Witch Diana Bishop and vampire Matthew Clairmont in A Discovery of Witches are the Romeo and Juliet of the supernatural world. This is a book about the powers of magic, books, and love. The novel is clever, well-written, and romantic.
The two meet in Oxford’s Bodeleian Library when Diana, a Yale historian, is doing research and accidently calls up an ancient, powerful manuscript which explains the origins of witches, vampires and demons—and may show how to destroy them, too. She has spent her life denying the magical side of her nature in favor of reason, but when dangerous undead characters start to harass her to get the manuscript, she needs help.
Fiona Goble makes a herd of fleece monsters that are cuddly and sweet in Make a Monster. She creates 15 easy-to-make toys out of fleece scraps. As a fabric addict, my goal this year is to use up my scraps, and this book helped. I fell in love with Toby, the sleeping bunny, and I had a scrap of bright yellow fleece in my stash so I made a herd of them to give as gifts. I love that she gives each toy a name; I think the devilishly red Leo will be my next project.
The sweet monster toys have step-by-step directions with pictures to follow of each step and full-size patterns in the back to copy and use. I love a craft book with color pictures of all the projects, and this one fits the bill. She also has explanations for all the embroidery stitches you will need and rates the difficulty of the sewing--and most projects are quite easy. Some toys have adorable clothes such as shorts and skirts and need a little more sewing experience. She adds a “Cool Idea” to each project where you can give a little twist to make your toy even more unique.
With a few buttons and stitches, you can give your monsters their own personalities!
Amy Henderson could not wait to leave Ruby Falls, New York, and start her life in This Must Be the Place, by Kate Racculia. She wants to go to Los Angeles and make monsters—her hero is Ray Harryhausen, talented maker of special effects with stop-action animation and creator of the Kraken in the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. But like many a movie monster, Amy Henderson leaves disaster in her wake.
The seventy-year-old widower and retired librarian, Percy Darling, in Julia Glass’ The Widower’s Tale, has been entrenched in his old house for 30 years after the tragic death of his wife. He’s definitely set in his eccentric ways. But in order to help his daughter Clover find a job, he has allowed the local preschool, Elves and Fairies, to renovate his barn to use as their new venue if they hire Clover. The changes begin with a small purchase: Percy has to give up his daily skinny dipping in the pond on his property and wear a garish pink pineapple print swimsuit for his daily swim.
Australian author Kate Morton has made a study of Gothic fiction, and her book, The Distant Hours, is a "Gothic Delight." Her writing, a mixture of Gothic, romance and mystery genres, plus her addition of original fairy tales, has sold millions of novels all over the world.
"The ancient walls sing the distant hours..." at Milderhurst Castle in Kent, home of the literary Blythe family. Only the decaying castle--and the careful reader--know all the secrets hidden within its walls and moat. Kate Morton carefully paces her novel--you don't want to miss a page or you will miss out on the clues to piece together the secrets.
Alternating from biography to science, Rebecca Skloot in writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks avoids sentimentality and making judgments.
Skloot, a science journalist, tells the story of Henrietta and her DNA. The subject was born Loretta Pleasant—nobody knows how her name became Henrietta—Lacks, in a family known to marry their first cousins in the now-razed town of slave cabins and tobacco farms named Clover near Roanoke, Virginia. She married her first cousin, David ‘Day’ Lacks, moved to Baltimore to work in a plant riddled with asbestos. Her husband's unfaithfulness gave her both neurosyphilis and gonorrhea. Her environment, poverty and lack of education made her the tragic heroine of a great scientific experiment. Henrietta Lack's deadly cervical cancer cells—taken without her consent—were the first to be grown and then thrive in a lab. HeLa cells, still growing today sixty years after her death, would weigh in total more than 50 metric tons.
Alexander McCall Smith’s Corduroy Mansions is about Family. The group of tenants in the genteel but slightly shabby house in the Pimlico neighborhood in London cares about each other and finds joy in the simple things in life.
This is an ensemble piece with a simple plot and many eccentric and likable characters. There is William French, a widower and wine merchant, who cannot get his 24-year-old son to move out. He “borrows’ Freddy de la Hay, a terrier with human behavior and thoughts, to get the dog-hating Eddie to move out. Instead, William’s ersatz girlfriend moves in. On the floor below live four young women: Dee works in a health food shop; Caroline is studying art history at Sotheby’s; Jenny is MP Oedipus Snark’s assistant; Jo, an Australian, is assistant manager at a local wine bar. Below them lives a quiet accountant in his mid-forties called Basil Wickramsinghe. The characters touch each other’s lives and have moral dilemmas to solve.
The Chateau Marmont is an opulent hotel in Hollywood where the rich and famous go to misbehave. In Last Night at the Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger, Brooke is dressing for the Grammys with her newly famous husband, wearing her first Valentino gown, her own plain gold wedding band replaced by a diamond the size of a macaroon when she finds out her “Rock Star” husband was at the Chateau Marmont with another woman—there are pictures just published in the tabloids—and then her boss calls from the hospital where she works as a nutritionist and fires her for missing too much time for following her husband to his gigs. Her Cinderella moment turns into a nightmare.
Amy Butler designs fabrics, home accessories, sewing patterns, and stationery goods. She was a contributing editor to Country Living Magazine. Her bag designs in Amy Butler’s Style Stitches include 12 full-size patterns in a bound pocket in the back of the book with 26 simple variations. The bags have fresh color schemes such as her sea foam blue, apricot and her fun pink.
I can’t decide which bag I love the most: the Teardrop Bag, the Cosmo Bag or the Perfectly Pleated Clutch. She rates her designs from easy to the experienced sewer so with basic sewing you can try the easier projects with her complete step-by-step directions and easy-to-follow diagrams.
Jane Austen fans rejoice—the comedy of manners is still alive. In her debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson’s plot is wry, witty, and charming, yet her gentle and sometimes hilarious satire catches human foibles perfectly.