84 Ribbons- Paddy Eger

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84 Ribbons was my first accepted book request. I can honestly say it was an absolute pleasure reading this book!

84 Ribbons is about 17 year old, Washington State native Marta traveling to Billings, Montana to fulfill her dreams as a professional ballerina. While there she makes life long friendships, finds love, looses herself and begins the journey of finding out who she is. As a child she figured that it would take her 84 worn pointe shoe ribbons for her to be ready to dance her first solo piece professionally. The story takes you through her many trials and tribulations in an attempt to meet this goal.

There are 3 things that this book contained that I personally thoroughly enjoyed.

1. Ballet. I myself danced a number of years as a child. Though I stopped taking lessons I continued to dance in school musicals. I have always been fascinated and enjoyed the world of ballet. Paddy did an exquisite job of helping her readers enter the prestigious ballet world. The physical and mental struggles as a dancer as well as the interpersonal struggles that can occur when stakes are high and everyone is vying for their place center stage.

2. It’s a time period piece. I know the late 50s really weren’t that long ago as far as time period pieces go HOWEVER it did make an impact on the overall feeling of the book. Everything from the cars to the fashion were subtly mentioned. 84 Ribbons could have easily been written from a current point in time. I thoroughly appreciated the bit of extra time and effort into making it a time period piece.

3. It was relatable. Again, this book could have been written from a current time point of view. I think removing it from now made it more relatable. One of those moments where you realize that in many cases, people struggle and succeed today just as people decades ago. One of the big focuses of the book is weight issues. As ballerinas it is their job to be thin, toned and beautiful. No one wants to watch a fat dancer on stage. What’s more is Paddy Eger did not shy away from the realities of such struggles, but took them head on. I loved “watching” the relationship between Marta and Steve blossom. The friendship between Marta and her two best friends Bartley and Lynne was reminiscent of my own friendships. The relationship between Marta and her mother was one very near and dear to my heart, being that my mother and I are best friends. 🙂

Overall I would definitely recommend this book. It was a relatively easy read. I know a number of my students that would enjoy this book. I can’t wait to read the next 2 installments of the series as it follows Marta and Lynne on their continuing journies!

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Paddy Eger Author Interview

Summer has become synonymous with reading and author interviews it seems. I am so excited to finally be interviewing and including West Coast author Paddy Eger to the group!

PE– Paddy Eger AS– ME

AS- I am so excited to finally be interviewing you! Your book 84 Ribbons was one of my first books to read and review last summer. You set the bar quite high for the rest of my summer reading. I am thrilled to say, you have once again set that bar! You are also now my farthest author interview/guest blogger all of the way out on the West Coast! Thank you for taking the time to chat.

AS Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have any thing in particular you like to have with you? Tea, specific music, candles, outside etc…

PE I’m one of those people who sits at a desktop to work. I have my cup of tea nearby and sip it when I’m   thinking about little problems or celebrating a well-written paragraph. Usually I prefer a quiet space,            except when I’m writing about ballets my dancers are preparing to perform. Then I play the music and often find professional ballet companies YouTube videos to watch. That really inspires me!

AS You are a Washington native. How do you think the environment influenced your writing?

PE Since I live in rain country, it’s easy to spend my time writing. I like including weather and our                landscape as part of my setting since I love the salt water, the mountains and our forests. For my ballet trilogy, I’ve based in here where I grew up.

AS In 84 Ribbons, book one of the ballet trilogy, I wanted Marta to step away from her comfort zone so I        sent her to Billings, Montana. Of course, I had to explore that area so my geography was accurate. I             even stayed on an older B&B to get the feel of living in a boarding house setting. I also drove around town and spotted a large house that could become Marta’s residence. I had fun drawing the floor plans of the various locations Marta visited.

PE In When the Music Stops, book two in my trilogy, I take Marta and her mom to my favorite ocean                 beach, Kalaloch. They share an important conversation there and I’m able to introduce readers to               that stretch of Washington beach as well.

AS Writing was not your first career, teaching was! How do you think that has impacted your writing? Was it a difficult transition?

PE I’ve always loved words: their sounds, the way they feel on my tongue and how writers use those same 26 letters in such creative ways. Among my ‘wordy’ past times are reading, word searches and writing my impressions of the world around me. I was one of those test-takers who loves essays and groaned at being put into selecting True-False boxes.

I taught primary grades most of my career. Reading with kids, playing word games and also reading aloud to the class made me happy. I still work in classrooms helping students with writing so you see, I didn’t completely leave teaching.

AS You do have educational work published. When did you realize that you might actually have a knack for writing fiction and go for it?

PE For several years I lead training for classroom volunteers so I needed to create my curriculum. That       was my first attempt to write a book. I enjoyed crafting the book so I went on to create accompanying          materials. About that same time, I friend of mine, who is a well-known author, invited me to take her    writing class. I needed a piece of fiction. Since I’d danced and still had interest in ballet, I decided to       write about a young dancer who wanted to become a professional.

My writing was adequate, but I knew little about writing fiction so I slaved through the class. When a   book agent met with me, she said she saw potential in my writing. That’s when I felt I might be able to create a short book. I was wrong. Turns out with over three hundred pages in my first book, I wasn’t done with my story. Once I realized I had more to say, I knew the writing bug had bitten me.

AS What steps did you take to make it happen? Education, workshops, networking etc.

PE My friend’s workshop got me started writing, but I knew I needed to learn more so I attended a local conference, Write On The Sound, joined a critique group and read articles and books on the craft of writing. I continue working to better my writing by attending classes and have added a second critique group. I write and read blogs and articles, network with writers and follow several writing information sources looking for ways to improve myself. It’s a full-time job!

AS How much of Marta, Lynne, Bartley and the others, come from your own experiences in the dance world?

PE– I tried to give my female leads my love of classical music and ballet. Since I danced for seventeen years, I know many of the basics of ballet; class warm up sequencing, performance issues and understanding the late 1950s when I also danced. I never had the opportunity to dance professionally, but I knew the types of issues dancers’ faced then (and now) from people I spoke with and biographies I read. Professional dancers assure me I’m correct in addressing the issues I’ve taken on in my ballet stories.

AS I just finished reading When the Music Stops but also read 84 Ribbons, which I LOVED. I know how hard it is to write a review on a sequel, but how difficult was it writing a sequel?

PE Writing a sequel was easy since I wasn’t done telling Marta’s story when book one ended. I always knew my story’s arc; I just didn’t know all the details when I started book one. Marta’s story came to me as a title with a rough outline in one day. Characters started popping up (some uninvited) and wanted to be part of my story, so I let them in. I feel they added depth to Marta’s life.

AS *SPOILER* Marta has a few love interests between the two books. How did you decide whom she ended up with? I really, really, liked Sam. I couldn’t tell you why, but I was disappointed that she doesn’t pick him! haha

PE I liked Steve. He fell in love with Marta almost from the moment he met her. I know he was a pain at      times, but I wanted him to end up with Marta. I liked their opposites: she barely finished high school                   while he was completing college when they met, he was spontaneous while she was guarded and        cautious.

When I started book two, I didn’t know what other guys would step into her life. I had great fun              writing Dennis (the jerk!) but knew that was not going to work! Then Sam appeared and I liked him a          lot. The more time he appeared, the harder it was to dump him, but I promised Steve he’d prevail.

AS The next installment follows Lynne across Europe. Have you ever had the chance to travel to some of her stops?

PE Lynne story is totally based on places I visited on trips to Europe. Actually it was on one trip while I was writing 84 Ribbons that I decided Lynne needed a book and I started writing notes to myself about what I enjoyed in the small villages especially. As Marta’s brash sidekick, I wanted to share here story. She seems so upbeat and together when she’s in books one and two. In Letters to Follow-A Dancer’s Adventure, book three, we’ll open the curtain on her life and also tie up loose ends for Marta.

AS What is the best advice you have been given as a writer thus far?

PE Write, write, write. Sit down every day and write. Like all skills, you need to practice, practice, practice. Most of what you write will be questionable; some will be worth keeping. For now, save it all. Tidbits of ideas often lead to inspiration later on.

ALSO: Anna, I want to thank you for interviewing me. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my books and main characters. After spending so much time together they feel real to me. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Thank you for writing reviews for both 84 Ribbons and When the Music Stops. Hearing what readers think of our stories help us develop our craft.

To learn more about Paddy and her writings, visit her website http://www.paddyeger.com. You can also find her on Pinterest, Good Reads, and Twitter.

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When the Music Stops- Paddy Eger

84 Ribbons was my first read and book review for NetGalley. You can find that review HERE.

I have waited ALMOST an entire year for the sequel When the Music Stops by Paddy Eger. It was well worth the wait. I read the entire book in one sitting today…my Kindle app says that it took me about 3 hours. I am obviously off my game reading that slow. haha.

Since it had been a while between books, it took me a little bit to re-acquaint myself with the characters, but it was not really much of an issue. Being a sequel, it is REALLY hard to talk about the book and what choices are made and how Marta continues on her journey without giving anything away. I mean, I can’t tell you about her relationship with Steve, I can’t tell you about her professional dance career choices, I can’t tell you about teaching- I CAN’T TELL YOU ABOUT ANYTHING! It is insanely hard to write a review on a sequel. They don’t teach you how to do this in college.

In typical Anna Reading Fashion, I had at least 3 mini-meltdowns where I shook my iPad in my hand going “GAHHHH DON’T DO THAT! PICK THIS NOT THAT!!!!” Eger easily kept me on my toes throughout the book. I actually thought I had guessed the ending, told my mom, got to the ending and was pleasantly surprised that I was WRONG! This is a very important fact because reading has been dry for me of late. You can read about THAT soap box HERE. So kudos and thank you Paddy for throwing me off of my book predicting game!

There are a few tweaks I would have done, had I written the book. There is a build up with her addiction to diet pills. I was expecting a different outcome with the issue. It was such a huge part of the first book and even in the second, it was a steady line in the plot. I was just disappointed for some reason.

I got kind of annoyed with Steve. I mean, he was a nice guy and everything, but I felt like her relationship with him had way too many issues for it to all end the way that it did. I’ll say it, I am 100% team Sam all of the way. 

I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. She could have easily continued on a bit longer and I would have been completely satisfied. After having invested so much into these characters, I didn’t want the book to end. One minute Marta is dancing; the next she is sending a wedding announcement. I needed an in-between, an epilogue….SOMETHING to feed my curiosity!

Reading these two books has made me wish I’d never left dancing. I also rarely have the itch to find an adult class and sign back up the way I have with these books. It was like I was able to live vicariously through Marta with the barre exercises and pirouettes. I loved this book for the same reasons that I did the first, the ballet, the time period component and the ability to so easily relate to the characters. I played field hockey for 10 years. After walking off of the field my senior year of high school, I really had not had the opportunity to play since. Last summer I had the chance to play on my mission trip in Northern Ireland and the feeling was remarkable. I understood Marta in a way that so many others can easily identify with as well. For a time, it was like the music had stopped in my own life. I was unsure of how to fill my time and space. But, as Marta, I learned how to adapt.

I have already recommended both books to a few of my dancer friends since finishing the second installment just a few short hours ago. Though I am sad that the third installment will not focus on Marta and her adventures, I am super excited to follow Lynne through her next steps in life in Letters to Follow (Coming Soon). Both 84 Ribbons and When the Music Stops would be perfect additions to any summer reading list, for girls of (almost) any age!

To learn more about Paddy, her other works, upcoming pieces etc, visit her website at http://www.paddyeger.com.

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Bridal Shower and Wedding Decor

If you’ve been following my blog posts the last few months you’ll know that I got engaged and have been planning a wedding. You can read about the planning process thus far in my posts Wedding Planning on a Budget Part I and Wedding Planning on a Budget Part II. In this post, I will be sharing how my mom and I have been using doilies, paint, scrapbook paper, ribbons, “K” stickers, picture corners, string, and old farm windows to make some really personal touches for both the bridal shower and the wedding.

Our world has looked something like this the last few weeks…

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First, I LOVE being Irish and this was maginified after my trip to Ireland/Northern Ireland 2 years ago. Our wedding is ironically SO traditional that people think we’re being UNtraditional! One of the traditions that I fell in love with is hand tying or handfasting.

The Handfasting Ceremony is an ancient Celtic tradition symbolizing the joining of two people in marriage. There are many versions of this gesture illustrating the union of husband and wife and is the origin of the phrase “tying the knot.”

In the Celtic tradition, the Handfasting Ceremony includes 13 ribbons, each with its own meaning.

Hand fasting is an ancient Roman and Celtic wedding tradition which involves tying the bride and Groom’s hands together to symbolize coming together and remaining together. During the Roman Empire, the couple’s hands were tied together with grape vines and rope which explains the origination of the phrase “tying the knot.”

Handfasting was also later used as a form of marriage in the British Isles during the early Christian era. The couple’s hands were tied together with a cord in front of friends and family and were then considered legally married. They would have a formal wedding ceremony later when a priest was available to officiate.

Colors

Red – will, love, strength, fertility, courage, health, vigor, passion

Orange – encouragement, adaptability, stimulation, attraction, plenty, kindness.

Yellow – attraction, charm, confidence, balance, harmony

Green – fertility, luck, prosperity, nurturing, beauty, health, love

Dark Blue -for a safe journey, longevity & strength

Light Blue – tranquility, understanding, patience, health

Purple – healing, health, strength, power, progress

Black – strength, empowerment, wisdom/vision, success, pure love

White – spiritual purity, truth, peace, serenity and devotion

Gray – balance, neutrality

Pink – love, unity, honor, truth, romance, happiness

Brown – for healing , skills & talent, nurturing, home & hearth, the earth.

To begin, I got 12 rolls of 1 inch satin ribbon. I made 4, 3 strand braids.

  1. Dark blue, light blue, gray.
  2. Orange, red, yellow
  3. Pink, purple, green
  4. Black, white, brown

 

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From those 4 braids, I braided them all together in a 4 strand braid. This is the pattern I followed, which was much easier than I thought it would be. dd2a85afe3973c777e6a755377a77cd3.jpg

It took about 10ft of each ribbon to make this strand. After braiding it all together, I took it all apart. The ribbons will be laid out to have well wishes, blessings, and love, written on them by women who attend the bridal shower. Their love will literally be braided into our vows.

I love old farm house windows. I like old things in general more often than not. We had a few at our house, my future MIL had some, and she found a few on the side of the road from people redoing their house. Each mom made a window with pictures of Ethan and I, and a window of us through the years.

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We used the windows, pictures, acrylic paints, clear picture corners, and window/chalk markers. They will be used to decorate both the shower and the wedding.

Other windows will be used for the hot chocolate bar at the wedding, favors/guest book, a memorial window, and one with a saying on it that we just like.

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My mom wanted to have something to string across the front of some tables, and on the wall to create a little backdrop while I open gifts. We were really struggling to find something pre-made that we liked. The shower is pastel colors, I’m not really into gold or rose gold, so finding something to go with our theme was non-existent. Using doilies we got at Michaels, rainbow twine, and some square scrapbook paper, my ma made this really cute swags. All she did was fold the doilies and paper over the rainbow twine and secure them closed with a single piece of double-sided sticky tape. BOOM! Quick and easy AND they match the shower stuff perfectly! Each doilie pack came with 40, so we have more than enough to give each guest a doilie for their tea cup at each place setting as well.

You can see they made a great little addition and cute place to snap some photos!

Each guest is getting a jar of homemade strawberry jam, a honey stick from a local bee keeper, and 2 tea bags. I am all about the personal touches. I found these great “K” stickers at Michaels for a little more than $1. Each jar got a “K” just to add some personalization.

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On each bag there is a folded doilie. On the doilie I wrote their name, their table name, and “How Sweet of You to Come!” We got basic white doilies, ribbon in a few different colors, and paper bags in a few pretty colors.

I’ve been to so many beautiful wedding and bridal showers that are just impersonal. You could remove the bride and groom and be at anyone’s wedding or shower. The personal touches are what make a wedding or shower, whether our own initials/monograms, or our guests. It is so easy to make your guests feel special and make your day YOURS.

Stay tuned as more decorations are completed over the next few months! Follow me on instagram@brunetteswithbrains to keep up with the latest posts and news!