Friday, January 29, 2016

Georgette Heyer: A Love Story

My mother was a reader. Her tastes, like those of her daughter, were eclectic. But if push came to shove, she could name a few favored authors: Jane Austen, Robertson Davies, Anthony Trollope, George Eliott, Dorothy L. Sayers. But then, with a smile that went straight from her heart to her entire face, she'd softly say  "Georgette Heyer."

I was working at a summer camp, up in the hills of West Virginia in 1974, when I received a distressed call from my mother.
"Mamele*, I've got some terrible news. Brace yourself."
I immediately sat down, simultaneously clutching the phone and taking inventory of our mutual loved ones. No one was ill, unless you counted my Nana Nadel, who was tucked up in a nursing home, happy in her memories, which was all her Alzheimer's, then called senile dementia left her. That must be it.
"Oh Mama, I'm sorry. She lived a full and rich life though. How's Daddy?"
"Your father's fine. Why do you ask? Yes, her life was full-- 71 years. She would have been 72 next month"

I was confused. My grandmother was in her upper 90's. Something was definitely wrong her.

"Um, Mama? Wasn't she older?"
"No, Mamele, she just wrote about Regency England. She didn't live it!"

I was even more confused. It took a little while, but finally I realized my mother's urgent call was to relay the death of Georgette Heyer.

A well-worn set of Heyer's Regency novels occupied a place of honor on the bookshelves of our home as far back as I can remember. When I first tumbled onto Jane Austen's work, my mother quietly handed me one of Heyer's novels, and, almost reverently, whispered that I might enjoy this author. I tried reading the book (I forget which one) but it just didn't grab me. Over the years, I'd take various titles off the shelf, but none won my heart the way my mother's was captured. She even used to say that at the end of her days, when she'd lost her marbles, to set her in front of a window with a couple of Georgette Heyer books to read. When she finished one she could start the other. When that was done, she, she could start the first again, because she wouldn't remember the story and would enjoy it all over again. Indeed, in the end of her days, one of the last novels she read was a favorite Heyer.

What made me recall all this was that a Georgette Heyer mystery** fell into my hands via one of the local Little Free Libraries here in Charleston. I've been a bit nostalgic, and decided to give it a whirl. Know what? I liked it. It reminded me of some of my favorite 1950's era black and white mystery films, with enough wit to overcome the camp. Maybe it's time to pull Arabella off the shelf and give it another go. It would make my mother smile.

*little girl (affectionate) in Yiddish. A pet name of my mother's for me
** Footsteps in the Dark

Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

I picked this up, even though I was afraid it would be gimmicky. Sure, there was some of that, but there was a lot of humor and cleverness, too. (I'm not sure how much of that would be picked up by someone unfamiliar with the different books/characters texting, but as I've read just about all the books, I did just fine.) Had to read it in small snippets throughout the day, because I needed to refresh and cleanse between books and genres and eras being depicted. A fun little "palate cleanser" between other books, and probably a good book to keep in mind when you want to give a little token to "the reader who's read everything."

Favorites? A whole bunch of them, but the ones I remember the most (a day after reading) are books that I remember the most: Jane Eyre, Emma, P&P, Little Women, and the classics in myth and Shakespeare. Harry Potter made me laugh, and I did like Hunger Games, except now I want cake.

tags: 2016-readbooks-about-booksfunnygreat-titlemade-me-laugh-out-loud-for-realnot-my-usual-readreadrounded-up-in-star-ratingthank-you-charleston-county-library

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Officially Licensed The Wheel of Time™ Coloring Book Preorders Now Open

Yup, it's true! You can now pre-order Patterns of the Wheel, the first officially licensed coloring book based on Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time™. Click on over to and check it out. The coloring book is available in two places on the site: The Wheel of Time Collection, and also under the Pysanky-Inspired cards and coloring books option. While you're there, please take a wander and see what else is available.

If you preorder, what you'll get, sometime in March (or April if you choose the JordanCon delivery option) is 20 original czukart drawings based on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time™ series. Included are free-form designs depicting familiar themes and scenes from the series, 7 spoked wheel/mandalas, and even a bit of Old Tongue. Each piece is printed individually on a page to protect from bleed-through and for easy removal should you wish to frame your art. Also included is a chart to identify some of the most common pysanky symbols/meanings  used in the drawings. The Old Tongue within some of the pieces is interpreted in the title of the piece, or can be translated via the alphabet in The Wheel of Time Companion.

Please be sure to select the option that works for you: your order mailed to you ($20 plus shipping) or delivery at JordanCon ($20). US Shipping is via USPS Priority Mail so you can track your order as it travels to you. International shipping is available, too. The website will calculate costs at checkout.

Preorders close when the books are received back from the printer. At that time the price will increase to $25.

Thank you so much for your support in making this happen. 

PS I've had several folks who are not WoT fans look at the drawings, and they wanted to color the pages, even not knowing the series. New way to introduce The Wheel of Time to people?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Life is challenging, unpredictable, full of ups and downs for almost anyone, and Mim, a 16 year old trying to find her balance after the collapse of her parent's marriage, has every right to feel a little unsettled. Add in there that she's been moved almost a thousand miles from the home, and mother, she loves, to Mississippi, with her father and new stepmother she's not particularly keen on, and that her mother is no longer in contact with her, and it's no wonder she's a little rocky. Then she finds out her mom is sick. What Mim decides to do is head back to Ohio, on her own, to find her mother and help her. It's a saga of Greyhound bus rides, eccentric fellow travelers, kindness of strangers, cruelty of others, and even fireworks at a baseball game. It's rooting for the underdog, protecting friends, and finding your balance. It's a great tale (and great cover art). And, in the context of the story, has one of the best couple of closing lines I've seen in a novel.

tags:  read-on-recommendation2016-readthank-you-charleston-county-librarygreat-titleya-liti-liked-itgreat-cover 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A daughter's thoughts: Stage set July 1987, my kitchen

Stage set July 1987, my kitchen in downtown Charleston, SC. Cue phone ringing. It's my mother, in St Louis.

Her: "Mamele!* I'm coming to Charleston!"
Me: "Great, Mama! We'd love to have you come back! I miss you."
Her: "Since I have to fly to Atlanta, I called Evelyn (old family friend), and she and Will asked me to go to the Outer Banks with them, and then they'll drive me to Charleston!"
Me: "Wow! That's terrific. The only thing is, can you time it so that you don't come on August 7th or 8th? Those two days are really slammed-- we have to move the kids from the 9th floor of the old hospital into the new Children's Hospital, and will be working all night and most of the day to keep things smooth in the transition.
Her: Got it. No 7th or  8th.

I'd gotten my first job as a Clinical Nurse Specialist the year before. It had been a wonderful time, applying into practice all the information crammed into my head during post-graduate studies. On top of it, was the planning for how to move into a brand spanking new, state of the art, Children's Hospital. Logistics, decisions, working out potential kinks before they occured-- we even had to fight for that apostrophe in "Children's".

As the day of the move approached, the anticipations and anxieties grew, especially among the management team. My boss wished there were some way, after the move, that the whole management team could debrief, relax, and unwind, but as we didn't know exactly when we'd be finished, we couldn't make reservations anywhere. We knew we wanted it to be away from the hospital, but not too far, so people would be able to swing by after the move, dropping in when they were finally able to break away. The czuk home, at the time, was a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian, which we were renovating, and it was within walking distance to the hospital. Husband and I offered our home for the recovery gathering. It was perfect.

My mother kept me up to date on her plans to fly into Atlanta on the 6th, drive to the Outer Banks, where she had never been, and come down to Charleston August 10 or 11. Perfect. You see where this is going don't you?

Fast forward to the 8th-- tired, grubby, and giddy with relief, my colleagues and I tumbled up the stairs to my home. My husband met me with a warning greeting of "Surprise". There, sitting in the living room, was my mother. Apparently, Evelyn and Will, who hadn't seen her since the 60's but kept in touch by phone and mail, were frightened by her frailty, and by her need to use a cane and wheel chair with her MS. They panicked when she didn't respond to them as they drove, but kept staring out the window. It never dawned on them that she had simply turned off her hearing aid, and was just drinking in the pleasures of new sights on a road trip. The couple, quite simply, was afraid she would die on them, and decided to amend their trip, and take her immediately to Charleston. They dumped her on our doorstep, and into the loving hands of her son-in-law, while her daughter was busy moving babies into new beds.

My mother was not dying. She was actually quite robust; quite spunky, and quite humiliated at the behavior of her old friends.  She also knew that she had been delivered at an inopportune time, but there was nothing she could do about it. In the midst of the weary crowd of nurses  who were flopped around the living room, eating pizza and drinking beer at 9am (since we'd been up all night, that was what we wanted. We'd had coffee to the gills to get us past that 3am slump), my mother moved into social mode. She wanted to make people comfortable with her unexpected presence. Or so she claimed later. What, in fact, she did was perch her tiny body in a chair (resembling Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann), and as someone passed her, would announce, "I'm Ruthe Nadel. Who are you?" Shocked and stuttering, people gave their name, rank, and serial number. If someone missed passing in front of her, she would point at them, and beckon them to her, then introduce herself, and wait for their reply. For days after, people asked me, "Who the hell was that lady?", since most of them only knew my married name, and were too brain fogged at the time to try and figure it out.

(Side note: Not too long ago, I was reading an article about the planned MUSC Children's Hospital and Women's Pavillion scheduled to start construction soon. It referred to the need for a new state of the art facility, as the old one was outdated. I was stunned. Outdated? I remembered opening it. How could it be outdated? It was state of the art -- back in 1987.  Suddenly, it became clear to me why my mother used to get such a look of bemusement on her face when confronted with new and improved technologies.)

While still in recovery mode from illness, I overextended myself at a party given by friends. To gather strength before going to find Javaczuk and head home, I curled up in one of the comfy chairs of the home. Not too long after, I saw someone I'd been wanting to congratulate on the birth of a grandchild and called them over, then I waved to a child of a friend who was home visiting her parents, and then another alto from choir stopped by my chair to chat. It wasn't until I actually found myself pointing at another guest, who I'd never met in person, but knew we had mutual acquaintances, to call them over, that it hit me. I was a little lady, sitting in an oversized chair, summoning strangers.

My mother lived another 19 years. She never got to the Outer Banks, despite a life-time wish of seeing Nag's Head. I've never been either, but maybe someday, I'll go. When I do, she'll be with me, because clearly, I am channelling my mother.

August 2008 Mama and Mamele

*little girl (affectionate) in Yiddish. A pet name of my mother's for me. She would also say "mamele, tatele, bubbeleh" as a little love phrase when talking to babies or children.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan

Once again Jacqueline Sheehan has pulled me into a story and not let go. This time, it centered on Guatemala, a land whose music and folk art long ago grabbed my heart, while the history has broken it. I'm not even sure where to begin in a review, except to say that I stayed home yesterday just to keep reading this book. It's a story about family, about belonging, about hearing the language of your heart and soul. It's about knowing your roots, and following your instincts. It's got good, and evil, mistakes, and mitzvahs. If you need to know more, read the publisher's blurb, then read the book. Did I like it? You betcha. Do I recommend it? What do you think?

Tags: 2016-reada-favorite-authoran-author-i-readdidn-t-want-to-put-it-downmade-me-look-something-upreadtaught-me-somethingthank-you-charleston-county-librarythought-provokingwill-look-for-more-by-this-author

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman

I'm a little non-plussed as to how to categorize this book-- fiction vs fantasy vs magical realism? Maybe a little of all of them? Regardless, there is some imagination used with the precocious main character Elsa, who, at 7, has read all of the Harry Potter books multiple times, and has the freedom, long denied most American kids to roam around the city on her own, at all times of day or night.

Aside from all that, the story premise was interesting. Young girl, closely bonded with her eccentric grandmother, is given a treasure hunt of a task when said grandmother conks. She is to deliver letters written to a number of people, along with the message that her grandmother asked her to tell them she's sorry.

It becomes clear that Granny was an amazing story-teller who created an entire universe and language which she told Elsa all about. But as Elsa finds out, the other world and our world have blurred boundaries, and things may not always be what they seem.

tags great-title2016-readread-on-recommendationthank-you-charleston-county-libraryrounded-up-in-star-ratingmagicmagical-realismwill-look-for-more-by-this-authorfantasy 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

I'm a bit at a loss as to where to start about this book. On the surface, it's about a woman and her deaf daughter who go off in search of her husband, convinced he's alive, even though he was supposedly killed in a horrible accident in the wilderness of Alaska, in the midst of winter's night. Good enough premise there, but the book was so much more than that. A book that entertains, but also teaches, is a gift. And if that book makes the reader think, examine issues and ideas, even better in my book (Ha! See what I did there?) So I learned about trucking in the Alaska winter, about Alaskan fauna, about the challenges of raising a deaf child, about native Inuit customs, about industry in the Alaskan frontier, about survival in the deepest of cold. And I examined, thought, about my ideas and beliefs about all of the above, and about that quality of silence that reaches into different aspects of life and love.

Thank you LibraryThing's Early Readers Program and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

Tags: 2016-readadvanced-reader-copydidn-t-want-to-put-it-downearly-review-librarythingliterary-mysterymade-me-look-something-upmade-me-thinkreadtaught-me-something

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Are You Interested in an Officially Licensed The The Wheel of Time™ Themed Coloring Book?

Update: You can now preorder your The Wheel of Time™ coloring book at

Are you interested in a Wheel of Time coloring book? If so, please read on and respond in the poll at the over at Facebook in the JordanCon group, (link coming) or here (look in the right sidebar until 2 February 2016). Your response will help determine how many coloring books to print. The more commitments to pre-order the sooner they'll be printed.

Details that will hopefully help to answer your questions:
•20 designs have been approved for "Patterns of the Wheel", coloring art based on The Wheel of Time™ (Note: original post was for 18. We've added 2 more.) I am an officially licensed artist for The Wheel of Time™
•Book dimensions are 8.5 x11 inches (21.2 x28 cm)
•Each drawing will be stand alone on a page of high quality paper (i.e. no bleed through to a drawing on the backside, or for easy removal should you want to display your art.)
•The drawings are all in my pysanky-inspired style. If you are not familiar with my art, you can visit and check out some of my other works, including my first coloring book. I will also post some thumbnails of in the comments.)
•I anticipate the pre-order price will be $20 (USD) plus shipping (my website will calculate USPS postage.)
•Preorders can alternatively be picked up at JordanCon, if that option is selected when ordering.
•A few books may be available for sale at JordanCon in the print shop and in the charity auction. The price will be the regular (TBD) price, not the preorder one.
•I am not able (my own reasons, not the Con's) to (wo)man a table in the dealer's hall, though I will have a display in the art show and some of the originals will be available there.
•Books will remain available on my website, after the pre-order time period is over, until all are gone. There are no plans for a second printing at this time.
•I can mail overseas (my site will calculate postage and include it in the purchase price.)
•Currently working with Ta' veren Tees so that some will be available through their shop/convention tables at other conventions.
•Poll results will be tallied in mid February and I will place the print order accordingly.
•You will still need to preorder when that option opens up. I will post in this thread and separately when that occurs.

If you could indicate the likelihood of your pre-ordering Patterns of the Wheel, a coloring book based on the WoT), please indicate below. There also are options for ordering multiple copies. At this point, there is no differentiation as to how you plan to receive your pre-order, but there will be on the website when the ordering opens up. Please only vote in one place.

Thank you all so much! Robert Jordan has the most wondrous fans! 

Some pictures because that always helps.


The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

I found this book intriguing, not so much for the actual story, but for the descriptions of life and afterlife in colonial Malaysia. Though I had a major in Asian studies, in my life before becoming a nurse, I hadn't retained much about the beliefs of Chinese afterlife (at least in the time period of the novel. One of the more fascinating mentions in the author's afterward was that though the concept of a ghost bride, a living woman married to a man after his death, or a dead woman married, after death, to a deceased man, was familiar in areas once under Chinese jurisdiction, it was not known as a precious practice in mainland China. The author speculated that this might be because of the deemphasizing of religion and spiritual beliefs by Chinese governments since the fall of the emperor. I also found it interesting that it was recommended to me by a man, and when I commented on the romance aspect in the book, he hadn't even noticed it when reading.

tags:  2016-read, read-on-recommendation, thank-you-charleston-county-library, first-novel-or-book, taught-me-something, made-me-look-something-up

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Brody by Marco Canora

My freezer is usually full of bones. No, I'm not a serial killer; I'm a cook. I love when my home has delectable smells wafting from the kitchen. Early on, I learned that those bits and bobs others throw out can be saved and turned into delicious broths and stocks to enhance future recipes or suffice as a stand alone to sip. I've been doing this since the first Thanksgiving turkey I cooked (age 12) was reduced to a carcass, and my mother taught me how to make stock from it. Now that paleo diet has made such things trendy, my "stock" made from the bones remaining behind from meals has become "bone broth".

Marco Canora also has been making and partaking ofbroths for years, though he is much more skilled, and has a better stocked kitchen than I do. For instance, I tend to throw my ingredients into my crock pot, with water and a touch of apple cider vinegar to help break the good stuff in the bones down. I'm betting that he has multiple stockpots, and someone else to do the dishes. I've never bought veggies and meats/bones to make my broths, simply relied on scraps and leftovers, but given some of the recipes in this book, I just might buy some supplies. Brodo is both the name of the take out window behind his Hearth restaurant in New York City, and the Italian word for broth. It's also the name for this collection of Canora's recipes for brodo and for some other recipes associated with it. My mouth is watering. This was a good find, which I intend to put to use

Thank you to blogging for books and to the publishers for sending me this copy. And thank you for giving me a destination to visit when I next get to New York City.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich (and contains a correct usage of RAFO!)

I like to listen to the Stephanie Plum novels on audio because I absolutely love what Lorelei King does with the voices. I used to occasionally read the books, but missed Lula and Connie's voices, or Ranger's "Babe". (Hearing them in my head just wasn't the same). Plus, I listen while doing housework, or when driving. The stories are usually pretty insignificant, but this one will forever be "in which Stephanie choses-- or not. Because we really won't know til the next one what actually comes down."  Wanna know who? RAFO.*

Thursday, January 7, 2016

I get by with a little help from my friends -or- how two Amys amuse each other from afar

Yesterday, I returned home to find this sight at the end of the hall outside our apartment and posted a picture on social media:
I'm guessing husband's new tai chi sword has arrived at the apartment.
My friends are clever, and the usual round of comments followed, the first being from Spedbug (who has been mentioned a couple of times in this blog, and also shares the name "the other Amy" with me).  "Either that or a snake has mailed itself to you. Be very careful"

I couldn't get the image of snake-in-a-box out of my brain. It tumbled into the images from The Little Prince, depicting a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. (For those unfamiliar, here's a link to The Little Prince, boa and hat illustrations.) Every time I looked at the four foot long box, lurking quietly in the corner where it had been since I dragged it inside, I smiled.

The rest of the day tumbled on. Husband arrived, opened box. Sword. No snake, though I looked extra carefully through the packing. 

Usually, I turn electronics off in the evening, muting texts, calls, resisting the lure of the great beyond bound up in the internet, shunning videos and television after a certain hour. But there's an exception to almost every rule, and last night, the phone stayed on, which gave the opportunity to check email once more before turning it off. There, I found an alert for a blog post, which really confused me at first, because though it clearly was from my friend Speddy's blog, it had the name of this one in it. I clicked through.

And then I laughed. Joyous laughter. Javaczuk peered over my shoulder, so that we both were hovered over my iPhone, bathed in the light of its screen. And we laughed. 

It's 9 panels of deliciousness (especially if you're a snake), humor, czuk tidbits, geek humor, and creativity. And she didn't even know about the song I used to sing when I went in our back yard by the lake, to warn the cottonmouths away. But she's right. I'm small, gray, and in some circles, known as Mouse. Click on over to An Unwanted Delivery. You can add a smile to your day.

Edited to add my own drawing of the scene:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project was great. It would have been a hard mark to meet, and, for me, didn't make it. Tired just a tad too hard, and lacked the refreshing charm of the first novel.