Sunday, March 28, 2010

'The Dark Rose' by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles 
from Sourcebooks Landmark

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I had never read any books by this author before having the lucky chance to review this edition of 'The Dark Rose' from Sourcebooks Landmark.  I am now hot on the trail of the first volume in the Morland Dynasty series and will, more than likely, become a devotee of this excellent author!

This book is based on a fictional family with the last name of Morland and the time from is during the reign of Henry VIII - this volume roughly covers the years 1513 to 1549. It is, more or less, a romance, although there is much much more to this story. The historical facts as presented are quite close to factual although the lives of this fictional family - think the Ewings of the old "Dallas" television series.

The book is replete with romance, marriages, deaths, forbidden loves, natural disasters, crop failures, intrigues with the royal family (think Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr), rebellions, religious disputes - this book has it all  - and presents it all with a flair and believability that sets this author's talents apart from many other historical fiction writers. The book is founded on a fictionalized family but the events and history that surround this family are definitely based on good, hard historical facts.

It appears that this is a reprint of this excellent book - and some of the older covers are ones that I probably would not have considered buying in the past. I like this cover and I think it suits the book well.

Below are two other, older covers that I unearthed. The one on the right is the more recent, and better of the two IMHO, whilst the one on the left is one I most likely would not have thought to buy way back when I was managing a bookstore!

I'm off to go in search of other volumes in this series. I don't believe that any historical fiction enthusiast will be disappointed in reading this excellent historically based novel!It's due for release in July I believe and can be pre-ordered easily - and often with a discount - on Amazon or through your  very important local bookstore.

This tidbit from Wikipedia on dark or black roses:
In the 18th century, the language of flowers became popular. In this code, black roses to most people signify death, or hatred. But it also means farewell. Black rose means revenge to a foe or wanting to kill someone. However, because a black rose is virtually impossible to procure, it can also mean pure love. A black rose can also mean rebirth, though this is less known.

Disclosure Note:
This book was provided to me by the publisher for review. No other remuneration was involved.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Pretty Little Mini Quilts" by Ray Hemachandra, Larry Shea (Editor) and Lark Books

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Please remember that all photos can be double clicked for a larger view !

"Pretty Little Mini Quilts" is the latest Lark Book from the "Pretty Little..." line. These books are always little treasures that contain an eclectic assortment of whatever the "Little Book" is covering. The book itself is a comfortable to hold size of 8.24 inches X 8.25 inches (20.955cm X 20.955cm). The book's description "...more than two dozen talented designers create 31 mini quilts that look to the past as they rush forward to a fresh future...". An apt description since the books contains the best of traditional, what I like to call 'traditional with a twist, and whimsical art quilts. There really is something for everyone in this lovely little book!  None of these small art works is larger than 36 inches (91.4 cm) in length or height.

The basics pages covers everything that you might need or want to know about how to create your own mini masterpiece. Covering what basic sewing tools you will require (measuring tape, scissors,pins, tailor's chalk, rotary cutter and mat etc etc. All types of quilting materials (cottons, linen, fleece felts, interfacings, fusible webs) are covered as is a really comprehensive section on quilting techniques that covers both machine and hand stitching and how to build a quilt; piecing, attaching borders, appliqueing, embroidering etc. A jam packed how to section that is condensed yet very thorough.

Each quilt pattern relates the things that are needed to make the quilt, the finished size, and detailed instructions for each step of the quilt journey!  This is a small book that packs a lot of enjoyment between its pages. You will find yourself returning to it often for a fresh idea or a new technique. I think it would make a welcome addition to any fiber, quilt and/or textile enthusiast! It's available at Amazon - or at your very important, local, bookstore.

This is another in the 'Pretty Little" series. I've had this book for several years and love it ! I
was pleased and excited when I was offered the opportunity to review "Pretty Little Quilts" !

My friend Sarah Smith has this wonderful little quilt called the "Elusive Batiky Bird" in the book.

Here is an example of what a wonderful mini quilt made from a traditional pattern !

This fabulous portrait quilt is by Susan Lewis Storey

This one I consider tradition (applique) with a twist (the wonderful labyrinth)

Traditional paper piecing lends itself artfully to the making of a mini quilt!

Embroidery lends itself to one of my favorite whimsical little quilts in the book! 
It's by Aimee Ray

Disclosure Note:
This book was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes only - no other remuneration was received

Sunday, March 14, 2010

500 Art Quilts: An Inspiring Collection of Contemporary Work . A Must Have Book For Any Fiber Enthusiast

Front Cover

Back of the Book

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500 Art Quilts is another delicious book published by one of my all time favorite art/craft publishing houses, Lark Books.  I had so hoped to be able to submit a piece for consideration for this book - but this year health issues kept me from being as aware of deadlines as I should have been and I lost the opportunity. I am thrilled, however, to have been given the opportunity to review this book because I knew that it was going to be a really important library addition.

For those of you who may not be aware of Lark books - their publications are always beautifully produced. They use high quality paper that even feels nice in your hand. I am a book sniffer and feeler and Lark books are always a pleasure to hold and page through. Perhaps one of the most important things is that Lark's photography is second to none in my opinion. Every Lark book that I have ever owned has been a keeper. Amazingly, for all of the high quality that goes into every Lark book they pricing is remarkable reasonable. No, I am not affiliated with Lark - other than having the opportunity to review this book - just a very happy book hoarder.

This 8 inch square (20.32 cm) 432 page book is filled with art - textile/quilt art - in all of it's myriad forms and fantastical colors. 346 quilt artists are represented in this book .The quilts were juried by the quilt world's own Karey Bresenhan, founder and President of Quilts,Inc. To note just a few of the artists that are included: Pamela Allen  -  Alice Beasley - Jane Burch Cochran  -  Judith Content  -  Chiaki Dosho  -  Noriko Endo  -  Caryl Bryer Fallert  -  Jamie Fingal  -  Linda Gass  -  Jenny Hearn  -  Judy Coates Perez  -  Yvonne Porcella  -  Susan Shie  -  Jen Swearington - Sarah Smith - Diana Bracey & Stacy Hurt.  The best of the best are included in this book that spans works from 1989 to 2008. The book includes a wide variety of topics;  portraits, landscapes, dream works, pictorial, abstracts, traditional with a twist and an even wider variety of techniques. 

This book is simply a must have book for any textile art enthusiast. It's a book that you will return to again and again for inspiration and enjoyment. There are quilts that with energize you , quilts that will calm you, quilts that will make you think and quilts that will make you say "WoW"!  Get this book - you won't be disappointed!
Sarah Ann Smith

Stacy Hurt

Left: Eileen Doughty  Right: Ludmila Aristova

Diana Bracey
Dottie Moore

Disclosure Note:
This book was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes only - no other remuneration was received

Monday, March 8, 2010

Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson

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Between Two Queens is the first of Kate Emerson’s books that I have read – but it  will not be my last ! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I personally think that the cover that was chosen for this book is somewhat deceptive - to me it makes the book appear to be a bit - oh I don't know - I suppose the word I want is tawdry. More like a inexpensive romance novel than the good historical fiction that it really is. Then again I do pay more attention to cover selections than perhaps I should!

The novel recounts the story of the two Bassett sisters, Nan (Anne) and Cat (Catherine).
The sisters parents, Honor Grenville and step-father Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle are from Calais, the last English toehold in France, where Lord Lisle is the deputy. In 1537 both sisters are brought to Court in the hopes of being chosen to be a Maid of Honor to Queen Jane Seymour. Nan, the somewhat more vivacious of the two is chosen while her sister is taken in by Lady Rutland where she lives in a less glittering but more stable home.

England ,during this time ,is newly protestant but challenges, plots and protests against the new religion are rampant; Court is rife with intrigue, suspicions, greed, power & sex. Nan is ambitious and hopes that her new post as a Lady-in-Waiting will make it possible for her to meet and marry a man of substance – and she is glad to be free of the constrictions that her mother, Honor, placed up her while she lived in Calais. Nan also leaves behind the attentions of a handsome servitor to her step-father – Edward Corbett. Nan has feelings for Corbett but his prospects in life leave much to be desired for a woman who dreams of money and power. Unfortunately Nan’s new position is obtained just days before Queen Jane is confined awaiting the birth of her child – and Nan is forced to become confined with the Queen – thwarting her excitement over her new position and the glittering life at Court it promised. When Queen dies from puerperal fever Nan is set adrift with no real position and no real home. Her hopes of meeting a suitable gentleman are quashed – for the moment.

Ultimately King Henry VIII takes an interest in Nan and they have a short lived flirtation and Nan remains at Court to once again become a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne of Cleves and then enters the household of Henry’s next Queen, Katherine Howard. Ultimately Nan becomes a friend to Katherine Parr and remains at Court during her reign. Throughout her many different positions in the Court Nan is admired by a much younger man, Wat Hungerford. Although Nan is interested and faltered by the young man’s attentions she rejects him as an appropriate suitor because of both his age and the fact that his family’s lands and titles had been confiscated by King Henry – Wat simply had no prospects. The books successfully weaves the story of this relationship throughout it’s pages – not overpowering the story in any way but definitely adding to the pleasure of reading the book.

The loyalties of Nan’s family are called into question after a plot is discovered and they are imprisoned. It falls on Nan’s shoulders to clear their names and restore the family’s good name. This becomes another fascinating sub-plot.

I could go on but should stop before I give the whole book away! As you can perhaps tell, I really did enjoy this book and am looking forward to now reading Kate Emersons other books. I read one review that called this book Tudor lite – and in some ways I concur. This is, after all, historical fiction – not non-fiction. The book does, however, contain mostly historically correct information. One feature that I especially liked about this book is the section in the back called “ the who’s who of the Tudor Court” which provides abbreviated biographical sketches of the characters in the book. Also included are an interview with the author and an excellent reading group guide. Anyone interested in British history, the Tudors and good historical fiction will thoroughly enjoy this book I think.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and fabric Crafts

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I have to admit to being a real admirer of almost all things Martha Stewart-ish. I am no champion house-keeper nor am I a crafting wizard but I do always enjoy the Martha Stewart Magazine and website. In this age of wonderful craft & sewing books -I think that any book that would dare to call istself a 'crafting encyclopedia' would have to be pretty darn sure of itself and this encyclopedia does not disappoint. As always with Martha Stewart products, the instructions are well written & beautifully illustrated. You can find information and "how-to's" about a wonderful, very wide, variety of crafts. General sewing, specialty sewing, embroidery of all kinds,quilting ,applique, printing, dyeing, and many, many other types of craft projects are included in this very well done book. In addition to the book a CD included that contains many templates and patterns that can be printed out . Also included is an extensive reference guide for all kinds of great sewing and crafting suppliers, equipment and fun things.

This book is, I believe, an excellent addition for any sewer, crafter or "Martha wannabe". Well done, clear, colorful and highly informative! I should perhaps add that this book is not an in-depth sort of book but I think that it gets you where you want to go with most all of the instructions and projects.

Disclosure Note:
This book was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes only - no other remuneration was received

To The Tower Born By Robin Maxwell

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I thoroughly enjoyed To The Tower Born by Robin Maxwell. I did not want to stop reading it !

The story follows the lives of Nell Caxton , the  daughter of William Caxton (the man who brought he first printing press to England) and of her best friend Elizabeth (Bessie)  - daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. The book follows the period right before and after the death of Edward IV. It chronicles the chaos that ensued as Richard III grabbed for the reigns of England; ostensibly imprisoning and later murdering his nephews (the Princes in the Tower) and forcing Elizabeth Woodville and her family into the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. This book has it all: history, family feuds, greed, political  conniving, love,

I found this to be an absorbing read – with well defined characters and well executed plot that never lagged. The narration is in chapters by both Nell and Bessie. I found Nell to be an interesting character but perhaps a bit too cold – then again perhaps that is exactly how a highly educated, independent woman of the time had to be in order to  survive and prosper. Nell’s lover (a chaste love I should mention) was Antony, Lord Rivers who Richard also had executed for allegedly conspiring to take over the protectorate of his nephew Edward. Bessie is enamored with her uncle Richard III whose was married at the time to Anne (Neville).