Book Report

I found this book at a Little Free Library near and I knew I just had to add it to my collection of craft-related books.

IMG_20181215_172542Creative Gift Wrapping by Public International, LTD has 40 fun and inspiring, not to mention beautiful gift wrapping projects for all occasions. Every project has easy to follow step by step instructions with accompanying photos.

This book also offers the basics on gift wrapping, gift wrapping resources and templates. A lot of the materials can be found at art and craft stores, thrift shops, dollar stores and maybe your own home.

The only negative is there is mention of online resources buts that’s probably because this book was published in 1991. A quick Google Search can remedy that situation.

Grade B

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Book Review: The Actor’s Life-A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer

Back in the day, I believe it was in the year 2006, when MySpace was still a thing and we were all friends of Tom, Jenna Fischer wrote a post on her MySpace page where she discussed the trials and tribulations she faced as an aspiring actor. Already well-known as  the sweet and vulnerable Pam Beesly on The Office, Ms. Fischer’s MySpace post resonated with a lot of people, even people with no acting ambitions.

Now Fischer has turned that MySpace post into something more with her book The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide that is at turns both a memoir of Jenna’s journey to acting success and a wise and practical primer for aspiring actors.

Fischer fell in love with acting and performing as a child. She took acting and dance classes and performed in both community and school productions, including acting as the Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof, which must have been quite a challenge for a someone going to all-girls Catholic school.

After earning a degree in theater at Truman State University in Missouri, this St. Louis native packed her bags and headed out to Los Angeles. All Fischer had was her college diploma, a beat up car and some saved up cash. But she also had a big dream to make it as an actress in both television and in film. She thought it wouldn’t be long before she saw her name on the marquee of movie theaters or among the credits of a hit television show.

Boy, was she wrong. It took her eight years to finally become a success on The Office and in movies like Blades of Glory and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. And in that nearly decade long road, Fischer dealt with the good, bad and ugly of being an aspiring actor, which she isn’t afraid to share in The Actor’s Life.

When it comes to the survival guide, Fischer offers sound advice on getting the right headshot, getting into the film and television’s actor union SAG (Screen Actors Guild), and building one’s resume as an actor. She also advises on finding and keeping an agent and manager.

Fischer also discusses in detail the arduous auditioning process, the heartbreak, the glory, and how to keep going on.

Want to know what it’s like to be on the set as an extra, a bit player saying three lines in one scene, a guest star or part of the main cast? It’s not glamorous, but once your performing, you’re reminded why you chose acting as a vocation.

Of course,  even once one makes it things don’t go smoothly. Pilots for TV shows don’t get picked up,  shows get cancelled, speaking parts get edited out,  a movie bombs at the box office even if you’re an established name. You may even get fired. Fischer was recently fired from a TV show. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. She’s now the star of the ABC show Splitting Up Together, which is filming its second season.

Interspersed throughout The Actor’s Life are Fischer’s tales of getting speaking parts on hit shows like Spin City and That 70’s Show, working less than desirable office gigs, falling apart at The Pottery Barn because she felt like such a loser, filming kissing and sex scenes, her wonderful relationship with her manager Naomi Odenkirk, and the dos and don’ts on how to behave on the set.

Fischer also discusses creating opportunities by generating DIY acting projects and how the iconic book The Artist’s Way helped her on her journey as did actor and friend Molly Shannon.

Within the pages of The Actor’s Life include inspirational quotes by a diverse collection of people-Einstein, Sheryl Sandburg,  Marilyn Monroe, Jon Hamm and Debra Messing.

I enjoyed reading The Actor’s Life,  starting with an introduction by Steve Carell who played the bumbling Michael Scott on The Office to Fischer’s loving acknowledgements to family, friends, and colleagues at the very end.

The Actor’s Life is honest,  funny and wise. Fischer’s writing voice is empathetic, truthful and warm. It’s a must read, and not just for actors. I’m using it as a guide as I get my writing career back on track.  I also think this book is ideal for teachers, guidance counselors, and college career centers.

It was The Office that made me a fan of Jenna Fischer and The Actor’s Life is one reason why I remain a fan.

Well that,  and we both suffer from MCG-Midwestern Catholic Guilt.

 

We Interrupt This Blog for This Special and Important Announcement

 

Josie Jaffrey resides in Oxford, England with her husband and two cats. She is a lawyer, focusing on intellectual property and commercial property. A lover of books, Jaffrey runs a video book review club, The Gin Book Club, through her website.

You can now add author to Jaffrey’s impressive credits with the release of her book The Gilded King-Sovereign: Book, the first in an installment of a three-part series. FYI: The Solis Invicti series (a prequel series to the Sovereign series) is available now, along with other books by Jaffrey.

Here is a brief description of The Gilded King:

“In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well. Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside. But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained. Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight. One way or another, the walls of the Blue are going to come down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.”

Here is more information about The Gilded King.

Book Info
Author: Josie Jaffrey
Cover Art: Martin Beckett Art
Publisher: Self-published
Page Count: 292
Word Count: 100,000
ASIN (Amazon): B07D3BZGR6
ISBN (Print): 978-1719204866
Release Date: 25 June 2018
Rating: Young Adult
Series: Sovereign
Series number: Book 1
Books in series: 3
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Fantasy

Important Links
Author’s Website
Amazon
Good Reads

For more information please contact Josie Jaffrey at josiejaffrey@gmail.com

Book Review: Summoning Grace by Samsara Saj

Late last year, thanks to my presence on the website BookBloggerList, several authors have reached out to me to read and review their books. Many of these authors are fledgling writers and these books (some of them self-published) are their “babies” and as with any baby, I want to handle them with thoughtfulness and care. So I have to keep this in mind in my review of Samasara Saj’s novel Summoning Grace.

The back jacket of Summoning Grace is as follows:

“Bridget McKenna, a lawyer practicing for more than twenty-five years, has disturbing recollections from her childhood after a family birthday party. As she tries to handle the impact of these revelations, she turns to Jack Cassidy, the only man she ever loved, with whom she has not been in touch for three years. Being with Jack helps her connect the dots regarding the work she does as an attorney, where the corruption of politics and the ugliness of domestic violence reveal to Bridget the sexual shoals a woman must navigate. By contacting Jack, she starts the process of reaching into her soul for the reckoning that awaits her.

Once she reconciles herself to the darkness of her painful past, through the grace of God, she finds the strength to summon all the faith, courage, and grace that she can, to deal with professional obstacles, family loss, and her greatest challenge, rescuing her only brother, Joe.

Told in eighteen chapters, Summoning Grace explores the deepest self-examination a woman can undertake, providing her the wisdom and understanding to help those she loves with kindness and dignity.”

This summary is a bit of a bait and switch. Little of this book focuses on Cassidy and domestic violence. Nor does Summoning Grace focus on Bridget’s past. Also the book jacket classifies this novel as a romance, but it is more of a family story. Therefore the second and third paragraphs are a better description of this novel over-all.

Bridget’s family, the McKennas, are a loving and close-knit family who join forces when only son Joe gets seriously ill. The McKennas decide to work together to help Joe and his family in a very trying time. I liked the idea of a family being functional and totally messed up. It comforted me like a bowl of chicken soup.

However, when dealing with Joe’s illness Bridget is convinced she is the only one who can handle his care, even more so than the hospital staff. Not only did I find this to be a slap in the face to the people who work in the medical field, I also thought it gave short shrift to Joe’s wife, children and the other McKenna siblings.

Bridget is also a rather off-putting in her law career. Only she can handle the profession and everyone from her colleagues to her clients are incompetent losers.

To add to Bridget’s “Mary Sue” perfection, she is a diva in the kitchen, a true Julia Child reincarnated. And when it comes to family get togethers and holidays, she always brings masterful dishes. Considering she’s busy with Joe and her career, I found this element a bit implausible.

Ultimately by making Bridget an ideal person—loving sister, top notch attorney and fabulous chef—Saj has given us a character who is really insufferable and without complex layers. I like characters who have their share of flaws and who are multi-dimensional. These characters are more relatable and interesting to read.

Still I must commend Saj for at least writing a book. She’s technically proficient and I respect her deep faith. I believe she has the ability to write a better book and I believe she wants to express herself with love and hope in her heart. These are noble ideas and much needed in our challenging world.

So though I can’t recommend Summoning Grace, I can encourage Samsara Saj to keep on writing. Don’t let my review deter you.

Bonjour! Let’s Learn French-Visit New Places and Make New Friends by Judy Martialay

I usually don’t review children’s books, so I was a bit surprised when writer, illustrator and educator Judy Martialay sought me out to review her book Bonjour! Let’s Learn French. But being a bit of a Francophile and having a niece and nephew who are currently attending a French immersion school, Martialay’s request piqued my interest so I accepted her offer

Bonjour! Let’s Learn French follows the adventures of world traveler Pete the Pilot. Wherever he travels Pete learns the country’s language, so he can better communicate with a country’s citizens and make new friends. In this book Pete finds himself on a French beach where he meets several children and a certain snail named Louis l’escargot. This story is written in English with several key words within the story translated to French, including words like sand, beach, castle, children, which are in bold type. Though the story is quite short it packs in a lot of basic French translations children can recite as a parent reads to them or the child can read him or herself.

But Bonjour! Let’s Learn French offers a great deal more than a short story with English to French translations. It also offers quite a few activities that also help children learn French words and phrases. They include a skit which parents can play out with their children or can be done as a classroom activity. Another activity asks children to look at various people and objects within the book, their home and neighborhoods and translate them to French.

The musically inclined will enjoy a French song in the book and the artsy set will discover their inner Monet or Renoir have fun making their own impressionistic painting, both activities fully explained in the book.

And for convenience sake, Martialay provides a glossary of French to English translations at the end of the book just in case.

Interspersed throughout! Let’s Learn French are Martialay’s cute illustrations and various photographs of people, places and things one might find during a French holiday, including the buildings, art work, the French flag, cafes, and one of my personal favorites, French cuisine, including French onion soup and various French pastries like croissants.

Bonjour! Let’s Learn is for children ages six through 12. Though I think some older children might consider this book to be a bit babyish if they’ve been studying French since they were very little like my niece and nephew. However, I think it’s an ideal book for children learning French for the first time and it’s a way to bond with their parents, too. And, no parents, you don’t have to be fluent in French.

As for school teachers, I think a lot of them will welcome a book like Bonjour! Let’s Learn French in their classrooms, whether the French language is a part of their curriculum or not. We live in a very global world and a book that not only teaches children a foreign language but also about a foreign culture can only be an asset to their learning.

 

 

 

Book Review: Crafting With Feminism- 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy by Bonnie Burton

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“We can glue it!” claims feminist and crafter Bonnie Burton. And as a fellow feminist and crafter, can I get an Amen? Or should I say an A-Women?

When it comes to crafting and feminism I don’t know what came first for me? Crafting or feminism? Perhaps it was the same time. I had my first feminist-related click moment when I was five years old and been crafting ever since my mother gave me my first box of Crayolas and I designed clothing for my paper dolls. Both feminism and crafting has allowed me to express myself in so many ways, and a constant refuge in my life in times of triumph and tragedy.

So imagine my utter delight when I found Ms. Burton’s book Crafting With Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy. I quickly picked it up and the moment I opened it up I just knew I found a true treasure for creative crafters and fierce feminists alike.

For the most part, most of these projects are inexpensive and fairly easy, so most crafty types, whether experienced or novices can do them. And no matter your crafting style, you will find at least one project you will want to do.

Into needle crafts? Most likely you will be drawn to Feminist Badges of Honor, Em-broad-ery Hoop Art or  Next-Gen Feminist Onesies.

You can decorate your lady lair with with Peace and Equali-tea Aromatherapy Candles, a Grrrl Coat of Arms or Strong Female Prayer Candles featuring the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Detective Olivia Benson or Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek. Of course, these characters are just suggestions. You can pick you own feminist faves. Mine? The Bad Ass ladies of the BAU from Criminal Minds.

As a fashionable feminist I delighted in the Queen Ring Bling and Super Heroine Wrist Cuffs. And you can  crash the glass ceiling with Girl Band Cassette Business Card Holders and a “Male Chauvinist Tears” coffee mug.

After hours, end the day with Drinking Dames Flask and eat some nibbles off of Food For Thought Plates.

As for other potpourri for defying Patriarchy? Crafting With a Feminism is a primer in making Heroes of Feminism Finger Puppets, Monster Week Tampon/Pad Cases, All Hail the Queen Crowns and Power Panties.

Burton also provide a list of crafting needs. Most likely you have most of this accessories, but they include such things as beads, glitter, fabric, hot glue gun, Mod Podge, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, a sewing kit and X-acto knife.

Like me, Burton is a big fan of Crafternoons and she has some great ideas on how to make your Crafternoons the place to be. She includes ways to plan a Crafternoon including ways to making them really entertaining.

When it comes to music Burton offers selections like Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill, Q.U.E.E.N by Janelle Monae (featuring Erykah Badu), Cherry Bomb by the Runaways, Respect by Aretha, and Typical Girls by the Slits. Some of my picks? Invincible by Pat Benatar, Sisters Are Doing It By Themselves by Annie Lennox and Aretha and Ladies First by Queen Latifah and Monie Love.

When should you have your Crafternoons? Burton provides some key lady-friendly dates including Galentines Day, February 13th inspired by Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, International Women’s Day on March 8th, the birthday of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the Notorious RBG) on March 15th, Glitter Day, which is the second Saturday of January and June 11th, International Yarnbombing Day.

Watch some feminist-minded films like Advanced Style, Persepolis, Bend it Like Beckham, Real Women Have Curves and 9 to 5. My picks? Impromptu, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry and The Legend of Billie Jean (because “Fair is Fair!).

Now one can’t always craft; one must also read books. Burton suggests books like Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Craftivism by Betsy Greer and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. To this list I’d like to add Backlash by Susan Faludi, Bust DIY Guide to Life: Making Your Way Through Every Day, Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris.

Crafting With Feminism also provides tips on crafting for change, teaching others and how to make crafting a money-making venture.

This book is slim, but is big on projects, ideas, and practical advice. Burton writes in humorous, down-to-earth fashion. Crafting With Feminism is a welcome addition to feminist-minded crafters and feminists alike.

 

 

Book Review: Little Book of Hygge-Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

2016 was an immensely difficult year for me and so many others. And as 2017 rolls along I still feel a certain sadness personally, professionally and politically. And I’m not the only one. So it was truly a blessing to find Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Hygge (pronounced “hue-guh”) is the concept of happiness, fulfillment, well-being, and contentment. Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world, and Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen so needless to say, he knows what he is talking about.

And just what is hygge to Wiking and many of his fellow Danes? Well, a lot of it has to do with warmth and light, which is not surprising considering it can get pretty cold and dark in Denmark. Danes love their fireplaces and wearing comfy bulky sweaters. They also have a love of soft lighting from well-placed lamps and burning candles. Only the candles Danes prefer are unscented.

Danes also find hygge in togetherness, whether it’s with their families, friends or just their communities as a whole. Just connecting with a loving soul via actual human contact (not social media) can fill a Dane with contentment and joy.

One way Danes connect with through food and drink. Having tea or coffee with a cherished loved one is a great way to inspire hygge, and so is throwing a dinner party or having a potluck with friends. In The Little Book of Hygge Wiking generously shares some beloved recipes, which as a total foodie I can’t wait to try out. And I now for myself, one way I connect with others is through my love of baking (my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure).

Here are few thing the Danes feel are hygge:

  • Holidays like Christmas
  • Board Games
  • Music
  • Books
  • Sundays
  • Pets
  • Television
  • Parties
  • Plants
  • Sports

I must say I agree with a lot of things on that list. I love to listen to music, and I often use it as a healing balm when I’m feeling a bit down. It’s no secret I love books (or else I wouldn’t have this blog). I love Sundays. I start off my Sundays watching one of my favorite TV programs CBS Sunday Morning, and then I head off to my church First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, where I am not only treated to a wonderful service, I also connect with a like-minded community. I adore my fur baby, Pokey Jones whose purrs and unconditional love fill me with hygge.

Other countries have their own concepts and words for hygge. Canadians call it hominess. In Norway it is called koselig. German’s call their concept of hygge (yes, Germans want to be happy, too) gemutlichkeit. What would I call hygge as an American? Well, I call it niceties.

Hygge is practiced all year around and Wiking mentions hygge for each Month. January is a great month for having movie nights. In March, you can have theme nights; my theme for the month of March? My birthday, of course! May is a great time for a week-end getaway to a cabin or maybe a lovely bed and breakfast place. Summer picnics are ideal in the month of July. Wiking inspires us to have soup cook-offs in November.

Hygge doesn’t have to be costly. Often they are free or very inexpensive. Wiking suggests making your own “Hygge Emergency Kit.” His suggestions for such a kit include candles, chocolate, your favorite tea, books, a collection of treasured hand-written letters, warm woolen sweaters, a notebook and pen, and music.

In the past few days I have been feeling sad with the state of our world and some personal issues I’m dealing with. But reading about hygge reminded me to think of good things that filled me with happiness and joy. The eclipse filled me with hygge, reminding how inspiring the galaxy can be and how one moment can fill the world with joy and wonderment. This morning I woke up to find a text and an IM from two friends, which lifted my spirits. I’m currently reading some good books. I made a fabulous meal last night. Heck, even a decent night’s sleep helped me feel hygge.

I truly loved The little Book of Hygge and am so grateful for Meik Wiking. This book and its ideas will inspire me for quite a long time. We should all feel and practice hygge.