Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. New York: Viking, 2020. 288 pages. *****

Nora Seed is tired of living. She feels as if she has let everyone down including herself, this isn't who she wants to be or where she expected to be in life. She calls her brother to tell him she loves him and writes her good-bye to whoever finds her. What Nora doesn't know is that "between life and death there is a library" and that library is filled with books of all of the lives Nora could have lived had she made different choices. With the help of her school librarian, Nora is able to choose books and see what life can be like in a different career, married, as a mother, olympic swimmer, and all of the various paths available to her.  Nora is in search of the perfect life, is there one and will Nora find it?

There are so many things to love about this book! The format was perfect for telling Nora's story. Our lives are a series of events and what ifs, hopes and dreams. regrets and perfect moments, and a collection of memories. Haig has captured the many aspects of living and perhaps how a person grows weary and tired of it all. This book can be a difficult read during a pandemic when so many things in our lives are outside of our control, however, I feel that Haig's message is an important one. I have always been fascinated with the concept of parallel lives and his suggestion for transitions while a stretch made as much sense as others I have read. I have had some difficulty focusing on reading during these last few months, however, I read this book in two days. I may be biased in my opinion since it is a school librarian who guides Nora, and I am a retired school librarian. I hope (naively perhaps) that I have helped a few children find their way throughout my career. Reviews are mixed, so I suggest you read it yourself and form your own opinion. There is so much to discuss and think about, that it will make a great Book Club choice. I suspect people will either love it or not like it at all. I highly recommend it and Matt Haig has gained a new fan!

Matt Haigis the author of the internationally bestseller memoir Reasons to Stay Alive, along with five novels including How to Stop Time, and several award-winning children's books. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages. The Midnight Library is on many bestseller lists.

To learn more about Matt Haig, visit

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Adulting is not hard, just do it! Things your mother should have told you, maybe I forgot.

 February 21, 2021

I was helping my adult child move into a new apartment and a few conversations made me think...didn't I mention these things and did anyone tell me? I soon realized that several family members told me by example and as a possible solution to a problem. (or maybe a hint to clean?)

Let me make it easy for you! Adulting is not  hard, just do it!

  • Clean up your kitchen every night. Fill the dishwasher, wash the pots and pans, wipe off the counter and kitchen table. Start the dishwasher if full before going to bed. Your day starts off much better when you walk into a neat kitchen in the morning. 
  • Set up your morning coffee the night before. 
  • In the morning, while your coffee is brewing, empty the dishwasher. 
  • Make your bed every day even if it means pulling up the covers and smoothing out the bumps. Do it as you get out of bed. 
  • Throw dirty clothes into a laundry basket every day. When the basket gets full, do the laundry! To keep your clothes looking clean--sort by color! Whites look dingy if washed with jeans. 
  • Hang up some things when partially dry (shirts, sweaters, pants) ...will save on ironing. Do not leave clothes in the washer or dryer over night!
  • Pull the shower curtain over when you get out of the shower. This helps it to dry and will prevent mold. 
  • Check your mailbox every day. Shred and recycle. Avoid piles of mail.
  • Look at yourself during work virtual meetings. What is everyone seeing? Are you projecting a professional image? Is your work space clutter free? Is the area behind you representative of your goals? 
  • Start a grocery list on your phone of things that you need as you run out or remember you want to buy them.
Once a week:
  • Collect all towels-- kitchen, bathroom and bathroom rugs. Wash them together if the colors allow. Throw in your oven mitts, pot holders. etc. Wipe down everything in the bathroom while tthe towels, etc. are washing and drying.  (including mirror and door knobs) Empty the trash can. Replace towels, etc. where they belong after removing them from the dryer.   
  • Strip your bed-- sheets, pillows, mattress pad, etc. Wash and dry them together. Remake your bed.
  • Vacuum and dust. 
  • Clean out your refrigerator, discard left over food (good to do this the night before trash collection)
  • Wipe out your microwave.
  • Call your mother and father!

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Last Runaway

The Last Runaway: A Novel by Tracy Chevalier. New York: Dutton, 2013. 305 pages. ****

Honor Bright decides to accompany her sister to Ohio to reunite with her intended husband. It's 1850 and the voyage from England isn't an easy one and Honor soon finds herself dependent on the goodness of strangers. Honor, a quiet Quaker girl, is unprepared for the harsh weather, differences in religious practices, and life on a farm. Her strength is her fine stitches and extraordinary quilting. While valued in bonnet making, not helpful when milking cows. Honor is a strong opinionated woman, who has a very difficult time adjusting to her new life and circumstances. 

Chevalier's strength is in her research and the ability to bring a place and time alive to the reader. The Underground Railroad is a period in history that I like to read about, however, it is not an in-depth topic in this book.  It's introduced as people in a small town doing what they can to help others. Unaware of the consequences of The Fugitive Slave Law, Honor finds herself in the middle of an ethical dilemma which further isolates her from her new family.  Honor tries to fit in and to be accepted, however, I am perplexed that she arrived after her long journey and assumed that her future brother-in-law would provide for her. She didn't seem especially grateful and was unconcerned by the fact that she was adding one more person to be housed and fed during harsh times. I am a quilter, so I enjoyed the bonnet creation descriptions and was intrigued by the differences in quilt styles and fabric in the 1850s. I don't know how I missed reading this book when it was published, I enjoy Chevalier's books and like her writing style. Honor's letters home provided an insight into her thoughts and experiences. Underground Railroad and quilt enthusiasts will enjoy this story and the introduction of topics for further research.

For more information about the author, Tracy Chevalier

Historical background for the book,

#historicalfiction #undergroundrailroadfiction #bookstagram #flamazing_books #quiltfictionbook

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Conspiracy

The Conspiracy  (Maximus Security Book 1) by Kat Martin. 368 pages ****

Harper Winston's brother, Michael, has disappeared while sailing the Caribbean and Harper is convinced something has happened to him. She turns to Chase Garrett one of her brother's oldest friend and the owner of Maximum Security. Michael has missed several check-ins and he promised to stay in touch daily.  Harper is determined to find him even if she has to investigate by herself. 

While the plot is somewhat predictable, The Conspiracy, provides the perfect escape read during Covid. Trying to keep their relationship on a business level, Harper and Chase fight their attraction to each other.  
Their mission to find Michael is hindered by Harper's father's business dealings and Michael's past addictions. The story is fast-paced and is sure to hold your attention from start to finish. This is the first book in the Maximus Security Series and you might as well purchase the rest of the books available because you are going to want to read them right after this one. 

I won an autographed hardcover copy of this book on Instagram from the author.

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

For more information on Kat Martin, click here.
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Friday, February 19, 2021

The Woman with the Blue Star


The Woman with the Blue Star: a novel  by Pam Jenoff. Canada: Park Row Books, 2021. 336 pages. *****  Publication date May 4, 2021.

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents amid the horrors of the Krak√≥w Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis clear the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the sewers beneath the city. Wet, dirty, no food, and sharing living quarters with another family is hauntingly brought to life by Jenoff. 

Ella Stepanek is a rich Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who entertains the occupying Germans. Lonely and scorned by her friends because of her stepmother's activities, Ella walks the streets longing for her fianc√©, who has gone off to war. 

The two girls become aware of each other when Ella catches a glimpse of Sadie beneath the sewer grate in the street. Aware of the danger for each of them, a friendship forms between the two girls who grow to depend on each other for survival. One misstep and all of them will be shot. 

Unlike other World War II fiction books, Jenoff wrote this book during the Pandemic lockdown and captured the feeling of isolation and an uncertain future in her writing. If you have taken a break from Holocaust books, you will want to read this one. Jenoff states that the book was inspired by the true story of a small group of Jews who survived WWII in the sewers of Lviv, Poland. While her book is fictitious, it reads true. I was in the sewer feeling the fear, despair, and horror.  I asked myself several times, would I have survived?  This book is mesmerizing and engrossing, once started I couldn't stop reading even though I was fearful of how it would end. I recommend it as a Book Club choice with many discussion and research points. 

For more information on this subject:

Pam is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, which was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award, as well as The Winter Guest, The Diplomat's Wife, The Ambassador’s Daughter, Almost Home, A Hidden Affair and The Things We Cherished. She also authored a short story in the anthology Grand Central: Original Postwar Stories of Love and Reunion. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children.

For more information on Pam Jenoff, click here. 

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The Tradition


The Tradition by Jericho Brown. Washington:Copper Canyon Press, 2019. 75 pages. *****

Poetry is not a genre I usually read, but I always read the One Book, One Philadelphia book choice.  While I may not be able to identify with or understand all of the poems, his prose has a timeless, universal theme. Brown's voice speaks volumes in few words about masculinity, queerness, faith, family, Mothers, survival, and hope.  His words touched me, I am not a crier, however, I found myself weeping. This white, middle-aged (okay, old) woman who couldn't possibly understand Brown's path, felt pain and love. I keep revisiting some of the poems and each time, I read something new. 

The Tradition is the One Book, One Philadelphia choice for 2021. For more information on the program, One Book, One Philadelphia. Youth companion titles The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (grades 5-8) and Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins and Bryan Collier (K-4) were chosen for families. Public reading period lasts from January to April 2021. Join in the discussion on Facebook

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for The Tradition, Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Award and of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book, Please (New Issues), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament,won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal. Brown is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University and lives in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

2021 - UFO Challenge - January

The BVQ Quilt Guild has challenged its members to complete their unfinished projects. Background on the challenge here

# 9 was chosen for the month of January.
9. 100 Modern Quilt Blocks - 48 blocks completed. Considering  a shadow box setting.
I looked through Pinterest at different quilt layouts and really liked this one by Diary of a Quilt Maven. I removed some blocks and added others. 
This layout took much longer than it should have, I kept rearranging the color scheme and trying to decide if I liked the grey with the white strips.
I have taken it to the long arm quilter and have no idea about design or thread color. I will post additional pictures when the quilt is completed.

It’s finished and the ling armer, Sue Racobaldo did a beautiful job. Her quilting really enhances the quilt. She suggested lavender thread and it is perfect! 

#100modernquiltblocks #BVQ2021UFOchallenge #grateful