Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"The Winter Sea" by Susanna Kearsley

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  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc. (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402241376
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/ Romance
  • Source: Sourcebooks
I knew that this was going to be a special book in the first pages. Most often it takes me 20-50 pages to convince me that I am going to want to blaze through a book - but this one was different. "The Winter Sea" is, indeed, both a historical novel as well as a romance. The book comes with a "side order "of  very well done paranormal, genetic memory, interest thrown in for good measure.

Basic Plot:
A well know historical fiction  writer, Carrie McClelland, travels to Scotland to research  the material for her book in progress and to get a feel for the area where the main action will take place. Her main character is Sophia Patterson, named for an ancestor who, coincidentally, had lived in Scotland in the early 18th century and had been an relative of the Duchess of Slains castle. The Duchess was an instrumental figure in the times of the Jacobite rebellion and, Sophia resided with at Slains Castle at this time.

The book is really two stories in one:  the 'old 'story playing out during 1708 and the Jacobite rebellion, the 'new' in present day Scotland.

Carries rents a small cottage from a local man , Jimmy Keith (who retains the decided burr of the local dialect) who has two sons, Stuart and Graham. Both sons begin to fall in love with Carrie - although only one of the sons 'feels right'. As Carrie's research intensifies, and her need for for more information increases, she calls on her father to fill in details about their ancestor's story.  Gradually as her research and writing, as well as her love interests, progress, Carries finds herself swept up in more than just words on on paper. She finds herself caught in a time warp of sorts. Her flashes of insight feel more like memory than writing and her love for one of the brothers feels more compelling than just a present day love interest. As Carrie writes her book she finds that she is, in fact, recounting her own story - a story that began during the Jacobite rebellion and a love that has lasted through time. Her flashes of deja vu are more than just images - they are images that are filled with remembrance and as real to her as her present day life as a writer

Susanna Kearsley is an amazing writer. She weaves the two plots flawlessly and fluidly. Well researched history about the Jacobite rebellion and it's main characters blend effortlessly with present day information about Scotland. What a gifted writer Ms. Kearsley is! This is one book that I wish had gone on - it took me away and put me in with the characters. I couldn't put it down - what more can a book do for a reader?

If you have never read anything by Susanna Kearsley this is THE place to start. What a treat you will have before you! Her previous work 'Mariana' is another well crafted, slightly other worldly novel that had much the same effect on me as I read it. Oh! I want more from this author!

I can compare my enthusiasm about this book to my love for other authors such as Sarah Dunnett, Sharon Kay Penman, Susan Higginbotham and Vanora Bennett to name just a few.


Note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for the sole purpose of honest review. No other remuneration was received

Monday, December 13, 2010

"The Queen Of Last Hopes (The Story of Margaret of Anjou)" by Susan Higginbotham

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First of all I have to confess that Susan Higginbotham's books are among my favorites in historical fiction. I am not associated with either the author or the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark. I am  just a happy reader!

This book follows the story of Margaret of Anjou - also known as the "mother" of the house of Lancaster- and her marriage to King Henry VI who, after 8 years of marriage descended into the oblivion of madness and religious obsession- leaving the rule of his country to Margaret .  Margaret in turn protected the interests of her son, Edward of Lancaster and refused to accede to the claims of the Yorkist faction. Margaret's fight to win the rights of her son and the Lancaster line led to her becoming a vilified woman during her life and history has not been any kinder. 

Susan Higginbotham's novel brings the life of this rare, female ruler, into focus and sheds a kinder light on the history of this strong woman. Although the outcome of her life still brings to mind a domineering, and inflexible woman, this book  provides us with a sense of the back story to Margaret's fierce determination - even in the face of defeat. King Henry is portrayed as religious devotee and his mental frailty paints a portrait of a sensitive man not strong enough to be King. Edward is a pliable youth whose life is cut terribly short through his mother's staunch fight to preserve the House of Lancaster at all costs. 

As with all of her books, Susan Higginbotham's research is impeccable. Her grasp of the the characters  and their place in history is remarkable. British historical figures, with their many titles and names, can read like a quagmire at times. I have never been able to sort them all out but Ms. Higginbotham grasps all of the nuance, names and titles and makes them easy to follow though the narrative.

In this book, rather than the dominatrix of Britain, Margaret of Anjou is portrayed as good - almost too nice. Most likely the reality of her character probably lies somewhere  between vilification and saint hood.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book - as I have all of Susan Higginbotham's work. I couldn't put it down. It should have wide appeal to anyone who loves historical fiction - especially British historical fiction!


note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purposes of an honest review. No other remuneration was received.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Child of The Northern Spring" by Persia Woolley

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I seem to be hitting a streak of 5 star reads. Then again I generally chose to read books that I hope will reach that mark - so that might be the reason I have so many winners! This book is, most assuredly, a winner. 

"Child of the Northern Spring" is book one of the Guinevere Trilogy where the Legend begins. Written by Persia Woollsey this is a thoroughly new view of the Arthurian Legend as seen from the perspective of Guinevere. It is, in my opinion, the best variation on this theme that I have read - dare I say that I enjoyed this book better than the classic by T.H. White's 'The Once and Future King" (to whom Ms. Woolley pays homage in her well writeen 'author's notes')?Yes! I have to confess that I found T.H. White's book a tad difficult to get into. This books sweeps you away from the very first page.

You will find a remarkable vision of Guinevere - passionate, strong and independent. Not quite forced into the marriage with Arthur as choosing it as the least of several less appealing choices we watch their romance and mutual respect develop as the pages turn. You will find Merlin - somewhat less prominent than in other versions and perhaps a bit less menacing although no less mysterious. Of course you also discover another variation of the Lady of The Lake, Morgan Le Fey, as well as Sir Gawain and the rest of the cast of strong Arthurian figures.

I have to admit to never having been enthralled as I wanted to be with the Tales of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table - I think it was just a period of history that never set my wheels turning. The Dark Ages come to light in this book. Ms. Woolsey  brings light to the to this time period and  she paints vivid images of what life was like at the time of the 'Celtic Renaissance' when the many Celtic tribes revolted against marauding Anglo-Saxons.  The author describes these the men of these tribes as a " rugged, wild, stormy lot with a long tradition of queens who were co-rulers with their husbands" (also from the Author's Notes). 

This book just took me back in time - a time machine in my hands. Yes, this may sound a bit over the top but I truly loved this book and am eagerly awaiting the release of the next two books in this trilogy; "Queen Of the Summer Starts and " Guinevere, Legend in Autumn". All published by Source Books/ Landmark. This has become one of my favorite historical books. If you love historical fiction, the Arthurian Legends, early British History or just a completely enjoyable journey back in time - this is a book that you should be wanting to read!

Note: This book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Katherine The Queen" by Linda Porter

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 First - apologies for the odd formatting of this post - too many broken spaces! I edited it from a word doc and this is the odd result!

Katherine Parr is really an interesting figure - a woman who was ahead of her Tudor time. She was highly intelligent, well educated and well read - and she survived her oft married husband - Henry VIII.

There has not been that much written about her life however - until now. This book is a really well written, thoroughly researched and utterly captivating glimpse into the life of this remarkable Queen. Linda Porter has a remarkable way with biographies. They come to life under her pen. I have been a life long fan of historical fiction - based on British history. Some time ago I decided that I wanted to fill in the fictitious gaps with non-fiction. This book reads as easily as fiction. It's a pleasure - not pedantic, not dry - but completely easy and pleasurable to read. It took me only a few days to read this book and it is a book that will remain in my collection.

The book covers :

The early life of Katherine Parr,

Her two previous marriages (I had not heard much about the first before reading this book)

How she made her way into Court life and how Henry decided to make her his sixth life

Her relationship with Henry's three children and her own step-daughter from her second marriage (another fact that had not registered in my head before)

How she narrowly missed being another statistic for murdered Queens of England.

Her life after Henry's death.

Life with Thomas Seymour and the kerfuffle with Princess Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour.

Her death giving birth to her longed for child.

This book covers it all and does so in a most enjoyable way. If you are an Anglophile as I am this book is, simply, a must read. It's a should read for anyone who enjoys biographies, British Royalty and British history.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"From Print To Stitch" by Janet Edmonds

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remember that all of the photos can be double clicked for a larger image

I have been so fortunate of late to be able to review some truly amazing books. I think I am slowly getting back in line and feel more up to reviewing some of these treasures. This one truly deserves five starts - as did Angie Hughes book that I reviewed on  this blog on October 10th of this year. I apologize for the glare in most of the pictures but the day was dark and very wet and taking the book outside would have made for even worse results I think!

"From Print To Stitch" by Janet Edmonds, published by Search Press - is one of those books that you know you will be returning to time and time again. If you love cloth and love to print and stitch (as the title says) then this is a book that should be in your library.

Ms. Edmonds previously published book was called was called "Beginners Guide to Embroidered Boxes" and now I am afraid that I have to get this one too - her work is so exciting. The contents page of "From Print To Stitch" is a good introduction to fabulous techniques that lurk within the book's pages. She thoroughly covers materials and tools, how to develop a theme in your work and a short but very well done lesson on color and color theory.

The next section is on printing and the topics include: block printing, lino cuts,  mono printing and how to make great impressions from found  objects. Naturally the next section is about stitching. Hand stitching and machine stitching. One of my favorite sections in this part of the book is her gallery of hand stitches. Lots of grist for the artistic mill in here.
The techniques for working with lino, sponges and a host of other easily found printing methods are thoroughly explained and photographed with step-by-step instructions. In this section of the book I am especially fond her use of collagraph prints and I am eager to give this a try. The author describes collagraph as "made from a block that is created from low tech collaged material". Can you spell play day?! This book is just chock full of really fun techniques that are bound to spark your creativity and give your many hours of fun - you may not look at plain cloth in the same way again. Yes. I am really enjoying this excellent book!
The photo below on the right highlights one of my favorite techniques from the book - a variety of stitch worked button hole rings that Ms. Edmonds worked over a variety of forms - look that texture!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"The Passionate Brood" by Margaret Campbell Barnes

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I have to admit to enjoying each book that I have read of Margaret Campbell Barne's. "The Passionate Brood" is a reprint - another excellent reprint by Sourcebooks Landmark - and I am so pleased that they did bring this excellent novel back! This book was first published in 1944 under the original title  of "Like Us They Lived". To my way of thinking this is, more or less, true - the more things change the more they (and we ) stay the same. There have been many reprints lately that have stirred up memories of the books I grew up hiding under the covers with a flash light as a child. to read later into the night that officially allowed (yes, I am truly very myopic to this day!)  My love and passion for this particular time period were originally written in the 40's and 50's. This book concentrates on the time frame of 1189-1199 when the Crusades were in full swing and many knights and men of means  left for long periods of time fight in the lands of  Outremer- thus the strong women they left behind were, in effect, the rulers of their husbands lands in many cases.

This particular book recounts the friendship of King Richard the Lionheart  and, one is lead to believe,  his boyhood friend Robin (later to become the Robin Hood of so many legends). The book is introduced as a novel of King Richard and Robin and yet Robin's strongest appearances in the book are at the beginning - and at the end of the book. Perhaps this is the true way it all went - the case in point does not make it a totally implausible theory even though the reality of Robin Hood, to my knowledge, had never been proven. I like the way Robin is presented in this book and it makes for a certain conceivability that I believe is lacking in some other historical novels that bring Robin into their pictures.

2010 is, I think, the year of Eleanor - Eleanor of Aquitaine - because there have been so many excellent title released that have been written about with this powerful and enigmatic woman. "The Passionate Brood" also brings Eleanor into the picture as a strong, powerful and capable female heroine,and we are also introduced to Eleanor's daughter Johanna (Richard's beloved sister) and Richard's wife, Berengaria of Navarre. Filled with the ruthlessness that was Richard's style during his sojourn in the 3rd crusade and his dispassionate murder of thousands of Saracens this book teams with the passion of the birth of the British Isles. Indeed, I think it can easily be construed that the history of Richard The Lionheart and the beginning of England history are as intertwined as can possibly be. 

The Plantagenets have always been a personal favorite family of mine - as far as British history goes - and I think Ms. Barne's did an able job of conveying the ruthlessness of times and the sometimes greatness of Richard the Lionheart. Although Robin Hood seems to play a very secondary role in this book I think the role that he was given is pivotal to an understanding of Richard and his personality. As I mentioned, although it has never been proven there is much conjecture that Robin Hood was at some point in Richard's life a friend - and from that point of view I think the books clearly reads well for the part Robin might have had in the destiny of Britain.

Yes, I am a huge fan of Margaret Campbell Barnes - and yes, I think you should buy and read this excellent novel.  I doubt you would regret it one bit !

Please note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received

Friday, November 5, 2010

"The Forever Queen" by Helen Hollick

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As most of you who have followed my reviews for any length of time know I am a real European history buff - especially British history. I have to admit, however, that I have never known much about the early history of Britain and very little about Anglo Saxon history. Therefore, I was quite happy to have been given an opportunity to read "The Forever Queen" whose time frame  is 1066. Weaving a plot with many diverse characters, warring factions in areas that no longer even exist and a very involved plot takes great skill and dexterity to to well -  the reader, after all, must be able to follow along. Helen Hollick has pulled this technical feat off with adroitness. 

The story of "The Forever Queen" recounts the history of Queen Emma, who, although her story is shrouded in a place where the life of a of women, even a queen, had little value in recounting- is a story that is fascinating, compelling and thoroughly enjoyable and instructive. When people use the word instructive it gives a sense of dryness I suppose but  I use the word 'instructive' as one of living history - wonderful readability, enthralling and excellent historical story telling.

The author notes that Queen Emma's history is even harder to accurately piece together that that of the later, but better know, Queen Eleanor of Aquaintaine.  Emma was of Norman birth - a link between the factions of the Normans and the English. Emma's true name was Alfgifu, but she seems to have preferred to keep and use her given name of Emma for all but State and official documents.

Emma was married early, in 1022, to the cruel Aethelred - as a King he was, useless. corrupt and ineffective at ruling. As a man he was even more cruel - I think all in all I would consider him a misogynist. From the author's notes we read that "....Emma is the only woman to have been an anointed, crowned and reigning queen to two different Saxon Kings, yet she is barely known in history...". After the death of King Aethelred II  in 1016 Emma re-married , albeit cautiously, to the  Danish King Cnut (the Great) had been born about 994 and was crowned King in 1014. His brother, Harald become the King of the Danes at this time as well. . For a fascinating historical synopsis of King Cnut see Wikipedia.For additional details on King Cnut and Queen Emma have a look here.  The author, in her very well done Author's notes also comments that during the Victorian times King Cnut's name was anglicized to Canute to sound more realistically English.

It is said that King Cnut - who Emma came to love, admire and respect very much had a daughter by a previous mistress that he brought to England to live at Court. Queen Emma had a son  King Aetherlred, Edward, who was begotten by more of a rape than an act of love. He was known to torture small animals as a youth and was ultimately sent to the North to become King of the Danes to keep him away from Queen Emma - who he disliked  - but Cnut never wanted her to know that truth. Edward ruled the Danes with the ruthlessness by which he had become known.  A daughter was born to King Cnut by a earlier mistress whom he brought to England. It is said that Edward allowed her to be drowned in a mill race he watched - it was after this occurence that he was sent to Denmark. As a a side note - Queen Emma is the great aunt of the famous William the Conqueror.

As you may be able to guess by now I thoroughly loved this book. It provided me with so much well researched early history of Britain that I had never known about - or had chosen not to read about I suppose. Helen Hollick is, in my opinion, a master story teller who carefully researches her subjects. Most all of her book is true from a historical point of view and, where people, places , names or events have been changed she notes that in her well done Author's notes. For a period in history that has so little factual information written about it I am astounded at what an amazing book has resulted.

I think that anyone who is a fan of medieval and/or Anglo-Saxon history owes it to themselves  to read this book. Once you start - you will not want to stop. There is, of course, a tremendous amount of history in this book but it also includes information of what sorts of medicines were used by the common people - or the royal ones too for that matter. There is also a entirely strong vision of what the feudal system was like at the time as well as how the continuous wars and political instability of the region had such a deleterious effect on this part of history. This book paints a vivid portrait of the time as well as of a Queen who has had such a lasting effect on the history of England. It's truly an amazing book that I am very grateful to have read!

Go get your copy! I can't imagine that you would regret it!

disclosure note: This book was provided to me by the publisher for the sole purpose of review. No other remuneration was received.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

5.25 inch (13.3350 cm) Treasures From Lark Studio Series

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please remember that you can double click on all of the photos for closer up views!
Four of the delicious titles offered.

 These books are little treasure trove of inspiration. I really enjoy each and every one. These books are chock-a-block filled with color, form, innovation, simplicity, unique complexity and complete originality originality.  I decided that some photos would indeed, speak a million words in reviewing these books. The covers are all unique and I love the size of the books - but you have to seem soeme of the insides in order to really get an idea of the joy that each is filled with.

 pendant - perfect for the season - 
I had thought I would post this on Halloween until surgery interrupted my posting schedue!

 Ah! now this chairs looks interestingly comfortable!
 colorful and lush
 These hand made books are just amazing -
sparking my own imaginition to maybe give a handmader journal a try
 one book
 What a totally unique concept to the idea of bookmaking!
 Open and fold.
 I just could not resist the lovely stitching on this one!
 A joyful fairly tale of a book!
OOPS - my favorite tile at the last...how'd that happen ??!!

Now how affordable are these little luxuries?!

disclosure note these books were supplied to me for the purpose of an honest review. No other remuneration was received

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Taming The Wolf" by Lydia Dare

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'Taming The Wolf' is touted as a paranormal , Regency, historical, romance. I might question the historical part, although this book does have a good historical flavor. Generally speak I don't / won't read strictly romance novels - since my long ago years as a bookstore manager left me cold to 'Harlinquin-esqe' bodice ripper sort of books. Of course they did always sell well and we seemed to sell out of Barbara Cartland books very quickly.

Lydia Dare is actually a writing team - and they do a wonderful job I should add. When I saw this book I was really wondering how I was going to be able to read it - the cover screamed bodice ripper and my blood ran cold. I thought that I would let Sourcebooks down and not be able to read the book!

I was really wrong! Once I began reading I had to zip through this fiendishly enticing little tome. What could be more charming than a combination of witches, werewolves and love? The books follows the romance of Caitlin (a witch whose speciality is seeing people's futures) and Lord Brimsworth , a/k/a/ Dashiel or Dash, who, as luck would have it, in a moment of wanton desire during a full moon, marked Caitlin with a playful nip on her neck.- thereby marking her as his mate for life. Alas and alack, Caitlin has no plans to include Lord Brimsworth in any future life of hers ....she cannot see his future at all.  in her coven, Caitlin's gift is to see the future lives that people will lead. Another witch, Elspeth has the power to create weather, while another member can heal all sickness' an ills. The intrepid Lord B., knowing that he must romance Caitlin or live a life alone since Caitlin was already marked as his -follows his lady love to Scotland. Along the way he meets - and growls at - a suitor of Caitlin's -gets counseling from an elder fellow Lycan (werewolf) and has a variety of wolfish adventures that one can only imagine!

After their arrival in Scotland Dash asks Caitlin's father for permission to marry his daughter ,and only child. Caitlin's father quickly agrees to Dash's suit and gives his blessing for their union. Thankfully by this time Caitlin has allowed herself to fall for the handsome , fleet footed brute after she discovers that her mother (a witch herself) had also not been able to see her father's future. It's all in the subtle signs I guess!

This book was an unexpected delight. A fluff book that was thoroughly enjoyable - and well written. It was a real head's up for me to not judge a book by it's proverbial, bodice ripper, cover! II simply had to give this book 4 stars for it's originality and fast paced fun! If you want a light read that is filled with imaginative fun that takes place in an unusual world where werewolves are Lords and witches are multi-talented and are generally accepted - get a copy of this quirky little gem!

Note:This book was kindly provided to me by Sourcebooks/Casablanca for the sole purpose of honest review. No other remuneration was received

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sometimes The Best Laid Plans....

 The steps that I use to go to and from work ... I'll be back there soon

I had several planned reviews that I  thought I would have had  time to post. No such luck! For any of my readers, publishers or authors who are looking for promised reviews.... I am going to be a bit behind due to back surgery tomorrow.

I promise that all reviews will be posted as soon as I can once again put fingers to keyboard and write something that won't embarrass myself !

See you soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Stitch, Cloth, Paper & Paint : Mixed Media Ideas and Inspiration" by Angie Hughes

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I am very fortunate that Search Press sent this book to me for review. I say fortunate because I get to drool over the book but also because, when I stopped to look at my own library, I was astounded at how many books I own that are from Search Press. Their books are lushly illustrated and always so well done. 

"Stitch, Cloth, Paper and Paint" could not have arrived at a better time for me personally. I was feeling somehow 'unfaithful' to my quilting roots by becoming so enamored with paper lately - this book happily combines all of the things I love working with.....cloth, paint and paper.

Angie Hughes is a name I have known - she writes often for a favorite magazine - Cloth, Paper Scissors. Her work is dynamic, colorful and terribly well executed. She describes herself as an embroiderer. The book opens with a thorough description (with photos) of the material selection that she utilizes most frequently - both what she calls 'base' fabrics and 'decorative'. Next up are great descriptions, that I especially appreciated, about paper and cardstock.  A section that is chock full of information about her use of embellishments and paints is included as well. I really enjoy reading about Angie Hughes process - a section that is well illustrated and contains a full of description of her techniques for reparing the base fabric, and then layering tissues and other fabrics round out the first part of the book.

Other sections of the book - all equally well done include:
  • machine stitching
  • hand stitching
  • adding paints
  • making your own embellishments from many varied materials
Detailed instructions are provided for several really good projects that combine all of the techniques covered in the book. They include a "Sunflower" book wrap, fabulous "Indian Artifact" and one of my favorites a "Sundial Triptych" that I want to try making soon - and it somewhat unusual for me to want to make something directly from a process sort of book.

If you get the idea that I really liked this book, you are correct. It is worthy of the 5 stars I gave it and it is a book that I don't think any artist or mixed media aficionado would regret adding to their library.

Note: this book was provided to me by Search Press for the purpose of an unbiased review. No other remuneration was received.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Ultimate Jewelers Guide" by Joanna Gollberg

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 please remember that all photos may be double clicked for a larger image

I am generally a bit skeptical when I see a book that touts itself as 'the complete' or 'the ultimate' guide to whatever subject is being discussed within it's pages. Having had he pleasure to review books for Lark over some time has given me an insight however - yes, there can be rather complete - or dare I say - ultimate guides. I was especially interested to see what the pages of this book held since my new metal mania has hit me hard. Mind you, I can't see myself making jewelry - but I have also learned to never say never as, with me at least, one never knows! This book, much to my delight has many pages devoted simply to using metal, annealing metal, working metal and finishing mental - all great information for a newly born, metal fascinated, being that I am. This book includes ample discussions of tools - varieties and suggestions for using; gem settings and styles of cuts; metal working techiniques such as hammering, firing, annealing - truly this is a book that gives you all of the information you might need to begin your journey into the world of making jewelry. At the time I was not sure what I would think about this book - but now I know. It is a lovely, beautifully presented book that definitely is assured of 5 stars in my opinion! It is, in fact an 'ultimate 'source for all things jewelry making related! Well worth having in your library!
I had wanted to know more about the repousse technique - and here it is right in the pages of this book!

 Tools and how to use them correctly

Just what I needed - information about heating and annealing metals!

More tool time - my favorite time. I have always had a deep affection 
for tools and gadgets thanks to my engineer father

Hammering metal - more info that was right up my current alley!

Ah! Gems...would that I could afford to play with these beauties! If you want to and can afford to though this book manages to tell you all you need to know about it to get started.

This book was provided to me by the publisher for the sole purpose of an honest review. 
No other remuneration was received

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Mark Art

The PageKeeper is my current favorite - simplicity itself - but it works very well

As a life long bibliophile I have, on occasion, purchased or been given some lovely book marks that transcend the droll roll of marking your place in a book but rise to the level of Book Mark Art. Some markers hold memories, others are simply markers that work and work well, while others both work and are eye candy. I love book markers and think any true reader should experience the joy of having at least one beautiful marker. In case you are wondering - no I have not lost a marker - amazing but true and I AM knocking wood as I write that!

The PageKeeper noted above is simple and effective. It's my current favorite and I had to have at least two - that is a record for me - generally one of any kind is enough - but this one works so perfectly that I had to have more than one! I mean who reads only one book at a time?!

This is a "memory collection" and I love gracing the pages of my books with these beauties whose memories make me smile. The beautiful lace bookmark is from my friends Jim and Louise Lane. It's from Hampton Court Palace - a place I want to re-visit so much! I have never been able to take it out of it's wrapper! The "Creation" book mark was designed and made by my friend Julie Wildman - whose calligraphy is utterly spell binding - she is (can you tell?!) a calligrapher and graphic artist). The eagle book mark was given to me by Cathy Pike in 1992 when I left American Airlines to venture into an unknown life and re-invent myself. The plane was from when I got my pilot's license in 1983, the "No Puffin" marker is from a trip to Alaska and the Z is because it begins my last name - my maiden name I mean.

The group above is of the more "normal" flat variety, Alaska was from another trip to that breath taking state. The face is a favorite painting and was given to me by friend, Lauren Franciosi, The lighthouse just arrived on Friday from friend Karen. It's a lighthouse in Greenport, New York where I lived long ago. Karen lives there now and a group has had the lighthouse restored so she sent me this lovely reminder of another page in my life. The poem next to the lighthouse was sent to me by my adventure buddy, Sarah Smith - she moved away to to the East Coast and this small bookmark always keeps her near. Next is a marker that is from a salmon recovery project -my DH was involved with the recovery project in his own way for many years and this makes me think of those days when he went and feed 30,000 salmon babies twice a day until they were big enough to release. Next in the row is from author Brandy Purdy who writes historical fiction that I am quite fond of. She sent this with a book for me to review. The two markers on the bottom are from our local library and I just happen to fancy them a lot! Can you begin to imagine a world without reading and books? I sure can't!
A close up of the lighthouse and the friendship poem

AHHHHH - the two markers shown above are truly works of art. The are made by Hook Mark and they are very special. The one on the left is from friend Jim Lane. It was a Christmas gift one year. He gave his wife, Louise a cross - the Buddha for me. I had bought the less precious one on the right just because I loved the green glass. These are wonderful marks and make very special gifts. Lots to choose from.

Below on the left is some gizmo that works okay but more often than not manages to just get tangles on things. It works alright. I don't even remember what company makes it - but I did get it at a bookstore. I remember that much. On the right is a very efficient. lovely and usable maker made by Levenger. This is the largest size they make and it has a place for two pens - or a highlighter and a pen or pencil on the top. Beautifully well made and a good bargain to boot! They come in a smaller size for regular mass market small paperbacks - this one is more for trade sized books. They come in other colors and it's a very efficient marker!

That it for my short stroll through the Art of The Book Mark - at least those that I have. Odd how something so small can hold memories, be a work of art or elegantly hold your place in a great book. Yes, I do love book marks and am always open to trying out  a new one!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (The Morland Dynasty Series)

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This is the third book in the Morland Dynasty series that I have read - and I have to admit that I am still smitten with both the series and with the writing style of Ms. Harrod-Eagles 

You can find my reviews of the first two books in the series "The Founding" here and "The Dark Rose" here.  "The Princeling"  takes place during the reign of Elizabeth I when the tensions between Protestants and Catholics (the Morland clan) are at their peak. The religious tension of the times does not escape the Morland family where some members have come to embrace the 'new' religion while other family members cling to the faith of their forbears.

Ms. Harrod-Eagles keeps the sub-plots intricately and adeptly woven and the fabric of the lives of the Morlands is revealed - replete with a real 'feel' for what life would have been like during this period of spiritual tumult.  There are many characters in this book and their lives, through births and deaths, are strongly interwoven - but I did not find it all difficult to follow each family member as they moved through their lives and affected the lives of their family. Some chose to leave the family whilst others remained. One son, William, leaves to pursue a career as an actor in the seedier parts of London. Another son, John, who is the Morland heir, heads North to the Borderlands where he meets and marries Mary, the bold, challenging daughter of cattle lord 'Black' Will Percy. One of the Morland sisters, Lettice - the gentle one of the clan- is married to a pitiless Scots Baron, Lord Hamilton ,who life revolves around the treachery within the Court of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Each time I finish a book in this series I am ready to read the next one. In fact I think it would be best if I was, indeed, able to have the whole series on hand - ready to read one after the other. I don't believe that I would become bored with the reading and I know that I could maintain the relationship continuity more easily if I had multiple volumes ready to read on my bedside table.  Sourcebooks has done a wonderful job in re-releasing this excellent series. Better covers, nice paper and a good font choice all make the reading even easier.  You can see the entire series-to-be on Cynthia Harrod Eagle's website along with more information about the Morland's lands and aYahoo discussion group.

I am, as you can tell, a real fan of this excellent series. Whilst the characters may be fictitious the history and the 'feel' of these books are based on real happenings, buildings and history, all of which Ms.Harrod-Eagles explains quite well on her website. She also has a handy page that places the volumes of the series in order. I am ready for the next couple of books "The Oak Apple" and "The Black Pearl". Obviously, I highly recommend this series. It's highly addictive!

Note: this book was provided to me by the publisher for purpose of honest review. No other remuneration was provided

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Sixth Surrender by Hana Samek Norton

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This book kept me up reading later than I should have for several nights. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and, as a first effort, I think there must be more good reads to come from this author. There were some aspects of the romances that made me think "maybe not!". I think that the author stretched to hold some of the plot and romance together but that did not stop my enjoyment. I am a fanatic about historical fiction - but I always remember that it is, in fact, fiction - not non-fiction - and so I allow some slack on that account. I can really recommend this book. If you are a picky historical history reader you may find elements that don't suit you - but make no mistake that Ms. Norton has done a a lot of research and presents her book with a tremendous amount of historical fact - you can easily imagine yourself as part of the book as you read it. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and recommend it to fans of historical fiction set in the early 13th century.

What exactly is the sixth surrender? You can find the answer to that question. Read no further if you don't want to read a spoiler...

"...siege,storm,surprise, subterfuge, suborning...they say are the means of gaining a well guarded secret...there is s sixth one...do you know what that is, my lady?... surrender..."

note: this book was provided to me by Amazon.com for the purpose of honest review - no other sort of remuneration was received.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

500 Gemstone Jewels by Lark Books

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I am not a jewel driven kind of gal - most of my money goes into art supplies and the comfy clothing that I chose to wear is not conducive to wearing too many jewels. Paint and glue would not be compatible with the unearthly beauty of the gems and jewelry displayed in this beautiful book! That being said - if I could have jewels such as the ones in this book I might take a second look at my clothes and make myself fit to wear these amazing pieces. Ah! To be wealthy enough to be able to collect some of this art-to-wear.

As I have mentioned before - I am a big fan of Lark Books publications and their compendiums are generally the best of the best. This is no exception to that rule. The jewelry that is displayed in this book is all pure eye candy and is sure to bring out the lust for personal adornment even to those of us who generally don't have a yen for bling - like me. This book is chock full of the latest and the greatest in modern jeweled adornment.You will find everything from pins,  earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings to odder things like a contact lens that is filled with gems - alien looking to be sure and I wonder how long it would be comfortable in your eye - but it looks great in the photo! There are small 'Earth Spirit Guides, small sculptures, airy tiaras fit for the highest of debutantes. Mostly though this is a book about personal adornment - haute jewels as it were. With few exceptions I would be over the moon to be able to own any of the glorious examples in this book. The photography - as is always the case with Lark Books is superb. There was nothing to do but give it 5 stars for being a book that I will take great pleasure at looking at over and over again - no, I don't think I can give this one up! Kudos to Lark and to the amazing artists that are featured in this book!

note: this book was provided to me by Lark books for the purposes of honest review. No other remuneration was received.