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review 2020-04-21 15:19
Inspired By The Beatles: An Art Quilt Challenge
Inspired by the Beatles: An Art Quilt Challenge - Donna DeSoto

by Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto

 

This is a book of textile art, filled with beautiful pictures of quilts that were inspired by over 100 Beatles songs.

 

The quilts show an incredible about of originality and artistic skill in both ideas and execution. The full color photographs are accompanied by explanations of the artists and what inspired them to make the quilts that they did, and what The Beatles' songs mean to them. They range from the literal to the abstract, from whimsical designs like one of my favorites made for the song And Your Bird Can Sing to some that use mental symbols like the one for Come Together.

 

Each of them is unique and they show a wide variety of styles and interpretations by the individual artists. Some of them, like the one for Day Tripper, have the most amazing use of color and detail work.

 

I have to admit that the songs were going through my head as I looked through the pictures and by the time I got to I Am The Walrus, the combination of music and colorful, abstract art was bringing me into a sort of natural high!

 

Some of them, like Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds were hand painted (presumably with fabric paints) and the result of the mixed mediums of painting and stitchery was pretty spectacular. Octopus's Garden was definitely a favorite along with Yellow Submarine. Any of these quilts would be worth a fortune and a real conversation piece for the home.

 

This is an art book with a difference, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys art as well as those who specifically enjoy the infinite possibilities of textile art.

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review 2019-12-27 01:52
Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes) by Lance Morcan and James Morcan
Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true cr... Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes) - Lance Morcan,James Morcan

Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes) by Lance Morcan and James Morcan is a gripping murder investigation that caught and kept my attention.

 

I received a complimentary promotional copy from Amazon. That did not change my opinion for this review. I gave this book four stars.

 

"Scotland Yard detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at a university for the Deaf in London, England. The murder investigation coincides with a deadly flu virus outbreak, resulting in the university being quarantined from the outside world.

 

When more Deaf students are murdered, it becomes clear there is a serial killer operating within the sealed-off university."

 

Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075HRYTVC/

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review 2019-12-16 19:34
Reader, I Married Him
Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre - Tracy Chevalier,Joanna Briscoe,Susan Hill,Elizabeth McCracken,Nadifa Mohamed,Audrey Niffenegger,Patricia Park,Francine Prose,Namwali Serpell,Elif Shafak,Lionel Shriver,Salley Vickers,Emma Donoghue,Evie Wyld,Helen Dunmore,Esther Freud,Jane Gardam,Linda Gra

I'm planning out my 2020 reading challenge(s), and I decided I'm going to read all of Tracy Chevalier's books (the ones I haven't already read). To try and give myself a jump start, I thought I'd give these short stories a read. I started with Tracy Chevalier's and it wasn't bad (not great either, but enough that I was intrigued to keep reading). I then read My Mother's Wedding and felt very eh about it.

 

I don't love Jane Eyre. I was supposed to read it twice in college, and I mostly made it through the first time but completely skipped it the second (which was for my senior seminar... don't tell anyone). It just didn't capture me, though I must admit I do love the line, "Reader, I married him."

 

I didn't think the stories had to be read in any order and I was already planning on skipping at least two. I googled each author and only three were women of color, so I thought I'd read those stories first. I read The China from Buenos Aires and felt eh. I read Party Girl and felt eh. I read Double Me and felt eh (though probably the least eh of the five). Since I didn't like any of those, I decided to quit reading.

 

I'm not sure if it's the authors, the source material, the subject they're all writing on or what, but there's just nothing that compelling or interesting about these stories (to me). Someone who's a big fan of these authors or Jane Eyre might like it more.

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review 2019-12-14 17:25
Snow In Summer by Jane Yolen
Snow in Summer - Jane Yolen

 

With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.
This Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue during the early twentieth century in Appalachia will be hard to forget.

Goodreads.com

 

 

In this Appalachian re-imagining of the classic tale of Snow White, Jane Yolen introduces us to young West Virginia native Snow-in-Summer, named for the flowers that grow in front of her house. The story opens with Summer sharing the memory of attending her mother's funeral. Summer's biological mother, Ada-Mae died in childbirth, along with Summer's baby brother.

 

I'd been born on July 1, 1937, ten pounds of squalling baby, with a full head of black hair. It was a hard birth that nearly killed Mama. Though the next baby, being even bigger, actually did.

 

Cousin Nancy, who'd been there to help with my birthing, told me all about it later, after Mama died. "White caul, black hair, and all that blood," she said. I shuddered at the blood part, but Cousin Nancy explained it was good blood, not bad. "Not like later," I said, meaning when Mama died, and Cousin Nancy just nodded because nothing more needed to be added.

 

She put her arm around me, adding, "Poor man was so scared he might lose her. And when he came back inside, called by the midwife, he was so relieved that Mama hadn't died, he let her name you."

 

"Snow in Summer," I said.

 

Then she gave me a hug. "Your daddy laughed and said 'We gonna call her all that?' 'We gonna call her Summer,' your mama said. 'It's warm and pretty, just as warm and pretty as she is."

 

"I am," I said. "Warm."

 

"And pretty," Cousin Nancy said, drawing me closer. "Just like your mama." That made me smile, of course. Everyone needs someone to tell them they look pretty. Especially at nine.

 

 

Summer's father, Lemuel Morton, falls into a deep depression following the death of his wife and son. After four years, he just seems to snap out of it, virtually overnight. Shortly after, he remarries a pretty and mysterious woman no one in town has ever met before, only seeing that Lemuel appears obsessively enamored with her. Sure, people have questions, but at the end of the day most are just glad to see Lemuel's spark back again.

 

Summer does her best to be a good stepdaughter --- even when this new wife insists on calling her Snow rather than Summer, and her father never bothers to correct or object --- but inwardly she begins to have suspicions that there is a great deal of darkness within this woman. She knows a secret about this enchantress who has captured her father's heart, but decides to keep the truth to herself for at least a little while, while she sees what else she can learn. The more time she spends around her new stepmother, the more Summer begins to feel herself becoming enchanted, though initially she confuses it for true happiness.

 

But then there's the shift. Suddenly Summer is only allowed limited visitation with her cousin Nancy -- who also suspects there's something shady about Lemuel's new wife --- until Summer's stepmother forbids them from communicating altogether. Nancy is the widow of Lemuel's favorite cousin, Jack, and has served as a sort of surrogate mother to Summer all these years. She's also secretly been in love with Lemuel this whole time.

(I loved the character of Nancy, btw.)

 

Note: The majority of this novel is told from Summer's perspective, but occasionally there are chapters switched to Nancy's view of events. From time to time, the stepmother is also given a brief platform, trying to sell the "I'm not evil, not wicked" line, but knowing the origin story as we do, readers know to be on their guard with her.

 

Lemuel's own behavior begins to turn odd: he grows his beard out all long and grizzly, stops virtually all forms of personal hygiene (he begins to emit a persistent odor of urine), and more and more frequently goes into nonsensical rambling. Shortly after Summer's 12th birthday, her stepmother's abuse begins to turn physical, breaking the child's spirit to the point of convincing Summer she deserves this treatment. Cousin Nancy teaches Summer some white magic to try to combat the stepmother's dark variety. For added protection, Nancy also gives Summer a small bag containing the preserved caul Summer was born with (there's an Appalachian belief that those born with a caul over the head, or "of the veil", will hold the ability to talk with the dead). While the suggestions help, the white magic still proves too weak to overturn the enchantment consuming Lemuel's soul. Summer's salvation --- and that of her family --- will come with Summer learning to have faith in her own strength and abilities, turning this story into the classic theme of a kind, strong heart prevailing over evil.

 

So how does this retelling stack up to its source material? The likenesses are there, but this is definitely a unique story in its own right. But where are the recognizable markers, you wonder?

 

* Summer is a lover of fairytales and is familiar with the story of Snow White, but doesn't make strong connections between that tale and her life, at least not until she stumbles upon the magic mirror.

* The magic mirror does make a few appearances, though not really one of the key powerful elements of the story.

* The "hunter" character here is actually a country boy who has intentions of committing statutory rape (and maybe also murder) under the guise of "courting" Summer... as a favor to the stepmother.

* Yolen also brings back the 7 Dwarves, sort of --- Summer, while trying to flee "the hunter" guy, meets 6 brothers with dwarfism, German immigrant gem miners, with 1 brother away at college.

* Bonus note: Summer's fictional town of Addison is actually inspired by Webster Springs, WV, the real-life hometown of Yolen's late husband.


Snow in Summer is an extended version of a short story (under the same name) Yolen originally had published in the anthology Black Hearts, Ivory Bones. Much like the original fairytale, this novel starts with establishing what a joyous home life Summer and her parents shared prior to her mother's death. With the appearance of the stepmother, Summer's story illustrates the "necessary evil" of evil itself. Sometimes the presence of evil --- or at least hardship --- is just the thing we need to push us out of a stagnant, complacent state, driving us to rise up to our best selves.

 

Though this novel is published through Penguin's Young Readers Group division, parents may want to do a discretionary read prior to handing off to your children, depending on where your personal family guidelines are set. This retelling hits upon some darker themes: illegal moonshining; serpent-handling forms of religion / speaking in tongues; sexual assault / attempted rape, (at least touches upon or alludes to the subject); water sources laced with strychnine. Yolen works in some ecological discussions as well, in the topics of clear-cutting forests and the practice of strip-mining.

 

There are also spoilers for the novel Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

 

If you get your hands on a hardcover copy, take a minute to take in the cover art --- there's a lot of cool somewhat hidden details throughout the whole piece!

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review 2019-11-12 03:34
The Greatest Lover in All England by Christina Dodd
The Greatest Lover in All England - Christina Dodd

 

 

Since childhood, Rosie's life has been the stage—passing herself off as a boy playing women's roles in the somewhat disreputable theatrical troupe of actor Danny Plympton, Rosie's adoptive father. But when unanticipated danger confronts them, they must flee London, taking refuge at the estate of Sir Anthony Rycliffe. A handsome, devil-may-care rakehell, Tony quickly sees through Rosie's disguise. But a lush, womanly form and eminently kissable lips are not the ravishing young beauty's only secrets—and the burning attraction Tony feels for her does not lessen the peril she has brought to his doorstep. The dashing rogue is determined to strip the irresistible lady of her mysteries—and her masculine garb—using all of his fabled seductive powers. After all, Tony has a reputation to uphold, as . . .The Greatest Lover in All England

Amazon.com

 

 

Rosie (aka Rosencrantz) is no stranger to life on the streets of 17th century London. She travels around with a group of performers, led by her adoptive father, Sir Danny Plympton (he "knighted" himself), singing for food or dollars. Though illiterate, Rosie has one illustrious benefactor in her life, the one and only "Uncle Will" --- William Shakespeare.

 

*BTW --- each chapter in this book opens with a quote from one of Shakespeare's plays.

 

Our girl is rocking one secret on the cusp of having an unplanned reveal: only those closest to her know she is female, everyone else has always accepted Rosie's masculine presentation as the truth. Sir Danny took Rosie in as a little girl and made the choice to raise & present her as a boy for her own safety. Only now, with Rosie's introduction to Sir Anthony Rycliffe (legitimately knighted), is that coming into question.

When it's suggested that Rosie may possibly be the true, lost heir of the estate Sir Anthony calls home, Anthony proposes they settle the dispute by marrying and combining their lands and wealth. The long-term benefits of the arrangement take some convincing for Rosie, but eventually she agrees to Anthony's idea. Naturally, because this is a romance novel, what starts as a seemingly straightforward business arrangement shortly turns into something much more feelings-infused.

 

But if you think that's all there could be to this story, oh no no. Dodd throws some fun intrigue her readers' way! We got the Earl of Southampton, a patron of Shakespeare's theater, asking him to put on a production of Richard III (the Earls of Southampton and Essex harbor secret hopes that it will incite rioting against Queen Elizabeth I); Is Sir Danny looking at a chance at love?; Then there seems to be a secret assassin targeting either Anthony or Rosie... or both... but who wants them dead so badly? And then we have a friend of Rosie's sent to Newgate Prison and Anthony does his best to charm the proverbial pants off the queen to get the friend released. But oooh, the scene where Anthony takes things too far and his flirtatious words happen to contain a verbal knock on Earl of Essex, one of the queen's current favorites... so Anthony ends up getting his ears boxed, repeatedly! There's no shortage of entertainment in these pages!

 

For a romance novel, this ended up feeling quite literary. The writing is wonderfully clever, with all sorts of bookish references woven in. The dialogue is light and cheeky, such as the line, "... the cat who got the canary...I can almost see feathers protruding from your lips, what do you have planned?" Anthony and Rosie have an adorable, realistic "I'm calling you on your BS" banter between them that kept me laughing and nodding. Those who have been in long-term relationships will appreciate the style of playfulness these two have. You can just imagine the twinkle lights going off in the eyes of these characters --- Great fun!

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