Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sew Good, Part III

Dewey enrolls in a high-priced quilting symposium in order to expand her quilting skills and maybe win the respect of the traditional quilters at her shop, Quilter Paradiso. The Sewing-by-the-Sea Symposium seems to be the perfect choice for a place to mix business and pleasure. Located in Asilomar, CA where her older brother Tony has recently been transferred as a park ranger, it's an ideal spot to work and play a bit at the same time. She gets to reconnect with her oldest brother, enjoy the ocean air and learn a bit more about creating an art quilt. Plus she gets to rub shoulders with some of the big names in the quilting world and make some contacts that could help business.

All is not going well. Dewey resents the conference's organizer, a quilting star named Mercedes Madsen, who is part artist and part Simon Legree. Dewey leans more toward the Simon Legree view, whereas most of the other quilters adore the hard-nosed organizer. Mercedes confiscates all cell phones the first day and only allows quilters to use the pay phone in the evening hours. Plus attendees are to stay on site for the entire week, 24-7. No visits to the local tourist trap town, no mochas or pizza stops in the town, no shopping, no exceptions. Of course, this does not set well with Dewey, who has to break the rules the very first evening at the conference by sneaking out to call her boyfriend Buster. She gets busted by Mercedes, however, and banished to her quarters. She makes a coffee date in town with her brother for the next day in spite of the rule forbidding quilters from leaving the premises. On her way back, she brings a man she met in town who had been looking for his wife at the conference. When they arrive, to Dewey's surprise, Mercedes pulls a gun on the man and orders him off the premises. It seems he is a spouse abuser and Mercedes refuses to allow him to see his wife.

Things only get worse when Dewey joins Tony and a group of quilters for an early morning tour of the park. Bored by the lecture Tony is giving, Dewey leaves the group and wanders off by herself. She sees a woman standing atop a very dangerous boulder. No one is around to help either of them and the wind keeps her shouts for help from being heard by Tony or the group. When she glances back toward the woman, the rock is empty, as if the woman had completely disappeared. Dewey rushes as best she can over the treacherous rocks to the spot where the woman had been standing and peeks over the edge. The crazy quilt cloak the woman had been wearing was floating atop the water below and the woman's body was nowhere in sight.  It appears the woman has committed suicide.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sew Very Good, Part II

Old Maid's Puzzle, the second book in Terri Thayer's Quilting Mysteries series, was every bit as good as the first. After the trauma of Wild Goose Chase, Dewey Pellicano has settled down and is working hard at making a go of the quilt shop she inherited from her quilter mom, Quilter Paradiso. All is not going well. As a matter of fact, Quilter Paradiso is on the verge of having to declare bankruptcy and close. Of course, that is stressful for Dewey for numerous reasons, not the least of which is losing the shop with her mother started and grew into a successful business and which is now the primary link she still has to her mom. Knowing that you can't run a successful quilt shop without knowing at least the basics of quilting, Dewey is taking a quilt class from one of Quilter Paradiso's teachers. To make matters more difficult, Dewey is continuing to have problems with her sister-in-law Kym who is also her employee. Kym feels she could run the shop better than Dewey and does everything within her power to sabotage Dewey's efforts. Since Kym is family, Dewey is reluctant to fire her for fear of upsetting the family, especially after her mother's sudden death.

And then, of course, there's a murder to be solved. It happened in the alleyway behind the store and threatens customers' sense of safety and they start pulling out of the quilting classes, one of the main sources of income for Quilter Paradiso.  Which, naturally, doesn't help the bottom line any.

To save the shop Dewey has planned a make or break gigantic sale. When Kym finally screws up so badly that Dewey can tolerate her sabotaging efforts no longer, she is fired on the spot in front of friends, family and loyal customers. Kym's sudden departure right before the blowout sale further complicates the situation simply because Dewey needs all the physical help she can scrounge just to get the store ready. The fact that so many of Kym's customers start some online chatter through the local quilt guild about how unfair Dewey was and vow never to shop at Quilter Paradiso again doesn't help matters either.

I liked the role of the older women in this novel, being an older woman myself. I am quite sensitive to how women are treated in novels and particularly these days to how retirees are portrayed. Thayer's quilt teachers and customers are a joy to observe. Each is an individual and each makes it perfectly clear to Dewey that they don't need help running their own lives, including their love lives. When two of her regulars have a falling out about a man, Dewey tries to make peace between them but is brought up short by each woman. That doesn't stop her from trying to protect one's life savings, however, and in the process Dewey discovers the truth about the man who came between them and solves the murder.

I have to say, I never saw the ending coming. The character I suspected turned out to be a victim himself. And the revelation of the real murderer was quite surprising to me. It made sense, however, even though it made me quite sad.

As with the first book, I loved all the references to quilting, quilt blocks, quilting tools, quilting classes, etc. I felt right at home in Quilter Paradiso and in Dewey's world. It is quite obvious that Terri Thayer is a quilter, and I bet she's much better than her fictional shop owner! Some of the other quilt related mysteries I've read just don't ring quite as true as this one. But I knew from the beginning of Wild Goose Chase that this author knew all about rotary cutters from experience, not just reading about them. She was so good at describing the experiences that I am now inspired to clean up my sewing room and start yet another UFO (that's an UnFinished Object for you non-quilters out there)! Already I'm thinking about what pattern I'll use. As usual, my problem is choosing a pattern and sticking with it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sew Very Good!

Bad pun! But I love puns, the "badder," the better. And the first three novels in Terri Thayer's Quilting Mystery series are all "sew" good! (You can read her blog at Killer Hobbies.)  I loved each and every one of them! Hated to see the last one end and can't wait for the next one to come out. I may just have to pay full price for it. That's high praise from Ms. Penny Pincher here. Normally I would wait until I could get the book via PaperBack Swap or at least from the library. But I don't think I can wait that long to read the next in the series. I'll have to, however, since it won't be released until after Christmas. The good news, though, is that I can pre-order Monkey Wrench from Amazon. I put it on my Christmas wish list there. Here's hoping Santa pays attention.

I had heard such good things about the Quilting Mystery series that I was willing to wait for a very long time to get them from PaperBack Swap. I put the first three books on my wish list and eventually my wishes were granted, although they didn't get to me in the order in which they were published. I put them in my towering TBR pile and only recently got around to reading them. I decided that since I finally had all three, I would just read them one after the other. I like reading series books in the proper order. Most of the time, the individual books stand alone, as these did, but reading them in order does make certain aspects of character development and back story make a bit more sense. And that was the case with these books, too, but reading them in order is more satisfying to me. And I liked being able to read one immediately after the other. That's not always possible when you read the books as they are published, obviously.  I frequently forget key elements in the back stories of the characters.

In Wild Goose Chase, Dewey Pellicano is attending her first quilt conference since inheriting her mother's quilt shop. Before her mother's sudden death, Dewey worked with computers. But when the economy went bust, Dewey found herself unemployed. Mom to the rescue with a job offer--work for Quilter Paradiso setting up a computerized accounting and inventory control program, something right up Dewey's alley. But her career plans are changed when her mom is killed by a hit and run drunk driver. Dewey inherits the shop and is trying her best to learn more than she had ever planned to about running her own small business and the art of quilting. To make matters more difficult, Terri's sister-in-law Kym does her best to undermine Dewey at every turn, starting with sabotaging the computerized sales program on the very first day of the quilt conference. Matters get more complicated when Dewey finds famous quilt artist Claire Armstrong dead, killed with one of those deadly rotary cutters. And more complicated when she falls in love with former childhood friend turned hunky cop, Buster Healy. Healy is helping investigate Armstrong's murder, a complication for their budding romance. When Dewey stumbles upon a second body, Dewey feels compelled to hurry and find the murderer before anyone else winds up dead.

I'm Ba-a-ack! For now.

It's been quite a while since I last wrote about a book I've read. And I've read quite a few in the intervening time. Too many to recall right off the top of my head right now. But I've been stewing over not writing in this blog and my writing prompts blog, not to mention working on my own cozy novel. Supposedly those are things that are most important to me. You wouldn't know it by the lack of writing, would you? But I've been doing other things and a whole lot of nothing.I'm fighting depression and poor health -- a deadly combo -- to boot, so I'm much slower than usual.

At any rate, I'm back and I decided that Dec. 1 was a good date to start my latest self-improvement project. I had read somewhere that some writers used a calendar to keep them motivated to meet their daily writing goals. Since I always liked the "gold star" method in school and Sunday school, I think this might work for me. It's a visual approach that serves as not only a daily reminder, but also a reminder during the day that will hopefully keep my mind on my goals. I'm feeling hopeful, so why not take advantage of the mood.

I'm going to post a large calendar on the wall behind my computer and each day that I meet a minimal writing goal, I'll put a big X in the square. I may even buy some colorful stars at the Dollar Store! The point is never to have a blank space on the calendar. I think that could work.

My minimal writing goal: write something, anything, fiction or prose, in any of my blogs or using my writing software to work on my mystery. I have yet to decide the minimal number of words. I want it to be low, but not ridiculously so. I usually go way overboard and promise to write 1500+ words a day. That pace is hard to keep up. So I'm thinking if I start with at least 250 words, I'll most likely go beyond on most days. I usually do. It's the getting started that's the problem most times. But at least 250 word means I worked at it a bit, put some effort into something productive. That's for those days when I'm either so depressed I have to look up to see the bottom, as the saying goes, or so busy I don't have time for anything more.

Today I'll just list some of the books sitting here on the computer desk or on my Kindle-PC app that I've read over the last few months. I know there are others, but these are a good place to start.

In no particular order:
Pushing Up Daisies, Rosemary Harris
Hanging by a Thread, Monica Ferris
Wild Goose Chase, Terri Thayer
Old Maid's Puzzle, Terri Thayer
Ocean Waves, Terri Thayer
Murder Past Due, Miranda James (aka Dean James)
Murder on the Mind, L. L. Bartlett
Dead in Red, L. L. Bartlett
Cheated by Death, L. L. Bartlett
Bound by Suggestion, L. L. Bartlett
Trouble in Mudbug, Jana DeLeon

Mischief in Mudbug, Jana DeLeon
Showdown in Mudbug, Jana DeLeon
Rumble on the Bayou, Jana DeLeon

That list is a bit overwhelming, but I enjoyed most of the books so much, I can actually hardly wait to write about them.