Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Snapshot ... Lilacs !!!

My bank account may say I'm poor as a church mouse, but during lilac season I feel as rich as a queen!

... shared at Melinda Ott's Saturday Snapshot photoshare because everyone should experience springtime lilacs ...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - Leslye Walton

In preparing to write my reaction to this novel, I did a bit of research on the literary technique of using mystical realism in one's plot development. My only experience of the sub-genre (?) is with certain Latin American authors whose stories were so mystic that they were far over my head. I left this type of novel alone for years until I read Like Water For Chocolate, at which point, I thought that I'd fallen back into the mystic just enough.

The point is that this type of writing is not for everyone. You have to let go just a bit of what you consider real and true, latch onto the images and experiences of the characters and accept that what they experience is based in reality - their reality - a reality that serves to say something about life, higher ideals, et cetera. That being said, I found Leslye Walton's debut novel a winner. It's already being short-listed for awards across America as one of the best new young adult reads. I'm not so sure that it is strictly for young adults, but I often think that much of what is written for young adults is really 'cross-over' stuff. That's another rant post, though. Suffice it to say, this story addresses a bunch of issues like opening one's self to love and its messy possibilities, loving enough to allow one's children to become their own distinct personalities, fulfilling one's dreams and not being afraid to fail in the attempt, finding one's self in the midst of one's strong family influence and history, and overcoming society's sometimes harsh assumptions about one's self. Among a bazillion other things ...

Ava Lavender looks back on her life and her family history to tell a tale that will make you feel like you've entered a fairy tale. This is a love story, but it's not about the heart thumping happy ending of romantic love fulfilled. It's about the messiness of love, the development of love over time, the way love is nurtured by some and destroyed by others, the way one comes to love oneself enough to survive sorrows. The members of Ava's family experience love's foibles in vastly different ways and Ava reflects on these joys and sorrows, as her own life moves toward a strange climax.

I loved this book, but I'll warn you. It's not for everyone.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

Jennifer Mathieu is relatively new to the young adult publishing world and in her first novel, she has hit the ball out of the park, as far as I'm concerned. Don't get me wrong. This is a difficult book to read, especially as a mature woman. It's graphic in its portrayal of young people and the culture of high schoolers and their world. I struggle with the level of sexuality, drugs and alcohol use that young people are exposed to, so reading a book as hard-hitting as this is difficult. That being said, it also flew by for me. it's not a long book. Alice's story unfolds fast and furious.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday Snapshot ...

This past week, I went away with some friends from my quilting guild. We had a retreat in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. For three days, we shared sewing tips, worked on our individual projects and a few community service sewing projects, yakked about all things sewing, drank good wine, walked in the sunshine when we needed a break from the sewing studio, and ate really well.

There were thousands of fabric pieces worked with over the course of three days. 

There was a lot of cutting going on too !

Of course, there was a ton of ironing to be done ... some would say too much!

In the end, though, it's all about the finished quilt tops ...

... and there were some beauties!

We had a couple fun raffles too ... I ended up winning an Ott light for mounting on my sewing machine. We old lady quilters need all the light we can get!

On the way home, I stopped at a huge quilt shop in Center Harbor, New Hampshire and bought a palette of batiks to use in my next big quilt project. I'm in hog heaven with all these colors ...

shared at Saturday Snapshot 

Check out the other snapshot posts at Melinda Ott's website. Just hit the link above!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Old Books, Rare Friends - Rostenberg and Stern

If you're a true book fanatic, this is a great read. I found myself relating to the term 'Finger-Spitzengefuhl' that these ladies talk about - that inexplicable tingling that emanates from your fingertips when you find the perfect treasure in a pile of books at a flea market or used book store or at a library book sale and it dawns on you that you have truly come upon something special. My incidents of Finger-Spitzengefuhl are humble in comparison to these renowned antiquarian book dealers, though! Imagine finding original printings of tracts created in the Leyden print works of William Brewster, scientific texts from the library of Robert Boyle, 'blood and thunder' serial tales printed in mid-19th century sensational papers that were penned by Louisa May Alcott under her pseudonyms ! These are just a few of the more sensational finds that these ladies made over their years of researching the printing process and the literature and social tracts printed around the world.

This joint memoir is an inspiration to anyone who ever dreamt of looking through a pile of old books and coming upon a true treasure of history. Sadly, both Leona and Madeleine have passed away and their incredible knowledge is relegated to their long list of published writings, but boy, what women they were!

A fast and really interesting read that places you right alongside them as they made the journey from NYC to Europe and back, through the halls of academia to the eccentric world of antiquarian book trade, from dusty cellars to spiffy trade shows to the offices of some of the most respected research libraries in the United States.  And all the time ... it's all about the books and the research and the history and the incredible sense of exhilaration when a true gem is unearthed!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hands 2 Help Update ... Card Trick Quilt !

So, it's check in day with the other quilters that are participating in the Hands 2 Help charity quilting event that Sarah Craig is hosting ! I'm a bit late, as life has been very busy of late! 

For my quilt, I chose the colors of Provence to make a really cheerful quilt top that is a variation on the Card Trick quilt pattern. It's a project that I have wanted to complete for a couple years. I found the project in a quilting magazine that a friend passed off to me when she was cleaning out her sewing studio. 

This past February, my family lost our sweet little niece, Angela to a sudden illness that caused her to have catastrophic heart failure. So, this quilt is being made in her memory and donated to 'Because You Matter'. Just looking at the sky blues and sunny yellows makes me think of Angie and her bright happy spirit. 

I finished the quilt top last week and put the border strips on the other afternoon. Now it will be machine-quilted ... my goal is to have the quilt complete and ready for shipping by the mid-May.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cascade - Maryanne O'Hara

Maryanne O’Hara is a new author to me. I came across her book titled Cascade during a late winter foraging trip to my little public library. What I found in this book was a story of a marriage of convenience that unravels as a small town grapples with its almost certain demise. The story of the destruction of the town is loosely-based on the Metropolitan Water District’s struggle in the 30’s to deal with Boston’s evermore demanding need for fresh clean public water. The result became a push to acquire lands in the central part of Massachusetts and the flooding of those lands that created the Quabbin Reservoir. 

In O’Hara’s book the Quabbin becomes the Rappahanock and her fictitious town of Cascade is a compilation of several actual towns that were razed to create a massive reservoir for Boston’s need. Set against that backdrop, enter Desdemona Hart, a young artist and the daughter of one of the artistic forces within her hometown of Cascade. Desdemona is the child of actors and has received an arts education that includes being front and center in her father’s Shakespearean theater during her early years and going to college to receive a fine arts degree. She’s painted in Paris, won art awards at her college in Boston, and is producing new art at a pretty steady pace. 

When her father becomes ill and the theater begins to fall into decline because of the Great Depression, Desdemona returns to Cascade to care for him. Finding the finances in horrid shape, she accepts the attentions of the local pharmacist. He’s a nice enough guy, but his dreams and goals are far from what Desdemona has envisioned for herself and her art. Setting her dreams aside for the sake of her father, she agrees to marry Asa Spaulding, move to his comfortable farmhouse on the edge of the village, and settle into the life of a hausfrau. One can only imagine the frustration, right?

When a young Jewish artist, the son of  a local itinerant merchant comes to town, Desdemona makes an innocent connection over one of her canvasses. That relationship will have dramatic consequences for her marriage, her art, and the future of the town. She will find in her relationship with Jacob Solomon a muse and a romantic push to confront the poor marriage she’s made and the sad repression of her own strengths as a woman that needs to control her own destiny. 

This was a great read … it’s about promises we make out of love that come back to haunt, prejudices that can taint our lives, roles in marriages that can stifle one’s true self if they’re allowed to, and strength to work through tough social norms and find one’s true place in the world. 

I look forward to other titles from this author.