I started off 2023 with 10 books this month and only one DNF book. I took a trip down audiobook memory lane by re-listening to one of my earliest audiobooks, The Razor's Edge. I read it so long ago that I didn't remember any of it. I can barely remember what I read last week so that wasn't a surprise. I remember liking W. Somerset Maugham and I enjoyed it the second time around.
I don't have any strong favorites and I don't have any strong dislikes. It was a good month of reading and it's all fiction this month. Maybe you will find something intriguing on this list for your next read. I hope you will leave me some suggestions of books that you have enjoyed this month.
The War of Jenkins' Ear by Robert Gaudi - This one is for hard core historians. It didn't hold my interest.
Their Last Secret
By Rick Mofina, Read By Jennifer Jill Araya
This is the second book by Mofina that I've read and this one was better than the last. It's an interesting plot.
20 years ago Janie Klassen and 2 friend were involved in the brutal murder of a wealthy family in a town in Canada.
Now she's a school counselor in California and recently married to a popular crime writer. She finds a note on her car referencing the 20th anniversary. She's being followed and her husband has, unknowingly, decided that his next book will be about the murders in her town.
It's not a gripping "mystery" because there's not much of a mystery there but it's got enough drama and an interesting premise.
By Jason Pinter, Read By Angela Dawe
This is the 1st book in a new-to-me series. Rachel is a single mother of 2 young children who leads a quiet suburban life. No one suspects the tragedy that hit her family several years ago.
In her new life a former mayor is found dead on a frozen river. Everyone thinks that she killed herself but Rachel has done the math and knows that's impossible. She butts into the investigation and now the killer and the investigators aren't happy with her.
It's a very fast-paced investigative novel. I'd read more in this series for sure.
By Stuart Woods, Ready By Tony Roberts
I picked this book because Mom and I needed a 6 hour read for a day trip. This one fit the bill. This is the 62nd (!) book in the Stone Barrington series. I read some of this series several years ago.
Stone Barrington is a lawyer and has a new client. She's the extremely wealthy aunt of his assistant. Stone is helping her write a new will and set up a trust for her step-son. The step-son is spoiled, irresponsible and threatening to his step-mother.
It was a fast paced read that was great for a car ride. With the short length the plot could only get so complex but we both enjoyed it.
By Alice Feeney, Read By Stephanie Racine
Daisy Darker and her family have been estranged for years but the matriarch has asked everyone to come home for her 80th birthday. The homeplace is on a tidal land that is cut off from the mainland except during low tide. At midnight Nana is found dead in the kitchen. An hour later another family member is found dead. It's 6 hours until the tide recedes and everyone can get off the island.
I can't give away the plot twist but I will say that it has a big twist that would normally be a turn-off for me in a book. But I actually enjoyed this book. The whole thing takes place over about 6 hours and I couldn't put it down. It's a very "not me" book but shows that we need to try different books from time to time.
The Family Remains
By Lisa Jewell, Read by a cast
Lisa Jewell dreams up some really messed up family situations. In fact, I'd say she's an expert at the dysfunctional family novel. They are part mystery and part messed up family dynamics.
This one is a sequel to The Family Upstairs and I do recommend reading them in order. Unfortunately I read the first one 2 years ago and forgot bits of it. It eventually all came back to me as I was reading this one.
The bones of a missing woman are found on the shores of the Thames. She's been missing about 30 years and she was connected to a house where 3 people were found dead in an apparent cult suicide pact around the same time and the girl went missing. Got all that?
That house remained vacant for 25 year until the heir, an infant at the time, is found and can inherit it. So this book is about wrapping up the stories of the children from the first book. Then there's a separate storyline that seems really random until near the end and, when it comes together you kind of wonder what the purpose of all that was.
I was totally sucked into the book and finished it pretty quickly but once it was over I was a little perplexed by it all. If you like Lisa Jewell, it's pretty classic Lisa Jewell just a little more unhinged in my opinion.
The Razor's Edge
By W. Somerset Maugham, Read By Michael Page
I first started listening to audiobooks in the late 1980's when I was commuting to DC from Norfolk weekly. Back then they were cassette tapes and came in the mail in cardboard boxes. I remember when they switched to CDs and they had a big sale on the cassette versions. I bought tons of them really cheap and that kept me in books for months.
At first there wasn't the kind of extensive catalog that Audible has now so I got to read a lot of classics and one writer that I really enjoyed was W. Somerset Maugham. The Razor's Edge popped up somewhere recently and I decided to give it another listen. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
This book was first published in 1942 and is set in the time right after WWI and before WWII. Larry Darrell served in the war and returned a changed man. He's engaged to the beautiful Isabel but he can't seem to settle down. There are too many questions in his mind and it sends him to Paris to study philosophy, to an Ashram, a monastery and to work in a coal mine. Meanwhile we also follow the life of Isabel without Larry.
An interesting aspect of this book is that it's told from the POV of a third party. That, in itself, isn't unique but the third party is Maugham himself. It's a good read.
If you want to go down an interesting rabbit hole check out this obituary of Duvall Hecht, the founder of Books on Tape. Writing this review made me wonder how Books on Tape started. I'm glad I followed that thread. Hecht was a very interesting man.
By William Kent Krueger, Read By David Chandler
This is #17 in the Cork O'Connor series. If you would like a book that it told in the age we live in but isn't overridden by the author's politics then this is the book for you. Are you cynical about government? Don't believe much of anything you hear? Someone who believes that right will win in the end? Any and all of you will be happy with this one.
A progressive Senator representing the area is flying in to speak at a local meeting. Her plane crashes and everyone aboard is killed. A surprising array of alphabet agencies descend on Aurora to figure out what went wrong.
Stephen, Cork's son, sees visions and they generally aren't pleasant. Several books back he saw a vision of his own mother's death. This story starts out with another of his visions and it seems related to the plane crash.
These books are fast paced and a fun read/listen.
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
By Jennifer Ryan, Read by Sophie Robert
This book came to me as a recommendation from Carole. I'd call it a mix of historical fiction and light romance and it was a good read for me when I needed something light but interesting.
It's WWII and Cressida Westcott has lost her home and fashion design business in the blitz. She has no option but to return to her family home that's now occupied by her nephew and niece, Violet Westcott. Violet is a debutante solely focused on finding an appropriate husband from the dwindling supply. The third main character is Grace Carlisle. She's the vicar's daughter and is trying to repair her mother's badly-damaged wedding dress to wear for her own upcoming nuptials.
These three come together at the local sewing circle where ladies meet to make items for the soldiers and repair/remake clothing for local residents. The group works to repair Grace's dress and get the idea to have a wedding dress exchange for brides that aren't allowed to purchase new dresses during the war. This part of the story is based on actual wedding dress exchanges that occurred during the war and many American women even shipped over their own dresses for the cause.
It was a fun read and a nice break from my usual fare.
The Arsonists' City
By Hala Alyan, Read By Leila Buck
The Nasr family immigrated from Lebanon and all of their children were born in America. The children are now adults and the family is spread from California to Texas, New York and Beirut. Now the patriarch wants to sell the family home in Beirut and all of the family is expected to spend the summer there.
Everyone has secrets and they have all grown apart with the distance. The book is a generational family saga set among real events. I thought that the character development was really well done. You really do get to know the characters and you like them better or less as their lives develop. I really enjoyed the different settings and cultural references.
The Lightkeeper's Daughter
By Hazel Gaynor, Read By Imogen Church
This is a novel based on the life of Grace Darling and while Grace's story is an interesting one I didn't find the re-telling of it to be all that interesting.
The book is meant to be a tribute to Grace and female lightkeepers through history. It features three women, Grace (1838) and Harriett and Matilda (1938). Matilda is a 19 year old pregnant Irish girl who is sent to Rhode Island to live with a relative until her baby is born. Harriett is a lighthouse keeper who lost her 16 year old daughter to a storm several years ago. Grace and a woman she helped save, Sarah Dawson, are real people. Matilda will learn of her connection to Sarah and Grace through a portrait that she find at the Rhode Island lighthouse.
The book explores their connections and their lives as lighthouse keepers. The problem with the book is that all of the characters are the same. All of the women are long-suffering, stare-into-the-distance types who are dedicated to their lighthouses above all else, even the chance for love. You hardly know you are jumping back and forward in time because the storylines are so similar and the women all have the same overriding angst. The men in the book are just supporting cast and all of the characters are kind of flat. Everything was flat, even the scenery. I didn't connect to one character or place and I love the shore and lighthouses. The narration exhausted me. I think Imogen Church narrated the story as it was meant to be portrayed but it was too plodding for me.
This is my last finish of January. I quilt the veterans quilts insets of 2 and one of the one that I quilted this weekend was one of my own quilts. I made two in this simple pattern with 6" half square triangles. I'm very excited to have 6 veterans quilts made already for 2023. Of course 5 of them were started in 2022. But my goal is to make 10 veterans quilts of my own every year and I might have to make a bigger goal.
The other quilt I quilted is this one made by Betsy.
Betsy's piecing is so meticulous that all of the red pieces are oriented the same. There's not one exception.
I pulled out one of my old classic pantographs for these. It's called Square Spiral and it's still one of my favorite textures, especially for masculine quilts. I've got 4 more veterans quilts to quilt this week and I'll use the same pattern on all of them.
I started another project this week by washing this vintage baby quilt. I want to track this project separately so I'll go into the background and plans for this quilt later. But I got it washed this weekend as the first step.
The other thing I did this weekend was try out a gluten free biscuit recipe from the Cannelle et Vanille cookbook. They might not look like much to you but they were delicious to me. In the cookbook these biscuits have sauteed onions in them. I left that out so that I'd get plain biscuits. They aren't like wheat biscuits but they are good and Chris even liked them.
Sunday was spent with friends watching the football games and I'm so excited that the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl!
Yesterday was crochet day for me. We had our From The Heart group meeting in Ashland in the afternoon. I took this blanket to work on since it will ultimately be donated to FTH. I got the top dark green stripe done and the next light section started. I sure hope that most of this yarn is gone when I finish this large blanket. It is looking pretty good though. I think someone will like it.
It seems like a good time to check in on all of the crochet projects because if I'm going to get one bag out to photograph I can get them all out.
I have a hat bag that I use for taking to meetings or to have in the car and I've been working on some masculine chemo hats. I like Lion Brand Feels Like Butta (and the Yarn Bee and Premier equivalents) for chemo hats. I makes such a soft hat that's perfect for tender skin. I also like Lion Brand Mandala Ombre and I think I will be able to get 2 hats out of one ball. This is a new pattern for me and it makes a slouchy style hat. It's a larger size hat for larger heads and I like the look of it a lot. It's the Brimless Beanie and it's free on Ravelry.
Remember a couple of years ago when I said I was only going to have one project at a time? Pfft. Forget all that!
Project number 3 is another of the big blankets that I've been making for family members. I don't have a recipient identified for this one but it's great to work on in the winter to cover my legs while I stitch away.
Finally, after some time in crochet purgatory, my hexagon sweater is back in the rotation. It's not turning out perfect but it is going to be wearable and I'm learning a lot. I have to sew the center back, add the bottom band and the neck band. It's getting close!
I usually rotate the projects every day. It's going to be interesting to see what happens with my crochet time now that football season is coming to the end. We don't have a habit of watching much TV but I do like to wind down with some productive sitting at the end of the day. No reason I can't continue that habit with my audiobooks.
Yesterday was dyeing day but it was also "finish the stars" day. I got the last 2 rows of stars quilted and I've taken this quilt off until I finish my botanicals quilting class in a few weeks. This weekend I hope to get 2 veterans quilts quilted and then get started on some of the small lap quilts. I'll use them to practice my botanical quilting before I get back to this quilt.
I think you can see the quilting in the stars on this block.
Last night I got the rest of my scrap batting pieced and cut for the lap quilts. I think I have batting for over 20 quilts and that's plenty to get me started. It sure did clear up a lot of space on my batting shelves in the basement.
Today is my knit/crochet group at the library so I'll have a crochet project update tomorrow.
I haven't accomplished much over the last 2 days except for these 2 new lap quilt tops. The red in the photo is actually more of a fuschia pink. But the overriding vibrancy is the same. I sure hope some child likes these! I need to make 2 more in this color palette and then I can move on to some blues. These bring my total to 8 (of an estimated 28).
I also spent too many hours getting and setting up my new phone. I have to re-download all of my audiobooks but everything else transferred over. There's just a lot of checking and changing settings. I don't know about you but buying a phone is about as exciting as buying a microwave. It's mostly annoying. Hopefully I can keep from dropping this one and it will last more than 3 years.
There hasn't been anymore quilting on Mom's quilt but I sort of have a plan for finishing it. I decided that I want to do some sort of floral motifs in the green areas but I don't have any experience with freehand florals. Then I received a notification for a new online quilting class by Bethanne Nemesh called Blooming Botanicals. Perfect! I took her feathers class a couple of years ago and it was one of the best classes I have ever taken. For this one I can use some of the lap quilts for practice and then finish off on Mom's quilt. So I'll finish the stars on Mom's quilt and then take it off for a few weeks. I should be able to squeeze in a couple of veterans quilts before I start practicing on the lap quilt.
I'm not sure how much will get done this weekend. We are going to visit a friend in Charlottesville Sunday to watch my Eagles play so I'll only have Saturday to get some things done. But I have the rest of this week and no more phones to set up.
New Stash Pack!
I'm feeling the cold and gloom of winter this month so I had to bring some visual warmth to the dye studio last week and here's the result. It was great therapy! This pack was inspired by a previous pack in similar colors but once it was done it reminded me of some flowers I loved in my Grandmother's garden. I always loved the velvety texture of these particular flowers. It was many years later that I learned that those flowers were called Celosia so that's the name of this new Stash Pack. Celosia Stash Pack is a blend do purples, oranges and reds to bring a lot of variety to your fabric garden.
Every Stash Pack has 10 fat eighths of fabrics in a variety of color combinations and color texture. I love them for scrappy style quilts but I think most people use them for elements in art quilts. You can use them any way you want!
Each Stash Pack has 5 streaky fabrics and 5 mottled fabrics. Here are larger views of 6 of the fabrics. The fabrics you receive will not look exactly like these but they will be these colors and general textures. I dye 2 yards of each fabric in the collection and the nature of dyeing fabric like this means that there's lots of variety over that 2 yards. Each fat eighth is a gem on it's own. There are so many possibilities for fussy cutting applique or landscape elements.
Back In Stock
More warmth and sunshine is back with the Trumpet Vine Gradient. It's a hot gradient from deep gold to red and would work great for flower petals, autumn leaves or a sunrise background for your next landscape.
Fabric of the Week
The fabric of the week this week is the Poppy Shades Pack. This color is being discontinued so get it while it lasts! For this pack, if you order multiples you will receive multiple fat quarter packs, not continuous yardage.
I didn't have to leave the house all weekend except to go outside and stack some wood. That is a pretty good sign of a nice weekend. One of my accomplishments was getting 2 more rows of stars quilted on Mom's quilt. If not for 4 football games (Fly Eagles Fly) I probably would have finished the last 2 rows of stars but I'll have then done by Wednesday.
I also made some progress on my small lap quilts. The next set was for this backing fabric. I have enough of it for 2 quilts.
I'm really pleased with these 2 plaid-looking quilt tops. I'll make some more in this style for sure. I think they could use these for either lap quilts for kids or wheelchair quilts for adults.
The next set of quilts will be for this wild, bright back. I've had this fabric for a number of years. I remember buying it at a quilt show. The vendor had a bunch of these 4-yard pieces for a real bargain. I used one of them and this one has been languishing in my stash for a long time. I think it's perfect for some bright lap quilts for children. I've got the strips ready for the first quilt.
In between I got all of my batting scraps out and started cutting them down and piecing bits into the lap quilt sizes.
So far I've got about a dozen batts ready for the little quilts and plenty of batting to still work through.
I did all of my quilting and sewing this weekend wearing my new hiking boots. It seemed a little ridiculous but I wanted to wear them and make sure they didn't cause any rub spots and I wanted to keep them clean in case I needed to return them. After two days of wear, they seem like they are going to work out perfectly. They are really comfortable. If anyone cares they are Merrell MOAB 3. It's the first pair of Merrell shoes that have ever fit me. Next up will be a long walk in the neighborhood and then off to a local 3 mile hiking trail. that should get them ready for our next hiking adventures.
This week will be more little lap quilts, more quilting on Mom's quilt and some crochet. I also hope to pick up my new phone on Friday.
This week's inspiration is an art quilt by Wendy Tuma. It was a challenge quilt made for an art quilt group. The challenge theme was Animal Kingdom. The chicken's "floof" was made from trimmings from another quilt stitched onto water-soluble stabilizer. The background is the On The Horizon Gradient.
You can read more about it and see more photos on Wendy's blog.
For sharing, Wendy received a 20% coupon for the shop that's good for 3 months! If you have made anything with my hand dyed fabric I hope you will consider sharing it in the Customer Gallery. The only rule is that projects have to be complete. It doesn't have to be made totally from hand dyed fabric, just include a recognizable amount.
Yesterday was mostly an errand day is it worked out like most errand days. I need a new phone and made my second trip to Best Buy to get one. Picked one out and now I get to go back next week to get it because they didn't have it in stock. . Then I went to DSW to get some new sneakers. I came home with new hiking boots but no sneakers. Then I went to Kroger to use a gift card and proceeded to use my debit card at checkout instead! It was a typical errand day with varying rates of success. I am pretty excited about the hiking boots though. I've been shopping for them since September. I can't wait to go try them out.
Before and after shopping I actually got some sewing and quilting done.'
The little lap quilts are going to come together so fast! Between Wednesday evening and yesterday morning I finished 3 more tops. These 4 will be for the butterfly print fabric as backing. I can already tell that I'm just going to power through these tops. Who knows when they will get quilted but they are way too much fun to piece. I'll probably try to gather some of my batting options this weekend and pair up some batting with each set of quilt top/backs.
After running errands I got to spend some time in the basement washing out fabrics and quilting 8 more stars. I think I'm 1/3 done with the star motifs and borders. I'm going to have to get cracking coming up with my plan for quilting the green areas.
These 2 projects are basically my plans for the weekend after I meet up with some friends this evening. I hope you have a fun weekend doing whatever you love doing.
I think I showed you this photo last week. It's a quilt that Mom made and I've had it here ready to quilt for a couple (or a few) months. I got it loaded last week and had been pondering design ideas for a few days. I knew that the quilting in the print fabrics would not show so I just needed something kind of simple there. Mom wants me to do something in the green to "tone it down". I think I want to do a design that ignores the sashing and I don't want to do too much quilting so that it stays soft to use as a bed quilt. I'm still pondering that.
No quilting is going to show up on that batting fabric either so the quilting design doesn't need to consider what it will look like on the back. That fabric is one that I purchased for another quilt but I didn't like it. It works for Mom's quilt really well and it will hide every conceivable quilting mistake.
Before I commenced quilting the stars and border I opted to add some extra basting in the green areas so that I don't distort it too much with the quilting I was about to do.
As I usually do when I'm undecided, I go to my comfort zone where life is all about ruler work. For this piecing technique Mom presses her seams open so stitch-in-the-ditch wasn't an option. I also didn't want to build up a lot of stitches in the center so I started with a little circle and am doing some simple ruler work patterns in each petal.
Now that I've done a few of them, this goes along pretty quickly. that's good because I've only finished 4 of 36 so far.
The outside border is a simple piano key and I'll do it as I roll the quilt forward. I expect to have some quality quilting time between today and Monday.
Maybe by then I'll have figured out something for the green areas. You are welcome to shout out ideas in the comments of you want.
If all goes well today, I'll have a new phone by this evening. I've dropped mine so many times that it sometimes doesn't like connecting to bluetooth or the wifi. I think it's time for a replacement.
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In Bloglovin you need to search "Colorways By Vicki Welsh" to find the blog.
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.