Sunday, 11 November 2018

A Gate at the Stairs

Finished October 30
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

This novel follows Tassie Keltjin, daughter of a Wisconsin farmer, who is living in a small university town as a student. Tassie is the older of two siblings, with her younger brother Robert still in high school.
The book starts shortly before Christmas as Tassie looks for a job that would begin when she returned to school in January. She ends up getting hired by a high-end restaurant owner Sarah Brink, who has an adoption planned for early in the new year. It turns out that Sarah knows Tassie's father slightly, a farmer who specializes in organic produce for restaurants, a business he started with potatoes.
We are taken through the next few months in Tassie's life. She goes with Sarah and her husband Edward for the adoption, and continues her studies at college. She meets a boy that she gets very involved with, we see her looking at her life from both within it, and from outside.
The next few months bring with them love, heartache, grief, and growth. The stories that Tassie is a part of are distant from the small town farm life she grew up in, and yet not.
I read this book slowly, thinking over the story as it developed, and was moved. A great read.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Summer on Blossom Street

Finished October 29
Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

This novel is part of the series that takes place around the shops on Blossom Street in Seattle. Lydia Goetz, co-owner of the knitting store A Good Yarn has just decided to start a new class called Knit to Quit, to help people who are trying to quit a bad habit or anything like that.
The first person to join is Phoebe Rylander. Phoebe has recently called off her engagement to a local lawyer after discovering he's in the habit of cruising for prostitutes. He's a charming man, and his social status is a draw for Phoebe's mother, but she knows he isn't a good man to have in her life. She needs to distract herself with an activity, and get away from her apartment as he is still trying desperately to change her mind.
Alix Turner, a friend of Lydia's who works at the cafe across the street as a baker, is thinking of starting a family with her new husband, but she hasn't exactly had good models for parenthood herself, and she started smoking again around the stress of the wedding, and knows she has to quit before having a baby.
Local businessman Bryan Hutchinson took on the family chocolate business after his father's unexpected death. He's had a steep learning curve, works far too many hours, doesn't always eat as healthy as he should and is even more keyed up than he has been because of a woman suing the company. He also has a thumb injury that hasn't been healing as well as he hoped. His doctor has now told him to go to a knitting class to help with both the thumb and with stress.
Lydia also has stuff going on in her personal life. She and her husband Brad have recently been approved as foster parents, part of their plan to adopt an infant. But when they are asked to take on an older child, due to an urgent need, want to help but are not sure how this will impact their son Cody. Her sister Margaret is dubious as well.
Lydia's friend Anne Marie is also doing some thinking. She recently finalized the adoption on her daughter and they've just returned from a trip to Paris. Now back to running her bookstore, Anne Marie is looking for a larger home for them, and is confronted by a situation that she isn't sure how she feels about.
Lots going on here, with lots of interesting plot lines. The book also includes the pattern the knitting class is working on, a cable sampler scarf.

Good Dog. Stay

Finished October 28
Good Dog. Stay by Anna Quindlen

This short book is an homage to her family's beloved black dog Beau, but also celebrates loved dogs. She includes examples from his puppyhood, his adult life, and the declining senses of his old age. She talks about the lessons he taught her and her family along the way, right until the end. It is illustrated with a range of black and white photos of loved dogs, including Beau and his pal Bea.
While I don't have dogs myself, I have friends and family members who do, and I know the relationship with a dog is a special thing. This book has humour, insight, and love. Lots of love.

A Passion for Needlework: Factoria VII

Finished October 28
A Passion for Needlework: Factoria VII by Inspirations

This lovely new book has twelve beautiful projects, from a variety of designers using a variety of techniques. A stitch glossary is included along with brief biographies of the contributors. Each project gives an introduction to the subject depicted in the gallery section of the book, along with separate detailed instructions. There is also a pocket in the back of the book with liftout sheets to transfer designs to fabrics.
Flower Pots is designed by Ana Mallah, an Australian designer. It uses a variety of needlework techniques, including stumpwork in beautiful pastels. and instructions include the design for two flower pots, one of hydrangeas and one of roses. Absolutely beautiful, as well as being useful.
Jacobean Hunt is designed by Phillipa Turnbull, a British designer. This is a reinterpretation of a 17th century design, done in crewel embroidery, with rich wool threads.
Red Currants is designed by Julie Kniedl, an Australian designer. This creation is a three-dimensional stem using wood, wire, and wool.
Le Magnolia is designed by Catherine Laurnçon, a French designer. This threadpainting project uses vibrant cotton threads on a white linen background.
Versailles Chatelaine is designed by Susan O'Connor, an Australian designer. This chatelaine project includes a pinwheel, scissors sheath, fob, and needlebook using silk threads on ivory silk, creating bullion rose bouquets on a trellis in pastel shades.
Reticella Sampler is designed by Christine P. Bishop, an Australian designer. The technique of reticella is worked as a line sampler, creating a lacy effect where each line builds on the one above.
Winter Sunset is designed by Hazel Blomkamp, a South African designer. This is another Jacobean piece in softer colours using composite stitching, weaving, and threadpainting. Ghiordes knots add tufts in a three dimensional effect.
Leaping Hare is designed by Barbara Kershaw, a Canadian designer, This project uses casalguidi in a monochromatic palette to create an elegant linen sachet with a decorative edge and twisted cords.
Edinburgh Etui is designed by Betsy Morgan, an American designer. This etui project takes Mary, Queen of Scots as its inspiration, including England's rose, Scotland's thistle, and Ireland's shamrock in its pattern of stitched and surface embroidery. The project creates the etui, a thimble case, a needlebook, scissor fob, and pincushion.
The Linnet is designed by Nicola Jarvis, a British designer. This project uses metal and silk threads, sequins, and beads to depict a graceful bird in a gilded cage.
Blackwell Roundel is designed by Jenny Adin Christie, a British designer. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts style prevalent at Blackwell, this project uses surface embroidery and goldwork to depict a floral design.
Bee-eaters is designed by Renette Kumm, a South African designer. This project uses colourful silk threads in a threadpainting technique to depict a pair of birds on a branch.
Beautiful projects with excellent instructions.

Our New Kittens

Finished October 27
Our New Kittens by Theo Heras, illustrated by Alice Carter

This was an apt choice as we adopted two cats yesterday, although not kittens. Here, two young brothers have been waiting for a while to adopt two kittens. The kittens had to be big enough first. They bring them home in a cat carrier, and as they begin to interact with kittens, the big brother educates his sibling on how kittens behave, what behaviour scares them, and how to treat them properly. We see the brothers playing with the kittens, cuddling them, feeding them, and introducing them to their litter box.
This is a fun read for kits interested in getting a pet, preparing them for the joy and responsibility of having an animal in the home.
The drawings are lovely, I loved the flyaway curls of the younger brother, and his mismatched socks.

Giraffe and Bird Together Again

Finished October 26
Giraffe and Bird Together Again by Rebecca Bender

This delightful picture book is part of a series featuring Giraffe and Bird as companions in various escapades and situations. Bird lives for adventure, flitting off to see different things. Giraffe is a creature happiest in his home environment. When Bird fails to return from an adventure, Giraffe gets worried, and decides to follow the trail of feathers to find his friend.
The hunt for Bird leads Giraffe first to a dark forest, then up a mountain, across a dusty plain, and then into a dangerous spot.
The remains of the vines from the forest on Giraffe give Bird an idea that helps to get them both home again.
Each new place pictures an animal from that environment interacting with Giraffe in some way, giving ideas for discussion when reading. The map at the front of the book names these animals for the reader, and shows the distance that Giraffe had to follow to find Bird.
The illustrations are great, and I loved how Giraffe and Bird supported each other.