Wednesday, September 30, 2015

18 Books to Fall In Love With This Autumn

File:Carlo Dolci - St Catherine Reading a Book - WGA06372.jpg
St. Catherine Reading a Book by Carlo Dolci, courtesty of
Wikimedia Commons.
Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. Leaves turn yellow, orange, and red and give the light a pink cast. Besides walking in the chill wind (which hasn’t arrived here yet—it’s almost October and it’s still hitting 80), I love reading next to a window where the pink light spills on the pages of the book and I can sip hot cider.

If you’re looking for some great reads this fall, here are some recommendations.

(Please note, some of these books contain adult situations and/or language. If you don’t like something, skip it.)

Hurry Up and Read This Before The Movie Comes Out: The Martian by Andy Weir.

Upmarket/Literary Fiction: A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, The Kite Runner/A Thousand Splendid Suns/And the Mountains Echoed By Khaled Hosseini, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Thrillers: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Note these first two books don’t have sympathetic main characters.) The Expats/The Accident by Chris Pavone, Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes, The Vanessa Michael Monroe series (The Informationist, The Catch, The Mask, etc.) by Taylor Stevens, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Spy Thrillers: the Gabriel Allon books by Daniel Silva (The first one is called The Kill Artist).

YA: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (excellent book, even for adults), Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Cress

Romance: (I don’t usually read romance. But I got this novel to review “by accident,” and it was quite good): The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Fictionalized History: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.)

Non-fiction: The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

Theology: Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke (a distillation and explication of John Newton’s pastoral letters.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Velvet Purse for a Writing Break

The last two weeks, I've been taking a break from my newest novel. (Though not from writing as I had a writing deadline approaching and needed to get my work to the editor.) I finished the first major edit of the novel and wanted to recharge before Edit, Part 2.

So I'm doing some needlework and sewing. I posted photos of a hand towel I embroidered last week. And I finished sewing a purse.

I used this pattern several years ago to make my son Matthew a set of black faux snakeskin gauntlets. And at the time I was intrigued by the "man bag" in the lower left corner. I thought it might make a lovely purse.

Recently as I was sorting through my bins of remnant fabric, I came across some chocolate-colored velvet and remembered the pattern. Of course, as I read through the pattern, I didn't like some of the construction--I didn't want to have to untie and tie a bow every time I opened my purse and I didn't want to have a belt strap on the top of the purse. So I re-engineered the pattern.

The finished project is below. I ended up using elastic cording as a drawstring closure, threading it through tiny buttonholes.  I added a tassel because the weight of the tassel keeps the flap of the purse closed. Also, the rounded trim was not cut on the bias. I cut it with the grain to give more shape to the flap without having to use stiff interfacing, which would make the seams bulky.

Now I'm waiting for the weather to change so I can start using the purse--velvet doesn't make sense in 80 degree weather.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Martian, Book Review

The Martian by Andy Weir

A freak accident leaves Mark Watney, an astronaut/engineer/botanist, stranded on Mars. And it’s four years until the next group of astronauts come to Mars. Mark doesn’t have enough food or water to make it. The Martian is the story of his survival.

Though I don’t usually read sci-fi, I really enjoyed this book! Maybe it’s because I have sons who are chemists and engineers (Weir nailed what engineers thinks of chemistry!), or maybe it’s because Weir took an amazing survival saga, added a good dose of dry humor and excellent pacing, and turned it into a story that reaches beyond genre—it’s a novel I can recommend to anyone who wants a good story told well.

The one caveat I have is that this book has a lot of profanity. I understand it at the beginning—when you discover you’re most likely going to die alone on the red planet, swearing is a natural reaction. But eventually, the liberal use of f-bombs began to grate on me.

That aside, this was an excellent book. I hope this author writes more novels—I can’t wait to read them.

N.B. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

News and Embroidery

Two blog posts in one week. This hasn't happened in quite a while. I'll do my best to post more often. Though posts will probably fall off again in November. As you may remember my son had a cardiothoracic reconstruction in May--click here and here. (Nine days in ICU, six weeks of intensive home care since he wasn't able to move without help, etc., etc.) He'll finally be cleared in November--though he'll have to have surgery again in three years to remove the metal bars and plate in his chest.

And he's being cleared just in time for his sister to have her surgery. Yep, we get to do this again. (And maybe a third since our oldest son is having similar heart problems.) Only my daughter's surgery is more invasive and she doesn't live at home any more. So I will be traveling and staying with her during her surgery and recovery. I'm guessing blog posts will be a bit more sporadic.

Aside from the family update, here's what I've been doing (besides editing).

                          Plain white linen hand towel.         I embroidered and added trim.      

   I'm showing you the back because I had an aunt who taught needle art (embroidery, cross stitch, weaving, etc.) at a fancy Swiss boarding school, and she gave grades on the back as well as the front. This would get a B. Okay maybe a C. She was a strict grader.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Holiday Weekend: Reading, Writing, and Tiki Torches

This holiday weekend everyone in our family is doing some of what they need to do and some of what they love best.

I'm cleaning house (definitely not what I love best), writing (almost done with the first edit of my second Southern noir), and reading.

To the right is the novel I'm currently reading. I've read two of Ms. Steven's Vanessa Michael Monroe thrillers and had to read the book that started it all. So far, I'm loving it. Next up, The Martian by Andy Weir.

One of my sons is studying (hopefully) and playing Counter-Strike.

The other son is studying quantitative analysis. And during his study break, he decided to make a tiki torch. (Chemistry majors frequently feel the urge to make things burn or explode.) See below.

Kind of looks like a Molotov cocktail.