Friday, December 23, 2011

"Hers: Design with a Feminine Touch" by Jacqeline de Montravel~ Puts Womanly Back into Our Spaces

Published by:  Crown Publishing Group
Pages:  225
Genre:  House and Garden/Interior Decorating

Gorgeously, fully realized photos of feminine style in decor harkens back to the essence of being a woman without censure in this lush and liberating book.

Sensuous shapes and styles, delicate to firey colorings and a notable eye for art and accessories give life and light to this book. You may think you've read and seen all there is to know about decorating and design, but you'll be surprised!

There is so much to this book that it's difficult to summarize the best of it, but I'm going to try by giving you a highlight I loved best:

The Boudoir:
The French called it...boudoir meaning "to sulk" which in our day-and-age could easily mean our "meltdown" parlor! Our place to escape from the stresses of the world that call on our resources, sometimes more than we have to give.

Virginia Wolff called it "A Room of One's Own," and Jacqueline deMontravel calls it "a state-of-mind" place; one that should be inviting and reflective of who we are at our feminine core, and full of those things that we take particular pleasure in and gain peace from.

After studying this beautiful book, I designed my own perfect place and these are a few of the features:

A huge, ornate mirror framed in mirror pieces and resting on the floor; a button-tufted, large ottoman in blue and champagne silk; a 1700's reproduction chaise, down-filled cushions in washed linen decorated with winter white, blue and pink silk pillows; Louis XVI side chairs in a scrubbed finish; a silver vase of blue hydrangeas and roses...etc...

Does this tell you anything?  ;]

In addition to helping find our feminine center in decorating for our "boudoirs," this beautiful book leads us to rethink such other places in our homes as the living room, garden spaces, bar (even stocking and recipes) and entertainment areas, office and collection displays...including book cases.

I highly recommend this gorgeous book. The pictures alone make it very desirable, of course, as a coffee table book, or for your interior design library collection. But, more than that, it holds a trip back into the vast history of where we've come from and where we're headed as women in design.

Author Profile:

Jacqueline deMontravel is the editor of "Romantic Homes" and oversees publication of "Victorian Homes."  Former editor of "Country Magazine," she's been in the business  of decorating and publishing for more than two decades.

5 elegant stars


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 Inspired Projects for Year-Round Celebrations

Published by:  Crown Publishing Group/Random House
Pages:  369
Genre:  House and Garden/Crafts

Here's the Scoop:

There is no question that Martha Stewart has long been the reigning queen of DIY home crafts and decorations.  In this holiday-centered book, she has gathered the best of her ideas, giving us up-close and fully realized directions on how to create extraordinary crafts and gifts for home, family and friends. Martha doesn't disappoint her fans, and anyone is bound to find something beautiful to create in this holiday crafting book.

Major holidays are segmented and ideas for crafts, home decorating and gift giving are shown for each one:  New Year's, Valentine's Day, Easter, July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas...and all others in between!   The large spread photographs are lovely, the ideas are not expensive, but are easily accessible; and, the resulting crafts present bright, festive, magical, and even enchanting pieces.

Here's What I Liked:

Valentine's Day
Red tulips in double glass vases with red cinnamon candy hearts were vibrant, beautiful and made an easy presentation for a dinner arrangement.
Also, a carnation heart made of multiples of pink carnations on floral foam to make a centerpiece is quick and gorgeous!

Easter :
Fabulous egg-dyeing techniques using natural formulas made from coffee, cabbage, blueberries, beets and spices made incredibly beautiful and exotic eggs.  And, Martha gives specific directions for marbleizing eggs!  Actually, most of her egg crafting was exceptional.

Thanksgiving :
Gourd candles made from hollowed out mini gourds with colored, melted candles are just amazing little jewels!  Pumpkin carving is fabulous!

Christmas :
I loved the cookie cutter ornament ideas made from various paper goods, family pictures and such.  The gilded, and verdigris Polish inspired eggs, and the ribbon poinsettia wreath was just to die for.

Hanukkah :
Paper packages, a menorah, and satin stars are glowing and sparkling in Martha's hands.

Here's what I found lacking:

Often the crafts are more complex than one would want to become engaged in. 

The directions are not clear cut; that is, they are not in a "recipe/materials" format, but are listed in text, which I found to be more difficult to follow.  I needed to break it down for myself on my own paper.

Diagrams sometimes took too much for granted, or at least seemed to expect the more experienced crafter could "fill in the blanks."  I wasn't up to some of that!

Several projects were quite time-consuming for very little return or impact.

And, finally, I found the pictures too small in the working segments.

Overall Rating:  3 stars ~ I can't hightly recommend it, but it's a good book to check out of the library...


Monday, December 19, 2011

"Christmas at Pemberley~A Pride & Prejudice Christmas Sequel" by Regina Jeffers

Published by: Ulysses Press
Pages: 350 with Afterward
Genre: Fiction/Regency Romance




Very quick Summary:

Darcy has invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide’s festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small inn while Pemberley is inundated with refugees seeking shelter from the storm.

Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy tries desperately to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors.

But bitter feuds, old jealousies and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana know happiness?

Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, Christmas at Pemberley places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.

Pemberley from the Dame's Perspective :

I only wish I had 10 more days of Christmas and 10 more books written by Regina Jeffers about the Darcys and clan to fill them! This is my very favorite of the Christmas books I've read for review this year. And, I'm so happy to bring it to your attention just in time for your Christmas rush!

If there is ever a time to get one more book for yourself in that "one for her/him~and one for me" pile; this is the ONE!

Jane Austen would love Regina Jeffers's perfectly Pemberley story that unites not only Elizabeth and Darcy in further intimacy around their soon-to-be first child, but also begins to be-ribbon some family relationships that have kept us aching for more closure.

Regina is the reigning queen (name is rightfully hers) of the sequels to Miss Austen's books, in my humble opinion. She takes care to keep her characters in perfect unity with Jane's intentions, it seems to me. This makes the books all the more close to authentic in nature, and all the more desirable for Austen aficionados.

I lost myself in this wintry novel as it danced among the characters and their longings for connections of heart, purpose and mind. Jane Austen's books are of this quality; not just fluff, but of the substance of true life and its mysteries, if a reader will take a moment to look beyond the surface, as Lizzy would have us do.

The story of a coming home to Pemberley at Christmastime brought me such pleasure this weekend as I put the last trimmings and touches on our holiday. While I went to church, heard the last of the pre-Christmas sermons and remembered things from past holidays with husbands (yes, there have been a couple--I was widowed very young) and children; "A Christmas at Pemberley..." lifted my heart even more.

This is a beautifully, thoughtfully written book. Perfectly in keeping with Miss Austen's tone of characters. A positively on-target treat for Darcy and Lizzy fans. If we can't have Jane, at least we have Ms Jeffers! Thank God!

A Christmas in Regency style that is up-lifting, heartwarming and centered on the things that matter most in life: Love and Family.

The Best of Christmas Books in 2011 


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dystopian Novel "Divergent" by Veronica Roth ~ Cautionary Tale

Published by: HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 487
Genre: YA Fiction, Dystopian

Why Was I Drawn to This Novel? I love dystopians. Truthfully, I'll read almost any novel that says it's dystopian...especially a YA genre.

Cover Value? Interesting cover. Again, it's the dystopian look that really caught my eye, and the title, too. That firey circle reminded me of the "eye" on our dollar bill and the secret society that is supposed to represent the "New World Order" in our present world. Creepy!

Author? Veronica Roth was not known to me before reading "Divergent." I'm going to be very interested in reading her next book.

Series? Yes! The next book in this series comes out in May, 2012. It's called, "Insurgent." Can't wait!!

My Weekend Review:

"Divergent" is one of the YA novels I was most curious about this past year. I kept holding off reading it like a gift I wanted to wait to unwrap until a special time; then I realized the year was coming to an end! I'm glad I picked it up last weekend and read it...devoured it, is more like it.

In summary, the story centers around a teen aged protagonist, Beatrice, who is of the important age when she can choose which "faction" or lifestyle she will live and work within for the rest of her life. Of these factions, there are these: Abnegation, which values selflessness; Candor, which values frankness/honesty; Erudite, which values knowledge; Amity, which is a faction concerned with working for peace and compatibility; the "factionless" who have not qualified for any factions so are poor and perform the most menial of jobs, and Dauntless, the brave and bold--the fierce fighters.

Beatrice was born into an Abnegation family but never felt at home within the confines of that restrictive environment, and looks forward to her time of reassignment, albeit with a heavy heart with concerns about hurting her parents and brother.

When the test administrators come to her school and give her a "stimulation" inoculation to determine her most appropriate faction placement, Beatrice is pulled aside and told she is something called "Divergent" ~ one who could fit in to several factions ~ and something which is never to be shared with anyone at anytime, ever. It is a dangerous thing to be. She is told that to protect her, her test will be made unclear to those it's reported to, and that she should simply choose a faction she feels most inclined to...Abnegation and Daunting, and Erudite being where she scores.

What follows is the story about Beatrice's choice to join the Daunting faction, her initiation within that faction, her love interest, and her wisdom gained that will conclude with a surprise that will bring all the factions into play.

As a dystopian novel, I felt that "Divergent" was fairly successful. Its creation of a futuristic society that had been partitioned into different "factions" to carry on a world which had an apparent catastrophic ending, was believable. Although the setting played at being in a destroyed, futurist Chicago, we have only a few hints to discern that; and, we are not given any knowledge as to what caused the destruction of the "world" or the United States. I felt at a loss for that information.

The initiation section of the book was excellent in concept, but it seemed to take up too much of the story content, in my opinion. It could have been compressed to lend as much impact; possibly more impact. It began to belabor the story, but was pulled out just in time to move on to a conclusion, thankfully. The conclusion, however, seemed rushed in contrast. Possibly the author was cut short by editors, but the ending of her book failed to tie things together well enough to answer questions that seemed pertinent to this particular story. It seemed abrupt, to me.

There is no doubt that Veronica Roth can write a story that is intriguing and full-bodied. She writes one with interest and good character building. I felt as if her characters were realistic and captivating, personal and probable within her world-setting. They engender a caring response, and an understandable connectedness to each other within the novel. I think these are her strong points, and very immediate ones, ultimately making "Divergent" a good book to read. Nothing better than an author who can create great characters we can attach ourselves to!

I would recommend this book to YA readers, and to many adult readers who enjoy dystopian novels. With the small exceptions I've mentioned that do not in any way take from her overall presentation of a worthy novel, this is quite the entertaining book!

While the story is left unresolved, I expect a second book to conclude it, making this a series. Personally, I'll be looking forward to reading it.

4 stars and a choice of Erudite for my faction

Deborah/The Bookish Dame

My Favorite Character?   Four     You'll have to read the book to find out who that is...   ;]

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Jane Austen Made Me Do It..." Compiled by Laurel Ann Nattress ~ These Short Stories Are To Die For!

Published by: Ballantine Books
Pages: 464
Genre: Fiction, General & Historical Romance

The Dame's View:

Will it be enough to say that I wish this book had gone on and on just like a Jane Austen novel?

Laurel Ann Nattress has achieved a coup in this first of her books. Who could have imagined that so many "mash-up" short stories would have been released about Jane Austen's novels and her characters? I'll bet the great Jane wouldn't have. And, I'll bet she's having a delighted laugh over this one because it's by far the best of the best in concept and expression of any books like it.

Fun, luminous, entertaining, in the original sense; meaning a time when a book was meant to entertain before television and video games, "Jane Austen Made Me Do It.." is the book of this literay season that you'll want to give your best friends, your daughters, neices and mother. I'm getting copies for Christmas gifts.

How on earth Ms Nattress ever chose from what had to have been a mountain of fabulous entries, because those that made it are the finest of the finest, I have no idea. With writers such as Stephaine Barron, Janet Mullany, Lauren Willig, Margaret C. Sullivan...and I could go on, I just can't fathom who was left out!

These stories are about nightmares, ghostly visitations, visits from Austen characters, ideas and imaginations mixed with readings of Jane's books and more. Short stories that lead one into another until you want to grab the orginal books and thumb through them to laugh or cry again at the characters and Jane Austen quotes. And, Jane is quoted with such majesty here.

What more can I say except this is a book great fun to have in your Austen collection. And I know anyone who's read this review so far, by this lackluster blogger, has a Jane Austen collection.

5 tearoom nods


Is Latest Trend Towards Demonology & Sexually Explicit Scenes In YA Fiction Concerning?

Are young adults and adults, alike, being duped by "beautiful covers?"

Current trends in YA fiction which include more specific sexual content, demonology and in dwellings of fallen angels concern me. When young adult fiction was first identified, it seemed to be separated from other genre. Its content had to do with teen aged "coming-of-age" and angst stories, friendship cliques, family dynamics, mild fantasy, syfy, and boys' sports conundrums, just to name a few fairly harmless plots.

*It must be said up-front that I do not mean to include these series': "Harry Potter," the "Twilight" series and lighter YA fiction in my discussion but use them only as examples of the evolution of YA fiction toward fantasy in a non-threatening way.

Upon the debut of the "Harry Potter" series, YA fiction took a greater leap into the fantasy world, drawing adult readers as well as young adults and children whose parents readily read the books to them. While this series drew some controversay from conservative groups, it was massively received and marked a new trend toward the magical and mystical we'd not seen in children's literature in recent times.

Then came the vampire series topped by "Twilight" and its copycats. A seemingly harmless group of novels that soft-peddled beautiful, teen aged vampires who were for the greatest part, sad they had to drink blood to survive and wanted to be part of an ordinary high school. No explicit sex and no demonology with succubi and incubus's, werewolves included, at the beginning of this trend. But, not your old-fashioned vampires in the long-run ...

Suddenly, or perhaps insidiously, I'm not sure which, some authors have turned a corner seeming to draw unwitting YAs who seek a little more darkness, and are led by gorgeous book covers. Why have writers begun to lose their sense of what is appropriate for young adults to read? Their sense of direction has become strange.

Some books have begun to tell occult stories, easily drawing the darker sides of teen aged minds and troubled/drug-exposed lives or worse. They're writing stories featuring beautifully etched spirits and angels from the dark side, demonology, losing one's soul, humans selling one's soul forever, in dwellings of angels of darkness, fallen angels who are minions of Satan, sexually explicit scenes and the like.

What has happened to a sense of concern and awareness of young adult audiences? Where are these stories leading them, anyway?

I'm afraid, but I'm compelled to speak out and to take a stand about this trend.

When things began to deteriorate in some countries of Europe in the 1920's, no one spoke up about the "mythologically-based" trends of the Nazi regime. Were you aware that their symbols, their beliefs and rules of order were taken from ancient occultism and mysticism? Were you aware that Wagner's music and opera were mythologically based and were the favorites of Hitler and his staff? Beautiful stage settings..gorgeous program covers..stunning performers...

Hitler's justification for the murder of Jews and other "undesireables" was based on mythology and beautiful gods and goddesses who came down to fraternize with humans. These stories birthed his compulsion to create the pure Aryan race, which is based on a mythological people.

The symbol for the "SS," Hitler's most feared secret police, is from the mythological symbol for Vril or the "god" Odin. The Swastika is also.

In an article by Dr. Danny Penman called "Hitler and the Secret Satanic Cult at the Heart of Nazi Germany," he writes:

"Historians have tended to downplay the occult foundations of Nazism for fear of trivialising its heinous war crimes, but a recent documentary on the Discovery Channel laid bare the untold story of the secretive religion at the heart of fascist Germany. And bizarrely, it is thought to have been based on a 19th Century science fiction novel that predicted flying saucers, an alien race at the centre of the earth, and a mysterious force known as Vril.

"Occult myths played a central role in Nazism,” says Professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, head of the Centre for the Study of Esotericism at Exeter University. “When we look at these ideas today, we think of them as crazy, but they were central to the early Nazi Party and through them played a critical role in 20th century history.”

“The Vril society was dedicated to evil,” says historian Michael Fitzgerald. “Through their control of the Nazi party they committed the greatest acts of evil in the 20th Century.

“Vril occultists worked in complete secrecy doing anything that would promote Aryan power. This ranged from straightforward political assassinations, through to evoking the spirits of the dead, human sacrifice and summoning mysterious energies – or Vril - through sexual orgies.”

“They began by indoctrinating the Hitler Youth with Satanic ideologies,” says Michael Fitzgerald. “Children and the future leaders of the SS were taught that compassion was weakness. They were encouraged to celebrate pagan festivals and to carry out occult ceremonies..."

I'm hoping you will add your comments to this post. I'm hoping I won't be alone in my worries about this trend. I really don't know what else to do but share my concerns.


Friday, November 4, 2011

"Come Back To Me" by Melissa Foster~ Unforgettable Novel About American Soldier in Iraq

Published by: Greenforge Books
Pages: 316


Tess Johnson has it all: her handsome photographer husband Beau, a thriving business, and a newly discovered pregnancy. When Beau accepts an overseas photography assignment, Tess decides to wait to reveal her secret--only she's never given the chance. Beau's helicopter crashes in the desert.

Tess struggles with the news of Beau's death and tries to put her life back together. Alone and dealing with a pregnancy that only reminds her of what she has lost, Tess is adrift in a world of failed plans and fallen expectations. When a new client appears offering more than just a new project, Tess must confront the circumstances of her life head on.

Meanwhile, two Iraqi women who are fleeing honor killings find Beau barely alive in the middle of the desert, his body ravaged by the crash. Suha, a doctor, and Samira, a widow and mother of three young children, nurse him back to health in a makeshift tent. Beau bonds with the women and children, and together, with the help of an underground organization, they continue their dangerous escape.

What happens next is a test of loyalties, strength, and love.

The Dame Reviews:

For every war in history, there's been a love story that captures the hearts of those in battle and those left behind. Melissa Foster has written that story. The love story of the war in Iraq.

Ms Foster knows how to capture the feelings and thoughts of people and to translate that to the written word into her characters. This is a mighty gift for a writer. It is, in fact, the essence of powerful writing and the thing that authors long to achieve. When authors are asked what makes a good book, or what's the single most important factor that they want to achieve in writing; hands down they respond "writing good characters." Well, Melissa Foster's forte' is just that. I can give her no higher praise.

You have read the essence of her book in the summary above, and probably watched the video, I hope. It's the story of two young people who have just started a life together and who love each other with all their hearts. The story of not giving up when the worst thing in life has happened to them. It's the story of hope over every possible reason not to believe in it. It's the story, then, of the best in the human spirit.

I've said it before about Ms Foster's novels such as "Megan's Way," which has won so many prestigious awards and is in production for a movie, and for "Chasing Amanda," which has also won a basketful of awards; her writing is just stellar. You can't find a bunch of books you'll love more and that will change your perspective on things.

An unforgettable book, this is one for you to read this weekend! She's an author who's been compared to Jodi Picoult.

Melissa Foster is also on Facebook where you can find a great following because she believes in helping other authors, and links to her organization: The Women's Nest.

5 bold and beautiful stars


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen" by Donia Bijan is Breath-taking

Published by:  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Pages:  250
Genre:  Memoir


For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and to communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where the familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, award-winning chef Donia Bijan unwinds her own story, finding that at the heart of it all is her mother, whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.

Donia Bijan graduated from UC Berkeley and the Cordon Bleu.  After presiding over a number of San Francisco's acclaimed restaurants and earning awards for her French-inspired cuisine, she ran her own restaurant, L'Amie Donia, in Palo Alto for ten years.

The Dame Savors This One:

This is a memoir to savor.  It's a breath-taking account of a young woman who lived the life of a cherished and richly encompassed child of the world at large.  I became spellbound by Donia Bijan's life story immediately, and found myself holding my breath as I grasped her book, not wanting to read it slowly, but speeding through its pages like a delicious crepe filled with Turkish coffee ice cream.

While Ms Bijan's memoir is captivating in and of itself, her exotic recipes included at the end of chapters are both slightly tipped with the savory and screaming to be tried in one's own kitchen.  I can hardly wait to try her Cardamom Honey Madeleines.  Proustians everywhere know of his love affair with Madeleines to begin with, so her distinctive twist of cardamom with trying out farmers' market honeys makes this recipe irresistible to me. We have a great farmers' market in Naples.
Not to mention that I have a fabulous Madeleine pan I've never used!

What I found intriguing among so many things about this memoir is the tone of her literary "voice."  I suppose I expected a lilting celebration of food and family...a "warm and inviting kitchen" experience as expressed on the cover review.  Instead, Ms Bijan's telling of her past life as a refugee from revolutionary-torn Iran, to the shores of a hip and culturally shocking San Francisco, and an unimaginably glorious but difficult training in the bowels of kitchens in Paris, France, is somewhat maudlin.  It's reflective.  I found it a surprise, and a powerful memoir for that reason.

Food, studying the art of food preparation and restauranteering isn't what's important in her memoir, it seems to me.  What is important is the underlying story of trials, family obligations and examples of dedication to others, of loving and sharing gifts through food, of finding wholeness within the simplicity of homemade and close-to-home foods and ingredients that are discovered.  Food was the life-blood of Donia's family. It is also the foundation of her heritage,where she is today, and where her son and future generations are going.

It was significant to me that her mother was not only a central figure in Donia's learning the importance of food and cooking, but she was a strong role-model: a midwife, a women's liberation advocate, a tireless volunteer in wartime, a teacher, a woman of grace and celebration, a knitter and seamstress, a mother and devoted wife.  Her mother didn't show her the example of taking the easy road in life, of failing to show up and give ones best efforts.  It's obvious in Donia's life.

I highly recommend this book of many trips through a life that's magical and meaningful.  There is much I've left out because there's so much in this memoir, beautifully told, never boring--quite the opposite--like a teatime set with Brussels lace on a silver tray holding lemon tea steeped in a china pot draped in a knitted cozy...side served with a plate of freshly baked cardamom Madeleines; this book will be in your hands until the last perfect word is read.

5 delicious stars


Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Night Strangers" by Chris Bohjalian ~ Wickedly Wonderfully Scary!

Wooot!  Wickedly Witchie Update!

I finished reading "Night Stranger" by Chris Bohjalian last night/early this morning, and now I'm dizzy and, I mean, I'm ready to start my new book, "Fallen" by Traci L. Slatton.  I'm just going to finish here and get some breakfast (though God only knows what that will be since I'm not able to digest my food lately and the doc's can't find out what's wrong with me--too much reading!??).


My Thoughts on Night Strangers:

Can I say, "Unexpected!" This is not your Chris Bojalian of "Midwives." Oh, no! This is a Stephen King-ish Chris comin' out of the New Hampshire woods on a dark, isolated winter to claim his place as a demented dreamer living in a wreck of an old house too far away from citified people.

Taking your psyche in your own hands, read this book over Halloween because it is so freaky and spooky. I loved the involvement of the main character, Chip, a pilot who's his own fearful failure for crashing his plane and killing many passengers; and his young, strange twin girls. First of all it's scary right off the bat when Bojalian describes a cellar door secured with 32ish bolts that's the size of my osteopathic granny! I knew right then and there we were in for some trouble and it wasn't going to be sweet and enchanting, either.

This is a book for vegans and those who enjoy herbal tea, maybe. :] This is also a book for those who like things that go "bump in the night."

I was held captive by this book...loved it all the way through to the shocker of an ending. The characters are fabulous and freaky. The narrating voice is nearly invisible making for a feeling of voyeurism that made the book even more haunting. And, the plot, while some of it may have not been entirely unfamiliar in parts, was very well put together--suspenseful, scary, leading and misleading, horrifying. All the good ingredients for a perfect "tincture." Pull up a big, over-stuffed chair and a cup of herbal tea for this one.

5 stars a spectre-ing

Deb/TheFanciful and Freaky Speed-Reading Wickathoner

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon ~ I'm Off Reading Today!

Oh, yes, call me loopy but here I am embroiled in a wonderfully witchie and and wicked read-a-thon this weekend! I've been needing to read a few books in my stack (I'm always needing to do that) so this has given me just the perfect way to do that.

I'm so happy to share the whole thing with you. You can still take part today and tomorrow if you want to. You'll not only have the fun of reading spooky books to share, but you'll be able to visit others through linky. Find out more by clicking on My Shelf Confessions .

So, here are the books I plan on reading so far:

          Who are the "night strangers?"

Let the reading begin! Do you want to join us? I'll be updating and letting you know how I'm doing throughout the weekend.  Oh, and look who's below!   The darling little living dead doll "Claret" who will keep me company on this afternoon's stretch of speed reading....  We have to be careful, though, she likes to rip out throats, the sweet little dear.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Classic Elite Quick Knits" ~Royal Empress Shawl knit w/ 30% silk & 70% merino yarn is Lucious!!

Published by:  Taunton Press
Pages: 213 with Pictures
Genre:  Home and Garden, Crafts

Sharing a historical perspective:

I have to share with you one of the side-bar interesting things about Classic Elite Yarns.  It's now owned, managed and staffed for the most part by women!  How refreshing, and how appropriate for a company whose focus is to put beautiful yarns into the hands of women who then create gorgeous fabrics, gifts and home goods from them.  

In addition to being focused on the distribution of yarn purchased from international and domestic mills, Elite writes and manages pattern designs; and, most interestingly, it's still housed in the historic, original mill site in Lowell, MA, beside the Merrimack River.  I've been there, and contrary to what the mind may imagine, this is a relatively small mill building considering, with a mixed history of manufacturing, toil and hardship.  I'm glad the Lowell mill has evolved to some good in the hands of women.

As an aside, a really memorable and gothic book about New England mills and a young woman working in them is: "The Madness of A Seduced Woman" by Susan Fromberg Schaefer. 

My Review of "Classic Elite Quick Knits":

More than all the excellent directions, pictures of models and patterns that grace the pages of this book, I want to talk about some of the yarns and items knitted.  If you're a knitter, the quality and timelessness of Classic Elite Yarns is already familiar to you.

This book is divided into sections having to do with small projects, but they are so beautifully detailed that nobody would imagine they have only taken a few hours to produce.  Using the most exotic of yarns, coupled with easy patterns that only look difficult, the results are amazingly quick knits worthy of bragging rights! 

Here are some of my favorites, though you'll have to get the book to see them and choose your own.

The "Royal Empress Shawl" knitted from Magnolia a yarn comprised of 70% merino and 30% silk in the color "Persian Orange." (A soft persimmon color, actually) is for me. This is a rather small shawl with  primary structure and design. It's classic and sophisticated. This was a difficult choice to make!

Capelets: Gorgeous patterns in such unbelievable yarns.  I'm a sucker for capelets as it is, so this book of so many easy to intermediate designs and supple yarn choices is killer. Couldn't we just make capelets all day for everyone we know? Seeing is believing where these are concerned.  Check out the blues!

The hats and mittens are made in designs I haven't seen so beautifully
worked in 40 years of experience. The colors of these hats and mittens are keenly selected for contemporary use. The most attractive of all to me is a pair of fingerless mittens that harken back to the historic ones in the Old Sturbridge Village Shop in MA. Obviously, this design was one worn in historic New England for many reasons.

From blankets and bags the stand-outs to me were the "Irresistible Blanket" for babies cabled in pink Posh a cashmere and silk blend yarn.  I want one for every single one of my grandchildren!  And, the absolutely fabuloso "Sunshine Bag" in 5 colors featured on the cover of this book. Wonder if it would be gorgeous felted!?

In conclusion, I found this book exceptionally good.  It's one I would love to have for my knitting library. Wish I could give you some visuals have to go to your nearest book shop and see them yourself!  

5 stars


The Beautiful Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa~"The Iron King, Daughter, Queen & Knight"

"The Iron Fey Series" ~by Julie Kagawa ~ If You Aren't A Fan, You Should Be!

Published by:  Harlequin
Genre:  YA fiction, fantasy
1st in the "Iron Fey" series

I met Julie Kagawa early in her career looking for reviewers for what's become her wildly successful and awesome Iron Fey Series. She has a wonderful group of books and a good, on-going story to tell. I'm a huge fan of Julie and these books. The book covers are to die for, and the characters are "swweeet"...can't help loving them! I'm just going to spend time showing you the books and running some trailers for fun. Hope you enjoy the visuals!

Everyone's said this second book was even better than the first...or just as good! In this book, Megan has made a love relationship, and a true friendship. Moreover, could the covers get more stunning!? You and I need to get these for our book shelves asap!

Megan's picture on the cover is beautiful...but some Asians are having trouble with the fact that Caucasions are being used instead of Asians for the character models. Julie Kagawa originally said she chose to write the books after manga characters. Oops! I wonder if this really matters in the development of her series as it's progressed. Personally, I don't think an author should be confined by an original inspiration. Our appreciation of fine art can't be "canned" in this way. I say you've done a wonderful job, Julie, so don't fret!

Watch this trailer, please, you won't believe how amazing this series is :

I really liked that trailer, but then I found this one below which gives 
more insight into the look of the characters in addition to Megan.

OMGosh, could they be more intriguing! What do you think about Ash and Puck? What about the others? I can't believe how amazing the fey all look...wonderful casting of these characters for us.

By now, you've got to be dying to read this Iron Fey series. You are, aren't you? Go quickly and get all the books. Here's the newest one:

"My name—my True Name—is Ashallayn'darkmyr Tallyn.

I am the last remaining son of Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court.

And I am dead to her. My fall began, as many stories do, with a girl…"

The books in Julie Kagawa's "Iron Fey Series" are published by Harlequin.  They are in large paperback format with beautifully designed covers and edges for those who like to collect like I do.  The genre, of course, is YA fiction~but we know that crosses over into adult fiction.  I fear you will be left behind if you don't get started on your first book...or second book at the very least.  These books are very special.  You can pretend they're for your daughter or son! :]

5 x 4 = 20 starry night stars for this magnificent series

Get your fey on!!    Deborah/LavenderRoseRambler

**PS:  HELP, HELP!!  Please help me drive interest to my newest blog:  where I will be posting comments and reviewing YA fiction exclusively from now on.
Thanks for friending me!!
Hugs,  Deb

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"The Time In Between" by Maria Duena~ Luminous and Exotic

Published by: Atria Books/Simon and Schuster
Pages: 624
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Release Date: November 8, 2011

Overview:     Needlewomen  Take   Note !!!

The inspiring international bestseller of a seemingly ordinary woman who uses her talent and courage to transform herself first into a prestigious couturier and then into an undercover agent for the Allies during World War II

Between Youth and Adulthood . . .

At age twelve, Sira Quiroga sweeps the atelier floors where her single mother works as a seamstress. At fourteen, she quietly begins her own apprenticeship. By her early twenties she has learned the ropes of the business and is engaged to a modest government clerk. But everything changes when two charismatic men burst unexpectedly into her neatly mapped-out life: an attractive salesman and the father she never knew.

Between War and Peace . . .

With the Spanish Civil War brewing in Madrid, Sira leaves her mother and her fiancé, impetuously following her handsome lover to Morocco. However, she soon finds herself abandoned, penniless, and heartbroken in an exotic land. Among the odd collection of European expatriates trapped there by the worsening political situation back on the Continent, Sira reinvents herself by turning to the one skill that can save her: her gift for creating beautiful clothes.

Between Love and Duty . . .

As England, Germany, and the other great powers launch into the dire conflict of World War II, Sira is persuaded to return to Madrid, where she takes on a new identity to embark upon the most dangerous undertaking of her career. As the preeminent couturier for an eager clientele of Nazi officers’ wives, Sira becomes embroiled in the half-lit world of espionage and political conspiracy rife with love, intrigue, and betrayal.

About The Author:    Ms Duenas has a PhD in English Philology and has taught at several American universities.

“Maria DueÑas is a true storyteller. She weaves a spell, conjuring the heat and the glamour, the hardship and the thrill of Morocco and Spain in the late 1930s. The world of Casablanca comes to life as war breaks and Sira Quiroga, a beautiful and betrayed seamstress, is forced to discover her own strength. At a time when everyone must do what they can to survive, some will go beyond. Resistance will be formed and history will be written. Read this book and prepare to be transported.” –Kate Morton, New York Times bestselling author of The Distant Hours

The Bookish Dame's Review:

What is it about the Spanish author that takes me up in just a word and captures me like a moth to a flame? I can hear the storyteller's voice. I am in her very presence. I am sitting in a comfortable chair beside her while she tells me the story. I can see every detail she describes and I adore the descriptions. I'm just completely at her mercy! This is the story of "The Time In Between." This novel is so like having Meryl Streep read "Out of Africa" to you. I felt exactly that way...

Maria Duenas's novel is translated for us into English. And, since it is a translation, I can only imagine how glorious it must be in Spanish. She has an amazing gift of words. Her use of description is fascinating and so near perfection that fabrics, for instance, are almost tangible. As a needlewoman, I almost cried for wanting to touch the silks, Chantilly lace, crepe de chine, georgette and embroideries she writes about. It's wonderful to hear about the fashions Sira experiences and designs and sews through the years as she supports herself as a seamstress. To read how she's saved in her intrigues and safe-harbored by her couture-making is so awe-inspiring to someone who loves fabrics.

Ms Duenas described falling into a blind-mad love with the wrong man so perfectly that I know only one who's been there could know that kind of psychosis! It was unbelievably beautiful. A psychiatrist friend of mine once said that love should be called a psychotic episode because it is a chemical insanity/madness. I thought Duenas caught that obsession with the way she walked us through Sira's reactions. To read it is to be made dizzy by her writing and to recall that punch to the gut passion.

The legends and the history of the early 1900's and WWII are not heavy and boring in this novel, but are beautifully rendered. There are interesting details, wonderful people and characters imagined, music, theatre and art. Cultures and peoples are given well-rounded insights. Social uprisings are strangely similar to our own today, which I found interesting. Nazi Germany is given another interesting view from Ms Duenas's characters. All of this contributes to this compelling read.

"The Time In Between" is a book I will be keeping in my library. I hope my grandchildren will read it one day. It's a beautifully written novel with a story we should never forget. I'm going to put it next to my "The Winds of War" by Herman Wouk.

5 shining stars