Fiction and Quilting Book Reviews

This month was a mixed bag of really, really good, and really disappointing. I found two books that I enjoyed more than anything I have read in quite some time, both with a psychological aspect that made the stories fascinating and difficult to put down. So, let me begin with the not so great and work up to the must-reads. Then I’ll show you the some fun quilting books using precuts from C&T Publishing. Amazon links are provided for the fiction novels so you can read the story synopsis from the publisher.

First, Maeve Binchy’s last published work, Chestnut Street. I saw this at the thrift store, and since I had enjoyed another one of her books, I picked it up for a quarter. It was disappointing at best. It isn’t the novel I expected, instead it is a number of short stories. Most feel like the opening chapter of an unfinished novel, with endings leaving the reader hanging. After reading about 80 pages, I looked it up on Goodreads and found the rest of the book would be more of the same. Wall-banged. (For those who don’t know what wall-banged means, it is when the book is so bad or annoying that you throw it against a wall rather than waste anymore of your time reading it.)

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio – Another formulaic novel told in two timelines, with the woman in the present trying to solve the mystery of the woman in the past. The women are linked by living in the same houseboat. This was an easy read, not great depth of characters, but enjoyable as a light novel that doesn’t require concentration. Summer beach read.

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier – In a word, yawn. I was so bored with this story, I almost wall-banged it. But I slogged through to the end of this overly long novel. It is supposed to be a character study, but the main character doesn’t grow that much. Yes, she gets a bit more backbone where her overly critical mother is concerned, but that is more due to the friend hired to be her mother’s companion. The rest of her life just plods along. There was not that much on the embroidery, and other than a short history lesson around page 267, it could have been about any kind of craft. Overall, meh.

All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal – This book was interesting in that it is about four bloggers, internet friends meeting in real life for a celebration of the oldest one’s 85th birthday. As a blogger myself, I enjoyed that aspect. Beautifully written with well developed characters, these women are in search of their own passions at different stages of life. Throw in a little romance and a little magic in the spirit of a long-dead companion helping guide one of the women along her journey, and the story becomes an easy read, perfect for a summer escape, with a happy ending.

Now, the two must-reads. The first I mentioned in a post last month, The Bookseller. It was so good that I just had to go ahead and let you know about it. As I went to Goodreads to post my review, I noticed the top reviews were dramatically different from my impression. I did something I’ve never done before, I emailed the author to ask her if I had missed the mark on the underlying theme of the book. Amazingly, she wrote back to tell me that I was right on track. Here is my review with a bit more than last time, I hope it doesn’t give too much away, but it has such an interesting psychological basis, keep that in mind as you read.

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson – This is an extraordinary story of the psychological fracturing of a woman’s mind by grief. Her alternate reality in the dream world is a means of coping, yet when details from one life merge with the other, it becomes difficult for her to determine what is real. Neither life is perfect, both have their challenges, and choosing one to hope is real is impossible. As she begins to cope with the loss and heal from the trauma in her mind, she is able to reach out to those she loves, and find her true reality. Highly recommend!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn – This one was recommended by reader Sylvia, and I immediately got it to read. Although I have said many times that I am done with murder mysteries, this one wasn’t the typical detective or amateur sleuth variety. It is an amazing psychological thriller along the lines of Rear Window meets Gaslight. I was surprised more than once at the twists I did not see coming, and the final reveal will leave you wanting to go back and read the whole book again. The first person point of view is often the protagonist’s stream of thought, easy reading yet compelling enough to make it difficult to put down. I finished this 400+ page book in just three days. Highly recommend!!

New books from C&T publishing are out, and the discount code for readers participating in the Safelight Project is good for the entire month of May. C&T Publishing is giving 25% off any order in May with discount code CTMAY2021. If you thought about The Ultimate Quilt Finishing Guide or Harriet’s Journey from Elm Creek Quilts from my last book review post, now’s the time to get it! And here are a few more recent reads using precuts you can consider.

Love Jelly Roll Quilts – From the Publisher – “A delicious collection of 13 bright, bold quilts that feature the perennially popular jelly roll strips. Strip piecing, basketweave, pinwheels, appliqué, and more—use 2 1/2-inch pre-cut fabric strips in exciting and unexpected ways. Whip up quilts in a range of project sizes and complexity, including a suite of baby projects, a pillow, wall hangings, and bed quilts. Top designers like Susan Briscoe and Jo Avery are featured. Finally, get the best from the pages of the UK’s most popular quilting magazines!”

My Review – There are new ideas in this book for using 2-1/2-inch strips in different ways. Some of the projects use the addition of small squares, others will make HSTs or angles to form new designs. Clear instructions and row-by-row block assembly make the designs easy to understand and execute.

Quilter’s 10-Inch Square Precut Companion by Jenny Doan – From the Publisher – “Master 10” square precuts with this complete and indispensable guide! Sew 20+ traditional blocks with timesaving tips and tricks from the one and only Missouri Star Quilt Company. You’ll cover all the basics, including easy half-square triangle construction, cutting other shapes from 10” squares, and guidelines of how many 10” square packs are needed for different size quilts. Easy-to-use illustrations are at your fingertips in this handy, spiral-bound guide that’s ready to take with you.”

My Review – Fun and imaginative quilts starting with projects using only squares, working up to HSTs, and then to more complex designs. Twenty Two projects in all, there is something here for every skill level.

Playful Precut Quilts by Amanda Neiderhauser – From the Publisher – “Mix and match 15 blocks for endless precut quilts. Modern precuts meet classic quilt blocks! Stimulate your creativity with 15 pretty patterns that show off 12” blocks in an engaging variety of settings and sizes. Make a sweet sampler quilt with all 15 blocks or repeat motifs for endless variations. Wherever you are on your quilt journey, these precut-friendly patterns make it a breeze to mix colors and prints. With designs that will appeal to every quilter, this book will quickly become your “go to” when you want to make a table runner for your friend’s birthday, a baby quilt for your newborn niece, or a throw for your parents’ anniversary.”

My Review – Lots of scrappy fun with 15 blocks that can be combined in many different ways. The projects use all precuts sizes in various projects, so you can use up your charm packs and jelly rolls. Any of the projects could also be made from your scrap stash.

Are you playing with a new quilting book? What are you reading now?

20 thoughts on “Fiction and Quilting Book Reviews

  1. Julie

    Oh silly me, I thought it was Pachanga day! Book reviews soften the blow. One of my friends is reading The Bookseller & recommended it; I have to finish Lady Bird’s bio first. Being retired you’d think I could get more read, but I’m too busy working with my hands. The only way to keep up with books is by listening like I used to during the daily commute. Somehow not the same as losing yourself in the pages.

  2. I’m currently reading The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osmun – four friends from a retirement village who like unsolved crimes get involved in solving a recent murder. I thought it might be a fun read; so far it’s a little slow, so I’m hoping the story will pick up as it goes along. Recently finished The Windsor Knot by S. J. Bennett and found it so disappointing. I’ll have to try The Bookseller.

  3. Jo Anne Seccurra

    I listened to the Bookseller on audio and enjoyed it! Thanks for recommending!

    I’m currently reading “Dating Fabric” by Eileen Jahnke Trestain as I have a vintage top of unknown origin and trying to date the fabrics. The vintage top has seams deeper than one-quarter inch yet the completed blocks are all the same size. The other curious thing about the house blocks are that the roofs are strip pieced. I keep wondering what and who this quilt was made for, what the maker’s circumstances were and how she would want it finished.

  4. I have The Bookseller checked out from the library and next in line to be read! I just finished Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer for my book club. I thought it was really interesting – and a powerful topic. Now I’m reading The Last Bookshop in London, a WWII novel. Always enjoy your book posts, Carole!

  5. On the recommendation of one of my daughters, I just listened (audio book/library) to The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett. Narration was by Tom Hanks, in his smooth silky voice. What’s not to love. The story is about a brother and older sister and their life in a home that their father purchased as part of his real estate empire. It speaks of great loses in the family and behaviors because of those loses. Quite good.

  6. Cathie J

    Thank you so much for the book reviews. I will be reading a few of these and avoiding some of the others. I have found that your taste in books is somewhat similar to my own.

  7. Linda B

    Loved reading Amy Harmon’s What the Wind knows, and have three used books coming by Donna Lynn Thomas…watched her class on Craftsy and really enjoyed her teaching techniques! Sorry if errors here…I cannot really see what I am typing, LOL! Happy Mothers Day everyone!

  8. I haven’t read any books for a long time… I really need to.. and I need to get some new quilt books, also not done in a long time! Thanks for sharing yours 🙂 xx

  9. Nancy Roberts

    Thank you for the book reviews! They are always a help. A lot of my “reading” is actually listening to Audible when I drive or in the sewing room. Have a great weekend.

  10. I really do need to read The Bookseller and The Woman in the Window. (The latter is being filmed for Netflix and I want to read it before it “lands.”) I’m about a third of the way through Hilary Mantel’s last in the “Wold Hall” trilogy, “The Mirror and the Light.” It’s interesting to me because I enjoy Tudor history but she could do with a little editing. It clocks in close to 900 pages. I’ll be ready for something much lighter soon!

  11. I’m sorry Maeve Binchy’s last book was a disappointment…time is precious, I have no problem stopping if I am not enthralled by the first chapter or so. I read on a Kindle, where you can try a sample, usually the first 50 pages or so for free before you buy the book, so if it’s a wallbanger, you’re not out any money. I also have Kindle unlimited, for $10 a month you can read as many books as you want. Thanks for the reviews!

  12. I’m not a fan of short stories so even though it is Maeve Binchy, I would leave it on the shelf. I enjoyed A Single Thread. I’m familiar with Winchester so that probably helped as I could see the locations in my mind’s eye. I’ve now bought an e-copy of The Bookseller as it sounds like I would enjoy it.

  13. Susan

    I just finished reading, “The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse”, by Charlie Mackery. I don’t remember who recommended it to, but it is a wonderful, easy read. Basically a young person’s book, but is applicable to everyone. Took less than an hour to read.

    In my church book club group, we are reading, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” by Rachel Held Evans. Hilarious and yet thought provoking at the same time.

    I am currently reading, “Victoria,” an novel by Daisy Goodwin. The back of the book says it is, “the brilliantly imagined life of a young woman about to make her mark on her nation and the world.” I am enjoying the story.

    My husband’s pastoral support group, just finished reading and now I am reading the book, “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation,” by Kristin Kobes Du Mez. This is not an easy read. I have experienced a lot of what the author talks about and also learned a lot. I have also done some fact checking and found out the author is correct where I questioned some of her statements. I will say, that I think if you are far-right leaning both politically and religiously, you probably will not like the book. However, if you are the opposite, you probably will like the book. If you are in the middle, who knows–it may push you one way or the other, or maybe just give you a little more enlightenment.

  14. Dasha

    I am so glad you thought Chestnut Street was a waste of time! I have read most of Maeve Binchy’s books and loved them. Like you, I thought Chestnut Street left you hanging at the end of each story. I gave up mid way through which I don’t do often.
    I am currently reading “The Woman Next Door” by Liz Byrsky and really enjoying that. It begins with several women who have become friends after living in the same street for years. I like how the characters of the women are being developed. Still a long way to get to the end of the book though.

  15. Katie Kurtz

    I finished “The Woman in the Window” and found it to be a very satisfying read, I usually love those kind of psychological thrillers. Just finished “The Bookseller” which I also enjoyed; I thought Kitty would have been the “real” person so the twist was a good turn.

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