Book Reviews: September 2018

It’s a pretty eclectic month of reading, in that none of the books I read have any similarities, but here goes:

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain:

I’ve always been a fan of Anthony Bourdain (RIP), and this book, which details his travels around the world in search of “the perfect meal”, combines two of my interests – food and travel – so of course I love it. His writing is funny (in a biting, belligerent kind of way, very different from Bill Bryson’s self-deprecating humor) and vivid; the travels are fascinating and the food mouth-watering (in most cases. I’m not sure about the sheep testicles.) Sure, there are graphic descriptions of a pig getting slaughtered in Portugal, a sheep getting butchered in Morocco, and a snake getting killed in Vietnam (where else?), but that’s what makes the book come to life. 5/5

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson:

I quite enjoyed Helen Simonson’s first book, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and this one, which revolves around life in the idyllic town of Rye in the summer of 1914 before World War I breaks out, seems right up my alley. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to its predecessor. Like Major Pettigrew, it deals with a close-minded community and how they react when faced with changes, but the characters are not memorable and the conflict is light. The most effective part, ironically, is the last few chapters which deals with the war itself. The “before” part is really boring. 2/5 (and that’s only because I have a superficial liking for passages describing life in a British town, like the kind of clothes people wear and the food they eat.)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson:

I’m a bit embarrassed that it took me so long to read this. I’ve read one other book by Anderson, Winter Girls, and loved it, and I also quite like the movie adaption of this book (starring a young Kristen Stewart), but I never got around to reading it until now. In a way, it’s a standard YA novel about a girl becoming a selective mute after being sexually assaulted, but the main character’s voice is strong and relatable and reflects her struggle really well. My only complaint is that there is no strong event to prompt the main character to “speak” out about her trauma and begin her journey toward recovery, but I know it’s more realistic that way. 4.5/5

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry:

When it comes to non-fiction, I enjoy some true-crime books from time to time, especially if it’s historical crimes (like Erik Larson’s books.) This one, which deals with the disappearance and death of Lucie Blackman, a British young woman, in Japan in 2000, is decidedly more modern than I prefer, but it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. The case itself is not that special; what makes the book so gripping is the way it delves into the lives of the victim, her friends and family, as well as her killer. It may contain too many details, but it really shows the dark side of Japanese society and the devastating ripple effect of a tragedy. 4.5/5

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Pink Dome

This week’s inspiration for SIA – the dome of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri – is gorgeous, but I had no idea how I could interpret it in an outfit. When I’m stuck in SIA, I would usually look at the piece’s color scheme as a starting point. In this case, I picked out pink, white, and blue as the main colors, so I knew I would wear this pink button-up and the blue oxfords. Luckily, the weather was cool enough that I could layer the button-up over my white eyelet top (it did get warmer at noon, but still), and I added my gold brooch to mimic the intriciate gold decorations on the dome. Then I finished the outfit with jeans because… well, they went well with the rest. Sometimes you just have to forget the inspiration and choose what looks good.

Remember to stop by Daenel’s blog on Wednesday to see other outfits inspired by this beautiful dome!


Silver And Gold

Earlier this week we had some rain, and it finally felt like summer has ended. Note that I said “summer has ended”, not “fall has begun”. It’s still quite warm, but the heat is no longer muggy or oppressive, and in the morning and at night, there is a certain crispness in the air, which prompts me to bring this top out again. I don’t know why I associate it with fall so much – it’s certainly a summer-weight top, but the color and the print always make me think “fall” rather than summer.

I’m being a little cheeky with my jewelry in this outfit too. See if you can find my brooch!


Adventures In Watercolor 4

As promised, here is my final piece from my watercolor class:

For our finals, we had to pick a photo (NOT a painting!) and reproduce it on 18 x 24 paper. Mine was based on this photo of the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland. As you may have noticed from my previous paintings, trees are kinda my specialty, so this seemed like a good choice. I’m pretty satisfied with the end result; I only wish it could look more transparent, more like a watercolor painting – here, I added so many layers that it looks more like a gouache/acrylic piece. I guess I just need to practice more…

And here are some more paintings that I’ve been working on since the class ended:

There is still a lot I need to learn though, so once my schedule slows down a bit, I’m going to see if there is another class I can take.


SIA Inspiration: Old Courthouse Dome

This week is Daenel’s turn to host SIA, and she picks an amazing piece:

This is the interior of the dome of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri (and the photo is Daenel’s own!) While it isn’t the first time we featured a dome as inspiration (we did one a couple of years ago with the Tiffany glass dome of the Chicago Cultural Center), this one is still gorgeous and has a lot of details and colors to interpret. You can find out more about the Old Courthouse and the dome here, and don’t forget to send Daenel (livingoutsidethestacks@gmai.com) a photo of your outfit by next Tuesday, September 25th. I can’t wait to see how this one turns out!


Tiny Glasses

I’ve noticed that I haven’t worn a lot of jewelry lately. One reason is that not a lot of my summer clothes go well with brooches, which is my jewelry of choice, but a bigger reason is that I’ve been feeling burned out on jewelry. I don’t buy them anymore, and I tend to focus mostly on the silhouette and proportion of my outfits instead of accessories. I’m sure when the weather cools down and I wear more layers, I would start wearing jewelry more, but for now, I’m keeping it simple. But that doesn’t mean I’m not having fun with it too – like with this eyeglasses brooch. Usually I would wear it horizontally like a normal brooch, but this time I decided to wear it like how you would put glasses into your pocket.


SIA: Autumn Rhythm

It’s time for another round-up of SIA, which is inspired by Jackson Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm”. We got the usual group of participants, but the outfits are quite varied, so let’s hit it!

First up, we have Nancy from Jodie’s Touch of Style – Jodie herself couldn’t participate, but she sends her stepmom’s outfit, which is perfect:

Next up is Mike, in a simple but spot-on outfit:

Then we have Kim of Fierce Fashion, who’s put together a great summer-to-fall transition outfit:

My co-host Jen chose to mimic the patterns of the paint splashes in her sweater and scarf (so jealous that she got to wear those already!) and sneakers, to great effects:

My other co-host, Daenel, sends an old outfit, but it’s lovely, so it doesn’t matter, right?

And here I am:

Another successful SIA challenge! It’s Daenel’s turn to pick the inspiration next week, so don’t forget to check back. Thank you!