Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Eternally 21 by Linda Joffe Hull

In Eternally 21, Maddie Michaels becomes a coupon-clipping, money saving, budget-crunching blogger after her husband high finance husband, Frank, loses the family's nest egg in a Ponzi scheme. While Maddie was shopping at Eternally 21, the store manager, Liala, drops dead and Maddie becomes a suspect in the death. In an attempt to clear her name, Maddie starts investigating who could have wanted Liala dead and soon discovers that there is no shortage of suspects.

This is such a fun book! I love cozy mysteries and this one is no exception. The mall setting provided lots of interesting suspects, but I found the logistics a little confusing and had trouble remembering some of the minor characters. It didn't stop me from fully enjoying the book, though.

I really liked Maddie and her secret alter-ego Mrs. Frugalicious. She was extremely organised and inventive in coming up with all of her tips for her readers all the while keeping her secret identity from her husband and sons. I would have loved to read a few more of her blog posts.

There are lots of good bargain hunting and coupon clipping tips in the form of footnotes scattered throughout the book. At least at the beginning. I sometimes find footnotes distracting, but I didn't mind so much here. The tips were informative and useful.

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

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Midnight Ink's website.

For more information about the author and her other book, please visit Linda Joffe Hull's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Eternally 21 by Linda Joffe Hull, Midnight Ink (Llewellyn Worldwide), ©2013. ISBN 9780738736897(Trade paperback), 342p.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Update on a few projects

What a crappy week! I was fighting a cold and other maladies this week, so I didn't really get much done...crafting, reading or much of anything. I'm feeling a little better today, so I'll be working on a few book reviews this week and perhaps a little more crafting.

I did manage to get a little done before my cold really took hold of me. Here's an update on some of my projects.

Temperature Scarf: Before starting there were a few decisions I had to make. What day to start? I didn't want to start any old random day, so I decided to start on the first day of summer, June 21, 2013. That way, I'll have warm colours on the ends of my scarf and the cold ones in the middle.

I also had to settle on some temperature ranges and assign the various colours. I basically went with the colours suggested by Bernat (see temperature scarf link above), but I added two yellows (between the orange and green) and substituted another blue for the purple. Our temperatures are considerably colder than Toronto, so I made my ranges from -30C to +30C. I just did a little math and divided up the temperatures in between and assigned the various colours.

The last thing I had to decide was what temperature to use. I knew I was going to use historical data, even though it was somewhat limiting. I really wanted to use the "feels like temperature" (or humidex), however, that information is not least not that I could find. So, I settled on the regular high for the day. I wish I could have somehow represented our hottest and our coldest (overnight temperatures in winter) temperatures, but I couldn't figure out how to do that and still be consistent.

When I started I thought I'd be changing yarn quite frequently to represent the different temperatures. However, my ranges span 6 or 7 temperatures and the days I've done so far have been fairly consistent. I'm not sure why that surprised me, but it did. Here's what I've done so far:

I probably let a few days or weeks build up before doing any work on this. 

Branch Weaving: I finished my first one. It's not as bright or ornate as the other samples I've seen, but I like it anyway.

I'm about to start another one. Just as a reminder, I got the idea from Jenclaire at Bayou Quilts and Dolls.

Zentangles: I did a few more of these. I mentioned last week that I was going to try to figure out how to make this a yearlong project. I really haven't been able to come up with some guidelines for this, probably because I'm been fuzzy-headed from the decongestants. Besides, I'm having second thoughts about it. I love the idea, but I can't "see" what the project would look like. Maybe it'll be better with a clearer head.

Anyway, here are this week's pieces (Mr E, Graancirkel, with the lines/orbs going the wrong way, an incomplete Paris, with two extra lines and a mismatched pattern, Opus, Cirquital, with the shading not quite right.):

As you can see, a few of them have "mistakes" in them. I did these well away from the computer so that I could refrain from copying them exactly. As a result, I got some of them wrong. Oh, well.   That's how my week went. 

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - With a little Needlework!

I've been crafting! Even a little needlework!! Probably a little more than I should be because I'm not reading that much and I'm getting even further behind in reviewing books. Oh, well. I'm having a blast working on these things and I'll catch up with day. Here's an update on some of my projects.

Temperature Scarf:
I finally picked out my yarn for this!!!! I'm so excited. I got lots of help at the yarn store, Wolseley Wool (they have a huge sale until July 28th!!) and had lots of different yarns to choose from. Colour selection and price were the two big determining factors, with fibre content playing an important, but more minor role. In a perfect world, I would have chosen slightly more vibrant colours and perhaps a few different ones, however, overall I'm delighted with my selections.  Berroco Weekend DK (75% Acrlyic/25% Cotton) is light weight yarn (#3) and comes in an array of colours. One minor glitch so far: I forgot to get the hanks wound before leaving the store. I tried to do one myself - the red one. I managed to do it with a centre pull, but it took a long time and really it didn't work out so well. A quick trip back to the store and an accommodating, understanding fellow knitter/salesperson, solved that problem quickly. Thank you Wolseley Wool!

Here are the colours I chose:

There are still a few details to work out, but I hope to start soon. I'll post more about it in a week or two.

Branch Weaving:
This is a new project I started today. I'm counting this as needlework because it involves yarn and a needle!!  I got the idea from Jenclaire at Bayou Quilts and Dolls. The link takes you to one of her creations (scroll down a bit), but she's done some other really lovely branch weaving pieces in other posts. She got her inspiration from Natural Suburbia. The other day, while burning some branches in the backyard, I came across a few "perfect Y"s for this craft and knew right then I was going to try this one. It's a little tough to get started, but after a few rows it gets easier.

Here's a photo of the start of mine. For this first one, I'm using leftover yarn in earthy colours. I really love the bright colours in the two samples above, so I might have to purchase more yarn. ;)

Thank you, Heather, for showing these on your blog. I'm really loving them, although I'm possibly getting a little carried away.  I've even showed my husband how to do the Paradox one. He was intrigued. I've done a few more and am thinking I might want to turn this into a year-long project. I don't have any details yet, but it's something I'm thinking about. Also, I noticed that "artists" are "signing" their work, so I'm made up a stylized version of my initials.

Here's a photo of the new ones (left-to-right, starting upper left): Footlights, Paradox - variation, Spokes, Paradox - another variation, auraknot - variation, Hako, which I purposely skewed and did a little shading on, which I'm not sure I like).


As for the other garden crafts I started a few weeks ago:
• Windows: I have one more window that's ready for glass gems and I picked out three more windows to do. No other progress other than that.
• Fans - no progress.
• Garden Checkers - My husband cut the wood slab for the game board. Now, I'm waiting for it to dry out a bit before sanding and painting. The additional game pieces are primed and base coated.
• Butterflies: I completed one other butterfly, but now I realize that the colours aren't strong enough, so I'm going to go back and repaint some sections. I have 7 others that are primed and base coated.

Well that's it.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

All Natural Murder by Staci McLaughlin

In All Natural Murder, the downturned economy has forced Dana Lewis to take a marketing/general staff at O'Connell Organic Farm and Spa. She didn't realize that she'd also be investigating murder, but when her ditzy sister, Ashlee, becomes a prime suspect in the death of her Monster Truck driving boyfriend, Bobby Joe Jones, Dana jumps at the chance to clear her sister's name.

I really enjoyed this second book in the Blossom Valley mystery series. I haven't read the first, but now I'd really like to. This one was fun, intelligent and contained a well-thought out mystery and some interesting characters.

The whole investigation and wrap-up of the mystery was well done. There were plenty of suspects and motives that had me guessing until the final reveal.

I really liked Dana and her tenacity. She really was determined to make sure her sister wasn't charged with the crime by finding out who did have the means, motive, and opportunity. She had a lot on her plate: her job, which she (mostly) did, her personal life with her reporter boyfriend, Jason, and investigating the murder. Her investigation methods were orderly and easy to follow, which made reading this book most enjoyable. The only thing that bugged me was her continued complaining about the health food served at the spa. Even though the food didn't sound all that appealing to me either, it got a little old. She doesn't like health food...I get it.

Speaking of the food, I think the author could have made the food more appealing. Healthy food can be wonderful and interesting. It's not all tofu and natto beans.

I didn't find any new-to-me words in the book, but I did find an unusual use (or misuse) of one. The word "palate" was used instead of "pallet" on page 294: "...unloading a palate of toilet paper...". I only point this out because I had to look it up to be sure that the author used the wrong word.

I haven't had that much time to read this summer, so I mostly read this book in bits and pieces, in-between other books and when I had a few minutes to spare. Despite this each time I picked up the book, the whole story came right back to me. I didn't have any trouble following what was going on.

I appreciated the tips from the organic farm given at the end of the book. These include cleaning windows and mirrors (with eco-friendly ingredients, of course) to making basil oil.

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

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

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

All Natural Murder by Staci McLaughlin, Kensington Books, ©2013. ISBN 9780758275011(Mass Market), 332p.

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

In Beautiful Day, Jenna and Stuart are getting married. Their families have gathered together on Nantucket this weekend to celebrate their union. The wedding details have been planned by the bride's late mother, Beth, who died years ago. She left behind a notebook with suggestions for her youngest daughter's wedding. While everyone gathers and prepares for the celebration, their hopes, fears and frustrations spill out and make them question love, faithfulness and commitment.

I really enjoyed this book. While most of the characters in the book were kind of miserable, despite the impending wedding, I found it enjoyable and accessible. Weddings aren't really my things, so to me the wedding and the preparations for it were secondary to the other happenings in the story.

I love that the story was told from just a few main characters: Margot, the bride's sister, Doug, the bride's father, and Ann, the groom's mother. There were other good minor characters in the book, but I really liked the main ones. Each of them had reasons to be unhappy on this weekend even though none of it had to do with the wedding itself. In general, I think I can more easily relate to those who are miserable or unhappy, rather than those who are upbeat and happy all the time. I tend to be more laid back and apathetic. It takes some effort (or caffeine) to get me in an upbeat mood. Perhaps misery really does love company.

The book also had some short "outtakes" scattered throughout the book. Mostly, they were brief comments from the minor characters as well as a few from the major characters. While they did fill in a few details of the story and gave further insight into the characters, I'm not sure they exactly fit with the rest of the book or why this information was presented in this way. They were short, though, so I'm not going to complain too much.

The book wouldn't be complete without excerpts from the Notebook, written by Jenna's late mother. She thought of every detail and laid them out for her daughter to follow. These entries were written in a casual style as if Beth was talking directly to Jenna. Having said above that weddings aren't my thing, I still think it's kind of wonderful that Beth wanted to be part of Jenna's big day even though she knew that she wouldn't be around to see it.

Favourite quotes:
It might not be a bad idea for her [Ellie] to learn now, at the tender age of six, that the world was a complicated place, that other people's minds could not be read, their emotions could not be predicted, that love was fleeting and capricious, that once you thought you'd figured everything out, something would happen to prove you wrong. Life was a mystery....

New words:
louche (page 169): disreputable
fascinator (page 302): a headpiece, a woman's alternative to a hat for formal attire.

I've read a number of other books by Hilderbrand and enjoyed each of them. Here are my reviews for: The Castaways, Summerland, and Silver Girl. I did have a couple of issues with some of the storylines, but that's probably just me being picky.

Highly recommended. I'm anxiously waiting for her next book while still hoping to read some of her backlist books that I have on my bookshelf.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Hachette's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this review copy.

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand, Readgan Arthur Books/Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ©2013. ISBN 9780316099783(Advance Reading Copy), 401p.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - Zentangles

One of these days I'm actually going to have to do some needlework for Needlework Tuesday. Until then, though, here are some zentangles I've been playing around with. All but the last one are unfinished, but I figured I'd show them to you anyway. 

You'll notice that they are very basic and mostly just copies of what I saw online.  I haven't done any shading yet because I haven't quite figured out how to do it.  Hopefully, one day I'll be able to make them a little more sophisticated and complicated. 

I'm going to look around the internet for more instructions/tutorials, but I think Heather had the right idea with taking a class.  Unfortunately, there aren't any teachers in my province.

Here are my Zentangles, Betweed, Auraknot, BrixBox and Paradox:

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

William Shakespeare's Star Wars

Like Shakespeare?  Like Star Wars?  Then, you are going to love the new book from Quirk Books called William Shakespeare's Star Wars.  Just take a look at this trailer:

Even the cover is awesome!