Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Water's Edge by Robert Whitlow

As Tom Crane's life spirals out of control, he is called home to close out his recently deceased father's legal office. When he arrives in small town Bethel, GA, he finds his father's death and good character is in question.

Water's Edge by Robert Whitlow is a well-written Christian mystery that is heavy on Christian and light on mystery. I enjoyed reading about the type of legal practice Tom's father had and how he tried to work out the problems of Christians scripturally, without bringing it to court. I also liked his uncle's testimony and the effect it had on Tom's spiritual awakening. Potential readers should know that there is quite a bit of focus on the character's spiritual awakening, scripture, and his uncle's ritualistic Christian practices. The mystery of who killed Tom's father and another man is more of a back story.

Unfortunately, I liked everyone but the character of Tom. Even though he seemed to be trying to be as upright as his father, he continually did things that I though was unprofessional and dishonest. It was the one part of his life he did not seem to even acknowledge. For example, I would have no respect for anyone who would have a video conference, claim it to be a confidential conversation, but have someone hiding off camera listening in to what was going on. In spite of this, I did enjoy the book and I plan on reading more by this author. 

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing for a review copy of this book.

Link to purchase Water's Edge by Robert Whitlow

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Inspired by Tradition 50 Appliqué Blocks in 5 sizes

I love Kay Mackenzie’s 50 Block books.  I previously reviewed Easy Appliqué Blocks and now I have Inspired by Tradition with 50 blocks.  These blocks are inspired by the more traditional styles, but not at all old fashioned or stuffy.   Visually the book is beautiful.  It is very colorful and the pictures really pop off the page.  The patterns are flowers, vines, berries, birds, hearts, and wreaths.

A CD is included with the book and you can print the patterns out as 6”, 8” 9”10” or 12” blocks.  You can also print them reversed for back-basting hand appliqué or fusible web machine appliqué.  

Kay includes very detailed instructions on back-basting, hand stitching, raw-edge machine appliqué, fusible web, and everything you need for the fine details of your blocks.  The book ends with a nice gallery of quilt and wall-hanging ideas.  Skill levels will depend on what method of appliqué is used, but I would say there is something here for every skill level.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Modern Basics by Amy Ellis

Most of the quilts in Modern Basics are easy squares and triangles. Although the fabrics in the book would not be my choice of fabrics, her choice of colors really shows off the designs so that a new quilter will be able to understand the importance of the light, medium, dark choices.  For example, the Wind Power quilt that has three fabrics. The pink fabric just pops out of the quilt.  I like the Tumbling Cubes quilt the best.  It is a plain quilt with small bright colorful accent squares. I also like the 123! Its three off center strips sewn into a square would be perfect for a brand new quilter. 

There are no skill levels listed, but I would say that most of the quilts are fairly easy and the skill levels would be absolute beginner, easy, and advanced beginner.  Honestly, I would recommend them to any quilter that would like a fast, easy quilt to make. 

I like the basic quilting information in this book.  It contains more detailed instructions than I usually see.  There is good information on rotary cutting, squaring up, piecing and even using your sewing machine walking foot. 

Even as an experienced quilter, I will keep this one on my permanent shelf.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shelter by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors and has now branched out into the YA genre. 

The character of Mickey is a likeable 15 year old with a unique blend of friends. Mickey has an unusual upbringing and never seems like a high school age student, but I can picture his friends, Spoon and Ema in any high school setting. Most of the book is a traditional mystery/thriller that takes Mickey and his friends in search of his missing girlfriend, Ashley.  There are strange happenings around an old house and rumors that a mysterious “bat lady” lives there.   Later in the book I thought the story got a little choppy and a holocaust connection seemed too contrived, but the story is engaging and entertaining. 

I have read several Coben books, but none with these characters.  The character of Mickey’s uncle, Myron, is in other Coben adult thrillers, but unfortunately in Shelter he was just a name with little character development which made him seem cold and indifferent.  The characters Spoon and Ema were both interesting and likeable, especially Ema as the outcast in high school.

I would recommend the book for young adults, but not for children.  The plot contains quite a bit of violence and takes Mickey to strip clubs.

In a good book series, each book should also be a standalone with a plot that can expand into the next book. Each book should also have a satisfying ending, and that is where I think Shelter fell a little short.  I liked that at the end of Shelter there were new questions about Mickey’s father that will be picked up in the next book, but I was disappointed that there were questions about Ema and other characters that were asked – but never answered in this book.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Red, White, and Sometimes Blue Classics from McCall’s Quilting

Classics from McCall’s Quilting (Also in Ebook form)

Red, White, and Sometimes Blue  is a unique look at red, white and blue quilts. For example, the Garnet Glaze a quilt with several red fabrics and one white fabric made with a combination of appliqué and piecing. Writer’s Block is made with squares of one solid red.  They are mixed with white blocks and borders which showcases the quilting designs in the white spaces. My favorite is Bits of Sunshine which is several blue fabrics and a white fabric and is made of rectangles.  This one cheats a little because the “sunshine” is spots of yellow and a narrow yellow band.  There are also scrap quilts using red, white and blue.

There are clear diagrams for cutting and piecing.  I like that each quilt has a short section on planning that discusses important steps for success dedicated to that particular quilt.  These are traditional patterns and although there are no skill ratings, there are patterns for all skill sets.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Civil War Sewing Circle By Kathleen Tracy

The Civil War Sewing Circle has a nice variety of information, photos and quilts.  There is a nice mix of patterns and history of Civil war era life.  There are excerpts from letters written to their loved ones, soldiers and to other quilters. Included is the well known letter from Sullivan Ballou to his wife a week before he died. 

The quilts are inspired by the patterns and fabric from Civil War times.  Because of the popularity of the Dear Jane Quilt, we are fortunate to have many reproductions of Civil War fabric to choose from.  You won’t have any trouble finding just the right fabrics for these projects.

Most of the quilts are small in size, doll, wall hanging, to cot size, but not full sized quilts.  There is also a pattern for a letter pocket with a needle case and a felted topper for a wood keepsake box.  I prefer larger quilts, but an experienced quilter could take the patterns and enlarge the size to suit their needs.

These are basic traditional patterns such as the Shoo-Fly, Ohio Star, One-Patch, and hexagons.  There are large color photos of the quilts and good diagrams for cutting and piecing.  This is the perfect book for those who like to add history to craft.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Quirky Christmas by William G. Bentrim

A Quirky Christmas is a sweet story about what it means to be a true friend.  The story revolves around Quirkey and his friends and their relationship with Reggie.  Reggie is one of those squirrels that is selfish and difficult.  The story shows the proper attitude toward those who are difficult and how important it is to show a good attitude when someone is in need. This is an important message for children to learn and one that is a good reminder for their parents.

I am not sure what the age range is, but it is a fine read-to book for small children and older children can read it for themselves.  You will enjoy meeting quirky and all of his friends

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

It isn’t unusual for an adoptee to want to know their past, but when Sara Gallagher seeks her birth parents she is in for a shock. Her father is a serial killer and her mother was his only victim able to escape.

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens is an incredibly tense psychological thriller.  It was fast-paced and held my interest – actually I hated to put it down.   I liked the character of Sara, not in spite of, but because she was so flawed.  It was interesting to see her looking at her own behaviors and wondering if they were inherited from her biological father or learned from her adopted parents.  Her fiancé, Evan, added interesting support and also plenty of conflict.  Several characters kept me guessing whether they were good or bad until the end.  

It took a while for me to appreciate the conversations at the beginning of the chapters which were between Sara and her therapist.  I have never had any experience with psychologists, so I found the conversations uncomfortable at first.  All of her insecurities worked very well in this story and added to the tension.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lot's Return to Sodom by Sandra Brannan

Amazon Link for Lot's Return to Sodom

I reviewed In the Belly of Jonah by Sandra Branna earlier this year and was really looking forward to reading her second book of the series, Lot’s Return.  It was very much a let down and was not as good as the first book in this series. Once again we have Liv Bergen involved in solving the crimes; this time in the area of Sturgis SD near her family’s mining company.  Of course with Sturgis there are bikers and the annual raunchy display. 

The story line was all over the place and in dire need of editing for cohesiveness.  The story did not flow well.  There was a particular sexual assault that I think was only thrown in for shock value, but the repeated reference to the act was just unnecessary and tedious.

The characters also have some problems. Although I think the character of Murley was supposed to be a creepy, slimy character, he came off as a sympathetic and almost likeable.  The character of Liv witnessed a crime, photographed it and did not tell police even though someone ended up dead!  It was just unbelievable.

The Biblical references in both books have nothing to do with the story and these are certainly not books where the characters struggle with issues of faith.  I am not sure why they are included.  The ending was disappointing and unrealistic.  I won’t put a spoiler here, but let me just say that the FBI simply would not have given Liv a gift that took years of expensive development.

The best part of the book was the Dedication when she told her mother that she didn’t have to read the story.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Simple Style - Easy Weekend Quilts by Sara Diepersloot

Also available here for an e-book purchase!!                      

I am always a little skeptical when a book has “weekend” in the title, but Simple Style just might be the real thing!

The book begins with basic quiltmaking instructions such as seam allowances, straight-set/diagonally-set blocks, borders, sandwiching, and binding. There are also instructions for a design wall.

There are 20 quilt patterns in all and although there are no skill ratings, most are easy to intermediate. There are full page photos of the quilts which are nice for close examination of the blocks and fabrics. There are also color diagrams of cuts and block placement. I enjoyed the author’s comments about the quilts just below the title of each quilt. She shares why she chose the fabrics, colors or style.

With a variety of fabrics and using the straight set or diagonal set, the possibilities are endless with these patterns.  My favorites are the designs using “bricks or squares” fabric shapes. These are the easiest and could truly be done in a weekend. 

This is a nice book for all quilters, but I think that even an inexperienced quilter could get a good introduction to quilting with these patterns.
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