Archive for July, 2014

July 30th, 2014

Storey Basics®

by Gwen


Container Vegetable mulch herbs

Storey Publishing has come out with a great idea of getting experienced authors to create small specialized books on just one topic. They are called Storey Basics® Books for Self-Reliance and so far I have read the first two you see here and I couldn’t be more thrilled with them.

They are written by people that know what they are talking about. While they cover the basics, they also have given me, a non-amateur gardener, some great tips. They have wonderful indexes so that you can get to where you need to go quickly and in the case of Saving Container Plants and Saving Seeds, they both include an extensive index of specific plants, including how hard they are to grow and propagate, how they pollinate,  issues to note, etc.

These two little 128 page Kindle books have replaced two large gardening chunksters that I had on my shelf. Why have the big books that often include tons of plants that I will never cross paths with when I can find what I need easily in smaller versions?

They are sold in paperback (retailing under $8) and e-book versions (retailing under $5) and don’t cover just gardening and herbs. There are books on quilting, growing Christmas trees, making vinegar, frozen yogurt, and more. The release dates seem to be staggered since last March to March of next year. Amazon already has more listed than the Storey website itself, so it is a nice way to see what’s coming soon.

Again, they are quick reads, yet well-covered and indexed, and have been written by experts in their fields.  (Rosemary Gladstar is the “Queen” of Herbs, sqweee!)So if you have been thinking of trying something new, check out either the Storey Basics® Books for Self-Reliance or Amazon and get busy. If you need a refresher course on a subject, they are a great place to start as well.

What first caught my attention about them was the one on quilting that comes out in September. My roommate is pretty darn good at quilting and I needed someway to catch up to her skill level quickly. Well, like I said the quilting one isn’t out yet so I tried the gardening ones to check them out thinking that I could be all, “I got this and I can vet these here beginner books on gardening.” Woops, I learned a few new things, like I have been propagating Hibiscuses all wrong, no wonder why they always die.

They won’t change your life, but they might make it a bit easier.  Which is pretty much my motto lately, so they are perfect. Now, don’t bother me, I’m propagating the hydrangeas and hibiscuses.

Storey Publishing gave some of the books in the series and I have bought a few to help complete the current selection. Next month, I will learn all about Vinegar so that I can share it with you and then September, my sewing machine will be busy sewing circles or whatever the Quilting Basics book tell us to do to master the art of kicking my roommate’s butt, I mean master quilting.







July 18th, 2014

Let’s Sew Together by Rubyellen Bratcher

by Gwen


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.


July 11th, 2014

Books that Are Actually Better on Film

by Gwen


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.