April Book Reviews
I have lots of mysteries on my reading list for this month. There are also 3 non-fiction books and my favorite, The Warburgs by Ron Chernow, should count as 3 because it's very long. Of the fiction books, Strangler Vine (historical fiction) was the biggest positive surprise and I loved meeting up with John Wells, Nathan Heller, Harry Bosch and Will Trent again.
Please let me know in the comments of any great books that you read this month and you are always welcome to post a review with an opinion opposite of mine. Sometimes a book is good or bad simply based on the timing of when we read it.
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil
By Tom Mueller, Narrated by Peter Ganim
I like nonfiction books on esoteric topics and this one seemed like a good candidate. I can’t actually eat olive oil but before I knew about my chlorophyll allergy I loved olives and olive oil. The book is generally interesting but it’s not well organized and you feel like every chapter is just a retelling of the points of the previous chapter but with different examples. What I learned is that the olive oil industry is rife with fraud and that most of the oil we buy in the stores isn’t pure olive oil at all. It explains why I have difficulty sometimes with my olive oil based soaps. There’s no assuring that the oil is olive and therefore the saponification value of the oil could be anything. He shares a lot of information on the miraculous health benefits of olive oil but then proves, once again, that we can’t rely in that either. Many of the processing steps that some bottlers go through completely kill the beneficial elements of the oil. Unless you are buying your olive oil close to the olive grove you are probably wasting your money. That pretty much sums up the book.
By Harry Farthing, Narrated by Harry Farthing
This book is about 2 attempted climbs of Mt. Everest. One is in 2009 and one in 1939. I actually stopped listening to the book after the 4th hour because it was kind of boring. I then listened to Extra Virginity and figured that if I could make it through EV then I could make it through The Summit and I did. The story is actually pretty good and I liked the ending although it was pretty unbelievable. This book has gotten widespread rave reviews so take my ambivalence with a grain of salt or a teaspoon of olive oil. I guess that mountain climbing isn't that interesting to me.
One thing that hurt this book was the narration. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either. Authors should never narrate their own books.
True Crime: Nathan Heller Series
By Max Allen Collins, Narrated by Dan John Miller
This is the second in the very entertaining Nathan Heller series. These books are set in Depression Era Chicago and the stories revolve around real criminals, real cops and real feds. The author interjects Nathan Heller into the stories and offers some alternative theories about what really happened. Max Allen Collins was one of the writers for the Dick Tracy comic book series and you can see our hero, Detective Nathan Heller as a Tracy type. The narration is great and you feel the you have been set perfectly into that era. This is the second in the series and revolves around the death of John Dillinger outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. It’s a fun read.
The Silent Man
By Alex Berenson, Narrated by George Guidall
This is the 3rd book in the John Wells series. John is a semi-rogue CIA operative who is being hunted by his nemesis from book #2 and now tracking down new threats in this book. If you like international intrigue that is fast paced with lots of action, these books are for you.
I'm way behind on this series. This is only book #3 of 11.
I also love George Guidall as a narrator.
by Ron Chernow, Narrated by jonathan Reese
You have to like long biographies to want to read this book but I love long biographies about families and I loved this one. The publisher's summary best describes the book:
"Bankers, philanthropists, scholars, socialites, artists, and politicians, the Warburgs stood at the pinnacle of German (and, later, German American) Jewry. They forged economic dynasties, built mansions and estates, assembled libraries, endowed charities, and advised a German kaiser and two American presidents. But their very success made the Warburgs lightning rods for anti-Semitism, and their sense of patriotism became increasingly dangerous in a Germany that had declared Jews the enemy."
This is a fascinating family story and world financial history story. If you like Ron Chernow, you'll love this one too and Jonathan Reese does an excellent job with the narration.
If Every I Return, Pretty Peggy-O
by Sharyn McCrumb, Narrated by Sally Darling
This book was recommended to me by a friend. It's the first in a series of books set in rural Tennessee and this one is set in 1986 on the eve of the 20th class reunion for the class of 1966. Also, new in town is famous folk singer Peggy Muryan and a series of crimes have started that seem to be inspired by her songs.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it's a little slow moving but it seems about right for the time and place. It's in the mystery genre but it's really more about people, their relationships and the baggage that they carry through life. This one is all about Vietnam baggage. I don't meant that in any derogatory way. We all have baggage of some sort and in this book it's mostly about Vietnam.
The fun part of this book for me was the narrator. She had a perfect Southern accent. In fact she sounded just like my college roommate's mom, Hilda. I could listen to Hilda talk for house and I can say the same for Sally Darling. I think I listened to this book as much to hear her talk as anything else and I'll likely give the second book in the series a try.
The Black Box
by Michael Connelly, narrated by Michael McConnohie
This is the 18th book in the Harry Bosch series. I love the character, Harry, and have enjoyed all of the books in this series. Harry is now back at the LAPD working in the cold case department and has one from the LA riots that's 20 years old. The victim is a beautiful blonde foreign correspondent. He remembers taking the call that night but they had less than 30 minutes at each crime site during the riots.Now he's taking another look.
It's a good plot line but I didn't think this was one of the best in the Bosch series. Frankly I'm not confident that Michael Connelly actually wrote it. I know that after series mature that some authors bring in other writers and this has that fee. My issue could have also been the narrator. Michael McConnohie is fine but Len Cariou is the voice of Harry Bosch in my head and it was difficult to make the transition.
All the criticism aside, it's still a fun and fast paced Harry Bosch book and I enjoyed it.
by Thomas F Madden, Narrated by Eduardo Ballerini
I was looking forward to this book because I loved Istanbul by the same author. This one sort of got interesting around hour 4 but then got dull again and I just had to give up by hour 9.
Overall reviews for this book are excellent so if you think it's a topic that would be of interest to you then you should ignore my opinion and give it a try.
The 7th Canon
by Robert Dugoni, Narrated by James Patrick Cronin
Robert Dugoni is becoming one of my favorite mystery/crime writers. I really enjoy his Tracey Crosswhite series. In this one Father Thomas Martin runs a home for street boys. One of them is killed in the home and Martin is accused. Young Attorney Peter Donley must defend him and the only way he can is by figuring out who the real killer is.
It's fast paced with a good assortment of characters. This could easily become a series based on Donley and his detective. Some reviewers point out some messiness with certain facts about the Catholic religion but it didn't take away from the story for me.
The Kept Woman
by Karin Slaughter, Narrated by Kathleen Early
This is the 8th and most recent book in the Will Trent series. Will is an investigator in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and he carries a lot of baggage from his disturbing childhood. His love, Sara Linton, is the medical examiner for the GBI. The other major character is Angie, Will's childhood friend/tormentor and estranged wife. She's seriously nuts.
In this book Will had been investigating a rape charge against an NBA star and later the murder of an ex-cop. It's a complex mystery where everything ties together and there's a personal link to Will's past. It's a good story that I was glued to until the end.
My only beef with Karin Slaughter is that the relationship between Will and Sara and Will and Angie seems to never progress. These are people who deal with death and danger every day and yet, in their relationships they often act like 7th graders. Some of their communications are out of character. But I can take that to have the wonderfully complex mystery.
The Strangler Vine
by MJ Carter, Narrated by Alex Wyndham
This book was, I believe, another Audible Daily Deal and it was quite the deal!
Set in India in 1837, William Avery and Jeremiah Blake are sent on a mission to find a lost British author. The assignment takes them on an amazing and dangerous adventure where they end up in the mysterious Thugee cult/cast and the East India Company's attempt to quash the group. Yes, this is the source of our word "thug". Even if you don't read the book it's fun to look up "thug" in Wikipedia for a summary history of the group and word. This book is adventure and mystery and if you like historical fiction you will like this one.
Rainbow River City Postcards
Seeing as these are made from garbage I think they turned out pretty cute! Here's a little background on how these cards came about. First you have to start back on April 7 when I was pondering cards from 2 piles of fabric trash. Go ahead, check that out and I'll wait for you here.
I ended that day with 2 possible designs and I liked the rainbow city best but wanted a different sky.
I pulled some of my "waste" fabric from dyeing the Blue Sky Gradient and fused that to my card base as a starting point. I decided how deep I wanted my river and drew a pencil line. They I started arranging the buildings making sure that the bottom of the buildings went below the drawn line. I don't know why I stitched them with parallel line but it was easy and I liked the way it looked. Every postcard has one pointy building because I had a lot of little bits with triangle points.
Next I fused some dark blue fabric with Mistyfuse and then cut strips to fuse to the cards. I stitched through all layers with horizontal parallel lines making the lines closer together at the city edge. I really love Mistyfuse for my postcards because it doesn't add any bulk or stickiness. The hard it is for the needle to get through the layers the more likely you are to have problems sewing with some of the specialty threads.
This is Superior Glitter thread and it can certainly be persnickety, hence the Mistyfuse. I have at least 14 (out of 24) colors in this line and I love the holographic sparkle that it adds. I use it a lot on postcards and this blue is probably the color I use most often.
After I finished that I fused backs on to the cards and then stitched around the edges. I did the water part in dark blue and the top part in light blue.
Look at that perfect sky match! Remember my Thread Confessions? This is one of the acrylic threads that I bough YEARS ago at a deep discount. This particular cone had never been opened until this week. What would I have done without that absolutely perfect match?
This is why we have thread (and fabric) collections. They are absolutely necessary.
I stitch my postcard edges with a zig zag stitch set at 4.0 wide and .2 length. For these I put the same thread in the top and bobbin.
I did not let my 2 sample cards go to waste either. I finished both off. One is in the mail to a friend for a birthday card and the other will go to our Airbnb guest arriving tomorrow. Counting these 2 I made a total of 13 cards.
Fixing glass disasters
So last week I shared some of my recent glass disasters. Today I have updates on a couple of the projects.
Remember this iridized bubble plate? I messed it up by fusing it on shelf paper instead of just straight in a prepared kiln shelf.
I decided to see if I could fix it by just fusing it again directly on the kiln shelf. You can see here that most everything else is on shelf paper.
It worked! Now I can slump this piece and finish it up. It's going to be a beautiful dish.
I haven't flattened out the orange plate yet to fix it. If you look in the kiln photo you see a small piece with green bubble shapes. That's a dish that I put into this firing just to see if I'll have any problems flattening the orange dish. That also worked well so I can tackle the orange dish next.
The third disaster was this quilt block suncatcher where the hanger loop got filled with glass. The solution is to grind the glass out of the hole and refire it to get a smooth edge.
Grinding glass creates a lot of heat and also a lot of glass dust and possible flying chips of glass. So there are 2 things that must be done. The first is water. The grinding surface needs to stay wet to keep it cool. The water also helps keep the dust down. With smaller pieces I like to put some water in a bin so that I can grind with the glass submerged in water.
I'm also really obsessive about eye and lung protection. I'm outfitted like this every time I'm grinding, sawing or working with glass powders.
I just needed the Dremel, a diamond bit and some patience.
This is what it looked like when I was done and it was ready to be fired again. But take a close look at the ground area. I should have noticed that it was still too thick.
Foiled again! You see, glass wants to be about 1/4" thick and that extra thickness wanted to go somewhere else and that was right back into the loop.
No worries. I know just how to fix that.
They are about 9 days old now and very cute. We started with 6 but it looks like we have 5 now. That's a normal clutch size....at least for the birds that nest in our boxes.
Fill Quilting Class Sample
I taught my Don't Fear the Longarm class this weekend at The Longarm Network and delivered this sample for my Fill 'Er Up class that's schedule for July 29. This class is open to stand up and sit down quilters, whether you use a longarm, sit down longarm or a domestic machine.
I love the Longarm Network Shop. It's very clean and bright so I wanted to make a sample that would look good hanging in the shop. This is the Citrus Gradient slashed and sewn back together with strips of a black and white print. I wanted to showcase a lot of different fill motifs and felt that something unsymmetrical would be much more fun to quilt.
I was right!
I used lots of different types of motifs and different types of thread. I wanted to show how much the color, value, weight and shininess of thread affects the impact of the stitching.
Some threads are almost invisible and some make the stitching a distinct design element.
If you are near Richmond, VA and want to join me for class you can register here.
New Stash Packs!
Before I share the new Stash Packs I want to mention that I will not be dyeing next week. If you need anything custom dyed (including Shades Packs) get your orders in today! Otherwise it will not be dyed until May 10.
Today I can show you where some of my dyeing inspiration is coming from. Things are very green around here lately as you can see in this photo of visitors that we had this weekend. We know that gees nest in the river behind our house but we don't see them visiting the pond every year. These chicks obviously just hatched and it was fun to watch them swimming around in the pond.
I've got 2 new Stash Packs this week. My green Stash Packs are the most popular so this time I decided to create 2 of them: Spring Greens and Autumn Greens. These will give you a very wide variety of greens for your landscape quilts.
Spring Greens are the bright greens of new foliage.
Autumn Greens has the lovely deep and golden greens at the end of the season. You can see these and all of the other Stash Packs in the shop.
Applique quilt update
It's not football season so I'm not watching a lot of TV and that means that there's been precious little progress on the applique quilt so far this year.
We also have metered internet so we can't stream much. But last week was the cycle date on our internet and because our internet was down for 10 days earlier we had lots of data to use up. So we started binge watching a series on Amazon Prime.
I got 2 more blossoms done!
I have 4 blossoms on the first border done. One more and I'll be half finished with the first border. That means that I am now 9% done with the borders.Maybe I'll be able to do more on some upcoming trips but real progress won't happen until football season starts again in September.
In the past when I've shared projects that customers have done with my fabric I've called it "customer work" but that sounds really dull and these projects are never dull. When I get one of these in my email it's like receiving a gift of fine jewelry. Actually I like these even better than jewelry. They are like sparkly gems sent to brighten my day so from now on I'll call the "Customer Gems" and I have some real gems to share today!
The next two quilts were both made for Easter celebrations.
Miriam Ahladas made this quilt based on a drawing and request from her 7 year old granddaughter, Ava. She used Barrier Island Gradient as the background and Red Sunset for some of the elements. She added in batiks, some fibers and beautiful quilting to finish it off.
Rachel Derstine made this giant Easter quilt as a commission for a local church. The background was custom dyed and she used Solar Flare, Key West and Under The Sea gradients for the streamers. Check out her blog post on the making of this quilt to get a true sense of just how big this quilt is. Rachel also has a shop where she sells beautiful art quilts, table runners and handbags.
I've been working on a couple of sampler quilts for classes that I'm teaching at The Longarm Network. I have my very favorite books and tools out to use on these quilts so I thought I'd share them.
I didn't receive any of these products free nor was I asked to review them. These just happen to be some of the products that I'm loving right now and I thought I'd share.
The first sample quilt is this one for a free motion filler class schedule for July 29. I'll share the finished version of this quilt as soon as I get both quilts finished and bound.
I don't buy a lot of quilting books. I find that I'm disappointed with most of them. I've bought books that have a few pages of instruction on the technique and the rest of a collection of quilt patterns. When I buy a technique book, I want a whole book of technique or a book of ideas.
The book that I turn to most often for FMQ ideas is 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs from Leah Day. Her website also has tons of great designs but when I'm at the machine quilting I prefer to not have to go to the internet for anything and that's why I have the book nearby at all times.
As I was finishing up this sample quilt I saw that Margaret Gunn had published two books on fill designs and I quickly ordered both. I know Margaret's work so I knew that these would be comprehensive and I was not disappointed. One book is all free-motion fills and the other is grid-based fill designs. Her design aesthetic is different from Leah Day's so these 3 resource books really complement each other.
The next quilt is the Ruler Class quilt that I shared Thursday. From an investment perspective my ruler collection is only surpassed by my thread collection. I love rulers and have tons of them and, I admit, that I really only use about half of them. Early on in my longarm ownership I fell prey to a lot of fancy demos on using fancy rulers when I reality I mostly use straight rulers, lots of circle rulers, ovals and boomerang rulers for curved cross hatching and one wave ruler. But I mostly use circles and ovals.
You saw all of these Monday. I love Jamie Wallen's circles and ovals. I have all of the circles from 3 1/2" and up and all of the ovals. I use the ovals even more than I expected. They are incredibly versatile. But many of his rulers, including the smaller circles have handles on them and I discovered that I can't use them. I have some nerve issues in my left arm and hand and the handle really aggravates it.
For small circles I got this clever snap together tool from Deloa Jones, also the maker of my favorite Boomerangs. She calls them Puzzle Pearls and has them in multiple sizes. I like these because when I want to quilt a perfect little circle I don't have to worry about a flat edge where the hopping foot would go through an opening. But sometimes this big tool becomes awkward to use because it's so large
When I was at Birds of a Feather I found Lisa Calle's ProPebbles rulers.
Each set come with 2 sizes of circles. The closed circles are for drawing and the partial circles (an innie and an outie) are for quilting. These are smaller pieces so are a bit easier to maneuver on the quilt.
When I quilt a row of pebbles I like to do them half at a time in a line instead of quilting the whole circle and then having to quilt again over half the circle to move to the next position.
I mark a center line and use the hatch marks to keep the ruler centered on that marked line. This foes surprisingly fast.
A little quilting on a little quilt
I know that my posts here are as random as they can be. Monday was mosaic, Tuesday was birds, yesterday was glass and today is quilting and who knows what tomorrow might be. If it seems that I jump from project to project it's because that's exactly what I do. I like having multiple options because I can do whatever I'm on the mood to do or can work on something else while I'm stumped or stymied on another project. It means that each project seems to progress at a snail's pace but they (mostly) eventually get done.
I also think another reason that I flit between projects is from my old work routines. I spent most of my days for almost 30 years going from one meeting to another so 1 hour increments seem really natural for me and it seems to be how I approach things here too. After an hour or 2 on one thing I'm ready to move on to something else. I don't make enough progress on all of the projects in a day to bother to share anything on the blog but over 7 - 10 days I can generally come up with an update that's worthwhile.
I first shared this little quilt a couple of weeks ago. It's the last of the leftover blocks from the Rainbow quilt. This one is going to be a sample for my ruler class at The Longarm Network (schedule for June 17) and it should be done already.
The plan was to quilt a few motifs in this bright orange thread and then fill the background with various ruler fills. I got this first shape done and then I hit a wall. I knew the effect I wanted but I just wasn't getting there so I just left it for a week or so and one morning I woke up with the solution. Well, it's A solution. It might not be THE solution but it will work.
Is there ever really just 1 solution?
So I was able to move forward and add the other motifs. This a little Spirograph-type motif.
This one is an idea for a block treatment.
The solution I was looking for was a way to keep these 4 quilted motifs from just floating around in the middle of the quilt and the answer was to connect them. I've created a grid in the lime green thread that connects the motifs and the lines carry over to the edge of the border. Now I am more comfortable moving forward to finish this little sampler. Every stitch on it will be ruler work so it's not a speedy little quilt but it is fun.
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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.