Lockdown continues to provide me with a lot of reading time. Rainy days on vacation kept my reading spree going. All in all it was a good book month. In non-fiction I loved The Mastermind and Catch and Kill. Both are really worthwhile reads. I was really happy to read another Department Q book, Victim 2117 but my very favorite book of the month is The Book of Lost Friends.
What recommendations do you have for me this month?
Apprentice Scarlet City
By Rebecca Gable, Read By a huge cast of B actors
This is an Audible original production of a book written in the 1950's and it's the first part of a trilogy. I could see where this book might have been one of the forerunners of the historical fiction genre. It was probably great in it's time but today's readers require a lot more historical accuracy.
The story centers around Jonah Durham, a young apprentice to his uncle's fabric trade. Through a whole lot of luck and unbelievable inheritance, he becomes a very rich merchant.
What really destroys this book is the production. Sometimes there's background music behind the narrator (annoying) and sometimes not (better). The background to everything else is either steps, door opening, revelry or nature sounds. Except for one time when there's a baby cooing as the Queen is doing business. You can be sure that would never have happened! The royals barely saw their children! I found it all extremely distracting. There's one kissing scene where the kissing sounds are hilarious! Imagine recording yourself kissing your hand loudly. The book would have been much better with a straight forward narration by one of Audible's great narrators and leave out the sound production by the local high school arts department.
By Evan Ratliff, Read By Evan Ratliff
My friend Kristen recommended this book last month and she did not go wrong. It's the fascinating story of the Justice Department's quest to bring down Paul LeRoux, the creator of a world-wide internet based pharmacy business. He also developed one of the world's best encryption program.
It's really well researched and you get a peek into the ruthlessness and corruption of LeRoux and into the pettiness that exists among people in all organizations (apparently, especially the government). It's very well documented and an interesting book. Once again, though, I will say that authors should not narrate their own books! On a 5 point scale, he's a 3 and that made it a little harder to get into at the beginning.
Victim 2117 - A Department Q Novel
By Jussi Adler-Olsen, Read By Graeme Malcolm
It's been 3 years since we've had a new Department Q novel but it was worth the wait. This series is set in Copenhagen and revolved around Detective Carl Morck. In the first book we learn how Carl would up in the basement as a department of one investigating cold cases. He's eventually joined by Rose, Assad and Carl.
In this book Assad has to revisit horrors of his past in the Middle East while Rose and Carl are trying to find a reclusive teen who is using Victim 2117 as his call to implement his own murderous plan. The two cases are tied through this victim.
These are the perfect books for audio because some of the makes seem to be hard to pronounce. For me it's easier to have someone else do that for me! It's good to read these in order because story lines carry through the series. Great writing, character development and story lines. I wish they came out more often.
By Ruth Downie, Read By Simon Vance
This is the 6th book in The Roman Empire series. The medicus, Ruso and his wife, Tilla, are the focus of the series. In this one they are in Britannia at the borderlands during the building of Hadrian's Wall. Ruso's clerk goes missing and a local boy says he saw a body being hidden in the wall.
I really enjoy this series. A lot of the characters carry through the series and you see as their opportunities and fortunes change over time. It's really well written and well narrated.
The Huguenot Chronicles
By Paul CR Monk, Read By David Pickering
After reading Tabula Rosa I got to thinking about some of the great historical fiction books that I've read, like those from Michener, Follett and Rutherford. I wanted to find another. I sometimes search for book by going to Amazon and looking up a book or author that I love and then looking at what Amazon says that other people bought. That's how I found these books which were available on Audible for 1 credit.
This is the story of a Huguenot Protestant family during the reign of Louis XIV. Jeanne and Jacob refused to convert and had their properties and children taken away and ultimately had to leave France separately. Jacob had been arrested and was indentured to a ship heading for the Caribbean. Jeanne had to sneak out of France and found her first refuge in Geneva. The children were taken in by her sister who did convert.
It's the story of their years apart trying to survive. The story sends them to the Caribbean, London, colonial New York and London. It's not the best written book ever but I have never read much about this time in history so it was a nice change from the usual English historical fiction.
By Anne Edwards, Read By Corrie James
The title of this book is quite misleading. It's really a history of the royal family during her time as a member of the family. If you took out everything was wasn't specific to her, you would have a short story.
I don't mean to criticize the Queen. I actually really admire her stoicism and commitment to the family and Great Britain. It's just that I've ready plenty of books about Edward's abdication, Great Britain during WWII and Elizabeth's reign. I didn't know much about King George V so that part was interesting but once the book was on to Edward and the abdication it wasn't as interesting aside from her willingness and ability to sever ties with her son.
By Barry Eisler, Read By Barry Eisler
This is the 7th in the John Rain series but the first one that I have read. I thought this was going to be another series like the Mitch Rapp series that I like so much. But I'm not really drawn to this character or the writing.
Rain is a hired assassin and has been tracked down in Tokyo bu his former black ops commander. He's convinced to take on one more assignment and he brings in three other operatives to work with him. That assignment turns out to be a set up and eventually they set u=out for revenge.
I don't really know why this book didn't work for me but I was happy for it to end and I wasn't particularly attached to any of the characters. That said, the John Rain books are wildy popular so if you like this genre you should at last try one of them.
By John Sandford, Read By Richard Ferrone
I was so happy when this book came off hold at the library just as we were leaving for vacation. I would have one of my favorite authors to listen to while hanging at the beach. I can't believe that I'm saying this about a Sandford book but this one was a disappointment. Maybe at 30 books in the Davenport series, the character is just getting harder to write. Davenport isn't young anymore but he's becoming more vigilante as he gets older and that just doesn't seem right.
In this book Davenport is called to DC to investigate a neo-Nazi website that is targeting children of political figures. No actual crime has been committed as there's no threat so they call in Davenport to investigate "off the books".
One of the things that really bothered me about this book are the strong hackneyed political messages. There's no original thought or conflict of beliefs. It's just the same drivel that we hear in the news every day. It was annoying and the plot and resolution was very predictable. I'm thinking that maybe he isn't actually writing his books anymore. I'll see how the next Virgil Flowers is this fall before I decide if I'm done with these series.
A Reasonable Doubt
By Phillip Margolin, Read By Therese Plummer
This is the 3rd in the Robin Lockwood series. Mom and I picked this one to listen to as we drove to and from the beach. At 7 hours it was the perfect length and we both love mysteries.
Lockwood is a defense attorney in Portland, OR and has recently become partner (after a very short time) in the firm. The previous partner, Regina Barrister, has retired due to early onset dementia. In this book, one of Regina's previous clients, a magician, is back. Previously he was acquitted of murder and attempted murder. Now he debuting a new illusion and wants it patented. (Ridiculous) But he's also a bit of a scammer and has built up quite a list of enemies. The story takes place in 3 different time frames and Regina is back in at times to have miraculous bursts of clear memory.
For a short book this one is way too convoluted and has way too many characters. Plus our heroine Robin, is another typically too strong and independent so she's always at risk of ruining a great relationship and putting her life in danger. She really isn't all that bright.
The Optimal Dose
By Judson Somerville
I read a paper copy of this book while on vacation. My doctor has been prescribing Vitamin D3 (actually a hormone, not a vitamin) for a few years as an immune system boost. It must be working because I haven't had a cold since. But I'd been reading some of the studies linking Vitamin D levels to COVID recovery and I decided that I wanted to read further.
This isn't a very long book. I read the whole thing in a few hours but it was fascinating. Dr. Somerville started researching Vitamin D3 when he was try to solve his own and his patients sleeping problems. He knew that if he could resolve sleeping issues that many other human ailments (pain, fatigue, weight control) could be improved. What he discovered is that the recommended doses that we take are much lower than the optimal dose that we need. It was a fascinating read and a good first step into researching Vitamin D3 benefits and dosing.
People who might be interested in reading this include people with chronic sleep issues, metabolic disease and people who seem to catch every cold and flu that they come in contact with.
The Book of Lost Friends
By Lisa Wingate, Read By Sophie Amoss, Bahni Turpin and others
Before I talk about this lovely book I just want to mention that Bahni Turpin is one of the BEST narrators. When she narrates a character you really feel that it's the actual character talking.She's one of the few narrators that I will actually search for books that she's narrated. All the narrators in this one are very good.
I read my first Lisa Wingate book, Before We Were Yours, last year and I loved it. This one is no exception. You can tell that when a story grabs her that she dives in very deep to thoroughly research every aspect of the story.
The Book of Lost Friends is based on a feature in the Southwestern Christian Advocate that was published in New Orleans after the Civil War. It carried a Lost Friends column that ran until early 1900's where notices were posted by people looking for friends and relatives lost during slavery.
In 1875 there are three women on a dangerous quest leaving Louisiana for Texas. One is a freed slave, one is heiress to a bankrupt plantation and the other is the Creole half sister of the heiress.
In 1987 a young teacher arrives in Louisiana to teach English at a poor school as a means to pay off her school debt. She's trying to get her students interested in reading and discovers an abandoned library at the nearby vacant plantation home. She gets permission to look for books and finds some amazing documents that helps tell the stories the 3 young women.
Lisa Wingate can write! It's a wonderful book.
Catch and Kill
Written and read by Ronan Farrow
Well, at least there's one real journalist left in the world! I knew the Farrow had helped expose Harvey Weinstein but I had no idea how difficult, and sometimes dangerous, the process was. He was blocked by NBC and friends of Weinstein and he was even followed by spies.
Most of the book is about the Weinstein investigation but the real underlying story is about how the media covers for powerful people. I could not put this book down.
Yesterday only went half as planned
The plan was to do my fabric dyeing yesterday. Mom left around 2 and I got busy prepping all the fabric. Then a friend came by to drop off things for the food pantry and we sat outside a talked a while. The grass had been mowed in the morning so that might be why I had a monumental allergic reaction as soon as I cam inside. Now my allergies aren't nearly as bad as they were 10 years ago but it did take 4 Benedryl in an hour and 1 every couple of hours after that to get it under control. That much Benedryl is nothing for me, there was a period of about 15 years when I took 16 every day. But the combination of the allergy and the Benedryl impaired my math and concentration skills so dyeing was off for the day.
Fortunately my boss is easy and the schedule can change. Today is now dyeing day but since everything is ready to go it should only take a few hours and then I can get the everything ready for my brother's arrival tomorrow and get some quilting in.
There was a time in my life when an allergy attack would last days and take a phenomenal amount of drugs to resolve. I'm lucky now that it's usually a few hours at most and most times it's just an annoyance.
Even in a drug fog yesterday wasn't a loss. Last night I loaded and started quilting 2 veterans quilts. These are 2 that I cut out and Peg sewed. I should have these finished tonight.
I have 2 more sets ready to quilt. Once I get these done I'll be caught up.
One thing done
This week has turned out to be a lot busier than I expected. Yesterday started with a 5 mile walk. The rest of the day was shuttling 2 cars back and forth from the mechanic, then Mom and I washed her car and I had to photograph all the tea towel sets and send out the email. But Mom is going home today and I really wanted to get one of her quilts quilted before she left. That meant it needed to be easy and fast.
At about 10 last night this one was finished and trimmed. Of course I love this quilt because it's made with a bunch of hand dyed scraps! The blue border was left over from another project. She based the design on my Catena quilt that hangs in my living room (that's really my Spirograoh studio right now.)
It was fun to reminisce as I looked over the fabrics. This one is left over from the border of my Crossing The South Anna quilt.
There are several bits of my "waste" fabric in the quilt. This one is from the making of the Sundance gradient.
This purple and green fabric is leftover border fabric from one of my favorite quilts that Mom made. I quilted that quilt so I have photos of the whole quilt here.
I decided on a spiral motif because it's fast. I don't really like quilting spirals. For me they are difficult to travel with and to space evenly but if I don't fuss over it too much they move along and make a nice overall texture. The top thread is Superior Rainbows and the bobbin thread is So Fine. Mom is happy with it so that's all that matters!
The backing is a batik that was given to her by the husband of a sewing buddy who passed away last year. Rita was such a nice lady and I'm sure she would be happy to know that some of her VAST fabric collection is being used!
Today is dyeing day so I may not have anything to post tomorrow. If not, I'll be back Friday with the May book reviews.
Back in Business!
Vacation week is over and it's time to get back to business. Honestly I feel so lucky that my business isn't affected by the shutdowns that I'm spending a lot of my work time dyeing and screen printing tea towels that I'm selling locally to benefit our local food pantry. The last batch of about 50 got ironed and photographed yesterday so today's news will be brief so I can get them posted, and hopefully sold soon! I'm sorry I can't sell them online at this time. I'm selling them in exchange for donation checks to the agency so dealing with online taxes and fees would be too complicated.
Fabric of the Week
The fabric of the week this week is the Claret Shades Pack. Shades Packs are 5 fat quarters in 5 shades of the color. If you order more than one set it will be custom dyed in larger cuts for you. I probably should have named this one Cranberry because it's a beautiful cranberry red! It's 20% off through Sunday.
New Stash Pack
One of the most popular Stash Packs was Canyonland in coppery oranges. As soon as it sold out I knew that I had to quickly dye a new set and Copper Mine is it! Stash Packs were designed with art quilters in mind. They have 10 fat eighths of very textured hand dyed fabrics. They are perfect for landscape quilts.
But I'm not an art quilter and I love the Stash Packs for scrappy traditional quilts, like this Hunter Star quilt made with the Crossroads and Good Earth Stash Packs.
You can check out Copper Mine and all the other Stash Packs in the shop.
Ahhhh, a vacation
My family (Mom, brothers and their families) take a beach vacation to Hatteras, NC every year. We always go the week before Memorial Day, mostly because it's a lot less expensive for a house the size that we need. This year we were pretty sure that we would not get to go and were making plans to reschedule for the fall. Then we were surprised and thrilled to learn that the North Carolina beaches were opening May 16, the first day of our reservation!
We eat all but one of our meals in on a regular vacation and we were still able to do pizza night as takeout so, for the first time in 2 months, we all had a NORMAL week and it was fantastic. I've never needed a vacation more and we didn't even mind that we really only had 3 beach weather days. We enjoyed the rainy days with puzzles, books, shopping, games and just being near each other. My nephew introduced us to a fun card game called Phase 10 that's a variation of Rummy. I'm totally addicted now.
But now it's time to get back to "work". That started with a lot of ironing yesterday getting more kitchen towels ready for my local food pantry fundraiser, prepping quilt backs and new fabric for the shop tomorrow.
I didn't take any sewing to do on vacation for the first time ever! But I did take crochet and this pretty blanket was finished.
The pattern is called Wrapped In Love and I really enjoyed making it. You can get the pattern on Etsy. I've bought a few patterns now and the quality is just as random as sewing and quilting patterns. Some are great and some are awful. This is one of the good ones.
I think that this one is going to be gifted to the daughter of a friend instead of donating it. Sarah got a quilt with her first child but I think a crochet blanket would be a nice change for baby #2.
Then I got started on a new blanket using 2 balls of this Lion Brand Cupcake yarn. I've tried a few different patterns for this yarn but eventually settled on a close scallop stitch. I even learned how to do a foundation single crochet for this blanket.
I love the stitch, the yarn and the colors of this one! This is the first ball done. I worked the first one from the center out and I'll work the second ball from the outside in so that the colors reverse. I only did a few rows of the orange for the center. That ball is the leftover outside orange from the first ball. I'll tie on and add the outside orange from the second ball and use that for a simple border.
But after a week away from fabric and thread I'm anxious to get back to quilting. Yesterday I prepared backs for 2 quilts that Mom made. One of these should get loaded and basted today. Both will get simple pantographs. I'll also put out a call for my quilt group to bring veterans quilts for quilt. Virginia is opening so slowly that I don't know when we will be able to have a meeting again so I'll offer for people to bring me quilts. The VA hospital still needs and wants the quilts!
Good thing I have so many quilt kits cut out for veterans quilts! I'll continue working on those. The only other project that I have on the horizon is a quilt for SIL #3. The penguin and cat quilts were delivered last week. SIL #3 has asked for wild animal prints! That means that shopping is on the horizon.
The cat quilt brother and SIL weren't able to come to the beach but we stopped by their house on the way home to deliver it. Later Saturday night my brother reported that "the Princess" approved. That's all we quilters wish for.
Customer Gems - Nancy Gonzales Caro
This week's inspiration comes from Nancy Gonzales Caro. Her original design was created from a photo. The background is a custom dyed gradient. The deer is a combination of machine and hand applique using hand dyed and commercial fabrics.
For sharing, Nancy 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.
Labels and crochet and a blog break
The quilt labels for both quilts are done! There was a time crunch because I needed both quilts ready for delivery Saturday. This one was a lot harder than it looks! It took a lot of tries to find a good wheel combination for the ears and then to set up alignment marks on the wheels and the paper so that the ears would be mostly symmetrical. I'm pretty pleased though and I know that this will lead to more experiments with layering spirograph elements.
This one really doesn't have anything to do with the quilt design or theme. It has everything to do with my desire to play with a different set of gears.
I've had this set for a while but haven't really started to explore the possibilities with them. You can see on the left the pieces that I out together for this label. I just needed a little project to kick start my exploration of these and that's going to start happening soon.
In the evenings I've been making quick progress on this blanket. This is the last round of hearts so there's only the border left to do. I think 2 skeins of Hobby Lobby I Love This Yarn is going to just enough to finish this blanket.
I will be away from the blog for the next week. Usually when I take a break I schedule out some posts, even if they are just giveaways. But we're heading off for a family vacation, something all of us probably need about now. I've decided to give myself a break from everything - home, business and quilting. I'll post a fabulous Customer Gem tomorrow and then I'll be back May 25.
I'm happy to report that the cat quilt, now officially named Corona Cats, is done! I got the binding on last night but I didn't get photos taken yet so you will have to wait until tomorrow. I still need to make labels for that quilt and the penguin quilt and they need to be done by Friday night.
For today I have some postcards, including my Mother's Day card, to share.
First up, 4 more shibori postcards. I'm really pleased with this set, especially the 2 on the right. I have 4 more bases but I'm not sure I'll finish those. I'm less inspired by them so I may stop here and just put those 4 bits in the Drawer of magical Things for a later inspiration. I've got another postcard idea with some leftovers of the cat quilt backing and I think I want to get on to those.
This is my Mother's Day card for this year. I decided to do the beach scene because we thought that our beach vacation was canceled this year. But the day after I made this we got the news that vacation is on! We'll be sitting on the beach very soon. I've done a lot of these shibori sea cards but this one got some extra attention with the addition of tan shibori to transition from the water to the solid tan sand. I also did 3 thread colors on the edge, not something that I'd do for anyone but Mom.
It took a lot of materials to make this one small card! I pulled out the bin of shibori and a bin of pre-fused scraps.
I also got to test out the new yarn arrangement. I wanted a yarn for the horizon and it only took a minute or 2 because everything was visible at one time.
This is why I will probably not do anything with the last 4 shibori scraps bits. These are the off cuts from the cat quilt backing and I really want to do something with them. I think there are a lot of possibilities here!
New gradient and schedule announcement
If you need something get it in by Friday because there will be no shipping May 16 - 23.
Fabric of the Week
The fabric of the week this week is the entire line of Reflections fabrics! All in stock Reflections are 20% off using coupon code REFLECTIONS20 at checkout. Reflections were designed as landscape fabrics but they are perfect anywhere you want a lot of beautiful hand dyed texture.
New Gradient - Trumpet Vine
I love it when the Trumpet Vines bloom in my backyard. I've heard that they are considered an invasive species but I don't consider them invasive in my little world, I think they are beautiful. Plus they bring the hummingbirds into the back yard. Trumpet Vine Gradient is a wonderful bright (but not eye searing) gradient from orange-pink to deep gold: the beautiful colors of a Trumpet Vine bloom. I hope you like it!
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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.