Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 2019 in Books

March was not my favorite reading month.  There were a bunch of duds in there.  When that happens, I often go back to some favorite authors for solace.  Which is what I did this month and I was not disappointed.  There's also some great juvenile/YA reads this month - I think kids books tend to be more hit than miss for me.  All in all it was a really great month of reading.  Here's the rundown:

Little Broken Things - Nicole Baart - fiction - Quinn's sister Nora contacts her out of the blue asking her to meet.  At the meeting she asks Quinn to watch over a little girl and keep her safe, and then disappears.  As Quinn tries to unravel the mystery of the little girl her family's secrets are revealed.  This was a little predictable, but definitely held my attention and I liked how the story came together.

Night of Miracles (Arthur Truluv #2) - Elizabeth Berg - fiction - five stars - I was so excited when I saw this on the shelf at the library as I didn't realize that this had come out already.  It's a follow-up/companion to The Story of Arthur Truluv which I absolutely loved.  This book tells the story of Arthur's neighbor Lucille Howard whose in-house cooking school is flourishing, so she needs an assistant.  Enter Iris, who is running from her former life, and finds a new home in town.  Meanwhile, Lucille has new next door neighbors who need her as well.  Just as sweet and hopeful as the first book, I am very much hoping for more in this series!

The Shadows We Hide (Joe Talbert, #2) - Allen Eskens - mystery - five stars - I am a huge Eskens fan.  His books are so well put together and his characters so rich.  I love how this series of books are all tangentially related, but aren't necessarily a true series as the protagonist shifts from book to book.  This one focuses on Joe Talbert (who was also the focus of his first book, The Life We Bury) who has now graduated from college and is working as a journalist.  He is investigating the death of the father that he never met, who was apparently a wholly unlikeable individual, as well as additional family and secrets.

Coal River - Ellen Marie Wiseman - historical fiction - four stars - Wiseman is another of my favorite authors.  Her historical fiction novels are wonderful.  This one takes place in Pennsylvania and tackles issues of child labor and general exploitation in a coal mining town.  After the death of her parents, Emma Malloy returns to Coal River to be taken in by her aunt and uncle, who is the foreman of the mine.  She is expected to work in her aunt's home, and is appalled by the conditions she sees in the town, especially of the young 'breaker boys,' many of whom have lost limbs in the breaker.  She becomes involved in efforts to let the world know about the injustice in Coal River.  I really enjoyed the story, but I thought the ending was a little too pat which is why this got four stars.

Letters for Emily - Camron Wright - fiction - four stars - When Emily's grandfather dies, he leaves her a book of poems/stories.  She realizes that they are clues which when decoded reveal passwords that unlock letters on his computer.  The letters are words of wisdom that relate to not only his life, but also his hopes and dreams for her.  Her mother and father who are estranged work together with her aunt to uncover all the clues.  In doing so, relationships are repaired and the generational healing occurs also.  I really liked the book, although there were some things that I thought were extraneous that should have been edited out, and it kind of bothered me that the letters were for Emily, but the mom and dad kept solving them, but those were minor nits.

The Alice Network - Kate Quinn - Historical Fiction - five stars - Absolutely loved this one.  After WWII, Charlie St. Clair goes to France to look for her cousin Rose who disappeared during the war.  Her search leads her to Eve Gardiner a drunk who was part of a renowned spy network during WWI.  The two join forces to determine what became of Rose.  Just so good, this one makes me want to read more about these female run spy networks.  I need to read more from Quinn.

The Island of Sea Women - Lisa See - historical fiction - five stars - I love everything from Lisa See.  I was familiar with the Haenyeo (famale divers) of Jeju island after reading White Chrysanthemum last year, and enjoyed this book just as much as the other.  The story is told in a series of flashbacks, and is about two best friends, Mi-Ja and Young-Sook who became estranged following Young-Sook's marriage when they ended up on opposite sides during the Japanese occupation and later during the communist insurgency.  So well done, and so sad.

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1) - Elizabeth Wein - YA historical fiction - five stars - This was such a good book.  It tells the story of the friendship of Maddie and Julie, two pilots for the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) during WWII.  These were female pilots who couldn't fly combat missions, so they were essentially logistics pilots, moving completed planes to bases, taking planes that needed service elsewhere, etc.  Maddie and Julie both excel and end up participating in some clandestine missions, one of these ends in disaster when the plane crashes and Julie is caught.  The story is told in two parts, one in which Julie writes her confession and tells her story, the second narrated by Maddie which tells her side.  It is definitely surprising, and sad, and heartbreaking, but hopeful.  Highly recommended.

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James - mystery/detective - four stars - I picked this one up on a whim, it wasn't quite what I expected as it is a bit of a ghost story and I usually don't like those, but it was well done in terms of how it tied the 'real life' story in with the ghost story part.  Fiona Sheridan's sister was found murdered on the grounds of an old abandoned reform school for girls in 1994, and her boyfriend was convicted.  Twenty years later, Fiona is drawn back into the events of 1994 when she hears that someone has bought and is renovating the school.  The story jumps back and forth between present day and the 1950s when the school was in use, and you learn about a tight knit group of roommates, one of whom went missing.  It was really interesting to me how the story wove together and I thought it was quite well done and kept me reading to the end, and guessing too.

Circe - Madeline Miller - mythology - five stars - I have always been a huge fan of mythology, back to when I was in grade school, and this was a wonderful retelling of the story of Circe, who I always thought of as a minor figure in the story of Odysseus.  Miller traces Circe's origins, her family, and how she ended up on that island.  Really fantastic character development, explaining why she made the choices she did, how she came to be.  If you love mythology, I highly recommend this.

Adventures with Waffles - Maria Parr - juvenile fiction - five stars - I had recommended this one to Ellie last summer when we were on vacation.  She read it on her kindle, so I didn't read it then, but we were at the library the other day and saw it and she insisted I read it.  I'm so glad that I did.  The author is Norwegian, so it's translated into English, but it's just a sweet, fresh story about two best friends growing up in Norway who also happen to get into their fair share of trouble.  Their escapades made me laugh.  It was a light, airy, fun, read with an innocence that reminded me more of the books I read growing up than some of the more modern kids books.

Clock Dance - Anne Tyler - fiction - four stars - I read A Spool of Blue Thread from Tyler last year and really enjoyed it, so thought I would try another from her.  This one was good, but not as good as the other.  It follows the life of Willa Drake, you see snippets of her through the years as she progresses from child to adult, and how her choices affect her life.  The bulk of the story is present day when she receives a call that her son's ex-girlfriend has been shot and she needs to come watch her daughter.  It's a strange request since she is an ex and really didn't know the girlfriend, but she's compelled to go, and in doing so starts to make her own decisions and slowly establishes a new life of her own.  I found the situation a bit hard to believe, but I liked the transformation and how she developed.

Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks - historical fiction - four stars - This was a really interesting book.  I don't know that much about the plague, so it was quite fascinating.  Anna Frith is the main character, she is the widow of a miner with two small children when the plague comes to their small village.  She loses her sons, but survives, and works with her employers, the village priest and his wife to minister to the people of the town.  They eventually decide to go into quarantine for a year as a town, so that the effects of the plague will be contained.  It is in many ways a survivalist tale, and I learned a lot reading it.  I loved it right until the very end.  I was not a fan of how the story ended, it kind of lost me there, but definitely worth reading. 

The Night Diary - Veera Hiranandani - YA historical fiction - five stars - This one was so good, and again, it really gave me an education.  I never knew that India and Pakistan were formed when the British 'freed' India in 1947.  Hindus are to live in India and Muslims in Pakistan.  Nisha's family is Hindu, so they must leave their home and travel to the new India.  This turnover created much tension and there was a great deal of violence as well.  The trip is arduous and dangerous.  The entire story is told through Nisha's diary.  Highly recommend this one, I've passed it on to Ellie to read also.

Astrid the Unstoppable - Maria Parr - juvenile fiction - five stars - So I already raved a bit about Adventures with Waffles.  We picked this one up at the library at the same time that we borrowed the other and it was even better.  Just as sweet, and light, and funny!  Astrid is a combination of Ramona,  Pippi Longstocking, and Anne of Green Gables - high on good intentions and imagination, and low on results sometimes.  Astrid is the only child in her village and her best friend is an old man in his 70s name Gunnvald.  One day she spies other children in her village, and Gunnvald gets a letter that sends him into a funk.  Astrid has to reconcile her change in circumstances and does so admirably.  Such a good book.  I'm really hoping that someone out there is translating the rest of Parr's stories!

Rose Under Fire (Code Named Verity #2) - Elizabeth Wein - YA historical fiction - five stars - I loved Verity so much that I picked up the second book in the series.  I use the term series loosely because like the books from Eskens, they are only tangentially related.  Maddie from the first book plays a small part in the story as does Anna Engel, but the focus is Rose Justice, an ATA flyer from America.  She ends up being captured towards the end of the war, and is sent to Ravensbruck where she ends up being housed with the 'rabbits,' a group of Polish prisoners who were experimented on by doctors - cutting their legs open and inserting foreign material to see how they would heal, having parts of bone cut out, etc.  Wein likes to tell her stories through the characters writings, which is what occurs here as well.  I definitely plan to read the third book in this series.

My Wish List - Gregiore Delacourt - fiction - four stars - This is more of a novelette, translated from the French.  It's about Jocelyne, who lives a humdrum life, not anything she dreamed of growing up, just kind of plodding along.  But she is true, and honest, and faithful, and she cares for her husband and friends, and reaches and helps people through her small fabric shop for which she also has a blog.  One day, she wins the lottery, $18+ million.  She retrieves the check, but doesn't cash it.  She is afraid that if she does, her life will change, that the people around her will change and that she'll see their true colors.  So, she hides the check in an old shoe and dreams of what she might do if she cashes is, but of course she doesn't. More things happen, but I don't want to give the story away, but it is an interesting look and what money does to you. 

So many good books this month!  Currently I'm reading A Mango-Shaped Space, which is a kids book that Ellie demanded I read, and I'm enjoying it.  After that, I have The Song of Achilles - written by the same author as Circe - I loved that so much I needed another mythology fix, and then Song of the Captive Bird.  Would love to know what you have been reading this month, so please share!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Neat & Tangled April Release in Review / Winner

Happy Friday!  It's release day at Neat & Tangled.  The April release is now available in the store.  Here's a look back at my projects from this week:


I also have a winner to announce.

Congratulations to Maureen McDonough-Reiss (@mcdonoughreiss)!  Please shoot me an email and I will get the Receding Background sent out to you.

If there's something from the release that you need, it's available now in the store.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Neat & Tangled April Release Day 4

Hi all!  It's Day 4 of the Neat & Tangled April release.  Yesterday was the last day of release reveals, so today the DT is sharing bonus cards featuring the new release.

For my card, I'm using the new Receding Background and the To the Stars stamp set.  

I started by clear embossing the background on some watercolor paper, and then used a couple of makeup brushes to add Distress Oxides to the panel.  In the very center I used Antique Linen and then some blues and purples around the center, roughly moving from lighter to darker hues.

Once that was done, I removed the clear embossing by placing a sheet of white copier paper over the panel and ironing the embossing off.  

Then I misted the panel with water to create some variegation in the background.  I also added some white splatter to double as stars.  Once dry, the panel was popped up over the card base with foam adhesive.

The image from To the Stars was stamped and colored with Copics.  I really wanted the image to stand out against the background, so instead of die cutting, I fussy cut the image.  I did need to use an exacto knife for those tiny inside spaces.

The sentiment is from the A-Mazing stamp set and was clear embossed on one of the dies in the Skinny Strips set.

That's all for me today.  Be sure to head over to the Neat & Tangled blog to check out what the rest of the team created.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Neat & Tangled April Release - Day 3 & Giveaway

Hi all!  It's Day 3 of the Neat & Tangled April release and today we're showing off my new Receding Background background.  This is one of those that is so handy to have in your arsenal.  You've seen it a lot already this week helping to create focal points on some of the cards from the rest of the team.  For this card, I thought I would make the background the star.

The background was stamped and clear embossed on some watercolor paper.  I then painted it using my Gansai Starry Colors paint set. 

I used all the different golds except the white gold, just randomly coloring the rings.  It's a really pretty panel, but I don't think the photograph above shows it off that well.  You can get a better feel of the shimmer and shine and gold in the detail shot below.

Once the panel was done, I trimmed it down and popped it up over my base and added a simple sentiment strip with a gold embossed sentiment from the Dream Big stamp set.

OK, be sure to head over to the N&T blog to check out what the rest of the team created.  Leave a comment here as well.  I've got a background to give away.  For extra chances, head over to my IG (@mprantner) and follow the directions there.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Neat & Tangled April Release Day 2

Welcome back for Day 2 of the Neat & Tangled April release.  Today we're showing off a new mini from Elena called Dream Big.

I started by stamping and coloring the main image with Copics.  It was then die cut.  I wanted to see as much of the background as possible, so there were a couple tight places where I did a bit of fussy cutting to add some definition - in particular between the legs and the goose's bottom.

Then I needed a background.  Just like yesterday's card, I turned to Pinkfresh Studio's Indigo Hills 2 6x6 pad.  I wanted to add some soft clouds to the background, so I used the negative spaces from the clouds that I did cut for yesterday's card as a stencil, inking them with white pigment ink.  I went over the clouds a few times to get them to the lightness that I wanted.

The sentiment is from the Layered Landscape set.  A simple black mat finished things off.

OK, head on over to the Neat & Tangled blog to check out what the rest of the team created and enter to win today's set.  

I'll see you back here tomorrow when we show off my newest product for N&T!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Neat & Tangled April Release Day 1

Hi all!  It's April release week at Neat & Tangled!  Today we're showing off a sweet new set from Elena called To the Stars.

I love these cute celestial fairies.  My card today features my favorite who is standing among some clouds with a smiling moon looking on.

Each of the images was colored with Copics and then die cut.

I was a little pressed for time, so I decided to let my patterned paper do all the work when it came to the background.  This is a sheet from Pinkfresh Studio's Indigo Hills 2 6x6 paper pad.  The soft ombre wash was just right for my colored images.  I added a few stamped stars (using an image from the set) with Altenew Peach Perfect ink to add a bit of additional texture/interest.

The sentiment is also from the To the Stars set.

I added a white frame created using the largest of the scalloped dies with a center opening cut out using a rectangular die. 

Normally I would trim the base piece down so that you don't see it outside the frame, but when I was trying it out, I really liked the look of it peeking out from behind the scallops. 

That's all for me today.  Be sure to head over to the Neat & Tangled blog and check out what the rest of the team created.  Leave a comment there to be entered to win this set.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

SSS Blossoms & Butterflies Poppy Frame

Simon Says Stamp has just revealed their latest release - Blossoms & Butterflies.  I was fortunate enough to receive the Poppy Frame die to take for a test drive.

I really like playing with and mixing textures, which is what I did with this first card.  The die was cut from Birch Wood Veneer paper as well as a blue and red felt.  These pieces were then inlaid together.  I wanted to make sure that I got a really good 'stick' because I was working with felt, so I used some double sided adhesive sheets from Spellbinders.  

The finished piece gave me the feel of an Asian art print, so I kept things simple and added a black and a red mat, and a simple embossed sentiment (from Altenew's Leaf Canopy set).

For my second card I went with a bit more of a traditional inlaid paper approach.

The die was cut from black, for the frame, and then white.  I wanted the flowers to have a stained glass look, so I chose three red Copics (R22, R24, R29), and colored the white pieces using a single shade of red for each piece.

For the background, I used four blues (B0000, B000, B00, B02) to color a very light ombre on a white piece of cardstock, and then die cut that.

The sentiment is from my Lovely Lotus set for Neat & Tangled.

Be sure to head over to Simon to check out the entire release, lots of good stuff in there! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Blessed to Know you with Neat & Tangled Lovely Lotus

Hi all!  I'm over on the Neat & Tangled blog today sharing this card featuring the Lovely Lotus stamp set and Parquet stencil.

I started by stamping my images with Fairy Dust ink from WPlus9.  It's a very light gray which is great for no line coloring.  In this case you still see a bit of the gray though because the colors I used for my coloring were so light (RV000, RV00, RV10 and YG01, YG61, YG63, along with the colorless blender).

Because the gray still showed a bit, I figured I would fight fire with fire and added some accents in gray using an N1 marker.  

Once my coloring was done, I die cut the images, and then arranged them over top a panel I created by misting my Parquet stencil with some white Dylusions spray over a very dark gray cardstock piece.  

The front most flower was popped up with some adhesive foam.  Since it was so close to the bottom of the panel, I could trim off the bottom of the stem and use that to double as the stem for the first flower.

The sentiment is also from the Lovely Lotus set and was popped up over the florals with two layers of foam tape.

That's all for me today.  Thanks so much for visiting!

*Affiliate links in text to Neat & Tangled and below to Ellen Hutson

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Altenew Moroccan Mosaic

Hi all!  I had a bit of time over the weekend to create and I pulled out one of my favorite Altenew background sets, Moroccan Mosaic.  

I stamped it in black on a panel, and then used a really basic no skill necessary coloring technique.  Basically, you use three colors, and starting with the lightest, color a line around the inside of the space.  Using the middle shade, color another layer inside that, slightly overlapping, and then with the darkest shade, color the center of the space.  (Here's another example of how I used the same technique going dark to light from a couple years ago.)

I was originally going to use the panel as a basic rectangular background on an A2 card, but then when I was looking at the pattern, I saw this hexagon shape and decided to trim that portion out of the panel.

I added a black mat which I just eyeballed after adhering the background hexagon to it, and then added a small sentiment from the Leaf Canopy set which was embossed in white on one of the Skinny Strips dies and popped up over the background piece.

I had two pieces left from when I trimmed out the hexagon piece and I didn't want them to go to waste, so I cut a black panel of cardstock and embossed a sentiment from one of my favorite Papertrey sentient sets (Choose Joy).  

The edge panels were then popped up at the top and bottom of the panel.

I love it when you can get two cards for the price of one!  

Also, just a heads up that Ellen is running a sale through today on all Altenew products - 25% off using the code ALTENEW5.

*Affiliate Links in text to Altenew and below to Ellen Hutson

Monday, April 1, 2019

March 2019 in Books

Hi all!  This month was a bit of a mixed bag when it came to reading.  Some really good ones, but also some clear duds.  It was a pretty eclectic mix of genres too.  Here are the recaps:

Black Dove, White Raven - Elizabeth E. Wein - young adult historical fiction - five stars - This was such a great book.  It's the story of two kids, one black (Teo), one white (Emilia), whose mothers are best friends and comprise a airplane stunt team.  When Teo's mother Delia dies in an accident, Emilia's mother Rhoda is rudderless for a time until she decides to pursue Delia's dream, to go to Ethiopia to live/work.  The kids stay in the states for a time, but then go to join her.  They live there happily for a time, but it is on the cusp of WWII, and Italy is poised to invade.  When war does break out the family is scattered as Teo (who knows how to fly) is essentially drafted into the very small Ethiopian air force, and Emilia is essentially kidnapped by her Italian air force father.  It's a wonderful story told partly in prose and partly through the writings of the kids.  I learned a lot - about slavery in Ethiopia, about how U.S. pilots were in Ethiopia to help train their air force, even about the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia.  Highly recommend this one and am looking to read some more from this author.

The High Tide Club - Mary Kay Andrews - fiction - four stars - It's been a bit of a year, and at the beginning of the month I needed something light and easy and funny to read to get my mind off things.  Mary Kay Andrews always fits the bill there.  Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons lawyer Brooke Trappnell to her estate on Talisa Island.  She wants to leave it to the descendants of her closest friends (from whom she is estranged).  It turns out that one of them is Brooke's grandmother, and the book then unspools the back story, what happened to Josephine and her friends, and the secrets pulled them apart.  I really love how Andrews ties her stories together and this was no exception.

Codename Villanelle (Killing Eve, #1) - Luke Jennings - fiction - three stars - So I have never actually watched Killing Eve and didn't really actually know the premise of it, but I do love a good spy story, so I picked this one up not realizing that it's actually four short stories/episodes.  It was OK.  The first one was the most interesting because it's about how the spy Villanelle came to be, her training, etc.  The rest of it was mostly different assassinations she carried out, although they also introduce the detective, Eve, who is now  hunting her.  It was OK, but probably won't read any more in the series.  I found it unnecessarily graphic/gory.

The Girl They Left Behind - Roxanne Veletzos - historical fiction - five stars - Based on the story of the author's mother who is abandoned in Bucharest during WWII as a small child by her Jewish parents who are going into hiding.  They believe that it's the only want to save her, to give her a chance.  She ends up being adopted by a couple who haven't been able to have kids.  They are a happy family.  Meanwhile, her birth parents are able to escape and write to her adoptive parents wanting them to know that they made it out and while they don't want to disturb her new life, they would love to be in touch.  Her adoptive parents don't share the information with her, but many years later as communism strengthens it's grip on Romania, that connection becomes her way out.  Such a good story!

Nine Continents: A Memoir in and Out of China - Xiaolu Guo - memoir - two stars - This one was a disappointment.  Guo is a famous ex-pat Chinese writer, although honestly I had never actually heard of her before I picked up the book, I just like reading about folks who lived through the cultural revolution.  She was actually given away by her parents to a couple to raise after she was born, but they couldn't take care of her and then took to her grandparents who raised her for much of her life.  Eventually she ends up back with her parents, and goes on to university, etc.  The problem is she's really not at all likable.  I never formed any affinity for her and was basically annoyed by her and her attitude for most of the book.  If you are looking to read about the cultural revolution, there are lots of excellent biographies out there, this isn't one of them.

A Girl's Guide to Missiles: Growing Up in America's Secret Desert - Karen Piper - memoir - two stars - I had high hopes for this one.  Working for DoD, the descriptions of growing up on base, working on base, etc. during the missile age were really interesting to me.  I wish that the book had focused on that.  Instead you got some of that in the beginning, although not all that in depth, and then a lot about her life after she left home which was not at all interesting to me.  I'd skip this one if given the change to read it again.

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton - Mystery - five stars - This was such an interesting premise.  A man is stuck in a never ending loop.  He is at a weekend party at an estate in England and must discover who killed Evelyn Hardcastle.  He has eight days in which to solve the murder - each day he inhabits the body of a different guest at the party donning their bodies as well as their temperaments.  There were lots of twists and turns in this one and I was thoroughly entertained by it.  Highly recommend!

Prisoner B-3087 - Alan Gratz - Juvenile Historical Fiction - four stars - This was Ellie's pick for me to read this month. She's a historical fiction junkie like me, and this is the story of Yanek Gruener a Polish Jewish boy who survives WWII, but not before being sent to ten different concentration camps.  It's a pretty miraculous story of survival and interesting to hear about his experiences at different camps.  I wish there had been a bit more about the different camps and experiences, some were pretty brief, but all in all a really good book.

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity - Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy - nonfiction - five stars - I heard about this book when George H. W. Bush passed away.  There were a couple articles I read which referenced it, and I jotted it down on my to be read list.  I really loved this one.  In today's highly charged political environment, it was a really refreshing read that gives me hope.  The book follows the relationships between presidents and former presidents beginning with Truman and Hoover and ending with Obama (the book was published in 2012).  It was a fascinating look at history, the grudges and the political maneuvering that occurs when one assumes the office, but then the respect and deference and the way presidents do or don't utilize their predecessors.  It was really interesting to me how often it was the presidents from differing parties that got along better than those from the same party, and there were some really great stories about how individuals placed the importance of the office over personal gain or a near term political win.  This is a dense read that takes time, but is well worth it.

Currently I'm reading Little Broken Things.  Next up are Americanah (several of you have mentioned this one to me so I'm finally getting around to it), Night of Miracles (the follow-up to Arthur Truluv which I am really excited about reading), Coal River, and The Shadows We Hide (the next Allen Eskens book which I am also REALLY excited about).

How about you guys?  Any must read or don't go near this book recommendations to share?