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Let’s Sew Together by Rubyellen Bratcher


This summer has been all about sewing for me between opening an Etsy shop, The Bookish Owl, and making a ton of colorful aprons for a new business in town.  Books are a great source for my ideas even if what I sew ends up looking nothing like what was on the page.

My roommate’s 12 year old son has been here a lot as well since school got out and we are always looking for things for him to do besides play video games. Seriously, you would think there is NOTHING except those damn games and reading, of course.

Now you may think that a boy wants nothing to do with sewing, but that is so not the case with him. He is a bit embarrassed, but realizes that it is not only a skill but a creative outlet that we can all do together. He has made plush animals and small quilts for gifts with a bit of help and I am always impressed and inspired by his choices. Let’s Sew Together is the perfect book for the three of us.

The projects are cute and yet not babyish, they are good for both sexes, appeal to teens and tweens, and introduce some techniques that I never would have tried or thought of! He loves to draw, so we now all have slippers with his drawings on the area over the toes, done over with embroidery. A bracelet was also made for a certain girl that I can’t mention. (boy crushes are so cute)

The book also includes a few pages with something else we all need to work on, eating healthier. I didn’t think that anyone could get me to eat Brussels Sprouts, even on penalty of death, but the recipe included was edible, even good and didn’t make me think of teeny, tiny, brains, like the Sprouts usually do.

My only issue with Let’s Sew Together is that there weren’t full-sized patterns included. In fact, it was a royal pain to scan the pages and then enlarge them by the necessary percentages, anywhere from 330% to 770%! Others may be better at the process than my roommate and I, but we struggled and yet didn’t want to spend the money taking it to the pros at a place like Kinko’s.

It isn’t often that I can find a craft book, little own a sewing book, that appeals to both the tween and I, but the projects that Rubyellen Bratcher included were perfect and inspiring for both of us. It will have an important place in are arsenal of what to do INSTEAD of video games. And nothing can replace the joy of crafting and sewing together. The three of us feed off of each other creatively all the time. One has a problem, with a possible solution…then another has a better solution, then the third has just the right color to pull it off.  The book complemented our synergy.

The 12 year-old will probably smack me if I don’t mention that his sewing doesn’t make him girly, it makes him a better catch.

Let’s Sew Together: Simple Projects the Whole Family Can Make by Rubyellen Bratcher



  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Potter Craft (May 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0385345186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385345187


Finally, while this is available as an e-book, I suggest that you get all craft/sewing books in paper format for the ease of use and acceptable access to patterns.  I love ebooks, but they aren’t perfect for every genre of reading and when it comes to inspiring creativity, you really need color and that tangible-ness.  

I received this book for free for an honest review from Blogging for Books.



Books that Are Actually Better on Film


I just finished Eric Van Lustbader’s The Bourne Retribution (in audio format) and have his latest in the Bourne series ready to read on my Kindle.  (P.S. Isn’t that just one of the coolest names ever? Van Lustbader…it rolls off your lounge, oh never mind, you are no fun,)However, there have been a few books that I have either read of listened to lately that break the usual rule of “All books are better than movies”.  For 95% of books that is a tired and true  motto, but when it comes to high action fiction, in place that you have never been (and let’s face it, will probably never be) the movies can do it much more justice to the setting and the action.

Do not get me wrong, I love a few action series out there even though I consider myself far from a hardcore action fan in both books and movies. Let’s see, anything with Bourne in the title, I will read and/or see. No matter how embarrassing it is, I can’t pass on any of the screen versions of Dan Brown’s work….ah the locations are so beautiful.  There is also another series that I am starting feel fits in this category too and that is the Cotton Malone one by Steve Berry.  There are 14 books in that series and after a total overfill of reading and listening to them lately, they are all starting to blend together because I don’t get to see the great action or especially the exotic locations.

Let’s take The Bourne Retribution as an example.  Here’s the blurb. (okay wait, the blurb is long so I am going to truncate it a bit)

Bourne’s increasingly desperate search for Ouyang takes him from Tel Aviv to Shanghai, Mexico City, and, ultimately, a village on China’s coast where a clever trap has been laid for him. Bourne finds himself pursued on all sides and unsure whom he can trust. As he moves closer to Ouyang, closer to avenging the woman he loved, he also moves ever closer to his own death . . .

I have never been to most of these places so when an action sequence “shows” Bourne sliding down Shanghai tile roof tiles from building to building that are  so built so close together that he can practically step from one to another…I have no  frame of reference. Here on the central coast of California, in some areas it can be miles before you have another house and even in my slightly more populated area, there is still a pretty good distance between them and the difference in architectural styles, ages  and sizes make the whole roof to roof thing pretty much impossible.

I really didn’t enjoy this book as much because I just couldn’t picture it and it isn’t like I have a lack of imagination, it’s just when the main focus of a book is action and I can’t see it in my mind, I tend to nod off or skip pages.

Now I know that publishers and authors alike will hate me for it, but if ya’ll keep writing books like these, I am going to take a pass and wait for the movie.  Don’t hate the player, hate the game.  However, I do have one more Bourne book that I committed to read/mention and I will do so now.

Van Lustbader came out with #12 in the Bourne series called the Bourne Ascendency last month.


This time Bourne’s X-Treadstone boss is being held captive and it sounds great, but I may wait for the movie. It just does the work better justice. Or maybe it’s just that I like to see Matt Damon in action even though he is a bit short for me, not to mention married.

As for Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series, I don’t think that they have been made into movies yet, but they should.

It might be a good time to mention to any movie makers out there that if a title has Die Hard in the title or Bruce Willis in the billing, I am all over that like white on rice as well and buying it when it comes out. Serious Willis Weakness Syndrome going one here, need a 12 step group.

Since I mentioned a few books here, I will break from tradition and just leave you a link for the Eric Van Lustbader Author Page

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

Both of these books in the Bourne Series were provided by the publisher for honest reviews. I think we can all agree that I did that. 



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The Farm by Tom Rob Smith


The Farm


You know that feeling when you are on the uphill part of a roller coaster? There is that tick, tick, tick, of the car, your heart beats a bit faster as you look down, the seat belt starts to strain as you test just how tight you set it, you try to remember to look out and see the surrounding city, but it’s hard to peel your eyes from the pinnacle……now imagine all that tension and that you can see your parents tied to the tracks ahead and the knowledge that you have to choose one, just one to save.  You have to choose just one, mom or dad. That’s The Farm. The tension in The Farm just builds and builds and like a dog with a bone, it just won’t let go of you once you pick it up.


If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son.
Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes.
Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and been committed to a mental hospital.
Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.

That’s how it starts for Daniel.  His parents retired to Sweden last year and because he has never opened up to them about your sexuality, he has pretty much avoided making a visit because that would mean introducing them to Mark, his boyfriend.

So Daniel picks his mom up at Heathrow and she starts to tell him, from the beginning, what has happened. You think you know your parents, like Mark does, until you are thrown into a crisis and realize that you really don’t know them at all. That feeling that you know them is even stronger than the feeling you might have with your spouse and yet is based on childhood memories and the false faces that our parents show us.

As Daniel listens to his mother, he is constantly forced to take sides; his dad or his mom. One minute, he believes that his dad is right and he deals with his mother calmly like you would a nut. Then he sees her side and even though he doesn’t want to believe it, his dad suddenly looks like the bad guy.  It’s the ultimate moment in time when you have to start being an adult and find that you have to now parent, your parents. (A theme that many of us have or will face.)

Now, I’ve read Smith’s earlier trilogy, Child 44 and it was good, but this is better. Not only has he become a better, tighter writer, but he has taken on a situation that most of us can picture ourselves; maybe not as extreme as poor Daniel, but it’s still the stuff that can keep you up at night just like this book did to me.

Read it.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (June 3, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0446550736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446550734

I received this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature



The House At The End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

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The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

Imagine a time in your life when everything has fallen apart and you are wandering aimlessly, wondering what your next step should be when you come upon a house that you have never known before that somehow calls to you.

(side note: My love of architecture often means that I am drawn to homes and buildings that I have never noticed before, even when my life is going great, so this whole idea isn’t far-fetched for me)

Keep imagining….you go up the walk and before knocking on the door it opens and standing there is someone you have never met before, but she has such a motherly welcoming nature about her that you find yourself entering.

The woman, Peggy, ushers you into the kitchen as you walk by walls dripping with framed photographs of famous women from the past, including Florence Nightingale. The house seems alive, charming you and breathing life into everything at the same time.

You continue to stare at the portraits that blanket even the walls of the kitchen. Peggy says, “They’ve all lived here, at one time or another.” Still stirring the milk at the stove, Peggy speaks without turning around. “They came to the house, just like you, when they’d run out of hope.”

Our main character, Alba, has indeed run out of hope and while we won’t find out exactly why until later in the story, her feeling of being lost is palpable. Peggy invites her to stay after letting her know the rules of the house; she has 99 days to turn her life around and then she is out. Alba agrees to the rules, thinking that she has nothing to lose.

That is the start of The House at the End of Hope Street and while I may be, deep down, the most cynical person that I know, I was thoroughly charmed by van Praag’s book. The house gives subtle hints and objects to the residents in hopes of steering them in the right direction and we get to know all four of them well as the story develops.

Honestly, my hard heart is tempted to label this chick-lit (sorry if that offends you and it usually turns me off too), but it was…well….hopeful and while I doubt there is a magical house like that near where I live, I found myself longing for one. Having been through my own 100% life upheaval in the last year and a half, I could really relate to the residents emotions and their struggles between their hurt hearts and giving life another chance.

It might just be the personal timing, but this is one of my favs so far this year. It wasn’t life changing, but I no longer feel like the only one that is lost and it gave me some courage to keep at it.


The House at the End of Hope Street: A Novel by Menna Van Praag

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0143124943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143124948

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature


Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready

Let me give you the blurb first:

An addictive genre-blend of a thriller: the immersive sci-fi of Ernest Cline; the hard-boiled rhythms of Don Winslow; the fearless bravado of Chuck Palahniuk; and the classic noir of James M. Cain
Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a bombed-out shell of its former self. Now he’s a hitman.
In a New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap into” a sophisticated virtual reality for months at a time and those left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. His clients like that he doesn’t ask questions, that he works quickly, and that he’s handy with a box cutter. He finds that killing people for money is not that different from collecting trash, and the pay is better. His latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist. Finding her is easy, but the job quickly gets complicated: his mark has a shocking secret and his client has an agenda far beyond a simple kill. Now Spademan must navigate the dual levels of his world-the gritty reality and the slick fantasy-to finish the job, to keep his conscience clean, and to stay alive.
Adam Sternbergh has written a dynamite debut: gritty, violent, funny, riveting, tender, and brilliant.”

Okay, after reading that, the only reason that I can see how this ARC landed on my doorstep is the two words, “classic noir”.  I typically don’t do sci-fi/dystopian and while I am quite handy myself with a box cutter, hit men in books are a dime a dozen. Somehow though, it was that hard charging noir rata-tat-tat style of writing that sucked me in right from the beginning.

The only problem was that then it lost me.  It seemed to go from Double Indemnity of the Future to I don’t give a care about any of these characters within about 100 pages. The noir tempo seemed to fail or be feigned at points and what started out as a book ended up reminding me of scripts that I read in my Scriptwriting 101 class.

What should have stayed along the lines of “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and …blow” (thank you Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not) turned into …

No, Mark. I said absolutely-

Persephone cuts me off.  Fiercely.

Look, I am very grateful for all that you have done for me, but I am not your f *&% daughter. I’ll do what I want. And I’m doing this. I need to.

There is a long silence. During which we all listen to the stillness of Chinatown.

Broken finally by Mina’s best Axl Rose falsetto.

Mop becomes mike stand.

Knock knock knocking on heaven’s door

I figure it’s time to call the meeting to a close.”

It was almost a farce and it lost me.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t like I threw it against the wall or didn’t finish or anything…it was just blah and there was no there, there, if you know what I mean.

Shovel Ready: A Novel by Adam Sternbergh

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (January 14, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0385348991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385348997


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