All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

★★★★☆

“Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr  is a vivid, lyrical and thoughtful writing of a truly somber subject. The story draws you in emotionally, and the themes of war, choice, fate, and perspective are thought-provoking and powerfully rendered through characters that are fascinating, engaging and compelling. I found this one a challenging read. In some ways the prose was very dense– I often found myself needing to pause and take time to ruminate, and it required attentiveness throughout. Hence the length of time it took me to get through it.

Alternating chapters between a girl in France, Marie-Laure, who is blind and a boy orphan, Werner, in Germany, who fixes radios and is an engineering/inventing savant the story quickly draws you in.

Shy but courageous and resourceful, Marie-Laure has learned to navigate the streets of her neighborhood with the help of a wooden scale-model made by her father. He also sharpens her mind by hiding birthday gifts in intricate puzzle boxes that he carves.

Werner is sent to a special academy for talented German youth. We know the paths of Marie-Laure and Werner are set toward each other, but the slow unfolding of the somber story is handled in a way that reveals some of where it’s going but not all.

It was a bit long, but never difficult to read. Marie-Laure and Werner are both deeply inspired by science, but in different ways – Marie-Laure grows up with an intimate knowledge of natural history, shells, and sea snails through her father’s occupation. Werner has an innate ability to figure out how things work. I found his challenge – caught between poverty and opportunity through the Reich compelling. I think the descriptions of the blind girl, her loving father, and her damaged uncle were very well written.

Near the end of the book, Doerr moves the narrative to the 70s, some twenty-five to thirty years, after WWII. One particular quote that really hit home, “Every hour someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world.”, will stick with you.

As an international bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Awards, and has been named a best book of 2014 at the New York Times, Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, et al, it is one of my favorites of the year. This would make a great book club read.

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The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant★★★☆☆

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

Anita Diamant is best known for her book The Red Tent which I thoroughly enjoyed. I cannot say the same for this one.

The novel is presented as a monologue memoir chronicling her life, in Boston, from her birth in 1900, to Jewish immigrants, to her marriage in 1927. These years are covered in great detail, but her life after her marriage is glossed over.

I didn’t feel like there was anything particularly spectacular about The Boston Girl, but there was something about the tone ,and the ease with which the story was told, that made it tolerable.

Addie, the 85-year-old narrator, thinking back on her experiences as a child and young woman at the beginning of the 20th century, is a great story-teller but the emotion of her stories is often painted too broadly to let the book feel like an intimate, personal tale. At times, I found myself rereading, not believing what I just read. For instance, the funeral scene with half-sized caskets and the mournful remembrance, “He liked peas and his first word was ball”.

This book lacks sparkle. It is a plain and predictable recounting of her life: this happened and then this happened and then this happened . . . Things happen to her family and friends but not to her. At a young age, she is recognized as someone possessing intelligence and “gumption” and so acquires mentors and a circle of sympathetic friends who support her so she is never without a job or a place to live. When tragedies occur in her family, she seems largely detached; she describes her feelings, but she seems to recover quickly. The result is one anecdote, after another, with no suspense since nothing dramatic happens in her life. And once she is married, nothing noteworthy occurs.

The one thing that does stand out is Addie’s voice. Her tone is convincingly conversational. She speaks very frankly to her 22 year old granddaughter as if she is 9. She can be witty. Unfortunately, she doesn’t offer any new wisdom; she tells her granddaughter ,“Don’t let anyone tell you things aren’t better than they used to be”. And that’s it.

I have a hard time believing this is the same author as the writer of The Red Tent. A really hard time… This book lacks substance, a week from now I will barely remember having read it…

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Will these be on your St. Patrick’s Day table?

Taking the month of March, to recharge and reconnect, is priceless. We are alive and well, thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

We are spending more time in the sunshine,

Sewfrench @ Anna Maria Island, FL

reading,

Anna Maria Island, FL

walking, (10,000 steps is about 5 miles)

Fitbit charge @ Sewfrench

going to ballgames (go Detroit Tigers),

Sewfrench@ Detroit Tigers

than blogging, sewing or even computing. And still trying to figure out what to do for dinner!

I had half of an avocado, leftover from a salad and I remembered a recipe I recently saw and wanted to try, so I squeezed lime juice over it until I could make these Avocado Deviled Eggs.

So what will be on your St. Patty’s Day table?
These will be on ours.
And possible our Easter table, too. And 4th of July. And Thanksgiving….

Because we are away from home, I didn’t have my usual wealth of ingredients, and condiments, so I had to make do with what I had on hand. They were still a huge hit! And I don’t think you could mess them up if you tried.

Avocado Deviled Eggs @ Sewfrench

Avocado Deviled Eggs
printer friendly version

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and mashed
2 1/2 TBS mayonnaise
2 tsp lime juice
1/2 tsp of hot pepper mixture (from the top of Supremely Spicy Hummus because it is what I had, Sriracha would be another great substitute)

Best Hummus ever!

This spicy topping is what I used when I had nothing else spicy, in the house.

Cut eggs in half, pop the yolks out and mash everything together  until smooth. Because you aren’t using very much mayo these do need a touch of salt added. As for the lime and spice level that is always an personal preference. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pipe or spoon into each egg white. Sprinkle with cayenne powder if you have it!

Alternatively you could follow the original recipe.

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced
3 slices cooked turkey bacon, chopped,
divided
2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt to taste
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced (optional)
1 dash hot sauce, or to taste (optional)

Scoop egg yolks into a bowl; add avocado, 2/3 of chopped turkey bacon, mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic, cayenne pepper, and salt. Mash egg yolk mixture until filling is evenly combined.
Spoon filling into a piping bag or plastic bag with a snipped corner. Pipe filling into each egg white; top with a turkey bacon piece, jalapeño slice, and dash hot sauce.

These are a nice guacamole flavored alternative to traditional deviled eggs. I’m thinking they will be a perfect use for some of those dozens of Easter Eggs that you will soon be looking for recipes for!

Enjoy!

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Nursery Door Silencer…

Latch Cover…. what ever you want to call it, it is what grand baby needs. This is how I did it. I also used 2 layers of quilt batting to pad it just a bit.

Nursery Door Silencer Tutorial at Sewfrench
And seeing how we have no traditional knobs in our house, I hope this elastic is stretchy enough for regular door knobs.
Nursery Door Silencer Tutorial at Sewfrench
And don’t get cute and think you can use colorful ponytail holders… Even these new, unused ones, lost all elasticity in just one trial installation….

Dirty Ironing Board cover @ Sewfrench
Installed. And this is not just to cover the latch to make it quieter.

Nursery Door Silencer Tutorial at Sewfrench
This is so Little Miss Cutie Pants can’t keep locking herself in her bedroom and then screaming for her mommy to rescue her.

She does love to close herself in the bathroom and talk to herself, too!

Linking up with:

TGIFF
LAFF
NTT
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop

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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

 

Dark Places by Jillian Flynn★★★☆☆

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

For those that don’t enjoy true crime type books, Dark Places by Jillian Flynn , could be considered violent and disturbing. Though this is not true crime, it is a character based mystery and more of a narrative of the things the protagonist did and what she learned as the story unfolds. It was an interesting plot but it was definitely not as exciting a read as Gone Girl.

Flynn does a great job with both the struggling Libby in the present and the family in 1985, when the crime took place. The stark reality of a poor farm family in the mid-’80s along with Libby’s pathetic life as an adult makes for a pretty depressing story, but Flynn really sucks the reader into the plight of everyone involved. I was somewhat let down by the ending, but I can’t say much about that without spoilers.

It is a good read for those who don’t mind a raw story about just how much life can sometimes suck, even if you don’t get chopped to bits with an axe. As I type this,  the Kindle version is on Amazon for $2.99, a fair price, in my opinion.

Still reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. For some reason I am struggling with this one. I’m about half way through and enjoying it, but not rushing back to read on it every chance I get. Surely this time, next week, I will be reporting how much I enjoyed it.

All the Light We Cannot See

Next up… The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

The Boston Girl by Anita DiamantFrom the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Tent and Day After Night, comes an unforgettable coming-of-age novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today.” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.

Written with the same attention to historical detail and emotional resonance that made Anita Diamant’s previous novels bestsellers, The Boston Girl is a moving portrait of one woman’s complicated life in twentieth century America, and a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their places in a changing world.

And with a review as detailed as that I hope there is more to the story!!

Linking up with:
It’s Monday, What are you Reading?

 

 

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The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

★★★★☆

In The Silent Sister, Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary. Lisa is The Silent Sister alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality, in this engrossing mystery from international bestselling author Diane Chamberlain.

Enjoyable read. Although it wasn’t hard to figure out the mysteries involved, the writer developed the plot with enough characterization and details to make it interesting.

This novel, that admittedly, didn’t offer too many surprises, was well-paced, well-written and managed to hold my attention. Actually more than just hold my attention. Considering I’ve been feeling like I have been bogged down in American history books, this one had me excited enough to hop back on the treadmill to read more. Characters were well-developed, for the most part believable, and fairly complex. The story was intriguing and original, a midweight page turner for sure.

This was the first I have read of Chamberlain’s work. I recently read that if you are new to her writings it is probably not advisable to start here. Try The Midwife’s Confession or perhaps Necessary Lies instead. I’ve added both to my reading list. Or at least understand that she has books others loved even more.

Next up….
I just started Dark Places by Jillian Flynn and it has sucked me in quickly.

FROM THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF GONE GIRL

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

Dark Places by Jillian Flynn

Also reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, this one has been a little slower to catch my attention, but I am still plugging along hoping the pace will pick up soon.

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

All the Light We Cannot See

What are you reading right now?

Linking up with:
It’s Monday, What are you Reading?

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The thing about reading blogs…

is there is always something you didn’t know you needed until you see someone else makes it!

When I saw what Allison, at Cluck, Cluck Sew, had made, I went digging around until I found a our youngest’s most precious baby doll, Amy, tucked away for safekeeping.

Madame Alexander Huggums doll

This doll is the Madame Alexander Huggums doll. The perfect size for a first birthday baby doll. Our youngest lugged it everywhere she went for years. It is the same doll our granddaughter has.

I took her out, took some measurements, she is a 12″ doll for reference, and drew up a pattern for a sleeping bag of sorts. Allison has measurements for a larger doll, she calls it a baby wrap.

Baby Wrap pattern @ sewfrench

You get the idea.

Baby doll wrap tutorial @ Sewfrench

I cut my fabrics several inches larger than the pattern, sandwiched my fabrics, the front material, a scrap of cotton batting and then the back fabric. I did this for the back and a second set for the front pocket. I machine quilted them using a wide loose zigzag. It is  hard to see in the picture. If you aren’t happy with your machine quilting skills a busy pattern works well.

Baby Doll Sleeping Bag tutorial  @ Sewfrench

Same for the front pocket. Once the quilting was complete, I cut them to the pattern size.

Baby Wrap tutorial @ Sewfrench

I allowed an extra couple of inches at the top, of the pocket to make it easier for an 18 month old to stuff her baby in. This tapered down to the exact size, front and back, at the bottom. You don’t have to do this especially if your little one is a bit older.

Baby Wrap @ Sewfrench

I then bound the top edge of the front, same as I would a quilt. Then basted the front and back together and bound the entire baby wrap/sleeping bag whatever you want to call it. I tossed it in the wash and you can now see the quilted design a little better.

Baby Doll Bag @ Sewfrench

18 month olds are very much into putting things in to other things. They are working on fine motor skills and their hand eye coordination is improving. I think this serves all those learning categories well.

Baby Doll Wrap at Sewfrench

I can’t wait to play baby dolls with sweet little Amelia!

Thanks, Allison, for the idea!

Linking up with:
TGIFF
LAFF
NTT
Crazy Mom Quilts
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop
Weekend Retreat

Posted in Crafting, Design, fabric, Family, Finishes, Gifts, Quilting, Sewing | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments