"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Review--Suzanne Adair's Latest Earns 5 Huzzahs!

A kidnapping forces his past into his present. Will it also impact his future?

Lt. Michael Stoddard of Yorkshire now serves His Majesty in the Army and is stationed in the Carolinas while Tarleton and Cornwallis try to curtail the rebels and maintain the Colonies for George III. Stoddard is a man of integrity who finds that all things in war are not black and white and wearing a red coat does not ensure its owner is morally upright. He also discovers that some rebels have a higher moral compass than the King's men.

We first meet Stoddard in Paper Woman, another excellent tale by Suzanne Adair. He has since become the star of his own series--Regulated for Murder and A Hostage to Heritage. While each of Suzanne's books can be read as stand-alones, they also build on one another in a seamless fashion and reading them in order increases the enjoyment of an overall underlying story arc.

Regulated for Murder gives us a ten-year old cold case tied to a present-day murder. A Hostage to Heritage gives us a kidnapping--but not just a normal kidnapping.
Hostage also gives us a series of jolts regarding Lt. Michael Stoddard. Those jolts give him hard choices regarding his own soul. I try not to post anything that can be considered a spoiler, so I'll just say that Hostage kept me up late two nights in a row because I just couldn't stop reading ;-)

If you have read the St. James' series by Suzanne, you will enjoy how characters make cameos throughout the Stoddard books. Her female characters are believable and appropriate for the times--they are not 21st century women wearing homespun. And although the setting is the Revolutionary War, blood and gore and battle scenes are not the means for ratcheting the tension in either story. And believe me, the tension is there. Even the descriptive passages don't take away from the plot movement. Some folks may think the cast of characters is somewhat large and hard to follow but each character definitely plays an important role in either Stoddard's past, present or future.

So we have murder, war, espionage, kidnapping, tax evasion, and bootlegging all competing with military and civilian politics. The wondrous part of it all is that even though all those things are present in America today, both Regulated and
Hostage are true to the 1780s in manner of speech, mode of dress, and behavior of the characters. Even the male/female tensions are believable (no bodice-ripper extraneous romance here).

The history is fascinating but woven in so carefully that I didn't realize I was learning about the southern theater of the American Revolution. You smell the cabbages and manure, you hear the thud of a trussed up body slam against a wooden wall, and you race along with your heart in your throat as men who should be comrades decide whether or not to kill each other.

Lastly, the amateur historian in me absolutely loves the bibliography/list of sources we get with each of the books. I can turn from fiction right to my library or online book sources to read more about Yorkshire, Hillsborough, Wilmington, Tarleton, Cornwallis, et al.

Whether male or female, if you enjoy multilayer plots set in well-researched history, you can't go wrong reading anything by Suzanne Adair.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Out of the Ice Age--Sticking My Toes into Social Media

Okay.  I took a baby step into social media today.  I'm now on Twitter.  Sharing thoughts in 140 character chunks may not be as hard as I thought, but integrating Twitter into my blog may take a few days.  I can learn new things provided I read enough manuals LOL.  And that's exactly what I'm doing with Twitter.

I'm also in the process of re-booting my blog and moving things around--updating links and getting ready to post new book reviews.  My April Camp NaNoWriMo was an epic fail in word count, but taught me much about scheduling my life.  Yes, I've said it before, but any day I am breathing is a day I can start over and try harder LOL.

To all the mothers out there--Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Yet Another Artistic Endeavor

An artist friend of mine has been talking art journals for a while, and I love journals and notebooks of all kinds (as prior posts here will attest).  She signed up for this free workshop and since it is free and uses words, I thought "what the heck; why not try this as an intro to art journaling?"  The other advantage to this workshop is that it has no time limits so I can work on it as slowly as my life demands.

Now I make it a point to use purely Stampin' Up! products whenever possible, so I will be adapting much of this to use things like our watercolor crayons and markers, as well as our alphabet stamps and our exclusive Sizzix dies (the negative images of our alpha dies make cool stencils). 

In other words--the workshop is simply a jumping off point for me--total inspiration in how to combine art and words...care to join me?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I'm a couple of months late signing up for the challenge over at Historical Tapestry,  but hey, better late than never LOL.  After all, we all know I love historical fiction and this challenge isn't limited by sub-genre, so I can flit between romance, mystery, young adult or straight historical fiction.

There is also no restriction on reading format that I can see, so I have the option of Audible, e-reads (I've collected a lot of historical fiction on my Kindle, NOOK and I-Pod Touch), or the piles of paperback/hardcover historical fiction scattered throughout my home.  I just need to stop collecting and start reading ;-)

I still have a couple of weeks left before Camp NaNoWriMo begins April 1, so I hope to get a few books read before I hunker down to write some more, and I want to be more diligent in posting reviews, so don't be surprised if book reviews start popping up from time to time ;-)

If you enjoy reading history, come on over and join us!

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Version of Lent

I've started following FlyLady again--the wonderful Marla Cilley who wrote Sink Reflections and managed to indoctrinate into my mind that "I can do anything for 15 minutes".

Since I have developed health issues and am having to change my diet (i.e., fewer packaged foods and more fresh, healthy food), I've realized my kitchen needs re-worked so I can cook in smaller portions.  I've also realized I'd started collecting books in the hope I would read them someday (no matter that I have both a Nook and a Kindle LOL).  Let's not even think about all the craft supplies I have purchased because I like them and hope to use them "someday"...

So as I look around, I find more and more things that are taking up space but that are not used or that I purchased on impulse and don't totally love.  Hence the need to be "fly-washed" once more ;-)

We are currently decluttering for forty days--disposing of something no longer needed each day.  So far I have gathered up Pyrex bakeware I have not used since I purchased it in 2006 thinking I would be doing a lot of entertaining now that I am back in my hometown (insert laughter here).  I've thrown out "only good enough to wear around the house" undies--you ladies know what I mean, and we should love ourselves enough to wear decent underclothes daily.  I'd been storing up used mailing envelopes to re-use and that made sense when I had an active Paperback Swap account, but now that I have closed that account for the time being, I no longer need two large shopping bags full of used padded mailers LOL.

I'm taking fifteen minutes a day and disposing of something and I already feel better about the way my home looks.  If you suffer from any degree of CHAOS ("Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome") come join me and thousands of others around the world as we learn to FLY ("Finally Loving Yourself").

Monday, January 14, 2013

Meatless Monday--One of My Health Resolutions

We all know I'm a person who tries to live a "green" lifestyle. With my new health diagnosis, I'm looking at ways to eat healthier, and I have found this movement--Meatless Monday. From what I can tell, it refers to meat only, so it's not restricted to vegan meals.  The website tells of the history of going meatless--it was a distinct part of the war effort during both WWI and WWII.
This poster from the US Food Administration shows the WWI program advertised as a way to support the troops.  I'm not sure that Meatless Monday in our age will help our troops, but it could help the environment and more importantly--from a totally selfish perspective--my health.  With all the genetically-enhanced meat out there, I'm also looking at my budget.  Even cooking for one person can get expensive if you are like me and want to steer clear of GMO foods.

The more research I do, the more I believe that many of out health challenges today come from all the chemical "enhancements" to our food.  It's doubtful I'll ever go vegan or raw with my eating, but Meatless Monday will help start me on my way to more responsible meals--better for my health, my budget and my planet.

If you are interested in this idea, here is the Wikipedia page for more information.  There is also a Facebook page and Twitter feed if you use those social media sites.  I'm headed to some of my favorite recipe sites--I need some meatless entree recipes.  Yes, I have chicken and fish recipes and the poster doesn't consider those to be meat, but I'm not going to make it quite that easy on myself each week because those are foods I already love.  Besides, as I research food choices, chicken without growth hormones is getting harder to find and therefore more expensive.  Mercury levels in fish has been a concern for some time.

This will not become a food blog, but I will be sharing more info from time to time as I travel the road to healthier eating.  If you have tips and tricks (and recipes), feel free to share!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Plump Primer -- 2013 Chunkster Reading Challenge

Hope springs eternal with me, and even though I was a dismal failure at the Chunkster Reading Challenge--I had signed up for the "Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big?" level of six chunksters, two of which had to be over 750 pages. 

I'm setting my sights a bit lower this year--still six chunksters, but they each only have to have 450 pages, and they must be adult literature as opposed to YA.  They can also be non-fiction, which will certainly help me use this challenge as an excuse to read some biographies I have picked up the last several months.  E-books aren't allowed, so several of the chunksters listed on the challenge website won't work for me because I purchased them for my Kindle or Nook rather than try to find even more shelf space LOL.

So, I'm signing up for "The Plump Primer", and starting my first book tonight--Isle of Canes, a historical novel by the noted genealogist, Elizabeth Shown Mills. 

If you love to read and like a challenge, come join us...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I'm a Notebook Junkie!

I love notebooks and notepads--all sizes and styles.  Sure, we were supposed to become a paperless society, and I love my computers and e-readers and other gadgets, but writing on real paper with a real pen or pencil (preferably a fountain pen) lets me go back later and see how my handwriting has changed over the years.  And I am not always willing to lug a tablet or laptop around.  Typing on my phone or I-Pod isn't ideal for more than a few sentences--the screens are small and my fingers are fat LOL.  Notebooks can be carried and used anywhere, and come in whatever size might be needed--small ones fit in my pocket while larger ones go in my purse and usually weigh much less that any e-gadget.

Notebooks are utility items, but don't need to look utilitarian--I absolutely love to doll mine up with fancy covers.  Composition books are my favorites--I buy them by the dozen when the back-to-school sales offer them at 2/$1, and then as I come up with a reason for one, I decorate it.

Take today for instance--I realized I have a bucket list in my head--things I want to do before I die, but I've not dedicated a notebook to the list since the one I lost due to Katrina.  Time to make a bucket list notebook (pronounced "bouquet" in homage to Patricia Routledge's wonderfully quirky Hyacinth Bucket in BBC's Keeping Up Appearances).  Here's the result:

All products are from Stampin' Up!  The technique was featured on Splitcoaststampers recently.  Called Chalkboard, it's really simple--black cardstock, Versamark ink and white embossing powder, then white ink sponged around the edges.  The most important part (to me at least) of covering a notebook is the adhesive--I totally swear by SU!'s Anywhere Glue Stick.  Not only are they very economical, the rectangle shape is fantastic for getting glue clear into the corner of a project!  And the glue sticks (pardon the pun)!!!!! 

Now all that's left is to fill the pages...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let's Reboot - Happy 2013!

Life was a bit challenging during the latter half of 2012, and no blogging took place (as you can see from the date of my prior post).  June thru December took me on quite a roller coaster of good and bad and in-between, but since the Mayans were wrong and the Creator let me wake up today to a new year, I can reboot life just like we reboot our computers.

2013 will bring different topics to this blog.  I won NaNoWriMo 2012 and will be in edit mode for my book.  I still enjoy crafting and this year marks Stampin Up!'s 25th Anniversary, so I'll share some projects (if I remember to take pictures--I made some cute things for Halloween and Christmas for my office mates and didn't remember I wanted photos until after they were boxed up for mailing).

And you will see posts on healthy eating.  I lost my younger brother to a heart attack in 2012 and my physical showed high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, so I intend to use this blog to help hold me accountable. 

Finally, I didn't get the pleasure reading done that I had planned--but hope springs eternal LOL.  I will read more this year, and not only about the Civil War and health/nutrition, but also politics and fantasy and mysteries and...you get the picture.  Actually, I'm loving Audible--Tim Curry did a wonderful narration of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and since I need to be walking/exercising more and sitting less, Audible will make the exercise much more fun.

And in honor of the new year, here's my first project--a totally digital piece because one goal for the year is to learn MDS2, the digital design software from Stampin' Up!