This was a pretty book-rich month because apparently December and January are dead months for pod casts. It was good to be back to reading whole books again. I finished 11 books this month and listened 132 hours and 48 minutes. You will notice numbers by each book title. That's the minute length of the book. Audible tracks listening stats in the app and when I was 100% on Audible those stats were fun to track. Now I listen on Libby and Chirp, along with Audible and I missed the stats. But, hey, I'm an accountant I can track my own stats! It's not important but it's fun for me.
This month has a lot of good books but three books stood out for me. How It Happened was a good find of a new mystery writer and I enjoyed my first Barbara Kingsolver book, Prodigal Summer. In non-fiction I really enjoyed Fortune's Children.
The Nature Fix by Florence Williams - Best I can tell Ms. Williams was completely annoyed to have to leave Colorado for DC so she created a job (writing this book) that would allow her to travel to nature parks all over the world and talk about her disdain for noise. Bottom line: nature is good for you, Ms. Williams is annoying and the narrator is awful.
The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C Rosenberg - I thought I was going to be on to a new spy thriller series. Three hours in and we were still in introductions and I gave up.
What good books did you read this month?
How It Happened (639)
By Michael Koryta, Read By Robert Petkoff and Christine Lakin
I think I've found a new mystery writer to follow! For starters this one is set in Maine and almost covers the entire state. That gets bonus points right away.
Kimbery Crepeaux is a heroine addict, teen mother and basically no good. She has decided to confess to the murders of two local sweethearts and no one believes her. FBI agent, Rob Barrett, specializes in interrogations and believes that she is telling the truth. The only problem is that the bodies aren't where they are supposed to be. When the bodies are found 200 miles away with another person's DNA the case is wrapped up and Rob is assigned to a remote western office. But the young woman's father isn't giving up and eventually drags Rob back to Maine.
I love a good "rural America" story and this is one of those.
Fortune's Children (1085)
By Arthur T Vanderbilt II, Read By Patrick Lawler
Money is good. Money is a helpful tool. Excessive money might not be so good for the families that have it. But it's great for the people and companies that make all the excessive stuff that they buy (houses, boats, jewels....). Rich families just don't seem to be good at holding on to and preserving fortunes for future generations. The Vanderbilt family is a perfect case in point.
This is the story of Cornelius Vanderbilt and how he built one of the largest fortunes in American history and how, by the end of the 3rd generation, it was mostly all gone. To me, the book is full of a lot of dysfunctional and unhappy people obsessed with social standing. It is not just the telling of the story of this family but of that age and what society deemed important during the Gilded Age. It's a pretty fascinating tale if you like family and social histories.
The Long Call (697)
By Ann Cleeves, Read By Ben Aldridge
This is the first in the Two Rivers series with detective Matthew Venn. The story is set in North Devon, England and starts with Matthew standing outside his estranged father's funeral. Matthew had been excommunicated from his family's evangelical community.
While there he is called about a murder victim on a beach nearby. The investigation involves church members and an adult care center where his husband works.
I liked this better than the Vera Stanhope books but less than the Shetland books. This is a new series with only 2 books so far so I expect that I'll read the second one at some point.
By Maggie O'Farrell, Read By Ell Potter
I'm going to preface my comments by telling you that this book has great reviews so I might be totally wrong. It is a fictionalized story of how the death of Shakespeare's son inspired Hamlet. Nothing is really known about Shakespeare's family so this is not historical fiction because there's no documented history to rely on. Shakespeare isn't ever really mentioned by name and his wife's name is changed to Agnes.
The book is full of beautiful prose without much of a story. Imagine if you went through your day and analyzed every single moment for some sort of meaning. That's what this book is like. As an example, one of their daughter's contracted the plague and we are even told the story of the flea that bit her. It's that tedious. I'd say that the story was 11 hours of introduction and 42 minutes of plot.
I almost stopped at 3 hours but decided to trudge on. I regret that time because the next book I started had me hooked right from the beginning.
The Nesting Dolls (749)
By Alina Adams, Read By Nancy Peterson
This is a family saga focusing on 3 generations of a Jewish Russian family. It started in 1930's Odessa and Daria Kaganovitch marrying Edward Gordon, a comparatively wealthy musician. They are Jews and are eventually sent to Siberia with their 2 daughters. Daria and her daughter Natashia are eventually able to escape Russia for Brighton Beach in the 1970's. Next we are taken to 2019 and introduced to Zoe, Natashia's daughter.
I was totally hooked on this book during the telling of Daria's story and I enjoyed Natasha's story as well but once the family moves to the US I felt that it went a bit sideways. There is another character, Julia, who is Natasha's daughter and Zoe's mother. The narrator ruins this part of the story by speaking for Julia with a heavy Russian accent. That doesn't make any sense at all since she was born in the 1970's in the US. There's no way she would have a Russian accent or have "old world" attitudes like she does in the book. Zoe is way too focused on whether or not she is Russian or American. She was born in the late 1990's so that part of the storyline is ridiculous.
So, for me half of this book about Daria and Natashia was really good. The second half was interesting enough but the cultural battles and "old fashoined-ness" of Julia and Zoe's behaviors wasn't realistic. Their storylines were interesting enought to stick with the book but I don't think the characters were all that well developed.
A Man At Arms (560)
By Steven Pressfield, Read By George Guidell
Surprisingly, this is the first Pressfield book that I've ever read. He just had not come on my radar before. This is historical fiction set in the time of Paul The Apostle (AD55).
The Romans hire Telamon, a man-at-arms, to hunt down a letter written by Paul. Telamon is basically an assassin for hire and agrees to the assignment to find the letter and kill the courier. Through the process he has a conversion of his own.
I didn't feel like this was a bible story. I'd describe it as a really good action/adventure story that takes place around biblical events.
Prodigal Summer (946)
By Barbara Kingsolver, Read By Barbara Kingsolver
Here's another author I've never read before! I've almost picked up The Poisonwood Bible a few times but never followed through. I don't know how this particular one came up on my radar but it was available at the local library and I decided to give it a try. I honestly didn't have high hopes since the author is also the reader.
Those of you who are Kingsolver fans already know what I discovered; she writes beautiful prose. This books is like a slow walk in the woods in summer.
There are 3 stories all set in Southwestern Virginia near enough to Damascus and the Appalachian Trail and somewhere between Knoxville and Roanoke. All the rest is fiction. But this is where the author also lives so she knows the landscape, flora and fauna very well and describes it beautifully.
The three stories are intertwined and are brought closer together as the book progresses. The book is about the people and the environment. She clearly has opinions about things like pesticides and killing coyotes but I think that she shows us how we should be discussing things that we disagree on.
The Last Train to Key West (603)
By Chanel Cleeton, Read by a cast
I get some of my book recommendations from Modern Mrs Darcy and that's how this and the next one landed on my reading list.
It turns out that this is the 3rrd book in a series but I didn't know that until I was writing this review so it clearly worked well as a stand-alone book.
The story is set in Key West, Florida in the summer of 1935. It focuses on the stories of 3 women whose paths cross just before and after the great hurricane of 1935. It's historical fiction so the whole book is based in the significant events and tragedies of that hurricane. I had never heard of that one before but I just said "1935 hurricane" to my resident weather geek and was treated to a mini-Wikipedia lesson.
This book doesn't have the mastery of prose of the Kingsolver book but it has a lot more story.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven (755)
By Chris Cleave, Read By Luke Thompson
This book is another that was on the Modern Mrs Darcy list of books that have stood the test of time. Both of these books were good for me but neither would make it on a top 12 list.
This one is set in London between 1930 and 1942. It's another in my favorite WWII genre of books. Mary North leaves finishing school and goes to the War Office to sign up. Tom Shaw and Alistair Heath are roommates trying to decide what to do.
Mary is befuddled to be assigned to be a teacher and before the children can all be shipped out to the countryside she is fired. Tom is basically the superintendent of a vacant school district in London and begs Tom to allow her to teach the children left behind. Tom falls in love with Mary and will do anything to make her happy. Meanwhile, art restorer, Alistair enlists and is sent to Malta which is constantly under attack.
It's a pretty typical WWII story of love, loss, survival and dramatic changes and how each character navigates the threats and disaster around them. It was a good book with a few flat subplots but a great exploration of British fortitude.
By C.J. Box, Read By David Chandler (571)
This is #21 in the Joe Pickett series and I selected it because both of the DNF books above were right before this one. I needed an easy (and reliable) listen. I love David Chandler as the narrator of these books and I always love the appearance of Nate Romanowski, the falconer.
In this story Box is imposing technology on the aging (51 is young to me) Joe Pickett. He's been asked to take a Silicon Valley tech CEO on an elk hunt. (Think Mark Zuckerberg going hunting.) Some people don't like "Steve 2" so the hunt doesn't go as planned.
There's also an interesting side story around Nate's falcons that seems to be set up for another book. It's not great literature but it's a good story with interesting characters and strong men and women accustomed to living in the natural world.
Florida Roadkill (621)
By Tim Dorsey, Read By George Wilson
I had no idea that there was "another" Carl Haissen or Christopher Moore but it turns out hat Tim Dorsey has been writing about Serge A. Storm since the 1990's and the series is now 25 nooks long.
Serge A. Storm is a highly energetic psychopath who has a unique sense of justice. Like Hiaasen, these books are all set in Florida and they are similarly insane.
If you are even moderately offended these books are not for you. Dorsey insults everyone and it's 100% politically incorrect. This book would have been politically incorrect the year it was written. It might not be published today since we have become so very tender and humorless.
But if you can stomach it, it's a funny book. The story takes a bit to get into as he introduces all of the morally corrupt characters and his target industry: insurance.
This is the kind of book that Chris and I like to listen to on road trips so I expect to get through the second book in February.
Working on the vulture quilt
I'm late posting today. Yesterday was dyeing day and I didn't really work on anything. But I've been in the sewing room for a while today so far and I'm making progress on the borders of the vulture quilt.
I've gotten the top and bottom borders on (see the dark brown narrow sashing) and I've trimmed the side borders.
My friend gave me all of her leftover stamped fabrics so I'm now working on the 4 corner blocks. When I get this done I'll do a post to tell you more about the quilt and how I added the borders.
My goal is to get this dome this weekend. I have some errands to run tomorrow but I can spend the rest of my free time working to get this done. If I have time I'll pull fabric for my next set of placemats.
Before quitting for the night last night I got my 4 corner blocks made and attached to the side borders. After I get home from errands today I should be able to get the borders attached and that will leave binding for tomorrow. Woohoo!
As I was about to leave the sewing room I decided to take a few minutes and pull some fabrics to go with the dyed napkins. I'll have these out to think about some design ideas. The ones on the right will probably wind up as a gift set if all that pink stays in the mix.
Hopefully this weekend I'll have some time to start quilting the tree skirt but there are games on Sunday so we know that will be a crochet day for sure. I think that the big blanket will be done soon. I'm on the last 2 balls of yarn.
A crochet update
There was a lot of good football this past weekend and we had friends over both days to watch the games. that means that I did a mot more crochet than quilting. I was able to get this project done! This is a pretty big cape and that's what I was going for. I have to be careful and not make all of my donation shawls and capes in essentially child size to fit me. (Yes, I do shop sometimes in the boys department. It's a good place for short people.) Anyway, back to the shawl. The yarn is Mandala Tweed and I used 2 cakes of it. It's 100% acrylic and I used a J hook. The pattern was from Etsy.
It's a fine pattern and I think this style is perfect for a wheelchair shawl but the yoke is all back loop single crochet and it took FOREVER! I also think that this pattern has some math errors on the increase rows but we'll assume operator error for now. The yoke has all of the increases and once you start the shell pattern it's straight and goes really fast. I stitched until I ran out of yarn because I don't like leftovers. I am thinking that I might try to recalculate the pattern increases and rows using half double crochet so it will go faster. One the yoke is set you can do almost anything for the lower half.
Here are a couple of close ups of the buttons and stitches. I love the buttons with this yarn . I have a pretty phenomenal button collection that I was glad to finally use again.
The big blanket is coming along really well too. I think I have enough yarn to do 3 more white sections and then it will be about 60" long. This is turning into a surprisingly nice blanket!
You will notice that there isn't an update on the dark blue duster. That project is not working out well. The dark speckled yarn with the fancy stitches isn't a good combo and it's just annoying to work on. I've found a couple of other patterns that I think might work better but I'm also pondering skipping to a summer top pattern for my first garment and work on the duster in the summer. By the time I would get the duster done it would be time to put it away.
But I can only work on the heavy blanket for so long before my hands get fatigued so I pulled out this yarn that I bought on clearance in June (for $1.24/skein!) and started a corner to corner. I have 7 skeins so I will either do 2 wheelchair blankets or one dialysis/chemo blanket. This yarn is so soft and easy to work with and I like how it's looking in corner-to-corner.
This week I have 11 new Stars fabrics in the shop. Stars are 1 yard cuts that read as solid. I started creating them when customers asked for binding fabrics. But they are used for all sorts of things. Need a bigger piece of blue for a deep blue sea? Check out the Stars. Need a bigger cut of trees for your forest? Maybe a Star fabric will be your answer. They are even great for whole cloth quilts.
Black is back!
I spent a long time working out a recipe for a black dye that would gradate to light shades of gray. Most blacks gradate with significant brown or blue tones. This black creates beautiful shades of true light gray. Because black is so strong I created the Black Shades Packs in 8 steps so that you get the lighter shades. I apologize that these have been out of stock for several weeks but both Fat Quarter and Half Yard sets are now back in stock!
Stephanie Wilds uses the Black Shades Pack in her fabric portraits.
Fabric of the Week
With the new Stars fabrics in the shop there are now over 30 Stars fabrics to choose from! This week they are all on sale 20% off! The sale ends Sunday so get yours soon!
All STARS are 20% off through Sunday!
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.