Sunday, February 28, 2010

What I'm Reading This Monday 3/1/10

Mailbox Monday, hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page is a meme where folks share the yummy books that showed up at our doors! WARNING: Mailbox Mondays can lead to extreme envy and GINORMOUS wishlists!! I had several goodies in my mailbox this week.
Knit Two by Kate Jacobs is my first book swap through goodreads.
The Blue Orchard by Jackson Tyler is an unsolicited ARC.
The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen is something I requested from the author. It is her first novel. Sarah had visited my blog a few times and when I heard her book was coming out this spring I asked for a copy.
Miriam from Hachette did me a real solid this week. I received Deliver Us From Evil by David Baldacci, Exodus Quest by Will Adams and Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch.

What Are You Reading On Monday is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through Books.
This is yet another opportunity to make other bibliophiles jealous of the good stuff you got to enjoy the past week.
I'm currently reading The Opposite of Me by first-time novelist Sarah Pekkanen, and really enjoying it. It's the story of fraternal twin sisters who have very different outlooks on life.
Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader was lent to me  by a friend. It was a little different from my usual genres, kind of a thriller, kind of an introspection into the main character's life, what she believes is true and what is really true.
Finished Watermark by first time author Vanitha Sankaran in one day. Obviously, If you like historical fiction about the middle ages, this one's for you. It will probably be on my Top 10 of 2010. I'll be reviewing it for a TLC book tour in May.
Ariana Franklin's Grave Goods on audio was excellent. I love the narrator, and I think I get the jokes hearing them better than reading it myself.
Are you reading anything good? Get anything new that you're excited to read?

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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Wives of Henry Oades: Giveaway w/ Review

A compelling story based on actual events,The Wives of Henry Oadesby first-time author Joanna Moran held my attention from the very beginning. In 1890 Henry Oades is a young mid-level government employee in London who receives a chance for advancement by moving his family to New Zealand. Soon the family is settled on their own piece of land in the country, Margaret has made friends with a neighbor, and their family of two children has expanded to four.
One afternoon while Henry is at work, the unthinkable happens. Margaret and the children are captured by a band of Maori raiders seeking retribution for the arrest and execution of tribal members by the white government. Henry returns to find the family's animals shot, the house burned down, and the charred remains of a woman behind the house. Even with this evidence in front of him he spends the next two years searching for his family, hoping to at least find his children. When he is finally able to accept that they will never be found, Henry travels to California for a new start. Here he purchases a dairy farm and leads a very quiet life for several years, until the day a fire takes another person's spouse. Nancy is a pregnant young widow with no family in the world to help her. Henry, who pulled her from the fire, checks in on Nancy at the home of the local reverend where she has been staying. Pity for her situation, and lonely in his own, he proposes marriage. Nancy, barely eighteen years old, soon to have a baby to care for, quickly agrees to his proposal. A few months later, a knock on the door brings a bedraggled woman, a young man, and two girls to the Oades farm. It is Margaret and her three surviving children, who have traveled half way around the world in hopes of finding their husband and father. Of course Henry and Nancy being good decent people take them in, but the townspeople of Berkeley soon get wind that Henry is living with two women who call themselves "Mrs. Oades" and they won't put up with bigamy. A series of arrests and trials ensue, with the government attempting to decide who exactly is breaking the law, or if any laws are broken. Meanwhile the citizens are becoming more upset and start vandalizing the farm and refusing their business in local stores.
Told primarily through the narration of Margaret and Nancy, The Wives of Henry Oades is fascinating to read about each feeling she is the true Mrs. Oades, yet acknowledging the claims of the other. As the two women try to make their living situation work, and work together to keep the farm running with Henry in jail, they earn each others' respect and a strong bond is formed. A legal case that was reported on by all the major newspapers of its time and has made it into several law textbooks, the case of Henry Oades, according to Oades family descendants was actually a hoax devised to show a loophole in the law that would allow bigamy in California. Whether true or not, it is sweeping, adventurous historical fiction with real people facing strange dilemmas and dealing with them.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:
I'm very excited that Ballantine Books has given me a copy of The Wives of Henry Oades to share with one lucky reader. I will announce the random winner on Wednesday, March 10. Just leave a comment stating you'd like to win this book. For further entries you can become a Follower and Tweet about this giveaway. Just leave a separate comment for each entry. If you'd like to increase your chances of winning, many of the other blogs on this TLC book tour are also giving away a copy. You can find the list of all participating blogs at TLC Book Tours.
This review is being shared on Cym Lowell's Wednesday Book Review Party. Check it out and find some great books to read!
Official FTC Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review, other than the uncorrected Advance Reader Copy from Ballantine Books for this TLC Book Tour.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It All Adds Up

Welcome to another installment of my favorite day of the week, Vintage Thingies Thursday, hosted by Suzanne of ColoradoLady. This is the day to dig in your basements and attics and find your long-forgotten treasures, or show off your collections and flea market finds. Most of my vintage thingies have been discovered in the basement of my parents' house, where they have lived for 45 years.
Today's offering actually comes from their dining room. Originally it was a piece of equipment at my grandfather's bakery, which I wrote about a few months ago. I remember it being on Papoo's desk in the den. All of the grandchildren loved to play with it.
It's a vintage adding machine from the Victor Adding Machine Company in Chicago. The company began in 1918 and is still in the calculating business today. On their website they have a fun slide show of vintage advertisements and a time line of their company in relation to important world events.
While working at the bakery during high school, my mother used this adding machine all the time. You'd enter the numbers by selecting one digit from each column. The two black columns on the right would be the decimal places. In the advertisements there were many that had more than a "thousands" column and read that companies could order what they needed.
Any good stuff in your house with stories to tell? Then share them with us next week on Vintage Thingies Thursday hosted by ColoradoLady!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

Elizabeth Chadwick'sThe Scarlet Lionis the continuation of the life of William Marshal, the great knight of the Crusades, about whom she first wrote in The Greatest Knight. A companion of King Richard and later King John, William Marshal was truly the epitome of all that one would want in a knight: loyal, gallant, intelligent, and caring. Unsung in recent history, William Marshal was known in his time as the flower of chivalry, and was mourned not only by friends but by a nation. The story opens in Normandy, 1197 on the day of the birth of his fourth child and takes the reader to William's death many years later. In those years his beloved wife and confidant Isabelle de Clare will give birth to six more children, William will fight to hold his lands in France for King Richard, be named the first Earl of Pembroke, he will bring peace to southeastern Ireland, and even establish a new town with a port! Throuout his life William is loyal to the king to whom he pledge his allegiance, even during rebellions by other lords and invasion by the French.
Faithful to his wife, loyal to his king, organized enough to plan an entire new community and so smart with money that he had enough to lend the King !? I found William a paragon of so many virtues that I had to check out the history behind the fiction. It's true. All of it. Documented through various records, journals and letters. In my quest I also discovered Elizabeth Chadwick's blog, Living the History, where I learned that she is a true scholar of medieval times, bringing her favorite era to the world with her skill of story telling. That's how I like my history, fictionalized at first! If I find the ideas interesting, I check into the drier accounts in scholarly texts. How about you?
I have often whined about historical books that need to include a map and/or family tree. Thank you to Sourcebooks, Elizabeth Chadwick, or whoever decided to put them in The Scarlet Lion. Three easy to read maps and family trees for the Marshal's and the Continental Dynasties of England. Yay! I referred to them often in my reading.
For me, The Scarlet Lion is everything I look for in fiction: adventure, romance, intrigue, told through well developed characters and vivid descriptions of settings. Add in well-researched history, with maps and family trees, and you've got a sure-fire winner in the historical fiction genre.
New Ross, the town founded by William Marshal in Southern Ireland, as it is today.
Photo from: http://www.doyle.com.au/
Little Reminder: Any Amazon purchase you make by following a link on Thoughts from an Evil Overlord puts a few pennies in my currently unemployed pocket. If you're buying something anyway, you can just click through here, first.
Official FTC Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review, other than the uncorrected Advance Reader Copy from Sourcebooks.
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

What I'm Reading & What's In the Mailbox 2/21

Mailbox Monday, hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page is a meme where folks share the yummy books that showed up at our doors! WARNING: Mailbox Mondays can lead to extreme envy and GINORMOUS wishlists!! I had several goodies in my mailbox this week. The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen, Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran for a TLC Book Tour and Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell from Sourcebooks. Jill Mansell is always funny, and both Cullen and Sankaran are new to me, writing in my favorite genre, historical fiction.
What Are You Reading On Monday is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through Books.
This is yet another opportunity to make other bibliophiles jealous of the good stuff you got to enjoy the past week. I'm usually a 2 book a week gal, with an audio or 2 thrown in, but I read several novels this week which I will be reviewing soon, all of which are historical fiction. Lynn Cullen's The Creation of Eve {Loved it!}, O'Juliet, which I won from the author, Robin Maxwell, and The Founding, a Sourcebooks reprint by Cynthia Harrod Eagles. I also read a few from the library including M.C. Beaton's Death of a Cad, the second book in her Hamish MacBeth series, which I really enjoy, Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet, and To the Tower Born by Robin Maxwell. I don't always review books I get from the library, so I'll just tell you these are three winners if you like cozy mysteries or historical fiction.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Dream Vacation

This past week was school vacation throughout most of New England. With a bizarro snowfall Tuesday and Wednesday it gave the kids some fun outdoor time to play. As a teacher, vacation week is a double-edged sword. While it's great to get away, many of the places one might go are often crawling with children also on vacation, as well as the fact that it's much more expensive to travel during these weeks. I haven't been on a winter vacation since I was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, nor any kind of flying vacation at any time of year, either. With no immune system an airplane or a cruise ship is the worst place to be with all the recycled air. But I can dream of where I'd like to go, and as a geography teacher I've gotten to know about all sorts of places, I may not be exposed to any other way.
The T-Shirt Lady, one of my etsy blogger team colleagues has asked us to write about a dream vacation, so I'm really going to dream! If money, time and health were of no concern, I'd love to take a cruise around the world! I love the water, so I'd rather cruise leisurely than fly to all the places I'd want to see, although day-hops and helicopters are not out of the question.
I'd travel from New York down the east coast, through the Caribbean and around Cape Horn, then up the west coast of South America, through the Panama Canal and over to Europe via the Atlantic and North Sea to visit Finland and the other northern European countries along the Baltic. Heading back toward the United Kingdom I'd go through the English Channel and around the Iberian Peninsula into the Mediterranean, with excursions into the Adriatic and Black Seas. We could take the Suez Canal into the Red Sea and along the eastern coast of Africa, loop around Madagascar and then travel through the island countries of the Indian Ocean on to Australia. To return home it would be a big loop around Australia, along the western coast of Africa and straight across the Atlantic back to New York or Boston. Of course this trip doesn't go everywhere, but it sure would be fun and give me all the water travel I could want!
So, who's with me? What would be your favorite stop on our trip? If I had to pick one it would be Italy.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Faerie Dust Dreams

Faerie Dust Dreams is the blog of California artist Michelle Cummings. Michelle has so many creative ideas and fun items in her etsy shop. She is also a great supporter of other etsy crafters. I have been lucky in the past to be featured when she spotlights several shops at once, but this week I've hit the big time! Little Somethings is the first shop that Michelle is spotlighting on its own, and for three weeks! She is also giving away a bracelet from my shop, so I hope you'll visit her blog, and her etsy shop and get to know this generous, creative, sweet woman!
If you are an etsy artist, Michelle is looking for more shops to spotlight in the future. Her requirements are listed at the bottom of the post about me.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wallace Nutting, a New England Artist

About 20 years ago, my sister and I each received a Wallace Nutting print for Christmas from our father.  They of course were from the basement, and originally belonged to our paternal grandparents. They are in their original frames and mats, too! Over the year we have both purchased more to create groupings in our homes. We have found that buying the photos in vintage and antique shops is pricey, but eBay is very reasonable. This is probably because we live in New England and these prints are highly collectible in this area.Dr. Wallace Nutting was a New England Renaissance man! He was a minister in the late 19th century. At age forty-three he was forced to leave the pulpit because of poor health. He described this experience as, "The greatest sorrow of my life, almost a killing sorrow, to cease from the regular duties of a pastor." Nutting started taking pictures in 1899 while on long bicycle rides in the countryside. He would illuminate his photographs with paint to enhance the image. In 1904 he opened the Wallace Nutting Art Prints Studio on East 23rd Street in New York. After a year he moved his business to a farm in Southbury, CT. In 1917 he moved to Framingham, MA and explored his interests in reproducing antique furniture and publishing. His studio was one of the most prolific of the early 20th century.
I found this picture online, to show an example of his more vivid painted photographs. For more vintage goodies you can visit Suzanne at ColoradoLady, our Vintage Thingies Thursday hostess.


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Monday, February 15, 2010

TiLTCreations-WOW!

February's Featured Etsy Blogger is TiLTCreations, and not only do I love what she creates, I am jealous of her skills. Theresa makes bags, pouches and purses in fabrics and designs both fun and elegant at very reasonable prices. She also hand paints some of her pieces, coordinating what were solids before she got a hold of them, to match with the prints in the particular bag.  If a buyer loves a fabric Theresa has used on an item, one can always click on over to her other shop, TiLT Too! where she sells her leftover supplies and patterns. Back in the days when I was bald I had 3 bags with coordinating scarves for my head, so I would have loved the opportunity to shop at the TiLT shops. I also still love to wear a bandanna holding all my hair off my face at the beach, so I'm going to see what fabrics she has left to match her larger totes. I can make my own head scarf and be the cutest girl on Ogunquit Beach this summer!
Theresa maintains TWO blogs supporting her two shops. At Crafts, Kids, Home and Life you can really get to know Theresa and her family, and TiLT's Creations with great close-ups of how she makes things and many pictures of fabric piles that will make you drool. When you visit be sure to congratulate her on being the Featured Etsy Blogger for February and tell her the Evil Overlord sent you.
I have never done an etsy giveaway, so I'm going to combine TiLTCreations with my own shop, Little Somethings, for this first one.  If you'd like to win YOUR CHOICE of one of my Four Seasons bracelets, visit TiLTCreations and look around. Come back and tell me which purse or bag most appeals to you. Also visit Little Somethings so you can tell me, in the same comment, which of the 4 bracelets you would choose. Pretty simple!
The winner of my giveaway will be announced on Monday, March 1.
For extra entries you can Tweet about this giveaway and heart TiLTCreations and/or Little Somethings on etsy. Leave a separate comment for each entry. Maximum total of 4 entries.
Happy Shopping!
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day=Pink!

I haven't participated in the past few Pink Saturdays, but I knew I would this week because it's Valentine's Day. I have a couple of vintage pink Valentines to share, and a pretty silhouette.

 

 
For more fun Valentines celebrating Pink Saturday, visit How Sweet the Sound and leave a comment for our hostess, Beverly!
On Sunday this post will be part of Joan's Vintage Valentine Card Party at Anything Goes Here. The list of participating blogs is in her sidebar. I hope you come back and see what people are sharing.
Here are two other Valentine posts I wrote this year that also feature vintage cards.
                    Cornball Valentines             Valentine's Day from a Teacher's Perspective
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cornball Valentines

One of the things I enjoy about vintage Valentines are the corny phrases. I can appreciate the lovely Victorian ones, and the sweetly romantic, but give me a good pun anyday! So for Vintage Thingies Thursday I have some goodies to make you groan.
Someday I hope to steal my mom's actual vintage cuckoo clock (And share it with you guys!) but until then I'll have to be content with this one.
This one appeals to me because I like her fluffy party dress she wears while sweeping.
These two from the 1950s are major groans! I don't think kids today would get them at all.
Any Valentine's Day plans? Anything vintage to share? Stop by ColoradoLady and visit our Vintage Thingies Thursday hostess Suzanne to see her cute decorations!

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The Last Queen: Review & Giveaway

Juana of Castile, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella never planned on becoming the last hereditary Queen of Spain. C.w. Gortner's vividly adventurous novel The Last Queen takes readers on Juana's journey from girlhood to the first tumultuous and then desperately lonely years of her reign. As her parents' third child, there is little thought that Juana will one day rule Spain. All of the Spanish infantas, Isabelle, Juana, Maria, and Catalina, along with their brother Juan, are educated far beyond their counterparts in other European countries. They also live a much different daily life. Instead of the elaborate courts, clothing, and castles of England and France, they have spent much of their growing up years following their parents as they wage battles to unite the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile into one glorious Spain, and then roust the Moors, who have ruled southern Spain for centuries.
As the second daughter, Juana was betrothed to Archduke Philip of Habspburg, heir to Maximillian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. At sixteen she traveled to Flanders, now known as Belgium, for her wedding. It was a passionate love match between Juana and Philip for several years, although Philip also had many other companions. Juana was comfortable and happy in her role as mother and Duchess, but still clung to many of her Spanish traditions, which were much more conservative than those of Flanders.
Juana always remembered that she was a Princess of Spain, and she was the representative of her country in Flanders. With the untimely death of her brother Juan, who left no heirs, the succession of Spain passed to Isabella, now a pregnant Queen of Portugal. Isabella died giving birth to a son, who lived less than two years, and Juana was now heir to the Kingdom of Spain, one of the few where women could inherit.
At the age of twenty-three, pregnant with her fourth child, Juana travels to Spain with Philip to be sworn in as the heir. Philip, hungry for his power jure uxoris is upset at Juana being put before him in ceremonies and seating, as well as the excitement the Spanish people show at seeing her, abruptly leaves after just a few months, leaving Juana to give birth to their son Ferdinand alone.
Juana returns to her husband and children in Flanders, leaving baby Ferdinand with the very ill Queen Isabella. There, she is imprisoned in her apartments by Philip, who is plotting with the Spanish ambassador to gain Juana's power for Philip. Upon Isabella's death, the couple travel to Spain, Philip and his retinue resplendent in elaborate clothing unlike anything seen in Spain before, and Juana with her small group of servants under heavy guard in traditional conservative Spanish clothing. Remembering the words of her mother, Juana knows that everything she does must be for the good of Spain. Splitting the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon would lead to civil war and hopelessness for the people. Juana must do all she can not only to be crowned Queen of Castile, but to be named heir of Aragon.
Despite years of brutality at the hands of her husband, Juana is steadfast in not turning over her power to him or their son Charles, with Philip as regent. Philip bribes the Spanish lords and spreads tales of Juana being insane to undermine her position. As if years of being locked up, separated from her children, beaten, and often raped, wouldn't make a person a little crazy! Eventually Juana is betrayed by all that should protect her, husband, father, son, and even her childhood companion/servant are taken from her. Juana dies imprisoned by her son Charles I of Spain. Her refusal to abdicate her powers kept Aragon and Castile together as one Spanish kingdom, and paved the way for the greatness of Spain as a country of explorers and seamen.
I absolutely loved The Last Queen. I sympathized with Juana, a girl thinking she was going to grow up, marry and have children, read to them, play with them, and someday be a grandmother, but was instead separated from her six children before the eldest was even ten years old. She grew up admiring her mother and loving her father, and stood fast to her mother's strength while being betrayed by her father's jealousy.
I know you all want to read The Last Queen, now, so I am offering my gently-read copy as a giveaway! GIVEAWAY INSTRUCTIONS:
  • Open to US residents only.
  • Leave a comment with a way I can contact you, telling me a favorite historical fiction book you've recently read.
  • For an extra entry, become a Follower. If you are already a follower, leave a separate comment reminding me.
  • For a third entry, tweet about this giveaway, mention it on your FaceBook page, or mention it on your blog.
  • That's it! 3 comments, 3 entries.
  • Giveaway will end Wednesday, February 24 at 11:59 PM EST
Official FTC Disclosure: I requested a copy of The Last Queen from from C.W. Gortner's Website, but was not compensated in any other way for this review.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Valentine's Day from a Teacher's Perspective

This month's etsy bloggers carnival is hosted by foxygknits from Foxy G's Den of i-KNIT-quity. I have been visiting her blog and this Atlanta gal is very funny, as well as having an awesome giveaway right now! The theme is a Valentine's Day memory. I have one that's a story I have told often. Let me set the stage...
It's 1991 in Spring, Texas. I'm teaching 4th grade at a very large elementary school, over 800 students. My classroom is a "portable" building, the one farthest from the main building; so far that a trip to the bathroom is a full 3 minute walk!  This was before we got a portable bathroom building that was nothing but a girls' and a boys' side. But I digress...
So, someone had foolishly scheduled Picture Day for Valentine's Day. All the kids can think about all day is that we are going to have make-your-own-sundaes after lunch. I've planned a little craft that doesn't involve paint that could mess up someone's Picture Day outfit, checked in with the mother organizing the party and everything appears to be a "go". But no.
The photography company sent fewer photographers than usual and for one of them it was her first day of work. So pictures that usually were done well before lunch were still going on. Possibly things could have been re-organized, but for the first and only day in my time at that school, both assistants and the principal were all out of the building! It's the perfect storm for upset kids, party day, picture day, and no big bosses to oversee the big picture.
BUT, I was so proud of my class and the room moms. We were asked to delay our party until after pictures, which was bringing us closer to dismissal. I asked the students if they'd like to delay their party until the next day so they could have plenty of time to enjoy it, and one of the students suggested that we just stay and have our party if it ran into after school time.
Upon checking I found out that that 1/2 the class walked home, and the room moms could take the others (back in the day when we didn't worry about people driving kids without permission). One student asked to call home and tell her mom, and the plan was set. I called down to the office and told the secretary we volunteered to be the last class for pictures, which gave relief to a couple of other classes. The pictures went smoothly, we had a fun little party, and the class learned to be flexible and worked out their own plan. It's what they call a teachable moment, and we only get so many of those each year. The icing on the cake was that the next day at the Friday morning staff meeting my class was awarded the Spirit Stick (yes, like cheerleaders or sororities) to carry wherever we went until another class did something worthy of this huge honor. The principal came out to our building to talk to them, and they thought they were pretty hot stuff. Until I told them it was time for Math!
Do you have any funny Valentine memories?
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