Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kaffe Fassett's Country Garden Quilts

I know this is a different selection for me.  This past summer I purchased my first sewing machine and have been enjoying my creative side through little projects (see my crafty blog Crafty Kris here).  The more interested I have become in sewing, the more I've been reading blogs and sites created by crafters and quilters.  Inevitably, I've come to the conclusion that my next project will be my first real quilt (I did make a baby quilt using a quilting kit in the fall, but this will be one of my own creation).  I know I need to know more about quilting to make it look good.  The name Kaffe Fassett kept coming up over and over again in the fabric circles.  He is a textile artist that creates beautiful fabric.  This book features quilts inspired by his 2008 collection.  The 20 quilts are beautifully photographed in a traditional English garden, complementing each other perfectly.  This was a great book for me to pick up and read.  Each quilt has a description by the artist that designed it.  A number of the quilts were quilted twice in different fabrics.  I really liked this.  It shows how the same design can change depending on the mood of the fabrics.  I don't think I'll attempt any of these at this point, but I like knowing I could.  The patterns are well presented with templates at the back of the book and labeled accordingly to difficulty.  One day I would like to think that I could create one similar to the Economy Blue Patch Quilt (Liza Prior Lucy, designer), but not yet.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

I had great hopes for this book.  It was one of those books that "popped" out at me in the book store.  It seemed to be highly rated and reviewed so I was glad to read it.  It is set during the second world war and focuses on three women, Iris a small town postmistress, Emma a doctor's wife and Frankie a war correspondent.  It was not what I was expecting at all.  It just kept plodding along and plodding along.  There were many parts that I enjoyed and thought were really well done and interesting, but they left me kinda wishing that that was the story, not just part of the story (Will's delivering of Maggie's baby, Frankie's interviewing across Europe...).  It's one of those books where there's more going on than you see on the surface, but unfortunately in this book it translates to okay-ness as opposed to greatness.  I'd recommend this to some people, but it's not for everyone.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

I got this book from the library and was worried knowing I only had it for 3 weeks and I wouldn't be able to re-new it as it is an in demand book.  It's very thick.  I shouldn't have worried, it only took me 3 days to read.  Probably because I couldn't put it down.  I loved it.  I think it is a highly readable tale.  Don't be intimidated by the size of it and the large cast of characters, it's easy to follow.  This is the first of a trilogy that will span the 20th Century.  This one is set in the time before, during and slightly after the first world war.  I have to admit that it had me brushing up on my knowledge of that war. 
One thing I like about Ken Follett's writing is that it is believable.  You would think he had actually been in a Welsh Coal Mine a the beginning of the century.  He absolutely captures it.  In the same way, he also able to capture high society London, lower class St. Petersburg and trench warfare.
He is also the first author whose writing of battle scenes I was able to read properly.  Usually, I can't follow them and skim read those parts.
I made the mistake of looking at the Amazon reviews of this book before writing this post (a classic blogger mistake) .  I was fully expecting to see a lot of 4-5 star reviews of this one.  I was wrong.  Amazon has it rated as a 3 star book.  There aren't many 3 star ratings though, it's almost equally split between 5 star ratings and 1 star ratings.  I think the problem Ken Follett has is that he has already published his masterpiece (Pillars of the Earth).  Once you have published a book that good, that is what people will inevitably compare future works to.  Pillars of the Earth is brilliant, there's no doubt about it.  This book still has brilliant writing in it.  It's just a different book.  You have to go into it realizing that.  It's a completely different era, completely different cast, completely different story.  It's still very good.  I look forward to the next 2 books in this trilogy. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Guest Post by Michelle Moran, author of the upcoming book: Madame Tussaud!

I'm very excited to have Michelle Moran guest post for Bookworm Kristen!  The following tells of her new book, Madame Tussaud, due out on February 15th.  Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win a copy of this fabulous new book!  You can enter here.



When most people hear the name Madame Tussaud, the first thing that comes to mind are the eerily lifelike waxworks which crowd her museums throughout the world. But who was the woman behind the name, and what was she like in the flesh?

Madame Tussaud’s story actually began in 18th century Paris. While most people know her from her famous museum in London, it was in France, on the humble Boulevard du Temple, where Marie first got her start as an apprentice in her uncle’s wax museum, the Salon de Cire. At the time, the Boulevard du Temple was crowded with exhibits of every kind. For just a few sous a passerby might attend the opera, watch a puppet show, or visit Henri Charles’ mystifying exhibition The Invisible Girl. The Boulevard was a difficult place to distinguish yourself as an artist, but as Marie’s talent grew for both sculpting and public relations, the Salon de Cire became one of the most popular attractions around. Suddenly, no one could compete with Marie or her uncle for ingenious publicity stunts, and when the royal family supposedly visited their museum, this only solidified what most showmen in Paris already knew — the Salon was an exhibition to watch out for.

But as the Salon’s popularity grew, so did the unusual requests. Noblemen came asking for wax sculptures of their mistresses, women wanted models of their newborn infants, and – most importantly – the king’s sister herself wanted Marie to come to Versailles to be her wax tutor. While this was, in many ways, a dream come true for Marie, it was also a dangerous time to be associated with the royal family. Men like Robespierre, Marat, and Desmoulins were meeting at Marie’s house to discuss the future of the monarchy, and when the Revolution began, Marie found herself in a precarious position. Ultimately, she was given a choice by France’s new leaders: to preserve the famous victims of Madame Guillotine in wax, or be guillotined herself.

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution is the story of Marie’s life during one of the most tumultuous times in human history. Her survival was nothing less than astonishing, and how she survived makes for what I hope is a compelling read.

Check out Michelle's blog at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Win Michelle Moran's New Book - Madame Tussaud!

I'm so happy to team up once again with historical author Michelle Moran!  Her new book Madame Tussaud debuts in mid-February and I'm happy to host a giveaway for this book.  This is Michelle Moran's 4th offering and if it is anything like the first three it will be absolutely delightful to read!

I've found her writing to be both historically accurate and highly readable (a great combination).  She has a great sense of story.  Madame Tussaud is only familiar to me in terms of the wax museums.  I would not have thought to look for the story there, but of course there is one.  Here is the product description from Amazon:

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin.

Smart and ambitious, Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, and even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, yet her greatest dream is to attract the attention of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI; their stamp of approval on her work could catapult her and her museum to the fame and riches she desires. After months of anticipation, Marie learns that the royal family is willing to come and see their likenesses. When they finally arrive, the king’s sister is so impressed that she requests Marie’s presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. It is a request Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away
from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.

As Marie gets to know her pupil, Princesse √Člisabeth, she also becomes acquainted with the king and queen, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.

Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and caf√©s across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution. . . . Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her
friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more important, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?

Spanning five years, from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror,
Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.

I'm intrigued!  How about you?  To win a signed hardcover copy of this book plus a bonus prize of pair of Marie Antoinette cupcake earrings all you need to do is leave a comment below.  Couldn't be easier!  I will be drawing a name at random on February, 22nd.
*Please leave an email address as a way to get in touch with you, should your name be drawn

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A first?

For the first time in recent memory I am quitting a book part-way through.  The book is Furious Love, the story of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.  I really thought I'd enjoy this one.  I usually love biographies.  Unfortunately, this one is just not well written and edited.  It's a jumble.  The authors contradict themselves often and repeat information frequently.  I would love to read this story if it was written well.  There is a good story here.  I much preferred Ginger Rogers biography that I read last year.  That was a highly readable tale of someone living in the Golden Era of Hollywood.  Maybe if one day, Elizabeth Taylor decides to tell her story as an autobiography it will be more readable.  For now, I'm putting this one back on the shelves.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beyond Tuesday Morning by Karen Kingsbury

Honestly, the best book I've read by Karen Kingsbury.  Forget the 'coincidence' that seems really unrealistic - this is fiction people, this is just a really good book to read.  It sets itself 3 years after 9/11 - revisiting Jamie Bryan who we first met in One Tuesday Morning.  A 9/11 widow, she devotes her time between caring for her daughter Sierra and volunteering at St. Paul's chapel, across from Ground Zero.  This book really focuses on the healing process of grief.  I think it was well written and have no problem recommending it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I know, I'm so late on the draw on this one, but the truth is, I had no interest in reading this whatsoever when it came out.  I'm embarrassed to admit it was the movie previews last year that sparked my interest in it.  Well, I won't be watching the movie.  I should have stayed with my first feeling.  At first, I thought, can I really be the only person who doesn't love this book?  But I checked and sure enough the Amazon ratings are full of people who didn't love this book, so it's not just me. 
Here's my take on it.  I think of it like moving to Toronto was for me.  Not something I ever thought I'd do.  There are aspects of it that are enjoyable, but for the most part I prefer something else. 
The book is divided into 3 parts.  I wish her actual descriptions of life in Italy had started much sooner, because when she got into it, I enjoyed it.  I could relate.  It inspired me to think, I'd really like to go to Italy.  She wrote interesting descriptions of the different cities, and the food!  I particularly enjoyed her description of the beauty of Roman men and the attitude of Rome among other cities.  If the whole of the book had been like this, she would have had me. 
Unfortunately, it wasn't.
I found the second part when she was in India offensive to most religions.  I think if you are going to write about religion then at least have some sort of understanding of them.  Her theology is so self-centered it's irritating.
The third part about her life in Indonesia was mildly entertaining, but the ending was so opposite of her intent that it was laughable.
Overall I found so much of the book to be self-indulgent and self-serving.  It was almost as if she is looking for validation in her selfishness.  I don't get it.  I know people who get it and love it, but I think there are so many better books out there that write about a year or a time of travel that I wouldn't recommend anyone waste their time on this one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

Here was one of my Christmas treats this year, courtesy of my brother.  What better way to ring in the New Year than curling up on the couch with a new offering from Maeve Binchy.  Sitting down with a Maeve Binchy book is like catching up with an old friend, full of gossip.  Once I realised that this story was set on St. Jarlath's Crescent, it was like old home week.  Most of the cast of characters have been seen in previous books, so you feel like you know them already.  I particularly like reading about Maud and Simon, the twins, who we first met as children but are now full grown adults. 
The story kind of meanders around baby Frankie, and who will care for her best.  It deviates from this plot with little asides as you learn more about what is going on in this part of Dublin.  An enjoyable read for those who have read her books in the past and are hungry for more.