Monthly Archives: January 2016

‘The Quiltmaker’s Gift’ by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken

The Quiltmaker's Giftstarstarstarstarstar
(K – 3) A quilter who makes the most beautiful quilts in the world, generously gives them away to those who need them. However, when a greedy king asks for one, she refuses to oblige, and bravely steps out to teach him a valuable lesson. It’s a lovely old-fashioned folk tale all wrapped up in beautiful cozy quilt designs.

The author Brumbeau claims that his exposure to independent self-sufficient women (his mother and his sister) gave him the inspiration for this book and others. The illustrator de Marcken says that she has been lucky to have lived in many different places in the world which have inspired her work. Her illustrations are brilliantly colour rich and fanciful.

One fun aspect of the book for quilters, which I am myself, is that the elaborate illustrations throughout the book are full of clues to quilt block names! For example, the ‘bear claw’ pattern is in the quilt that she gives to the bear in the cave.

You can link to a a full reading of the story with pictures here.

Quilts from The Quiltmaker's GiftThere are companion quilt books available with patterns for the quilts featured in this picture book by Joanne Larson Line. According to reviews this first one is superior to the sequel. Check Amazon or your local quilt shop.


‘After You’ by Jojo Moyes

After YoustarstarstarstarSequels are tricky. They are often highly anticipated if the original story was great, but sometimes can be disappointing. I loved Me Before You, so I was a bit hesitant about reading After You, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is just as good as the first book!

It is absolutely essential to read Me Before You first, because After You is what happens to Louisa Clark in the aftermath of the first book. Both books are entertainingly unpredictable, funny, poignant, and real. Louisa and her family are so quirky and endearing that it is easy to warm up to them. And I’m so excited because I think Moyes has left the second book wide open for a third. I am also looking forward to reading other books by this author, something I have not done yet. She makes me care about the characters and it’s easy to get lost in the story. She also deals with some really important life and loss issues along the way.

‘For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards’ by Jen Hatmaker

For the Lovestarstarstar“If you can make a pot of chili and use a cell phone, then you can create community. If you want to wait until your house is perfect and you aren’t nervous, then just forget it.”

Jen Hatmaker is a Christian inspirational writer mostly for women who are 30 or 40 something. She has five children, her husband is a pastor in a busy church, and somehow she finds time to write books. But she’s very self-deprecating and honest about how hard life can be and how much pressure we put on ourselves. Jen has a gift for writing in an uplifting way that helps you to laugh at yourself and carry on.

Her earlier book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess remains a bestseller as it chronicles her family’s 30-day fasts from seven different things, to combat excessive consumption. I loved this book. Hatmaker has a great sense of humour and her description of the journey through this experiment of living without stuff for periods of time, brought out the best in her.

Hatmaker QuoteFor the Love was just ok for me. I found her humour a bit on the edge this time and her use of the word (Bless) as in “aw bless” about someone or something sweet but slightly misguided that has a patronizing sound to it, was irritating. (Sorry Jen, I hear that a lot in England and it bothers me there too ).  She did have some good things to say about grace and wholehearted living. I especially liked some of her reflections on parenting in this day and age. She talks about allowing children to build up their own resilience. Don’t step in to cushion every blow. Hold children responsible for their own failures, don’t demand exceptions and don’t blame the teacher. And what she says to parents is, don’t think you have to be Pinterest parents…it’s exhausting. Of course children need to be loved and shielded from harm and encouraged regularly, but I think she is on to something here. These days some parents just seem too scared and over-involved to let their kids venture out and learn some valuable lessons on their own.

Podcasts about Books and Reading

PodcastPodcasts are awesome. They are great companions when tackling tasks like cooking, exercising, ironing, commuting, knitting, sewing… or listening to when you have the flu and are too tired to read. Get yourself some noise cancelling headphones and you won’t even hear the doorbell or the dog barking!! TED talks, Stuff You Should Know, Meeting House Sermons, Serial… these are some of my favourites.

What I enjoy about book podcasts is finding new book suggestions, listening to author interviews, getting behind the scenes information on how or why books were written, and getting to know the people behind the story. It’s fascinating stuff. Below is an annotated list of my favourite book podcasts from three different countries. Happy listening!

CBC The Next ChapterCBC The Next Chapter (Canada) Shelagh Rogers hosts this program on Radio One. It features Canadian books and literature. What I like about it is keeping up with new Canadian content and I really appreciate Shelagh Rogers warm interviewing style. She has a way of putting people at ease and asking thoughtful probing questions.

Writers and CompanyCBC Writers and Company (Canada) Eleanor Wachtel is one of the finest interviewers I’ve ever heard. She interviews authors from around the world and is amazingly knowledgeable on history and politics worldwide. Her in-depth interviews with notable literary figures are a hallmark of this award winning podcast.

BBC World Book ClubBBC World Book Club (UK) Harriet Gilbert hosts this worldwide book club featuring famous authors and their best known novels. A live studio audience is present at each taping and questions come in from listeners around the world. Since I have often been in attendance at these tapings, you might just hear my voice asking a question!

Books on the NightstandBooks on the Nightstand (USA) Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness narrate this discussion on books and audio books. Though they both work for Random House, this is a personal project. Ann and Michael offer a unique insight into not only books and reading, but also a behind-the-scenes look at bookstores and the publishing industry.

“Don’t you forget about me!”

Don't You Forget About Me

First of all, Happy New Year! Thanks so much for tracking with me on this adventure called reading. Indulge me in my usual New Year’s rant, this time about the value of books that may be older but are not lesser in value because of it.

In our world of consumerism we are subtly but steadily conditioned by marketing and advertising to grow a dislike to something old, and long for something new and improved. I have to remind myself that what I have is not just good enough, it’s stuff that I once chose and unless it’s broken or worn out, will still do very nicely. That old pair of corduroys, pushed to the back of the drawer by skinny jeans and leggings. That old summer cole slaw recipe, left in the dust by quinoa, pomegranate, and arugula. That old classic I’ve always wished I’d read, while new titles like baubles blink at me from bookseller windows and websites.

Books on the NightstandOne of my favourite podcasts is Books on the Nightstand (stay tuned, next blog post is on podcasts). One of their regular features is “Don’t you forget about me!” It’s a segment where the presenters Ann and Michael recommend older book titles that may have been missed. Because frankly, we can’t read everything all the time. There’s way too much out there. And it’s perfectly fine to pick up a book that was written 2 or 20  years ago! It doesn’t always have to be the latest!

At the risk of sounding cynical, increasingly I wonder whether agents are pushing books to publication too soon, in a rush to vie for a spot on this year’s Bestseller list. I get that feeling when I find the ending rushed or the book doesn’t quite match the accolades on the cover. Or when an author is so famous and has pumped out so many books, that it seems the publishers have let it go without some necessary editing.

NightstandReaders let’s take a deep breath and realize this is not a sprint to read it all, despite all those emails from Amazon about what books are “coming soon”–enjoy reading of any kind, new or older. Authors let’s take the time to write something timeless instead of rushing to be the latest new paperback. Let’s not let the new book market sway us from authors and topics that we love. And don’t fret about bringing those books back to the library that you never got around to reading (I know you have them, I do too) and just place a new hold on them another day. If they’re good ones, they’ll still be around 2 or 20 years from now! And in the meantime you can grab a book from your shelf that you bought, but never read (we all have those too!). Happy Reading!