Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Snapshot

'Ghostly Figurehead' - 10/30/15

I went to the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, MA yesterday to meet up with a friend, have some walk and talk time, and have lunch. This is the only shot I took in the museum. the statue is a wooden model of Lady Justice, but it looked like a figurehead to me. It was positioned by the window overlooking the harbor and beside a glass case with a gorgeous model of a clipper ship. The photo inspired me to make a Halloween card for you all!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2015

In the Shadow of Blackbirds - Cat Winters

A candidate for the William Morris Debut Award, In the Shadow of Blackbirds tells the story of young Mary Shelley Black's dark adventure as she flees Portland, Oregon during the fall of 1918. Her father has been swept up in the anti-German hysteria that reigned during WWI here in America. He has been arrested on treason charges and she is left to flee to San Diego to live with her Aunt Eva until his case can be settled.

This novel is full to brimming with so much historical detail that it makes it hard to believe. It's more a comment on the history of the time all wrapped up in a ghost story. Mary Shelley becomes re-acquainted with a boy she knew as a youngster. Stephen Embers has grown up to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather. He has become an excellent photographer. However, his brother has inherited the photography business, and Julius is trying to cash in on the grief-stricken families of those lost during the trench warfare in Europe. He has branched into the area of spiritualism by photographing family survivors with the 'ghosts ' of their loved ones. Stephen hates this kind of exploitation, so he leaves the family business and enlists in the Army.

Mary Shelley is left to wait for the return of her friend. When news of his death in the trenches arrives, she begins having strange nightmares, visitations, and psychic sensations that hint at a much more complicated death for Stephen. Against her Aunt Eva's instruction, she embarks on a dangerous mission to solve the mystery of Stephen's death and let his soul rest, knowing that she has made things right here in the physical world.

Mixed up in all this mystery is the real-life danger of the Spanish Flu pandemic that was sweeping the world during this time. Death seems to stalk everyone here in the physical world and in the spiritual world of Stephen Embers. Mary Shelley must go out into the chaotic world of flu-stricken San Diego in order to ask questions, research the science of photography and Spiritualism, interview young veterans of the war to try to find the answers to the mystery of just what happened to her first love when he entered the service and found himself deep in the bloody trenches of France.

While a neatly told story, I had trouble with the first person narrative. It's not my favorite type of story exposition, so I struggled with all the "I's". I also found the concept of a 16 year old girl being given the freedom to travel alone, roam the streets of San Diego whenever, go in and out of Red Cross hospitals, not attend school, etc. hard to believe. That's fiction for you, though. What's unbelievable is wrapped and packaged into a good story. This is a good story. It just would have benefited from some more work to make it a better story. As a debut novel, it shows the potential of Cat Winters. I'm hoping that she changes up her POV in her next writing endeavor and focuses her overall story line a bit more. We'll see!

In the meantime, the novel fit well into the R.I.P...X reading challenge, as well as my annual goal of reading more award-winning YA and children's literature. If you hit the above link, you can see what other participants are sharing for their R.I.P...X reading challenge posts. This is a fun annual challenge ... check it out!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Writing Poetry ... A Reflection

This past week a friend from my little church with the green doors asked me if I thought I could write a poem in celebration of the church's 175th anniversary. I would love to, but have been suffering the worst case of 'block' when it comes to poetry over the past year. It all started when my father passed away. I can't for the life of me think why losing Dad would dry up my poetic muse, but it has. The amount of work I've produced since his death is pitifully small.

That being said, it might be time to push myself a bit. I'd begun sharing past poems at an Open Mic event that is a monthly thing at our little church. It's what got me in this situation of being asked to write 'on demand', I suspect. I've shared some of the older things that I've written, some good pieces and some pieces that I wrote fast with the idea of editing down the line.

Now, I'm in the situation of being expected to create something new.  I'm scared and I'll freely admit it. Words used to come easily. I would wake up at the strangest hours and have phrases, images, whole poetic scenarios in mind. I'd get up very early in the morning and write for an hour or two with no thought of time. I wish for those days (and nights!) to return. Until they do, maybe having a set event to write for is a way for me to come back to writing poetry. I miss the writing process and the feeling of a bloom of words and ideas uncurling and finding their way onto the computer screen or the notebook page.

Maybe it's time to begin again ... stay tuned.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop - Nina George

This book , while being an international bestseller, got panned in some of the American press publications. Hmmm. I can't figure out why. Yes, it's got some pat names for its characters. Yes, it's a chick lit story of lost love, paralyzing guilt, loss, insecurity and the toll it takes. It's also a nice gentle read about redeeming one's self in the face of having acted stupidly. It's about taking a chance in one's relationships in order to begin anew. It's about accepting the warped and sometimes odd reasons that people act the way they do. It's about love and friendship. What could be wrong with a gentle story about all that?

This book will never be a great piece of literature that lives for the ages, but it tells a lovely story.  It's romantic, it paints lovely pictures of Paris and the French countryside. It has some pithy, yet thought-provoking statements on life and love. It's not so profound that English professor fossils will gush, but Nina George has delivered a sweet story of redemption and renewal, and that's enough.

That's all I have to say.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Snapshot - Pinwheels Finally Finished!

The Mill Girls' Pinwheels quilt is finally done, folks! I started this quilt two years ago at a quilt retreat. The top was finally finished this spring, but I couldn't find a backing fabric that I liked, so I set it aside for other projects.

On my way home from THIS year's quilt guild retreat, I stopped at a fabric store in Henniker, NH and came upon this beautiful brick colored backing fabric. Super wide (and super expensive - eek!), but just perfect for this quilt.

I snapped up the yardage, wrote the check, and didn't look back! My friend Susan Bowles put the quilt on her long-arm machine and did a simple  all over lattice stitch. It continues the ultra-traditional nature of the quilt pattern. No fancy border, just a big old utilitarian quilt for a full-sized bed. Final measurement - 80 x 86 inches.

It's my new favorite ... but aren't all the new ones faves?

... shared at Saturday Snapshot ...
Click on the link to see what others are sharing this week!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Snapshot ... Farewell Summer!

The last weekend of summer and I have been lucky enough to have one last dip in the pond near my home ... so farewell, summer!

The Winter People - Jennifer McMahon

I was initially drawn to this audiobook because the turn of the seasons makes me crave mystery and ghost stories. I love listening to audio books, as I work around the kitchen so McMahon's creepy story about wishing a loved one back from the dead seemed a perfect distraction from canning tomatoes and making mincemeat for winter pies.

The story opens with a young couple living at the turn of the century in a small Vermont farming community. It's wintertime and bitterly cold. Food's a bit scarce, the farmhouse is drafty, but Martin, Sara, and their daughter, Gertie are making ends meet. Martin hunts in the woods behind the farmhouse, determined to care for his little family. The growing season is short and the fields are rocky, but martin ekes out a living for them. We read of one fall day when he returns to the house, having found a ruined homestead deep in the woods. He's found a bone ring that he gives to Sara. Her reaction is strong and definite ... get the ring out of the house and go bury it, return it to the earth. But Martin doesn't. He holds onto it ... his first mistake.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

How ironic that a young woman whose name translates "Morningstar' has written such a magical tale about the night.  Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is an enthralling tale of love, twisted ambition, mystery and obsession, but mostly it's a tale of controlling one's dreams, visions and future. All these themes are wrapped up in a story about a magical circus that appears mysteriously at the turn of the 20th century and travels the world, attracting a cast of really memorable characters.

Celia and Marco are two very talented and sensitive young people taken into tutelage under older and far more experienced teachers ... magicians, illusionists, one might say, madmen. They are bonded at a young age to be in competition with each other. BUT WHY? AND HOW?

The Night Circus becomes the playing field for these two to begin molding a surreal and completely entrancing experience for the public, a circus like no other. This circus magically appears in places all over the world. It opens its gate at night and closes at dawn. Its troupe of artists include the most talented of acrobats, illusionists, fortunetellers, lion tamers and animal trainers. The characters become intertwined in their circus lives, as Celia and Marco produce tent after tent of increasingly intricate magical experience for circus-goers. What begins as a way for them to hone their considerable talents becomes a glorious collaboration of love. BUT ... and that's a big but ... their mentors have had other plans for their future and that future has no place for them to be together. One must extinguish the other in some fashion.

The fate of The Night Circus rests in how Marco and Celia respond to this more urgent challenge. They have come to cherish their mates in the circus troupe, respect and care for the public and the legions of reveurs (dreamers) who follow the circus from place to place. How can they put this warped challenge to rest and save the circus?

I loved this read. It's a debut book by Ms. Morgenstern and is soon to be a motion picture with a proposed fall 2015 release. I think I will be glad that I read the book before seeing the movie. There is so much depth and 'premise' to the words of her story that I frankly have problems envisioning how it will be made visual and how dialogue will be able to convey the intricacy of the story. I fear it will lose much of the magic of the novel.  The settings are so incredibly rich in imagination that each reader is bound to have strong images in mind. The characters, too, are well described and in the case of the main characters well-developed so seeing a movie casting director's vision may be disturbing when one has one's own concept of the character. And just how can that magical circus clock of Herr Thiessen's be conveyed through film ? I just don't know ... but I suppose time will tell.

This is the first book reaction linked with this year's RIP X literary event. See details at The Estella Society blog to read other reactions/reviews and/or to join with other lovers of Gothic, mystery, horror,  and fantasy genres.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

R.I.P. X - Fall's Annual Spooky Read Challenge Is Here!

Oh, goodie! It's here again! The autumnal tradition of reading all things spooky, eerie, Gothic, horrific! This year I'm starting by listening to the audio version of The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. It's pretty creepy because it takes place in Vermont, which is practically right next door ! It's also a classic ghost story ... perfect for the first fall storms and blustery leaves!

I love the R.I.P. challenge. Originally begun by Carl Anderson of Stainless Steel Droppings, it has been taken on by Andi and Heather over at The Estella Society. For complete details on participating in the different levels of this year's R.I.P. challenge, check out their post ... and then get ready to choose your poison, stack up your creepy reads and get busy!

I'll be finishing my audio book and moving on to a good murder mystery ... stay tuned !

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Girl On the Train - Paula Hawkins

Clever premise behind this book ... haven't you looked in windows or witnessed goings on in yards as you passed in a car or bus or train? If you commute everyday you must have certain views that draw your eyes, time after time. It's all very innocent, isn't it?

Reading this book made me feel squeamish sometimes. It was extremely painful to be inside the main character's head. Rachel is just such a poster child for the path to alcohol addiction. It was sad reading about her failed marriage, her constant falling toward the drinking as a way to cope, deaden pain, escape her miserable life. The strangely intricate fantasies about the couple she watched every day, as she rumbled past on the local London commuter line was downright creepy. When something dreadful happened to the woman she obsessed on, the plot began to take off.

I'm probably the only person that hadn't read this book, as it's been so wildly popular all summer, but I'm still not going to discuss the plot details, as they all work to construct a good psychological thriller. Let's just say that the whole 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned thing' played out right down to the end in grand fashion.

Comparisons to Gone Girl would not be amiss, as both authors have played with what we think we know and what we think we see and how we can be horribly wrong, wrong, wrong. It's up to the reader to pay close attention to every detail and find the little clues that help with that big 'aha moment' when we see clearly just what's been building. This was a good, fast read. I couldn't put it down and will probably have to go to bed early this evening, as I read through much of the night.

Now, I hear there will be a movie? Does anyone know anything about that ?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Wishing Thread - Lisa Van Allen

Every year at the turning of the summer season, I start looking around for 'October-y' reads. The perfect read has a bit of magic, maybe some ghost elements, maybe a hint of romance, maybe a touch of horror or mystery. The Wishing Thread gave me just the easy segue into fall that I needed. It's been a busy summer full of piecing quilt tops, canning garden produce, traveling for vacation, and garden puttering. I haven't read for the complete abandon the way I usually do. I've been reading for gaining knowledge and for fulfilling book group obligations. After a particularly demanding (and upsetting read (Ann Packer's The Children's Crusade) for which I won't even bother posting a reaction, I needed a truly light read - one that I could have a few laughs over, one that would make me remember that a good story can be told without gut-wrenching and depressing exposure of the human dark side. Thank-you, Lisa Van Allen.

After Packer's slow and meticulous de-construction of a family, it was a relief to settle into Van Allen's re-affirming story of what family really ought to be about ... losses that make people stronger, make them pull together, make them gently confront each other's foibles, mistakes, screwed up actions with love and forgiveness, make them move forward positively.  What can I say? I like happy endings.

Van Allen's sisters Van Ripper - Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie have gathered at the Van Ripper homestead to mourn the loss of their Aunt Mariah. After losing their mother to a mysterious disappearance and presumed death years before, the girls were raised by Mariah. Losing her is a hard loss, as she was the relative that stepped in when they lost their mother. She is a matriarch with a strange magical power that has groomed them to live out the Van Ripper tradition of being the area's guardians of mysticism. These women cast spells ...

The loss of Mariah comes at a crucial time for the family and its neighbors. Their old, established neighborhood is in danger of being bulldozed by the city of Tarrytown, New York to make way for an urban renewal project that will gentrify the entire area of the city. Their personal lives are in tatters, but they pull together to make one valiant attempt to save their home and their long-established family's place within the fabric of the neighborhood ... and they do it ... after a fashion.

This is a fast read. Van Allen moves her story right along. Her sisters are a good combination of quirky, straight-laced, and kinky. They're different enough to make the family dynamics interesting, even if they do seem a bit contrived. I can get past that when the story moves as fast as this one does. There's a bit of romance, a bit of psychological angst, a bit of political wrangling, and a bit of humor.

Perfect beach read or curl-up-in-bed and forget the clock read.

I plan to pick Van Allen's next book, The Night Garden, when I get to the library.  I'm sure it will give me another good read. I still have a few other books to clear off the bedside table, though. Next up, Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train, Rachel Cusk's Outline, and Nele Neuhaus's The Ice Queen. Oh, and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Moloka'i - Alan Brennert

What an interesting read! Not only is this book an accurate account of how the Hawaiian leadership and the US government dealt with a significant leprosy (Hansen's disease) outbreak, but it tells the story of one young girl, Rachel Kalama who is diagnosed with leprosy very early in life and what her ensuing years look like, as she is exiled to the government sanctioned quarantine community of lepers on the island of Moloka'i.

This was a sad story, but make no mistake in thinking that the life of Rachel was a total downer. Alan Brennert has created a cast of strong characters that support the story of the leper colony and the changes it goes through, as doctors and missionaries work to learn about the disease, develop treatments, and attempt to make life as normal as they can for the people being ravaged by the disease. The book is a fictionalized story of Rachel and her family and friends, but the history of the colony on Moloka'i and the information about the disease is very well researched and presented.

The historical novel centers on Rachel Kalama. She is a young Hawaiian girl who is diagnosed with the disease when she is seven. Rachel comes from a large close family, but the moment her diagnosis is confirmed, she is removed from her family and shipped with other afflicted people to the leper colony on Moloka'i. She is housed at a Catholic mission school with other girls and grows up in a loving, but isolated community. Because society doesn't understand the disease and fears the ravaging nature of the illness, contact with with others is discouraged and made very difficult by the strict rules of quarantine. Thus, a vibrant community grows within the colony amongst those living there. The story follows Rachel as she grows up, makes friends, loses them to the disease, marries, takes many experimental treatments, and finally has some success in fighting her form of the disease. No spoilers ... it's a great story and she is a strong, smart, and feisty character that never gives in to total despair.

The book is also a terrific read for those who don't know the the story of Moloka'i's history or the particulars of what leprosy really is. I learned so much about the disease by reading this book. I don't know that Alan Brennert has written any other books, but he did an awesome job on this one ... enough said.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Snapshot ... This I Believe

It's Saturday morning and it's starting to feel like summertime. The gardens are coming on. While the comfrey draws hoards of fat bumbling bees and the chive plants draw me out to cut long spears for snipping over mashed taters or tearing and adding to the garden green salads that are plentiful now, the finest of early June flowers fade in the porch bouquet. The white bleeding heart has crisped its hearts on the stem and the deep purple columbine has dropped its delicate petals in a perfect circle beneath the flowers. Their time was glorious, but gone and it reminds me that time is fleeting.

Our time is short in the scheme of things and we'd best chew the chives, enjoy the greens, dig in the soil to set the basil and move on to other good garden deeds. Sharing the strawberries with the neighbors and the chipmunks, dividing the perennials and passing some on to friends, scrubbing the watering can and sprinkling the rose bushes with some insecticidal soap so they come to bloom, rising in a sweat from weeding chores to wave a neighbor on their way down the dirt road, making time to sit in the garden and sip coffee on sunny mornings, and marveling at the seasonal splendor seems crucial these days. These flowers, these berries, these opportunities for connection, this sunrise will never be again. They're to be appreciated now and wondered on ...

Indeed, time is fleeting. It's never too early to realize that we are a speck in the grander scheme of things. We have very little chance of making a difference in the grand scheme of God's plan, but we can surely make great things happen in our little 'back yard'. So my thought is to care for plants, animals, and friends - new, old, and unknown. If I can live this premise, I can't go wrong.

This, I believe.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Black Tower - Louis Bayard

I grew up in the extreme northern reaches of New York State. That being said, there was this lovely but decrepit chalet-type home that sat on the outer border of of small town called Fort Covington (near Massena, my hometown) that had the legend of the lost Dauphin attached to it. I was always intrigued by the legend that Louis-Charles, the son of Marie Antoinette and Louis the XVI was somehow spirited away from the Jacobin prison in which he and his sister were held. The story goes that royalists helped him flee prison, cross the Atlantic and settle in anonymity in a rural backwater in order to keep him from forces that would see him dead. I wondered and built fantastic stories in my mind how a prince might be guarded by faithful and monied allies and sent to safety to live out his life away from the horror that he'd surely witnessed during the Reign of Terror.

Finding Louis Bayard's rollicking story about the legend of the lost Dauphin, a rowdy, raucous French detective called Eugene Vidocq that has a penchant for outlandishly accurate disguises, a young doctor who is pioneering the study venereal disease at a time when it was ravaging the French elite, and a young French gardener who is mysteriously innocent for one his age was such a fun experience! This mystery/historical thriller is masterfully written and even more masterfully narrated. It was wonderful!

I'll not spoil the storyline by giving away plot, but just know that there is murder, subterfuge, hidden relics of the Reign of Terror and the following Napoleonic era, royals and gentry who are less than honest about their past, bawdy humor, and wonderful characters that are endearing. Great read, even better listen. Simon Vance is a professional reader for the Royal National Institute for the Blind as well as a radio announcer for the BBC radio ... he does an incredible job developing the character of Vidocq. His command at reading and interpreting the story is just stellar!

Okay .. have I gushed enough ? If you're doing a road trip, working at home at a sit-down project or puttering in the kitchen this would be a worthy audio experience. I'm off to return the 'book' to the library and check out another by Louis Bayard.

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.