Sunday, March 1, 2015

DIY Needlepoint Jewelry: What I've Been Doing for the Past Week or Two

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but just in case ya'll didn't click on the link and check it out, I thought I'd share...

I found these on Etsy. I actually found them via the lady's blog when I was looking up Union Jack patterns. And then I found her Etsy shop and I immediately had to purchase two of these kits, which include excess thread, 18-count canvas, jewelry pieces, needle, and instructions and pattern.

And then I made them.





















You can make them too. It's not hard; just requires some patience, time (not too much though) and good eyesight. :)

Just thought I'd share. Take a look at her shop and check out her other DIY needlepoint jewelry kits.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Reading Radar 2/28/2015

What hit the wishlist this week? Let's see...

A Decent WomanSpotted on HFVBT: A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia. Why? The Puerto Rico setting, due to my own PR heritage. PR historicals are few and far between.

1900 Puerto Rico: Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.





***

I've been seeing this one "everywhere", everywhere meaning Shelf Awareness, Netgalley, etc. It's caught my interest. Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. (I'm a Sarah Jio fan too.)

Letters to the LostA beautifully written and evocative novel—the story of an impossible, unstoppable love affair set in London during World War II and the present day

An accomplished novel from a talented writer, Letters to the Lost is the kind of love story that will sweep you away from the very first page. Iona Grey's prose is warm, evocative, and immediately engaging; her characters become so real you can't bear to let them go.

Late on a frozen February evening, a young woman is running through the streets of London. Having fled from her abusive boyfriend and with nowhere to go, Jess stumbles onto a forgotten lane where a small, clearly unlived in old house offers her best chance of shelter for the night. The next morning, a mysterious letter arrives and when she can’t help but open it, she finds herself drawn inexorably into the story of two lovers from another time.

In London 1942, Stella meets Dan, a US airman, quite by accident, but there is no denying the impossible, unstoppable love that draws them together. Dan is a B-17 pilot flying his bomber into Europe from a British airbase; his odds of survival at one in five. The odds are stacked against the pair; the one thing they hold onto is the letters they write to each other. Fate is unkind and they are separated by decades and continents. In the present, Jess becomes determined to find out what happened to them. Her hope—inspired by a love so powerful it spans a lifetime—will lead her to find a startling redemption in her own life in a powerfully moving novel perfect for fans of Sarah Jio and Kate Morton.

***

I'm curious about Demuth by Edward Bristol after a post about it on Historical Editorial. 

DemuthGermany, 1499

Orphaned as a child and solitary by nature, the young and beautiful Demuth has nevertheless managed to carve out a successful living for herself as a village healer. But as the Renaissance dawns over Europe, shaking the foundations of medieval society with radical new ideas about freedom and science, Demuth’s position grows tenuous. The protection of the master of the castle overshadowing her village is the only thing standing between her and the superstitious fear of the villagers who condemn her even as they avail themselves of her services. But when she is falsely accused of a heinous crime and branded as a witch, even the master can no longer keep her safe. Demuth is forced to flee for her life with her only friend, her loyal Viking dog, Hal, and her only solace—and addiction—opium.

Disguised as a mute shepherd boy, Demuth seeks safety with her only living relative in the big city of Cologne, but she arrives to discover soldiers are already there looking for her. With no choice other than to keep moving, she is aided by the kindness of strangers and embarks on a harrowing journey to seek shelter in a far-off abbey. Pursued by the grand duke’s soldiers, beset by mishaps and tragedy, saved in her darkest hour by a mysterious hermit, Demuth’s fight for survival forces her to examine her own choices, and to determine if she has the strength and the courage to embrace a future she never imagined possible.

Edward Bristol’s historical fiction debut, Demuth, is the timeless story of a young woman’s struggle to find her place in a shifting world filled with prejudice, fear, and persecution, yet also capable of acceptance and understanding, and ultimately, love.

***

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, spotted on Edelweiss and on my wishlist.

Girl Waits with GunFrom the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: A Story of Survival in WWII France

The NightingaleThis is a story about war, the women who wait for the men to come home, the different ways women handle it, the things they'll do for their children. It's about men who train to fight for their country in hopes their families will be proud, only to end up ashamed. It's about persecution.

I thought this novel started a bit rough. We meet two women, sisters, Isabelle and Viann. Viann seems weak, lost now that her husband has gone to war, spineless, with no drive to defend others or see what's going on around her. Isabelle is the opposite: brave, daring, angry, ready to flaunt rules, including that of the Germans, whether it means distributing fliers or taking downed RAF pilots over the mountains to Spain. But she's also a bit irritating in that she doesn't help Viann much around the house and does behave like a petulant child much of the time.

But as the book and story progress, as events unfold, we see both women grow. In times of war, of duress, in harrowing situations, is that not when we show our true colors? While Isabelle runs around France and Spain helping pilots, Viann tries to help her Jewish friends and their children and we all know what happened to the Jews during the war. (To be perfectly honest, though I enjoyed this story, even got teary eyed at times, I must confess I did not get anything new from it.)

I could have done without the hints of romance between Viann and the captain. That is very overdone and I'm never fond of that story line.

I also noticed some strange discrepancies throughout the story. I probably would not have noticed if I didn't have editing experience, but little things such as being told Isabelle sat on Sophie's bed and Viann is talking to her and saying, "You'll sleep upstairs on Sophie's bed" popped out at me often. I'd have liked more details as well about Isabelle's missions. Four men suddenly appear in a town with "I'm deaf.." signs and nobody notices the deaf male population multiplied overnight? I found some things preposterous and perhaps more detail would have made it more believable. At the same time, I found the book way too long and drawn out. Perhaps had the Nazi romance been eliminated, more time could have spent on the more interesting parts.

I'd also be happy not read the words Mon Dieu again.

But it was emotional. At times I felt anger, fear, disgust, sadness. The story evoked a lot of different emotions from me and I appreciate that. It takes a fine, skilled writer to create such a roller coaster of feelings.

I received this via Netgalley.




Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spotlight On A Rainy Season by Nnaziri Ihejirika

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Please join Nnaziri Ihejirika as he tours the blogosphere for A Rainy Season, from February 23-28.

Publication Date: August 1, 2014
FriesenPress
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 280

Genre: African Historical Fiction

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01_A Rainy Season_CoverIt is the rainy season of 1998. An autocratic and corrupt ruler has just died in the arms of courtesans at the presidential villa leaving one hundred million citizens of Africa's most populous country in co-mingled states of joy, grief and uncertainty.

Through the eyes of eight fictional characters, A Rainy Season tells the story of Nigeria's latest journey to democracy. Hamed, the government contractor. Ekei, the desperate fashionista. Jude, the underground radical. Kurdi, the womanizing pastor. Tamara, the ambitious divorcee. Elechi, the inquisitive schoolboy. Mutiu, the disillusioned guard. Nonye, the blossoming idealist. The sprawling metropolis of Lagos is the junction where their stories intersect. In this most chaotic of cities, they are as divided by ethnicity, religion, gender and social class as they are united by a desire to survive at any cost.

Praise for A Rainy Season

"Ihejirika masterfully presents the complex systems of patronage, exploitation and outright theft that exist at all levels of society. He illustrates his characters' harsh pragmatism with sympathetic exactness even as he continually reminds readers of the idealism that lies dormant within them... At his best... he presents characters of moral complexity that are suited to their times and suggests that they can only begin to evolve when confronted with the startling fact that their system is moving on without them." - Kirkus Reviews

Chapter Excerpt - Part 2, Elechi

“I was in seventh heaven and pressed closer to the window.

After a few minutes, she reached out and turned off the green lamp beside her bed. My public show was over. With a disappointed sigh, I stepped away from the shadows and into the light by tank. I gave one wistful look back and there she was, standing by the window, peering out. At once, I panicked and ran off toward the back stairwell of the building, hoping to God she’d not seen me, making noise as I ran. I didn’t care. Clearly she knew someone was outside her window. I was determined that she not match a face to the deed. Reaching the stairwell, I paused. I had left the bucket beside the tank. If Tamara decided to go outside to check, she would find it. The buckets I used to fetch water were distinctive because they
were made of iron. Almost everyone else used plastic. I had to retrieve the bucket before she went outside or raised an alarm. If she reported the incident to my parents, I would be on the hook immediately. My two brothers were younger than me and, besides, I was the one responsible for fetching water. My father would kill me with his cane if such an incident reached his ears. And I would have to bear the stigma of being known as a peeping tom, although, in truth, most young adolescents were guilty of that at one point or another, given the communal living conditions of Lagos. I waited another five minutes, then, decided to be brave. I silently crept forward and picked up my bucket, escaping back up the stairwell.
I had been gone for the better part of an hour. Hopefully, I could sneak to my room without my parents noticing.

No such luck.

As I tried to slide from the kitchen to the corridor leading to the bedrooms, my father’s voice boomed out from the living room.

“And where have you been, young man?”

I stammered. “J-j-just fetching water, daddy.”

“For the last hour? I was not born last night.” He glared at me. I tried to think.

“I ran into someone downstairs and we started talking. I must
have lost track of the time. I’m sorry.”

With my parents, especially my father, it was better to be sorry before they asked if you were. It had saved me many a beating.

“Who were you talking to that distracted you from your chores? Not that useless gateman Mutiu, I hope?”

My father disliked Mutiu intensely. He blamed him for the recent thefts of diesel and petrol from the tanks stored by the various owners in a secluded area of the compound, although, he did not have any proof. It was another paradox that for a country, which was one of the world’s largest exporters of crude oil, there were not enough petroleum products for the daily use of Nigerians. As a result, most people of means had taken to hoarding fuel from the black market to ensure that they were always supplied. Others who could not afford the black market prices had simply given up driving and were now in the habit of taking public transportation. One such person was Mr. Ekwe who lived above our flat. In fact, the rumour among some of the other owners, confirmed to me by his niece, Nonye, was that he could no longer afford the rent on the flat and would be forced to leave for a cheaper place soon.

“No, dad, I was talking to Jude. He was also fetching water.”

That was as safe as it could get for me. My parents were fond of Jude, viewing him as a son, and they encouraged me to cultivate his friendship. Of course, my father was not in favour of his work with the military regime, but they liked his personal habits and comportment. He was often invited to Sunday lunch with us.

“Jude is a sensible young man, even if he needs to find a new job and stop dining with the devil. You won’t be getting into trouble hanging around with him. But, try to be mindful of the time in the future.”

“Yes, daddy.”

“You need to be studying for your certificate exams, not fooling around.”

The senior secondary certificate examination was the common exam written by all students as they left Secondary School. It was required for entry into a Nigerian university. I was expected to achieve distinctions in at least six of my nine subjects and to better the scholastic abilities of my parents. I hoped for more than that, but my studying was yet to kick into high gear, so wishes remained horses at this point.

“Yes, daddy. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, son.”

I resolved to ask Jude to cover for me since my father was not above asking him to verify our meeting, or even berating him for delaying me from completing my chores. A few days later, I discovered just how narrow my escape had been.”


Buy the Book


About the Author

02_Nnaziri Ihejirika_Author PhotoNnaziri Ihejirika is a proud Nigerian-Canadian writer who is inspired by his and third-party experiences growing up in Nigeria during the late 20th century. He currently resides in Canada and is enthusiastic about providing social commentary on ethnicity, gender, religious, and social class issues in Nigeria. The same topics are tackled in his first book, “A Rainy Season”, casting a spotlight on the human condition during that period. Nnaziri is a frequent contributor to online social media with an emphasis on socio-political issues. Follow Nnaziri on Twitter.

For more information visit www.arainyseason.com. You can also follow A Rainy Season on Twitter.

A Rainy Season Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 23

Tuesday, February 24
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews

Thursday, February 26
Spotlight at Book Babe

Friday, February 27
Spotlight at Cheryl's Book Nook

Saturday, February 28
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Genre Queen
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Confederado do Norte Review

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Please join Linda Bennett Pennell as she tours with HF Virtual Book Tours for Confederado Do Norte from February 23-March 4.

Publication Date: July 7, 2014
Soul Mate Publishing
eBook; 310p
ASIN: B00LMN5OMI

Genre: Historical Fiction

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02_Confederado Do Norte_CoverAfter surviving war, young Mary Catherine is torn from her home and thrust into a strange new life when her family decamps for Brazil rather than live with the terms of Reconstruction. Shortly after arrival in Brazil, she is orphaned, leaving only maternal uncle Nathan to care for her. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his beloved sister’s death following a childish mistake. He is also a man with an incredible secret that he will go to great lengths to protect. When the opportunity for Nathan to be rid of her arises, Mary Catherine faces either forced marriage to an unsuitable man or flight into the wilderness containing jaguars and enclaves of people with much to hide. Mary Catherine chooses escape.

Finding refuge among strangers who become her surrogate parents, she matures into a beauty who marries the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. At last, Mary Catherine has happiness and security until civil unrest brings armed intruders with whom she has an inexplicable connection. When the thugs murder her husband for failing to meet their demands, she directs them to her uncle and his secret in order to save herself and her in-laws. With the danger passed, however, her husband’s family demands that she is arrested for complicity in her husband’s murder. Innocent and betrayed by family for a second time, Mary Catherine must now fight for survival.

Mary Catherine is rescued from the gallows by friends, but cannot remain in Brazil. She boards a ship bound for New York with little money and without a home to return to, a family to welcome her, or a nation from which to claim citizenship. Her father never took the loyalty oath required of all former Confederates in order to have their citizenship restored. Once again, she must recreate herself in order to survive.

In old age, Mary Catherine is still haunted by the long ago events for which she feels responsible. After a lifetime trying to forget, she seeks peace, understanding, and the ability to forgive through writing her story, Confederado do Norte.

*****REVIEW*****

A very engrossing story...as it follows a young girl from post-Civil War U.S. to Brazil. So often we read about immigrants TO the United States. Rarely do we read about immigrants Leaving the U.S. It was intriguing to read about people settling elsewhere for a change, seeing Americans as the foreigners. 

It's a heartbreaking tale too. This young Mary loses her home, her nanny, her mother, her father, her home again...and again. A LOT of bad things happen to her. She very admirable though with the way she stands up, brushes herself off, and instead of wallowing in despair, tries again.

There are secrets, maliciousness, lies, deceit. I'd like to say there's romance, but in this aspect the book disappointed me. The romance was weak, came out of nowhere, and felt fake. I don't read books for the romance, mind you, but when it's there, I want to like the hero and heroine both, I want to feel their love come off the page, I want to be wrapped up in it. With this "romance" I felt only frustrated.

There's a lot of twists, happenings, in which the heroine blames herself for the outcomes. It goes to show that we cannot control everything and we never know what we'll do in the heat of the moment. 

Perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the book were the weather/traveling (rivers and boats), the slave "movement", and crops grown in Brazil. I haven't read many books that take place in Brazil, especially during this time period, so this was very cool. I learned a lot.

I found the story very well written too. My quibble besides the romance is how very miserable the story is for the heroine. If anything good happens to her, it's quickly gone, and the last five percent, when happy things being happening, is over too fast. I'd have appreciated the new romance and the international translator stuff expanded on. More happiness to counteract all the bad and more adulthood to counteract how very much time we spent on the heroine as a little girl, which was a lot.

The blurb actually says, "She boards a ship bound for New York with little money and without a home to return to, a family to welcome her, or a nation from which to claim citizenship. Her father never took the loyalty oath required of all former Confederates in order to have their citizenship restored. Once again, she must recreate herself in order to survive." That was literally only ten percent of the tale, the last ten percent. We don't really see Mary recreate herself. Had the book had a little less of her running around as a little girl with a mean uncle and more of this recreating herself in New York stuff, I would have loved it more.


Buy the eBook



About the Author

03_Linda Bennett Pennell_AuthorI have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother's porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, "Let's pretend."

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Favorite quote regarding my professional passion: "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." Voltaire

For more information please visit Linda Bennett Pennell's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Confederado Do Norte Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 23

Tuesday, February 24
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, February 25
Review at Book Babe
Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession

Thursday, February 26
Review & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, February 27

Monday, March 2
Character Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, March 3
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, March 4
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Heart's Paradise - Keeping a secret from the one person you're stranded with...

The idea of living on a deserted island has always appealed to me. I got to experiance that in Olivia Starke's latest release - Heart's Paradise.

I loved this book. It's one of those that I couldn't can't put down. I read the first in the series (The Baby Contract) and was so excited when this one released. You don't need to read book 1 to enjoy this one.

Pheobe and Jonathan have a history that only one of them remembers. They spent one night together and Pheobe ends up pregnant, but never tells Jonathan. He's always in the tabloids and she's watched him for 11 years. It gets interesting when the two are placed on a reality show together--just the two of them on a deserted island. Jonathan has no idea who she is.

This is when the fun starts. As the reader, we know the secret. The chemistry between Pheobe and Jonathan is as strong as it was the night they'd met. He's instantly read to throw away his playboy ways for her because right away, he feels differently for her then any other woman. Pheobe stays strong somehow, never telling her secret that she has been raising their daughter all these years.

The writing is strong. The dialogue is realistic. And the story line is intriguing. I can't wait for the next book in this series.




Lacey's Rating:

About The Book:


Can Phoebe trust Jonathon with her biggest and most precious secret?

Phoebe Heart struggles to keep the bills paid with her survivalist training courses while raising a preteen daughter. When a producer approaches her about starring on the survival show Paradise she's hesitant. Hasn't she spent a lifetime trying to stay out of the spotlight of her famous mother? But the money is too good to pass up, and Phoebe will do anything to provide a stable future for her child.

Billionaire playboy Jonathon Breck is always up for a new adventure. When he's offered a starring role on Paradise he jumps at the chance. In return for spending twenty-five days on a tropical island, using only his wits to survive, he'll receive a nice big check, which he plans to donate to his favorite charity. So with two months training under his belt, he's dropped off on a lush oasis. He knows it'll take skill to find food, water, and shelter on the deceptively beautiful island.

Each of them expect to be on the island alone, so they're shocked when they discover the producers have thrown in a surprising twist. Phoebe and Jonathon find themselves teamed up. Jonathon is intrigued by the sexy woman, but he can't shake the feeling he's met her before. Phoebe is appalled she's paired off with the man she had a drunken college one-night stand with.

Passion ignites while they share in the trials of Paradise, but disaster strikes, leaving them facing life or death. And Jonathon learns the truth that Phoebe desperately hoped to keep hidden from him—they share a child.

Now Jonathon faces the biggest challenge of his life—convincing Phoebe to let him be a part of their daughter's life. Can Phoebe trust the notorious playboy with her young, impressionable daughter's heart? And can she trust the feelings she has for the charismatic billionaire?

Content Warning: contains graphic language and explicit sex


Monday, February 23, 2015

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec

This movie is like a cross between a historical Laura Croft and the movie Night at the Museum, and I loved every second of it.

I didn't expect to. It was with some reservations that I rented this French movie on Amazon. You see, it's got a dinosaur in, one of those flying dinosaurs, and mummies, and I don't normally go for fantasy stuff. And frankly, even though much of this movie is preposterous, it was great fun and I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, the heroine. She's wonderful! She curses at camels, has no patience for dumb-butts, and has a witty retort for nearly every situation. I think my favorite was when she kicked a villain in the nuts and told him, "Whenever you use it, you will think of me," or something like that. LOL You have to see it to "get it" but I guarantee you'll get a kick out of it.

And she dresses fabulously. The year is 1911 so it's a bit Steam Punky.

She's a journalist/author who treks the globe fearlessly. For this movie she heads to Egypt to raid a tomb--not for the gold, but for a mummy she believes is a doctor whom if he comes back to life, he can heal her sister. But the man she needs to bring the mummy back to life is on death row because of this drama with the dinosaur...and so she must get him out of that situation first...and that comes with its own set of laughs.

Laughter. This movie made me laugh quite a few times. The police officers are hilarious; her failed attempts to get the professor out of jail; the mummy...the witty quips, there's a lot of funny moments and while one may think a talking mummy is silly, the movie isn't overdone or cheesy. It's just the right balance.

I wish there was a sequel. The ending leaves one in suspense. I thought perhaps it was a new adventure starting, that would be finished in another movie...and I'm not going to reveal anything more than that. Having watched this incredible, tough, feisty woman ride a Petrodoctyl (sp?), curse at a camel, and fend off bad guys, I have no doubt she'll get herself out of the mess the ending puts her in. But another movie would be nice.

If you want a kick-butt female, a little fantasy, and a lot of humor, this one is for you.