Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Preparing a polar bear skin for stuffing

 It's a scorcher here today.  We don't get all that many days where the mercury tops 30C. Today is certainly one of them, we reached at least 32C. This might not seem hot to some who live closer to the equator, but for us more northern people, remember that for a large part of the year, the thermometer doesn't climb over the freezing year.

I have been hiding inside in the air conditioning during the hottest part of the day.  This week I have been working on a polar bear skin.  I know I can't fool my readers, it's a knit pelt.  The pattern is from the book Faux Taxidermy Knits: 15 Wild Animal Knitting Patterns by Louise Walker.  She is a very talented designer.  I first learned about her when i saw photos of the knit wigs that she had made.  They were so life like at first glance. When this book came along, I ordered it immediately.  I really want to make the tiger skin rug even though hubby is not all that keen on having it in our living room.  To view more of Louise's work, click on her name to be taken to her website, or click on this link to her Facebook photo page.

Back to the polar bear.  I am knitting him of a fuzzy yarn.  I need to knit the second skin, then they are sewn together, the head is stuffed and then the paws are lightly stuffed.  It's a coaster.  I'll have a picture in the next week or two.

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.
 Even though it's sweltering outside, I realise that knitters are already thinking of scarves, mitts and hats.  If you are looking for a fun and easy scarf, the Amazing Brilliant Zig Zag Scarf from  Lion Brand is worth considering.  You either increase at the end of every row, or you decrease at the end of every row.  Simple.  For a thicker yarn, your maximum row only needs 20 stitches.

All this scarf needs yet are some eyes and a red tongue (not specified in the pattern).  I used Bernat Softee Chunky Twists in colour Tropic Twists.  Too bad this has been discontinued.

 I used the same yarn in a different colour for the rug for daughter.  I found it very easy to knit with.  There are two colours, grey ragg and teal twists still available.  I think either would make a great hoodie. 

I hope that you are having more favourable weather where ever you may be living. Not that I'm complaining. After such a bitter cold winter, warm is welcome.

Mister Linky is waiting below to see what you've been working on currently.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Seaborne #1: The Lost Prince by Matt Myklusch

I loved this book.  Adventure, swashbuckling, and a mysterious island.  All the best of pirate lore along with young Dean Seaborne, a pirate spy.  Wait a minute, a pirate spy.  My first thought was, what the heck is a pirate spy.  Simply put, it`s a pirate who spies on other pirates. 

Dean has been a pirate for as long as he can remember, and that`s not all that long considering that he`s only thirteen.  He doesn`t like how he`s forced to live, but can`t imagine a way out.  His newest job is to infiltrate the crew of the Reckless, which is captained by Gentleman Jim Harper and to find out why that ship`s profits as so low.  During it`s short voyage, he learns far more than he could have imagined.  What he learns changes his life.

This is where the mysterious island with the golden trees enters the story.  Oh wait, I can`t tell you any more, don`t want to spoil the surprises. 

For all his life, Dean has been told what to do and now he is placed in difficult situations where he has to make important choices.  This is the chance for him to choose what kind of man he will grow up to be, a cut throat pirate, or will he follow in the steps of Gentleman Jim. 

I totally enjoyed this book.  It was a refreshing take on the usual ruthless pirate story.  It had all the action and adventure that I expected, yet it also had surprising twists and turns.

This book would appeal to pre-teens both male and female.  Dean and Princess Waverly are good role models, though for different reasons.    Parents beware, if you give this book to your child, be prepared for him or her to want to read it straight through in one sitting and then start all over again. 

Cover image courtesy of author Matt Myklusch

Thanks to Netgalley for my review copy.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Prior to reading this book, I had never pondered the relationship between an author and her or his agent.  In Named of the Dragon, literary agent  Lyn Ravenshaw travels to Wales with her client, author Bridget Cooper.  They are set to spend the Christmas holidays with Bridget's boyfriend, also an author.

Lyn is is much in need of a quiet holiday as she is yet grieving the loss of her child Justine several years earlier.  After arriving at the rural farm, she is upset to find that a young baby is staying in the adjoining house.

This story starts at a gentle pace and slowly builds to a crescendo.  The detailed descriptions of the sweeping landscape helped  lull me into a false sense of safety.  I began to second guess who was behind sneaky mis-behaviour.  Was it Lyn's fanciful imagination or was there truly an other worldly intervention attempting to guide Lyn.

I really enjoyed the play off between the three authors in the story, Bridget, her boyfriend James and Gareth,the secretive playwright.  It really highlighted for me that authors come from all walks of life and that they are often nothing like the persons they create in their works of fiction.

This is not a high action drama, rather a novel that you read while  curled up in a quilt with a cup of tea  and time to savour and enjoy the relationships while they develop.

Also by Susanna Kearsley:
To learn more about Susanna Kearsley visit  her website.

Thank-you to Sourcebooks for my review copy and for use of the cover image.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill

I was only a few chapters in to this book when I knew that one story wasn't going to be enough about Inspector Hector Salgado.  Author Antonio Hill has created a character that I want to read about again and again. 

The Inspector has just returned from a month long enforced vacation to his homeland of Argentina when he was asked to unofficially investigate a suicide.  At first, he goes through the motions of this new case, but can't let go of the human trafficking one that got him in such trouble.  Hector is a good investigator, he knows not  to accept things at face value, but to collect and listen to the evidence. Fortunate for him and for the dead man,   Leira Castro is assigned as his new partner and she is brilliant at her job.  Together, they uncover of a web of deceit reaching back years.

I loved this novel, it kept me interested, on the edge of my seat for the entire story.  It combined great characters, a city that is foreign to me and a plot that I couldn't anticipated.  It is an excellent example of a classic police procedural where good solid police work and investigation find the clues/leads and follow them through to their actual conclusion of a solved crime.

Inspector Hector Salgado returns in The Good Suicides and then in The Hiroshima Lovers (yet to be translated to english).

Cover image courtesy of PenguinRandom House.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for my review copy.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Sweet Treats

 I'm still on my bag binge.  This time, I have added zippers.  I used the Little Boxy Pouch Tutorial for these cow inspired bags.  These were so easy.  I followed the instructions for the small one with the pink zipper.  I had some twill left over from a long ago outfit that I made for daughter when she was tiny.

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.

 Next up was the Small Treat Totes from allpeoplequilt.com.  An easy pattern that is virtually identical to a larger bag that I have made.  The first bag I made using the pattern as written.  That makes for a bag with all the seams hidden within the lining.  I was thinking why do some hand stitching on such a small bag.  Next time, I changed it up.  I pressed open the seam that falls at the top of the bag, and the lower seam, I pressed one side up and one side down to reduce bulk at the side seams.  The instructions do no indicate pressing the seams.

 Then I sewed one side seam and pressed it open.  then sew the next side seam and press it open as well as can be.  Fold the lining down to the outside, press and top stitch around the top.
 Sew across the bottom and then box the corners. Turn to right side.
 I'm still undecided on which version I prefer.  Following the instructions results in a neater bag inside, but then you have to box 4 corners and hand stitch.  My way has no hand stitching and boxing two corners.  I'll make a few more before I decide.

Mister linky is waiting below to see what you've been working on .

Monday, 20 July 2015

Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

What could cause four seemingly normal teens to violently kill one of their classmates. Author Gail Giles Gives us the ending in the first lines of tihs story then slowly tells us how this disaster unfolded. 

Simon Glass was the school nerd, the butt of jokes and was picked on just for being alive.  Rob Hayes is new to the school yet quickly claimed the spot of most popular boy.  It came as a great surprise to Rob's friends, when he decided to befriend Simon with the goal to make him popular.  Why did he do this, was he being sincere in his concern for Simon, or did he have some ulterior motive.

In every high school there are boys like Rob, Young, Bob, Coop,  and Simon.  Decent kids who graduate and continue on to become responsible adults.  In this school, something happened, something wrong and disturbing. 

I listened to the audio book version two times.  The first, I was stunned by the events, questioning how this could happen.  The next time I listened to it, fully knowing what was to occur, I paid more attention to the reactions of the boys during the events.  I liked even better the second time. While I did enjoy the audio book as read by Scott Brick, I did experience some confusion.  At the beginning of the chapters, there are short passages/quotes by some of the other students at the school. I found it hard to know when it was Young, the narrator speaking or one of their class mates.

This is a story that grabs you and won't let go,  It makes you pay attention even when you want to walk away.  I could sense that they boys were heading toward something wrong, I didn't know what and I couldn't do anything to stop it.  Shattering Glass contains a powerful message.  It's not an easy read, but well worth the emotional toll it might take on it's readers.

Thanks to Audible for use of the cover image.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

 Most of us would give up.  How do you possibly investigate a terror threat when there seem to be no clues to the perpetrators.  Ramon, not his real name, isn't stumped for long, he is after all a member of one of the United States most secret intelligence organizations.

The day had started in a more normal manor, helping his friend, homicide lieutenant Ben Bradley, investigate a grisly murder.  Now Ramon is pulled from retirement to find an unknown terrorist.  As the story continues, we learn about his background and why he is the perfect man for the job.  We are introduced to the man dubbed the Saracen that Ramon must find.

I enjoyed Ramon's back story. His is a fascinating one that I never even imagined could exist.  How close this fictional agent is to real life I'll never know.  As for the Saracen, I was uncomfortable reading his story. Step by step, the author twisted his life and re-made him as the ultimate terrorist.  I hurried reading through his story so I could get back to Ramon's.

I am Pilgrim is a well thought out story and it keep me on edge switching back and forth between Ramon and Saracen.  The only problem I had was the over use of foreshadowing.  When used sparingly, it can be a very effective devise, when over used, it falls flat and in this book it even got laughable.  At one point it was used twice on one page.  If you can over look this, it's a book well worth reading.

Cover image courtesy Simon and Schuster

Friday, 17 July 2015

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

I thoroughly enjoyed this book   It came to me as a surprise.  For the past two years, my nephew has been urging me to read it when I kept passing it by.  Finally, he put his foot down and told me a I was missing out on a great story and it turns out he was correct.

The story starts in a hole deep in the ground, somewhere under London, where Dr. Burrows and his son will are digging for the unknown or the forgotten.  A few days later, Dr. Burrows goes missing and Will sets out along with his friend Chester to find him.  This search leads them to places they could never have imagined.

This book made me want to burrow under a couple of quilt, sit in a dark room with a light shining over my shoulder just enough so I could read the words on the page.  I could then imagine being in the same tunnels along with Will and Chester.  When the vivid descriptions of the tunnels became oppressive, I had to go outside into the sunshine for a couple of breaths of fresh air.

All the while Dr. Burrows and his son are digging around, his daughter, Will's  younger sister, Rebecca is trying to keep the family functional.  His mother is a wreck, rarely moving from in front of the television and seeming detached from her family.

Through out the story, we get a good feel for Will and Rebecca.  They are both strong characters, children who've had to grow up quickly.  Chester is Will's voice of reason.  He is a perfect sidekick, almost always willing to try something new, though he knows when to pull Will back.

The tunnels came alive for me.  I could imagine the dim lighting, the dust covering surface  and the wonder of what they were seeing.  At times I wanted to be with the boys and at others I was thankful to be in the sunshine.

This book series should appeal to pre-teens and early teens.  It would be a good choice for parents to read with their younger children.

The Tunnels Series
  1. Tunnels
  2. Deeper
  3. Closer
  4. Freefall
  5. Closer
  6. Spiral
  7. Terminal
Cover image courtesy Chicken House Scholastic Books.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Noriko Handbag

 The weather here has been very enticing lately.  It keeps dragging me outdoors.  Can't complain.  However, that has left me with less stitching time.  Not a bad trade off though, all that fresh air, sunscreen and sunshine.

 I did complete a small bag.  It's the "Noriko Bag" from Lazy Girl Designs.  It has one pattern piece and it quite easy to sew.  It did take several reading of the instructions to figure out what they meant,but they do make sense in the end.  I did have to do some re-pressing, but not a big deal.

This first photo shows the bag laying flat for storage.

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.

 the bag can be used with the sides out.
 You can also tuck the sides in.
When you have something in the bag, it makes for a fun looking bottom.  As per the instructions, I have added a ribbon tassel with large beads.  If I were to make this again, I would use and outer fabric with some metallic on it for a bit of glitter. I splurged on the button and bought a shiny one.  Since I was only buying one, it was affordable.  It's sad to see a project that someone has made, they spend good money on the pattern and fabric and then they skimp and buy a cheap button.  It really lets the project down.  What the heck, buy a two dollar button you're worth it.

I've been following Sharon's Pintangle blog over about a year now.  She does the most beautiful embroidery.  She also hosts Take a Stitch Tuesday where she teaches a one embroidery stitch.  Stitching directions and examples are included.  There is also a new Facebook group :TAST - Take a Stitch Tuesday, where you can talk with others who are following this program.

The program re-starts today, but you can jump in at any point.  This week is Fly Stitch.

Do you embroider?  I first learned when I was young, perhaps at a church group, though I can't quite recall.  I stitched on a pillowcase.  I have added little bits here and there on various items, but want to do more.   I don't have any specific projects in mind at the moment, but all of the bags I have been sewing could all have been embellished by embroidery.

Mister linky is waiting below for your current needlework post or any past embroidery post.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Flood by David Sachs

A gritty, no-sugar coating look at the break down of society after a cataclysmic event.  The Atlantic coastal cities were to be inundated by a record setting tsunami.  Approximately 2000 people were evacuated on the cruise ship Festival of the Waves, along with it's paying passengers and staff.  While they easily survived the tsunami's wrath, it was the successive waves of inhumanity that were their undoing.

Wow. I loved this book.  I felt it was a realistic portrayal of the various possibilities of such a disaster.  There was a mixture of the good, the bad and the very bad outcomes.

This story was carried by the differing leaders that emerged. One had a common sense, take charge approach, another a totalitarian grip on his followers, and a third found religion.  Change any one of the leaders and the story could have been very different.  As I was reading, I couldn't help think of some of the news coverage I have seen of natural disasters.  The majority of the survivors have no idea what to do and they wait for someone else to take charge, to tell them what to do, and then complain when they don't think enough is being done for them personally.  Mr. Sachs got this perfect.

The Flood has a well thought out story line.  It is believable even if it's not comfortable to read.  There were things that made me cringe and others that brought tears of joy.  This is a great debut novel and I am looking forward to future novels from this author.

Thanks to author David Sachs for my review copy and for use of the cover image.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

At Winter's End by Robert Silverberg

The earth was doomed. Devastation was going to fall from the sky for thousands of years and life on earth could not continue in it's present forms.  Of the six type of sentient being, four knew they would not survive, one decided to take their chance on the surface and the sixth moved far underground.  After 700 000 years, the death stars were gone and it was time to venture forth out onto the renewed surface.

The story is carried by several main characters.  Koshmar had long hoped that she would lead her people from their long shelter.  By maintaining their long standing traditions she sought to fulfil the prophecies  that had long sustained her.  I didn't really like this character, but then again, leaders aren't always meant to be loved when their job is to lead.

Thaggoran was the old man of the tribe, the chronicler, who died soon after they emerged.  The loss of so much of the tribe's history opened the people  up to new choices and opportunities.  Hresh was but a boy when he took up the role of the new chronicler.  His character added so much to the story as he had to re-create his job within their new life on the surface.  It was interesting to watch Hresh grow up and develop into a powerful man.

Finally, there is Torlyri, the offering woman.  While underground, her job was to maintain the peoples link to their prior surface life.  Once they emerge from their cocoon, her role mostly becomes obsolete but she realises that customs bring comfort to the people.  This led her to go it alone and define new ones. 

There is a struggle between old and new.  The people have to learn from their past and incorporate that which is helpful. but let go of the rest and use this information to forge their future.  The people seemed to respond in a realistic way to these challenges which made for good reading. 

I was pulled into the day to day events of this tribe.  I explored and learned with them.  I felt their anguish when they lost members and celebrated when new ones were born.  It takes a master story teller to make me feel for such imagined characters. I enjoyed every minute of this book.

The story of the people continues in The Queen of Springtime, also published under the title The New Springtime.

Cover Image from Robert Silverberg's Quasi Official Website

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Needlework Tuesday - Easy Bag Projects

It's either been muggy hot or raining heavily, both are great staying inside and sewing days.  I kept busy working on two very different bags.  The first, Japanese Knot Bag, I had found online several years ago, printed out the pattern and then got distracted.  I was determined to finish it this week.
The pattern is by Helen at the blog Show Your Workings.  I didn't take pictures as I was sewing as the instructions are quite clear.  A few suggestions, in step 2, fold the fabrics right sides together and then they will be ready for the next step.  Step 5, when you are sewing the outer and the liner together, don't stitch into the seam allowance for the open end of the handles.

I was surprised at how easy it was to add the round bottom. I was expecting it to be a pain, but I pinned in quarters and then eighths and then sixteenths it went well with no puckering.  Now I need to add a removable base of like pink craft foam to help the bag stay round when in use.  To use the bag, you slip the long handle through the short one, and to carry you put your hand through the long loop.

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.

 When I finished the Japanese Knot bag, I jumped right into the next one, the Pick-a-Pocket Purse from All People Quilt.  The pattern is designed to be cut from yardage, but I was using fat quarters and had to make some changes.  The outside pockets I pieced with the print being more than half the length.
 When I folded the outside pocket, the print extended to the inside.
 the main print that goes behind the pocket and extends to the top of the bag, I had to piece both on the hidden bottom and for the lining. Not a problem, dark fabrics on the inside of a bag make it difficult to find the item you want.
 The pattern says to layer up the parts and sew on the handles, I added an extra step and lightly quilted the main fabric with the batting to give it a bit more body.  I should have cut the pieces a bit wider as the quilting always seem to shrink the piece. oh well, live and learn.  From this point I followed the instructions.
 I am really pleased with how this turned out.  As for size, he pocket between the handles easily fits a large cell phone.  

I am having fun with the bag making and have a few more lined up thanks to last weeks readers who left me suggestions and links to patterns. The success of these bags is getting me enthused; I might even get carried away and finish one of the quilts that's been pinned on my design wall for way too long. 

Do you have a project to you'd love to share, one that you feel would be inspirational to others. It can be one you wrote about in the past or that's currently on your work table.  I can be any medium, not strictly needlework, I'd enjoy seeing it.  Mister Linky is waiting below. 


Monday, 6 July 2015

In the Land of the Long White Cloud by Sarah Lark

Women didn't have a lot of choice in the direction of their lives in mid nineteenth century England.  Helen Davenport was working as a tutor when a notice in her church bulletin led her to accept a marriage proposal to an unknown sheep farmer in New Zealand.  Gwyneira Silkham's future was determined when her father lost a hand of cards to a self proclaimed sheep baron also from the Christchurch area of New Zealand.  These women's lives were tied together from the time they set foot on the ship that transported them to their new homes.

Marrying a gentleman in a newly settled English colony had seemed exciting and romantic to both ladies.  It was only after they left the ship that they realised how little they were prepared for the hardships of living in such a new colony.  Distances between farms was huge, communication was as fast as a horse could travel.  Both women had to chose whether to embrace their Maori neighbours and learn their language, about their culture and beliefs or to follow their husbands lead and treat them at best as hired help.

I feel that Gwyn and Helen reacted very much as women of that time period.  Once they arrived in New Zealand, they had little choice but to accept their circumstances and make the best of them.    We spend a lot of time with Gwyn, her husband Lucas and Helen and learn lots about them.  We see the three of them learn and grown from the situations they find them selves in.  .

I have an affection for anything kiwi and this book was no exception.  I read it compulsively.  I loved the glowing descriptions of the breath taking country side  as well as the gritty ones of the towns and roads.  Of course, you can't tell a story of this time period of New Zealand without talking about sheep. They are central to this tale.  Yes, there are sheep and all that goes with them, but it doesn't overwhelm the entire story.   Author Sarah Lark has a good balance between the storyline of the people and the sheep talk and tied them together well.

While reading this book, I did feel a distance between the author and the tale.  It seemed that it was a story written by someone who had never been to New Zealand and that she was only imagining what it would be like to stand on it's soil, to view a flock of sheep on a hill, or to crest a peak and view the land unfolding below her.  Whether author Sarah Lark has visited Christchurch or this connection was lost due to the work of the translator D. W. Lovett, it was still a captivating read which I very much enjoyed.

The story continues in Song of the Spirits and then in Call of the Kiwi.

Sarah Lark is a pen name of Christiane Gohl.  She also publishes under Ricarda Jordan and Elisabeth Rotenberg. 

Thanks to Amazon for use of the cover image.