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Bead Work by Sara Withers

Blurb: A guide to creating bead jewellery. This book contains information about materials and equipment and demonstrates the techniques in several easy-to-follow projects which use a variety of material from traditional wood to papier-maché.

My thoughts: This is a book ideal for beginners who would like to start to learn making bead jewelry with projects instead of only reading about techniques.

After a short chapter where Sara Withers talks about materials and tools she goes medias in res and introduces the first project, a pair of hoop earrings. Slowly the projects become more difficult and more techniques are shown. Everything is explained in detail and with clear and close up photographs.

Some of the projects didn’t appeal to me as far as the choice of beads or colors were concerned, but this is a matter of taste and can easily be rectified by simply substituting the beads.

All in all the following pieces of jewelry can be recreated with the help of this book:

  • Hoop earrings
  • Straight earrings
  • Frosted necklace
  • Stars and Moons necklace and earring set (crimps and a little wirework)
  • Triangles necklace and earring set (developing crimping and wirework skills)
  • Venetian-style glass necklace and hatpin
  • A chain of fishes necklace and earring set
  • Double stripy necklace (managing threads and using calottes)
  • China blue necklace (necklace with four strands)
  • Clay and tile bead necklace (this is getting complicated)
  • Monochrome choker (introduces bead weaving)
  • Jasper necklace (knotting)
  • African choker (macramé technique)
  • Special beads and leather (leather necklace)
  • Lapis and silver necklace (wirework skills, additional tools)
  • Sprung wire bracelet
  • Two-strand bracelet
  • Loom made bracelet (using a beading loom)

If you like to work with given projects this book is a great find. Available on amazon.

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A very small library

Not only does Great Britain have very small houses, now they claim to have the smallest library in the world, too.

In a village in Somerset they purchased and transformed a red telephone booth into a library. From the description it sounds more like a BookCrossing location than a library. What a cool idea! I like the thought of not having to go all over the place but just go to the phone booth to drop off and pick up books.

And just because I can, I’m posting an image of the smallest house in Great Britain, located in Conwy, Wales.

Smallest house in GB

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Twitter?

I only had a first look at twitter a couple of days ago and have no idea yet whether I like it or not. I’m going to try it out and see whether it’s any good for me. 140 characters doesn’t seem to be a lot, maybe it’ll teach me to keep it short for once.

To find me, just click on the little icon right here Follow Ailuah on Twitter or on the twitter icon in the sidebar.

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The Encyclopedia of Beading Techniques by Sara Withers

Blurb: Beads have been used for decoration for centuries. Available in a huge array of colours, shapes and sizes, they are beautiful, adaptable, and easy to work with. These practical projects show how you can add detail, texture, colour and originality to garments and accessories by incorporating beads into your knitting, crochet and needlework. Learn traditional and contemporary techniques such as bead weaving, stringing, wirework and strand-knotting, and even find out how to make your own beads.

My thoughts: Just in case you were wondering, no, this blog is not turning into a craft blog. But since I recently started to look into jewelry making and at the same time try to review every book I read, I decided to have a shot at this non fiction book.

If you want to make your own jewelry, don’t know what you might like, what techniques you might want to use and generally have no clue as to how to do what, this is the perfect start. It is exactly what the title says, an encyclopedia that talks about materials, tools and techniques in detail. Everything is explained with the help of great photos that show exactly what to do and how to do it.

Sara Withers doesn’t lecture on what colors to use and what materials to get but rather encourages the reader to find their own style and gives them the knowledge to go and try stuff out until they do. You won’t find any projects that tell you exactly what materials to get to recreate exactly that one piece of jewelry. The books very effectively gets you acquainted with what materials and techniques are out there, so you are able to go and create jewelry your way.

Highly recommended.

Available on amazon (you can have a look inside there as well)

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Walking on the Moon by M. Jules Aedin

Blurb: Philip and Clive now share both a home and two secrets: Philip’s past and their love. One wintry night, Philip leads Clive back to the thicket where they first came to an understanding, and this time a promise will bind them for decades to come.

My thoughts: This is the sequel to “Vespers in the Snow”. Again it is only 30 odd pages and makes a few jumps in time. It starts in 1969, at a time in between two periods that were already talked about in the prequel. Then it jumps to 1974, shortly after where the prequel ended. And then we get a short glimpse into 2004.

Again, I liked the story and the two men, but not the way their story was told. I don’t mind time jumps from time to time, but in general I prefer stories to be told in a chronological order. So, to have the sequel jump back to a time before the end of the first book, wasn’t very satisfying for me.

In my opinion another format would have been better for such a story. After all it covers a time from 1955 to 2004 in about 65 pages. I would have preferred a novella at least for such a long period of time.

Available at Dreamspinner Press

Prequel: Vespers in the Snow

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August Heat by Andrea Camilleri

Blurb: When a colleague extends his summer vacation, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is forced to stay in Vigàta and endure the August heat. Montalbano’s long-suffering girlfriend, Livia, joins him with a friend—husband and young son in tow—to keep her company during these dog days of summer. But when the boy suddenly disappears into a narrow shaft hidden under the family’s beach rental, Montalbano, in pursuit of the child, uncovers something terribly sinister. As the inspector spends the summer trying to solve this perplexing case, Livia refuses to answer his calls—and Montalbano is left to take a plunge that will affect the rest of his life.

My thoughts: As far as contemporary detectives are concerned Salvo Montalbano is my first choice. I know, Donna Leon fans will crucify me for saying this, but compared to Montalbano Commissario Brunetti is a wet towel.

This is Montalbano’s tenth case (apart from various short stories) and once more he doesn’t disappoint. The case develops reluctantly in this book, the pace is pretty slow, but this fits the scenery perfectly. It is the middle of August and it is hot. It seems everybody is moving in slow motion, because the heat is insufferable.

Once more we get totally immersed in the Sicilian way of life and the atmosphere of an island ruled by corruption, nepotism and the Mafia.

However, a few points really annoyed me while reading it, well, not really annoyed, I just thought they didn’t quite fit.

First of all, the reason Livia left Sicily. Obviously she had to leave in order for the story to develop properly, but the reason was far-fetched. Admittedly, I don’t particularly like Livia (it must be jealousy; I totally know where Adelina, Montalbano’s housekeeper, is coming from) and would believe every negative thing about her people could possibly come up with, but even for me, the reason was implausible.

Then Montalbano’s obsession with his age. You would think the man is 70. For Christ’s sake, he is 55. Hardly an age where mental and physical decay are setting in. I found this constant moaning and worrying to be beneath him.

The end was way too abrupt for me. I don’t like abrupt endings and prefer it when a story slowly fades out instead of ends with a bang like this one.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. If you like Montalbano this is a must. If you don’t know the character yet, I recommend you start with an earlier novel.

I have put together a list on amazon with the Montalbano series in chronological order. It seems the books with various short(er) stories are not out in English, at least I couldn’t find them on amazon.com.

Fuer deutschsprachige Leser gibt es eine Liste mit allen Buechern der Montalbano Serie in chronologischer Reihenfolge bei amazon.de.

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Illegally dead by David Wishart

Blurb: When Corvinus receives a letter, with a tantalising PS, from his adopted daughter, Marilla, mentioning there might have been a murder, he hot-foots it to Castrimoenium at once. Not that everyone agrees that Lucius Hostilius was murdered. Poison was apparently the means of death, but Lucius was terminally ill: it was only a matter of time. Although he hasn’t any official investigative status, Corvinus can’t resist doing a little amateur sleuthing. And he has barely begun when two other corpses turn up and he is formally on the case. Lucius had been suffering something of a personality change because of his illness, so there is no shortage of suspects among friends and family whom he had antagonised. But Corvinus goes up many a blind alley before arriving at the heart of the mystery. As we follow Marcus Corvinus, clue by clue, on his twelfth case, we allow ourselves to be pleasurably diverted by rumours of Meton’s love life – and by an authentic recipe for fish pickle sauce . . .

My thoughts: What can I say? I absolutely love Marcus Corvinus, this wise cracking, wine-loving nobleman is by far my favourite Roman historical detective. This is his twelfth case and just as intriguing as all the others. But what makes David Wishart’s Corvinus books such great reads are not only the great characters, but also the descriptions of ancient Roman life. What I always find a bit distracting are the translations of Roman words that everybody knows anyway into English, which takes a bit of fun out of it, for example a toga is a mantle etc. But once one gets used to that, it’s ok.

The story is set in Castrimoenium again, a place we already know from “A vote for murder”. But where the first took us into the world of politics and property development, “Illegally dead” deals almost exclusively with lawyers and the Roman law.

Castrimoenium also seems to be THE playground for Meton, the pretty greasy but skilled chef of Corvinus’. Too funny to read what he’s up to now again.

If you like Ancient Roman detective stories the Marcus Corvinus series is a must. I put together a Marcus Corvinus mystery series list on amazon to view the books in chronological order.

Available on Amazon

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Vespers in the Snow by M. Jules Aedin

Blurb: Professor Philip Osbourne is Clive Aldridge’s toughest teacher, but he has a secret: Osbourne is sneaking out to celebrate Hanukkah at the risk of offending his peers. Bolstered by the knowledge that his teacher is actually human, Clive makes an effort to form a friendship that will over the decades grow into much more.

My thoughts: This was much different from what I anticipated. In only 34 pages it covers a period of about 20 years. It is written in the first person, something I don’t particularly like.The time jumps from 1955 to 1964 to 1974 were a bit too far apart in my opinion. I liked the story, but would have wanted it to be way more detailed than it was.

There is a sequel available, hopefully it will tell us more about the two men and their story.

Available at Dreamspinner Press

Sequel: Walking on the moon

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Don’ts for Wives by Blanche Ebbutt

The other day John brought me this little manual for wives called "Don’ts for wives". I suspect he got it for me to improve my skills as a wife, but at the same time I’m sure that he knew already that this noble intention would be futile. Still, I want to share some of the pearls of wisdom of Blanche Ebbutt, who wrote this vade mecum for us girls in 1913.

Actually some of her tips are still quite relevant. She supports mutual respect and advises us to interpret the "obey" in our marriage vows not too literally. After all our husbands have no right to take away our individuality. And she tells us not to be a "dear little woman" because men find them boring and despise women with an "unintelligent attitude".

Other tips made me think that Ms. Ebbutt thought than women are far superior to men (a thought I wholeheartedly support) and that men are basically big kids (now, isn’t that true?).  "Don’t "manage" your husband too visibly. Of course, he may require the most careful management, but you don’t want your friends to think of him as a hen-pecked husband. Above all, never let him think you manage him." or "Don’t let your husband think it is a matter of indifference to you if he wears his socks wrong side out, or odd boots on his feet. Some men are absent-minded enough even for this; and if they can’t keep a valet, their wives should see that they are dressed properly."  And an even more unflattering way of putting it…”Don’t forget to “feed the brute” well. Much depends on the state of his digestion.” This is followed by a hint never to address sensitive topics before he’s finished his meal.

Probably the tip most valid still today is the following: “Don’t take your husband on a laborious shopping expedition, and expect him to remain good-tempered throughout. […] Men, as a rule, hate indiscriminate shopping.”

This is a pretty neat little book with some interesting insights into the married life hundred years ago. Not totally obsolete either.

Available at amazon.

As a gift idea for husbands you might pick up Ms. Ebbutt’s Don’ts for Husbands.

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L. A. Boneyard by P.A. Brown

Blurb: Detective David Eric Laine is no stranger to violence and brutality, but even he is taken aback at the sheer viciousness of the murder of two pregnant Ukrainian women. This is just the beginning of a baffling case which leads from their shallow grave to a bungalow community in West Hollywood, tree-lined and tranquil, on to the heart of the gang-infested streets of East Los Angeles, and points in between.

And what of Jairo Hernandez, David’s new, young partner? The attraction between them was immediate and intense and growing by the day. Would this be a threat to David’s settled life?

My thoughts: P.A. Brown is a new author for me and when L.A.Boneyard came my way I was first unsure whether to read it because it is a sequel to another story. I prefer reading things in a chronological order, but I was told it would be ok to read as a stand alone.

The story turned out to focus evenly on the murder plot as well as on actual romance. I wasn’t prepared for that, but once I got into the story I totally forgot that I originally read it because of the romance factor.

The plot developed quite rapidly with three bodies turning up rather quickly. The Ukrainian angle made it sort of of exotic (even though to me Ukraine is not quite as far away) and it was interesting to learn about various traditions.

I know nothing about police work and police procedures, especially in the US, but the descriptions of all the activities were very detailed and sounded realistic.  Never heard of forensic anthropologists and forensic botanists before.  I could picture all those police raids, interrogations, the world of gangs and trafficking in my mind.

I even liked to read the side plot with the abandoned dog. Usually I don’t like animals that take up more room in the story than a cat sitting on a sofa, but I didn’t mind Sergeant. He was a nice relaxing factor in a story that was otherwise rather gruesome.

As for the characters and their private entanglements. Since I didn’t read the prequel I had no preconceived opinions about David or Chris. At first there was hardly any interaction between them. Due to David’s workload and Chris’ new contract their contact was more or less limited to short meetings at home and even shorter phone calls. I didn’t feel any chemistry whatsoever between the two men.

A bit more into the book I realized that the story wasn’t so much a budding romance, but rather about how two people try to save a relationship that threatens to go awry. David’s unwelcome desire for Jairo and his resulting bad conscience and Chris’ increasing fear that something is wrong without knowing exactly what were described very well.  From being totally unsuspecting Chris turns into someone who’s reading things into every of David’s acts.

At that point I got slightly annoyed with Chris. He knew that Jairo was rather manipulative and still, at a short remark of Jairo’s, he goes and has the locks changed, just when he had started to get around again. He often seemed to react out of a gut feeling with having second thoughts immediately afterwards. This is where his friend Des came into play, to put things back into the right perspective. I came to like Des very much in the course of the book.

Both strands were wrapped up nicely in the end with no loose ends. If there is something I have to complain about it is the frequent use of abbreviations and police speak that I had no clue about. It might be that to native speakers this would have been all clear, though, and it is my own lack of knowledge that was the problem.

If you like contemporary detective stories paired with a story about an existing realistic relationship, read it. If you like hot sex scenes on every other page without substance, don’t!

Available at MLR Press

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Woman = Princess?

Yesterday I went to a couple of bookstores in the city to have a look around. It seems that bookstores these days sell almost as much merchandise and decorative items as they sell books. When I was younger bookstores sold books. Period. Now they are overflowing with displays of home decor and merchandising of films and characters. I don’t mind that development in general being a sucker for home decor, but when the merchandising is advocating a dubious female image I’m torn between my girly liking of pink and my thorough dislike of the Barbie myth.

Lillifee

Lillifee Lillifee

Everywhere you look you see Princess Lillifee items, cutesy Hello Kitty stuff, books on how to be a princess and such crap. Maybe this is just a German phenomenon, because the search for “princess” on German amazon comes up with way more hits than on amazon.com. It seems American princesses are limited to the Disney variety, whereas the German princess learns how to get pampered and spoilt and – above all – look pretty.

Then you head on to the DVD section and what do you find?  Barbie Mariposa, the fairy princess, and all its derivatives, Barbie of Swan Lake and Barbie in the Nutcracker.

Another childhood memory came to the surface yesterday when I noticed that obviously Sarah Kay has been resurrected from the dead.

Sarah Kay

I remember those things from when I was a kid, no idea why they are popping up now again.Those dolls don’t look like playmates and claim a princess status.

It seems girls nowadays can choose between being a useless decorative item with no brains and being a good housewife, concerned with Kinder, Küche, Kirche.

Happy New Year!