Saturday, January 31, 2015

Smithsonian Great Design by DK Publishing - I Love DK!!

It's time once again for the I LOVE DK promotion where readers pick their favorite DK book.  All you have to do is pick one that you love and let DK know with a short review or a sentence or two.

On Valentine's Day they will select one of the reviews and that  reviewer wins a $250 DK shopping spree from DK.  They will also select a participating blogger for the same prize. 

So, if you love DK books as much as I do I encourage you to participate  between January 19 and February 4th.  Just go to Twitter and use the hashtag #ILoveDK letting DK know you favourite DK book.  Not on Twitter?  No problem.  They also have a Facebook page.   I left this a little late, but there's still a few days left to let the world know your favourite book from DK Canada and win a great prize!

Anyway, I posted about lots of great DK books over the past few years. Here's my recent favourite:

Smithsonian: Great Design features over 100 designs from around the world using numerous photographs and informative text. Within the covers, you'll find information about furniture, flatware, vehicles, graphics and much more. There's really something for everyone. In a nutshell, it's " the world's best design explored and explained."

I loved this book!! The thing I loved most about it was that it taught me that every item I see or touch each and every day has been gone through the design process. It can have a designer label or a generic one. It doesn't matter if it's sold at Wal-Mart, a high end "designer" store, or given away for free. Someone somewhere made decisions about its form and function. The book was definitely an eye-opener.

Besides being informative, the book is beautifully laid out with absolutely gorgeous photographs. Many of the designs are iconic, while others are less well known (at least to me) and somewhat surprising. Some of the items are just beautiful; some more functional; many a little of both. I love that the book is presented chronologically (1860 to the present), which allowed me to see the evolution of design. I also enjoyed the information on the designers and design movements.

The book starts with an interesting, but short, introduction explaining what design is and how it works. Each chapter starts with a list of items designed in that time period. I kind of wish there were page numbers on that page so that I could quickly find what I'm interested in, but I guess that's what the table of contents is for.

Within the chapters, each design item is featured on a 2 or 4 page spread. There are lots of photos and information about the item. The Visual Tour section is my favourite part because it focuses on the details of the particular item with annotated and/or labelled photographs. Besides the photographs, there's lots of information about the items including: date, materials used, country of origin, and scale of the piece. There's also a side bar about featuring information about the designer, many times with a photo.

There's so many great items in this book. It was hard, but I managed to pick a few favourites. Here they are:

  • Kitchen/dining items: Flatware, especially the spoons (page 30-31), Aga cookers (pages 42-43) Kilta tableware (page 118-119), and Pride cutlery (pages 122-123)
  • Vehicles: Volkswagen Beetle Model 1300 (pages 80-03), Vespa (pages 98-101), Austin Seven Mini (pages 168-171), and Cadillac series 62 (pages 172-175)
  • Furniture: Egg chair (pages 162-163), Barcelona Chair (pages 58-59), Wiggle Chair (pages 202-203), Vermelta Chair (pages 229-235), Laver sofa (pages 238-239), and Masters Chair (pages 248-249)
  • Miscellaneous: Penguin paperback covers (pages 102-103), Dyson DC01 vacuum cleaner (pages 226-227, I have a soft spot for all things Dyson)

The most surprising item in the book was the London Underground map (pages 64-65). What surprised me was that the diagrams were very similar to those used on our bus schedules here. It didn't occur to me that these needed "designing". However, after reading the information about how and why they are designed that way, I was amazed I didn't see it before. I liked the Munich Olympic Games pictograph (pages 204-205) for much the same reason. Both of these were very cool!!!!

Book also features a table of contents and index.

Highly recommended. This gorgeous coffee table book will be looked at repeatedly and already sports a number of bookmarks.

For more information about this book, please visit, while DK revamps its website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Smithsonian: Great Design by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465414403(Hardcover), 256p.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tangled Thursday - Winter

Tangled Thursday is an occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

This week I challenged the other artists to use the word "Winter" as their inspiration. For awhile there I was thinking that I should have used the word "Spring" as we had several really nice days (above 0C). However, as predicted, today we are back in the deep freeze. Anyway, here's my version of a snowflake:
Tangles: Tipple, Zinger, Ionic, Worms, Inapod, Paradox, AAs

I thought I had a snowflake template to use, but no such luck.  Instead, I did a quick pencil outline of the spokes and went from there.  I'm kind of glad I didn't find a template because I'm rather pleased with how this turned out, even though you might not know it's a snowflake unless I told you.  The hardest part was finding suitable patterns to use. 

Be sure to check out the other "Winter" creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tangled Thursday - Arukas

Tangled Thursday is an occasional post on this blog. Heather at Books and Quilts is hosting these challenges in which we share our latest Zentangle inspired creations.

Wow! I guess it's been awhile since I've posted anything Zentangle related. That's because I really haven't had the time for drawing. I'd really like to get back into it, though, so when Heather suggested we try out the new Zentangle pattern, Arukas, for this week's challenge, I hopped onboard.  This week I managed two creations.   The first one using one circle:

The second one using multiple blacked-out circles.

I continued with the "arcs" (as opposed to spokes) further than I should have, but I sort of like the effect.  I wasn't sure what to do with the shading, so I'm looking forward to seeing what others did.  I was thinking of doing one more with other patterns, but maybe I'll save that for another week.

It's my turn to come up with the next challenge.  How about using the word "Winter" for inspiration?  We here in southern Manitoba are currently experiencing what we call a "bonspiel thaw" (warm weather in January/February when many curling bonspiels are taking place), but it's going to turn colder soon, so "winter" is appropriate, I think.   The date?  Next week, Jan 29, 2015, so get drawing. 

Be sure to check out the other "Arukas" creations on Books and Quilts.   If you'd like to join us, please do so by linking your post to the Mr. Linky on Heather's post.  

Needlework Tuesday - On Thursday

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

If you read this blog with any frequency, you might have noticed that I especially look forward to the deliveries from the Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month. I never know what's coming, so it's always a surprise. This month's project got off to a rough start in more ways than one.

It's quite a long story, so I'll spare you the nitty-gritty details. Bottom line, my package was temporarily misplaced in the mail and I wasn't happy with the help offered by Canada Post.  You'd think with computers and tracking numbers that be able to tell me EXACTLY where the package was. But nope, that wasn't the case. When they told me they'd get back to me within 5 business days, I decided to launch my own investigation and tracked down the package myself by calling one of the other post offices in the area. I'm not sure why it ended up at the wrong post office, even though the letter carrier himself (!!) labelled it correctly,  but it did. I had to wait a few extra days, but I finally have this month's project.

Anyway, it's a cabled baby blanket. babies here. *sigh* The saving grace is that the yarn is extremely soft and quite pretty. It'll probably be too small for anything but a lap blanket while reading or watching TV. I would rather have had the colour pictured on the pattern, a nice variegated yellow, but I was sent the pink one. I don't have anything against pink, it's just a preference. Here's the project package/sheet:

I started the project on straight 5mm needles (recommended by the pattern), which turned out to be a little short. I was pretty sure I had longer ones somewhere, but I couldn't find them. I didn't lose any stitches, but I couldn't see how the pattern was come together, making it hard to knit. I've since switched to a circular needle and it's much, much better.

The yarn is Li'l Tots by Bernat and comes in variety of nice colours.  So far, I like it. However, because it's variegated, nubbly (is that a word?), and comprised of two yarns loosely twisted together, it's a little hard to see the pattern emerging.  I'm sure it'll work out, though.   The pattern is from Bernat/Yarnspirations and can be found online here.  I'll get the hang of it sooner or later, but right now it's a little rough going.  

There's not much to see yet, but here's the beginnings of the baby/lap blanket:

I also completed the knitting part of one of the Christmas Snowman mittens also from Mary Maxim.  I still have to sew the seam, tuck in the million or so ends, and stitch on some additional details. If I get that done this coming week, I'll post a photo next week. 
Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.    If you'd done any crafting this week that you'd like to share with others, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so others can enjoy your creations.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn

In Things Half in Shadow, the reporter for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Edward Clark, has been asked to use his knowledge about magic and magicians to expose mediums in the city of Philadelphia just after the American Civil War. He plans to expose Lucy Collins first, but when she learns of a secret in his past and plans to blackmail him, he has no choice but to team up with her. Soon they find themselves at the murder scene of a seemingly legitimate medium, Lenora Grimes Pastor, and work together to find her real killer.

To say I loved this book would be an understatement. I absolutely adored it! The author had me hanging on every word, from the first page to the very last. I found it immediately engaging and quite the page turner throughout. It's so well written and perfectly paced.

I especially love the way the book was written. The book starts out in the first person narrative with Clark looking back on his life, recording the events for his granddaughter. A perfect style for this story.

The historical information and subject matter were both terrific. I like reading historical fiction, but hadn't read any in quite awhile. This one had me feeling like I had been transported to a period in Philadelphia's history. As for the subject matter, even though I don't believe that ghosts exist or that mediums can talk to the dead on the other side, I found the storyline intriguing. Finn didn't change my mind in either of these matters (I don't think he meant to), but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book immensely.

I especially loved Clark as the main protagonist, but all of the characters were sensational. Lucy Collins, the Willoughbys, the Pastors, the Duttons, and everyone else. I love it when authors incorporate real-life people into the story. Here, Finn uses P.T. Barnum, the famous showman as a character interested in using a medium in his travelling show. Fantastic!!

The ending or at least part of it were a complete surprise. While I didn't have any ideas about how it would end, I certainly didn't see those events coming at all. The author hints at another book, possibly a series. I couldn't be more pleased.

Alan Finn is the pseudonym of Todd Ritter. I've read two other books by Ritter, Bad Moon and Death Notice. I adored them both. I'll have to track it down the other book in the Kat Campbell series.

Highly recommended!!! I hope to read many more books by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Alan Finn's or Todd Ritter's website.

Thanks to those nice people at Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn, Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), ©2015. ISBN 9781476761725(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 434p.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

In The Fifth Gospel, an exhibit featuring a sacred relic is scheduled to open at the Vatican Museum. Just before the opening, though, the curator is murdered and a seemingly unrelated break-in occurs at the home of a Greek Catholic priest, Father Alex Andreou and his son Peter. When two crimes go unsolved, Father Andreou does his own investigation in hopes of keeping his family safe. That's not going to be easy, though, because the exhibit remains unfinished and any secrets that the curator may have discovered about the sacred relic are lost. It's up to Andreou to unscramble the clues, review the materials, and solve the mystery, but to do so could put lives at risk, including his own and that of his young son.

I loved this book! It was an interesting read featuring the Shroud of Turin and the Diatessaron, the Fifth Gospel. It's contains a fascinating mystery as well as with tons of information about the Catholic church. The amount of research needed to write a book like this must have been extensive. It's so well written, carefully laid out, and very well explained. Even though it's about the Catholic Church, I don't think you need to much about the subject matter to read and enjoy this book.

Father Andreou used Bible stories to explain some troubling events to his son and younger characters. I found this extremely interesting. I also liked that a few of the parts of the book parallel events from the Bible.

I should mention that I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and while I'm still a believer, I no longer attend services. I haven't studied the Bible or any other religious materials, so much of the information was new to me. I certainly learned a lot about the Catholic Church. It wasn't overwhelming or too much like a textbook. The information about the split in the churches and how the Roman Catholics differ from the Orthodoxy was particularly interesting to me. I also learned quite a bit about the gospels, other religious texts, Vatican city, St. Peter's Basilica, and surrounding areas. The information about Pope John Paul II, his papacy, and the other dignitaries in the Church was all fascinating.

I love books that shed some light on the mysteries of the Catholic Church. It's not that I want them to spill all of their secrets. It just would be nice if they were a bit more transparent.

I found the sections featuring Pope John Paul II particularly heartbreaking. The story takes place towards the end of his life. His struggle to continue serving the Church in spite of his debilitating illness was extremely hard to read about. Those sections left me in tears.

If I had one complaint it's that the ending seemed a little too simple. Perhaps it just seemed simple because the because the author did such a wonderful job of explaining the details and leading the reader through the mystery. Anyway, I don't want to go into too many details because that would spoil the ending.

I also read The Rule of Four by this author. It was before I started writing reviews and quite frankly I don't remember much about it other than I really liked it.

Highly recommended. I just hope we don't have to wait another ten years for Caldwell to give us another book.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell, Simon & Schuster ©2015. ISBN 9781451694147(Advance Reader's Edition), 427p.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

In The Rosie Effect, Don Tillman has been married to Rosie for ten months and ten days. His life has definitely changed since Rosie came into his life. Now, both of their lives are about to become more complicated as more changes are on the horizon. In order to deal with this, Don seeks advice from his friends and the internet. At first, it all seems helpful, but eventually it gets him into trouble. Not only can he be prosecuted and deported, but he may end up losing Rosie as well.

I really enjoyed this book, a follow up to The Rosie Project. I loved reading more about Don and his life, especially now that he's had to adapt to his new relationships and surroundings. There's some new people in his life: George the landlord/rocker, whom I really liked; and Lydia, the therapist, whom I didn't. Gene and Claudia are essentially the same as they were in the first book.

While I did enjoy this book, I didn't find it as good as the first one, The Rosie Project. The whole Gregory Peck impersonation thing was lost on me. I was really confused by some of Rosie's actions. I can understand how newcomers wouldn't be used to Don's ways, but Rosie should understand him by now.

There was one passage in the book that I really liked.
People cannot forget things on command. Being instructed to forget something is analogous to being instructed not to think of a pink elephant...(page 269)
I also read and enjoyed The Rosie Project, also by this author. If these books are new to you, I'd recommend starting with the first one.

Recommended. Even though I didn't love this book was much as the previous one, I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

I purchased this book because I loved the first Rosie book so much.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion, HarperCollins, ©2014. ISBN 9781443435901(Trade paperback),411p.