Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Learning to Conduct Life's Storms: All of Us and Everything by Bridget Asher

On a dark and stormy night in Ocean City, New Jersey in 1985 Augusta gave batons to her daughters Esme, Liv, and Ru, and while playing the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique taught them how to conduct the storm. Augusta knew there were people who loved storms, people who feared them, and people who loved them because they feared them. Augusta wanted to teach the girls how to control the uncontrollable, for even the appearance of control can make one feel really in control.

All of Us and Everything is about a dysfunctional family of sisters who grow apart into lives they can't control, all believing the roots of their problem lie in growing up without knowing their father. Did their mother sleep with strangers? one questioned.

Augusta wanted to keep the girls safe, just the four of them, not needing anyone else. Liv wanted to find out for herself if being like other people was good. She grew up to be a profiteer though marriage. targeting rich engaged men she deemed desperate and feeling trapped. Esme couldn't wait to escape, desiring an Ivy League education. She marries safe Doug, who leaves her for a dentist he saw while in France. And Ru, the youngest, memorized the whole family drama that would someday inform her novel; she is also a perpetual runaway bride.

August had told the girls what they thought was a story: Your father is a spy.

In 2012 Hurricane Sandy floods Augusta's home and the girls, all at impasses in their personal and professional lives, return home--together for the first time in years. Esme brings her troubled daughter Atty, who Tweets every minute of her life to thousands of strangers. Each is looking for something.

The storm has dredged up a packet of letters that are delivered to Augusta. The contents change her perception of the past and her understanding of the present. And the last member of the family is invited back, the father the girls have never known. The lost are found, the separated are reunited, things taken apart are put back together.

I loved everything about this novel. It is hilarious, wildly funny. It is unbelievable and it is real. It is humane, forgiving, and hopeful. I read it in twenty-four hours and wanted to read it again. It is rare to find a book so witty, a plot line so crazy, characters so eccentric, that is also well written, literary, and insightful.

I thank the publisher and NetGalley for a free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

“Charming, original, and impeccably written, All of Us and Everything is a spirited romp through the lives of an unusual family of women. When I wasn't laughing out loud or eagerly turning pages to see what happened next, I was marveling at Bridget Asher’s ability to tell a highly entertaining, fully engaging, and deeply insightful story.”—Cathi Hanauer, New York Times bestselling author of Gone

All of Us and Everything
Bridget Asher
Random House
Publication Date: Nov 24, 2015
$15 paperback

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Hexie Workshop with Mary Clark

Mary Clark's Class Sample
This past weekend I took a workshop with Mary Clark on a new way to make Hexies. Mary spoke to the CAMEO quilt guild last week. Her quilts are amazing! This past year she was a guest teacher at the Sauder Farm Quilt Show. Her first appliqué quilt won best of show at Sauder Farm! Mary's quilts have appeared in books and she has taught in the Toledo/Michigan area for many years. She was a wonderful teacher. She was methodical and precise in her descriptions and demos. Not every great quilter is a great teacher. Mary is both!

Mary's samples of hexagon quilts and the Superior Under Thread 
Mary had several secrets to making Hexagons. First she used Superior Bottom Line Thread, a very fine thread that really does not show. For templates Mary uses a water soluble fusible precut hexagon templates from Hugs N Kisses.

She fuses the template to the wrong side of the fabric, cuts the hexagon leaving a quarter inch seam allowance, and then uses a glue pen to iron the seam allowances to the back of the hexagon.

Mary also had a new way of knotting the thread that allowed continual sewing. A gal made a video of Mary's instructions so we wouldn't forget! I hope the insertion of the video works.


My work in progress in class. The print fabric is my new kitchen curtain fabric. I wanted to make a teapot hotpad.

My finished project
The class also learned how to make the folded Bow Ties seen in on the table
Sorry for the lousy photos but here are several of Mary's quilts from her presentation.
Lots of half square triangles make this quilt spectacular
Rework embroidery, piecing, and that lovely house
This was made for Anita Shakelsford's publication Coxcomb Variations
Mary loves dimensional appliqué'
I used up all the my Fons & Porter glue pen on this project. But I was able to compete the entire project in 24 hours.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Row By Row Completed

The 2015 row from Northern Hearth Quilt Shop in Cadillac, MI had a fisherman in the foreground. I found a Dover publication silhouette of a girl under a tree and used it instead. I machine quilted it and bound it off as a stand-alone wall hanging or table topper.

Must. Get. Sewing. It has snowed, Thanksgiving is next week, and I had planned on making row quilts as presents. It will be a busy December.

The apple trees still had green leaves when the snow came yesterday.

An Explorer of People: Knud Rasmussen's Arctic Journeys to Document Eskimo Culture

"Even before I knew what traveling meant I determined that one day I would go and find these people, whom my fancy pictured different from all others. I must go and see 'the New people' as the old story-teller called them." Knud Rasmussen

Enthralling. Thrilling.

Every time I picked up White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic  those words popped into my head. I had to put the book aside for a few weeks. I SO was eager to return to it.

Rasmussen endured treacherous journeys across the Arctic, driven by his need to discover and document people who had rarely, if ever, seen Europeans. He was fully aware that 'civilization' was already ending the Eskimo way of life.

Charismatic, with high social intelligence, ruggedly handsome and fun loving, Rasmussen could charm his way into any society. The Inuit called him the White Eskimo for he lived fully as one of them; he could drive a team of sled dogs, hunt, relish rotten meat and green liver, talk the language and walk the walk.

Rasmussen was born in Greenland in 1879. His father was a Danish missionary. His mother's people had lived in Greenland for over a century and she was one-fourth Inuit. Rasmussen loved the Arctic; there were great hardships but there was also great freedom.

When he was twelve the family returned to Denmark, a shocking transition for the boy. At boarding school he mourned the loss of his old life and was an indifferent student. He became a heart-breaker and the 'king' of social gatherings. He dropped out of university and considered acting and opera. He socialized with the intelligentsia. In 1900 he decided on a travel writing as a career.

Rasmussen charmed his way into expeditions to Iceland and Lapland, writing articles as a freelance journalist. The Danish Literary Expedition finally brought him back to his beloved Greenland. He was able to reach the Thule people who lived farther north than any other people on earth. Rasmussen had finally found a new people, with different customs, in an unknown land. Thule became his home base for most of his life, With Peter Freuchen he established a trading base there. He became part of the community listened to the stories, memorized them, then wrote them down. He loved the artistry of the Inuit poetry and folklore.

Rasmussen went on seven expeditions, journeys that took him from Greenland to cross Arctic Canada. Rasmussen endured what many other could not: starvation, frozen limbs, pushing himself past exhaustion. He noted the similarities of the cultures, language and mythology and developed a theory of their interconnectivity through migration eastward.

He accepted the Eskimo culture and peoples without European judgment. He knew their life was harsh and they did what they needed to do to survive. The killing of girl children or the voluntary suicide of the elderly prevented a community from growing bigger than their food sources could maintain. Cached meat spoiled in the summer warmth, but Rasmussen enjoyed mildewed blubber or green liver with the locals. Cannibalism happened in starvation times. Since men outnumbered women, husband sharing occurred.

Rasmussen's private life is not well documented. He never wrote about himself, never made himself into the hero of his own story. He had numerous lovers, and married and had children although his family rarely saw him. In later years he returned to his family to write. Promoting his books meant visiting populated cities like New York but he never felt at home anywhere but in the Arctic. His final journey to that hostile land, to film a movie that showed the true character of the Inuit, he became ill and never recovered.

Stephen R. Bown has written the first biography of the Danish Arctic explorer and ethnologist Rasmussen in English, which may be why few recognize his name. Since Rasmussen's extensive writings have not been translated into English, Bown was required to buy books, take them apart and tediously print them, scan them into a computer, then use software to translate them into English.

The book has charming black and white illustrations, maps, and photographs.
Read an excerpt from the book here.

I had never heard of Rasmussen before. I am thrilled by this book and now want to read his book The People of The Polar North.

I thank the publisher and NetGalley for a free ebook in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

White Eskimo: Knud Rasmussen's Fearless Journey into the Heart of the Arctic 
by Stephen R. Bown
DeCapo Press
Publication Date November 10, 2015
$27.99 hard cover
ISBN: 9780306822827

1911 Handkerchief Depicting Walrus Hunt, from my blog post here

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mini-Book Reviews of Recent Reads, Including the Tragic, the Ridiculous, and the Sublime

The Peabody Sisters of Salem by Louisa Hall Tharp was a 1950s book I picked up after reading Erika Robuck's House of Hawthorne last year.

The Peabody sisters included Sophia, who married Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary who married Horace Mann, and Elizabeth who brought kindergarten to America. The women had great intellect and drive and allied themselves with the movers and shakers of their time. They hobnobbed with all the Transcendentalists--Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau.

All three sisters worked in education at some time, with Elizabeth involved with Alcott's school before starting her own. Mary made herself a pillar for the work of Horace Mann until he gave up and married her. Artistic Sophia was subject to migraines until her marriage to Hawthorne. Mary and Sophia both idolized their husbands, totally supporting their work. Elizabeth was also the first women publisher in America, and quite formidable in her work for her pet causes.

Tharp's writing shows great scholarship and knowledge. Yet the book is highly readable and sometimes funny as Tharp is not above witty jabs at the sisters' expense. We are left with an impressive view of these women in all their glory and foibles.

The Other Joseph by Skip Horack was a book I won in a give-a-way from The Quivering Pen blog. At age nineteen Roy Joseph's older brother was lost in Operation Desert Storm, his parents were killed in a car accident, when a neighbor girl befriended him and they fell into bed. It earned Roy a felony conviction. At twenty-nine he works on an oil rig with a dog his only friend. Then he hears from a teenage girl who claims to be his brother's child. He sets off on a quest to learn more about his brother and to claim the only family he has left. The story is sad but compelling as we root for Roy.

License to Quill by Jacopo della Quercia is a free e-book I received through NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. The book does not fit into any one category: William Shakespeare is asked to be a spy for the crown. He is to infiltrate the terrorist group led by Guy Fawkes while they are planning the Gunpowder Plot to bomb Parliament. He meets W and secretary Penny who equip Will with remarkable devices. Meantime Christopher Marlowe, whose death was staged, is living a proliferate life in Italy until he is sobered up to play his part. Zany, over-the-top, and yet infused with a knowledge of the life and times.

St. Martin's Press
paperback $16.99
Publication December 2015
ISBN: 9781250059659

The Luminaries by Elizabeth Catton was my new book club's choice. The Mann Booker Prize winning novel was not well accepted by the other readers who complained of a lack of clear plot, likable characters, or compelling story line. I liked it. Set in 1866 in New Zealand's gold fields, a place where men and women come to start new lives, hopefully as rich men, the book is a mystery and a love story--although that is not clear until near the end. I appreciated the exploration of the perception of truth, character, and justice as shifting according to personal view. Some day I will reread it with special attention made to the astrological structure of the novel. It is not a book for those who like light entertainment. You will think.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Geneva

I was invited to participate in a study that records reading responses. I received the novel Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice. and read it as usual except after every chapter I synced where I was. I hope the publisher Simon and Schuster and author learned something. I sure did.

The novel concerns a family who discovers they have the Huntington's disease gene. This is the disease that killed Woody Guthrie, leaving his son Arlo growing up and waiting to see if he carried the gene. There is a 50/50 percent chance of inheriting the disease.

Genova is a neuroscientist who specializes in Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury, and autism. She has become a best selling novelist whose books focus on families struggling with crisis involving brain related diseases. In this novel she introduces a Boston policeman and his family. Joe is ten years from retirement with full pension. His eldest son is newly married. He has a daughter who is a ballet dancer and another teaches yoga. His youngest son is 'finding himself'.  Joe exhibits strange behavior and tests reveal Huntington's disease.

Joe struggles with his failing body, his inability to provide a financially secure future for his wife, and the knowledge that several of his children will also die of this disease. Each child has to decide if they want to undergo testing to know if they have the gene. Which is worse? Knowing you will or won't die an early death from a debilitating disease, or ignorance while endeavoring to live a normal life?

We learn about the disease along with the family.

The beautiful part of the story is when Joe realizes his mother, who had suffered from undiagnosed Huntington's disease, had tried to die with dignity. Her example inspires him. His daughter reminds Joe that how he responds to what is happening to him will be an example to his children when their time comes.

Such stories can be relevant outside of the specifics. I thought of my own parents who each died of cancer. Mom showed acceptance. She called all her friends and without self-pity chatted and told them her prognosis. Dad held onto every thread of hope and battled to live for several months. I had resented Mom's desire to die peacefully although I knew she'd endured enough physical pain in her life and she saw death as a respite and an avoidance of a dependent old age. Then I saw Dad's long decline and the indignity of a slow death. Was that the better way?

We all know we will someday cease to live. Some of us know ahead of time that we have a disease that will inevitably kill us. There is no right or wrong way to handle the knowledge. But our choices are an example to those who love us.

I received a free ebook from the publisher. The review is my choice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Pumpkin Runner Just in Time

I planned to make this table topper several months ago. It was delayed. I finished the hand appliqué a few weeks ago. Thanksgiving is around the corner, then it will be time to bring out the Christmas quilts. Time was running out. So I did what I never do: I machine quilted it.
Now it is where it was meant to be, just in time for Thanksgiving.
 I goes on the desk/table under Pumpkin Pie by Bunny Hill.

The pattern can be found in Better Homes and Gardens Easy Appliqué. The original had pretty pieced borders.