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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Old Wine Shades by Martha Grimes

For a long time I was huge fan of Martha Grimes's Inspector Jury/Melrose Plant mysteries, devouring each one as it came out. Over time I gradually lost interest in the series and lost track of the latest books. A few days ago I picked up Old Wine Shades, the oldest of the ones I haven't read yet (I think), but I was soon reminded why I stopped reading them in the first place -- the sameness of it all.  Jury and Plant continue to brood about their lives, envy the other his life, and pine from afar for the same women. Racer continues to be an incompetent jerk, Wiggins is always dosing himself with home remedies, Aunt Agatha won't stop complaining or eating fairy cakes. Grimes won't allow her characters to grow, and that's a shame.

But then the story got good. The mystery was an unusual one, told in an unconventional way, and I was reminded of how good Grimes's writing can be. At her best, her stories are atmospheric and clever, filled with an assortment of interesting secondary characters.

And then the psychic dog showed up. Which was ... unexpected. In the past Grimes has had animals that were characters themselves, intelligent in their own animalistic way, but a dog that can send telepathic messages -- in English! -- belongs in a completely different story.

But! There was an incredible twist to the story two thirds of the way through, and all was forgiven as I raced to see how it would all end.

And ... it ended in a deeply unsatisfying way.  I think it's clear Grimes was experimenting in several ways here, but only some of them were successful.  From what I've read of the following novels, I think I'm done with the series. Maybe I'll re-read the first 15 or so.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Book Round-Up: Autumn edition

Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet: A cozy but dark mystery seems appropriate for the season.  This is the first installment of Malliet's series centered around an ex-MI5 agent who becomes an Anglican vicar in a small English town; so a modern version of Grantchester. Malliet's writing is smart, fun, and a bit moody.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving: The version I read had been illustrated and adapted by Will Moses, which I didn't realize.  I think I would have preferred to read the original text, but it serves its purpose of making the story accessible to kids -- Beadboy2 reads the book over and over every October.  I did enjoy the illustrations thoroughly. Moses is the great-grandson of Grandma Moses, and he was clearly inspired by her and her son.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen: The latest from one of my favorite writers, and a sequel to Garden Spells. This novel highlights by comparison the flaws in the Strawberry Hearts Diner. Allen writes about a southern town with mom-and-pop businesses, quirky people, and a quaint ambience; but she's not afraid to show the trailer parks, desperate people, and bad decisions that also populate the town.

Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett: I won't commit to reading all of Pratchett's Discworld novels, but I do enjoy the ones I pick up. These are the first two in the "witches" sub-series, and like the best of his books they marry laugh-out-loud high-fantasy satire with genuine insight into the human condition.  I was planning to read the third, but it seems to have disappeared; perhaps Granny Weatherwax disapproves.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Is it Even the Same Design Anymore?

I stitched a skull for All Souls Day and Dia de Muertos:

And here is the pattern I "followed":
Beware by Linda Medina, 2017 Just Cross Stitch Halloween
The first change came with the materials -- I didn't have pink fabric, so I chose teal, which meant tweaking the colors of the floss.  As I stitched the skull I added an extra row on the bottom for the jaw. Then I decided to emphasize the flowers at the top more, which eventually led to the lazy daisy and bullion stitches.  "Beware" no longer seemed like an appropriate caption, so I changed that. I liked the spiral, but that had to move.  I didn't forget about the little orange floral motif at the top, so those became Rhodes stitches in chartreuse.

I'm pleased with how it came out. Maybe if I ever get pink linen, I'll stitch the original (with no changes) for a companion piece.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Trick or Treat Blog Hop

Welcome! Jo at Serendipitous Stitching is hosting her annual Halloween Blog Hop, and I get to join in on the fun.  My eerie, enchanting letter is
Fiddums Family Font Alphabet E
 (Eek!) 

But you are here to see some stitching, too.  I've only one cross stitch finish this year, the Frosted Pumpkin design from this year's Just Cross Stitch Halloween issue:

I started some other patterns, but then set those aside to work on a design of my own. At the end of the summer I signed up for Stitchy Box's Halloween Countdown Box -- a box of 31 stitching goodies, one to open each day of October. The loot:
The hoop is mine

About halfway through the month I got the idea of incorporating the supplies into a sampler of 25 one-inch squares, filling out some of the spots with stuff from my own stash.
The day was too gloomy for a good photo
It's not completed, but it was a blast to make, and I may do a similar thing for Christmas.

Next up in the blog hop is Needle, Pen and Sword.  Happy Halloween!