Friday, 30 September 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Humanity is being challenged by a deadly new plague.  A spore, commonly referred to as Dragonscale, infiltrates the body eventually resulting in the afflicted going up in flames.  Everyone is afraid that they are going to catch the scale  The knee jerk reaction is to round up the sick, kill them and burn their bodies to stop the infection.  That sure says a lot about society when the experts don't even know how the spore spreads.

Author Joe Hill follows the lives of Harper, her husband Jakob and a man known as the Fireman.  The three follow diverse paths during the course of this epidemic.  I feel that each of these people are essential to the story even if I don't like one of them from the very first time we met.  They represent the very different ways in which people respond to tragedy.

This is a well constructed story.   I particularly like that a huge back story on the characters is not needed.  We learn about the dragonscale and how it affects people in the present and then move forward.  It doesn't matter what they did earlier in their lives, only what they do after the plague starts.  I find the descriptions of the flames compelling.  I can imagine them as a living being and not just a result of combustion.

This is a long book and it took me a while to read, though  I didn't feel it was too long and that things could have been left out.  I would have preferred a few events not to happen, but then again, I am an optimist and like my stories being happy. 


Cover image courtesy HarperCollins Canada.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Needlework Tuesday - To Join a Guild or Not

I have belonged to my local quilt guild since it's inception 15 or so years ago.  They are mostly residents of a small town and fairly conservative. Not a problem, but it is a challenge at times.  I do my best to shake them up and get them to stretch by trying something new.  Regardless of that, I do enjoy the friendship and sharing.  They are kind and generous people and I enjoy the time I spend with them.

Every meeting we have show and tell which involves story telling about the item being displayed.  That is an added chance to learn about my fellow quilters and for them to share what they learned while working on that particular project.

One good thing is that they stay true to use being a quilt guild.  Many years ago, I belonged to a smocking guild.  It was a great learning opportunity, but after a year or two, they changed and started doing all sorts of other crafts and no more smocking.  Not what I wanted, I left.

I am wondering if any of my readers belong to in person guilds for their stitching? or other artistic endeavours?

 I did have time to do some knitting this week.  I have started the colour repeat in the rainbowish yarn.  Due to the stitch arrangement, the repeats in the two colours of yarn don't match up.  I think that adds to the appearance.  The first time the yellow shows up, the contrast is a grey-green and the second time its a deep blue.

As I go along, I am minding less that it is curling in.  Now to see how long it will get.

I also spent some time doing some machine quilting.  This is a photo of the back so you can see the stitching. I played with the contrast so it would show a bit better.  Yes, you guessed, it's the castle I was working on early in the summer.  I'm happy with how it's turning out.  I'd like to get it finished so it can go to it's new home.  It would look better on my young friend's bed than on my sewing table.

Please leave a comment telling me about your experiences in an artistic guild.

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.

I hope that you are having fun and  making progress on whatever project is dear to your heart at this moment.  Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your needlework post.


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Needlework Tuesday - A new Scarf

 I don't need a new scarf.  I absolutely, positively don't need a new scarf.  I started a new scarf this weekend.  It really is pretty, but I still don't need a new scarf.  Actually, it's not that bad.  I bought the yarn several years ago and then didn't get around to making it up.  Late last week, I was looking for a new knitting project that wouldn't take long and I found these balls. One is a rainbow long repeat and the other is a dark long repeat.  They are Bernat Mosaic which is no longer available.  The pattern is from the ball band is no longer on their website.

 It was the pattern that first attracted me. I like the idea of knitting with two different variegated yarns.  I am going to tease and only show bits for now.
However, it does have a major downfall, due to the stitches, it rolls like crazy. I'm guessing that bunched around the neck would be very thick and help keep out any wind, but I would have preferred it to me flatter. ah well, I'm not ripping it out and doing something different.  I have about 20 inches completed and the pattern suggests I'll have enough for 58 inches.  It does knit up rather quickly and is quite thick.

After saying I have enough scarves, I'm sure you'll   understand when I tell you that I bought yarn for two more scarves.  For gifts when done. Honest.  I like to knit scarves, I can use  one ball of special yarn and it doesn't cost a fortune which knitting a sweater would.  I end up giving away lots of scarves as I have so many I could probably go a month without a repeat.  oops, shouldn't admit that in public. I do think it's time to wash some up and send them to the thrift store for others who need them more than I do

Do you have one item that you like to make more than any other?  socks, bags, scarves...  What do you do when you have too many. Do you give them as gifts, donate them, use them as a fund raiser for a charity.

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.

I hope that you are having fun and  making progress on whatever project is dear to your heart at this moment.  Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your needlework post.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

When I started reading this book, I thought it would be a good story, what I didn't expect was to be totally captivated by it, and to be reading it compulsively late into the night.

Vic. Mad, Coco, Baz and Nzuzi and unassuming kids who are trying to live under the radar and society mostly lets them.  Yes, people bully Vic due to his lack of facial expression, but he can't help it, he has Moebius Syndrome and some of his facial nerves are paralysed.  He just wants to get on with his life.  It's when life seems bleakest for him, that he meets the other four who will become far more than mere friends.

Each of the five has a story to tell, and they aren't always easy to hear, but they are their stories and they have learned to accept them and gather the strength to grow from their experiences.  What I liked most about this book, is that even though these kids have had some traumatic experiences, they all have an inner strength or power that they have held on to.  In turn, this has given them the capacity to reach out and help others in need.

The characters in this book are like kids I might be passing each and every day on the street without knowing.  Author David Arnold has brought them and their plights to life; he has made them real to me.  Some where around the middle of the book, they changed from being kids with problems to being kids with hearts and souls that couldn't be crushed.  I found myself cheering for them as I wiped away a stray tear here and there.

Suggested for readers 14+

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Ugly by Robert Hoge

After a new baby joins a family, generally, the family and friends flock to visit and comment how cute the baby is.  If it's not so cute, they say that it has it mother's eyes, or the fathers nose, or something equally sweet.  When Robert Hoge was born, his mother wouldn't even look at him for a week.  He had a giant tumor in the middle of his face that forced his eyes almost to the sides of his head and both his legs were deformed.  He was and still is ugly.

I'm not being mean, I'm repeating what he wrote in his book.  His face is far from conventional and from what I read, Robert is far from conventional himself.  From his earliest days, he underwent numerous surgeries.  The first ones were to save his life and the later ones were in an attempt to make his features more acceptable to those around him.

Robert Hoge is a remarkable young man.  He has thrived in  a society that places far too much value on appearance and that considers substance as a poor second.  Rather than hide away, Robert lead an active life and quickly devised coping strategies to deal with the rudeness of others.  He admits that comments from bullies and passing people still can hurt, but that he's learned to deal with that hurt and put it where it belongs.

This is a well written, positive story.  It's obvious that Robert builds on what has gone well in his life.  He could have easily been overwhelmed by the negative things such as the bulling and the taunts, but choose to rise above them.  He sets a good example for all young people struggling to find their way.  He'll be the first to tell them, that you don't give up when you fail at your first challenge, you keep going and working at it until you find that at which you can succeed.

This book is written for ages 8-12, though is also enjoyable for adults. It should be in every school classroom.


Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

As adults, we often underestimate what our kids are capable of.  A problem arises and we solve it for them thinking that they are just kids.  In The Fourth Stall,  Mac, Vince and their friends show what kids can accomplish when they set their minds and energies toward a goal.

Sixth graders Mac and Vince have been solving problems for themselves and for other kids since their kindergarten days.  They work well as a team and even better as best friends.  All is going well until and older kid starts muscling in on their school and threatening their class mates.  The boys know that it's up to them to solve this problem now before it gets any worse.

I found this book both funny and serious.  At times, the boys are typical sixth graders with their interest in sports and gaming.  Other times, they seem old beyond their years with their concerns for the safety and well being of their class mates.  Friendship and trust play a huge roll in their lives, forming a code for their behaviour.  When that trust is broken, the results are devastating.

I listened to the audio book as read by Mike Rylander, the author's brother. 6 hours 54 minutes.  I was amused by the voice characterisation of the bullies.  Mostly they had big booming voices and when an odd squeaky one crept in I had to laugh.  The women's voices were the best, exactly as I imagine a sixth grade boy would think his mother sounds.

Young readers will enjoy the antics of the friends and how they have learned to deal with the bullies of their school.  The sports angle will cry out to any fan who wants to see their team in a pennant race.  While the situations the kids find themselves in are serious, there are lots of funny incidents that help to defuse the tension.  The stories of Mac and Vince continue in  The Fourth Stall Part II  and III.

For further information about this series and about the author Chris Rylander, be sure to visit his blog. 


Cover image courtesy Harper Collins Canada.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield

Did you get a chance to read Chris Hadfield's newest book, The Darkest Dark.  It's in stores now with a cool display and a photo op.  There is a astronaut with a cut out you can peek through. It would be a great addition to your album.

For those who missed my review of The Darkest Dark, you can find it near the bottom of my Needlework Tuesday post from earlier this week.

I love this book and highly recommend it.  If you haven't seen it yet, take some time this weekend, visit your local bookshop and spend a few minutes reading it.  For those who have read it, leave me a comment letting me know how you feel about it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Needlework Tuesday - Pokemon Go inspiration for stitching

 I live in a small rural community , the number of streets which can be counted on my fingers (with left overs).  We have one stop light and a hand full of stop signs.  It might not seem like much for you big city folk, but we do have a Pokemon gym and two Pokestops.

Hubby and I often go out for our evening walk and he collects a few Pokemon while I get steps on my Fitbit. Some nights, I want more steps, and I continue walking with his Pokemon Go enabled phone in hand.  I have found that the last few evenings, I have walked extra loops so I can pass the Pokestops and collect extra Pokeballs.  Having this new incentive to walk a little bit longer is rather fun.  Usually I would be listening to an audio book, but now I am listening for that ping that tells me I am approaching a Pokestop or that a Pokemon has popped into the area.

Yes, Pokemon Go  is a game, and a fun one that brings back memories of my son when he was four and wanted to play the same game, but it`s also a renewal.  It has taken something old and established and given it new life.  Something to keep in mind when your current project seems to be getting old and you don`t want to be working on it any longer.  Find a way to look at it with new eyes. Perhaps you can add a new material, or learn a new technique, or even decide on a new recipient.  Don`t let the old and familiar stop you from shaking things up.  Add a refreshing twist to the safe and try something out of our comfort zone, go that little extra distance and see what`s lurking around that next corner.  It could be a Pokemon that you haven`t collected yet but it could also be your next new favourite project or even a new friend-to-be.  Walk that extra block and see what happens.

Speaking of blocks, I finished the 42 for this scrappy quilt and have finally sewn them all together.  The blocks are 12 inches on a side.  I think it definitely would have masculine appeal, which is what I had been aiming for.  I`ll be taking this to my quilt bee on Thursday and hopefully one of our other members will take it home to finish.

Speaking of finish, the baby afghan is complete.  I love how it turned out.  It looks soft and inviting even with some of the darker colours that I have used.  Mostly, the yarn came from that mysterious bin  that lurks in my basement, though i did have to buy more of the white and that darker green.  It measures about 35 x 43 inches.  The baby it is intended for was born a couple weeks premature so I didn`t get it completed before his arrival. I`m sure he won`t mind.  His earlier sibling received one of the star afghans I made last year.

Sorry to be late with my weekly post. I worked a full shift yesterday and was too tired to write once I got home.  On the up side, while I was as work  I did  get a chance to read Chris Hadfield`s new book, The Darkest Dark.  It is an amazing book and will appeal to all ages even though it is aimed at children.  Adults older than 50ish seem to be most drawn to the pages relating the space events of 1969.  By the end of the book, I had a lump in my throat and tears threatening to spill.  The Darkest Dark is as much a coffee table book as it is a children`s book.

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.

I hope that you are having fun and  making progress on whatever project is dear to your heart at this moment.  Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your needlework post.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

The Spawning Grounds is a sensitive look at the relationship between a First Nations Community and their white, farming neighbours.  While Stew is set to sell his farm to developers, the Secwepenc (Shuswap) community is protesting the encroaching development.

The cultural and spiritual differences of the two groups leads to troubles for both.  At risk is the further destruction of the salmon spawning grounds which lie in the river between their settlements.  If they could work together to find a way to resolve their differences, create an understanding, then they might save the salmon at the same time.

In the middle of this confusion is Brandon, the grandson of the white land owner.  After a near drowning the river, he undergoes a major personality change which his father attributes to mental illness.  His neighbour Alex, from across the river, views his illness differently, as a possession by the  the mystery, a spirit trapped in the river.  He knows that if they can find the reason for the spirit remaining in the river instead of travelling the path of the dead, then they can save Brandon and possibly even save the salmon.

I was drawn into this story from the opening pages.  Learning the history of the area and the creation of the mystery seemed in keeping with other First Nations stories I have read.  Both sides viewed the issues as them versus us and both were adamant that they were right.  It was interesting to see how Brandon's sister Hannah looked at both sides and attempted to find a way to bridge the two belief systems.

While Ms. Anderson-Dargatz is not a First Nations author, she presents both sides in a fair and honest manner.  I enjoyed her writing style and look forward to reading some of her earlier works.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for my review copy and for use of the cover image.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Needlework Tuesday - Building a better bag

 It was a great weekend for my family.  My paternal grandmother, Sophie, celebrated her 100th birthday.  Relatives gathered from across Canada and the USA to join in the festivities.  Pictured here: front row, my daughter and my grandmother, back row, myself, sister Nancy, sister Shelley and mom Elaine.

My grandmother is my quilting inspiration.  From early years, I remember her appliqueing on quilt blocks.  She belonged to a group at the church that made quilt to raise money for church projects.  She always liked to keep her hands busy and there was never a shortage of blocks to work on.  She no longer works on quilts, though she is always happy when my mom or I show her one of our newly finished quilts.
 It wasn`t a quilt I was working on this week, but a special project for my neighbour.  Starting materials: a plastic shopping bag, a metre of yellow fabric and t-shirt.  When I was pre-washing the fabric, it was leaking all sorts of extra dye. This was my chance to punch up that boring plain yellow fabric I purchased for the lining.  I bunched the two fabrics together and left them to sit for several hours.  The result is a much more interesting piece of mottled yellow fabric.
 I made a pattern from a plastic grocery bag.  I used this style as it`s the type of plastic bag my neighbour uses to carry his paperwork for the running races he organises.

Pattern size, 16.5 inches wide and 20 tall.  The circle opening 3 inches.

I cut two pieces from the t-shirt, centring the logo.  I did have to piece the top edge to have space for the circular handle area.  Then I cut two pieces of cotton lining.  Putting right sides together, I seamed the sides of the bag.

Next, put the t-shirt pieces inside the lining with the right sides together, and align the top edges.  I used a lot of pins to keep the t-shirt fabric from rolling.  Sew with a quarter inch seam.  Press, clip as needed and then turn right side out.  Again, press, and then top stitch to keep it looking neat.

 It was at this late point that I realised I forgot to add a pen pocket.  I cut a 6 x 12 inch piece of lining, folded it in half and stitched the two sides.  Turn it inside out and stitch across the top fold a few times to add some stiffness.  Next, find the best spot for the pocket and draw a line for the pocket bottom placement.  Draw a stitching line on the bottom inside of the pocket.  Place the pockets with these two lines matching.  Pin in place and stitch.  Note that the pocket top is near the bottom of the bag.  Flip the pocket into place and stitch.

 This is a simple way to make a pocket and it results in a double stitched bottom. I hate it when a pocket opens up on the bottom and I start losing items.
 I took and extra step with the bottom.  First I pinned the t-shirt together.
 keeping those pins in place, I then matched up the lining at the back, then matched the front and added more pins  Now all four layers are matched at the bottom.  I stitched this seam twice.
 I boxed the corners with a four inch seam, double stitched.  I trimmed of the corners and zigzagged the cut edge.   I did a stretchy machine stitch around the circle handle opening.
Voila, a finished tote bag suitable for a running race director. This should safely carry his race binder and papers and any other small items he needs on hand. And as a bonus, it is so so very bright, it can`t possibly get lost.  After I finish posting this, I`ll be delivering the bag to my neighbour. The only thing more fun that making a gift, is giving it away.   This week, are you giving away any thing you made.

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.

I hope that you are having fun and  making progress on whatever project is dear to your heart at this moment.  Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your needlework post.

Also linking up with Lorna for Let's Be Social at Sew Fresh Quilts. 

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

I don't like, nor do I watch reality shows. They seem to emphasis the worst of people, however that being said, I couldn't put this book down.  Yes, it starts out with the twelve participants of a reality show, but quickly becomes much more.  While on a three day solo exercise, something happens in the world and the participants are left to fend for themselves until they are rescued.  Somehow, the producers lose track of Zoo, leaving her to wander the countryside in search of her next clue and challenge.

Zoo realizes that something isn't right, but strives to use what she knows about the show to fabricate a new story line as an explaination.  It is amazing the tricks one's mind can play when survival is at stake.

This story is well designed to keep the reader wanting just one more page, never knowing what the twelve participants would find around the next tree.  When I first met the twelve, I formed immediate opinions on each and what their chances would be for winning.  It was interesting to see how my predictions compared with what the author had penned for each.  I liked the character of Zoo and how she approached the entire reality show challenge.  She is a strong character, yet realistic in her failings. I did enjoy several of the other characters and am left wondering how they fared while the reader was following Zoo.  I am left hoping that the author is not finished with these twelve.

As  a debut novel, author Alexandra Oliva did an outstanding job.  I look forward to her future works.

Cover image courtesy Penguin Random House Canada.