Sunday, March 31, 2019

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

The Wednesday Afternoon Book Club at our local library read Amy Stewart's historical fiction novel Girls Waits With Gun this month. We won a "Kopp in a Box" book club kit with swag and a copy of the novel--and a Skype visit from Amy Stewart!
I had seen the rave reviews and was glad to finally read Girl Waits With Gun. Our group enjoyed the novel--one member even read the second book in the soon-to-be five-volume series! She especially recommends the audiobook.

The Kopp sisters are unforgettable characters. Their story begins in 1914 when an automobile hits their wagon on their way into town. The debilitated driver won't admit fault and reimburse them for the damage to their wagon. Constance pursues Mr. Kaufmann with a bill for $50. He responds by harassment and threats, including threatening the kidnapping of Fleurette for sale into White Slavery.

Constance visits the Kauffman Silk Mills and observes his treatment of the workers, learning of his sexual predation that results in pregnancies. When Constance discovers that one of his discarded lover's baby has disappeared she is moved to help find the child.

Constance is a spinster who towers over men and at 180 pounds can stand up to them as well.

Her sister Norma is sturdy and no-nonsense, a hard worker who enjoys raising pigeons.
The third "sister" Fleurette is a pampered and sheltered teenager who has a flair for dramatic fashions. Passed as a late in life child, she is unaware of the secret of her birth.

Stewart happened upon a newspaper story that caught her interest and she researched everything she could about the incident and the people involved, even interviewing living members of the Kopp family. The titles of the Kopp books are taken from actual newspaper article headlines.
Newspaper headline
Stewart was lively and well-spoken in the Skype visit and our group very much enjoyed talking with her. I highly recommend making use of her author visit.

Appearing in the novel is The Black Hand, an Italian criminal group that sends a paper with a black hand on it as a warning. One of our members told the story of her grandfather's ignoring The Black Hand warning and he later ended up dead.

We talked about the historically accurate aspects of the novel--anti-Semitism, the misogynistic treatment of women, how the Kopp sisters were bucking the norm by insisting on being self-supporting and living alone on a farm.

I have the next two books in the series waiting to be read...

Published in 2018 was Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit and Kopp Sisters on the March is coming out this year.

I look forward to reading more of the Kopp stories.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Helen Korngold Diary: March 24-30, 1919

This year I am sharing the 1919 diary of Helen Korngold of St. Louis, MO.
Helen Korngold, Dec. 1919, New York City
Monday 24
Taught Wellston all day. Good.

Tuesday 25
School. Dr McCourt lectured in the evening. Summer brought a nice kid up with him, a graduate of Boston U.

Wednesday 26
School. Sophia Stampfer’s house with Dan in the afternoon. All had a nice time.

Thursday 27
School. Unexciting. Downtown – rode with Mildred Cohn – oh, such gossip. J. Koloditsky sent me a large photo of himself – he’s nice looking.

Friday 28
School – dancing- Jo Marks loaned me Mrs. Schweig’s masque costume. It’s stunning, “Cleopatra,” lavender & yellow, beaded with black & white & wicked!

Saturday 29
School – Went downtown & bought some slippers. Went to Union Mask with Summer. Oh, such fun. Hixon Kinsella and all the other high steppers were simply infatuated with me & my costume. After removing masks they were just as nice. This is the best time I’ve had so far. Auto ride!!!!

Sunday 30
All tired out from mask ball. Summer leaves for Arkansas tonight. I hate to see him go, because he was such a dear fellow. Karol & I took him down to station. B’nai Birth dance in evening.


March 26

Sophie Irene Stampfer (born June 1900 and died 1969) appears on the 1920 St. Louis census as the daughter of Joseph, who was an insurance broker, and Jane Ruth Meyers. Sophia was a teacher living at home. She married Jessie Bernstein.

March 27

Mildred Edith Cohn appears in the 1917 Hatchet Freshman Class. Her father was Max, who on the 1920 Census was a secretary in the clothing industry. Her mother was Edith. She is in the Ukulele Club in the 1917 Hatchet.

March 29

John Hixon Kinsella was in the 1920 Senior class at Washington University. He was Assistant Editor of the Washington University News. His WWI Draft Registration shows he was tall and slender with gray eyes and light brown hair. The 1920 St. Louis Census shows he lived with his parents Thomas and Marie on Olive St. His father was a real estate agent. The 1917 Hatchet includes a poem he co-wrote for the Freshman Class.

March 30

B’nai Birth was founded in 1843 and is the oldest Jewish service organization in the world.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Unmarriageable: Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan

Soniah Kamal's retelling of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice (P and P) was an entertaining read. Pakistan and Austen's world share many of the same constraints on women--especially an emphasis on marrying well over for love and a total unacceptance of premarital sex.

In Unmarriageable, Elizabeth and Jane become Alys and Jena Binat, schoolteachers who have intelligence and beauty yet are spinsters in their early thirties. Jena is shy and sweet; Alys is an ardent feminist who pushes her students to think for themselves.

The younger sisters include the Muslim fundamentalist Mari, the precocious boy-crazy and fashion-obsessed Lady, and the unhappily overweight Qitty. The family is not of the best kind, for Mr. Binat was bilked out of his inheritance which brought downsizing in house and budget, and Mrs. Binat's grandmother is rumored to have been a prostitute.

Aly's friend Sherry is forty-one but still has hopes of 'grabbing' a husband and finally experiencing a sexual encounter with a man. Every evening Alys and Sherry meet in the local cemetery, and under the pretense of feeding the birds, enjoy a cigarette and a heart-to-heart talk.

Alys and Jena meet the well-to-do Bungles and Darsee at a wedding celebration. Bungles is obviously taken by Jena. But she won't make 'you-you' eyes at him for fear of being considered a slut. Alys and Darsee, of course, stumble through a series of misunderstandings and dislike.

Just reading about Pakistani wedding traditions is interesting. And the fashions! The food! Oh, how my mouth watered over eggplant in tomatoes, ginger chicken, seekh kabobs, naan, korma, and rose-flavored cake with a cup of chai.

The novel is not a rewriting of Austen's classic but does follow the plot line. We know what is going to happen. But I completely enjoyed this novel for on its own merits.

Kamal channels some of Austen's irony.

When Jena twists her ankle, Bungles carries her to the car and rushes to the clinic. Kamal writes, "The clinic was an excellent facility, as all facilities that carer to excellent people tend to be, because excellent people demand excellence, unlike those who are grateful for what they receive."

There is a lot of talk about literature. Book titles are dropped throughout many conversations. The characters often speak about Austen in an ironic twist.

Annie Benna dey Bagh comments that she found P and P "helpful in an unexpected way...I decided that, no matter how ill I got, I'd never turn or be turned into Anne de Bourgh."

"Thankfully, we don't live in a novel," Alys comments. And yet Sherry channels Charlotte Lucas in marrying for financial security although she does have the choice to be self-supporting.

Darsee and Alys agree on many points in these conversations about literature and Pakistan's colonial heritage.

"I believe, Alys said to Darsee, "A book and an author can belong to more than one country or culture. English came with the colonizers, but its literature is part of our heritage took as in pre-partition writing."

When Wickaam comes on the scene, English Literature teacher Alys is appalled by his preference that films are better than books. He is drop-dead gorgeous and spins his lies to cover his unsavory history.

Kamal includes loads of nods to Austen. Minor characters are named Thomas Fowle and Harris Bigg-Wither, real people in Jane's life.

Alys often parodies the famous opening line of P and P, such as "it was a truth universally acknowledged that people enter our lives in order to recommend reads."

Thankfully, a Goodreads win brought this book into my life!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Parade by Dave Eggers

Four just wanted to do his job. He operated a state-of-the-art paver and he had a schedule to meet. He was to pave a road that would connect two halves of a country, the rebels at one end and the modern city and army at the other end. He was to keep to himself, not get involved, just do his duty and go home.

Nine had other ideas. He was to ride ahead and remove anything that might hinder Four's advancement. But Nine was a free spirit. He chatted up the locals, ate at their fires and went to bed with their women. He made connections.

Four couldn't control Nine. If he reported Nine's misadventures it would make Four look bad. Nine's behavior brought a crisis when he came down deathly ill, forcing Four to accept the help of locals to save his life.

This short novel is an extended parable. What interests me is that the title is not 'The Road' or a reference to Four and Nine's divergent attitudes towards the people they met who have endured war but still offer hospitality. No, it is called The Parade.

Four's time schedule must be met because there is a parade scheduled by the general in the city at the other end of the road. The road's completion is to be celebrated. Four completely believes in the road's peaceable purpose of bringing progress to the rural bush folk. He has bought the story of the celebration.

The twisted, dark ending was almost expected.

In some ways, Four's faith in his supposed peaceful purpose recalled to mind another novel I recently read, The Cassandra by Sharma Shields, in which a young woman finds work at a government facility working on something that will end WWII. She completely buys into her work and purpose until she discovers what it is that will end the war--the Atom Bomb.

I have always wondered how people can participate in industries that manufacture products of destruction. How do they justify their work? Do they willingly believe some fantasy? Do they push the purpose out of their minds?

How hard it must be to discover too late what you have done. It is easier to believe in a fantasy parade.

I received a free ebook through First to Read in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Read a Q&A with Eggers about The Parade here.

from the publisher:
An unnamed country is leaving the darkness of a decade at war, and to commemorate the armistice the government commissions a new road connecting two halves of the state. Two men, foreign contractors from the same company, are sent to finish the highway. While one is flighty and adventurous, wanting to experience the nightlife and people, the other wants only to do the work and go home. But both men must eventually face the absurdities of their positions, and the dire consequences of their presence. With echoes of J. M. Coetzee and Graham Greene, this timeless novel questions whether we can ever understand another nation's war, and what role we have in forging anyone's peace.

The Parade
by Dave Eggers
Knopf/Random House
Publication March 19, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (With Recipes)

Lorna Landvik has created a character beloved and influential who we only know through the reactions of the people whose lives she touches. Chronicles of a Radical Hag (With Recipes) tells Haze's story through the columns she wrote for a Minnesota small town newspaper, her readers' responses, through the memories people hold of her, and most interesting, how her columns reach out and speak to a generation of teenagers.

Haze was unabashedly herself in her columns. She wrote in a speaking voice, musing on her life and the people she meets and on national and world news. She garnered letters from people who enjoyed her work and from people who called her a "radical hag." Haze embraced it all, happy to just get people thinking. And when a reader suggested she would better use the column to share recipes, she began to throw in a recipe now and then.

When Haze is felled by a stroke the newspaper publisher, Susan, begins to republish her early columns dating back to 1964. For some readers, they are a nostalgic trip into the past. Susan's teenage son Sam has been assigned the job of reading the columns and summarizing them, with suggestions on which to rerun.

It is Sam and his generation who are surprisingly touched by Haze. She becomes real to Sam. He learns from her musings on life, love, social change, and political crisis. He sees the elderly around him in a different light. And when he discovers Haze's hidden papers he learns a secret that will alter perceptions about Haze, the past, and the present.

Subplots follow women who struggle with broken marriages, heartbroken widows, acceptance and inclusion, disappointment and redemption.

Landvik's book is a pleasure to read, alternately funny and poignant. And, the recipes will propel you to the kitchen!

I received a free book from the publisher through Bookish First.

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (With Recipes)
University of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
ISBN: 9781517905996
$25.95 hardcover

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam

Professor Chandra, soon to be seventy, has once again not won the Pulitzer Prize in Economics. His career was built on theories now unpopular--as unpopular as the Professor himself!

His kids won't talk with him, his ex married a male bimbo, his coworkers are sick of him. He has some nagging doubts about his whole life. Has he valued the wrong things?

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss had me laughing out loud through the first half.  Chandra's struggles with the world and his family are presented with humor.

Chandra takes up the challenge of spending time "seeking his bliss" at Esalen. He takes in stride new experiences like meditation and nude hot tub conversations. He uses what he learns and tries to reconnect with his alienated children. All Chandra's problems don't disappear like magic, but what he learns and absorbs does bring him to a place where healing can begin to happen.

I enjoyed the novel and felt invested in Chandra and his family. But...Halfway through the book, I felt like there was a secret agenda. Like the author was proselytizing! Was the novel just one big sales pitch for a certain experience and lifestyle? The author, I discovered, practices Zen meditation.

Can we solve our issues with better self-talk, claiming responsibility for myself, opening up about my repressed feelings? Would spending time at a Zen monastery change our life? Do self-help gurus really help? Maybe. I mean, this is all very good advice. Maybe we all need a spiritual journey now and then. Reevaluate our goals and values.

So decide for yourself. If you are seeking a role model for change, Chandra might be your guy.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
The Dial Press
Pub Date 26 Mar 2019 
ISBN 9780525511380
PRICE $27.00 (USD)

Rajeev Balasubramanyam was born in Lancashire and studied at Oxford, Cambridge, and Lancaster universities. He is the prize-winning author of In Beautiful Disguises. He has lived in London, Manchester, Suffolk, Kathmandu, and Hong Kong, where he was a Research Scholar in the Society of Scholars at Hong Kong University. He was a fellow of the Hemera Foundation, for writers with a meditation practice, and has been writer-in-residence at Crestone Zen Mountain Center and the Zen Center of New York City. His journalism and short fiction have appeared in The Washington Post, The Economist, New Statesman, London Review of Books, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, and many others. He currently lives and works in Berlin.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Helen Korngold Diary: March 17-23, 1919

This year I am sharing the 1919 diary by Helen Korngold of St. Louis, MO.
Helen Korngold, Dec. 1919, New York City


Monday 17
Ed. 5 exam. It wasn’t so bad. Home – Dr Mackenzie has the flu.

Tuesday 18
School. In afternoon, Paul, Zel & I crammed Shakespeare. I was all in. Home & to lecture. Dorothea Spinney gave an interpretation of Iphigenia in Tauris. It was marvelous. Never saw anything like it. Summer liked it too!

Thursday 20
School. Thrilled! Dr. Usher gave me an “A” in History 16. Asked me to come back next year to take a seminar, offered me a fellowship and a position as his private secretary. I was so pleased. Had a delightful talk with him. Out with Maynard Stillman to Temple Satellites.

Friday 21
School. Dancing. I was just happy over history.

Saturday 22
Geol. Exam – pretty good. Heard Dr. Usher’s cousin, Mr. Harlow, a missionary. Dr. U told me he played Bach. Gee, that’s going some. Downtown.

Sunday 23
Read papers – had company in afternoon – Aunt B. in evening.


March 18

Mrs. Dorothea Spinney of Stratford-On-Avon, England spoke on “The Iphigenia in Tauris of Euripides.”

Senior Washington University classmates Zelda Ysobel Siegfried and Pauline Westphaelinger.

Zella Siegfried appears in the 1917 Hatchet on the women’s basketball team. She was a neighbor, living at 4211 Page Ave.

Pauline Geraldine Elizabeth Westphaelinger was born August 31, 1893, in Ridgeway, Ill and died May 25, 1978. There are several extensive Westphaelinger trees on

Her father Henry arrived in American in 1866 and in 1882 he married Pauline Wilhelmina Papenmeier. They had children George, Clara, Wilhelmina (Minnie), Gustav, Katherine, Pauline, Dr. Henry, Mary, Caroline and Christian. The 1900 State of Illinois Census shows he was a farmer.

The 1920 State of Illinois Census shows Pauline living with her widowed mother and siblings George, Mary, Chris and Caroline. Pauline and Mary were both teaching.  Pauline never married.

March 20

Helen went to Temple Satellites with Maynard Stillman, son of Issac and Nellie. Issac was a Russian emigrant originally surnamed Carnowsky. Issac was a retail merchandiser for men’s furnishings on the St. Louis Censuses of  1910 and 1930.

Maynard was born on February 8, 1896. He lived at 1013 North 11th St. His WWI draft card shows he was working as a stenographer for a Detective Agency and had passed the exam for officer’s reserve. He was medium height and build with brown hair and dark brown eyes. In 1930 he was a sales clerk. He died in 1973 in Baltimore.

Dr. Usher's History 16 course description read:
European Expansion and Imperialism. The course will deal with the extension of the political influence of European nations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and with the wars and rivalries growing out of it. While the history of the earlier centuries will not be neglected, the major part of the course will be devoted to the more recent phases of the period since 1885, in particular to German colonial policy, to French rule in Africa, and the development of the British Empire. Three hours a week. Credit 6 units.

The Sunday newspaper

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Books I Have Read But Missed Reviewing

When I got my first Kindle I bought up bargain books, many of which were wonderful discoveries. I did not review them at that time.  I thought it's time to share books that have stuck with me.

I was looking around Netflix and happened upon the film Harry and Snowman. It rang a bell. It only took a minute before I realized I knew Snowman from The Eighty-Dollar Champion, which I had read quite a few years ago.

This book by Elizabeth Letts is one that has stayed with me. The story of an immigrant who buys a horse on its way to become dog food and how the horse becomes a champion is an inspirational story.

"Harry knew what it felt like to be powerless. Beat up or not, this horse seemed brave." from The Eighty-Dollar Champion

Harry de Leyer grew up on a farm in Holland during WWII, hiding Jews and working in the resistance. He helped to save horses abandoned by the retreating Nazis. After the war he was sponsored to come to America to work on a tobacco farm. Harry was 22 years old. But his passion for training horses was noted. He worked his way up to teaching riding at an elite girl's school.

Harry needed an easy riding horse. He was late to the auction and the only horses left were on the trailer going to the slaughter horse to become dog food. He noted a horse who seemed to have something special. The horse looked him in the eye and nuzzled his hand. He bought the horse for $80. When he got home it was snowing and one of Harry's children thought it made the horse look like a snow man. And he got his name.

Harry ended up selling Snowman but the horse kept jumping fences and returning to Harry. So Harry bought him back and began to work with Snowman. The horse had a love of jumping.

"There was more to horses than columns of numbers, the profits and losses in his farm ledger. There is one thing no horseman can ever put a price on, and that is heart."from The Eighty-Dollar Champion

Snowman was not pretty. He did not have a pedigree. Harry was not a college-educated, East Coast elite like the competition. What Harry and Snowman had was chemistry, heart, and the desire to be winners.

Their achievements brought international fame.

Who can resist a tale of the underdog stealing the win?

I can't. And that is why I remember this story and this book.
In 2014 I read An Unfinished Season by Ward Just. I enjoyed it immensely and later read The Eastern Shore and liked it even more. I have his novel American Romantic on my TBR shelf. An Unfinished Season is the story of a young many who falls for a girl from the upper crust. The young man discovers that all that glitters is not gold. Through the story of one young man, Just considers the American psyche and the choices we make.
I bought the book for 50 cents at Big Lots. It sat on my shelf for at least a year. I picked it up and fell in love. I did not want to read it too fast, yet did not want to put it down. In his blurb, Pat Conroy confesses, "I love this book." Well, Pat, I do too.

Corey, the son of a blue-collar, working-class man, shares his father's high standards of careful workmanship. While helping his father replace a drain, and saving the roots of an aged oak tree, he is noticed by Liam Metery, who has inherited the wealth accumulated by his Gilded Age grandfather. Corey is asked to help around the Metarey estate, and as Liam Metary and his family come to respect Corey, he is invited into their lives. Liam himself is a man who loves workmanship, and the simple pleasure of hands-on industry. He is also a progressive liberal who decides to back the great Liberal senator from New York State, Henry Bonwiller, in his run for the presidency in 1972.

As Corey becomes involved with the behind-the-scenes machinations of politics, his world widens. Corey is especially taken by a journalist, who becomes his role model, leading him to his life's work in journalism. Corey is also affected by Liam's dreams of a better country, the end of the war in Viet Nam, and a government that aligns itself with the common man's good. Liam recognizes the boy's potential and assists him with a scholarship to a private school, and later leaves him money for a Harvard education.

The fairy tale unravels, dragging Liam and Corey into the ambiguous black hole created by Bonwiller, and their loss of innocence reflects the national loss of idealism in the 1970s.

What would you do to protect your most sacred dream? How reliable are the human vessels in whom you place your dreams? Can you live with the knowledge that you have compromised yourself?

One reviewer wrote that the title "America, America" should be heard like a sigh for what might have been, knowledge of what has been lost.

I later read Canin's novels Carry Me Across the Water, which I reviewed here, and  The Doubter's Almanac which I reviewed here.
I remember Song of the Orange Moons by Lori Ann Stephens as a lovely book. I wish I could tell more about the plot but it's been a long time since I read it in 2012. The blurb reads,
A mosaic of stories that follow the intertwined lives of three girls coming of age. Two young girls from Jewish and Christian families and their elderly widow next door try to find happiness in a seemingly cruel world. In spite of their different cultural and economic backgrounds, Rebecka, Helen, and Adelle all share the delicate and self-conscious journey to womanhood. In their search for they find lasting strength in the power of their friendships. 
 My highlights from the book include:

Those church-ordained picnics and prayer lines and ladies groups are the finest excuse for conjuring up rumors I ever heard, and just more evidence that God is a woman. 
For the first time since I moved, I felt the immense emptiness caused by grief. I cried for the loss of my friend, and for my inability to find her again. 
Skin is not like love or morality. Love is just a tradition that people follow. A word that means “you must.” Morality is a death sentence to the imagination, a noose for passion—I’d seen the hand of morality in torn pages of the library books. 
Being cynical is better than walking onto cattle cars on a direct route to the incinerator and still hoping that humans are basically good at heart. 
...feel his sadness like a blanket covering us both. 
They feel a terminal loneliness. They feel like a misplaced foot or a forgotten ear. 
Of course she was lonely. Everyone is swimming alone. But we are swimming alone together, sometimes bumping into each other, sometimes rubbing our fins together awkwardly against the current, and sometimes floating at the top with our bellies exposed to the dry air.
...telling me the facts of life that I knew couldn’t possibly be true, but telling them with such conviction that the truth seemed to bend like a spectrum, into so many beautiful colors.
Well, now I want to read it again!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

MODA All-Stars on a Roll!

Quilters know that a "jelly roll" isn't something to eat with coffee but a delectable collection of 2 1/2" strips of fabrics, coordinated and ready to sew.

If you haven't yet developed a sweet tooth for these enticing treats, MODA All-Stars On A Roll might just have you running to the quilt shop for a quick fix.

Fourteen patterns from top designers are offered with something to appeal to every aesthetic. Each of the designers is introduced with cute Q&As and hints.

Just look at Square Dance by Karla Eisenach! This subtle plaid pattern at once modern and traditional. Karla used one Jelly Roll of assorted red and tan prints. I just love it.
Square Dance, 58" x 58", 12" blocks

Betsy Chutchian's Mountain Climbing has a traditional Country look. She used contrasting colors, one set "north" and one set "south," from a Jelly Roll of assorted prints set against a dark gray.
Mountain Climbing, 54 1/2" x 64 1/2", 9" x 8" block
The adorable Sweet Butterfly by Stacy Iest Hsu is a pattern any girl would fall in love with. She used a Jelly Roll of assorted pastel prints. Imagine it with bold colors!
Sweet Butterfly, 63" x 68 1/2", block is 17 1/2" x 14"
Lynne Hagmeier employed strip piecing for Chain Reaction. She used a Jelly Roll of tan and dark prints.
Chain Reaction, 62 1/2" x 76 1/2", 6" x 8" block
Trifle by Janet Clare is inspired by the British dessert that is to die for, made with layers of sponge cake, fresh fruit, custard, and whipped cream. She used two Jelly Rolls of assorted brights and 81 5" x 5" squares in assorted prints. This is a foundation pieced pattern.
Trifle, 63 1/2" x 63 1/2", 7" x 7" block
Maisy Daisies by Joanna Figueroa is another sweet pattern that can be made in the pastels she shows or in brights. Joanna used an assortment of Jelly Roll strips for this beautifully coordinated palette.
Maisy Daisies, 56 1/2" x 71 1/2", 9" x 9" block
One Roll Wonder by Barbara Groves and Mary Jacobson uses one Jelly Roll of assorted pastels. This is a simple pattern to construct and would be a quick gift quilt to whip up.
One Roll Wonder, 60 1/2" x 60 1/2", 10" x 10" block
As a quilter who loves applique, one of my favorite designers is Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill. She offers Rule the Roost.
Rules the Roose, 40 1/2" x 40 1/2", 8" x 8" chicken blocks
I wondered what it would be like to hand applique these Jelly Roll pieced hens. So I made a table topper with my precut strips of fabric which I keep in a bin.
 I just loved it!

If you need more reasons to buy MODA All-Stars on a Roll, the royalties from the book are donated to School on Wheels which provides educational opportunities for homeless children.

That's a win-win for me.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

MODA All-Stars On a Roll
Lissa Alexander
On Sale Date: March 15, 2019
ISBN: 9781604689884, 1604689889
$25.99 USD

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

For several years my husband's department secretary was a Japanese American who came of age in a WWII internment camp. Her stories were the first I had encountered. Later I learned that German Americans were also identified as suspect hostile aliens and sent to internment camps. But before reading The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner I had not heard of the repatriation program, exchanging interned families for POWs held by Germany and Japan.

The Last Year of the War is Elise's life story. Her parents were born in Germany and love their homeland but embraced America wholeheartedly. Elise is a typical American girl.

Mariko is another American born child of immigrant parents. Her Japanese parents have held to their heritage and identity.

Circumstantial evidence flag their fathers as potential alien enemies, their goods and money confiscated, and the fathers interned. At Crystal City their families can join them, but with the agreement that they may be repatriated to their homelands.

Elise is lost and angry until she meets Mariko. They bond and become best friends, sharing dreams of turning eighteen and moving to New York City together to pursue careers.

Through these sympathetic characters, readers learn about life at the internment camps, and, when Elise's family is sent to Germany, life in war-torn Germany.

Elise struggles with being an American in the land of her enemies, while to her parents it is their homeland. Mariko's America dreams are shattered by her traditional parents' expectations.

Readers of Historical Fiction will love this book. I commend Meissner for bringing this aspect of American history to light, especially in the context of America's current distrust of immigrants.

Meissner sidesteps vilification of the German people, noting that Elise's German family were required to hang a portrait of Adolph Hitler on the wall and describing the destruction of German cities and civilian losses and hardships. The perils of war are addressed, including the harassment and rape of German girls by the occupation army after the war.

Elise does find her place in the world, not the life she dreamt of as a teenager, and she finds love.

Learn more about Crystal City here.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Last Year of the War
by Susan Meissner
Berkley Publishing Group
Pub Date: 19 Mar 2019
Hardcover $26.00 (USD
ISBN: 9780451492159

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Thomas Cole's Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek by H. Daniel Peck

In 1825 the artist Thomas Cole visited the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. Within a few years, he had set up a studio in Catskill and married a local woman. By 1836 he wrote in his journal that it's "quietness & solitude is gone."

It was his Catskill paintings that led to his discovery by John Trumbull, who brought his work to the attention of the New York City art world, propelling him to fame. He was inspired by the Catskills, even painting his favorite scene from memory while studying abroad.

Thomas Cole's Refrain by H. Daniel Peck considers  Cole's Catskill Creek paintings, probing deep into the subtleties Cole hid in plain sight--images of the human relationship to nature, the tension between civilization and nature, and the human experience as we journey through life.

Thomas Cole always intrigued me because of his use of art to convey his vision of life in his painting series The Course of Civilization and The Voyage of Life. I was interested in this book as an exploration of Cole's vision through the landscape he painted over and over, the application of his "deeply literary imagination" to create a narrative in his art.

Viewers may puzzle over just how different each version of the Catskill Creek is from another. He painted one scene ten times! The creek and the trees and the misty mountains on the horizon are seen in various lights, time of day, and seasons. There is often a man rowing and human and animal figures, sometimes barely seen. Peck zeros in on the details, looking for themes and interpreting Cole's intentions.

The paintings are reproduced in whole and in detail. There are fascinating maps showing Cole's vantage point from which he sketched.

Readers learn about Cole's theories, his Essay on American Art as it applies to his art, his career and personal life, and his travels across America and Europe.

From the vantage point of a time when we are under threat of climate change and in the throes of the struggle between industry and business and environmental protection, even our national parks unprotected from commerce, it might surprise that two centuries ago Cole was already mourning the loss of America's pristine natural abundance.

Born in Lancashire, England, a hotbed of textile mills, Cole understood America's future under the relentless industrial growth powered by capitalistic greed. Cole's art reacted to the changing American landscape under the Industrial Revolution. He deeply felt men's "insensibility" to the sublime "beauty of nature" which "commerce" was destroying. Forests were cut down, Native American burial grounds desiccated, and train tracks altered pastoral scenes and rattled the foundations of early colonial homes.

In some of the paintings, dark storms are rushing toward the sun-filled scenes, only stumps remain of once splendid primal trees, or vultures hover.

Wild nature, the agrarian life, and industry's impending alteration are part of the cycle of civilization. But not all "civilization" is welcome. Case in point: Niagara Falls, my girlhood Sunday afternoon jaunt--oh, to have seen it before the forest was torn down and the cement and shops grew to the very water's edge!

Cole was one of the first American artists to portray the American landscape, inspiring and influencing the artists of the Hudson River School and Luminists such as his student Frederick Church. I enjoyed this deeper look into Cole's art.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Thomas Cole's Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek
by H. Daniel Peck
Cornell University Press
Pub Date 15 Mar 2019
ISBN 9781501733079
PRICE $34.95 (USD)

Learn more about Thomas Cole at
The Thomas Cole National Historic Site

from the publisher:
Thomas Cole, an internationally renowned artist, centered his art and life in Catskill, New York.  From his vantage point near the village, he cast his eyes on the wonders of the Catskill Mountains and the swiftly flowing Catskill Creek.  These landscapes were sources of enduring inspiration for him.

Over twenty years, Cole painted one view of the Catskill Mountains at least ten times. Each work represents the mountains from the perspective of a wide river bend near Catskill, New York. No other scene commanded this much of the artist's attention. Cole's Catskill Creek paintings, which include works central to American nineteenth-century landscape art, are an integral series. In Thomas Cole's Refrain, H. Daniel Peck explores the patterns of change and permanence in the artist's depiction of a scene he knew first-hand. Peck shows how the paintings express the artist's deep attachment to place and region while illuminating his expansive imagination.

Thomas Cole's Refrain shows how Cole's Catskill Creek paintings, while reflecting concepts such as the stages of life, opened a more capacious vision of experience than his narrative-driven series, such as The Voyage of Life. Relying on rich visual evidence provided by paintings, topographic maps, and contemporary photographs, Peck argues that human experience is conveyed through Cole's embedding into a stable, recurring landscape key motifs that tell stories of their own. The motifs include enigmatic human figures, mysterious architectural forms, and particular trees and plants. Peck finds significant continuities—personal and conceptual—running throughout the Catskill Creek paintings, continuities that cast new light on familiar works and bring significance to ones never before seen by many viewers.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Helen Korngold Diary: March 10-16, 1919

This year I am sharing the 1919 diary of Helen Korngold of St. Louis, MO.
Helen Korngold, Dec. 1919, New York City

Monday 10
School- Delightful conversation with Dr. Usher. He told me I was a joy to him as a pupil! Gee, I was so puffed up. I didn’t see how I was to squeeze out o the door, but I did. Home – rested–letter from Ida. Study.

Tuesday 11
Class. Study. Home. Lecture Langsdorf – good
Seniors won basketball championship.

Wednesday 12
Wellston – School – Home- Study.

Thursday 13
Exam Ed.14. Not so bad. Basketball party. Had a fine time. Judy & Barbara were presented with “W”. All star game. Greens won. I won game of Jerusalem – “slick fingers” that’s me – was presented with grand candy prize.

Friday 14
Downtown – School

Sunday 16
Study Shakespeare. Sleep in afternoon. Bonnie Youngs entertained in the evening, so we went there after we visited Jennie Goldstein who is engaged to a Sen. boy.

March 1919 Kroger Ad


March 11
Dr. Langsforf
Dr. Alexander Suss Langsdorf lectured on “Industry, Research and the Engineer.” He was Dean of the Schools of Engineering and Architecture. He graduated from Central High in St. Louis, attended Washington University, Cornell University and Harvard. He became a physics instructor at W.U. in 1898 and in 1904 advanced to Asst. Professor teaching electrical engineering. He appears in the 1943 Hatchet still as active Dean. He is in the Book of Louisans, which shows he was born in 1877 to Adoph and Sara Suss Langsdorf.

March 13

 A Barbara Carper was on the Women’s Athletic Council in 1917.

“W” presentation for Women’s Sports started in 1901 and ended in 1947, awarded for sports participation. Women earned 100 points for each participation in a major sport, including basketball, hockey, and soccer. 50 points were earned for minor sports like swimming, hiking, rowing and archery.

Jeruselum is short for Trip to Jerusalem, another name for musical chairs.

March 16

Bonnie Gaylord Young's WWI Draft Card shows he was a produce merchant born October 28, 1890, and was married. He was of medium build and height, with dark blue eyes and black hair. His death certificate shows he died on September 4, 1921, at age 30 of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Jeanette Helen Goldstein of Beaumont, Texas, appears in the 1918-1919 Washington University Freshman class.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

As a girl in the 1950s, I grew up watching my grandmother bowl. It came about like this:

The fire department burned down the house across the street from us, an early 19th c house like ours, one built by a founding family in the area. It was scheduled to be demolished and the volunteer fire department decided to burn it as a training exercise.

My parents and I watched from our second-floor windows as the house became enveloped in orange flames that lit our faces, the heat nearly too much to stand. My father recorded it all on the home movie camera, bought at my brother's birth, so I know it was around 1960 when the house was burned down.

In front of our house was the gas station built by my grandfather. What were they thinking of, starting a fire so close to gas pumps?

And on that newly vacated land, a bowling alley was built. My grandmother, who lived with us, joined a league and bowled with her lady friends. I would go with her to watch the games. I remember having to put on special shoes that always smelled funny. I recall the snack bar, the bright lights, the balls rolling back to us, and especially the noise of the balls knocking down the pins.

Once there was another kid at the alley with his grandmother. He talked about baseball the entire time. I don't know why I listened, I had no interest in Little League or baseball--or in even boys.

Reading Elizabeth McCracken's novel Bowlaway brought back those bowling alley memories. But the novel's bowling is of a different sort than the nine pin I grew up watching.

Our subject is love because our subject is bowling. Candlepin bowling. This is New England, and even the violence is cunning and subtle. It still could kill you. A candlepin ball is small, two and a half pounds, four and a half inches in diameter, a grapefruit, an operable tumor. You heft it in your palm.
Our subject is love. Unrequited love, you might think, the heedless headstrong ball that hurtles nearsighted down the alley to get close before it can pick out which pin it loves the most, the pin it longs to set spinning. Then I love you! Then Blammo.  
from Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

There is it! In the first pages of the novel, the theme laid out for the observant reader to see. We become addicted to the very act that knocks us off our pins--Love--which can even kill us. Bowling as metaphor.

I loved this novel for the many lovely tricks of language and quirky descriptions.
Joe sat down on the bed and pulled the animal close, one of those accordion cats that got longer when you picked it up by the middle. from Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
And how McCracken sums up things that knock you over with unexpected truthfullness--why didn't I think of that? you wonder.

But sorrow doesn't shape your life. It knocks the shape out. from Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
McCracken tells us that this is a story about genealogy. We read about generations of the Truitt family and the people whose lives they touched.

Just before the turn of the century, a century ago, Bertha Truitt is discovered in a cemetery by Joe Wear, an orphan boy who works as a pin setter in a bowling alley.  Bertha is attended to by another visitor to the cemetery, Dr. Sprague, an African American doctor with a penchant for deep thought--and drink.

Bertha has arrived with a candlestick bowling ball and pin and a pile of gold. She builds a candlestick bowling alley, hires Joe, and marries the doctor. The local women come to bowl. Bertha builds an octagonal house for her and the doctor and their daughter Minna.

But tragedy strikes (pun intended) in the form of a molasses flood. The doctor sends Minna away to his people and he slowly lets grief consume him. First, he and Joe fashion a Bertha doll with carved candlepin appendages and a stuffed body.

Joe had hoped to inherit the bowling alley, as Bertha once promised. It is assumed that everything goes to Minna, but she never returns. When a Mr. Truitt comes along saying he is Bertha's heir, showing a family bible with the handwritten family births, he takes the alley over, banning females and marrying a local woman. Their children are yoked to the alley unwillingly.

When he was a young man the mysteries of the world seemed like generosity--you can think anything you want! Now the universe withheld things. from Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

It is a story of revelations, sudden deaths, marriages, love, and how life slams lovers apart. The characters and plot may be Dickensian, but the truths are spot-on. As one character says, "Lady, lady. All sorts of things happen in this world. This is only one of them."

I purchased the book from the publisher.

by Elizabeth McCracken
ISBN: 9780062862853
ISBN 10: 0062862855
On Sale: 02/05/2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

WIP, TBR, News

It has been a hard few weeks. I haven't been able to see properly! I have had cataract surgery and decided to pay extra for fancy lenses to correct my astigmatism. So for two weeks, my 'new' eye has 20-20 vision but was farsighted, and my 'old' eye was nearsighted and needed correction for astigmatism. I couldn't see with glasses or without them, or with reading glasses.

As you can imagine, this has put a crimp on what I have been able to do.

I have done some reading on my tablet, enlarging the typeface so I can see it--blurred without glasses or with readers--but I could still do some reading. I have watched some movies but it tires my eyes. I tried to listen to audio books but I fell asleep or my attention wandered.

I took a lot of unnecessary naps! I couldn't trust myself walking in the snow. I couldn't judge distance very well and I was clumsy. I have been BORED.

Because my new sewing machine is self-threading, I tried making some blocks for my Winter Houses quilt. The pattern is from Bunny Hill.

Things went fine until I accidentally hit the computer controls and changed the settings. Then I struggled to read the small print in my manual to correct it. And when I ran out of thread I didn't notice. I managed to make a half dozen star blocks.
Quilt in progress!
And no way could I see to thread a needle! No hand work. I have the applique block ready for when my surgeries are done.
The Winter Flurries fabric line I am using was from Connecting Threads and is on clearance now.

Thankfully, I could listen to the Detroit Symphony--in person at the Berman Center for the wonderful Vivaldi Four Seasons concert with conductor, violinist, and contratenor Dimitry Sinkovsky. And also I listen to the webcasts.

Now the surgeries are over and I am ready to hit the ground running! Books and quilts are waiting!

Today we see our grandpuppy Ellie. Here she is at my son's house with her sister Hazel, looking out the back door at squirrels.
My surgeries were on Tuesdays so I missed my weekly quilt group, but in between surgeries I was able to go and show my finished Fiona Block quilt, which I hand quilted before my surgery.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Bird King by G. WIllow Wilson

I spend through G. Willow Wilson's The Bird King in a few days, enchanted by its exotic setting and well-drawn characters.

Fatima was one of the least powerful in the Sultan's household, a slave whose beauty made her a favorite concubine. Fatima lived a life of luxury, dining on sweetmeats and dressing in the finest clothes, always indoors and barefoot, even while outside the palace walls the Moorish Empire was falling to the Catholic Spanish army. What she lacked was self-determination and the power to say no to authority.

Her childhood friend is the slave Hassam whose red hair spoke of his Breton ancestry. The royal mapmaker, Hassam has the ability to create maps that alter reality. And while devote, Hassam's sexual preference is against religious law. They have shared secret trists, embroidering the story of the Bird King, whose story they learned from a partial manuscript.

The once great Moorish empire on the Iberian Penninsula is vanquished. The victor Spain is willing to be magnanimous, as long as the Sultan agrees to its terms: hand over the sorcerer Hassam to be made an example. Convert to Catholicism. And the Moors will be allowed to live, subjects of Spain.

The love Fatima holds for her only friend emboldens her; she will not lose the one person who loves her and not her beauty. She insists that Hassam flees for his life. With the help of a jinn, pursued by the army of the Holy Order, these naive and unprepared refugees discover that freedom has its costs.

Fatima's love and faith, and her willingness to lose what had once been her one power--beauty--supports this unlikely heroine as she seeks to find the Bird King's realm, where she hopes to find a refuge for her and Hassam.

Themes touched on are relevant: the nature and responsibility of power, the cost of freedom, true faith versus religious power, refugees seeking their place in the world.

I received an ARC from through Bookist First in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Bird King
by G. Willow Wilson
Grove Atlantic
Pub: March 12, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2903-1

from the publisher:
Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Hassan has a secret—he can make maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality with his pen and paper. His magical gift has proven useful to the sultan’s armies in wartime and entertained a bored Fatima who has never stepped foot outside the palace walls.

When a party representing the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrives to negotiate the terms of the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, little realizing that her new friend Luz represents the Inquisition, and will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery, and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With everything on the line, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan, and taste the freedom she has never known?

Fatima and Hassan traverse Iberia to the port, helped along the way by a jinn who has taken a liking to them—Vikram the Vampire, who readers may remember from Alif the Unseen. Pursued all the while by Luz, who somehow always seems to know where they will end up, they narrowly escape from her generals by commandeering a ship, and accidentally also the snoozing Breton monk belowdecks. Though they are unsure whether to trust him, because he is a member of the very same faith they are running from, they nevertheless set about learning from him how to crew a ship. And as it becomes clearer both that there is no place on the mainland that they will be safe, and that the three of them are destined to stay together, they set out to do something they never thought possible—to find the mysterious, possibly mythic island of The Bird King, whose shifting boundaries will hopefully keep them safe.

An epic adventure to find safety in a mythical realm, The Bird King challenges us to consider what true love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis

This isn’t a book about fish, though they play a leading role: it’s a book about us and our reaction to the latest invasive species threatening to become a permanent fixture of the landscape. It’s a book about what winning and losing looks like in the uphill struggle to manage invasive species. And it’s a book about how a fish’s extraordinary jumping ability propelled it onto the nightly news and the nation’s Most Wanted list. Andrew Reeves on Overrun
My brother, who enjoys kayaking, told me about a video showing a man in a boat armed with a baseball bat, ready to strike the giant leaping fish that fly out of the water. We may laugh, but the reality isn't funny. Those fish are foreign species from Asia. And they are taking over.

We Michiganders fear those fish as the next wave of invasive species ready to decimate our already degraded Great Lakes ecosystems. That crystal clear Lake Michigan water? It isn't a good sign, even if vacationers think it is great. It is the sign of a dying lake, with already nothing much left for the fish to eat. 

And Asian carp are really, really good at eating microscopic organisms, thus competing with native fish. Plus, their waste promotes the growth of toxic algae, already a problem in Lake Erie thanks to farm fertilizer runoff--and the destruction of the wetlands that once filtered the water.

If--or rather, when--the carp reach the Great Lakes, we expect a further decline in sport fish, boaters attacked by leaping fish, and an increase in water toxicity. Goodbye, recreational and fishing industries--and pure drinking water. 

How and why bighead carp were introduced in 1955 and the consequences are presented in the highly readable Overrun

Environmental journalist Andrew Reeves takes readers on a journey, beginning with the first person to explore the use of Asian carp as a natural and non-chemical way to control aquatic weeds, part of the reaction to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring warning of the harm from pesticides. 

I read Carson in the 1960s. I remember the first Earth Day. I was a senior in high school when I bought a"Give Earth a Chance" pin.  I took ecology in college. I learned organic gardening. Sure, I too would have supported a natural control over chemicals. I am all in for anything that limits the chemical profusion that once seemed the panacea for all our ills before it was revealed as a source of new ills. 

Asian carp, the aquatic-weed-eater par excellence, was introduced to clogged waterways in the South as a natural alternative to pesticides. It seemed like a great idea.

One thing we humans are good at is forgetting that when we tweak an ecosystem there are consequences. As the carp found their way into the environment the consequences became manifest. Such as competing with native species. 

Reeves visited the people who think that we should sterilize the carp to limit their population, and the people who think barriers will keep the carp where we want them, and those who believe closing down the Chicago Canal will stop them, and the people who think that fishing the carp (and introducing them to the American dinner plate) will control their numbers.  Reeves discovered that the political and environmental realities are so complex there is no easy answer. 

There is no way we are going to stop the carp. Decisions made generations ago set up a domino effect that we can't stop.

Can we restore the Great Lakes--America's--ecosystems? If the will is there, perhaps a whole-ecosystem approach can make a difference. 

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian Carp Crisis
by Andrew Reeves
ECW Press
Pub Date 12 Mar 2019  
Paperback $22.95 (CAD)
ISBN: 9781770414761

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Helen Korngold Diary: March 3-9, 1919

This year I am sharing the 1919 diary of Helen Korngold of St. Louis, MO. Helen was a student teacher at Washington University.
Helen Korngold, Dec. 1919, New York City

Monday 3
School good. Downtown to look for suit, but didn’t find any. Home—studied.

Tuesday 4
Hard day—class from 10:30 – 3:15 without intermission. Basket Ball—Seniors beat Juniors 10-5. Home. Lecture by Fairchild on “Hamlet.” Good. Summer came. He was so sleepy poor kid. Home in rain! Wrote notices for Junior Council. Bed at 12 bells.

Wednesday 5
Taught at Wellston all day—awfully tired.

Thursday 6
School—2 hrs geol. McCourt is so fascinating. Seniors vs. juniors—our team won! First game of championship. Home.

Friday 7
School—Ed. bores me. Home. Herman Heyerman and I went to Bernice Young’s. Had a dandy time. Pretty nice crowd. Clara Marx wasn’t so gay. Dan was cute—so too was Summer. Home at 1:30 a.m.

Saturday 8
Slept till 9 A.M. School. Rained & snowed. Home—wrote Shakespeare theme. Varsity vs. Mizzo—35-26 favor Mizzo. Bad luck—ran out of gas but hit a lucky station. Home—wrote letter to Jul.

Sunday 9
Study—washed hair—had company.


March 2

Temple Social Society was related to the Korngold family’s synagogue.

March 3
Six-Barr advertisement for spring suits, March 1919

March 4

Professor H.R. Fairchild of the University of Missouri

March 7

Bernice Emily Young was born in 1899 to Oscar S. and Emily Young and at 1900 lived at Windsor Place with a servant. Other daughters included Audrey and Dorothy and they had a son Emerson.

Herman Heyerman appears in the 1917 St. Louis City Directory working as a clerk.

March 8

The basketball game was between MIZZO is Missouri State University in St. Louis and Washington University.