The Magdalen Girls

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander. New York: Kensington Books, 2017. 294 pages. ***

A historical fiction novel based on the Magdalene Asylums in Ireland which were institutions from the 18th to the late 20th centuries to house women believed to be prostitutes, unwed mothers, indigent girls and girls believed to be immoral. The story of sixteen-year-old Teagan, set in Dublin in 1962, brings to light the cruel and inhumane conditions in which she and others like her lived and worked. Her alcoholic father in the middle of the night delivers Teagen to the gated community of The Sisters of the Holy Redemption because a parish priest has confessed that her presence causes impure thoughts in him. Her parents disown her and deny her very existence from this day forward. Teagen befriends Nora and they make plans to escape the drudgery of their work assignment in the laundry. Dressed in uniforms, shorn hair and with new names, Teagen and Nora are cut off from the outside world, families, and life, as they knew it. The other women who sleep in their dormitory like bedroom seems to have been beaten down and indifferent to their need to escape. Both girls befriend Lisa; an unassuming girl who prays constantly, whose job it is to copy The Book of Kells onto parchment as a gift to the convent. This unlikely trio forms a friendship, which helps them survive their day-to-day indignities, however, ends in tragedy.

I found the premise of the story fascinating and couldn't help researching the Magdalen girls (named after Mary Magdalene) to find out more about them. (See links below) Prior to this story, I knew nothing about this blight on the history of women in the Catholic Church. The fact that these asylums/prisons/laundries existed in other countries as well as the United States and that the last one closed in Ireland in 1996 is incomprehensible to me. Alexander has written a sympathetic story, one that reads as if it were highlighting a time in the dark ages. I suspect that as horrific as this story is, it doesn't begin to scratch the surface of what was done to these women in the name of love and redemption. While I was fascinated and appalled by the incidents in this book, I felt that it lacked depth of character and plot. As my family historian of Irish descent, it has made me want to read more books on this subject and investigate if there are records as to which women were institutionalized. I finished it and keep talking to myself about how women can be abused in the name of love by their families, nuns, and the Catholic Church.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction and like to read about women's issues in the Catholic Church.

For more information on the Magdalen girls:
Seeking Redress for a Mother's Life in a Workhouse
Magdalene Asylum
A Blot on Ireland's Past
Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries

V.S. Alexander is an ardent student of history with a strong interest in music and the visual arts. V. S. lives in Florida and is at work on a second historical novel for Kensington.
#magdalengirls #irelandfiction #womeninthecatholicchurch


The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2018. 440 pages. *****

Ernt Allbright returns from the Vietnam War a broken man. A prisoner of war, he is a volatile man who can't seem to hold a job. When he loses yet another job and inherits property in Alaska, Ernt decides that a fresh start is just what he and his family needs.

Ernt, his wife Cora and 13 year old, Leni are ill-prepared for the hardships of the Alaskan frontier. Moving to a remote part of the state in a cabin without running water surrounded by wildlife and darkness does not relieve Leni's anxiety about her father's stability. Their nearest neighbors are survivalists preparing for Armageddon and help fuel Ernt's paranoia and insecurity. He takes out his frustration by beating Cora for imagined offenses.  Leni's escape from the endless daily chores and her father's wrath is attending school. There she makes her first true friend, Matthew. When the darkness of winter descends, the Albright’s are soon at the mercy of the townspeople and their generosity.

Hannah builds the tension in this story page by page. The reader knows something bad is coming, but not quite sure where the threat is coming from, who is the enemy?  I love how she writes and unfolds the drama to the point where I didn't want to put the book down but didn't want to find out what Ernt would do next. I found myself holding my breath and disappointed when once again Cora takes him back and refuses to press charges. Hannah has crafted a plot that is complex and takes on the uncomfortable subjects of PTSD, family violence, and spousal abuse. This unforgettable tale is also an emotional story of forgiveness, first love, and friendship. A must read, but you will need tissues for this one.

Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels. A former lawyer turned writer, she is the mother of one son and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest.

#thegreatalone #Alaskafiction #survivalstory


Gnome for the Holidays - BOM

Gnome for the Holidays is a FREE, did I say FREE?  BOM offered by Fat Cat Patterns at http://www.fatcatpatterns.com/bom2.html.

The first block is available and is easy and fun to make! There's something about gnomes that makes me smile and they seemed to be big this past Christmas. 

I have some really nice black and white fabric that I thought will work, but soon realized I didn't have enough for the background in all of the blocks.  My LQS had it in the opposite print white on black and I decided why not? Picking out the green tree fabrics from my stash was easy, I knew I wanted to make it in bright tones. Blanket stitching around each tree was tedious.

While adding the stars to the top of the trees, I traced a heart for one tree. 

Is it distracting? Cute? 

I finally decided what it really needs is some bling and I will add it after the top is quilted. 

Even though there are many people making these blocks and gnomes (there's also a Fat Cat Friends FB Group) the gnomes seem to develop an individual personality. 

It's not too late to join...and if you go to the Fat Cat Patterns Website, you may have the patterns emailed to you for 5.00 (one time fee) if you sign up for the FatCat BoM Club. Otherwise,  the block is free each month during that particular month. 

#gnomefortheholidys #fatcatpatterns #gnomequilt


After Anna

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2018. 400 pages. ***** Publication date April 10, 2018.

Noah Alderman has a thriving medical practice, is married to the lovely, Maggie Ippolitti, who has become a mother to his young son, Caleb. Living the suburban dream, all is close to perfect when Maggie receives a phone call from the daughter she hasn't seen since she was a baby. After Anna's birth, Maggie suffered from postpartum psychosis and her then-husband, highly successful Florian Desroches, took advantage of Maggie's illness to obtain physical custody of Anna. Maggie is overjoyed to hear from Anna that she is unhappy at her boarding school and is willing to come and live with Noah and Maggie. Discovering that Anna is an heiress and not used to rules and being part of a family, is an adjustment for all of them especially Noah. In a very short time, their lives are turned upside down, Noah is accused of murder and Maggie doesn't know who to believe. Maggie and her best friend Kathy are determined to learn the truth about Anna and what happened to Anna's missing friends.

Scottoline never disappoints! I enjoy her fast-paced writing style and in this case having heard her speak at Barned and Noble, I can just imagine Lisa sitting down and breathlessly telling this story.  Reading one of her books is like seeing a friend that you haven't seen in awhile and picking up where you left off and time stands still. Told in the alternating voices of Maggie and Noah, I didn't want to stop reading until I discovered what really happened. I kept thinking, what??? There are many subplots within this story...prison violence, corruption, sex trafficking, mental illness, psychological manipulation, and abandonment. At times it seemed like too much was going on and yet that added to the tension within the story. As much as I enjoy the Rosato and Dinunzio series of books, I love her stand-alone novels best. I admit to being a huge fan and you will be too when you finish reading After Anna.

I received an ecopy for a review.

Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of twenty-eight novels. She has 30 million copies of her books in print in the United States, she has been published in thirty-five countries, and her thrillers have been optioned for television and film. Lisa also writes a weekly column with her daughter, Francesca Serritella, for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and those stories have been adapted into a series of bestselling memoirs, the first of which is entitled Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog. Lisa lives on a Pennsylvania farm with an array of disobedient pets. Visit Lisa at www.Scottoline.com, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @LisaScottoline.

Lisa dedicates this latest book to her daughter, "For Francesca, with love."

#afteranna #psychologcalthriller #humantrafficking @LisaScottoline


Girl Unknown

Girl Unknown by Karen Perry (Karen Gillece and Paul Perry) . New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2018. 289 pages. ****

David and Caroline Connolly have the perfect family--one boy and one girl; David's career is taking off at the university; Caroline has returned to a job at an ad agency after years of staying home with the children. David and Caroline are rebuilding their marriage after some recent problems. None of what they have been through prepares them for a student in David's class claiming that he is her father.

Naively, David accepts Zoe's story of her childhood and current situation. Caroline believes she sees the real Zoe and has reason to mistrust everything Zoe says and does. A positive DNA match does not sway Caroline's opinion and places David in the middle between his wife and daughter. Is Zoe an innocent, misunderstood daughter? Or does she have a sinister plan to ingratiate herself in David's family?

Girl Unknown is a fast-paced psychological thriller with surprising twists and turns until the very end of the book. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I didn't! (which is rare for me) Fans of B. A. Paris will enjoy reading this writing duo. Loved it!

I received an Advanced Reading Copy for a review.

Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Karen Gillece and Paul Perry. Karen Gillece is the author of four critically acclaimed novels. In 2009 she won the European Union Prize for Literature (Ireland). Paul Perry is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books. A recipient of the Hennessy Award for New Irish Writing, he teaches creative writing at University College Dublin. They can be followed on Facebook.

#girlunknown #psychologicalthriller


Charity - Community Service Sewing Project

A Group of fellow quilters decided to get together on Martin Luther King's Birthday and do our part by sewing needed items.

1. Portacath Pillows - two friends have conquered colon cancer and thought these pillows for the car seatbelt are a great idea.

Here are links with detailed instructions:

The pillows are easy to make and use up those pesky scraps of fabric!

2. Surgical hats for children:

The Portacath Pillows were definitely easier than the Surgical caps. One recommendation for the caps is to make a basting stitch when sewing the 1/4 edge under. Pull slighlty to gather before ironing the 1/2 inch casing for the elastic. I found it easier to iron a 1/2 inch hem and zigzag along the edge to form the casing. We cut our circles 18 inches to cut some from a fat quarter or half yard of material. Since the material needed to be prewashed, some pieces of material were not big enough. The first hat we made, I cut the elastic 17inches....that made a really small hat. The second one I cut the elastic 18 inches and the whole process was easier.


A recommendation for the pillow is to iron the fabric down @1/4 inch and leave one end open to stuff the pillow. This makes it much easier to sew the opening closed.

#portacathpillow #portpillow #surgicalcapsforkids #communityserviceprojects


Monthly Color Challenge Quilt

I love starting new BOM (Block of the Month) Quilts, finishing them, not so much. However, it is a new year and let's see what happens!

I saw a post on FB about a Monthly Color Challenge Quilt and that concept intrigued me. So, of course, I roped a few friends in and posted it on my Guild's FB page to see if anyone is interested in doing it with me.

The Challenge is being hosted by blogger, "Patterns by Jen, " and the blocks are available in two sizes, 6 inches and 12 inches. What makes this BOM interesting is that Jen is creating a block each month and she has invited other quilters/designers to create one too. There are two blocks to chose from each month. Jen has some sponsors and prizes as an incentive to complete each month's blocks. 

The color for January is RED and I chose to make Jen's block. I am going to use a black and white batik fabric as a background in each block.

I had a difficult time joining the sections together, some were noticeably smaller than others and my points are not as accurate as I would like. I may rework this block and be more careful in my sewing of the HST and the cutting process. Jen suggests a "scant" quarter inch seam and I moved my needle one space. I may wash my batik before continuing, it is puckering from being ironed and sprayed with Best Press. 

If I redo it, I will post an updated picture. 

February's color is BLUE! This block is so easy, I completed it in just one hour. All of the blocks are half square triangles and a scant 1/4inch seam. To get February's block, visit Jen's Blog.

January and February blocks!

March's color is Yellow...and all I can think of is sunshine.  

There is an error in the last picture on the instructions. Since I am a visual person, I usually look at the pictures/diagrams before reading instructions. in this case, I looked at both and it was an easy block. 

I didn't fussy cut this blocks, but I love that the center two blocks look like alien eyes, starbursts or sunshine. 

#2018monthlycolorchallenge #BOMcolorchallenge #Januaryred #redblock #Februaryblue #blueblock #Marchyellow #yellowblock