on that link to Hartman's pattern to see her version of the quilt, you should. It's quite striking. So here's that link again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

TBR Day. Fool Me Twice / Meredith Duran. 2014

Meredith Duran's Fool Me Twice is up for an RWA RITA award next weekend in the "Historical Romance: Long" category. I cannot tell you if it deserves to win as I've not read any of the other nominees in this category, but I will say that I liked it well enough that I would be perfectly happy to see it win.

The blurb:
A lady with a secret...
All Olivia wants is the chance to make a home for herself. When she realizes that the infamous Duke of Marwick might hold the key to her freedom, she boldly disguises herself as the newest and bravest in a long line of the temperamental duke’s housekeepers. Little does she know that the wickedly handsome Alastair de Grey has very different plans for her. . . .
A man with a passion . . . for vengeance
Alastair de Grey has suffered a betrayal so deep that he will use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies -- even his brazen and beautiful housekeeper. But his vengeful plan fails to account for his single weakness: an irresistible and growing passion for the enigmatic Olivia...

Olivia seeks a position in the Duke's household because she believes he has some letters that she can use as blackmail against the man who is trying to kill her. Alastair has been living as a recluse since the death of his wife. After her death Alastair discovered that his wife had been betraying him and undermining his work in Parliament. The depth of his self-loathing and humiliation has caused him to withdraw into just 2 rooms of his house. When Olivia shows up hoping to get a job as a maid, the butler, seeing she's qualified for more than being a housemaid, immediately hires her as the housekeeper and soon Olivia finds herself helping Alastair get back on his feet--in part due to compassion and in part to get him out of his rooms so she can search them for the letters she needs.

As I read this, at first I found it hard to understand why Alastair had become the way he was. The depth of his withdrawal seemed out of proportion to what had happened, especially as it became clear that the activities of his late wife had never been made public. But my feelings changed as his character responded to the ways Olivia challenged him again and again. Later, when he discovered Olivia searching his rooms for the letters she needed, his sense of betrayal did seem natural. I really liked the way Duran showed Alastair at war with himself over the betrayal vs. the Olivia he had come to know. The details of Olivia's past and the reason someone sought to kill her emerged slowly over the course of the book. I liked the way that was done and that it kept me engaged and eager to read more.

This book has some beautiful prose and the bulk of the book focuses on Olivia and Alastair--one or both of them were always on the page. There's a book before this, That Scandalous Summer, about Alastair's younger brother. I read it last year, and to be honest, I couldn't remember much about it. Which proves that you don't need to have read it before reading this one.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Paint Chip Challenge 2015

Five years ago I did a paint chip challenge with my sister and the QBFFs. It was so much fun I decided to do it again. As president of my quilt guild this past year I got to issue a quilting challenge to members so I went to Home Depot, picked up a bunch of paint chips and passed them out. (If you're interested, I wrote about it back in October so you can see the rules I passed out with the paint chips.) This is the paint chip that I got:
And here is what I made:
This quilt is from a pattern called Geometric Gradation that I purchased from Geta Grama, a quilter from Romania. She does the most amazing work. I have two of her other patterns I hope to get to one day.

My quilt is smaller than the original pattern because I only collected 8 blue fabrics in the right shades of blue (that pattern calls for 11 rows). This is a great quilt for snuggling on the couch, although right now it looks pretty awesome hanging on the wall.
I quilted it with white 40-wt. Aurifil thread in an all-over meander pattern. Now the trend these days is to get a little lot fancier, but there are times when the simplicity of meandering compliments the simplicity of the quilt top. And it's rather soothing and comfortable to sit down, listen to a good book (SEP's Match Me if You Can if you're curious), and let the rhythm take over. The background is Kona Snow and the blues are an assortment of batiks. It quilted like a dream.

Finally, here is an assortment of some of the other challenge quilts. The lighting was tricky, so I'm sorry some pictures aren't as good as others. I love the variety. Enjoy!