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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Round-Up: Someday Quilts Edition

Someday Quilts is a series of cozy mysteries centered around a quilt shop on the Hudson, and written by Clare O'Donohue.  I learned about the series some years ago, because she and some quilty friends of mine are in the same guild, and read the first two novels when they came out.  I rediscovered them when Beadboy3 was in his book-pulling-down phase, and picked up the other novels she had written since the first two.

The Lover's Knot:The first book struck me as better -- more complex and bit edgier -- than most crafty/cozy mysteries.  Nell flees NYC and heartbreak to stay with her grandmother in a small town on the Hudson, and learns to quilt in her grandmother's store.  O'Donohue's refusal to make the characters one-dimensional is what sets it apart from other novels like this.  The victim and murderer in particular defy easy categorization, which makes the crime poignant.

The Lover's Knot:The second novel wasn't quite as good; I wasn't too interested in the new characters, and the solution to the mystery came out of left field.

The Double Cross:The third novel moves away from Archer's Rest, the setting of the first two, to a would-be quilters' retreat (I hope someday to go to one, but not like this one!).  Once again the characters were complex and realistic, and O'Donohue added lots of bizarre, intriguing clues.  The solution, however, while perfectly logical and "fair," involved disappointingly mundane explanations to the weirdness.

The Devil's Puzzle:A good novel all around -- fascinating new characters (I hope we hear more from them), welcome backstory to Nell's grandmother and her store, and a decent mystery and explanation.

Cathedral Windows and Streak of Lightning:Two e-novellas which serve as good introductions to the series.  The mysteries are a bit lighter, and the solutions a bit more feel-good.

The Double Wedding Ring:My favorite of the series.  The mystery is good and allows us to learn more about the local police chief's background as a NYC cop.  Moreover, quite a bit of the novel focuses on the relationship between him and Nell, and events that could have led to cliched misunderstandings and melodrama were instead handled by the characters with satisfying maturity. 

I'm looking forward to more from O'Donohue!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Crochet Obsession Continues

The great thing about cousins who own alpaca ranches is that they send you skeins of yarn once they learn you've taken up crochet.

My cousin sent me a gorgeous skein made from the fleece of two baby alpacas.  It's soft, supple, and strong, a pleasure to handle after the acrylics I've been working with, and the color is a gorgeous dark taupe.  The first project was a garland of stars:

Whether because of my lack of skill, or the natural habit of the yarn, the stars were initially quite curly:
They look like they belong in a tide pool
But I blocked them,
and they came out much better:

The next project was a lacy, narrow scarf:

Just the right amount of warmth for this ridiculously warm fall we're having.

I still have about a fifth of the skein left, which I will save for just the right small project.  Thanks, Arturo!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Yellow Butterflies

"Murió de viejo en la soledad, sin un quejido, sin una protesta, sin una sola tentativa de infidencia, atormentado por los recuerdos y por las mariposas amarillas que no le concedieron un instante de paz, y públicamente repudiado como ladrón de gallinas."

"He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest, without a single moment of betrayal, tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies, who did not give him a moment's peace, and ostracized as a chicken thief."

Monday, November 2, 2015

All Souls Day

It seemed appropriate to spend today putting in the last stitches of this:
While catching up on episodes of iZombie (soooo much better than the comic, by the way; Rose McIver in particular is brilliant, making a character that could be snarky and cynical instead be sad, thoughtful, and earnest).

Then I made soul cakes, the original treat for trick-or-treating:
These were delicious, not too sweet even with the powdered sugar.  The only change I would make to the recipe would be to add a little salt, to enhance the flavors.  Amusingly, I got the recipe from a Catholic blogger, but apparently it originates from a pagan site.

 I know far too many people who have died recently, including my dear, dear cousin.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

October seemed like a good time to re-read The Historian, my favorite vampire book.  Unlike many others, Kostova keeps Dracula true to his origins -- evil and genuinely scary -- while tying him explicitly to Vlad the Impaler.  There's a great deal of historical research here, resulting in a fascinating display of both Medieval and Cold-War-era Eastern Europe. (I really want to visit  Budapest now.  And Istanbul.)  When The Historian came out it was compared, naturally enough, to The DaVinci Code, but Kostova's novel is quite a bit better, and as far as I can tell not filled with egregious historical and theological mistakes.

A second read did cause me to notice some flaws.  The novel is told in a collection of letters, diaries, and reminiscences,  set mainly in 1930, 1950, and 1972, and told from the viewpoint of the several historians who encountered Dracula directly or indirectly, but Kostova did not distinguish the voices well enough.  Moreover, while Dracula's over-arching plan was clear -- immortality not just through blood, but history -- some of his specific actions were mystifying in light of his goals.  But ultimately these are minor flaws.  Watching the characters piece together Dracula's life was fascinating, and wondering if they would escape his taint was thrilling.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Halloween Stitching

"Haunted House" by the Snowflower Diaries.

"Fall Pumpkins" by Elizabeth Talledo, from the October 2014 issue of Just Cross Stitch.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Fall of Leaves

I fell in love with this pattern immediately.  It's not even the main design -- that would be "Autumnal Equinox" by Leann Baehman*, a statement necklace with a bead-embroidered centerpiece and a riot of leafy fringe.  Off in the corner of the third page they had a small photo of earrings made from the toggle clasp Baehman designed for the necklace.

so pretty ...
I found making the teardrop base fiddly, I think because my size 11 beads were not very consistent in size.  But the fringe more than makes up for it -- fun to plan the colors, fun to make, fun to play with, fun to wear.  My new go-to earrings.

*From the August 2015 issue of Bead & Button.