Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tangled Thursday - String 109

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week Elaine suggested we base our creations on String 109 from Tanglepatterns.com. This week, I had time to create two tiles. 
Tangles: Knight's Bridge, Warped Eggs, Paizel, Framz, Emingle, Zinger, Pippin

Tangles: W2, Hollibaugh, Bead Lines, Panthe, Ahh, Mr. E

As you can see for the first one, I ignored the border and run into some "interesting" challenges, which resulted in some "interesting" shapes.  ;)   For the second one,  I can see that I missed a few shading opportunities and part of a line.  The shading isn't that great, but until I added it I was thinking of trashing the tile altogether.   It's just meh. 

I guess it's my turn to suggest the challenge.   How about we work with some negative space?  That is, you draw a shape and tangle around it so that the shape in the end is white (or whatever colour paper you are working with) and the "background" is patterned.   I've been wanting to do this challenge since one of the other artists (Tami, I think) did one a number of weeks/months back.  Since it's summer and everyone is probably a little busy, I'm thinking we wait for July 10 for this one. 

Be sure to check out the other creations using String 109 on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Needlework Tuesday - Temperature Scarf is done!!


I guess it's been awhile since I last participated in Needlework Tuesday.   After a year of knitting, my temperature scarf finally is done! If you follow this blog, you've probably seen bits and pieces of it throughout the year. I said that once it was done, I'd do a final unveiling. Well, here it is:


It was hard to lay out so that you could see the whole thing. That's the best I could do.   It's starts on the left with June 21, 2013 and ends on the right with June 20, 2014.   I love that it's not symmetrical, but I do wish we'd had a shorter winter (less blue) and a nicer spring (more orange at the end of the scarf). 

All of the ends are weaved into the back, however, I left some long-ish tales because I figured once the scarf is worn the ends might pull out partially anyway. They are all different lengths and don't look great, but until I figure out a solution, I left it like that. Do you know how to stop the ends from pulling out when the scarf is stretched a bit from wearing? I don't think they will pull out entirely so that the scarf falls apart, but I do fear that they will put out enough that a visible tail will be sticking out.

Because I still have lots of yarn left, I plan on starting another one right away. It's only been a few days (start date June 21), so I don't have anything to show just yet.

I'm also thinking of signing up for the Mary Maxim Knit Club of the Month. I was going to order another sweater or two to knit, but while I found some really pretty ones, I wasn't sure they'd look good on me. Why do all of their models have to be size 2? I figured the knitting club might be interesting to try for awhile because it might introduce me to some new yarns, new stitches and some new items I wouldn't ordinarily pick out to knit. I'm definitely going to talk to them first, though. I generally just knit for myself and don't need items for babies or kids. Also, just how many scarf/hat/mitts sets does one person need? I'm hoping for a good mix of items. Something to keep my hands busy while I'm watching TV. I'd love to find another "conceptual" idea, like the sky scarf or temperature scarf, however, I haven't had the time to look online. Let me know if you stumble upon anything "weird" knitting-wise. ;)

That's it for this week.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts. If you've done any crafting this week, I hope you'll consider linking up so other can enjoy your creations.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Taboo by Casey Hill

In Taboo, Reilly Steel from San Francisco goes to Dublin to help the forensics team upgrade their techniques. When a young man and woman are found dead in a hotel room, Reilly soon realizes that there's more to it than first meets the eye. As more bodies are found, the police and forensic team determine that have a demented serial killer on the loose, who's determined to put society's taboos on display.

I really enjoyed this book. The author is such a great mystery teller. The details are drawn out slowly so that the reader is compelled to turn the page and keep reading. There are some interesting twists and turns scattered throughout the book. Some of the details were a tad gory or unpleasant to think about, but overall it wasn't too bad. The book was definitely hard to put down.

I love reading books set in countries different from my own. This was set in Dublin, Ireland. A place I'd like to visit one day. I believe this is the first book I've read set in that city, but I may have read one set in Ireland. Regardless, I loved all of the location details.

Besides the main story, the book also contains some surprisingly compelling side stories. There's a possible illness and alcoholic father to contend with. These stories are written in such a way that they didn't feel like filler material. They really added depth to the characters and substance to the story. I was surprised that I found them almost as intriguing as the main mystery. Well done!!

I really liked Riley. She was a strong intelligent woman. Her family history and past events were haunting her, but the author didn't tell us why right away. Like with the mystery, the details were revealed slowly, so it wasn't until closer to the end of the book that the reader got the whole picture. My one complaint about Riley was that she was a bit condescending towards her co-workers. She had more experience than them and was brought to Dublin to bring them up to speed, but her approach made me cringe a few times.

Casey Hill is the pseudonym of husband and wife team Melissa and Kevin Hill.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this team.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the Hills and the other books, please visit the Casey Hill Books website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

Taboo by Casey Hill, Simon & Schuster ©2011. ISBN 9780857202390(Uncorrected proof), 409p.

Green Living Can Be Deadly by Staci McLaughlin

In Green Living Can Be Deadly, Dana Lewis organizes the Green Living Festival for the town of Blossom Valley. She's also has set up a booth for her employer, the O'Connell Organic Farm and Spa. When green energy guru, Wendy Stevens, is found dead in the booth next door, Dana has to use all of her detecting skills to find out the truth before the whole festival is deemed a failure.

This is such a fun book. I really enjoyed reading it. It contained a pretty good mystery with lots of red herrings and plenty of suspects. I especially liked the cast of characters. There were those involved in the festival, those at the farm, those in her personal life, and those directly linked to the murder. All of them were varied, interesting and so much fun to read about, even the ones that were hard to like.

I really liked Dana. She was determined to get the job done no matter what it was. Like with the previous book, Dana has her hands full with working at the farm/spa, family commitments, and a journalist boyfriend, yet she still manages to find the time to ferret out the murderer. Her investigative methods were orderly, making following along very easy.

I was amazed at some of the food that Zennia, the cook from the spa, came up with. It sort of gives healthy food a bad reputation. In the last book, I was chiding Dana because she didn't like "healthy" food, but even I wouldn't have eaten some of her food this time around, even though in general I enjoy lots of healthy/vegetarian options with some pretty weird ingredients.

McLaughlin including some tips from the organic farm at the end of the book. These include controlling garden pest naturally, making a banana smoothie, and learning to meditate. All good advice.

I've also read the second book in the series, All Natural Murder. I enjoyed it, too. This really is a fun series.

Highly recommended for cozy mystery fans.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Staci McLaughlin's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Green Living Can Be Deadly by Staci McLaughlin, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9780758275028(Mass Market), 366p.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

In The Golem and the Jinni, two characters, Golem, made of clay and Jinni of fire, try to find their way in turn-of-the-century New York. They've come to the city by different means and at first their paths seems miles apart, but eventually they meet and become friends. That is, until a terrifying incident drives them apart. Just as quickly a formidable threat forces them together again.

I loved this book! It was totally absorbing. I don't read that much fantasy. At some point I'm going to have to stop saying that because I've read quite a few now. This one is different, though. The story is set in 1899 in New York, not some fantasy place. While the characters are fantastical, their experiences of trying to hide in plain sight are not. The story ends up examining what it really means to be human.

As I look back upon the story, I realize that not much happened in the way of storyline in the book. It was the main characters and the host of supporting cast that sustained me through this one. The more I read about Golem, Jinni, and the others, the more I wanted to read. I just couldn't get enough of them.

Besides the wonderful characters, I loved the descriptions of the city. The shops, the people, and the sites. I haven't been to New York, but after reading this book I feel like that in some small way, I've been there, at least to the city as it was many years ago.

As evidenced by the various reviews on Goodreads.com, this book isn't going to be for everyone. That sort of surprised me when I first stumbled upon some less than favourable reviews. What? I thought. Did they read a different book? After reading the comments, though, I understand.

Highly recommended. This book has definitely become one of my favourites. Perhaps even my favourite book of all time. I loved it that much. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author, please visit Helene Wecker's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, HarperCollins, ©2013. ISBN 978006211831(Uncorrected Proof), 484p.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

Between the Assassinations is a series of short stories all of which take place in the fictional town of Kittur, India. The vignettes take the reader into the daily lives of the citizens.

I adored this book. It's not quite like other short stories I've read in that these ones are vaguely connected to each other, some more than others. There are a few location and character overlaps, which enhance these connections. There isn't a continuing story, but there are enough familiar references to make them seem like a cohesive unit.

If you've come looking for a happy story with a happy ending, you've going to be disappointed. Sorry for the spoiler. Like many other stories situated in India, this isn't a happy book. Many of the characters are desperate, poverty-stricken, and without hope. There are a couple of exceptions and some very funny bits, but they are few and far between. While you won't find much happiness, what you will find are some incredible stories that are wonderfully and imaginatively written.

The short stories takes the reader into the daily lives of the citizens, from the well-to-do to the destitute. They encompass many societal issues and entities: politics, corruptions, addiction, poverty, castes, and more. All in all, the book contains some really wonderful insights into Indian society as a whole. Each of the stories is unique. Some were funny, some were sad. All were equally wonderful. I loved them all.

I loved how Adiga, the author, treated the reader like a tourist and presented the stories in itinerary form as though the reader would be spending a week in the town. Very clever!

I also loved the map at the beginning of the book. It's an artist's rendition of Kittur that features the various areas that figured prominently in the stories. It allowed me to get my bearings, as if I was actually there.

I appreciated the chronology list at the back of the book, which lays out the major events in India "between the assassinations", that of Mrs. Indira Gandhi (1984) and Rajiv Gandhi (1991). As I was reading the book, I only had a very vague idea of what the title referred to. Not much (if anything) was mentioned within the stories themselves. As someone who doesn't closely follow world politics, I was thankful the author included this very informative section.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy. Sorry it took me so long to get to it.

Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga, Free Press (Simon & Schuster) ©2009. ISBN 9781439152928(Hardcover), 339p.

The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas

In The Keeper of Secrets, child violin prodigy Daniel Horowitz has decided that he's not going to play the violin anymore unless his parents also allow him to play baseball with his friends. World renowned conductor, Rafael Gomez, who understands Daniel's feelings, develops a plan to inspire Daniel. He's determined to find a violin that once belonged to the Horowitz family. It's not just any violin. It's a precious Guarneri del GesĂș violin, which was lost to the Germans during WWII. His plan takes the reader on a heartbreaking trip from modern-day Chicago, to the horrors of Dachau, and to the leaders and rules in communist Russia.

I loved this book. The story was absolutely wonderful. It was filled with details about music, politics, families, secrets, survival and courage. The characters were fantastic, even the ones that were hard to read about. I especially loved how the story looped back and came full circle.

The book also contained a fascinating look into Russia, the Party and its leaders. All stuff that was pretty new to me, but I found it intriguing. The information about the concentration camps during WWII was horrific, while the details about the violins, how they are made, and how they sounded was all wonderful. I loved all of the references to music and keep thinking about how magnificent the soundtrack would be should the book be made into a movie.

There was one particular passage from the book that resonated with me. There was a conversation between Daniel and the maestro that talked about learning a new piece of music.
...it's in two languages, first the language of the brain, all the notes in the right order and the timing and the key and so on and so on. Then second, the language of the heart. This distinction, it is what separates all musicians. (page 20)
As a very mediocre flutist, I related to this passage.  I could learn all of the notes and such, but relating a "feeling" or learning that second "language" as a musician eluded me.  

I had reservations about reading this book at first because I thought that some of the details would be too hard for me to handle. And indeed, some of them were. Near the end of the book, I had to put it down for a few days before reading the ending. It was just too much. I don't want to give too much of the story away, but the ending made the whole book worth the read. I was glad that I didn't shy away from it despite the extremely heartbreaking parts.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at William Morrow/HarperCollins for this review copy.

The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 9780062240309 (Trade paperback), 358p.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer People by Elin Hilderbrand

In Summer People, Beth Newton and her children retreat to the home on Nantucket after the death of her husband, Arch. She insisted that the family tradition of vacationing in Nantucket must continue and Arch's promise must be fulfilled. Before he died, Arch had invited the son of one of his clients to visit that summer. Now, Beth feels like she should honor that invite. So, she's taken her teenagers, Winnie and Garret, along with Marcus to the island for 3 months. When the kids learn about a secret from Beth's, they are desperate to keep the family together and carry on with the healing process.

I really enjoyed this story. There's just something about Nantucket and Hilderbrand's writing that draws me in every time. In this one, her characters are flawed and real; the storylines are accessible and relatable. The characters' grief about Arch's death and the return to Nantucket was palpable and accurate. It brought up lots of sad memories of my lost loved ones.

I love Elin's books, but I occasionally have a complaint about something that happened in the book that doesn't sit right with me. This one is no exception. First, there was a little too much teenage puppy love. There's a reason I don't read romance or young adult books. It's all a bit to sappy for me. Second, I don't want to reveal any spoilers, but the big shocking secret that the kids discover just wasn't that big or that shocking...at least to me. There's no reason for Beth to reveal her entire life story to her children. Their reaction after discovering the secret was a bit over the top. I realize that these are my criticisms and others, no doubt, will feel differently. Having said all of that, neither of these things stopped me from enjoying this book immensely.

Highly recommended. I love Hilderbrand's books and hope to read many more.

For more information about this book, please visit the St. Martin's Press website.

I picked up this book at a used book sale.

Summer People by Elin Hilderbrand, St. Martin's Griffin (St. Martin's Press), ©2003. ISBN 9780312283679(Trade paperback), 337p.

Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion

In Silver: Return to Treasure Island, the offspring of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver take to the seas to return to Treasure Island. It's been forty years since the events of Treasure Island and Jim and Natty want to retrieve the treasure that was left behind on the island. The whole trip is more than they bargained for and getting to the island and finding the treasure is only part of the battle. They still have to return home.

This was such an interesting concept that I was really looking forward to the book. It started off wonderfully, but about halfway through, I got bored. It just seemed to go on and on and nothing very interesting was happening. I had imagined lots of swashbuckling action with pirates and sword fights. I guess there was some of that, but it wasn't enough to hold my attention. Perhaps if I had read Treasure Island or if I was more familiar with the story I would have enjoyed this book more or at least knew what to expect.

Motion is quite an accomplished writer. He's written fiction, poetry, criticisms, biographies and memoirs. He was the poet laureate of the UK, has been knighted for his contributions to literature, and is a professor of creative writing. I'm only sorry I didn't enjoy this book more.

There are plenty of positive reviews out there. This book just wasn't for me.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at RandomHouse for this review copy.

Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion, Broadway Paperbacks (Crown, Random House, ©2012. ISBN 9780307884886(Trade paperback), 402p.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Smithsonian: Timelines of Science by DK Publishing

Smithsonian: Timelines of Science is a visual guide to "history of science and inventions". It starts with fire and progresses through time to the internet. It's packed with information and covers all branches of science from astronomy to technology.

I really liked this book, but I admit the massive amounts of information it contained was a little intimidating at first. It's not really the kind of book that I could or world read cover to cover. That would be overwhelming. Instead, it's the kind that I could leave on the coffee table so that I (or my guests) can dip into it from time to time. The gorgeous cover featuring the Vitruvian Man is terrific. It definitely draws me in, but it's the extensive content within the book that keeps me coming back for more.

I love that the book presented information in a variety of ways. There are interesting articles, quotes, side bars that highlight some of the information, as well as small annotated photographs and diagrams scattered throughout.

The main part of the book are the timelines. For each of the timelines, an accompanying article explains what happened during that time frame using text and photographs/diagrams/illustrations. While the articles are informative, I think the information is a little squished. There's too much packed into a small space with very little white space. I would have preferred some headings for the separate ideas, instead of just some highlighted words or phrases.

In addition to the timelines, the book also features many key events or discoveries. There are at least three types of 2-page spreads on a particular topic: The Story of...; Understanding...; other. Each of them is well presented and nicely laid out. I especially love the ones that teach basic concepts (like evolution, stars, and DNA), and the ones with tons of labelled photographs.

I have mixed feelings about all of the sciences being presented on one timeline. In one way it's good because I can see what else was happening in the world when a particular discovery was made. However, there's just too much information to wade through. If I want to learn about astronomy for example, I have to sift through lots of other stuff to get to it.

There's a reference section near the back of the book that will delight true science nerds. The 6 parts feature: measurements and units, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and space, as well as earth science. The sections are filled with laws, equations, symbols and the like. To me, it looked like stuff I was supposed to memorize or learn in my high school science classes. To be honest, I found it interesting, but my eyes sort of glazed over after awhile.

That section is followed by who's who in science featuring brief biographies. It's sort of like a glossary of people. It's really cool.

The book also contains a table of contents, which is presented chronologically, a glossary, and index, both of which are massive. In the index, two of the pages are printed out of order, so it might be a bit confusing for readers at first. Hopefully, this will be corrected in the next printing.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Smithsonian: Timelines of Science DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465414342(Hardcover), 400p.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Board Stiff by Annelise Ryan

In Board Stiff, the body of Bernie Chase, CEO and owner of the Twilight Nursing Home, is discovered in the bathroom of the facility. Back at work as the deputy coroner, Mattie Winston soon discovers that the suspects are plentiful, including the elderly residents, who have their own reason for wanting Chase dead. Working with Hurley again isn't going to be easy for Mattie, but she must use her skills to uncover the clues and figure out who killed Chase.

I really enjoyed this book. I especially loved learning about Mattie's job as a deputy coroner. It's so fascinating. Ryan, the author, provides just enough detail to make it interesting, but not so much so that it's over my head, dry, dull or gory. I loved how the book picks up the story a few months after the last one ended. Luckily, Ryan summaries the events of the last book in a way that it immediately jogged my memory.

Mattie Winston is an excellent main character. She's a funny, woman-of-size, who has a knack for solving puzzles. I just wish she'd have a little self control when it came to her love interest, Hurley. She keeps saying that she shouldn't be with him, yet that resolve doesn't last long when he's around. I wish that she'd make up her mind with regards to him and stick to it. She's too smart and self-confident to lose control so easily. I believe I had similar thoughts with regards to her gambling addiction in the last book.

This is the fifth book in the series. While I did read and enjoy #4, Lucky Stiff, I haven't read the first three. Because Ryan does an excellent job of introducing characters and relating earlier events, I believe the book can be read as a standalone book. It's so good, though, that you'll want to read the others as well. So, if you can you might as well start at the beginning.

Highly recommended. This is such a fun series, I'm definitely looking forward to the next one. At some point in the future, I hope to read the first three books in the series.

Annelise Ryan is the pseudonym of Beth Amos.

For more information about this book, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Beth Amos's (Annelise Ryan's) website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Board Stiff by Annelise Ryan, Kensington Books, ©2014. ISBN 9780758272768(Mass Market), 360p.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Where are the book reviews?

If you've come to this blog lately, you are probably wondering where I've been or where the book reviews are. After all, this is supposed to be a blog for book reviews and the like. I've been reading up a storm, but for one reason or another I haven't gotten to the writing part in some time.  I think I'm suffering a form of writers' block. 

Anyway, I now have a few reviews partially written and should have those posted shortly.  Hopefully, within the next week.

I'd like to thank the publishers and other readers who have stuck by me. Thank you. 

Tangled Thursday - My Favourite

Tangled Thursday is a new occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week Heather suggested we create our favourite Zentangle pattern, with some variations if possible, and present the pattern on a tile. We were also to explain why we like the patter and why we chose it.

I had a little trouble picking a pattern to work with because I have quite a few favourites. However, after thumbing through my tiles and Zentangle pattern examples one jumped out at me. Auraknot. I chose it because it was the first pattern that drew me into the Zentangle world. It was also the first pattern I drew. I also really like the repeating lines. I find that I really have to concentrate to get the pattern correct, especially when I'm doing one of the variations.

Here are my creations this week:
Auraknot with Ribbon

Auraknot variation - skip 2

Auraknot with "triangle" added after a few rows.

Auraknot on tile with Well and Tipple patterns.


Be sure to check out the other favourites on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.