by Sarah Thompson
The cover picture of this book is enough to see that it's for the more intricate and polished end of wire jewellery making. This is not one for beginners!
Having said that, the basics are still covered. Tools, Materials and Techniques are the first chapters, followed by Weaving and Sculpting before it gets into Symmetry and Transformation.
There are a lot of full color pictures of some very impressive jewellery pieces. The chapter on tools is straightforward enough and would be useful at any level of experience. It goes into more detail than I've seen in other books on wire weaving. Materials is slanted towards working in silver, though other craft wires are mentioned.
The chapter on techniques seems short, yet it's mind boggling. How can something look easy and complicated at the same time? As I said, this one isn't for the beginners. Weaving and sculpting are similarly simple yet complicated. Then instructions for the pictures pieces give the reader a chance to apply the information and find out just how easy/complicated putting it all into practice can be!
I'll be honest, this book scares me. It also intrigues me! I want to be able to make the sort of amazing jewellery that is shown but I know it's not as easy as it looks. I think practice is in order, but I'm not ready to invest in silver to the extent that making the really cool pieces would require.
The pieces are gorgeous though and the instructions are clear and detailed, so maybe someday.
I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and thank Rosie Amber (check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.
Sometimes it seems as if all the books and movies on offer are centred on young protagonists, and I’m not only talking about Young Adult books. However, recently there has been a move towards including older protagonists and subjects. I enjoyed the two Dutch books about Hendrik Groen, a man in his eighties living in a nursing home, and have watched a few movies, usually choral, about older protagonists (like The Exotic Marigold Hotel). The setting of this novel, in a residential home, and the promise of a comedy made it sound like the perfect choice for me.
The first-person narrator of the story is Phoebe, a chef who had a very successful career in a bistro before disaster struck. She loves her job at the residential home (The Jane Austen Home for Ladies, and, as we discover, the name is meaningful in several ways), but has always felt frustrated because her parents (and her mother, in particular) do not seem to value her job and are dismissive of her career. To make matters worse, her mother (a larger-than-life character) dies suddenly at the beginning of the book, but her internalised voice keeps gnawing on her confidence. Her best friend, June, is the manager of the home, and she fancies Nick, who is the official physiotherapist but also takes on any odd jobs going on (art therapy, gardening, handyman…). I know some readers don’t like first-person narratives, although Phoebe is unassuming, witty and an excellent friend. (On the minus side, her lack of self-confidence can make her sound paranoid and bitchy, and she keeps mulling over things, unable to decide what to do, trying hard to feel comfortable in her own skin and accept the credit for her achievements). We learn some surprising things about her family life together and by the end of the book, although I don’t have much in common with her character, I felt connected to her and appreciated her role as a narrator. Her friendship with June is convincing and their relationship is one of the strongest points of the book.
I also loved the residents of the home, and in many ways (not only due to my age, I hope), I felt closer to them than to the protagonist. We get to know some of them more than others (Maggie is fabulous and I loved Dot, Laney, Sophie, and yes, even Terence). They all feel real, with their foibles and their endearing traits, and make the book memorable. We follow the intrigues that have to do with the home and the changes that take place there (from a women’s only place to a mixed one) and learn about its inhabitants, their secrets, and their past lives. We are both observers and participants in much of the action, and we feel invested in their fates. We learn the importance of accepting people for who they are and moving beyond appearances and prejudices.
There are several romances with happy, or at least hopeful, endings (for the young and the older generations), broken hearts and disappointments, secrets and lies, and there is also the connection (pointed out through references to the book club and their discussions) to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I would not call the novel a variation on Pride and Prejudice but if we think of Austen’s text as we read it we can discover nuances that might be easily missed otherwise.
Although there are many amusing lines in the novel (and some pretty touching ones as well. As we know, humour can be an excellent defence mechanism against hurt), I thought I’d share a few (remember that I got an ARC copy, so there might be some changes to the final version of the novel):
We’ve never let something as trifling as the spectre of death stand in the way of a good snipe.
My mother didn’t get ulcers, she gave them.
He’s a perv-whisperer.
She wouldn’t like my ponytail, though. I did try taking it down, but having it up in a hair tie the entire weekend meant my hair had a ridge along the back that gave it a very White Cliffs of Dover effect.
I’m surprised he doesn’t need an oxygen tank with all the social climbing he’s been doing.
The writing flows well and fits in perfectly with the voice of the narrator, who can spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about her beau but is also attuned to the feelings of the residents and her friend. There are plenty of amusing events taking place throughout the novel that keep the action moving, but the characters are much stronger than the plot and by the end of the book (that I enjoyed) they have all become good friends (or most of them have).
The author defines her books as light reads, as beach novels, and says her readers describe them as “feel-good.” All that is true, although behind all the funny goings-on the book illustrates the importance of keeping expectations and prejudices under control, and it reminds parents that they should encourage their children to find fulfilment in their own terms rather than expect them to make their parent’s dreams come true. If you are looking for a light read, full of memorable characters, plenty of humour, and a big deal of heart, I’d recommend this novel. And, if it existed in real life, I wouldn’t mind working at the home (and in time even living there) either.
Finally, a book about the gut microbiome that actually offers constructive advice! This is what I’ve been searching for, even if I am a bit disappointed with the authors’ recommendations.
First off, there are things that affect your microbiome that you cannot change—if you were born by C-section or weren’t breastfed, there’s nothing that you can about it. Neither can you change the amount of antibiotics that you took as a child.
There are three things that you can do from this moment on, however. First, don’t rush off to your doctor and demand antibiotics for every little thing. Every time you take them, there is nuclear winter for the good microbes in your gut, leaving space for pathogens to muscle in and make you sick. There are times that you will need antibiotics—save your exposures for those time. (Having recently struggled with a nasty skin infection, cellulitis, which made me very feverish and scared, I am very thankful for antibiotics).
The second thing is that we have developed the idea that ultra-clean is ultra-good. Not necessarily so, say the authors. Accept a bit of dirt back into your life. Dig in the garden, get a bit of dirt under your fingernails, pet your dog or cat, don’t stress too much about washing. Of course, clean up to make yourself comfortable and always wash your hands after toilet visits, but your kitchen does not have to have the same level of clean as an operating room. You can benefit by challenging your immune system via the gut and maybe acquire some useful microfauna in the process.
Thirdly, we are starving our good gut microbes. They need the fibre from foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Lots of it. Also keep in mind that our microbiome is a pharmaceutical factory, producing molecules that can affect our lives in unexpected ways. Too much meat favours microbes that produce a cancer causing substance. Finally the whole “eat less meat” message makes more sense to me, although it makes it no easier to follow. Moving away from simple carbohydrates can also be challenging, especially because we enjoy them so much, but they feed the wrong bacteria.
I find this kind of book very inspirational. It’s difficult to change life-long bad habits, but I’m always re-inspired after reading about current research and its ramifications. So I made a happy trip to the farmers’ market last night to buy cherries, raspberries and carrots and I plan to feed the beneficial bacteria as well as I can.
by Beth Brown-Reinsel
Not just another knitting pattern book!
Ganseys and their southern cousins, Guernseys, are a traditional form of textured sweater made for fishermen to keep in extra warmth and with gussets in the arms for extra freedom of movement.
This is a new edition of a book already in publication. It's well presented and has lots of good quality color photographs. It starts with a little history, explaining exactly what a Gansey is and where they come from. It goes into detail about the materials, tools and methods traditionally used, but adapts instructions for modern knitting tools.
It explains the forms and construction of this type of sweater and the reasons for such attributes as the underarm gusset. The instructions start with basic casting on and include design variations and a selection of edges the knitter might want to use for their project. It also includes instructions to make samplers for those who don't feel confident to jump right in with a full-sized pullover.
Reasons for different designs of ribbing and welts are explained and I saw some interesting possibilities for using side welts to make a more tabbard-like project. Knitting in initials was shown with a chart for all letters and my imagination took me well out of the traditional with possibilities for writing slogans on the backs of knitted projects!
There are lots charts for different traditional patterns of textures and information about how they were traditionally used. One thing that is different about this book is that it encourages the knitter to create their own designs, based on the basic elements. There is a little cabling, but most of the patterns are a matter of basic knitting and garter stitch.
Naturally a few different neckline choices are also offered. I have to say that as far as personal design in knitting goes, this is probably the most interesting and useful book I've seen. I can see myself experimenting extensively with these ideas! The way the patterns are broken down into basic squares, gussets, edges and shoulder straps and joins allows for a very personally tailored fit and completely personalised combinations of textured designs.
The knitting methods themselves are pretty basic and should be easy for any knitter to follow. Charts are given for measurements when creating your own designs as well as instruction for making the right fit. There's even a worksheet for planning out your project.
The last part of the book gives nine of the author's own patterns for those who feel more comfortable with working with an established pattern and these make good examples for the adventurous who are ready to jump in and design their own. One of the things I note is that the sleeves tend to mostly be roomy, which allows for wearing a pullover over a long-sleeved top which is likely in the sort of cold weather that would merit wearing a pullover at all.
I really liked this book. I think I may get more use out of it than any knitting book I've had before.