Monday, December 30, 2013

review: The Summoner/Chronicles of the Necromancer

Many of my best recent reads have come as suggestions from coworkers. (Thank goodness for good coworkers!) My fall into The Name of the Wind followed several months of cajoling by a near neighbour. When he left for greener pastures, I was a little upset to have lost my favourite sci fi/fantasy reading friend. Luckily, one of the guys down the hall made it quickly clear that we were destined to be reading buddies.

After bonding over reading the Night Angel series at the same time, a pile of six books was promptly placed on my desk and it was mandated that I must read these. And well, when someone wants to give me a few weeks of reading material and it's all in my favourite genre, how can I complain? So began my decent into Gail Z Martin's Chronicles of the Necromancer, starting with Book One: The Summoner.

These books have the medieval fantasy world, they have the intrigues of royal courts and politics, they have magic and fantasy and pseudo-vampires and -werewolves. It follows a group of young nobles, centred around Martris "Tris" Drayke, second son of the King of Margolan. His brother, Jared, is power hungry, greedy, arrogant and dangerous, determined to take the world down as he chases his ambitions of power and glory.

The story unfolds quickly after the death of the king, with Tris suddenly on the run in fear of his life, suddenly desperate to claim a throne he never wanted to save his people from his brother's cruelty. He's joined on his journey by an appropriately motley band of characters including the mandatory childhood friends, rough men picked up along the way and the serendipity of immediate and powerful allies joining his fight.

Martin moves the plot along quickly, and it's easy to get swept along with the story. There's plenty of opportunity for good old sword and sorcery action to take place, and many different subplots to focus on. The characters are well written and rounded, and easy enough to follow and (my big thing) believable. Minor characters are given enough flavour to seem realistic, and as the books progress the women are just as much part of the action as the men.

Books one and two tell a pretty distinct story, and it could have easily ended there. Book three and four are another clear pair within the series, and I've only recently cracked book four. The third book is an oddball in the set: the original conflict is resolved, and now suddenly although we know the setting and the characters Martin has to set up all new plots again and it takes time to get moving. It got a little bit bogged down both recapping the old story and setting the stage for the new one and it's fair to say the first half was a slog. By the end, though, I couldn't wait to get into book four.

Once I finished the Chronicles of the Necromancer series I quickly dipped into the pair of books that follow: the Sworn and the Dread, which tell a distinct story about two years down the line. If anything, these two books were better than the first four. So, if you're into action, fantasy and believable characters? This might be your thing.

Friday, December 27, 2013

quilt blocks complete!

Lately the scheduling elves at work have not been giving me full weekends off - lots of Friday/Saturdays though, so which feels like a weekend so I really can't complain. It also gives me the distinct pleasure of having the entire house to myself until about 6pm ... which is a) nice for my introverted self to recharge and b) allows me to turn the main floor of the house into a quilting-prep work station.

The other week my day off got spent photographing a number of piles of new fabric (thanks for my giveaway win, and the delivery of my Black Friday purchase) and doing so very much pressing and trimming and marking and cutting. Why, pressing what you might ask?

Working on these babies, of course:

35 of these, to be exact

Because somehow along the way I actually got all the blocks pieced. And laid out and now I'm working on sashing them. I'd been starting to get sick to death of this project, mostly because I didn't allow myself enough variation in fabrics. What was I thinking making a double quilt with only five fabrics, and one of them is white? The oddball blocks have helped relieve that tedium, though, and putting together my final layout and having a photograph of the finish line to refer to has helped.

It also helps that my niece and sister in law are super excited about it, and I'm getting update about new d├ęcor for my niece's room that are designed to go with the quilt. That's motivation: so if February 12th being the birthday on which I am aiming to gift this.

random blocks
Those three blocks where I've been much more random with the fabric placement completely allowed me to enjoy working on this project. Even thought it's just three blocks and it's colours and prints that are already in the quilt anyhow, they gave me some breathing room.

the layout!
The lighting on the layout picture is really crummy - the black and dark purples blend right into each other but really I took it more for my own reference than anything. The final quilt will look a bit different, just because of sashing, but now I have the blocks ready and a plan in place.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

< 3

I hope you all are out there having a happy holiday season and enjoying as much time with loved ones as you can fit in. As for me, this evening I will be holing up and snuggling Bunny, playing board games with family and mostly enjoying some quiet time.

Christmas Eve is pretty much my favourite day ever, even though I'm not a huge Christmas person. Probably because my favourite day ever, in history, was that Christmas Eve five years ago when I went next door to visit his momma and ran flat into Bunny and my world changed.

Five years ago today was love at first sight. Like I never would have believed if it hadn't happened to me, feeling the world around me shift and realign, the sense of the world closing in on me and coming forward to whisper and scream "this is it, this is your future". Some moments can never be adequately expressed in words and that night is one of them.

But five years ago, was a first kiss. A first hand hold. A sense of certainty like nothing I had ever known before in my life.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Stash - Joel Dewberry True Colors

The other week was kind of amazing. First, my lovely novelty fabrics were in the mailbox Tuesday night when I arrived home from work. Then, early Wednesday morning, after I'd started my day at work but before Bunny had left for the shop the mailman delivered another squishy package. Early enough that I got text message heads up and spent the day at work agonizing over when can I go home and play with the pretties, and it may have earned me a few odd looks when I skipped down the hall to the bathroom.

When you have these beauties waiting, though, who wouldn't skip a little?

I'd been drooling over the True Colors lines for awhile, and while I like prints from each of the designers I find the Joel Dewberry collection is pretty far and away my favourite. So when the Intrepid Thread announced that their Black Friday sale would be for 30% off I just couldn't resist. I'd heard good things from across the internet about the Intrepid Thread and opening my package I was duly impressed.  Tissue paper packaging, a little bow, handwritten note and some little charm square samples? They have my business for sure.

I'd spent the week agonizing over which my favourites were, as I prefer to buy half yard cuts and wanted to limit myself to buying no more than 9 yards of fabric due to shipping. (That's not nine yards, as you can probably tell ... there will be more fabric to share later.) I really couldn't be more pleased with my choices.

Isn't that wood grain luscious? The purple has already been allocated to a specific project, but the others will be great to have on hand.

I was a little disappointed the yellow herringbone was out of stock, but I'm also happy with these. Pretty much I love that pink more than anything - it's so rich and saturated.

These two were the surprise of the bunch. I mean, I ordered them so I knew they were coming .... but somehow in my head the scale was much smaller. I think I may order more of the damask in other colours for backings. The deep pink scroll I almost didn't buy (thank goodness the yellow herringbone wasn't in stock!) but it's kind of become my favourite of the bunch.

Linking up once again to Finding Fifth for Sunday Stash. :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Stash (the lucky me edition)

A few weeks back I won a giveaway from the lovely Sharon who blogs over at Fabric and Flowers for a gorgeous little bundle of novelty fabrics. Of course, I've been anxiously checking my mailbox since then until earlier this week (on Bunny's birthday, no less) I came home to a squishy package in the mail. After squealing a little and jumping up and down (because I'm clearly a twelve year old) and putting my coat away, I got down to opening up the little bundle of goodness.

aren't they the sweetest?

I see lots of fun with these fabrics in the future. Next time I have a baby quilt on my to do list these fabrics are going to come out very quickly - I see the sweetest little boy quilt, with a little bit of red and blue solids and blenders for settings and sashing.


Maybe some fussy cutting with these would be adorable. Rocky mountain puzzle or economy blocks could be sweet. And the faces! I love the little faces on the two prints just above.

I don't mean to play favourites, but ...
The only thing that makes me luckier is that another package arrived in the mail the next day, but you'll have to wait and see what's inside.

Linking up with Finding Fifth for Sunday Stash. (though for some reason blogger keeps eating the code for the button. But I'm done arguing with the internets and would rather go to the aquarium.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

review: the night angel trilogy

I promised ages ago that I'd share about this book and I've really been procrastinating. Probably because I started reading another series that I'm enjoying, and coworkers are begging me to take their advise on a third series after this ... but man was this a good one.

From some earlier reading, I already knew that I was a fan of Brent Weeks' writing style. And as I was working my way through The Black Prism I was instructed several times that I absolutely had to read the Night Angel trilogy if I enjoyed his writing. So, I scoured the used book stores in my area, to no avail, and then finally gave in and purchased a very large volume containing all three books for the trilogy. Good call, self, good call.

I devoured this. Stayed up till my eyes couldn't focus at 3 in the morning and I had to work the next day kind of devoured. The start took time to get going, which seems to be Weeks style. He sets the stage carefully, and it certainly plays out well later in the book, but beginnings aren't what I would call his strongest point.

There's a lot I'd like to say, but with a trilogy like this? If I say too much I'll easily spoil things. It's a well constructed medieval world, called Midycru that's comfortable to slip into from the get-go. There are multiple forms of magic. Well developed, distinct forms of magic. Which I actually think is quite masterful - it can be hard enough coming up with one cohesive system of magic, but to come up with multiple forms in one world? Colour me impressed.

The characters are strong and complex, with failings that allow you to truly enjoy them. The plot turns come at just the right time, and there were moments where I wanted to scream at what Weeks was doing to these people - he's not afraid to put his characters through the wringer for the sake of realism and story. Even better, it's not just the main characters that are compelling. The secondary and tertiary characters, spiralling out from the centre of the story are well developed enough that the story feels real. Although, Jenine maybe is a little two dimensional ... but she doesn't have too much of a role, and even when she does take up page space it's mostly to prop up to other, more major characters.

Weeks is equally deft with his plots and big reveals. Book three, in particular, has a few big moments that were just heart wrenching to me.

From his blog, it seems like one day we might get to read more of Midycru, and I'd be quite excited if that were the case.

Friday, December 06, 2013

bits and things

Hello! Yes, I do still exist, I promise. I've been sucked up into a vortex of sewing and being handed book after book by like-minded coworkers to read and somehow November passed me by with barely a post. Maybe I should stop apologising when that happens and just accept that life has overtaken blogging lately, and hey, that's cool. 'Cause, you know, life. It's a good thing.

So other than the obvious (sewing, reading, eating, sleeping) what have I been up to?

- I've been compulsively checking the mail box every few hours as I'm waiting for a couple of very precious parcels to arrive. Then I'll probably dance for joy a little bit.

- There's been a fair bit of tea and coffee drinking. Bunny and I picked up a generic decaf coffee for the occasional evening drink, and a few weeks back I got my paws on some amazing black tea pearls that I've been adoring for daytime drinking. (Seriously, if you're a tea drinking you need to find these. Maybe not for those who douse their tea in milk, but the perfect tea if you like a little honey or sugar. If you like green tea you might prefer this one - it's the only tea I drink without even a touch of sugar).

- I've discovered a new favourite pizza. It's wood fired, with pesto, mozzarella, bacon, potato, spinach and egg. Appropriately named the "Green Eggs and Ham". I don't even like eggs and I beg for this baby. (Also! We have a new, cheapish date place because of this.)

- Bunny and I have started Mission: Pad Thai. It's sad that we're having such trouble finding a decent pad thai where we live (to the point that I almost want to pick up take out to bring home every time we go to Toronto) and so we're planning to work our way through every Asian-inspired restaurant in town until we find something passable.

- I'm trying to decide whether to get my vacation paid out this year. I'll have used a whooping 3 days between my friend's wedding and a last minute decision to book off for Christmas Eve. Not that we're doing anything particular but it's our five year anniversary and I'd kind of like to spend it with Bunny.

- I have Christmas apathy. My mom wants to do big gifty things, as she usually does, but it seems so silly. So unnecessary, really - we're all grown adults in the family and the gift portion of Christmas is really probably a least favourite. I'm more of a surprise gifter - like hey! I found this amazing tea you'd like so I bought it for you. I'm looking forward to seeing my brother, though.