Posted in Advanced Review, Inspirational, Loved It

Between Heaven and Texas

Between Heaven and Texas

Author: Marie Bostwick

Genre: Inspirational

Rating: L

Synopsis: This is an advanced review, so I’m going to stick to the blurb on the back of the book.

In this luminous prequel to her beloved Cobbled Court Quilts series, New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick takes readers into the heart of a small Texas town and the soul of a woman who discovers her destiny there. . .

Welcome to Too Much–where the women are strong-willed and the men are handsome yet shiftless. Ever since Mary Dell Templeton and her twin sister Lydia Dale were children, their Aunt Velvet has warned them away from local boys. But it’s well known that the females in Mary Dell’s family have two traits in common–superior sewing skills and a fatal weakness for men.

While Lydia Dale grows up petite and pretty, Mary Dell just keeps growing. Tall, smart, and sassy, she is determined to one day turn her love of sewing into a business. Meanwhile, she’ll settle for raising babies with her new husband, Donny. But that dream proves elusive too, until finally, Mary Dell gets the son she always wanted–a child as different as he is wonderful. And as Mary Dell is forced to reconsider what truly matters in her family and her marriage, she begins to piece together a life that, like the colorful quilts she creates, will prove vibrant, rich, and absolutely unforgettable. . .

“Powerful, inspiring, and uplifting!” –Robyn Carr

Bluestocking’s Learned Opinion: Readers of Marie Bostwick’s Cobble Court series will recognize the name Mary Dell. She’s definitely one of the more vibrant characters from this series. If you’ve read the past books, you will know that Mary Dell is a single mother to a son, Howard, who has Downs Syndrome. You also know that her husband left her for this reason. But in this book, we get to see the back story.

I personally enjoyed Mary Dell’s brash personality, and her fashion sense always made me laugh. You have to admire her. If there is one thing that I think defines her as a character, it is that she is true to herself. In a world of rampant imitation, this is a refreshing trait. This really was an uplifting book. I highly recommend it.

This book is available for purchase on April 30th. If you visit the author’s site, you can get her to sign the book.

FTC Disclosure:
I received a copy of this book from the publisher/author. I, unlike the New York Times Book Review, did not receive money for my review which is why my review is more honest. This is a concept that the FTC fails to grasp. Contrary to popular belief, advanced review copies of books are not worth a great deal monetarily speaking. In fact most books are worth less than half its value within a year of purchase. This is another concept the FTC has not grasped. If you purchase a book that I thought highly of and do not like, that is life. Taste in books is subjective. This is a concept that some asinine person in the FTC has not yet grasped. The purpose of the statement is to comply with the FTC regulation while providing a not so subtle hint that they are not the brightest bulbs in the box and that they should spend their time doing more worthwhile things than hounding people who have book blogging hobbies.

Posted in Guest Post

My first foray into quilting

by Marie Bostwick

My first foray into quilting occurred more than twenty years ago. At the time, I was living in Texas, a stay-at-home mom with two toddlers, desperately in need of an activity that allowed me interaction with adults and conversations that didn’t involve the words “poo-poo”, “boo-boo”, or “no-no.”

When I saw that the local fabric shop was offering a beginner’s hand quilting class, I called a girlfriend, negotiated a babysitting swap, and enrolled. With infinite patience, the instructor taught me and the other novice quilters the basics of fabric selection, cutting, stitching, appliqué, and hand quilting. My first quilted table runner, with its wobbly seams and big, uneven stitches, wasn’t anything to write home about but I enjoyed making it and was proud of my accomplishment.

Even so, I made few quilts over the next few years. I liked quilting, but I hadn’t caught the quilting “bug”. Not yet. My real passion for the craft began about a decade later.

I was living as an expatriate in Mexico City. My family and I lived in an apartment building where (lucky me) I met two wonderful women, Cindy and Pat. They lived in the apartments above and below me, respectively – I was the creamy filling to their Oreo cookies. We quickly became fast friends, leaving the service doors to our apartments unlocked so we could easily run up or down the back stairs to talk, borrow things, and generally enjoy each other’s company. In many ways, it felt like living in great big girl’s dormitory.

Even though Pat and Cindy had never quilted, when I suggested we make a block-of-the-month quilt together, they were all for it. The pattern we picked was offered in three different colors and each of us, without consulting the others on our choices, selected a different color option – mine vibrant jewel tones, Pat’s an autumn palette, and Cindy’s a delicate pastel.

As the months passed and we stitched our quilts – talking, laughing, sharing, and developing an even deeper bond of friendship – I was fascinated to see that, though we were making the exact same pattern, each of our quilts turned out differently. And not just because of the colors. Some of us took a relaxed approach to cutting and placement, others insisted that every little leaf in every single patch must face the same direction and sit just so. Some made the pattern exactly according to the instructions while others came up with their own shortcuts and adaptations. Some decided to add on fancy borders, others preferred to simply bind it and let it be. By the end of the project, we’d each created a very special quilt that reflected our unique personalities. I found this surprising, but really I shouldn’t have. It’s a very common story among quilters.

One of my readers, Peggy Szaz, is a military wife and professional quilter – and quite a remarkable one! She creates incredible landscape quilts that could, and frequently do, hang in museums and galleries. During the years she and her family were posted in various oversees bases, she taught quilting to a truly international audience. As Peggy told me in a recent note, “My Italian ladies were the best. They would show up for class decked out in silks and lots of diamonds. Their quilts were not always the best. My German and Swiss ladies made the most precise quilts. Everything had to be perfect. My Portuguese ladies were good quilters and they wanted utility quilts for their children. I really did learn a lot from all the ladies. My students used the same patterns and all the quilts were totally different. And that is what makes quilting so special.”

How true.

My most recent novel, A SINGLE THREAD, takes place in a small, New England village. The main character, Evelyn Dixon, is a long-time quilter but it isn’t until her husband of thirty years leaves her that she reclaims her long dormant dream of opening her own quilt shop. Evelyn’s road is a rocky one but fortunately, she finds companions for the journey – Abigail Burgess, the wealthiest woman in town, Abigail’s troubled niece, Liza, and Margot Matthews, a recently downsized marketing manager.

When Abigail, Margot, and Liza, wander into Evelyn’s Cobbled Court Quilt shop, they have no way of anticipating the adventures and challenges that await them. But as the story progresses their lives will be stitched together as tightly as the quilts they create, as they are bound with the single thread of friendship that will reveal the singular beauty of their personalities and the strength of their characters.

The way that the simple and time-honored craft of quilting draws out the uniqueness of every quilter surprises the women of A SINGLE THREAD. But perhaps it shouldn’t. As Evelyn says, “No matter how untutored or timid she may be, when it comes to quilting, everyone is an artist. Expertly, or innocently, or inadvertently, the quilter cannot help but reveal something true.”

As we begin a new and challenging year, my wish is that you might find something true within yourself as well as the inspiration, determination, and courage to reveal it.

Posted in Inspirational

A Single Thread

Evelyn Dixon drove from Texas to New Bern, Connecticut. Her marriage was over after 20 years. She had been traded in for a newer model. So she decided to go to New England to see the fall colors. That turned out to be a momentous decision. After seeing a quaint abandoned building, Evelyn decides to try to make good on her dream to open a quilt shop. The realtor was skeptical, but Evelyn wanted to make the go.

Meanwhile in New Bern, we are introduced to Abigail Burgess Wynne. Abigail is the life of every party, especially since she is liberal with her money. But not surprisingly, she has no friends. But her perfect world is about to be turned upside down when she is saddled with the responsibility of her niece Liza who has been arrested for shoplifting.

These two women end up on a collision course when Liza insists Abigail accompany her to a quilting class commemorating breast cancer. The class takes on special significance for Evelyn when she finds out that she has breast cancer the day of the class. At the end of the session, Evelyn breaks down while teaching Abigail, Liza, and Margot (a woman recently laid off). Suddenly these four strangers find themselves throwing in their lots together. All of the women grow and change for the better.

Although the story is about the four women, it is told primarily from the point of view of Evelyn and Abigail. Both women, in my opinion, undergo the more profound changes during the novel. Evelyn discovers who her real friends are, and surprisingly it’s not the people that she has known the longest. She has to learn to accept help from strangers especially when it gets to the point that she is unable to take care of herself.

Abigail has to confront the reasons for which she transacts all personal relationships at arm length. She has to learn to overcome the resentment she has for her sister (who was strong enough to make the decision that she could not) so that she can love the niece who is the last living member of her family.

In the end, Evelyn learns to love again, and Abigail learns to selflessly give of herself to others. And the quilt shop- well it keeps growing, and more women join-each having a story of their own.

This was a wonderful story. The characters were very real, and very vulnerable. I particularly liked Charlie. I could tell he was a big softy despite his gruffness. I could not believe it took Evelyn so long to figure out that Charlie was mad about her. I mean the man cooked gourmet meals for her. I kept shaking my book saying, “marry this man.” Anyway, this story made me seriously consider taking up quilting. I learned cross-stitching when I was younger, but I didn’t have the patience for it. Piano and cooking were more up my alley. My mom didn’t insist that I learn to sew once she saw I had an affinity for food. Speaking of food, as I am writing this, my mom tried to make gingerbread from some batter I had in the fridge. A number of smoke detectors went off while I was showering. I have suspended her gingerbread license.

Many of you have already read Marie’s bio. So I’ll tell you how I met her. I receive email alerts from Barnes & Noble telling me whenever there is an author signing. For whatever reason most of the author signings are either men selling books commemorating some sports team or self-help gurus. In short, books you couldn’t pay me to buy. But back in November, I received an alert that Marie would be reading from her new book A Single Thread. I thought it was going to be chick-lit, but I read the synopsis anyway. I really liked what I read so I visited her website and emailed her. I got an “away” message. So I planned to go to the signing, introduce myself, and ask for an interview. Little did I realize that Marie had checked her email prior to the signing. So when I asked her about a book blog tour she said, “Are you Brooke?” Ok, I got a kick out of the expressions on people’s face when I was recognized. The rest is history.

Anyway, this is the first book in this series. The second book is coming out in May. There will be more details on the podcast, which should be up tomorrow. Best of all Marie will be writing a guest post tomorrow as well.

She will be visiting the blog so leave questions if you have any. Also to win the signed copy of the book leave a comment on either this post, Marie’s post, or the podcast. See you tomorrow!