Monthly Archives: January 2014

Hugs and Kisses for my Sister

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*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view.

I never close an email or a text to my sister, Paula, without inserting an “x” and “o” – it is my way of telling her I love her. So it was a no brainer to gift her this pillow I made as part of the Threadbias Pillow Pop Sew Along. The pattern is called X’s and O’s in the Pillow Pop book, but I’ve renamed it Hugs and Kisses.

I used some fabric from the amazing Art Gallery collection Florescence, along with a pink oval elements by Pat Bravo and some Candlelight solid by Cotton Couture – that makes for an incredibly soft pillow which takes a 16″ insert.

I learned a new skill for this one – machine appliqueing a circle!

The pillow includes flanges and pretty covered buttons.

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The back of the pillow is sewn with two pieces of fabric to make it substantial…and I quilted a giant “X” on it.

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I hope when my sister looks at this pillow, she knows just how special she is to me…and that it gives her a jolt of good feeling on a cold winter morning!

The Sentry – Book Review

SentryExperienced investigators referred to the site where an abduction took place as ground zero. It was the intersection where the paths of the victim and perpetrator converged, and merged into one. It was an ambush zone of abrupt furious violence or quiet threat where two paths led in and only one path led out, but these paths weren’t made in a vacuum. The physical world was disturbed – a fish rippled the water; a gliding bird cast a shadow. Pike knew this better than most because he spent most of his life trying to move without being heard or seen, or leaving a trail that others could follow. – from The Sentry, page 111 –

Joe Pike is back in The Sentry, the third book in the Joe Pike series by Robert Crais.  When Pike stops to fill his car with gas, he becomes witness to a brutal beating. And Pike, being Pike, inserts himself into the crime scene. The victims – Wilson Smith and his niece, Dru Rayne – are transplants from New Orleans who have come to Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina and are trying to build a restaurant business. Pike is immediately smitten by Dru, and allows himself to become vulnerable to the possibility of love. But when the violence escalates, Pike begins to uncover information that throws everything he knows about Dru and Wilson into question. A dark shadow is following the two – a man who hears voices in his head that tell him to kill…and to save Dru and her Uncle, Pike must put his own life on the line.

The Sentry is Crais at his best – fast paced, twisty plot with lots of violent interactions. Pike is the super hero – quick on his feet, aware of the smallest sound, able to predict others’ behaviors before even they know what they will do. It is very good fiction in the suspense-thriller genre, a book whose pages practically turn themselves.

Out of the three, I liked The Sentry the best in this action-packed series which pits Pike against the most evil plots and villains imaginable. Readers will have to suspend some reality to buy into Pike’s exceptional crime fighting abilities, but those who do will be rewarded with an entertaining ride. Once again, Crais allows readers to get a glimpse into Pike’s vulnerable side which allows him a likability that might otherwise be missing.

Readers who like rapid-fire page turners, will want to pick up a copy of this book. Although The Sentry could be read as a stand-alone novel, I recommend reading the first two books in the series before reading this one.

Recommended.

4Stars

Read my reviews of previous books in the series:

A Table Topper with Moda Candy

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*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view

Sherri over on A Quilting Life is celebrating the small projects this year – and she is generously providing some great patterns to use the amazing Moda precut- Moda Candy. Moda Candy consists of 40 – 2.5″ squares of a complete collection of fabric. And it probably won’t come as a surprise to all of you that I have quite a few of these darling precuts in my stash!

This project makes a nice sized table topper (you can purchase the pattern on Craftsy here). I chose the wonderful Avalon collection by Fig Tree and some Bella unbleached white for this whimsical mini which measures 23.5″ X 23.5″.

CandyTableTopper.Top040001The border is Heidi Pridemore’s Whimsical Workshop (in navy) for Blank Quilting.

CandyTableTopper.Border0001The quilting is straight line diagonal lines in both directions.

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The backing is a low volume print from the Sew Stitchy collection by Aneela Hooey for Moda.

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I bound this table topper in some solid Kona Coral which gives it a nice pop of color.

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I’m sending a photo of this adorable mini quilt to Sherri so I can be in the drawing for some prizes. If you want to make some small projects this year, make sure you subscribe to Sherri’s blog so you don’t miss out!

The First Rule – Book Review

firstruleVory p Zakone. What they call the thieves code. These people live by eighteen rules, Pike – actual written rules, kind of like a guidebook for assholes. The first rule – rule number one – is that their families don’t matter. Mom, dad, the brother, sis – those people do not matter. They are not supposed to have wives or children. – from The First Rule –

Frank Meyer is living an idyllic suburban life with his wife and two young children. But not too far in the past, Meyer existed in a much more dangerous space working as a mercenary with Joe Pike and his men. He has put that behind him. Or has he? When armed men break into Frank’s home and murder him and his family, Joe Pike gets involved, bent on uncovering the perpetrators and bringing them his own unique form of justice. Pike calls in his friends, Elvis Cole and Jon Stone, and they begin to dig deep into the crime. But was Frank somehow involved in running guns? Was his death related to illegal dealings he had with an underworld of cold-hearted criminals?

The First Rule, which is the second book in the Joe Pike series, is a fast-paced, edge of your seat thriller. Joe Pike is a character who is almost supernatural in his abilities to take down criminals. But under his tough guy exterior, is a man with a huge heart…and in this novel, Robert Crais reveals the sensitive side of his adrenaline-fueled super hero.

Like all good thrillers, The First Rule is a page turner – a book I had trouble putting down. Crais spends some time fully developing Pike’s character which I appreciated. In fact, I found this second book in the series much more effective and enjoyable reading than The Watchman (read my review) – although they are both good books for those readers who appreciate this genre.

Robert Crais writes with authority about law enforcement and special ops. He gives readers a strong protagonist in Pike, but one who has some humanity too. Readers who like dark, well-paced, and superbly plotted books, will find much to love in The First Rule.

Recommended.

4Stars

Perfect – Book Review

perfectBesides, the big things in life do not present themselves as such. They come in the quiet, ordinary moments – a phone call, a letter – they come when we are not looking, without clues, without warning, and that is why they floor us. And it can take a lifetime, a life of many years, to accept the incongruity of things; that a small moment can sit side by side with a big one, and become part of the same. – from Perfect –

Byron Hemmings is an eleven year old boy whose life, on the surface, looks perfect. And then one day as he and his sister and mother are driving through a summer fog, something happens. Something that changes everything. And it appears his mother is unaware of what has happened, and only Byron can make it all okay again. He consults his best friend, James, and together they work out a plan.

Rachel Joyce revisits the themes of loss, grief and redemption which she explored in her amazing debut The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In many ways, the two books are similar – they both are peopled with ordinary characters, there is a surprising turn of events, and the characters must confront their pasts in order to move forward into their futures. But although there are deep parallels between the novels, there are also marked differences. In Perfect, the protagonist is a child who is burdened with hard truths that no child should have to be burdened with – and it is perhaps this innocence in Joyce’s primary character which adds to the sadness within its pages.

Rachel Joyce has a knack for taking the ordinary and twisting it into the extraordinary. Her prose is rich and insightful, her characters surprisingly complex beneath their veneer of simplicity. Byron is a vulnerable and naive child who yearns to fix the cracks in his family. His mother is a bit clueless, fumbling in her role as mother, trying desperately to fit in a marriage which is stifling and cold. Byron’s father is largely absent – a man who spends most days far from his children and wife, and yet expects to come home to perfection.

There is a parallel story in Perfect, one which gives the reader a glimpse into the future of one of the characters and alternates chapters with the summer of Byron’s eleventh year. In a prologue, Joyce hints about the fate of the character whose story takes place in the future – but it is not clear until the end what will happen.

It was all because of a small slip in time, the whole story. The repercussions were felt for years and years. Of the two boys, James and Byron, only one kept on course. – from Perfect –

I was eager to read this novel because I adored The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (read my review). Joyce did not disappoint me, although I didn’t love Perfect quite as much as her debut novel. Readers who enjoy British literary fiction, will want to read Joyce’s sophomore effort.

Recommended.

4Stars

tlclogoFTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour. Please visit the tour page to get links to other reviews.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Joyce-Author-Photo-199x300Rachel Joyce is the author of the international bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She is also the award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company and won multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives with her family on a Gloucestershire farm. Learn more about Joyce and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Winner of Tracks

Thank you to all who entered to win a copy of TRACKS by Genni Gunn.

Tracks

There can only be one winner. I used Random.org to select a winner…congratulations to:

Rachel from Michigan

I’m sending you an email, Rachel!

Organization…

*Click on any photo to enjoy a larger view

Oh my.

Look at this:

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Thus was the state of my sewing room this morning. That wonderful little desk area that I initially designed so I could sit and contemplate and draw and create? It had become a catch-all for every unfinished project, and stacks of fabric I had yet to put away.

Remember this post? Well, my commitment to creativity this year is to be able to spend time feeding my creative soul. Sketching ideas. Putting together color. Envisioning projects.

I couldn’t do that with this mess.

The other day I was at Cost-Plus shopping their sales…and I came across a great little rolling cart – the perfect solution for this problem in my sewing room. I spent some time this morning cleaning up and reorganizing…and look what just one small rolling cart can do for a big, huge mess:

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Here’s a close up of the cart (it has three deep, open drawers and is on wheels for easy maneuvering – and it fits perfectly beneath my desk area):

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Now I can get to my jars of perl cotton thread, and ribbons, and buttons:

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And I finally have space to open my creative journal and play!

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Okay, so I still need to sort my scraps and put away that pile of fabric – but I am in a much more organized space than I was 2 hours ago!

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There is always tomorrow!

Some Book Giveaway Winners!

Thank you to those who entered to win copies of THE GREEN SHORE and ALL RUSSIANS LOVE BIRCH TREES. This morning I used Random.org to pick the winners.

GreenShore

The Green Shore by Natalie Bakopoulos

The winner is:

Conni from California

 

AllRussians

All Russians Love Birch Trees by Olga Grjasnowa

The winner is:

Bev from New Hampshire

I’ll be sending you ladies an email – congratulations! For those of you who did not win a book, I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of one of these at your local bookseller!

Gumdrop Pillow

*All photos in this post may be clicked on to enjoy a larger view

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This pillow is part of the Pillow Pop Sew Along on Threadbias – there are two pillows each month and participants can choose to make one, both or none. I made the second pillow for this month in December as a gift for my niece (The Metro), but I was really looking forward to this great curvy pattern.

I used a multi-colored leaf fabric from the Matilda collection by Alice Kennedy for Timeless Treasures (check out her blog). I chose coordinating fabrics that felt “textural” for a very modern feel.

The pillow measures a generous 20″ X 20″ finished and incorporates lots of curves, neutrals, and bright pops of color.

I decided to quilt this in concentric circles that move from the inside to the outside – giving the pillow even more texture and emphasizing the curves in the pattern.

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I also pieced the back – making an extra block from the front and then pulling in more of that gorgeous leaf fabric.

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I included a hidden zipper to make this a truly reversible pillow.

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This pillow was bound with the tangerine diagonal strip fabric from Bonnie and Camille’s Scrumptious collection – which I am in love with! This one has found a place on my couch for now.

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The Watchman – Book Review

WatchmanThe first patrol car arrived in seven minutes; the paramedics three minutes later. Larkin thought it would end that night when the police finished their questions, but her nightmare had only begun. – from The Watchman –

Larkin Conner Barkely is carefree, young, and very wealthy. When she is involved in a car accident one night in Los Angeles, she has no idea the chain of events which will follow. Suddenly Larkin’s life is in danger and she is running from people who want her dead. Joe Pike, an ex-cop and ex-mercenary, is tasked with keeping Larkin safe…which is much harder than anyone could have predicted. When it appears that someone is leaking information as to their secure whereabouts, Pike takes Larkin and goes off the grid, returning to his own network of trusted individuals.

The Watchman is the first book in the Joe Pike series and it is fast-paced, edge of your seat entertainment. Robert Crais does not clutter up his novel with extraneous information – instead his writing is direct, plot-driven and high action.

I first was introduced to Crais’s writing in his newest novel, Suspect, which I loved (read my review). I went right out and bought the first three books of the Pike series and finally decided to read it.

Joe Pike is a thrilling character with a dark background. He reminds me of the protagonists which people Robert Ludlum novels – strong, fearless, and with extraordinary capabilities. But don’t let that fool you – beneath his cool interior, Pike has a heart and it is that touch of humanity which makes him not only a character to get behind, but one to love.

I’m eager to read the next book in this series.

Readers who love plot-driven novels with lots of action, won’t want to miss this one.

Recommended.

4Stars