Do you remember last month when I talked about what a great book month November was? Well, we really only know "good" when we have something not so good to compare it to. Well, December was a "not so good month".
I did have a few really good books. Lethal White and Holy Ghost are books that I had been waiting to get from the library for a few months and they did not disappoint.
The Feather Thief was a superior book but it was a surprisingly interesting story. Brain On Fire was another interesting book but I'm not sure it would have wide appeal. Nowhere to Run and Tier One were books that I knew that I could count on to cleanse my palette from the rest of the books of the month.
So, that's not so bad, right? Well there are four books that I really can't recommend: Mary Queen of Scots was just way too long, The World In A Grain, The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters and The Witch Elm were downright awful.....in my opinion. But read the detail reviews and if you have read any of them and have a different opinion please let us know in the comments. We all have different tastes in books.
Do you have any particular books on your 2019 reading list? I have lots of books on my Audible and Libbie wish lists but nothing specific that I must read. I'm open to almost m=anything....except sci-fi, fantasy, romance and self-help. I'm beyond help!
Here's my December reading list.
By Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), narrated by Robert Glenister
This is the 4th is the Cormoran Strike series. I never read the Harry Potter novels simply because magic isn't my genre. I've seen bits and pieces of the movies. But I know she's and outstanding writer and I am addicted to this mystery series.
Cormoran Strike lost a leg serving in Afghanistan and is now a private detective. At the end of the last book he had fired his assistant, Robin, because she was badly hurt in their last case. In this book it opens at Robin's wedding where he went to ask her back. When she returns from her honeymoon they are hired by a British government minister to try to stop a blackmail scheme.
These books are so well written and apparently you can find web sites where people explore the meaning of certain imagery in the book. Lethal White refers to a syndrome in horses, much of the story takes place around the Uffington White Horse and there's a painting in one of the main story locations with a white horse. According to the conspiracy theorists this all has to do with Rowling's hatred of the legacy British colonialism.
Whatever. I couldn't care or be influenced less about her politics. I just love her book.
The Feather Thief
By Kirk Wallace Johnson, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
I'm still waiting for a few books on my hold list on Libby so I started looking around for new books that were available and stumbled on this one. I'm glad I found it.
The book is about the 2009 theft by Edwin Rist of hundreds of rare and historically significant birds from the natural history Museum in Tring, UK. many of the birds had been collected by Charles Darwin's contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace.
You can look up Edwin Rist on Wikipedia and get the basic background of the theft and find out that he basically got off with a mental health defense. But Kirk Wallace Johnson, a fly fisherman, heard about the story and got obsessed by it and this book is the result.
It's basically in 3 parts. The first part is about the history of collecting specimens that was the rage in Victorian times. The second part is about the crime where we learn yet again, how poorly museum collections are secured. The third part is about the author's obsession with tracking down the missing birds and more about Rist, the fly tying community and their dedication to finding feathers from rare birds. It was a good read.
Nowhere to Run
By CJ Box, Narrated by David Chandler
This is the 10th novel in the Joe Pickett series. In the last book he was "sentenced" to a tour as the game warden in the remote area of Baggs, WY. It's the last week and he's following up on complaints about butchered elk, looted camps and other minor mayhem. Of course it turns out to be a lot more than it seems.
I like the Joe Pickett novels. My husband doesn't like that the family is so involved in the stories but it's one of the things that I enjoy about the books. They are a lot like the Craig Johnson books. David Chandler is the perfect narrator for Joe Pickett.
The Boston Girl
By Anita Diamant, Narrated by Linda Lavin
One of the benefits of now borrowing books from the library is that I'll occasionally read a book that's less than my 10 hour minimum rule. I generally prefer longer books and I set the 10 hour rule so reduce the per hour cost of listening on Audible. On Audible a 4 hour book costs 1 credit, the same as a 30 hour book.
Anyway, I was still waiting for some books to come off hold so I started looking around the Libbie app for books that are available. That's how I found The Feather Thief, this book and the next book.
The Boston Girl is a coming of age novel. Addie Baum was born in 1900 to immigrant parents. She's now 85 and is telling her Granddaughter her life story. The story begins when she is 15 when she made the friends who would be part of her life forever. The story has a lot of historical detail about the lives if immigrants in Boston at that time and Linda Lavin (from the sitcom Alice) narrates it beautifully. The author takes a couple of gratuitous political cheap shots that I feel make her seem petty, but otherwise it's like sitting down with grandma to hear a good story.
Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness
By Susannah Cahalan, Narrated By Heather Henderson
You've got to love medical histories to like this book. I found it fascinating. Susannah was (and is) a writer for the New York Post. One day she began having hallucinations, seizures and other mental illness symptoms. She eventually ended up in the hospital where she stayed for a month. It was only due to the good fortune of time and place that she ended up with the right doctor to get the right diagnosis.
It's a mystery story and a very detailed personal history of the person who went through it.
The World in a Grain
By Vince Beiser, Narrated by Wil Damron
I had such high expectations for this book. I hoped for something along the lines of Salt by Mark Kurlansky but Vince Beiser isn't a historian, he's an activist.
This book is partly about sand as the foundation of civilization and how many different ways it's used (building roads, silicon chops...) but it's mostly about how the development of all of those things have led to a laundry list of bad things. It was so annoying that I gave up half way through. It could have been great and he could have gotten his points across without being such an unhappy activist and more of a dispassionate historian. I can summarize his point of view by saying that he pretty much sees everything about civilization as negative. How he gets through his miserable day is a mystery to me.
Right after this book I started and returned Borrowed Time by James Freeman and Vern McKinley. It's about the history of Citicorp. It's the kind of book that I usually love but the narrator was horrible. His narration would make this a great book to listen to if you have insomnia. I may get a paper copy to ready on vacation next year because it's the kind of book that I usually love.
Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
By Margaret George, Narrated by Donada Peters
I love Margaret George's historical novels. One of my favorite books of all time is her book Memoirs of Cleopatra. I also enjoyed this book but I didn't love it. It's 42 hours long and that's a long time when telling the story of someone who spent half of her life basically imprisoned. It wasn't a bad book at all but it got a bit exhausting. 10 hours could have easily been edited out of it. But if you like historical novels with excruciating details this is the book for you.
The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters
By Sam Kashner and nancy Schoenberger
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
I don't know why I read this except that I saw some good reviews and I got it free from the library. I have a pretty healthy disinterest in the lives of society people but I thought it might be interesting. It was, sort of, but I left the book not really liking either woman very much.
It's a great look into the lives of society women of their age who were raised to marry well. It was bred into them from a young age and they really never abandoned it.
The book tries to play up the sibling rivalry but it was really no different than a lot of sister relationships. The difference is that in this case there's real money and social standing involved. Since that was the currency of their lives the rivalry is not really surprising.
If you buy into the whole Camelot facade of the Kennedy administration, don't read this book. It does blow that up pretty well. They were political animals just like today's politicians. Jackie knew, and often facilitated, Jack's foraging outside of the marriage. Plus she was a heavy smoker which the press helped hide just like they do with Obama. She did an amazing job of burnishing his image after his death. I wouldn't have been able to spend a day with either of these woman.
By John Sandford, Narrated by Eric Conger
This is the 11th in the Virgin Flowers series and I had been on the wait list at the library since September! It was a real treat after the last 3 books and it was classic F@>^!%$ Flowers. This time he's sent to the tiny town of Pinion, MN where a sighting of the virgin Mary has breathed new life into this half-dead town. That is until someone starts a shooting spree that puts everything at risk. Shrake and Jenkins are back with Virgil and there's nothing to eat in the town except frozen pot pies. It was a fun read.
Field of Bones
By JA Jance, narrated by Hillary Huber
I haven't read a JA Jance book in about 18 years so when someone recommended this I decided to give it a try. This is the 18th book in the Joanna Brady series. Brady is the sheriff in Cochise County, AZ. She's on maternity leave when a body dump field is found. Her Deputy Sheriff is in charge and they are trying to find the serial killer before another body is dumped.
You don't have to read these books in order because Jance spends a LOT of time giving background on each character between scenes. In fact, I'd say that a full 3rd of this book seemed like detailed background information so the story seemed quite choppy to me.
As for the story, it was fine. Not great. There are too many "strong women" and men around them to provide support. It's not a feminist manifesto at all. The author was actually quite even-handed with everyone and I didn't get political undertones. But it's simply not realistic that a Deputy Sheriff of either gender would be telling the Sheriff that they can't wait until she gets back because the job is a bit over his/her head. Also, things in this novel resolve quickly and easily. For example, the local FBI office didn't want to help with profiling but, no worries, Sheriff Brady has a connection and with a couple of phone calls we have the exact profile identified. Magic.
JA Jance has a large following so I know her novels are popular but they just aren't for me.
The Witch Elm
By Tana French, Narrated by Paul Nugent
Tana French writes the Dublin Murder Squad series, that I enjoyed until the most recent book, and this one had some good published reviews so I decided to give it a try. I should have read the Audible reviews first and skipped it. The publisher and professional reviews are always misleading!
I don't even understand this book. None of the characters are believable and not one of them behaves like a normal person would in the same situations. Most of the story revolves around the discovery of a dead body in a tree on family property. The dead person is a contemporary of three cousins now in their 20's. It's truly an excruciating story and it took every fiber of my being to finish it. I only finished it because I kept hoping for the main character, Toby, to die. Actually the best ending would have been fr everyone to die.
An anonymous Audible customer wrote a review that is so spot on that I decided that I'd share:
"The plot (is there a plot?) is slow and disjointed, featuring bizarre unrealistic event heaped upon bizarre unrealistic event duct-taped together with shoddy continuity. Characters drop out and/or show up with little or no explanation or reason. The scenes intended to be most dramatic made me laugh because of the giant plot conveniences driven by the author; the characters' motivations for doing most of what they do are unimaginable. Toby, Melissa, Susannah, Leon, Shawn, Hugo, and just about every character in this book are chess pieces being moved around artlessly to bring their fragmented, preposterous, mean-spirited, lazy plotlines to a close."
The book gave me a headache and a bad attitude that only a few hours outside raking leaves relieved.
By Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, Narrated by Ray Porter
These are the same authors that write under the pen name Alex Ryan and authored Bejing Red. This is a new series based on a Tier One Navy SEAL named John Dempsey, formerly Jack Kemper. After a terrorism plot destroys his SEAL unit he is recruited to join Ember, the most secretive counter-terrorism until in existence.
It's not the best spy novel I've read but it was a good story, I liked the characters and it was very fast paced. It was a great palette cleanser after The Witch Elm.
On to 2019 and, hopefully, a lot of good books for all of us!
This week's inspiration comes from quilt artist and painter, Miriam Ahladas. She used the Red Sunset and Barrier Island gradients in her piece.
"The quilt was inspired by a beautiful purple and pink sunrise after an early morning shower. The sun warmed a new day as undulating wheat danced and sparkled in the field at the edge of my yard. I stood in awe of our life-sustaining earth. The colors of the fabrics and embellishments represent fire, earth, and water. Feathers represent birds soaring on wind currents. My Norwegian roots and a recent study of the Saami, the indigenous reindeer herders of the North, inspired most of the quilting."
For sharing, Miriam 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.
These started as a plan to use up more of the Indonesian batik scraps but, honestly, they didn't make a dent in the scrap. The other motivation was to use the rest of the backing fabric on the Indonesian batik quilt. I had about 18" of 108" wide fabric at the end of the quilt and that was perfect for 6 placemats.
I'll have to come up with a postcard design to use the rest of batik scraps but I used every inch of the dyed backing.
The background is a gradient fabric that I had in my stash. I don't know what I originally dyed it for but it worked out just fine for these.
The tree and the circles are fused and all of the stitching is free motion.
I had enough of the gradient to do 4 using the blue/orange side of the gradient but I had room on my extra quilt back for 2 more placemats.
The other half of the gradient was green so I made these 2 with green backgrounds. I like both sets. I'll keep the 4 blue ones and give the green pair to Mom.
I'm happy to have another finish for 2018.
We had a great holiday that was a perfect mix of socializing and relaxing. Now it's time to get back into some sort of productive routine. The easiest way for me to get going after a break is to work on something easy. For me, that's veteran's quilts.
This one was made by Sara.
My goal for 2019 is to work on more veterans quilts. We have found a wonderful department at the local VA hospital where the nurses are so grateful to have our quilts to distribute. They carefully select the recipients that really need a nice gesture. Knowing that the quilts are going to people who really will love them is all the motivation that we need. I even bought a few new pantographs to use on the veterans quilts. I like doing free motion on them but I do tend to quilt quite densely. These new pantographs will help me quilt less dense but still balanced. This one is Start Streamers from Urban Elementz and I expect that I will be using it a lot. It's perfect for patriotic quilts.
This one was made by Sharon. She's on a big personal scrap busting mission and this pattern is perfect for scraps. I think it's Jacob's Ladder.
On this quilt I used Woven Wind from Quilts Complete. Both of these patterns quilt up really quickly and I know that I'm going to use them a lot.
I have 4 of my own veterans quilts to get quilted and bound by January 8 and I have 2 more quilts from members to get quilted so I better get busy!
Our inspiration this week comes from Patricia Caldwell. The Ancient One is 32.5 x 36" and made with a Crystal fabric for the background. The tree is made separately with hand dyed fabric, tulle and hand dyed yarns on batting. Once complete it was appliqued to the background. It's finished with more hand dyed yarns, lots of quilting and beads of Red Creek Jasper and Petoskey Stones.
For sharing, Patricia 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.
This is my last post until next Thursday. No matter what you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful celebration this week.
Gene commented on the Tuesday post about doing a Color Magnet tutorial. No need! There are several really good tutorials around the web on using this product. Before I share the list I will share some personal tips/observations.
1. I like this product best for screen printing. You get really sharp and crisp images. I think it was developed primarily for screen printing. It will work with stamping and stenciling but it will require a little more practice.
2. The magnet properties are really strong and it keeps working during the first rinse and even sometimes through the first wash. I generally washout my dyed fabrics with all colors together but when I use Color Magnet I do the first wash with like colors only. The magnet will continue to pick up loose dyes from the water so you have to be careful.
Here are some tutorials to get you started.
Videos from Jacquard, the makers of the product:
Immersion Dyeing with CM
Using the Color Magnet Pen with a stencil
Color Magnet with Discharge Chemicals
Screen Printing Tutorial from Artistic Artifacts
Stenciling Color Magnet from Dharma Trading
Stamping Color Magic with Tjaps from Dharma Trading
I hope you will give it a try. I love this product. It's so easy to use and I love the effects.
I got my Indonesian Batik trees fused last night so I'm ready to start quilting. I cut tons of circles in 5 different sizes. I also decided to cut out the tree trunks instead of painting them. Why did I choose an applique tree over a stenciled tree? It was cold in the basement and I didn't want to go down there to play with paint. I could cut out tree trunks from the comfort of my recliner while watching a football game. That's it, that's how I made that design decision.
So these photos show how I built the tree starting with the biggest circles to the smallest. Hopefully I'll get to start quilting this evening.
I'll look at them again today before I load them on the longarm to see if I need to add more to any of them. I'm determined to do some fast quilting on these.
Before the bowl hot pads became my 2018 gift idea, I had planned to dye kitchen towels for everyone. Someone in one of my dye groups imported a bunch of them and offered them for sale.
I decided to order a dozen but by the time I talked to myself about it and wanted to have "enough just in case", I bought 3 dozen! So it could be that I have a head start on my 2019 gifts.
I dyed 2 past week just to see how they take they dye and then are wonderful. They are made well and even the thread in the hems dyes. I used Jacquard Color Magnet to screen the images. The Color Magnet causes the fabric to absorb more dye where it is printed. I could simply screen print the images after I dye the fabric and I will do that when i want the image in a different color.
I've used Color Magnet before. You might remember this tablecloth that I printed with Color Magnet and the dyed . It took a lot of time to print that cloth but the effect was worth it.
Through the next year I'll use the new hand towels to play with different techniques and I should end up with a great stash of gifts.
My Christmas prep projects are done. The hot pads are all made and postcards are in the mail. Chris and I are going shopping for my Christmas gift today (a shooting vest, my jewelry days are over!). So now I can get back to some of my own projects and the first one is to use more of the Indonesian batik scraps for some placemats.
I've seen this idea of trees with circles for the foliage for a while and have been wanting to do a version of it. I remembered this tree stencil and thought it might work. Fortunately cutting circles is easy because I have several circle dies with my Go! Cutter. I cut a few out to test the idea with the stencil and I really like it.
I fused the scraps to WonderUnder, because it was easier to handle them if they were backed with paper. I cut enough for 6 placemats.
I really want to get these wrapped up because I'm planning to quilt them on the left over backing from this quilt that's STILL loaded on the frame. I want it off and bound by the end of the month. I also have 8 veterans quilts that need to mbe quilted soon. So, the placemats are my focus for this week. Now I have to decide on a background and if I'm going to stencil the tree trunk or cut it out of fabric and fuse it.
Donaleen Kohn is back this week with two projects featuring her signature big stitch quilting and raw edges. This pillow is made with Imperial Dragon and Thrive Gradients.
This wall hanging is free pieced and hand quilted with her signature big stitch quilting. She's mixed several gradients and other commercial fabrics to create a very vibrant palette.
For sharing, Donaleen 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.
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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.