Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Fascinating Books


For Mask Photos & Order Information, 
please see "Need a Mask" (4/25/20). 
For a direct link, click here.


Even I am not old enough to have seen the original of this, but hopefully everyone has encountered this Laurel & Hardy classic at some time, now so cleverly adjusted to fit our current crisis.





FASCINATING BOOKS

With many, including myself, still opting to go out only when absolutely necessary, reading has become more than a pleasurable hobby—a life-saver, in fact. Below are some of books I've turned to during this crisis—mostly mystery, scifi, and fantasy, I note. Some with Romance, some not. As I look over my scribbled list, I find some of it incongruous, but this is it—what Grace has been reading over the past three months.

Grace note:  Not included in the list below are Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Dunnett, Jayne Castle, and Linnea Sinclair - primarily because I've already read almost all of their books three times.

Series

Lucy Walker. I have a whole slew of yellowed paperbacks on a shelf in my bedroom, carefully moved from house to house for a quarter century or more. They are my sole concession to Harlequin/Silhouette-style romances:  short, simplistic, and in this case, excruciatingly dated by an attitude toward women even more extreme than I recall from my own young adulthood in the 50s. For these stories are set in the Western Australian Outback where attitudes in the mid 20th century seem to have been fixed in the Victorian era. And yet I go back to these books again and again—partially because they are a peek at a world I've never known (and now faded into history even in Australia) and partly because they are full of interesting characters with heart-tugging problems. They are multiple point of view, even head-hopping by some people's standards, yet even when I groan at attitudes that seem to come out of the Ark, the books speak to me. 

Claire Darcy.  To the best of my knowledge, Claire Darcy was the first author to follow Georgette Heyer into the modern surge of Regency Romance. Her heroines are delightful, her heroes everything a reader could wish, her research and Regency vocabulary top notch. I am thoroughly enjoying revisiting these old friends.

Kate Ross. Kate Ross's Julian Kestrel mysteries are a joy to behold. And in the final of the four-book series she was allowed to go above and beyond the first three books, giving it her all as she was dying of cancer. These are magnificent mysteries, with the main character perhaps the biggest mystery of all.

Charles Todd. Charles Todd is the name of a mother-son writing team, which probably explains why the female characters are so well done in a series with a male protagonist. The depiction of England just after World War I is remarkable in itself, and the mysteries are as complex as any I have ever read. (Far more so than most.) The Detective Ian Rutledge series also has a touch of the paranormal. I have only begun the Bess Crawford series (set during WWI), but it appears to be of the same high quality. Unlike the earlier series above, these two series are still in active production.)

Scott Lynch.  I raced through all four books of the Gentlemen Bastard series, only to be totally frustrated to discover Book 5 has been long delayed. (Gnashing teeth here.) As mentioned previously, this series is about as creative as it gets - even more so than the books of George R R Martin.

Lindsay Buroker.  To my joy, I discovered Lindsay Buroker had managed to write 4 books in a new series before I found out about Death Before Dragons. Rushed through them all, can hardly wait for Book 5—definitely my most favorite of her many series since the Emperor's Edge.


Individual Books

An Oldie - The Iron Duke by MelJean Brook. Although I still grind my teeth over the lack of background to this book—I keep thinking there's an earlier book I missed—I love this book. (I have to admit, I'd forgotten it's one of the few "hot" books I consider keepers, and that's because the book itself is so well done I never felt that sex was the primary reason for writing the book.)  That, and Brook's Kraken King series are long-time favorites. 

New Books
It's always a delight to find a new author. I tried several over this period—only one made the cut. One of the rejects might have been a good book, but all I saw were the errors in punctuation. Basic English, grammar school stuff, totally ignored. I simply couldn't force my way through it. There's another book I may return to, but it was so agonizingly "tell," I had to quit. Maybe sometime when there's nothing else to read.

However . . .

The Crossing by Matt Brody. This appears to be the start of a new mystery series—interestingly with a female protagonist. Very well done. Looking forward to Book 2.

And three new books by favorite authors:

Murder in Deep Regret by Anne Cleeland

Defy and Defend by Gail Carriger

Hillary's Back! by Faith Martin

Grace note:   I do wish Martin hadn't felt it necessary to kill off the love interest in order to revive her Hillary Green series, but Hillary herself is well worth reviving. This is a series "back by demand," as indicated by the whimsical title.

There are, of course, thousands of wonderful books out there - this is just a list of what I personally have been reading. I hope you find a treasured new author among them.
And then there are the fascinating Regency Gothics by Blair Bancroft - available at Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, B&N Nook, & other ebook vendors. In reverse order . . .

Shadows Over Greystoke Grange
The Ghosts of Rushton Court
The Blackthorne Curse
Tangled Destinies
The Welshman's Bride
The Demons of Fenley Marsh
The Mists of Moorhead Manor
Brides of Falconfell


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I happened on a different mask pattern, but when I tried on my effort to duplicate it, I decided it was a design best used by men. On the pro side, this mask - like masks with 4 ties - is one-size-fits-all, whereas masks with side loops can be too small or too large & require replacement or adjustment. This mask is fixed in place by one continuous loop of 1/4" elastic which goes over the top of the head, though the sides of the mask, the ends knotted behind the neck. The mask, once knotted, can simply be slipped on or off. Easy-peasy, right? Except the continuous loop is also the biggest "con."  In the course of slipping the mask on and off, it messes up the hair. Big time. I took one look at me wearing this style and decided I would NOT post a selfie of me modeling it. For men, however, I can definitely recommend it. See photo below.




Mask-makers, the sides are bound in extra wide bias tape, the elastic run through in classic fashion, using a safety pin. (This means you stitch top & bottom only before turning right side out through either side opening.)
~ * ~


Thanks for stopping by,



Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)

  

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Masks with Nose Wires


For Mask Photos & Order Information, 
please see "Need a Mask" (4/25/20). 
For a direct link, click here.



By the time I saw the pic below on Facebook, the name of the very clever originator had been lost - only the fact that he/she was a librarian. And surely only a librarian could come up with this priceless message for anyone willing to take the time to work it out.



~ * ~


Grace note:  will get back to Fascinating Books to help you weather the storm next week, but first, I want to pass along what I've learned about masks with bendable nose wires.



MASKS WITH NOSE WIRES

I started talking with my son about bendable nose pieces almost six weeks ago. (He sent me photos of his N-95 mask to illustrate.) But since there was no way of getting my hands on anything like that when every mask manufacturer in the world was buying up everything in sight in massive wholesale orders, and there was no way I was venturing out to Ace or Lowe's or Home Depot to see if I could find a substitute, I had to reluctantly dismiss the idea. 

But now when professional mask elastic is finally becoming available to those who are not buying wholesale, so are professional nose pieces—if you're willing to wait a month due to backorders. Sigh. But people are endlessly inventive, recently providing suggestions on the Internet for possible substitutes—among them floral wire, twist ties, and pipe cleaners. (Except even pipe cleaners have become hard to get.)

Rectangular mask w/bendable nose wire












Curved Center Seam Mask w/bendable nose wire













WHY Masks with Nose Wires?

I tried on the first one I made and was sold on the idea. Being able to bend the wire over your nose not only provides a better fit, it lifts the cloth off your nose a bit so you don't feel you're about to suffocate! I've made five now and will be putting wire in all my masks from now on.

While I waited for my orders of professional aluminum nose bands and nice fat pipe cleaners, I looked around the house and said, "Okay, what can I use?" And in my garden cart on the screen porch, I found it. A never-used spool of flower & vine-tying twine—a thread of wire encased in flat green plastic about 1/8" wide. I won't guarantee this wire will hold up to washing until I've actually washed one, but it seems perfectly logical than something designed to be used outside would wash well - particularly when it has a layer of cotton on each side.

There are a number of videos on the Internet showing how to make masks with nose wires. After watching two of them and finding them very helpful, I went ahead and devised a method that suited me - which I pass along below.

Special note:  Being me, I ignored any instructions that included ironing. I would never finish Mask One if I had to stop & iron after nearly every step. So unless you LOVE to iron, forgetaboutit!  And as for a pocket for "filters" . . .  When I was first asked about one of those, I asked for dimensions, thinking we were talking about a pocket for some fancy medical-type filter. When I discovered it meant inserting something like a layer or two of paper towels between the cotton, my eyes bulged. If someone can find medical statistics that says adding paper towels to two firm layers of cotton improves the effectiveness of a mask, please send it to me. Until then, filters? Forgetaboutit!


INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING MASKS WITH BENDABLE NOSE PIECES.


1.  Cut wire (whatever you're using) in 4" lengths. (101.6 mm)

2.  Using needle-nosed pliers, turn ends under so the wire won't poke through the cloth. (Regular pliers okay, just harder to work with.)



3.  Cut out mask(s) in usual manner.

4.  Pin elastic or ties in place. Right sides together, stitch around mask, leaving an opening for turning, just as for an all-cloth mask.

5.  Mark the Top Center of the mask with a pin or sewing marker pen. Center the wire BETWEEN the stitching line and the outside edge.

6. Adjust zigzag width as necessary and working over center 2/3 to 3/4 ONLY, zigzag wire in place INSIDE the seamline.  (This avoids hanging up the presser foot on the bumpy ends. It also allows you to adjust the wire as necessary to keep it centered.)







7.  Trim thread as necessary. Clip corners as for all-cloth masks. 

8.  Turn rightside out. Poke out corners, smooth all edges, making sure wire has remained centered. (It can still be adjusted by pushing on the knobby ends or finger-pressing in place. Each end should be approximately 2" from the outer edge.)

9.  Insert a pin at each end of the wire - marks where you will later stitch the pocket closed.

10.  Topstitching. (With a longer stitch) You may need to use a zipper foot to topstitch masks with nose wire. My machine does not have a zipper foot; instead, I can command the needle to stitch to the left or right side of the presser foot. When you topstitch, the stitching at the TOP, where the wire is, will inevitably be wider than on the other three sides—anywhere from 1/4"+ to 3/8".

11.  Fixing Wire in Place. Using a short stitch (2 - 2.5mm), stitch a vertical line at each end of the wire, fixing it in place.   

Please note the vertical stitching at each side of wire (top center).


Grace note: If you would like to view the various videos on this subject, 
google "Video Masks with Nose Wires"

~ * ~

If you are not handy, I am happy to make a mask for you. For a direct link to photos of the styles & fabrics available, click here.


~ * ~


For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.




  For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here.
 

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace
 


Saturday, May 9, 2020

Fascinating Movies, TV & Books



For Mask Photos, please see "Need a Mask" (4/25/20). 
Arrow down, or select Archives.




From The Orlando Sentinel, May 7, 2020
If you can't read the captions, the ship is:  PHASED REOPENING; the mines - SO like the graphics of Covid-19 - are:  VIRUS COMEBACK

The cartoon above is an excellent depiction of what most experts fear will happen if we reopen too soon. I happen to believe them, though I would be delighted to be proved wrong. I absolutely, positively do not want to repeat the six weeks just past. I do NOT want to see the death toll go back up - the toll so heavily weighted against the fragile, the poor, and those who feel forced back to work. (No Unemployment checks for those who refuse to return to work.) Sadly, it would appear that too many Americans, including many government officials, do not have the guts to stick it out. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln would be ashamed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill (whose mother was American) would be ashamed. While doctors and nurses, first responders, and others with essential jobs risk their lives to save others, we can't be bothered to wear a mask or space ourselves out in a line? And then there are those who just want to party and belly up to the bar. We're such crybabies we're willing to see people die so we can get a haircut or go to the gym? Shame on us all. 

Okay, enough ranting. I'm still hoping we'll squeak by despite the lack of backbone in so many of our governors (and the usual idiocy in Washington). On to a lighter topic . . .


I offer the following list for all the wise ones looking for a good "read" and for those looking for movies or TV series to keep the family amused (beyond Disney for the little ones). Grace note:  this is an expansion of my post of March 7, 2020. Movies & TV this week, books next week.



MOVIES, TV & BOOKS
That Have Kept My Spirits UP


Movies

 Although I've been making masks like mad, squeezing in work on my next Regency Gothic, The Vicar's Daughter, as well as proofing a print version of The Ghosts of Rushton Court, I gave up attempting to work at night a number of years ago and have been indulging in a variety of old favorite books, TV, and movies to keep my spirits up, plus adding a few special "new and wonderful" titles to my list.

Firstly, a couple of movies (available on Netflix) I have seen during the past couple of weeks, although they were made almost 20 years apart:  Parasite and Pearl Harbor

Parasite is almost impossible to describe, except you know a foreign language film with subtitles has to be truly exceptional to win an Oscar. And, believe me, Parasite is a work of genius. A unique idea brilliantly presented - not to be missed. Just remember, you have to watch closely - there's no way to understand this one without reading the subtitles.

Pearl Harbor - did I see this film back in 2001? Surely I'd remember it if I had, for it is a rather remarkable recreation of what happened in 1941 and early 1942, ranging from the Battle of Britain to Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, with a protracted re-staging of the attack on Pearl Harbor in between. Yes, it's hoked up with the inevitable Hollywood romance, but it's not just movies that use personalization to add to the impact of history. We writers do it all the time. Since I remember Pearl Harbor (though I was young enough to think it was an island off the New England coast, where we lived at the time—so much for my parents' attempts to shield me from news!), I recognized the accuracy of so much of the film, from FDR's statements to those of Admiral Yamamoto. From the radar operator who was told the "incoming" was a flight of B-17s from the mainland U.S. to the warning note received from Washington an hour after the attack. From the devastation of the U.S.S. Arizona to all our fighter planes that were destroyed before they ever got off the ground. From the cook who took over a machine gun to the nurses collecting donated blood in coke bottles. If you want to see what REAL devastation is like, watch Pearl Harbor

Grace note:  In 1959, the year Hawaii became a state, I accompanied my mother on a research trip to Hawaii, where she was going to set her next children's book. They rolled out the red carpet for us, making sure we toured not only Oahu but Kauai, the Big Island of Hawaii, and Maui. Included in our tour of Honolulu was the Arizona. Not the lovely white memorial people see today, but a view of the actual superstructure sticking up out of the bay. A dramatic and sobering sight. I will forever be glad I saw "the real ship" instead of the memorial built on top of it.

Other movies I've enjoyed over the past few weeks:

For the Love of Spock. A documentary made by Leonard Nimoy's son, which may very well surprise you, as well as give you inside information about one of the great characters of our time. Thought you knew Mr. Spock? Well, I've got news for you . . .

The Downton Abbey movie.  A "must" for devoted "Downton" fans. All your favorite characters back again, with a hint of more to come.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? The poignant story of Fred Rogers, his days in the Neighborhood and his time not in the neighborhood. A "must" for those who grew up with the quiet all-embracing love of Mr. Rogers and for those who would like their children to see why this man had such a special place in their lives. 

Air Strike. I fell into this one by accident, attracted by a WWII story and Bruce Willis. Was totally surprised to discover the movie was Chinese made, depicting part of the story of what China suffered from the Japanese invasion, including the true story of the American who led the tiny Chinese Air Force into battle against the Japanese several years BEFORE Pearl Harbor. 


Television Series

Acorn.

What would I do without Acorn (the Public Broadcasting network)? It is absolutely chock-full of fascinating series - something for everyone, though I stick pretty much to the Mysteries.

Midsomer Murders. An all-time favorite, now on 20+ years. So glad there are a few episodes I still haven't seen, though I never mind a repeat. They are consistently top-notch.

The Brokenwood Mysteries. A not-to-be missed series from New Zealand. Clever stories, wonderful characters, great scenery, though the accent is sometimes a bit daunting. (There's one character I have yet to understand more than one word in ten.)

Miss Fisher Mysteries. A delightful series from Australia. I was already starting on these a second time before the Covid-19 crisis. They are absolutely guaranteed to challenge your who-dun-it gene while bringing a smile to your lips. And our leading lady's outfits are to die for! Also, the Miss Fisher movie, just out, is worth a look, though I still prefer the series.

Netflix.

Green Arrow. If you like Super Heros, there's always another episode in this lengthy series. Although it reached a point a bit dark for me during the current crisis, it is definitely worth watching by those who enjoy a rousing tale of a Super Hero and his devoted friends.

The Protector.   Okay, you've never heard of this Turkish-made Super Hero series, but it's worth taking a look. I was in Istanbul in 2015 and find the views of the city endlessly fascinating. The stories and attitudes clearly diverge from Western culture, but the dubbed American dialogue is the best I've ever heard. This series gives us a look at the modern-day city that was once the heart of the Ottoman Empire, a city that sits in the middle between two cultures and still manages to be itself. Like all Super Hero tales, you have to take it with a grain of salt, but the scenery, from the Bosporus to the inner city—Wow! And, oh yes, you might be surprised to discover the women are strong and dynamic. Like the Green Arrow, the Protector has some pretty amazing friends.



To be continued next week.


~ * ~


For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.




  For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here.


Thanks for stopping by,

Grace