Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

This was my least favourite of the Flavia de Luce stories so far.  It felt as though she was out of her depth and barely treading water.  It all started with a trip to the local fair where somehow the gypsy fortune teller`s tent burns down as a result of Flavia`s visit. Then the same gypsy is visciously attacked on the de Luce property.  This violence doesn`t deter eleven year old Flavia from investigating.

Most children this age would be happy to stay at home and play or read, but not her, she is constantly out and about in her home town aboard her faithful stead, or rather her bicycle name Gladys.  (yes, she`s still a lonely little girl who has named her bicylcle) She pokes her nose into every day space and doesn`t hesitate to turn over even the heaviest rock in the expectation of finding secrets.

I particularly enjoyed the sections where Flavia reflects on her relationship with her sisters.  She is growing up and learning that her sisters are much more than just bigger people who seem to torture her.

The Hobblers, a religious sect  in the book, appear to be fashioned after historical  English dissenters.  My research didn`t locate any group actually named the Hobblers.

For me, the mysteries that Flavia explored were second place to the continuing story of her dead mother.  Each book has revealed tiny bits about her.  She is still an unknown figure who`s absence  is a major influence on the young girl`s life.  I do hope that we learn more about her in future books in this series.

I listened to the audio book version as read by Jane Entwistle, unabridged 11 hours. 

Flavia de Luce Stories:

1  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
2 The  Weed that Strings the Hangman`s Bag
3  A Red Herring Without Mustard
4  I am Half-Sick of Shadows
5  Speaking fron among the Bones
5.5 The Curious case of the Copper Corpse 
6  The Dead in their Vaulted Arches
7 The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

Author Alan Bradley`s website

Cover image used courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio Publishing.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Quilting Fail

Thank-you to all the attendees at my online Christmas party last week. It was fun catching up with so many friends and meeting some new ones.  It also gave me a chance to be social.  I find that I tend to be quite focused when writing my blog posts and I have to remind myself of the social nicities.   The Christmas party was all about being social.  We each were telling the same stories we would have shared had we been gathered in person in my living room.  I need to remember that feeling when I am writing my posts.

One of the fun things I have been doing during my holidays, is the machine quilting of my most recent project.  I am working at it round by round, taking my time and enjoying the whole process.  Until that moment when I realized an ``oops``.  I was so excited about finally being at the quilting stage, that I didn`t clear off my table before I began stitching.  I was working on a narrow border, and something sounded odd. I then realized that I was stitching through paper.  A page of a pattern had gotten underneath the quilt and was being stitched in place.  Oops.  Since I hadn`t sewn that page of the pattern yet, I couldn`t just rip it away.  I had to save it.

I you look carefully in the first picture, you can see the row of spirals running parallel to the left of the photo.

I very carefully tore the paper off, and taped it back together. Thankfully the instructions are illustrated and I`ll be able to follow both sides of the page. Lesson learned: clean your work space before starting the next stage of a project. 
Of course my daughter witnessed this and she says my wording was somewhat more expressive.  I related this story to my mother on Christmas day and she said that I shouldn`t feel too bad as that week she turned over a quilt she was machine quilting to find that she had stitched a piece of batting to the back side. Oops.  These things do happen and have to be taken in stride.  No sense in getting all worked up over them, as that doesn`t resolve anything.   

Here`s a sneak peak of the front side of that quilt.  I still have a few more rounds to quilt, and then it`s time to bind.  I`ll share the design details when completed.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework project

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Needlework Tuesday's Online Christmas Party

 Welcome to my version of an online Christmas Party.  Usually Tuesday is my Needlework post, not much stitching going on at this point instead lots of Christmas making.  So sit back with a cup of your favourite beverage and lets have a holiday visit.

I've set the table with my Royal Albert Poinsettia china and have poured myself a cup of Sugar Cookie tea (from Celestial Seasonings).  I am still looking for some dinner and side plates in this pattern. One of these days, when I am searching the local antique markets, I'll find them.

Later today, I'll be rolling out the dough for the gingerbread men.  The dough is all made and chilling in the fridge.  I don't have a traditional gingerbread man cookie cutter, and will be substituting this zombie one.  I think it will make for fun cookie eating.  I plan to ice them with royal frosting (made with egg whites and icing sugar).  I bought a package of the food safe markers that will work directly on the cookies or on the icing.  I haven't used them before, so not too sure how they will turn out.  Yes, I'll add photos later.

In past years, I used to do oodles of baking. Two of my favourites are Elfin Shortbread Bites and Nanimo Bar Cookies, the recipes can be found at this link.   Unfortunately, I used to eat most of it as well.  This year, it`s the gingerbread zombies and I`m going to attempt to make a yule log cake, and it`s going to be diary free. yep, it`s going to be a challenge, but so worth it.

I did complete one holiday craft.  All summer I tended the grape vine growing in my front yard.  It`s one that the birds planted some years ago.  No matter how much I cut it back, each spring it grows back, vigorously.  This year, I decided to let it grow with the plan to make a wreath.  I cut down the vines in mid October and twined them around each other, tied it in a bunch of places and left it sitting on my deck. A few weeks ago, I decorated it and asked hubby to hang it on the new fence he built this summer.   He thought I was nuts making such a large wreath, but now he understands. It is a big space to fill.  No snow here like there usually is.  Were are actually expecting temperatures around 12 celsius for Christmas day.

Our yard is decorated and it`s time to move indoors.  oops, I mean, time to go to the tree farm to select our tree.   We have been going to the same place for years.  The trees are excellent and the price is perfect.  This year we brought cups of hot chocolate and wandered freely till we found the perfect tree.  The ones in this photo  are  a bit small, but give them a few years.

 I found the perfect tree.  We like to choose a Charlie Brown inspired tree. This one is a bit sparse at the bottom, but that leaves more room for the gifts and some where to hang those larger ornaments.
Hubby is equally pleased.  For those who buy their tree at a lot, I made a short video of hubby using the saw to take down this mighty tree.  Watch carefully or you might miss it.

The tree is now home and happily residing in my front room. It is partly decorated, leaving the rest of the ornaments for my kids when they finally get home.

 Does your family fill stockings.  I don`t know how wide spread this tradition is.  I remember waking early Christmas morning to find an over flowing stocking at the foot of my bed.  We were allowed to quietly open our stockings leaving our parents to sleep a little longer.  We did the same thing with our kids, leaving their stocking on the floor by their bedroom door.  We`d lay in bed listening to their excitement as the two of them gathered in one room to pull out their new treasures.

When I visited my sister in Calgary in October, she asked if I would fill her stocking this year. She told me how unsurprising to was to open a stocking that she had filled herself.  I brought her stocking home with me and had a lot fun finding some very cool stuff to fill it with.  I`ll find out how well I did in just a few days.

 Now to the tree.  My favourite part of decorating the tree, is remember and retelling the stories associated with each ornament.  I want to share just a few.

My godson gave me this rocking horse when he was a wee tyke. He passed away a few years ago when he was 26.  It`s one of the few gifts he gave me that I still have.

Since we didn`t live in the same town while he was growing up, it was always special to him when we can to visit.  Often we would stop at Tim Hortons and buy a box of donuts as a treat for him and his siblings.  His favourite were the ones with the colourful sprinkles.

I found a pattern to crochet donuts and went wild. I used beads in place of the sprinkles.  I made over a dozen of them and gave them to all the family members.  One hangs on my tree near to the rocking horse.

My father passed away a year after my nephew.  As I was thinking about the rocking horse and donut, I wanted to have an ornament that would bring my father to mind.  My father was a mechanic  though I couldn`t find a car where I was shopping.  I did find a cluster of peanuts.  Who in the world hangs peanuts on their tree, not something I would have imagined.  My dad probably ate peanuts every day of his adult life.  What could be a better salute to him.

Okay, enough of the sad stuff, this is a party after all. I`m so happy that you could visit with me today and share a little cheer.  It`s time for me to get baking, that gingerbread won`t roll itself.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your Christmas party post.  I`ll be sure to drop over to your place for a visit some time today.

I did get my zombie gingerbread men made, though they are waiting their frosting. pictures will have to wait.  Not to disappoint, for the first time I made Yule log cakes. I watched an episode of Food Factory and they were making thousands of them.  I was inspired.  Daughter helped with the rolling and she is solely responsible for the decorating.

Yule Cake - Gluten and dairy free

yule cake - dairy free

I turned the left over bit from the wee branch and turned it into Yule kindling -
 gluten and dairy free

Monday, 21 December 2015

Blood Work: An Original Hollows Graphic Novel by Kim Harrison

This was a fun way to get up to speed on a series that I have been wanting to read.  Years ago I read Black Magic Sanction, the eighth book in series and loved the characters.  Later I read a short story in the anthology Unbound which contained a story The Hollows 7.5.  Since then, I have collected a few of the books, but not found the time to start reading.

Ivy Tamwood is a vampire who works for the IS, Inderland Security which police the non-humans of Cincinnati.  She has been demoted to street crimes and assigned a new partner.  Rachel Morgan is a witch and is still in her probationary period.  Some how these two have to overcome their differences and find a way to work together; their very lives may depend on it.

It's been so long since I have read a book in this series, that I had no pre-conception of how Ivy and Rachel would look.  They are both rather well endowed, but that does seem to be a feature of graphic novels. Other than that, I like what I saw both in characters and setting.  There was enough details to flesh out the story without so many that I was distracted from the plot.  This is a short tale and is well suited to a graphic presentation.

For a list of Hollows novel and their suggested reading order, visit author Kim Harrison's website

Art work by Pedro Maia and Gemma Magno

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Cherry Cheesecake Murder by JoAnne Fluke

This is a good, solid cosy mystery.

Hannah Swensen and her partner Lisa, own The Cookie Jar coffee shop.  It's the place in Lake Eden where many people visit regularly for coffee, cookies and gossip.  In other words, they don't keep secrets from Hannah.  Neither do the members of her close knit family.

Life in town gets disrupted after her sister Michelle recommends it as the locale for a movie shoot.  The production is going well until the producer ends up dead while demonstrating a suicide scene.

Even though this is a well established series, I was able to jump in at this point without having read any of the earlier books.  The main characters are well fleshed out and after a few chapters I was feeling as though they were my neighbours and that we'd sit together should I bump into them in The Cookie Jar. 

I particularly enjoy the rivalry of deputy police chief Mike and dentist Norman for Hannah's affection.  Their united front when a third love interest appeared was particularly intriguing.

As much as this book is a mystery, I felt it was much more a study of the interactions within a small town, and how people who live so closely together, can put aside their differences when one of their own comes under some sort of threat.

A Cherry Cheesecake Murder is the 8th Hannah Swensen Mystery series.   It also marked the first time that one of JoAnne's books made the New York Times Best Seller list in March 2006.

In 2015, the first Hannah Swenson book served as the basis for the made for television movie "Murder She Baked - A Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery" which was later followed by "Murder She Baked - A Plum Pudding Mystery".  I watched both of these and enjoyed them immensely even though I hadn't read those particular books.

Joanne Fluke also writes suspense thrillers and under the pen name Jo Gibson she writes suspense thrillers for the YA crowd.

Thanks to author Joanne Fluke and Kensington Publishing  Corp. for use of the cover image.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

If I had known how good this book is, it wouldn't have sat on my book shelf for the past four years.   I don't recall what I was expecting, but it was far beyond what I could have imagined any coming of age story to be.  It had me on the edge of my chair alternately sobbing and then cheering for the characters.  I have to call them characters to remind myself that this book is fiction.

The story begins in Iran in 1973 when the Shah is in power and his subjects are tightly overseen by the SAVAK, his secret police.  Daily life continues as in many countries as long as your political beliefs are line with that of the Shah or if they differ, they must be extremely well hidden from all.

Seventeen year old Pasha Shahed is in his last year of high school and when he graduates, his father will send him to the United States to study engineering.  He spends most of his free time with his friend Ahmed. Together, the boys spend hours atop Pasha's roof, which is common practise in Tehran. They talk of all those things that interest teenage boys: school, teachers, their families, futures and perhaps, most important of all, girls.  Ahmed loves  Faheemeh, a girl from a few streets away, while Pasha is in love with Zari, the girl next door who is engaged to another of his friend's.

One of my favourite parts of reading, is learning about cultures different from mine.  This was my first exposure to Iran outside of news reports.  It was refreshing to learn of it's people and their daily life.  They have many of the same concerns such as housing, food, education, but they must also contend with a government who's foremost concern is their leader.  Any one who disagrees with the leader could be subject to dire consequences.  This is something that Pasha must be ever conscious of.

At this formative age, Pasha has to deal with the despair of others actions.  There was nothing in his formal education to prepare him and he has only his family and best friend to aid him.  It's very tough for him to grow into an adult when he knows that his government does not have his best interests at heart.

One of author Mahbod Seraji aims was to make the reader feel as though he or she was part of the story, sitting on the roof with Pasha and Ahmed.  Well, he certainly succeeded with me.  I felt I was sitting beside them, glancing over the neighbouring wall to Zari's house.  I could see the same stars that they were staring at.  I cried with them and I cheered them along at their successes.

One thing that surprised me, was the amount of freedom of the women.  Some choose to wear head scarves of various types, yet other were unveiled.  All were accepted.  They also went about freely in the streets to do their shopping and to gather with their friends and visit.  News stories had me almost believing that women were forced to cover up at all times  and that they had to be accompanied by a male relative every where.  Thank-you to the author for this clarity.

I loved this book.  Every minute spent reading it was dear to me, even when bad things happened.  I'm sorry I left it on my shelf so long before reading it.  I would happily recommend it to anyone looking for a more truthful look at Iran and it's people and culture.  The Rooftops of Tehran would make an excellent selection for your next book club read.  And Mr. Seraji, please don't keep me waiting much longer for your next book.

Thank-you to author Mahbod Seraji for my review copy.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Needlework Tuesday - When a Postage Stamp Quilt is Too Fiddley

One thing I love about Needlework Tuesday, is visiting with my online friends.  Not only do I get the opportunity to further our friendships, I get to see what you are up to.   This is exactly what we would be doing if we were local friends.  We'd get together for a visit, bring our current projects, and sit and stitch and chat.  Since I don't have an unlimited budget, a virtual sharing will have to suffice.

A few weeks ago when I was visiting with Karen, at Quilts....etc., I spied the postage stamp quilt that she is working on.  For those who don't know, a postage stamp quilt is made with 1 1/2 inch squares of fabric.  In the finished quilt, they will measure about 1 inch, which is the traditional size of a postage stamp.  I love the look of that quilt.  I asked her about it, and she said that she was inspired by a quilt she'd seen else where.  As no pattern was available, she made her own.  I've followed suit and adapted the design to my supplies on hand, namely a big box of 2 inch square.

I decided to go with four pieced rows, while Karen has five.  Follow this link to view Karen's quilt in progress.  I have completed one block as a test. I liked it and started to piece the strips for additional blocks.
So far I have about thirty strips pieced and pressed.  I have lots more squares ready to go.  I am working them in bit by bit as I stitch on other projects.  I don't know how large this quilt will get, depends when I either run out of squares, or I get bored with it.

I have been inspired by many of my online friends.  After seeing the progress Sherrie at Food for Thought was making on her back log of quilt tops, I purchased the batting I needed and pre-washed it.  I still don't have the quilted layered up, but I am getting closer.  Thanks Sherrie.

Regardless of your preferred craft and types of projects, I enjoy visiting with all of you.  I find that seeing your finished projects inspires me to work toward finishing some of my own. oh do I need to finish a few more.  Thanks for the inspiration and the little nudges that I feel coming my way.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework project.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Rachel Blum has a broken heart causing her to spend much time in hospitals.  During a stay when she is eight, she meets Andy Landis who has broken his arm.  They form a bond in that hospital waiting room.  Over the years, their lives continue to intersect and this bond deepens.

Who Do You Love is a charming love story between two people who were fated to meet.  Normally, their paths would never have crossed.  Rachel is from a well to do Jewish family in Florida and Andy is a Catholic from a single parent family in Philadelphia.

Their lives are nothing alike, yet they have love between them.  I enjoyed reading how each of them had to grow as a person to learn who they really were.  Love isn't necessarily easy.

This is a well written story that almost had me forgetting it was fiction.  I developed an emotional attachment with a few of the characters and found myself cheering for them at times and shedding tears for them at others.

It was time well spent with Rachel and Andy and I want that warm feeling generated by their story of love to last long after I put this book back on the shelf.

Author Jennifer Weiner's website

Cover image used courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Needlework Tuesday - I'm seeing white

Yes, I am seeing white, but it's not snow, it's white table cloth fabric and trim.  While I was visiting my aunt and uncle in October, my sister volunteered me to stitch some mats for their tables. After pondering the challenge, I decided on the materials and techniques to use.

I purchased some white table cloth fabric.  It's really wide, so a half metre gave me lots to play with (in case of mistakes). I also purchased eight metres of trim.

You've probably seen table runners and place mats where the trim has shrunk and pulled in the edges of the mat. Looks awful.  I didn't want that to happen and knew I would need to pre-wash the trim. The tag didn't tell me anything helpful.  One natural fibre and one man-made. Well, I knew I had to wash it and deal with the results.  I put all the trim in a large bowl of warm water, swished it around and left it for about 20 minutes.  Then I drained the water, squeezed out some more and then laid it out on a towel in a spiral so I didn't have any folds.  I measured it afterward and it was still approximately the same length. I was surprised.

I made a paper template and cut out the oval shapes I wanted.  My first thought was to zigzag the edges and add the trim over top.  That didn't work as it resulted in a fuzzy mess. Instead, I stitched the trim on the inside edge to the wrong side of the fabric lining it up along the edge. Then I trimmed the fabric back about half way to the stitching line. In the photo above you can see at the right, the edges of the trim peeking out. Then I folded the trim to the front and stitched it down once again, along the inside edge.  Now the cut edge of the fabric is nicely enclosed and no more fraying.

I tried to take a photo of the finished mat, but it's just a blur of white.

I have a few more to make and then will be sending them off to my aunt.

This was a more fussy project than I thought it would be, but I decided that it would be worth my effort to take my time and work through it. I am most pleased with the end result.  Some projects I do are easy and don't require me to pay too much attention and others are like this, where I have to either pin every inch or carefully place every stitch.  Which ever type it is, I enjoy it all.  If I'm not enjoying myself, then I am doing something wrong.  Stitching is my hobby and that means it should be fun for me.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework project.  Last week's linky is still open for your Advent Calendar projects.

Monday, 7 December 2015

A Perfect Grave by Rick Mofina

Jason Wade is an up and coming crime reporter for the Seattle Mirror.  He is looking for a story that will lift him from his current troubles and firmly position him atop the pack when he hears a garbled message on the police scanner.  Could be that lead he is looking for to meet his next deadline.  Something has happened in a nun's residence.

Meanwhile, his father Henry, is peering longingly at the drink sitting before him, struggling not to break his two years sobriety. That would end his career as a PI and still not relieve him of the ghosts that haunt his past.

It isn't long before father and son are embroiled in their respective cases.  Jason has his editor breathing fire down his neck, demanding results,while his father's inner demon is pressing him onward.

I enjoyed learning a bit of how an investigative reporter works.  Sort of like a police detective but without the legal whistles and bells of search warrants and such.  There is a good portrayal of the difference between how the public relates to the police and how they respond to journalists.  In this case, Jason is perceived as the man who is actually looking for the truth not just some one to take the blame.

Mr. Mofina paints a very believable story.  There are no sudden leaps in logic that solve the case, or mysterious envelopes of clues that arrive on a desk just in the nick of time.  What there is, is a hard working news man with a nose for ferreting out the clues and the dedication of double and triple checking his facts before publishing.

This is the third book in the Jason Wade series, though I found that you don't need to have read the previous ones to enjoy it.

If you enjoy stories about investigative reporters, you might also enjoy The Silent Reporter: Hyder Ali #1 by Mobashar Qureshi

Jason Wade Series:
  1. The dying Hour
  2. Every Fear
  3. A Perfect Grave
Books by Rick Mofina that I have also reviewed:

They Disappeared

Cover image used courtesy of author Rick Mofina

Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Partials: partials sequence #1 by Dan Wells

The year is 2076 and the human race has been devastated by a war with engineered humans, the partials, and a virus thought to have been released by them.  The remaining humans, numbered at perhaps 35 000, are isolated on Long Island, New York.  The clock is ticking against long term survival, as no human babie,s born since the war,  have survived longer than four days.

Kira is a sixteen year old medic still in training.  She seems to be a natural when it comes to medical research.  She realises that she'll have to run tests on a partial if she is going to save the babies.

I totally enjoyed this story.  Author Dan Wells constructed a believable post-apocalypse world.  The political power struggles made it seem more realistic.

At first I questioned whether the teens would have enough training for the jobs they were doing.  Then I though about how much time is wasted in our current education system with fun things and not actual learning.  A directed course of study could give students the knowledge needed within the time frame of the book. 

I liked Kira.  She's smart and willing to disregard the politics and get things done.  She also exhibits the leadership to get those around her to support her progressive activities.  It was interesting watching Samm develop from a silent character to one with an active stake in the outcome of Kira's research.  Not like a prisoner with Stockholm syndrome.

I listened to the unabridged audio book as read by Julia Whelan.  I did have a little trouble with her male voicing at first.  As I got involved with the various characters, this mattered less.

I found this a truly enjoyable audio book.  I liked the idea of the setting on Long Island, some place I've never been.

The Story of the Partials continues:
0.5 Isolation
1    Partials
2    Fragments
3    Ruins

Cover image courtesy HarperCollins Canada

Thursday, 3 December 2015

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

I know how shocking it can be to receive a phone call telling you that one of your best friends has died, but imagine that you learn that two of your friends have died in a boating accident.  That is exactly what happens during the opening pages of The Castaways.  Popular couple Tess and Greg MacAvoy had gone sailing to help celebrate their Wedding anniversary, and now, five hours later, they are dead.

This event starts a cycle of introspection, self recrimination and even personal crisis among the three other couples who formed the social group known as the Castaways.  To complicate matters, the young MacAvoy twins, Chloe and Finn, are in need of replacement parents.

I knew nothing about this author when I found this book.  The idea of a mysterious boating accident was intriguing though.  I have since learned that author Elin Hilderbrand is known for her "Summer Beach Reads", not a genre I'd heard about let alone read.  I'm on the fence about this book.  I did appreciate the friendships between the couples and their grieving process, but I can't say I really liked, nor identified with any of the characters.   The women were totally lost to me.  I don't think I'd be friends with any of them should our paths cross. I could respect Ed, the police chief and also Jeffrey the farmer, both good solid kind of men.  It surprised me that the couples could have stayed friends for so many years when they had all these hidden insecurities.  I am guessing that the inertia of the past kept them together.

I felt that the author was trying too hard to make Greg sound like god's gift to women.  He is type of man that I have warned my daughter about.  I wouldn't have given him a second look.  And the gift giving thing.  Why make so much effort to keep reminding the reader that they don't give gifts to each other,  How odd. They would accept being 'treated' to a meal but gifts were a no-no.   This seemed as though it kept being trotted out and re-enforced but to no real purpose.

I was quite confused at the beginning of the story by who was married to each other, and who was having or had had and affair, so I made a little chart and it really helped to keep things clear.

While I did have a paper copy of the novel, I chose to listen to the audio book from Hachette Audio  as read by Katie Hale.  12 hours 57 minutes.  There was nothing distinctive about her reading.  She presented each of the four six narrators in the same voice, which while pleasant to listen to, didn't distinguish the characters from each other. 

During my time with this book, I was disgusted,  confused, amused, titillated and much more.  Yes, there was eye rolling and sympathy as well.  As I said, I'm on the fence about it. 

Thanks to Little Brown and Company for my paper review copy.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

X-Files Classic: Volume 1 by Stefan Petrucha

The combination of the stories and the graphics gave me the feel I used to get while watching the original television series.  Mulder still wants to believe and Scully is ever the sceptic.  Author Stefan Petrucha has the story twists the viewers came to expect with the show including characters who carry forward from earlier episodes even when you thought their story was finished.

Illustrator Charlie Adlard brought Mulder and Scully back to life.  I almost expected them to start moving.  The excellent graphics provide the visual clues that further build the stories.  I love the use of such vivid colours.

The story panes are easy to follow and make for an enjoyable reading experience.

Cover image courtesy IDW Publishing

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Needlework Tuesday - a new advent calendar

Now that daughter has moved into her own apartment while at university, she needed her own advent calendar.   We have used the same one all her life and she missed it last year when she was living in residence.

When I saw this one, I knew it would be perfect for her. The bright colours called out to me.
It is quilted lightly and I'll add more and the binding after the holidays this year.  I got a bit pressed for time.  Fortunately she doesn't mind.

Last year, I posted about the calendar my family uses and the new one my sister sent me.

Please add a link to your post about your advent calendar. I'd love to see what you use with our family.

Visit my post from last year to view my advent calendar.

Monday, 30 November 2015

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

If an EMP were to be set off above a heavily populated first world country, what would be the impact.  That is just the question that William R. Forstchen explores in his book One Second After.

I found the book to be very successful in conveying the dire sequence of events for human life, but it was low on the story telling aspect.  It reads more like a text book manual of what to expect after an EMP. He pulls no punches and the truth is brutal.  The death rates are astronomical.  The plot line though is very light and could have been covered in a short story.  A man, his children, his dogs and a limpid romance.

John Matherson, ex-military and a current history professor at the local college provides the narrative and onerous explanations of just about everything the reader needs to know.  Mr. Forstchen appears to assume that his readers know very little and need to be spoon fed every detail.  He almost lectures us at some points.

I like post-apocalyptic novels and I did enjoy this book for it's realism.  It helped to add perspective to some of the more fantastical book I have read in this genre. 

I listened to the audio book from Blackstone Audio as read by Joe Barrett.  13 hours 18 minutes.  The reader was drab and un-enthusiastic.  He did nothing to convince me this was a novel rather than an 8 am briefing I was forced to attend.  If I had a paper copy, I would have skipped the preface by Newt Gingrich, a fictional work is not the place for a politician to be shovelling his agenda.

Is this fictional work accurate?  I could find no notes/statement on Mr. Forstchen's site indicating his research nor sources for the disease and death rates.  There is much on the actual EMP which plays a few minutes role in the story and then it's done.  Researchers might find this an interesting read, but not scientifically significant.  As for general fiction readers, It doesn't really matter, it's fiction and should be enjoyable for the story itself.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

An approach to dealing with dental appointment anxiety

For some reason, over the years my dental appointment anxiety has increased.  Not that it matters why it started, but it's there and it was beginning to affect my dental health.  That means I was putting off dental work that needed to be done sooner than latter.

I spoke with my family doctor and with my dentist, and they both agreed that there is nothing unusual about having anxiety and that it can be easily dealt with.  I then sought out a friend of mine who deals with her own anxiety.  They all reached the same recommendation, tooth fairy dust or as it's more commonly known, anti-anxiety medication is an excellent option.  There is more than one type available and you must consult your health care professionals to select what will work for you.

   I arrived for my appointment half and hour early.  My dentist gave me a tiny blue pill to take.  Half and hour later, time to go sit in the big chair.  I had no trepidation what so ever.  I didn't flinch when it was freezing time.  I didn't care that he was drilling, I just turned up the volume on my audio device.

I reclined in that comfy chair, listened to my audio book and had the best appointment of my life.    I knew that he and his assistant were doing stuff, but it didn't concern me.  My filling was replaced and I was so so so relaxed.  Hubby then took me home and I slept the afternoon away.  I did find that I had to re-listen to my audiobook the next day as I couldn't recall what I had previously heard.

Honestly, it was the best decision I could have made.  The medication is fast acting, I was under supervision and it was safe.  I am happy.  No lingering effects the next day except for a calm feeling.

I wanted to share this story as I know there are many people who are foregoing appropriate medical care due to their anxiety.  Talk with your doctor, talk with your dentist.  There is help and tooth fairy dust available.

note: I have no medical qualifications

edited June 7, 2017. A friend sent this additional information that might be helpful:
Another tip for those with dental anxiety. If you find your anxiety starts after you've gotten your numbing shot, you should know that adrenaline is mixed with the numbing agent to make it last longer. I have found that the adrenaline seems to trigger an anxiety attack in me, so now I ask the dentist to not use the adrenaline. She may have to give you another shot of the numbing agent partway through the procedure, but I no longer get anxiety attacks in the chair. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Needlework Tuesday - A quilt top complete

Mostly  I stitch casually as a project, taking my time to enjoy the process and proceed at a most leisurely pace.  Then there are the times, when I sit at my machine and sew to a self imposed deadline.  That is exactly what I did last week.  I wanted to see progress and lots of it.

Firstly, I wanted to finish this quilt top.  There was so little to do but it was taking me forever.  Shop for fabric, never a hardship believe me. I thought I might go for blues, but I loved the rust coloured fabric with the lighter circles.  Beside it on the shelf was the lighter fabric with sprays of colourful leaves.  perfect.  The top measures about 64 inches on a side.  I have the backing fabric washed and ready to be measured and cut.  Next to scrounge around and find some batting and then I'm ready to machine quilt.

This will be for use in  our little camper .

These are the little churn dash blocks that have been hounding me for years.  My niece is not getting married, but I want to have this quilt ready just in case.  oh heck, I won't be able to wait once it's finished, I'll give it to her just because I love her.  I won't start the layout until the quilt show above it totally finished, and that includes the binding and label.  I'm going to discipline myself, at least for a few minutes and try to keep to the plan of finishing, finishing anything.

At my local quilt guild meeting last evening, I vowed out loud that I would bring a finished item for show and tell next year.  That's pretty good, it gives me 13 months to finish something.  I feel confident that I can accomplish that.  Who knows, perhaps I'll finish two quilted items. (don't hold your breath).

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to a post about  your finished or unfinished project.  See you next week.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Winner - Every Word by Ellie Marney

 Congratulations to Eileeen L. winner of a copy of Every Word by Ellie Marney.  Eileen won by following my blog using the GFC, Google Friends Connect, widget on the left side of my blog.

Thank-you to all who visited during the Every Word Blog tour.  


Winner was randomly selected by the Rafflecopter.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Outside: A Post-Apocalyptic Novel by Shalini Boland

I found this an enjoyable story.  It didn't focus so much on the mechanics of post-apocalyptic life as it did on Riley and Luc and how they live as a result.  They are both rather sheltered seventeen year olds and their naivety is shattered when Riley's younger sister is murdered within the guarded walls of their community.  These walled communities are a major step beyond the gated communities of today.   Even though they have both been trained in survival and defence skills,  once they leave the safety of the walls, they realise that they have no idea of what the world is really like.

Riley had big goals she expected to accomplish out in the world, which is so like a teen her age.  She knew what she wanted and saw no reason why she wouldn't accomplish it.  I did find it unbelievable that so many problems would find them one right after the other.  This set me up to expect that in each situation they would be defeated.  I wonder if that was the author's plan.

Running parallel to Riley's story, is that of Eleanor.  This is where we learn about the crash of British society.  At first I didn't connect this past with the present, but I continued to read and it became clearer.

This is a fast paced story with lots of action.  It also contained a number of plot twists that were pleasant surprises to me.  I prefer more about the struggle to survive.  This book dealt more with the coming of age of two teens  and the development of their relationship. 

At the time of writing, this ebook is free at some online retailers.

Cover image courtesy of author Shalini Boland.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Tortoise Quilting

 Some weeks I feel as though I haven't accomplished a thing.  I'll have spent hours stitching away, yet it feels as though I am no further along.  Then I reach that point where something changes, and voila, I notice the progress.  Oh how I love that moment.  It makes all that tedious work worth while.

One day I spent about two hours machine doing the button hole stitch around this flower.  I used cotton thread and a small stitch and worked very slowly.  I wanted to ensure that the straight edge of the stitch fell just off the edge of the flower. It is well worth taking the extra time to get the thread to lay exactly where I wanted without a gap between the thread and the flower that allows the background to peek through.

Next I added a two inch boarder.  The small floral is rather fun as opposed to using a plain or tone on tone fabric.

 The instructions then called to add half square triangles to two sides.   I used triangle paper to quickly sew them up.  If you are not familiar to the technique, visit the site Quilting and Whatnot for details as well as free pdf files of the printable paper.

The pattern I am using called for the rows of triangles along the top to be slanted the other direction.  That looked wrong to me so I changed them around and am very happy with them now.

I have now to sit and wait for my next local guild meeting when I will receive the next page of instructions.

It's been a lot of weeks, or more like months, since I started this quilt top.  Do you remember the four patch blocks.  I've now added the double tumbler boarder.  I used the Marti Michell template for easy cutting.  I am planning to make some tumbler quilts and wanted to see what they would look like in this orientation.  I really like the ones that are fat in them middle and narrow at the two ends. The dark red one just to the right of the centre on the top boarder is the look I want for a quilt.  But first, I need to add some single fabric boarders to bring this up in size.  It currently is 52 inches on a side. I'm thinking blues, but am not sure.

I don't really mind when a project takes me a long time to complete.  I enjoy the entire process, even when feels I'm not moving forward. Aarrg I remember when I had to make hundreds of french knots on a pillow  I never thought I would finish them.  I did, and the pillow still looks lovely.  After I have spent money for supplies, time planning and then many more hours sewing, I don't really mind spending a few more hours on the details.  They are what make my project mine and special to me.

Do you have a project that you've been working on for what seems like ages.  Whether it's one you are working on still, or one you've already finished, I'd love to hear about it, or better yet, add a link to a post about it on Mister Linky.

Needlework Tuesday is a regular weekly post where I share the progress of my various needlework projects over the past week. I enjoy the encouragement that I receive from my readers and in return visit their blogs and cheer them on with theirs. You are welcome to grab the cute little mouse and create your own Needlework Tuesday post. Leave a comment with a link and I'll be sure to visit with you.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Every Word by Ellie Marney

 Welcome to the first day of the Every Word Blog Tour.  All this week, you are invited to visit with more than twenty bloggers to read what they thought of Ellie Marney's new book Every Word, the second instalment in the continuing story of James Mycroft and Rachel Watts.   #WattsCroft

I loved this book.  If it weren't for family obligations, I would have read it through in one sitting.   Once I had this book in hand, I couldn't wait to find out what mystery would confront the inquisitive pair.  In their last book, Mycroft and Watts helped the Melbourne police solve the murder of their friend Dave.  Eight weeks have elapsed since that event and the duo are still trying to work out the kinks in their relationship, mainly that Rachel is effectively grounded from seeing James unsupervised.

Things come to a dramatic head when he learns of the death of Daniel Gardener, a rare book conservator, at a library in England, that had just lost an extremely valuable copy of a first edition folio of William Shakespeare's plays.  Mr. Gardener died in a car jacking that sounded suspiciously like the one in which James' parents lost their lives. Could these two incidents be connected.

From this point on, the story goes into overdrive and the plot progresses at a record pace.  Over the next week we learn about the true depth of their feelings and commitment to each other.  The two work so well together, like Holmes and Watson who inspired them.  They continue to compliment each others strengths.  I enjoyed seeing Rachel take more of a lead and carry out some investigations on her own.

This is a complex plot that is carefully revealed to the reader with lots of bits and pieces just waiting to be fit together.  I found it believable that Mycroft would have been asked to help in the investigation.  It was a bit harder to accept Rachel's determination to follow him, but it is true that if teenagers are anything, they are impulsive and seldom think through the consequences of their actions.

I was sad then this book ended. I really like the character of Mycroft and didn't want to leave him.  Author Ellie Marney has done a terrific job of developing these two characters and the groundwork has been laid for a successful continuing series.

I have previously posted my review of Every Breath, the first book in this series.

Thanks to Tundra Books for my review copy.

Can't wait to get your hands on a copy of Every Word, complete the Rafflecopter below to be entered to win a copy courtesy of Tundra Books.  Open to those in Canada and the United States only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Savage Run 2 by E. J. Squires

After having enjoyed Savage Run 1, I was looking forward to spending more time with Heidi and Nicholas.  Unfortunately, this book was so short, that I was barely getting into the story and it was finished.  This should be marketed as a serialized novel.

The story picks up immediately where book one ends with no recap or reminders of what had already happened.  It can not be read and understood without having read the first installment.

While there is some good action, there is not enough to call it a book and to substantiate it's cost.  The entire story of the Savage Run should have been published as a single novel and not broken up into little bits.

Read my review of Savage Run 1

Cover image courtesy of author E. J. Squires