Book Review: The Dinner

Why I picked it:  I spotted this on Bibliophile by the Sea and then several commented they loved it, so I pushed it to the top of my list.

Synopsis: Over one meal, two families struggle with the hardest decision of their lives. On an Amsterdam summer evening, two couples are united by their sons, aged 15, their horrific joint deed. Behind banal polite discourse in a restaurant, knives are sharpened, friendship disintegrates. How far will adults go to protect those they love?

Quick Take: Strange. I'm not sure what to say about this book. As I read it I wondered if I was reading something similar to 'We need to talk about Kevin' but this book didn't scare me like Kevin did (thank goodness, I never need to read anything like that again).

I knew the characters were going to be unlikable; sadly I wasn't invested in the outcome and kept waiting for something big to happen.  When the cliff hanger is revealed, it's shared slowly.  It is disturbing but could have been explored more.  I'm not sure I want to know why the boys did what they did, but hearing from the children or having a mother's perspective may have enhanced the story.

Would I recommend this to book club?  I can't see myself recommending this book to anyone but there is a LOT to discuss. The writing is good, I listened and didn't feel compelled to stop listening.

Have you read it?  If I took the time to read a few reviews before buying this book, I might not have read it.  A lot of people gave the book just one star; people either love it or hate it, so it's odd to fall in the middle.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: personal copy (audio)

Travel: Switzerland {thee Matterhorn}

Hello friends,

I hope you have enjoyed our recent trip to Switzerland.  This is my last post from our 'wintery escapades', so it's only fitting to wrap things up with a weekend get-a-way to Zermatt!

Have I mentioned that we don't travel lightly? It's wintertime, so we needed winter boots, gloves, scarfs, hats, jackets, hiking boots, dress attire, workout gear, etc.. for three weeks time.

We had three large trunks, two nap sacks, and my SLR camera + gear.  You can imagine what we look like in transit, our three trunks weighed in at 67 Kilo (148 pounds)...

After a long week of meetings and dinner commitments, the World Traveler was ready to get out of Vevey and was looking forward to a fun weekend skiing Matterhorn. We were eager to hit the road for a three hour train from Vevey to Zermatt, and settle in for the night.

The village/town of Zermatt is quaint, with more of a winter feel than Noel.  Fireplaces and animal skins to sit on, wintergreen and natural fibers lining the windows.

Books: how crafty are you?

{source: purl soho}
It's snowing here today, making it a lovely day to enjoy a cup of tea and research a few projects. One click led to another lovely blog/website, and next thing I knew an hour had past and my tea cup was empty.

While clicking away, I found a few items to add to my list and bought the yarn to make these adorable socks.

What are you making this winter?
Dreaming to make?

The books below have stunning covers that inspire me to be creative. Do you own any of these books, or have any suggestions/go-to books I should add to my collection?

~ :: :: :: :: :: ~ :: :: :: :: :: ~ :: :: :: :: :: ~ :: :: :: :: :: ~ :: :: :: :: :: ~ :: :: :: :: :: ~ :: :: :: :: :: ~

More Last minute Knitted Gifts: an elegant collection of 30 projects organized according to the time it takes to complete them, from less than two hours to more than eight. Among the projects featured are sachets, bracelets, ornaments, mittens, gloves, hats, sweaters, baby blankets, and throws.

Understanding that knitters today love to personalize their projects but also need guidance along the way, Hoverson showcases many of the projects in several colors and yarn weights, and with optional embellishments and creative ideas for gift-wrapping.

Adventures in Yarn Farming: A knitting book focusing on the sheep-to-shawl process by a well-known knitter, shepherd, and artisanal yarn producer. Gain an insider's view on fiber farming and yarn craft, from sheep to skein, all told through the eyes of shepherd and textile artisan Barbara Parry. 

Follow her flock over the course of a year and discover all the facets of life with sheep: from shearing day and lambing season, to preparing fiber for yarn. Along the way you'll find projects for the fiber obsessed by top knitwear designers, essays on country life, and over 100 stunning photographs. 

All Sewn Up: Choose from 35 retro-inspired ideas using beautiful appliqué, embellishments, and decorative stitches

Make something for every room in the house, from a tea cozy for the kitchen to a bejeweled bird hanging for the living room

All the projects come with clear step-by-step instructions, plus there's a handy section on techniques that will teach you all the basic stitches required

Crochet! technique, stitches, patterns: Forget about outdated designs: Crochet! is all about cutting-edge needlework.  

These sophisticated handmade masterpieces-all in wools, silks, cottons, bamboo, and microfibers-range from dresses and cover-ups to accessories, home décor items, and toys. Eighty classic and fanciful stitches provide plenty of inspiration for crocheters of all levels, while 20 patterns-each with a photo of the finished project-round out this updated and comprehensive course.

50 Fabric Animals: With dozens of animal-themed projects, including appliqué and embroidery ideas, this workbook is the perfect source for crafters looking to spruce up their home, clothes, and everyday accessories. The wide swath of projects include a classic teddy bear, an owl mobile phone pouch, and a child’s bear-designed coat as well as inspiring ideas for a key ring, purse, scarf, and a baby’s quilt. Each project is accompanied by easy-to-follow instructions and full pattern templates and detailed photographs ensure the success of each project. Beginners and more experienced stitchers won't be able to resist making these imaginative and charming creatures.

The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker: Try a fresh, relaxed approach to making quilts with this new "go-to" book. The bright aesthetic and clear, simple instructions guide beginners and intermediates alike through the entire process of creating fun and useful quilts that they'll be proud to call their own.

Explore different options for each project-make it with just two colors or scrappy, make it vintage or mod, make it soft or playful. Alternate colorways included with each project show you how swapping out fabrics can change the look of the same block.

Book Review: The Rosie Project

Why I Picked it: This book was on many 2013 top books read lists that I wanted to read it, to see what the buzz was about.

Synopsis: Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project.

In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

Quick take: Having finished the book a few weeks ago now, I've had time to think about this review. For me, the book ends up in the 'cute and quirky' category.  Once Don meets Rosie the book shifts from a guy looking for a wife, to solving the mystery of 'who is Rosie's father'.  Don becomes obsessed with finding her father, even when it seems she no longer needs to know.

Don is an interesting character, engaging to the reader.  Who he is threads from page one to the end, for example he scans everyone he encounters to calculate BMI, as if taking inventory.  The inappropriate questions he asks will make you laugh.

He's quirky and has a need to get to the yes/no quickly. I loved the idea of the dating questionnaire and couldn't wait to see what was going to happen.

I wish the author would have written more on Don's friend and the wife.  A lot of good content to explore with this couple.

Most loved this one, calling it an addictive read that's laugh-out-loud funny. Here are a few great reviews:
Leeswammes Blog
Book Chatter

Have you read it?  What did I miss?

Rating: 3 stars
Source: personal copy (audio)

Book Review: Decorate Workshop

Why I picked it: I picked up this book a few years ago, hoping it would help me with the new house.

A few years later it's safe to say I have a blog crush on what Holly Becker does, and how well she does it.  She's comfortable sharing ideas, teaching, and is an inspiration to many artists/designers, and hopefuls (like me).

Synopsis: A companion to Decorate, the international bestseller, this interactive guide takes readers step by step through the decorating process of beloved stylist and blogger Holly Becker. In Decorate Notebook, Becker shares her personal design philosophy and explains how to carry a vision into a finished room, from the early paint swatches to the final accents. Readers will learn how to identify their style, create mood boards, outline a schedule and budget, source materials, and start decorating! Filled with expert tips, important checklists, blank space for making lists and plans, and 250 photographs of gorgeous interiors, plus a pocket at back for stashing swatches and inspiration, this is an essential planner for home decorators whatever their budget.

Quick Take: Holly Becker has created the perfect companion to stylizing the home.  Learning how to create a cohesive space, with the mood you are striving for, can be tricky.  This book breaks down the process and walks you through it step by step.

“Your home should reflect the story of your life and be filled with things that you feel connection to, whether it is a memory, a mood, your values, or how you wish to become in the future.  There is nothing wrong with making your home reflect the person you were, are, and hope to be.” pg 30

Reading this book has given me the focus I need to begin a project properly.  It's a book I plan to keep near as I refresh the house this year.

Here's a sneak peek, sharing a few topics in the book and what I've done:

Identify your project(s): I loved this chapter and found myself walking around my home making a list.  I quickly realized I walk by a bookshelf several times a day without looking at it... a collection of unwanted/unnecessary objects living on shelves.

Some items on my list include: reorganized the bookshelf, paint the dining room, my workspace is getting a 60% overhaul, and I moved all the area rugs to the rooms they actually belong in.

Moving the rugs was a huge project but well worth it.  The outcome… the upholstery on the chairs in my dining room now provide a pop of color.

Make a list: Now that you have identified a project, start making a list (budget, wish vs reality). For me, I'm not looking to buy new furniture so budget isn't an issue.  A few gallons of paint, accessories over time.  I have been collecting treasures from our travels, now it's time to display them.

Pattern: Personally I love pattern in a pillow, not a rug.  This is a chapter I will read over and over while I come to terms with all of the pattern I have inherited.

Please visit Holly's blog decor8.  You can also follow her on pinterest and instagram.  I enjoy watching her get inspired (from finding content to spotlight in a blog post, to building mood boards for a decorating project).

Rating: 5 stars
Source: personal copy

Book Review: Big Brother

Why I picked it: I don't read every novel written by Shriver but I try to.

Synopsis: When Pandora picks up her older brother Edison at her local Iowa airport, she literally doesn't recognize him. In the four years since the siblings last saw one another, the once slim, hip New York jazz pianist has gained hundreds of pounds. What happened?

And it's not just the weight. After his brother-in-law has more than overstayed his welcome, Pandora's husband, Fletcher, delivers an ultimatum: it's him or me. Putting her marriage and her adopted family on the line, Pandora chooses her brother—who without her support in losing weight, will surely eat himself into an early grave.

Quick Take: I bought this book months ago, as a new release, but didn't get the time to sit and read it until recently.

The plot moves at a steady pace.  While reading it there were times when I thought I should put the book down for a few days, but looking back it's really grown on me.  It's a memorable book.

If you have read it, did you like Pandora?  I struggled with her, her solutions/reactions.  I wonder how much of this is due to her family situation, her brother yes but more importantly her father's role in their lives. I also found her husband to be an interesting character in the book, his focus on fitness but the attachment to chairs and their significance to the plot.

It's hard to discuss without spoiling it for you.  I can tell you that the story twists and ends dramatically. The ending is satisfying!

Would I recommend this book to book clubs? I would love to discuss this book, pick it apart with book club.  There is a lot to discuss that I can't share without including spoilers.  The author is an amazing writer and weaves in subtle yet important/plot movers to help tell the story.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal copy

Travel: Switzerland {observations}

{feeding the birds}
I cherish a morning walk when traveling.

While staying in Vevey we had bread, jam, and fresh fruit delivered to our room daily.  I would save the uneaten bread and every few days walk to the pier to feed the birds.

The pier is home to a hundred year old carousel, and right behind me is a castle that's being renovated. Rumor says the castle was purchased for one Swiss Franc, and the owner is funding the renovation.

I can't wait to see the transformation.

Below are a few observations I would love to share, to give you a feel for life here.

Water: Showering with glacier water makes your hair baby soft.  When dining, water is not served unless requested.  Fizzy water costs the same as soda, it's cheap to buy at the grocery store.  A liter of San Pellegrino will cost one Swiss Franc (less than half the price in America).

Christmas: There is nothing commercial about Christmas in Switzerland.  Look around and you will see old world Santa's and natural decorations made of natural materials and ribbons.  A good reminder that Christmas is not about gifts or blow up lawn decorations.

- Santa is a rope climber! Did you know the Elf is mostly an American fascination?
- Christmas trees are real, standing from one to five feet in height.
- Igloo's are everywhere.  They are pop up businesses, a place to warm up with a drink or shop.

- Noel Villages: gatherings for the locals and travelers, with outdoor shops to buy gifts, sample food, drink. We attended at least four of them, each unique.  Vevey is a small corner shop with trees, Montreux host the main Noel Village for the area (this year's theme was wintergreen smurf's), Evian's village was made from driftwood, Zermatt's has more a winter feel to it.

Yarn: I wasn't able to find a yarn shop in any of the towns we visited.  I was hoping to buy some for a friend who enjoy's knitting.  Strange, right?

Language: I'm learning French but most of Switzerland speaks German.

Grocery Shopping: Keeping waste to a minimum, there isn't much outer packaging for items (ie: toothpaste in America can come in a box, you will not see this here),  you either bring bags or pay for them.  I shopped at two different stores (Manor and COOP) - the cashiers do not weight your produce.  A mistake I made, causing the line to be delayed at dinner time.  I felt like Meg Ryan's character in 'You've got Mail', the grocery store scene (her apologizing over and over).  I'm used to filling my market basket as I shop, unloading it and the cashier weighing it for me before packing up my basket.

I also wonder why the large food markets are in the basement...

NO one eats or drinks 'to-go' - there is no litter - it's very, very quiet other than church bells - most travel via ferries, metro, buses, trains, or on foot.

Quality!  You will not find Target or Walmart here, in fact I believe most buy a few high quality items that will last a long time vs a summer trend.  I don't know this, just a gut feel.

I have one last post to share with you, our time in Zermatt!

Travel: getting lost in Italy

It feels like so long ago, but this delightful Sunday happened just a few weeks ago - the day we took a wrong turn and ended up in France!

I have mentioned this before but if you are planning a trip to Switzerland please note that most of the country is closed on Sunday due to labor laws prohibiting work.

This made for the perfect excuse to borrow a friends car, driving from Vevey to Aosta Valley (Italy) via the Great St Bernard Pass.

The land of 1,000 castles - here we come!

Great St Bernard Pass: Founded in 1049, this pass has a rich history but was new to me. It's name comes from a monk crossing the Alps to provide hospice care and the dogs were large/hearty enough to help him. So much history to absorb (dating back to the Roman Empire).

Book talk: Books I can't wait to read

Good morning friends,

I hope everyone is finding a way to stay warm... the cold snap is almost over.  We have a wind storm today and thankfully I have no plans to leave the house.  I might even stay in my comfy's all day.

I have mentioned it already but I'm super excited to read Niffenegger's sequel to The Time Traveler's Wife. Sadly I expect I will be waiting for a while, the book doesn't even have a name yet... or a pub date.

My must read list is growing at rapid speed - by about a dozen after reading everyone's favorite books from 2013.

Here are the books I put on my list after reading yours!

The Dinner: Over one meal, two families struggle with the hardest decision of their lives. On an Amsterdam summer evening, two couples are united by their sons, aged 15, their horrific joint deed. Behind banal polite discourse in a restaurant, knives are sharpened, friendship disintegrates. How far will adults go to protect those they love?

(discovered on Bibliophile by the Sea)

Left: Therese Wolley is a mother who has made a promise. She works as a secretary, shops for groceries on Saturdays, and takes care of her two girls. She doesn t dwell on the fact that her girls are fatherless, mostly because her own father abandoned her before she was born and she has done just fine without him.Even though her older daughter regularly wakes with nightmares and her younger one whispers letters under her breath, she doesn t shift from her resolve that everything will be fine. She promises . . . and they believe.

Until the morning an obituary in the newspaper changes everything. Therese immediately knows what she has to do. She cannot delay what she has planned, and she cannot find the words to explain her heartbreaking decision to her daughters. She considers her responsibilities, her girls, and her promise. Then she does the only thing that any real mother would do. She goes on the run with one daughter . . . and abandons the other.

Left is told from the perspectives of Franny, the autistic sister who is left behind; Matilda, the troubled older sister who vows to go back and save her; and Therese, a mother on the run.

(discovered on Book'd Out

Girl Child: Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Uniforms, disposing of outgrown; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de las Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.

Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.

(discovered on Zola Books)

I have also added the following titles:
The Kept: a novel (Scott), discovered on Leeswammes' blog
Wave (Deraniyagala)
Life after Life: a novel (McCorkle)
Clever Girl (Hadley)
Margot (Cantor)
Reconstructing Amelia (McCreight)

Some of these recommendations are gathered from author's I adore and follow (Andrew McCarthy, Liz Gilbert).  It's fun to see what they are reading and adding to their 2013 top three read lists, almost all of these books were new titles for me.

Have you read any of these books? What have you added to your must read list?

~ happy reading xoxo

Book Review: I am Malala

Why I picked it: I love reading memoirs and books about cultures I have little knowledge/experience with beyond what I can read.

Synopsis: I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Quick Take: Memoirs are hard to review.

Do you know Malala?  She's a teenage girl from Pakistan, with an incredible story. It's clear that girls are not a families preferred choice in her culture but Malala's parents felt blessed that she was born. At least the book reads this way.

Doctors and Lawyers, these are the options for girls who go to school.  Or should I say the expectations put on them (to be successful, independent, strong).

Not everyone is born with the drive for success and desire to change the world (or community) that Malala has.  Her life plan is to be a successful woman, standing up for the rights of education long before the moment on the bus.  It will be interesting to read a follow up when she's in her thirties or forties.

A quick scan through the reviews on goodreads shows you the wide range of reaction to this book. It's clear Malala's story is not well received by every reader.  Sadly you will quickly identify the political/religious views tied to some the negative reviews... which invites questions/discussion.

Would I recommend this to book clubs: Definitely!  Read it, then read a few goodreads reviews and you will find a lot to discuss.  It's political, religious, deals with family, womanhood, education and more.

Have you read it?  Did anything surprise/unsettle you while reading it?

Rating: 4 stars
Source: personal copy (audio)

Book Review: Allegiant

Why I picked it:  It's book three!

Synopsis: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspectives, Tris and Four.

Quick take:  I finished book three early this morning.  Allegiant, in my humble opinion, is the best book in the series.  The first half provides a lot of background and a plan, the second half brings the story to an end.

Favorite quote from book three: Life damages us, everyone. We can't escape that damage. But now I'm also learning this: we can be mended, we mend each other. 

Series in summary: I read all three books in five weeks. The story was fresh which may have brought along high expectations for book three (I didn't love book two).  If you can overlook the violence, this is a great series for the YA audience.  The books are filled with references to core values, right/wrong, good/bad, and the idea of bravery.

Divergent: I enjoyed it
Insurgent: okay
Allegiant: my favorite in the series

YA observations: These books are filled with repetition which may contribute to my struggles with the genre.  But I am trying to read the ones everyone's talking about...

Did you listen to Slates Double X discussion last week on female leads, and violence in YA?  If not, give it a listen.  Interesting to hear them discuss Hunger Games and how the boy and girl play opposite characters (strong protector vs caring provider).

Rating: 4 stars
Source: personal copy

Travel: Switzerland {Montreux Noel}

{Source: google images}
Lovely friends of mine,

Imagine this, my first run in Switzerland landed me in Noel Village! I thought it was high in the mountain side but it's a boardwalk festival.

This winter gal bundled up for a run along the shoreline in Vevey, running to the end, up to the main road and around the corner I saw a Ferris wheel in the distance.

Once I saw the Ferris Wheel, I had to see if this was 'the' Noel Village.

Stopping to explore the booths, grab lunch (pretzel and hot cocoa) and walk home while listening to an audio book and taking it in... I was in heaven.

I remember thinking that I'm standing in Switzerland, looking across the lake to France, I just ran from Vevey to Montreux, to the Noel Village, and then I spotted the Chateau and decided to walk there too!  I crossed off several of my must see items in one morning.

Montreux Noel
Montreux:  Known as the Swiss Riviera, is known for their Jazz Festival but also draws people by the thousands daily for the Noel Village.

A day on spontaneity: Saturday we took the train to Lausanne and the ferry across the lake, to Evian.  Having crepes for lunch and walking through Evian's Christmas Village, with driftwood characters for the kids to climb on and explore. In the evening we went to the Noel Village in Montreux for traditional Swiss fondue with a friend.

It was such a fun evening - drinking glug (hot wine) to stay warm, fondue, shopping the booths (craft fair), sampling edibles, and riding the Ferris Wheel. We even tried Absinthe - which tastes horrible.

Smurfed! As you walk the boardwalk of Montreux you can't help but see a lovely exhibit of wintergreen Smurfs, some standing alone, others creating a scene.  Some people are so creative!

I hope you are enjoying experiencing my Switzerland experience, next we are going on a three country road trip via St Bernard's Pass.


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