Friday, December 30, 2011

Concrete Garden Projects by Malin Nilsson and Camilla Arvidsson

I was the fortunate contest winner of this book, a gift certificate to Home Depot, and foam molds to create concrete address numbers.  The project for the house numbers was a video garden project presented on the Timber Press website.

A couple of years ago I made some stepping stones with concrete with found “treasures” around the house, but when I saw Concrete Garden Projects, I realized there were many other things I could make with a little concrete.  I love projects that repurpose and use found items.

This book has inspiration as well as specific instructions for creating useful concrete objects for the yard.  There are a variety of pots using either homemade molds or other containers you have around the house.  There are also mini-ponds, birdbaths, tea lights, and other decorative items.  The last section of the book is the Project Handbook with step-by-step instructions and photographs for working with concrete and molds. There are instructions also for adding decorative touches to your concrete project.

The photographs are nicely done and most are full-page.  Most of the projects are easy and can be made with things you have around the home or inexpensive kitchen or candle molds. This is a great book for those who love their patio spaces!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I am frequently asked to post links to articles written by others, and I usually don't because they are clearly are done to promote their websites.  I did find this one interesting though, and thought I would go ahead and post the link with the understanding that I am not promoting their website, only the article.

Perhaps I am falling behind in the tech/web world (no, I don't have a "smart" phone), but I had never heard of Pinterest before.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stuck by Jennie Allen - A Women & God Bible Study

“The vision is that we would see broken spots in our soul.”  I received the leaders’ kit for this group Bible study program that contains a leader’s guide, a workbook, a DVD with eight video lessons, and a deck of conversation and scripture cards.

The Bible Study Meeting:
The leader is reminded to listen, not lecture, and not to counsel.  The lessons, except lesson one, are to be completed at home before the meeting.  To do the lessons properly I would say they would probably take 30-45 minutes at home to study and complete. The homework discussion at the meeting should last 20-30 minutes.

The DVD lessons are very nicely produced.  The speaker is engaging and the backgrounds in the video are very nice.  The video and teaching should last 10-40 minutes.

There is a deck of cards that contain questions used as conversation starters. The cards for that week are set out and each lady chooses her favorite one. The scripture card for the week is also placed out.  The ground rules for the card session are:
  1. Be concise
  2. Keep sharing confidential
  3. Rely on scripture for truth
  4. No counseling

Meeting attendees are reminded of these rules at each meeting.  The women are then asked to “share” their answers to the question they chose.  This session should last 30-75 minutes.  I chose three questions randomly as examples:
  1. What do you love more than God?
  2. What things in your life right now get you down?
  3. How has your past contributed to your stuck places?

The material as a whole is very good and we all want to be able to say “It is well with my soul.”  I would say that this Bible study would appeal to young women, immature Christians, and not-yet believers seeking God for their lives. Jennie talks quite a bit about her life and her children in the DVD lessons, and I think this age group would find it most engaging.   It is very much a feelings based study, and some of the sharing the women are asked to participate in is very personal.  The fact that the leader is to remind them at each meeting that the conversation is confidential means that it could be very damaging if that confidentiality isn’t held.

The print in both the leader’s book and the study guide is gray instead of black and is very difficult to read.  While lovely to look at, it is very hard on the eyes.  My hope is that in later printings the print will be darkened. 

With only eight lessons, I think this is a good way for women who feel they are stuck in their spiritual lives and to receive a needed push to move forward.

No Cure for Murder by Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.

Sometimes I just can 't figure out authors!  There are a few ways that authors or publicists can contact me and ask for a book review.  One is directly by going to my website and reading the side-bar paragraph about what types of books I like to read. Another is a listing in a an e-book that was distributed to independent authors with the same information.  They can see the other books I review (some are Christian, some not), and it states that I will read Christian books. I also get emails with requests for reviews with an introduction to their book, and that is how I found this book.  So why wouldn't the author mention that an important part of the story is that Christians are reviled in this book?

There was nothing on the back cover or in what I was sent that would warn me that I would be insulted on every other page of this book.  I am still a little stunned at the hatred on those printed pages. This isn't the first time this has happened, but I just can't figure out why an author would want to insult so many people.  Do they think Christians don't read general fiction?

Here is my review, and I tried to be fair:
Although I did not enjoy this book, it is a pretty good medical mystery. The plot follows a doctor as he introduces each patient, his connection to them, and their treatment. Several become victims of a serial killer. Although I was able to figure out the killer early on, there were plenty of suspects and interesting characters throughout Brier Hospital.

I have tried to review this book fairly and not let my personal views get in the way. Unfortunately, the author did not give the reader the same courtesy. I would not recommend this book for Christians, or anyone who is pro-life unless you don't mind being insulted on every other page. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spotlight On Neutrals by Pat Wys

Since I prefer browns and beiges to bright colors, this is definitely the right book for me.           
The book begins with an explanation of neutrals, values, planning, general cutting and piecing instructions, appliqué, and binding. There are very good instructions from start to finish that would help even a beginning quilter.

Skill levels are not listed, but I would say seven are beginner to easy, three intermediate, and two experienced.  My favorite easy projects are Summer Stitch In which is a pattern with squares and triangles, and the matching pillow Woven Pillow Sham.  My favorite experienced project is Going my Way?, a French braid type quilt.

The cutting and piecing instructions are clear, and the templates are full-sized. The snowflake templates have to be placed on the fold of fabrics, but are easy to use.

I like this book very much and it has earned a place on my permanent shelf.

Thank you to Martingale & Company for the review copy of this book, accepted with the understanding that I will give my honest opinion.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stigma by Philip Hawley Jr.

Setting the scene for a medical story is often difficult and unrealistic, but Philip Hawley was able to make the opening hospital scenes believable and intense when a young boy arrives with an unknown deadly illness. The web of secrets and lies creates an interesting and unforgettable story.

Stigma is a first-rate medical thriller/action/adventure and I would never have guessed this was an author’s first book.  Philip Hawley’s book can stand right along side books by the more “famous” authors. Each character is developed carefully so that the reader becomes involved with each of them and the story.

The story doesn’t just stay in the hospital though, it travels out of the country and off on an adventure I didn’t expect. It is a good story with interesting characters, and is the type of story that will appeal to both men and women.

Treasured Amish & Mennonite Recipes Published in cooperation with Mennonite Central Committee.

With 627 recipes, you really can’t go wrong with this cookbook. The Introduction is written by Carol Roth Giagnocava and the Forward is by Alan Giagnocavo in which they introduce the Amish and Mennonite cookbooks and the impact the funds have for the Mennonite Central Committee Relief efforts. There is also a brief history of the Amish and Mennonites.

All of the categories that most cookbooks have such as Appetizers, Soups, Main Dishes, etc. are here, but there are also additional recipes for European Dishes, Traditional Classics, Cheese-making, Jams, Grandma’s Remedies, and Soap Making.

The recipes included are good, hearty, home-cooking comfort food. There are also lovely rural countryside photographs to enjoy.

Inspirational Applique by Cheryl Almgren Taylor

Inspirational Applique by Cheryl Almgren Taylor is a unique book of beautiful quilts that allow you to express your faith in the symbolism of design.  Her book begins with the section of “Symbolism in Design” in which she explains the symbolism behind the colors, numbers, and specific designs.

There are three designs representing the Old Testament Scripture and eight for the New Testament.  The skill levels are not marked, but I would characterize them as three for a knowledgeable beginner, four for intermediate, and four for the advanced appliqué quilter. 

Your inspiration can be as obvious or as subtle as you like, and adjusting some of the more advanced designs can make them easier for a quilter with less experience.  For example, the quilt “As for me and my House” wall hanging would be much easier without the lettering. Of course, you are not making the statement of the scripture, but you would still have a lovely wall hanging and the practice so that you may advance in your skills.

My favorite is the “Daily Bread” wall hanging with its bundle of wheat tied with a ribbon, but it is definitely for a more advanced (or more patient) appliqué quilter.

My thanks to Martingale & Company for a review copy of this book, accepted only with the understanding that I will post my honest opinion of the book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Seamless (or nearly seamless) Knits by Andra Knight-Bowman

Sewing seams in knit garments isn’t difficult, but it is a very time-consuming process to make it look nice.  So I was happy to find a book with almost seam-free patterns, Seamless (or nearly seamless) Knits by Andra Knight-Bowman.

The book starts with a short (3 pages) section of Special Techniques and Tips that contains instructions for cast ons, three-needle bind off, and knitting in the round.

The patterns are divided into three sections:
Building from the Bottom Up – A shell, a sweater with ½ sleeves, a long sleeveless dress, sweater with ¾ sleeves, 2 vests, 2 long sleeve sweaters, a jacket, and a hoodie

Taking it from the Top Down – A v-neck sweater with ¾ sleeves, and three long-sleeve sweaters

Somewhat Side to Side – Long vest (my favorite), Short sleeve sweater (my second favorite), 2 long sleeve sweaters, and a jacket.

Skill levels are marked and there are 8 labeled as easy, 10 as intermediate and 1 for experienced knitters.  There are 5 size ranges in each pattern.

I liked the styles in this book because they are current without being wild.  The patterns are easy to follow and have easy to read double spacing between row instructions.  The only problem I had is that on a couple of the more difficult patterns there were abbreviations that I was not familiar with.  There is a section in the back of the book for abbreviations, but I found at least three that were not explained.

Thank you to Martingale & Company for a review copy of this book, accepted only with the condition that I write my honest opinion of the book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Injustice for All by Robin Caroll

Injustice for All: A Justice Seeker's Novel is Robin Caroll's newest Christian  fiction book.  When a young woman witnesses her godfather's murder, she goes on the run and begins a new life.  FBI agent, Rafe Baxter is also making difficult changes in his life when his career takes an unexpected turn, and he is assigned a cold case to solve.

The character of Rafe is outstanding.  He is likeable, sincere, and a man of faith.  Remington's character was a little too frenetic at the beginning, but a contrast developed later and balanced it out. The story wasn't realistic, but most good action/adventure/ mysteries aren't!  Rafe's story is so good that I hope to see his character in a sequel.

My only real criticism of the story is that the term "Oh my stars" was used so many times in the first part of the book, that it almost made me quit reading.  I am glad I didn't because the book turned out to be an enjoyable read.

As for the matters of faith in the book, Rafe was the example of a thoughtful Christian man. I enjoyed the story as he thought his actions through, and was always trying to do the right thing.  Secret and lies also have a role in this story, and the characters involved have to learn the lesson of forgiveness.

Another great Christian fiction story set in Louisiana by Robin Caroll.

About Robin Caroll:  Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin Caroll is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others. Robin’s mother, bless her heart, is a genealogist who instilled in Robin the deep love of family and pride of heritage—two aspects Robin weaves into each of her books. When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty years, her three beautiful daughters, one precious grandson, and their four character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else? She gives back to the writing community by serving as Conference Director for ACFW. Her books have finaled/placed in such contests as RT Reviewer's Choice, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year. An avid reader herself, Robin loves hearing from and chatting with other readers. Although her favorite genre to read is mystery/suspense, of course, she’ll read just about any good story. Except historicals!

 Here is the book trailer:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Just a quick review this time.  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake is a slow, depressing little tale of a back-woods family. I really didn't enjoy it, but then the topics of suicide, abuse, child rape, adultery, and alcoholics all in one book is a bit much for me. It started well enough with all of the family coming home for a family reunion. Unfortunately, the story was scattered and never really came to a point. Although Samuel is a preacher, this is not a book that delves into issues of faith. It seems that Samuel and his wife simply wait around for God to give them a church. If you like stories of hardscrabble life you may like this, but it just wasn't for me. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hemmingway Point by Nora Carroll

I received this as an e-book for review.  It didn’t seem to be a book that would appeal to me, so I didn’t read it right away.  When I finally sat down and started to read, I couldn’t put it down. 

Hemingway Point is an interesting story of three generations living in an upper class resort area.  Although the story was at times confusing as it changed generations, it grabbed me and held my interest throughout.  The characters are well-developed and have a real life feel.

The story details the consequences of the lies that families keep.  There were several twists in the story that bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.  I highly recommend this well written book.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Terrarium Craft by Amy Bryant Aiello and Katie Bryant

My love for terrariums goes back to the 1970s when those large, spaceship-style plastic orbs were so popular.  Terrarium Craft by Amy Bryant Aiello and Kate Bryant is a wonderful book that has inspired me to bring some updated terrariums back into my home.

What I liked most about the book is that that the authors’ creations are from found materials. Instead of expensive Wardian cases, this book shows how to create beautiful scenes from a variety of glass objects you may have around the house or something you will be able to pick up at a thrift store. 

The authors provide good instructions for choosing containers and the proper planting materials to provide for a healthy environment for added plants.  There are many pages of inspiration for natural and unique materials to add beauty and charm to the desired scene.  Plants and mosses are also explained.  There are full-page sized photographs of most of the designs.

I especially appreciate the photographs that show step-by-step how to assemble the terrarium.  There are 50 terrarium projects with a list of contents and instructions for assembly.  They are divided into four groups based on inspiration – Forest, Beach, Desert, and Fantasy.  If you are not a plant person, some of these are so pretty that you don’t need to add plants!  Just in case you don’t have time to hunt and gather supplies, there is a list of resources to purchase a variety of plants, mosses, and décor.

This is a wonderful book for inspiration and instructions for creating terrariums.  It would also make a nice gift book.

Thank you to Timber Press for this copy of Terrarium Craft for review.  It is provided with the understanding that I give my honest opinion of the book. 

 I receive no compensation if the book is purchased through my link.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Make Your Bed by Leslee Evans

What a great idea to add color and style to the bed!  Instead of a full quilt, the patterns in this book are for pillows and reversible bed runners that drape across the bed. 

There are good basic instructions to make the runners, but also instructions to embellish sheets and pillowcases.  There is a how-to for making “The Easiest Pillow Ever” and pillow shams. The instructions are clear, with diagrams, color pictures, and full-sized templates.   

The beautiful Rose Irish chain Runner is an easy four-patch with a scalloped edge design. Perfect for the reverse side is the “Scattered Leaves” runner.  There are also instructions for matching pillowcases and sheets.  What a pretty set!

There is a “Houndstooth/Suits Me” set and a youthful Pizzazz/Starry Night set with appliqués and loose stitch-on decorations.  For your Batiks there is the serene Waves and for your brights there is the Playful squares set.  There is an elegant Floral Silk runner, the natural Forest Runner, and the cheerful Friendship Star. My favorite is the earthy Leaves-and-Trees with maple leaves and a tree scene. The flip side for this one is a bold Rail Fence.

This is one of my favorite quilt books this year.  There is something for all quilt skill levels, including beginners to quilting.

Link to purchase Make Your Bed by Leslee Evans. - Also available in E-book form.

I received a copy of this book for review from Martingale & Company, Home of That Patchwork Place.  I accept books for review with the understanding that I will give my honest opinion of the book. I receive no compensation if the book is purchased through my link. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy

The first chapter or so was a little over-the-top because of the overly descriptive and flowery writing, but once I got past the beginning, the story fell into place.  The dialog helped to even out the writing.  This is an interesting story of a pastor falsely accused of a sinful act to protect a family member. The family’s life spirals out of control when an accident victim can’t be found.

This is a Christian book, and there are a lot of faith issues covered.  Some of the things interlaced into the story are the difference in the type of prayers the wife and the husband (former pastor) offered, sin, repentance, evil, and forgiveness.  

The characters are interesting and I did like the story, but there is one thing that I just couldn’t accept in a Christian fiction book. The preacher's wife participates in the occult.  I think it is an unfortunate addition to the story and completely unnecessary.   The author took the easy way out by portraying the main protagonist as a medium using articles of clothing to see and feel what a missing person was going through. It would have been much more interesting to have an interesting police/detective method of solving the crime, but instead the author took the occult route.

I received this book as part of the Booksneeze program from Thomas Nelson accepted only with the understanding that I give an honest review. I receive no compensation if you purchase through my links.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fast Fusible Flower Quilts by Nancy Mahoney

For those who like to make a bold statement in their quilts Nancy Mahoney has created a book with big beautiful flower quilts.  These patterns are great for beginners.  There are patterns for both easy appliqué and for a combination of appliqué and piecing.

There are instructions for making and placing templates, no trace cutting, starch appliqué, fusible appliqué, and finishing techniques.  The instructions and diagrams are clear and concise.

All of the patterns in this book would be appropriate for a beginner quilter, and there are even a few patterns for a person wanting to try appliqué for the first time. My favorite pattern in the book is Daisy Vines on p. 66.  It has a very easy pieced background for the three columns of large flowered vines, and the vines are divided by with easy pieced sashes. A desktop wallpaper photo of the Daisy Vines quilt is available at Martingale & Company website free of charge (see link below).

I recommend this book for beginners or any quilter wanting a quick easy project.

I received my copy of Fast Fusible Flower Quilts from the publisher for review with no expectation of anything other than an honest review. I post a link for purchase, but I receive no compensation if a book is sold.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie M. Wiseman

The most beautiful knit fabric will make an awful sweater if the finishing techniques are not right.  There is so much information in this small book to help me make that perfect project.  Only 144 pages, but they are packed with information.  The books starts with Nancie’s Finishing Secrets, 7 tips that only experience can teach. 

There are variety of cast-on methods, seven in all, and five bind-off methods.  Also, increases, decreases and selvages.  There are even eleven seam stitches explained!   There are nice diagrams, photographs, or both for each of the techniques.

Also covered is picking up stitches, borders, bands, finishes, which includes crochet edges, and so much more.

This is a hard cover book with a heavy spiral binding.  It has a lay-flat design for easy use so you will never lose your place.

Two worksheets finish the book for planning the next project.  This is a very nice reference book for hand knitters.

 Thank you to Martingale & Company for the review copy of this book. I post only my honest opinion and I receive no compensation if you purchase the book through my link.

Flip Your Way to Fabulous Quilts by Donna Lynn Thomas

Flip Your Way to Fabulous Quilts by Donna Lynn Thomas

The technique of the flip method starts by using a smalls square on the corner of a larger square that is sewn on the diagonal. There are some basic quiltmaking techniques and a short section on improving your accuracy, along with other tips and tricks.  The section on Applying the Concept was a little confusing for me at first, but a slow read and a little practice could master it.

There are three sections of patterns:
  1. Try Me Quilts to learn the folded corner process and is recommended by the author for beginners.
  2. Grow With Me Quilts for intermediate or confident beginners.
  3. Master Me Quilts uses the same skills but the blocks have more pieces.

Shimmering Leaves is my favorite pattern with the beautiful color using dark, medium and light leaf color fabrics.

There is quite a bit of waste using this method, but the last pattern has a quilt to use up all of those scraps.

While working on another quilt I had to make a pieced border that turned out pretty badly, but one look at the book and I realized that the flip method would work perfectly and I was very happy with the results.

(Also available in e-book form)

Thank you to Martingale & Company, Home of That Patchwork Place for a review copy of this book.  I post only my honest opinion and I receive no compensation for any purchase of the the book.

Monday, September 19, 2011

That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2012

My beautiful 2011 That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar is on my wall and now it is time look ahead to 2012.  I was so pleased with last year’s that I wanted the new one..  Again this year it is a large 12”X12”, folding out to 12”X 24” with enough room for notes each day. It has a strong hanging grommet.  The top half of the hanging calendar contains a quilt picture and the bottom half is the month decorated to match. 

It is more than just a calendar though, because there is an accompanying soft-cover booklet with instructions, diagrams and templates for all of the quilts.  I have tried some of the other calendars, but this one by That Patchwork Place is definitely my favorite. 

The quilts included are varied in style and method.  Some of the quilts are pieced and some appliqué.  There are also quilts for all skill levels.  My favorites were Bittersweet Briar, a combination of appliqué with a piece border, and For the Birds, another mixed method quilt. Another great product from That Patchwork Place. 

Thank you to Martingale and Company for the review copy, received only with the understanding of an honest review.   Link to Purchase 2012 That Patchwork Place Calendar 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quilting those Flirty ‘30s by Cynthia Tomaszewski

This is not your ordinary quilt pattern book.  Most of my quilt books have an introduction to quilting, instructions, and patterns.  Cynthia added a little extra by creating a book that explains the very heart of quilting and its connection to home, friends and family.  Her book begins with a little family history and what life was like back in the 1930s.  As a genealogist, I was particularly interested, but you don’t have to study your own family tree to enjoy her stories. 

Next in the book she has her favorite childhood cookie recipe and tips for making great cookies.  Not only is this a nice addition to the book, but it also showcases a tea cozy and potholders made from patterns in the book.  There are also other cookie recipes throughout the book, eleven in all.

Quiltmaking basics follow, including something that I don’t see in a lot quilt books, a primer on layering and basting.  There is a nice introduction to different methods of appliqué so that even a beginner could quickly learn to create something beautiful with these patterns.  There are patterns for table runners, a tea cozy, potholders, an apron, and quilts of all sizes. 

My favorite was Angel Kisses, small flower wall hangings with yo-yo tassels – cute, easy, and unique!

There is something for every skill level, depending on the method of appliqué chosen.  There are larger flowers that would be easy enough for a beginner and also more intricate and delicate flower appliqués that would require a more experienced quilter.  

See some of the finished patterns on the Martingale and Company site

Thank you to Martingale and Company for the review copy of this book, received only with the understanding that my review will be my honest opinion.

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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Joy by Anne L Watson

Joy is a captivating story of Mirai San Julian, an adopted child of a single mother and later raised by her aunt. Mirai wants to learn about her past, but doing so may hurt her relationships with those she loves.

Joy was a joy to read! It is a beautifully written rich descriptive story of love and life.  It was interesting to read the history of the carousels and their restoration. Aunt Joy’s lifelong ministry to help those who need guidance and supervision was touching.  Although Mirai is a bit of a free spirit, as the story advances you begin to see the impression Joy’s life-work had on Mirai.

All of the characters are well developed and people that I could cared about.  The story flows well and every time I had to put it down, I couldn’t wait to get back to the story.  I highly recommend this book. 

Get hooked on Tunisian Crochet – learn how with 13 projects by Sheryl Thies

Martingale Publishing link to purchase Get Hooked on Tunisian Crochet
Also available as an E-book!

The thirteen patterns in the book are attractive and practical projects for learning the craft of Tunisian Crochet. The patterns include a set of placemats and coasters, three pillows, a tote bag, a scarf, a variety of shawls and wraps, a purse, an afghan, 2 sweaters, a jacket, and fingerless gloves.

I am a knitter and never learned crochet beyond a granny square, but I had a Tunisian crochet hook so I decided to give it a try.  I am a visual learner so I had to use the diagrams first and then go back and read the text to figure out how to do the stitch.  I did crochet up a small (very small!) sample that you can see in the picture.

The projects start out very basic and then progress as you learn and practice.  I would love to make the Tranquil Escape cardigan, but I think I had better start with the placemats first! Great book!

Baby's First Quilts by Nancy J. Martin

Martingale Publishing link to purchase Baby's First Quilts

Using traditional patterns and novelty fabrics, Nancy J. Martin has designed a book of patterns for beginner quilters. Baby’s First Quilts starts out with an impressive 21 pages of quilting instructions to prepare even the most novice quilter.  There are very basic instructions with information on rotary cutter equipment, and the use of other quilting supplies.  Also, there are detailed directions for matching blocks, sewing direction, and pressing - very important for a new quilter. 

Most of the quilts patterns are for beginners using novelty (or picture) fabric for design. All have clear color diagrams to show the placement of pieces.  Most are squares, triangles, and/or framed fussy-cut novelty fabric pieces.  Even the one appliqué pattern of Santas would be simple enough for a first time appliqué quilter.  There is one circle pattern, Beach Balls, which would probably require more experience because the pieces are sewn on a curve.

Since the only thing that would distinguish these as baby quilts is the fabrics and size, you could use the same patterns to make lap quilts at this size or rework the size to make full-sized quilts. The quilts would be appropriate not only for babies and children, but also for charity quilting.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley

The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley is the first in a new faith-based cozy series.  Faith Morgan is a former law enforcement officer and now an Anglican priest.  While visiting a church in Little Worthy, another priest drops dead during communion, obviously of poisoning. Faith becomes involved in the investigation lead by Detective Ben Shorter, her former lover.

The Reluctant Detective was easier to read than some other English books, but there were still a few terms that I left me wondering.  I enjoyed the characters of Faith and Ben, but I thought that all of the characters could have used some extra and gradual development. 

Although described as a cozy, I found at least one crime scene explicitly described more so than most cozies I have read.  I thought the mystery was a little too scattered, but then I enjoy reading mysteries that are solved more methodically.  I still enjoyed the book and would definitely read the next in this series.

While this is a faith-based book that contains scripture, it is by no means preachy or overly religious.  Short scriptures come to Faith’s remembrance such as “Sin shall not have dominion over you” and help her to make decisions.

Sometimes I find one line or quote in a book that stands out to me and in The Reluctant Detective it was on P. 221: “People can go mad looking for God too hard, she’d thought.”  I would add the sentences before, but that would be a spoiler!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blogfest 2011

The three winners have been chosen - #1 J.M. from MO, #2 P.S. from AL, and #3 R.P. from VA. All have responded back, so their prizes will go out this week.
I hope you had fun with  BlogFest 2011!

#3                                                                 #1

BlogFest 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Knitted Finger Puppets by Meg Leach

Knitted Finger Puppets by Meg Leach contains 34 quick projects for finger puppets. This is a good way to use up leftover yarns, and these wonderful portable toys can provide hours of play in public places when you have to wait. Whether your child is in church, in a doctors office, or going for a car ride these will provide fun, imaginative, and quiet playtime. 

The instructions are clear and there are good photographs of each puppet. All skill levels are represented here, with most being easy. 

There are basic knitting instructions, instructions for using DPNs (double pointed needles), and increasing/decreasing.  Using DPNs takes practice , but once you catch on, they are fun to use. There are also instructions for very basic crochet stitches. You can make individual animals and characters or make a complete themed group.  The themes are a North Pole Christmas, circus, and fairy tales.  This is a nice book to make some quick toys for family or charities.  These are popular in some charities, especially for children in hospitals or dialysis. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pennies From Heaven revisited

In May I posted a review of the Pennies From Heaven Quilt book.  I was so taken with the quilt that I decided to make it.  I have posted a few quick pictures of my progress on the quilt.  The blocks I have made are not pressed, trimmed or embellished yet. (yes, one of the blocks was photographed upside down!)  I simplified some too. Here is the post.  Scroll down to see the pictures.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

This book is the sequel to The Traveler’s Gift, which I did not read.  In The Final Summit, the Archangel Gabriel brings a message from God to David Ponder.  Gather all of the Travelers together and they must answer the following question with a two-word answer:  “What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?”

I was very disappointed in this book.  It seems that it is part spiritual fantasy, part new age self-help.  I didn't find this book particularly interesting or intriguing, and it was definitely not spiritually sound. It seems in this book God tells man “save yourself”!

The beginning felt creepily like an infomercial for the get-rich-quick with real estate shown on late night TV.  I also found it odd when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to David and told him that he was considered by the other travelers as “The greatest of them all”. In another scene David meets Winston Churchill (another traveler) and has a cigar with him.

While the main point of the story (the end) is not a bad idea, it certainly is not a Christian view of what our focus in life should be. There is also a good lesson for living debt-free.

I have read good Christian fantasy and have even read secular fantasy that had more Christian delineation of good and evil than did this book.  I can't recommend this book.

A copy of The Final Summit was provided free of charge by Thomas Nelson Publishing for review with the understanding that the review will be my honest opinion.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Last of the Good Guys by Ernesto Patino

Amazon link to purchase The Last of the Good Guys  
The Last of the Good Guys is another interesting story by Ernesto Patino. Alec Santana, ex-cop and now an Insurance Claims adjuster, tries to help his best friend's wife find out why her husband killed himself. When more suicides occur and all connect back to an incident many years before, Alec knows he is being pulled deeply into a complicated mystery.

I really like the character of Alec Santana and his fledgling P.I. business. There were just enough characters involved to keep me guessing, but not too many to overcomplicate things. Secrets and lies always add up to a good mystery, and this author knows how to come up with some good secrets.

This is the second book by this author that I have read. I enjoyed Web of Secrets and The Last of the Good Guys both very much. The first, Web of Secrets, is reviewed here.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Baking With Cookie Molds by Anne L. Watson

Link to purchase Baking With Cookie Molds on

I am so happy to find this how-to book on cookie molds with detailed step-by-step instructions.  The author, Anne Watson, guides the reader through the proper types of ingredients to use, mold preparation, mixing the ingredients, and removing the cookie from the mold.  The purpose of the book is to enable even a novice baker to be successful at baking with cookie molds and enjoy this wonderful hobby.

Baking With Cookie Molds starts with a history and use of cookie molds.  There is an important section on the types of molds and which type of mold to use.  As soon as I received the book I ordered a Brown Bag Cookie Mold and gave her method a try.  
Here is the first mold I purchased:

Her secret for removing the cookie from the mold worked perfectly, and my first attempt was quite successful.  My skill at photographing cookies is a little lacking, but here is one of my cookies:

I can’t wait to try some of the many other recipes in the book. I have even purchased another mold.

The author’s love for sharing her knowledge about these types of cookies is obvious throughout her book, and I highly recommend it.

Also be sure to visit her website, Anne L. Watson  to read her monthly Cookie Mold magazine.  You will find more information on molds, photographs, and even more recipes. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fancy to Frugal by Kay Connors and Karen Earlywine

There are always new and modern quilt design books that stir our imagination, but there is nothing that says comfort to me more than the old fashioned traditional quilts.  Fancy to Frugal, Authentic Quilt Patterns from the ‘30s by Kay Connors and Karen Earlywine brings us those old fashioned designs.

Years ago local newspapers would print quilt blocks in series form.   The block patterns in this book are authentic quilt patterns from the 1930s and include actual pictures of the newspaper articles. Not only are there full sized patterns, but also included are the quilting motifs for the quilts and borders.  The instructions and diagrams are very clear and helpful.  There is a section at the end of the book with general quilting instructions. 

I especially like the Sunflower and Butterflies block.  Although the Sunflower block is an original old pattern, I have not seen one like it before and found it interesting. This is a great book for those who like traditional quilting and especially the quilts from the 1930s.  There are patterns appropriate for all quilt skill levels.

Thank you to Martingale and Company for providing a review copy.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Social Media Survival Guide by Deltina Hay

This is an updated edition of this book released with a different publisher and has many additions and changes.  Social media is the present and future of the Internet.  The Social Media Survival Guide is textbook style instruction for businesses and professionals on how to build a strong presence in the social media. 

Beginning with a brief explanation of terms and concepts, the book walks the reader through creating a strategy and preparation for creating a blog or website.  There is a good primer on using WordPress and for creating podcasts. 

Social Networking sites are cited and explained, as well as social bookmarking and media sharing sites.  I especially appreciated the chapter on using and creating Widgets and badges.  Even more important is the author’s look into the future of web presence with an explanation of The Semantic Web and Web 3.0. 

Included with the book is a resource CD with templates and forms. I highly recommend this book. Casual web users, bloggers, self-published authors, and self-promoting entrepreneurs would benefit from this wealth of information.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who Will Care When You’re Not There? by Robert E. Kass and Elizabeth A. Carrie

Link to purchase Who Will Care When You’re Not There?

The most powerful statement in the book is the simple question, “What would happen to your pets if you didn’t make it home from work today?”  It is our responsibility to make sure our pets are well taken care of, but we need to know what plans are appropriate for both short term and long term care. 

The book charts the length of life of different types of common pets and describes the need for young and old alike to prepare for emergency care and long term care of those who trust us most. There are lovely, and what I can only describe as peaceful, illustrations included in the book. 

Some of the important topics included are durable power of attorney for your pets and the scope of authority you wish to give and tax issues with trusts and how to set them up. There is also a nice section on pet grief with human loss and human grief with pet loss, with a list of resources for pet loss grief support. Quotes about animals and pets scattered throughout the book.

Who Will Care When You’re Not There? has very detailed information on the continuing care needs of pets and the best way to provide for those needs.  Multiple appendices provide additional information on state statutes for pet trusts, an emergency pet card and sign, and a pet trust drafting checklist.  I highly recommend this book for all pet owners.

The authors are estate planning attorneys practicing law as members of the Detroit law firm of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker PLLC.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In the Belly of Jonah: A Liv Bergen Mystery by Sandra Brannan

Link to purchase In the Belly of Jonah

What an interesting story! Although the book started out a little more gruesome than I like, the creepy feeling as the story moves through the gory details creates the necessary feeling of the evil from the serial killer.

When Liv Bergen's former schoolmate and FBI profiler turns her home into a command post for the investigation of the murder of Liv's employee, she has no choice but to get involved.  This is a very suspenseful story that does well to introduce each character and develop the relationships throughout.  The character of Liv is a strong, smart, independent and likeable female character.

I loved that there were hints of a possible romance and enjoyed watching for the early developments between the two characters.  I can't wait for the next book in this series.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

501 Quilting Motifs from the Editors of Quiltmaker Magazine

Link to purchase 501 Quilting Motifs from the Editors of Quiltmaker Magazine

501 Quilting Motifs begins with some basic information on motifs and how to select, adapt, and transfer them. After the short intro, it is packed with quilting designs.  Choose from cute quilt designs for children’s quilts, or from the feathers, flowers, foods (including a cup and teapot), geometric shapes, hearts, seasonal/holiday, and vines and leaves – 501 in all!

The book is a heavy-duty spiral bound, and the covers fold back flat for easy tracing or copying. 

Along with the quilt motifs on each page are design ideas to show placement of the motifs in different ways.  There are designs for all skill levels, too.  I have other quilt design books, but I think this one has unique patterns that give it an edge.  Such a wide variety makes this a must-have for quilters.  Whether quilting by hand or by machine, there is something for every quilt here.

A review copy was provided by Martingale and Company
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