The High Divide – Book Review

highdivide“The rough country between the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. The divide between those two watersheds. I scouted it this spring. It’s full of rugged ground, like you say – coulees, buttes, and badlands, with a little dry-grass prairie thrown in. The High Divide, they call it.” – from The High Divide -

Ulysses Pope is carrying dark secrets and deep regret, and he is looking for redemption when he walks away from his wife, Gretta, and his two young sons and heads into the rugged badlands of Montana in 1886. But Gretta has no idea where Ulysses has gone or why, and she is struggling to survive with little money and no resources in a small town on Minnesota’s western prairie. When her two sons, Eli and Danny, also disappear, she knows she can no longer sit and wonder…she must find her husband no matter where he has gone or who he is with, and she must bring her sons home.

Award-winning author Lin Enger has penned a truly American novel set in the West during the later part of the nineteenth century. His descriptions of the endless plains and lonely landscapes that stretched across Montana are gorgeous and heartbreaking. Enger explores the themes of regret and redemption against the historical background of the Indian Wars, decimation of the bison and the turmoil of the pioneer expansion into Indian lands.

This is the first novel by this author which I have read and I was moved by the Enger’s honest and poignant prose.

The characters are lovingly developed by Enger who uses alternating points of view to give the reader greater depth and understanding of each one. Ulysses is a complex character, and it is he who drives the narrative as he travels the road to redemption and forgiveness. Gretta ‘s character grows from a woman who has left her home in Denmark and depends on her husband for survival, to someone who must find the  inner strength to take action in order to improve her situation. Danny and Eli come of age as the novel progresses, forced to face their parent’s demons and reconcile these against their own needs as young boys.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about a family divided who must overcome the odds to find their way back to each other. Richly penned with a deep insight into the characters, The High Divide will appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction, literary fiction, and novels set in the West.

Highly recommended.

4hStars

FTC Disclosure: I received this book through the Library Thing Early Review program.


A Mini Step Down Quilt

*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.Front010001A couple of months ago, signed up for Sarah Fielke’s Big Techniques from Small Scraps class on Craftsy and recently decided to watch some of it. The first class instructs the student how to do “step down” piecing – a technique that is a little tricky at first (it uses partial seams and has you constructing the quilt in sections rather than rows), but becomes easier as you get used to it.

What I like about the class is that Sarah teaches you the technique for a small project so you can see if you like the process. Her new book Quilting From Little Things, has bigger projects using the same techniques if you decide you want to do a larger project.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.SunShot0001I felt really inspired to try this project and pulled out some fabric I bought some time ago that I love:

StepDown.Lowvolume table topper.Inspiration0001I knew when I started cutting the fabric for the 4″ squares that it would have a look of a pieced block…so that really made me excited to see what I could do. I paired it with some low volume fabrics and pops of red to showcase the inspiration fabric.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.Folded0001Because the top was so colorful, I chose a cream fabric with tiny red dots.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.BackReveal0001I mimicked the step down construction with straight line quilting (you can see it best form the back).

MiniSteps.TableTopper.QuiltDetail0001…and then used some red/salmon diagonal stripes from Bonnie and Camille’s Scrumptions collection for the binding.

MiniSteps.TableTopper.Binding0001The final mini quilt is 16.5″ X 20.5″ – so either a cute wall hanging for the sewing room, or maybe a table topper.


Is it Halloween Yet?

*Click on any photo to enjoy a larger view

No? Not yet?

Oh well, with this Halloween inspired pillow I’m ready when it finally arrives.

BunchOfCrossesPillow.front0001The pattern for this pillow is from the wonderful Pillow Pop book and is called “Bunch of Crosses.” It uses 2.5″ squares to make the crosses and I decided to use two mini charm packs of the Comma collection by Zen Chic for Moda.

I didn’t have quite enough squares to make a the 20″ pillow that the pattern called for, so I just eliminated a horizontal and vertical row and transformed it into an 18″ pillow.

I used orange thread and quilted it with straight lines in both directions.

BunchOfCrossesPillow.Front20001
After I had stitched all the rows together, it struck me that these colors really read Halloween…and since we are not too far from that fun holiday, I decided to make this a Halloween pillow. I dragged out some of my stashed Ghastlie fabric (oh, how I love that stuff!) and crafted a pieced back.

 

BunchOfCrossesPillow.Back0001I fussy cut a little square for the top and used some charcoal peppered cotton to give the back a bit of a pop. It has a hidden zipper too.

BunchOfCrossesPillow.HiddenZipper0001
Now all I need is a pumpkin or two…and a bag of candy!


Challenging Myself with Angles

TangentialClassPhotoWhen Rachel from Stitched in Color posted about her Angled class, I knew right away I wanted to join in and take the class (it has since sold out, but you can read all about it here). I love angles in quilts, but they can be tricky and this looked like the perfect way to hone my skills and challenge myself.

The quilt here at the top of this post is Rachel’s quilt named Tangential which is a queen sized quilt. There are a total of five quilts offered in the class (which began September 1st and goes through the end of October). It was a hard decision to decide which quilts I wanted to work on during the class period…but Tangential was definitely on the list! As part of the class fee, I will be getting all the lessons (including patterns) for all five quilts…so don’t be surprised if you see me making another one of these beauties in the near future.

Here are the fabrics I pulled for this quilt (click on the image for a larger view):

Tangential.Fabrics.010001Here is a better shot which highlights the inspiration for my color palette – a vibrant fabric designed by Anna Maria Horner in ocean blues, raspberry, and gold:

Tangential.INspiration0001This week’s lesson included cutting and piecing 60 degree (equilateral) triangles. It also included the first installment of the Tangential quilt.

Today I cut and pieced the top border for Tangential, and I am happy to say that it came out perfectly thanks to the great instructions provided by Rachel!

Tangential.TopBorder0001Stay tuned for future progress on this quilt and other projects in the class!


Pillow Pop Round-Up: August

BlogButtonThe Pillow Pop group is a really fun sew along over on Threadbias. We’re making pillows from the fabulous book Pillow Pop all year long.

To learn more about the group, visit this post.

We’d love to have you join us. If you’re not already a member at Threadbias, why not join – it’s free, and it is a great community of sewists.

We chose Jewel of the Sea (easy) and  Candy Coated Diamonds (challenging) as the pillows for August…and here are the wonderful finishes with links back to each sewist’s project page. I hope you will click through to see the entire projects as the backs and quilting on each pillow are also fabulous.

Jewel of the Sea – Narrow, foundation pieced strips give this pillow depth and interest.

Jewelofsea.Erica1 Jewelofsea.Erica2

Erica made two versions of the pillow - one in summery colors, while the other celebrates winter.

jewelofsea.Karen

Karen’s pillow shines with Tula Pink’s Acacia collection.

Jewelofsea.Cathie

Turquoise and pink make Cathie’s pillow pop.

Jewelofsea.WEndy

My pillow celebrates red and orange with some accents of charcoal dots.

Candy Coated Diamonds – Paper pieced diamonds provide precision in this eye catching modern pillow.

CandyCoatedDiamonds.Valerie

Valerie didn’t quite complete her pillow, but since she was the only person this month who attempted it, I decided to go ahead and showcase her beautiful top that uses strong, saturated color to make a statement.

 

 


The Farm – Book Review

Farm“Promise that you’ll listen to everything I say with an open mind. All I ask for is an open mind. Promise me you’ll do that, that’s why I’ve come to you. Promise me!” - from The Farm, page 19 -

Daniel is struggling with his own inner demons when he gets a phone call from his father in Sweden. Apparently his mother is not well – specifically, she has been imagining things and has sunk into a paranoid fantasy world. But before Daniel can fully comprehend his father’s words, he gets another phone call – this time from his mother who insists that everything he has just learned is a lie. Who should he believe? Is his mother’s convoluted story of conspiracy the truth? Or is it just the jumbled rambling of an insane woman?

The Farm is Tom Rob Smith’s newest novel set alternately in Sweden and London. The first 2/3rds of the book set up Daniel’s mother’s story of murder and conspiracy in the countryside of Sweden. Much of the narrative is in the voice of Daniel’s mother as she unpacks a satchel of evidence and outlines the events that have unfolded in her life over a period of several months. The last 1/3rd of the book is about Daniel’s quest to uncover the truth and is written in Daniel’s point of view.

Daniel also has secrets – namely that he is a “closeted” gay man. This theme is superficially explored in the novel, and I found it a bit detracting from the real story of what actually happened on a farm in Sweden. This fact about Daniel is supposed to give us insight into his character, but it is really the only thing about him that gives the character any depth.

There is a little twist at the end which explains everything, but I actually saw this one coming and its impact for me was blunted.

I found myself wanting to get to the “truth” but felt oddly unsatisfied once that truth is revealed. In crafting a plot driven story at the expense of real character development, I believe Smith has created a novel that packs little emotional punch.

Overall, I was disappointed in this novel, even though I was excited to read it. Some reviewers have suggested first time readers of Smith’s should begin with his Child 44 trilogy which received rave reviews and won Smith several literary awards. I have Child 44 in my stacks, and my disappointment with The Farm has not curbed my desire to eventually read Smith’s trilogy.

3stars

 


Orphan Train – Book Review

Orphan TrainVivian has never really talked about her experience on the train with anyone. It was shameful, she says. Too much to explain, too hard to believe. All those children sent on trains to the Midwest – collected off the streets of New York like refuse, garbage on a barge, to be sent far away as possible, out of sight. – from Orphan Train, page 169 -

At the beginning of the 19th century, children living in New York City (many from immigrant families) were removed from their families and relocated to settlements in the West. The idea of “orphan trains” was meant to provide children with families to care for them – but it also served a need for the families who took these children into their homes. Many children worked for their keep – in the fields, on farms, in shops – a form of indentured servitude. The orphan train movement ended in 1929 after placing upwards of 200,000 children in  48 states. There is a terrific article which discusses the orphan trains and their historical impact here.

Christina Baker Kline’s newest novel, Orphan Train, explores the lives of two women against the backdrop of the orphan train movement. Vivian Daly, an Irish immigrant, loses her family in a fire and ends up riding the orphan train into the Midwest and an uncertain future. Now she is in her nineties and looking back on a life that, although less than perfect, has shaped her into the woman she has become. Molly Ayer, a seventeen year old Native American foster child is struggling to find herself and her place in the world. These two characters come together in the novel and a friendship is forged.

Kline wrote her novel with two distinct points of view and moves back and forth from the late 1920s to present day. The concept of “portaging” is a key theme of the book: What would you take, what would you leave behind? Both women have physical objects they carry with them, but more importantly they must decide what experiences they will carry with them, and what will they let go of?

Other themes of the novel include family connections, abandonment, isolation, and the impact of cultural backgrounds on integrating into community.

Vivian is the more developed of the characters in the book – and it was her story that most compelled me to keep reading. Molly felt like a more “supportive” character to the overall narrative.

I read this book for a book club discussion and some readers felt the plot was a bit predictable. Although there were no “aha” moments, I found the narrative engaging and its predictability did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel.  I also found the history of the orphan trains compelling. Kline’s prose is poignant and well researched. She captures the plight of America’s immigrant children in the early part of the 20th century well, revealing the poverty and loss they experienced in her heart-breaking tale.

Readers who enjoy historical fiction will find much to like in Orphan Train.

Recommended.

4Stars

NarrativeWikipedia: A narrative is any account of connected events, presented to a reader or listener in a sequence of written or spoken words, or in a sequence of pictures.


10 Quilty Little Secrets

10QuiltyLittleSecretsButtonAmy at 13 Spools has been encouraging quilters to share ten of their quilty little secrets…some of these are hilarious! If you follow the link to her post (above) you can get links to all the participating blogs.

So here are my “secrets” which are not really secrets for those who know me:

  1. I won’t rip a seam unless I’ve put part of a block on backwards or if the seams are so bad it will be obvious after quilting. I hate to rip. I have been known to throw away a block and start over to avoid ripping it out.
  2. I almost never close my rotary cutter while sewing. But I haven’t lost a finger. Yet.
  3. After a day of sewing I put everything away and neaten up my area. I like to start a day of sewing with everything in its place.SewingRoom.Organized40001
  4. I have lots of projects that are in process at the same time. I won’t tell you how many. Let’s just say there are more than 15. And sometimes I am working on two projects at the same time on the same day. I like to think of it as multi-tasking rather than mania.
  5. I am just a tad obsessed with pillows.RoundRobinMedallion.onbed0001
  6. I only clean the lint out of my machine when it starts to come up out of the little hole in the bobbin cover.
  7. I don’t remember the last time I changed my needle. I think it was when I ran over a pin and broke it.
  8. Negative space intimidates me.
  9. I love rulers. And templates. I keep buying them and maybe someday I will use them all.
  10. I rarely follow a pattern as written. Often I will add something different just to be different. Or change the size. Or maybe just use a part of the pattern.

That’s it – confessions of a quilter. No judging, please!


Flying Rainbow Pillow

*Click on any photo in this post to enjoy a larger view

Are you getting sick of seeing pillows? I hope not, because there are a few months left in the year and I am still Pillow Popping with my group over on Threadbias!

The “challenging” pillow for September is Flying Rainbow – a scrap friendly project that uses lots of white and clean quilting lines.

PillowPop.FlyingRainbow.Front0001I used lots of my Bonnie and Camille scraps – mostly from their collection Scrumptious – and decided not to worry that I would not have a yellow and purple goose…instead I substitute with pink and gray and am very happy with how it turned out!

PillowPop.FlyingRainbow.Side0001I quilted this per the recommendation in the book which echoes the geese and then has varying width straight lines moving horizontally across the pillow giving the illusion of the geese flying.

The back is pieced (I found a nice big piece of some Happy Go Lucky fabric for the bottom) and sports a hidden zipper.

PillowPop.FlyingRainbow.Back0001This pillow fits on an 18″ insert and makes a nice match with the Don’t Be Square pillow I made earlier this year.

PillowPop.FlyingRainbowWithSquaresPillow0001I could see a whole bunch of these scrap happy pillows with their cloud of white on a bed, couldn’t you?


reading a good book with a furchild by my side