Category Archives: hobbies

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

What a disappointment

If there’s one thing I like, it’s browsing a bookshop. Walking along the aisles, picking up books, reading the synopsis. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s browsing books online. If one of my favorite authors has a new book out, it’s easy, I just type in the name and within minutes the audiobook gets downloaded to my reader. If none of my favorite authors has something new out, I’m groping in the dark, and finding something suitable is a nightmare. How will I find something interesting?

Sappy love stories are not for me. It’s always the same. Boy meets girl, some problems arise, the couple’s happiness is in jeopardy, but in the end, they live happily ever after. Such baloney.

Stories set in the olden days are fine, but preferably no further than the 1800s.

The setting of the story is also rather important. Stories set in Turkey, Bangladesh, or Nicaragua also get a miss.

I want a mystery, I want a murder or kidnapping, something that has me on the edge of my seat and keeps me awake at night.

After nearly searching for nearly two hours for my next read I noticed the name Alex Michaelides. Bingo, I’d struck gold. I loved his first book ‘The Silent Patient’ and thought I was in for another great story. I was wrong. I abandoned his second book ‘The Maidens’ after four chapters. Boring, boring, boring.

The story starts off rather promising. Two murders have been committed and the lead character, Mariana, is set on catching the killer.

The story quickly takes a turn for the worse though. Mariana is a wimp. She’s lost her husband and now all she does is either cry, whimper, or whine. While I understand her traumatic loss, does Michaelides have to go on and on about how she mourns the loss of her husband? The man went swimming in a gale storm for heaven’s sake, what did he expect? Every person with half a brain knows that you avoid the water when a storm is raging.

Fine, so now she returns to Cambridge to assist her niece whose roommate has been murdered. Another whimpering female.

If Michaelides writing got on my nerves, the narrator of ‘The Maidens’ drove me up the wall. There are two narrators, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Louise Breadley. I was familiar with Louise Breadley’s voice (she also narrated ‘The Silent Patient’), which is why I was so stunned when I heard her in her portrayal of Mariana. The way she talks … OMG, after four chapters I just couldn’t take it anymore.

So I’m afraid I’ll never know the storyline of ‘The Maidens’. It might be a good book, it might not. One thing is for sure, it’s nowhere near as good as ‘The Silent Patient’, which was excellently written and narrated. 

As someone once said, ‘Whether a book character is good or evil, the reader has to care about him or her.’ And that was precisely the problem with ‘The Maidens’, I didn’t care about Mariana and I didn’t care about her niece, Zoe.

Michaelides’ portrayal of campus life also leaves me wondering. The students party day in day out and are either drunk, high, or recovering from a hangover. When do these people actually study? How does any of them ever graduate? Are these the students of today, a bunch of alcoholics and dopeheads?

The critics can as usual not be trusted. They are being paid to give a glowing review. When I noticed the line “Listeners will not be disappointed with this suspenseful and intelligent thriller.” I rolled my eyes … listeners will most certainly be disappointed. I was. More than disappointed actually, Louise Brealey’s voice was the reason I abandoned the book.

So I’m on the prowl again, looking for a good book. Any suggestions?

Born to Decoupage

The ideal hobby for creative minds

It is generally accepted and even encouraged for people to have a hobby. Whether it’s reading, woodworking, or 3D printing, not only is a hobby relaxing, for many people, it’s a way to unleash their creative side and even earn a little on the side.

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, but other than books I’m always looking for other ways to keep my hands busy.

A few years ago, I got involved with adult coloring. I bought a couple of books and pencils and set them to work. I was enjoying myself until I joined an adult coloring group and saw the kind of work others produced. I was not nearly as good as they were, and my flame of enthusiasm was snuffed out.

Never mind though, I soon found something else to do. I discovered diamond painting. If you’re not familiar with diamond painting, this hobby involves placing hundreds or even thousands of tiny drills onto a sticky canvas to create a sparkling tableau. I started with something small but soon expanded to larger and even enormous projects.

Image courtesy of Jessie Hamilton

When I bit off a bit more than I could chew and the project dragged on for months, I lost my zest for diamond painting and went looking for something else. Quite by accident, I stumbled onto decoupage. Hello, now here was something my creative mind could sink its teeth into. I watched a couple of videos and then headed straight over to Amazon to buy the necessary supplies: chalk paint, acrylic paint, varnish, glue, brushes, and of course napkins.

If you’re not too sure about what decoupage is, this is just one of many videos.

My newfound hobby quickly got out of hand. Whenever I was in the Dollarstore, I stocked up on bowls, jars, plates, and other supplies. My collection of napkins grew too, especially once I found Snow’s Boutique. Oh my goodness, their collection was enormous and one napkin even more beautiful than the next. Flowers, birds, a spring collection, a Christmas collection … oh so much to choose from. What’s more, whenever I was looking for something specific and couldn’t find it, all I had to do was contact the store and I was sent several suggestions.

It got to the point that I didn’t dare to visit the website of Snow’s Boutique anymore, because whenever I was there I bought several designs. With each order, Snow’s Boutique included a free gift, which was much appreciated.

Unfortunately, not every project was a success, I ended up with quite a few ‘lemons’ which were only good for one thing … to throw in the bin. And right about that time, I noticed what others could do. Oh my goodness, the talent of some people.

Feeling thoroughly discouraged, I posted a message in my favorite decoupage group on Facebook asking if others occasionally produced a ‘lemon’ too. More people than I thought possible responded, saying that they too sometimes ended up with something less than satisfactory. Overall the messages were clear … don’t give up, keep on practicing, watch videos, you’ll get better as you go along.

Okay then, rather than bowls, jars, and coasters, I was going to try bottles.

The problem was that I don’t drink and if my son drinks three or four bottles of wine a year it’s a lot. So how was I going to get my hands on some bottles? Inspiration struck … I would post a request for empty bottles on the notice board of the condo building where I live. 50 cents each.

Good heavens, within no time I had bottles coming out of my ears. Wine bottles, champagne bottles, whiskey, and gin bottles … I had to rush to take the request down because suddenly there were bottles everywhere, in the kitchen, in the dining room, in my walk-in closet. If anyone had visited me, they would have thought my son and I had a serious drinking problem.

The bottles I produced weren’t half bad. I was not nearly as good as Katerina, but my first bottles were definitely not ‘lemons’.

Of course, with decoupage one doesn’t have to limit oneself to bowls, jars, or bottles, anything and everything goes. While some people buy their intended projects in a store, others transform old items into little works of art. An old rusty kettle, an empty tin of soup, a cutting board, wooden spoons, candles, even soaps are used to create artwork.

Just take a look at what other members of the decoupage group came up with. Images used with permission of Gabriela Dascalu, Susan White, Denise Towler, Wendy P Jacobs, Joy Beard, Karen Roberts, Sandra Lee, Senka Rengel, Madilyn Greiner, Lora Schwartz, Dee Dee Sellers DuPre, Kellie L. Davila-Martinez, Kathy Chestnutt Mercer, Anastasia Birba, Sally Ames Marshall, Neolien Vorster, Vlasta Hladnik (coaster video), Katerina (glasses video), RockinArt58 By Sandra (three jars video)