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Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Review - A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man

I had a very lucky streak a few months ago and won a bunch of books in various giveaways.  I am slowly making my way through them and plan to provide reviews here.

A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man was won through Free Book Fridays (thanks!).  Cowritten by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan, this is really two novels, a modern romance and a historical romance, skillfully interwoven by two talented writers.

Piper Chase-Pierpont, a Boston museum curator, brings new meaning to the word "repressed."  With the bluest of blue Yankee blood, Piper has devoted her life so totally to her work that her sense of self, and certainly her femininity, have almost disappeared.  As she prepares for yet another stilted, conservative museum installation, Piper's life takes a sudden left turn as she literally trips over the secret diaries of one of Boston's most beloved and respected historical women.

Is it possible that Ophelia Harrington, acclaimed abolitionist and suffragette was actually The Blackbird, one of London's most notorious courtesans?  And what does that mean for Piper, repressed, lost Piper?  Should she keep her secret and preserve her job, or should she take a professional leap and tell the complete, complicated story of a woman whose secrets might be more culturally significant than her celebrity?

The novel is split between Piper's discovery of the diaries and the immediate upheaval they create in both her work and love life, and the diaries themselves, told in first person voice by Ophelia Harrington herself.  As the plots deepen and twist the novel begins to race, jumping from past to present just at the moment when the reader needs to know what is happening.  The pacing is wonderful and the resolutions deeply satisfying.

I am just going to come right out and say it, I loved this book!  I like romance novels, but they are often a bit predictable.  I get a little bored, and sometimes the perfect storylines make me a little sad and cynical.  I honestly cannot say that about this book.  I suspected one major plot mystery, but I was so engrossed in the intricacies, and let's be honest, the sex scenes, that the pages practically turned themselves.

I don't think steamy quite covers this book.  Erotic is closer to the truth!  But don't prejudge it, yet, this isn't soft pornography.  It is the plot that keeps this book going.

Face paced, layered, certainly erotic, with excellent characters - I loved it!

Bradley, Celeste and Susan Donovan. A Courtesan's Guide to Getting Your Man. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN: 978-0-213-53256-7 June 2011. 384 p. Romance

Friday, May 20, 2011

Raptors or Raptures, and a Review

Some say tomorrow is the end of the world and a few of us will be left alone on the Earth with the other Heathens for a few months of not-so-fun-times.  And looting.

Others, with a greater sense of humor, claim that tomorrow will be some magnificent return to Jurassic Park.  I am OK with that; I am pretty sure I can hide in my fridge.  I just wish I owned a Jeep.

Or, perhaps, tomorrow will just be Saturday, where I have a work meeting and the start of the kids' soccer tournament.  Whatever it is, I am reminded of a wonderful book.  What?!?   You haven't read The Taking?!?  You must!

The Taking, A Review

Koontz,  Dean  The Taking.  Bantam.  2004.  $27.00 ISBN-10: 055380250X  
ISBN-13: 978-0553802504
With the sudden deluge of an ominous, luminescent rain, Molly Sloan and her husband awake to a world inexplicably altered and undeniably horrific.  Isolated by the systematic failure of all outside communication, and faced with an oppressive and relentless apprehension, the Sloans leave their mountain home to seek out the fellowship and relative safety of their neighbors in town.  But safety is no longer part their new reality.  The Sloans quickly discover that they are more isolated than ever before as their neighbors disappear and monsters begin to roam the night.

Molly and Neil, deeply in love but barren of children of their own, soon find one purpose in this long night of unrelenting flood, animated corpses, and unimaginable monsters: to save the children.  Through that mission, they find that their hope for the future and their faith that they can keep the children safe are the only things that can keep them sane.  As the story progresses into nightmare, the reader must ask herself, would we make the same choices?  Would we survive the night?  And what will the new day bring?

Dean Koontz’s apocalyptic thriller is a wild, yet thought provoking exploration of humanity and faith.  Surprisingly theological and laced throughout with enigmatic T.S. Eliot quotations, this is more than your average bestselling suspense novel.  Koontz offers beauty amid grotesquery, pity through fear, and hope throughout the bleakest of nightmares.  Always in high demand, Koontz’s books are an easy choice for a tight budget; and with writing this compelling and reflective, The Taking is an excellent investment.  Highly recommended.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Project 18 - Baby Hat(s)

I realize that I have made lots and lots of hats, but this project is giving me fits!  One of my absolute best friends is about to have a baby and asked me to knit a hat for the little lima bean.  I was happy to comply.  She wants a newborn hat for pictures in the style of those old sleep hats.  Think a 'Twas The Night Before Christmas stocking cap, but in miniature.  Seems easy, all I have to do is decrease, right?

(Just nod along if you are not a knitter.  Thanks.)

I tore out most of the first iteration (think of it as v1.0) after it got a strange, uneven seam.  No pictures of that, it was gone too quickly.

v1.2 is more like a standard baby hat with a tail.

That one is pretty cute.  Kind of an elf hat.  But I still wasn't satisfied, and since I have 6 skeins of yarn, I cast on v2.0.

Again, this has a very defined seam, but at least it is straight.  In fact, I think tiny little babies could ski down it, if they so desired.  However, it folds over nicely and may look great.  Hard to tell.  I don't have an infant to test it on.

I was talking to a friend today, and she may be able to get the pattern I need.  So there is a possibility that v3.0 will be coming down the line quickly.  Perhaps a newborn lima bean needs 3 hats.

Now you may be wondering at the strange pictures with the post, but I don't want to give it all away.  I haven't sent these off yet!  Completed pictures to follow once the hats finally arrive at their new home, in Illinois.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Project 17 - Arrow Quiver

This week my kids had a special request - they wanted arrow quivers to go with their new bow and arrow sets.  The bows are made of PVC and the arrows have suction cups on the end.  Since the quivers sold at the fair cost as much as the bow and arrow sets, a homemade quiver seemed perfect.  And since the 7-year-old even said it could be my weekly project, how could I refuse?  (I love the family encouragement!)

I made a basic bag design with a diagonal strap. 

Actually, I made two!

The strap is reinforced to hold up to the rigors of marauding through the wilds of Virginia.

The sizing seems perfect, but the bags tend to slide once the kids get moving.  The kiddos helped me with a redesign, and after some very interesting web searching, I added another cross strap for the other shoulder (not pictured.)  Problem solved.

The kids are excited and I am proud of my quick, home-designed arrow quivers.  Robin Hood, I will be expecting your call!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

First Harvest

Some strawberries from the plugs my aunt gave me in the fall, and 2 red onions, picked early for a salad.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dear Mother Nature

You're killing me here, Mama N!

First the weather is very, very hot and dry, so I water like crazy.  Then it levels off to normal ranges and I transplant 100 plants I have been nurturing - delicate, innocent little seedlings that just want to grow big and make food for my family.

So what do you do, dearest Momma Nature?  You send a nearly 90' day followed by torrential rains and a cold snap that sends the nights into the 40s.  My poor peppers are barely holding on and all my zucchini and squash gave up their fight.

Oh, and by the way, the sucking red clay mud?  Well it sucks.  And the crackling, hard as stone top surface of said red clay?  That double sucks.  It is amazing we can grow anything at all.

Mommy Dearest, why do you hate us?

Anyway, hope you are well.  Say hello to Father Time for me.

Love, Jen

Monday, May 2, 2011

Peace and Birdsong

Today is obviously a big day for international news, of celebration and reflection.  Though I will leave the in-depth commentary to others, I do not feel more safe or protected today than I did yesterday.  If anything, I feel more anxious at what these necessary evils will bring to our world. 

Because of my uncertainty and anxiety, I find that I am drawn outside today, where I can hear the summer bugs, and the birdsong.  And where I can watch my garden come to life.  My garden gives me hope and peace, and the knowledge that I have planted more than seeds.  I have planted my love and protection for my family.  I nurture my garden as I nurture those I love.

Here are some pictures of my garden growing.  Hopefully they will bring you peace on a day of great upheaval.

Amish Paste Tomatoes and a Marigold


A teepee my husband built out of branches trimmed from the pear trees.  Just for fun.

Hardneck Garlic

Baby Lettuce

Sweet Peas

Yukon Gold Potatoes

Pie Pumpkins

Very muddy strawberries
 Peace to you and yours.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Project 16 - Nook Keeper

My husband received a Nook for his recent birthday, but it didn't come with a case.  So I thought I would come to the rescue and sew one fore him.  Clearly, I was overconfident after the quilt.

I found a cute pattern on Moda Bake Shop, and amended it to suit his tastes.

It is a really simple design.  Basically, it is a padded pocket with a front flap.  Very simple.  Even I couldn't mess that up.  Right?

Unfortunately, I could.  And did.  Doesn't the Nook look so cute tucked in like that?  Too bad it doesn't fit in the pocket!!  So frustrating!  It is a minuscule amount too wide.  A teensy, tiny bit.  And I can't fix it!

So, lessons learned:
  • I don't know how to sew with batting.  Major issues with bunching and thread tension.
  • Next time, cut the fabric wider than needed. - clearly I cannot sew a 1/8 seam to save my life.
  • Binding is still terribly difficult! 
Guess what I am making tomorrow night!  Round two of the Nook Keeper.  Now, I am going to bed.

Update 5/4/11: I was able to fix it by pulling off the binding and sewing it on again in the right spot.  A good thing, too, since I didn't have enough fabric to do it again!  It'll do.