Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Giveaway: April & Oliver

April & Oliver,the first novel from Tess Callahan is a story of secrets, yearnings and consequences.The book opens with a vivid scene about a character who is not actually a participant in the book, but is constantly on the mind of those we meet.
Buddy has been lost for some time, his wipers whisking the thick Maine snow, when he spots a missed turn in his rear view and brakes. The car fishtails, rocketing into a spin. The faster it pivots, the slower time moves. Buddy is the fixed point, the world careening around him.
With the death of Buddy, childhood soul mates and step-cousins, April and Oliver are reunited after ten years pursuing completely different lives on opposite coasts. From early childhood through high school, the two have been inseparable, followed on their adventures by April's younger brother Buddy. Upon graduation Buddy attends college in Los Angeles, while April stays in New York tending bar and becoming Buddy's legal guardian after their father dies. Along with a smart, beautiful fiancee, Oliver has gained an education and a broader view of the world, while April has been spinning her wheels in the same neighborhood checking in on her brother and grandmother, and experiencing a series of abusive boyfriends. Seeing each other again brings back feelings to both April and Oliver that were never discussed in the past, and confuse them still even as adults. As April's self-destructive behavior escalates into a downward spiral, Oliver attempts to be Sir Galahad and rescue her from herself, all the while planning a wedding and keeping information from his supportive fiancee, Bernadette.From realistically gritty sction scenes, to thoughtful, emotional moments, April and Oliver can make the reader reconsider big life choices as well as the small everyday decisions that end up making big changes. I found the writing style of an observer giving different points of view in the present tense interesting, as I don't come across that very often. Descriptions are made real with interesting metaphors and observations of the characters as well as the narrator. Neither a tear-jerker nor a laugh-fest, April & Oliver is thoughtful and well-written, slowly revealing characters' motivations, desires, and regrets. I also really liked the cover art, finding it both mysterious and familiar, just like the book. I look forward to seeing (and reading) the ideas that Tess Callahan has to share with the world in the future.
To "meet" Tess Callahan, not only can you visit her website and blog, or even better, visit the BlogTalk radio interview and hear her thoughts and inspirations about writing.
Five lucky readers will each receive their own copy of April & Oliver, which is scheduled for release tomorrow, July 1st. Just leave a comment stating that you'd like to win and random.org will select the winners on Friday, July 10.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Blue Weekend

I hope everyone had as great a weekend as I did! I was invited to my join my sister and her family at their lake house in New Hampshire. I love cruising around the lake and watching the kids being towed on the tube, barbecuing on board, and playing volleyball at the sandbar, even though I'm not allowed to go swimming because of microbes. I bring a book and my camera and that keeps me plenty busy if everyone else is off the boat for a while. I took a lot of sky and water shots this weekend, so with all that blue involved I thought I'd share some of my pictures for Blue Monday with Smiling Sally.
The clouds almost seem surreal floating over the White Mountains.Late in the day we got thunderstorms, and you can see a little of the gray clouds moving in.I love all the nooks and crannies around the lake shore where a boat can
drop anchor and we can swim and snorkel without big crowds.Check out this fun blue roof!
That's a little of my weekend, I'll show more over the week. I hope you'll take some time to visit Smiling Sally and the other Blue Monday participants.

Sisters & Husbands

Sisters & Husbands is the long-awaited sequel to Connie Briscoe's first novel, Sister's & Lovers, which was published more than 10 years ago. This story about Evelyn, Charmaine, and Beverly three very close sisters, focuses on the month leading up to Beverly's wedding.
In her late 30s, this is Beverly's third engagement, so everyone is watching for signs of cold feet. But Beverly is not concerned. Julian is the most wonderful man she has ever been with, considerate, caring, sexy and with a great career that he loves. However, she starts to question the entire institution of marriage and lifetime monogamy when cracks begin to show in both of sisters' marriages, especially the more than 20 year union of Evelyn and her seemingly fabulous husband Kevin. The story is filled with situations of life in the twenty-first century, balancing career and family, blending families with children from previous relationships, sharing custody, being an empty-nester, possible physical abuse, excessive materialism, and good old fashioned family gatherings with traditional food and games. It was interesting to see how three women, raised in the same home with the same basic values would handle situations differently and have such different reactions and points of view. No matter what happens however, they support each other and will fight for each other, each in her own way, aggressively by Charmaine, Evelyn the family counselor seeing both points of view, and Beverly, having never been married, looking at many things through rose-colored glasses, although standing by her sisters and doing what she can in a much calmer tone than Charmaine. Of course I'm not going to say what happens with each of the sisters' marriages, but I will tell you that it's interesting to see the choices they make and why.
Sisters & Husbandsis a really great read, and I wish I had read Sisters & Lovers first to see the changes 10 years have made in the sisters and their points of view.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Here's Cooper on vacation!


A Sweet Gift

For this week's Pink Saturday, hosted by Beverly @ How Sweet the Sound, I'd like to share with you the story of my little tin planter. It is yellow with lots of pink flowers all over it. One of the things I like about it is that it doesn't scream pink, but incorporates the yellow, pink, and a little green all together in such an eye-pleasing manner.
As you know, I am a sixth grade teacher, currently not working because of a medical disability. A few years ago I had what for me was a dream schedule. I taught the same group of 25 students for English, Reading, and Social Studies, 3 out of 5 periods, so I really got to know that particular group very well. We became quite comfortable with each other, perhaps too comfortable. In the spring, as often happens, we had a week when no one wanted to work, but they also didn't want to be pleasant. It was a lot of rudeness, moaning, no homework, etc. I pulled everyone up close in a sort of "story time" configuration and spoke in a soft voice about how disappointed I was, that I was hot and often bored, too, and we had 2 more months of school, etc. This was at the end of class, and they were dismissed from there to "think about" what I had said and hopefully return with better attitudes the next day.Well, one of the boys, if you can believe it, told his mother about the little talk, and the next afternoon, while the group was with me, a gorgeous floral arrangement arrived from his family, thanking me for being a wonderful teacher as well as trying to keep the kids on the straight and narrow without yelling and being witchy. [My words, not theirs!] Rarely do things like this happen for teachers. Usually, if parents hear that the whole group was spoken to they're on the phone complaining that their child isn't the problem, blah, blah, blah. And in this case, it was true! Their son was and still is, I believe, a respectful, hard worker with a nice sense of humor, liked by both teachers and his peers.
So that' s the story of my tin that I now keep in my craft room/office on top of the TV where I can always think of Eddie, and his sister Annie, who I taught 2 years later, as well as their awesome mom, Pilar.
Have you ever acknowledged on of your children's teachers at a time that wasn't a holiday or occaision?


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Judy, Judy, Judy!

Welcome to another installment of Vintage Thingies Thursday, a celebration of all things old, retro, funky and loved. This fun party is hosted by Suzanne @ Colorado Lady, where you can find the list of all the participants and check out what bargains they've found, or cool things that have been handed down in their family.
This week I'm introducing you to a girl sleuth I'm sure very few know of, Judy Bolton. I read these books in the 1970s, borrowed from my dad's cousin Ellen, who read them as a child in the early 1940s, so they are pretty old.As a reader, one of the things I liked best about the Judy Bolton books was that Judy actually aged and grew up. She even got married, with her bridesmaids each wearing a different color in The Rainbow Riddle. As a 12 year old I thought that was pretty neat! Another interesting thing is that each book contains actual locations and happenings in the lives of author Margaret Sutton and her friends, or from newspaper stories she had read.Thirty-eight books are in the series, which was published from 1932 until 1967, with total sales over four million copies. Recently Applewood Books has published a set of the first five books in paperback, and I really liked what they had to say about Judy and her cases.
The Judy Bolton books are noted not only for their fine plots and thrilling stories, but also for their realism and their social commentary. Unlike most other series characters, Judy and her friends age and mature in the series and often deal with important social issues of their time. To many, Judy is a feminist in the best light: smart, capable, courageous, nurturing, and always unwavering in her true beliefs; a perfect role model.I have my mother on the case, looking to see what happened to Ellen's books when she passed away a few years ago. Last I knew they were in brown grocery bags in her attic. She has 2 grown daughters who know about the books, but never read and loved them like I, so I hope to possibly get my hands on a few. The one I am showing here I bought on eBay and is the first in the series.
For those of you who are vintage book collectors, I wanted to let you know that I have begun listing some of the ones I've shown for VTT in my etsy shop, Little Somethings.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Try Fear: a review

Once again I have stumbled across an author I have never read, and really enjoyed his story. Try Fear is the latest suspense novel by James Scott Bell, a former trial lawyer. Although it is the third in the Ty Buchanan series, I was able to easily follow the recurring characters and their relationships, and the hints at past story lines made me want to get the first two books as well as some of his other novels.
Ty, the main character, is a former big-wig Los Angeles lawyer, who is now working out of a local coffee shop and living in a trailer on the grounds of a religious community. His investigator is Sister Mary Veritus, a Benedictine nun, and Father Bob and Pit McNitt, the coffee shop owner, are his philosophically argumentative advisers. This unusual cast of characters would be enough for a suspense story that makes the reader laugh out loud, but Ty's sardonic thoughts and remarks really bring the humor home. At the same time as he is being facetious, Ty is also going through emotional times, still getting over the death of his fiancee, and feeling unacceptable tuggings of attraction towards Sister Mary. Throughout the book, Ty visits many Los Angeles landmarks and waxes poetical on their history, highs and lows. Mr. Bell's love of his city shows a deeper and more layered view than many who have never been there would expect. In many ways the city is another of the key characters.
Try Fear opens on a humorous note when Ty receives a late night call from Father Bob, asking him to help a parishoner's son who has been arrested for Driving Under the Influence, wearing only a Santa hat and a g-string! What should be a simple court appearance becomes a trial when Carl refuses to plead guilty for this first offense. Ty's detailed research actually frees his client on a technicality, but their involvement is not over when Carl turns up dead a few weeks later, a possible suicide that turns out to be murder. Taking on a street preacher, city Councilman, and construction company, Ty vows to find the truth for Carl's mother, who strongly reminds him of his own long-deceased parent.
In addition to being suspenseful, funny, and interesting, Try Fear is great for a variety of audiences due to its lack of strong language and sexual situations.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blue Prize!

It's another BLUE MONDAY, hosted by Smiling Sally! There are lots of bloggers showing off their blues, so stop by and check them out, and think about joining in next week.
I have an awesome blue item to show you this week. I won it as a giveaway through One Little Bird, a great blog that features etsy shops and advice. This is a very unique binder from Crown Bindery. Instead of having a thick spine, the sections are held together with rings, so you can buy larger or smaller rings depending on what you are binding. A Triple Crown Binder is four thick and sturdy laminated pages with a different coordinating pattern on each side. Because they are individual, you can choose what patterns are on the cover, back, and separating in the middle. I am just showing you my 4 favorites. Coordinating pocket folders can be purchased for the binder also. Besides these standard-size binders, Crown Bindery has a variety of sizes of journals and notepads.I am going to use mine to keep my grade book once I return to the classroom. The awesome patterns will make all the other teachers jealous! I'm sure you can guess that I got to pick out my own binder, and went with my current favorite combination, browns and blues. I was ecstatic at the paisleys and argyle, which are two of my all-time favorite patterns.I was also impressed with how nicely the whole thing was packaged, with the rings in a little bag hung over a ribbon that held the whole packet together. When it's time for back to school or teacher gifts, think about Crown Bindery.
Have you won any great giveaways lately?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Get Real: a review

Get Real is the last book written by the late Donald E. Westlake, and the first of his novels I have read. I don't know where I've been hiding that I've never read anything by this prolific author. Mr. Westlake passed away in 2008, and Get Real is scheduled for a psthumous July 2009 release. This particular novel is part of a series of books about John Dortmunder, a professional thief, and his buddies with their various expertise. The concept behindGet Realis absolutely hilarious! Through a convoluted connection to the getaway driver's mom, the gang is hooked up with a reality TV producer, who wants to film them preparing and executing their next caper. These old-school guys know little about reality TV, the internet, or television production in general, and are dubious about the offer. But $20,000 each, plus a per diem while taping sounds pretty good, so they sign on, with several conditions of course. How can you pull off a crime on film and not go to jail? Don't film anyone's face, of course, and use aliases. But for the audience to be entertained, there need to be some faces, so bring in a couple actors as secondary characters. Can't film in the actual bar where deals go down? Build a replica set. I found the un-reality of the reality production very funny, as well as the stories about others shows currently in production with Get Real. One of the things I really liked about Get Real was that although it was about somewhat rough guys, there was very little strong language and no sex. They were just 5 guys working together on a job, like any other group of long-time coworkers. I am glad to have "discovered" Donald Westlake's books and will be reading more of them in the future. I am also passing Get Real on to my nephews, now that they are reading "adult" books.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some Pink Reading

For this PINK SATURDAY I thought I'd mix it up a little and tell everyone about a PINK book or two that I really enjoyed.The Secret History of the Pink Carnation was the first book published by Lauren Willig in 2005. It is the first in a series of five books about English spies during the Napoleonic Wars between England and France. This is the time period several years after the Reign of Terror in France. I love historical fiction books, and this entire series has been great. Not only are the novels very well written as far as use of language,with interesting, descriptive similes, they are well researched. If that sounds a little dry for you, let me say that they are also funny and each has a little romance, actually two! This is what Booklist had to say about The Secret History of the Pink Carnation:
Willig's imaginative debut is the story of Eloise Kelly, who is trying to uncover the identity of the Pink Carnation, a British spy a la the Scarlet Pimpernel who infiltrated Napoleonic France, for her Ph.D. dissertation. But it is also the story of Amy Balcourt, a young woman of French descent raised in England, whom Eloise learns about when she gains access to the papers kept by Arabella Selwick-Alderly, the descendant of another dashing spy, the Purple Gentian. Amy sets off to join her brother, Edouard, in France, with the hope of joining the league of the Purple Gentian. On her journey over she meets Lord Richard Selwick, the Purple Gentian himself, and though sparks fly between the two, he feels he can't reveal his secret identity to her. Eloise is engrossed in Amy's story, even as Arabella's infuriating but handsome nephew, Colin Selwick, tries to bar her access to the papers. Readers should expect more of the swashbuckling past than the scholarly present, but Willig's story is a decidedly delightful romp.

Two other books from the series have some pink on their covers.Doesn't Mary, the main character, have lovely soft pink cheeks?And Lady Charlotte, the Night Jasmine is wearing a nice pink necklace around her soft pink neck. From the titles and illustrations you can see that the operatives in these stories are sometimes women, and most of the spies are named after flowers. A young woman, author Lauren Willig is a lawyer and history scholar, which is evident in these well-written, witty, and sweepingly romantic books. If you like romance and history, check out this series, you won't be disappointed!
You also won't be disappointed when you visit Beverly @ How Sweet the Sound, and the other PINK SATURDAY participants! See you next week.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Patriotic Decor for Summer

A few weeks ago I showed everyone the very cute USA banner I made that is available in my etsy shop, Little Somethings.I have one on my own mantle, and sent another off for Heidi Ann's Very Vintage Fourth of July swap. One of the coolest things about this garland is the pearly white cardstock that I used for the letters and flag stripes. I won it from CutCardStock a few months ago, in a great sample pack of many of their products. Not only did they send me different kinds of cardstock, they sent smaller, bookmark-sized samples that were labeled with the weight, color name, and type of cardstock, to make my future orders easier. I've been using the great oversized kraft envelopes for mailing items that are purchased from my shop because they are so sturdy and unique at the same time. Giveaways like this are great for those selling online, because I am now a CutCardStock customer for life, after having used their excellent papers, which I would never have heard of without the giveaway on a crafter's blog.
I like to change out my decorations seasonally, so I do the red, white, and blue Memorial Day through Labor Day, then switch to autumn harvest decor. As we are always reading in our home decorating magazines, one easy way to change the look of a room is with throw pillows, like this idea shown here from Better Homes and Gardens.
These flag pillows are very easy to make with a graphic from your word processing program and some fabric transfer material ironed on to plain pillows.Another simple project is a small rug that can go in your entry, in front of a fireplace, or hung on the wall. Growing up we had a rug my mother made that was similar to this in the family room. The instructions to make this rag-wool star rug are easy, and even simpler is to use a yarn hook and some rug base and draw your own design. It could be a family project with everyone putting on some yarn.If you are handier with tools than I am, you might want to try making this awesome tin flag. I love tin, but I usually buy these things, although everyone tells me how easy they are to make. Better Homes and Gardens has step-by-step instructions that make it seem simple, so I may give it a try this year.
How do you decorate in the summer? Patriotic? Tropical? Where do you get your ideas for decorating and crafts?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Remember this Guy?

OK, now I feel old! I just discovered that our old friend who was so popular in the 1980s is more than 35 years old! In some ways he was the Dilbert of his generation, always one step behind, and one nickel short. Even though he is a perpetual sad-sack, people loved Ziggy because we all felt like him at one time or another.My sister gave me this ceramic Ziggy for Christmas when we were in high school. She got it at a craft fair. It's always hung in my bedroom in Connecticut, but my parents recently brought it to me and I have it hanging in my craft room, a fun little reminder of my childhood. Ziggy was drawn by Tom Wilson whose father invented the character in the 1970s. Ziggy merchandise such as calendars and books are still being published today.
For more vintage goodies, visit Suzanne @ ColoradoLady!



I'm back for another REDNESDAY, hosted by Sue at My Secret Garden. If you love red, go see all the ways this color is incorporated into people's lives, and think about joining in next week.
Since it's strawberry season, I thought I'd share this awesome vintage bejeweled strawberry pin. Like most of my vintage jewelry, I stole it from my mother. I've only worn it a couple of times because I forget how great it is and don't think to put it on. It's only missing a couple of jewels, which doesn't take away from its beauty at all.This Friday is also the Strawberry Festival here in Franklin, MA. Check it out if you're in the area!