BOOK REVIEW: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Remember my winter reading list? From that list I started with Ian McEwan's The Children Act. I finished it a little while ago and I'm finally getting around to writing my review.  

I wish this book was longer — not because it was lacking in content or character development, but simply because I enjoyed it so much. That is the power of an Ian McEwan novel – he chooses his words carefully and packs more quality into his prose than quantity. The Children Act is the story of a judge presented with an unusual case that requires a difficult, literally life-altering decision, all while dealing with the beginnings of her own crumbling marriage. McEwan takes common themes and subjects that are so often written about and makes them fresh and new again by creating a cast of interesting and charismatic characters in judge Fiona and the boy at the heart of the case she is presiding over. A great read, I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reading List: Cozy Up With a Few Good Books This Winter

The temperatures have officially dropped, winter is here, and all I want to do is curl up under a cozy blanket with a steaming cup of tea and immerse myself in a really good book. I haven't had much time for reading lately and I really miss it. I used to read a couple of books a I read that many in a year. So now that my classes have ended, I find myself with a lot more free time that I can spend reading. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of dining with a very influential booklover and a group of other avid readers, so the conversation naturally turned to books and we all shared what's on our reading list at the moment. That discussion reignited my passion for reading and I'm eager to get started on my new book list! I recently finished two engaging books, Gone Girl and Girl with a Pearl Earring; I highly recommend both. Up next for is a mix of titles that were recommended, and a few that I've been anticipating myself (click the image for a full synopsis of the book): 

Have you read any of these titles? If so, what did you think? I will be posting reviews of each one as I finish reading so check back to find out what I thought of them! 


10 Must-Haves for the Home by the Time You're 30

Recently, designer Tommy Smythe was on the Marilyn Denis Show discussing the 10 must-have home decor items to own by the time you're 30. Using Tommy's list as a guide, I thought I'd share a shopping list of the items I would select from each category to add to your decor.  

1. Original Art/Photography

Invest in a good piece of original art or photography, it will add interest to your space. As Tommy says, it's time to get rid of those old concert posters. I like the colour-enhanced photos of abandoned homes and buildings in Havana by Werner Pawlok. So hauntingly beautiful.

2. Good Quality Sofa

Tommy advises that a good quality sofa will cost you $2,000 at minimum. This price gets you good fabric and good construction. It's worth the investment - after all, other than your bed, it's the piece of furniture you spend the most time on. Restoration Hardware has a wide selection of really comfortable sofas starting at $2,000; you can choose the fabric and colour you want. If you like to change your decor often, stick with a neutral colour and change your accessories with the seasons.

3. Good Quality Lighting

Please, can we all get rid of those "big box, female anatomy-looking light fixtures?" You know the ones Tommy is referring to. The addition of good quality lighting can be in any form, but I prefer to spend a bit more on ceiling or wall fixtures, since they're a little more permanent. If a candelabra-style chandelier is too formal/traditional for you, try something a little more contemporary like this one from Living Lighting:

4. Antique or Vintage Items

Tommy tells us that having at least one antique or vintage item in your home shows your guests that you have a level of taste and sophistication, and I completely agree. I grew up surrounded by antiques so I would even suggest having at least a few. Antique shops and markets are everywhere and you usually have to hunt to find that perfect piece, but it's well worth the effort once you do. Here's a lovely faux bamboo brass tray from Vintage Fine Objects that would add sophistication to any style of decor:

5. Plants or Pets

Plants and pets indicate to people who come into your home that you're able to care for another living thing. As Tommy says, "you should not be the only thing alive in your apartment." Start with plants if you can't commit to a pet. This photo from Pinterest illustrates how they can be worked into a decor scheme:

Original source unknown

6. Good Quality Bedding/Sheets

Tommy advises to have two sets and replace them every two years. Choose a 400-thread count and go with a simple white sheet set. Crane & Canopy has some high-quality, affordable bedding options available. The Linden set is one of my favourites and is on my wish list:

7. Kitchen 

Tommy talked about several kitchen items to invest in, and for this point I'm going to share the items he showed on the segment instead of showcasing my own suggestions.

Cookware - buy a matching set of pots and pans. If you can't afford to buy them all at once, buy them piece by piece and invest slowly over time. (Tommy featured a copper set by Williams Sonoma.)

Dinnerware - a set of 12 (or a baker's dozen since, let's face it, dishes will break) is ideal. Start with a good set of white plates that can act as a workhorse but that also look really nice. (Tommy recommends Sophie Conran dinnerware, available at HBC.)

Table Linens and Flatware - a set of 12 for each. How lovely is this Kate Spade pink gold flatware set?! 

Knife Set - get a beautiful knife block that can be left out on the counter. Even better - this version that has an integrated cookbook or tablet holder for easy recipe viewing. 

8. Matching Hangers

Disorganization in the closet is disorganization in life. Have an all matching set, whether it's all wood, all plastic, all velvet, etc. HomeSense (and therefore probably also HomeGoods) has inexpensive packs of 10-25 hangers. I recently bought a couple of packages for my own closet but regret to tell you that I haven't purged the old and invited the new in yet!!! So for now, I'd like to share this photo from my friend and fellow blogger Tiffany Leigh's walk-in closet makeover

9. Good Books

Having good books on display shows that you have a level of interest and scholarship in your life and in your home, says Tommy. Books are a symbol of hospitality, and guests are invited to pick them up and read. I've worked for a book company most all of my professional life, allowing me the opportunity to accumulate a vast amount of books in the last 15 years. I've since donated a lot of them and I wish I had a photo of the wall-to-wall bookshelves I used to have that housed over 800 tomes but that photo is trapped on a broken phone. Instead, here is a more recent picture of some of the books I just couldn't part with: 

10. Cleaning Person

When investing in great stuff, you've got to take care of it. Investing in hired help to keep your house clean is the best gift you can give yourself. It took me a long time to learn the value of this, but about a year and a half ago I hired someone to clean my house every other week and now that I've done that, I will never go back. Not only does Adora clean my house better than I ever could, she keeps my sanity in check by keeping my house in order. J'adore Adora. (P.S. If you live in Toronto and would like her number, please contact me. She is THE BEST.) 

Adore Home Magazine - New Book

One of my favourite online magazines is Adore Home from Australia. I'm really into bold, bright colours and pattern-mixing lately, and I have Australian decor to thank for the inspiration I've been filled with recently. Adore's editor Loni Parker published a book last month that I'm dying to get my hands on...the only problem is that it's only available in Australia at the moment. Until it's available in Canada, I will have to be satisfied with the colourful interiors featured in online issues of Adore, on their blog and on their Instagram feed. Not that these channels are lacking in gorgeous images, but an Instagram account doesn't look as good on a coffee table. I mean, just look at that book cover! Other than the Elements of Style book cover (releasing this fall, that I wrote about here), I can't say that I've seen a more stylish and inviting cover. This book won't just be purchased for a look inside - I imagine that it's going to become a staple item in coffee table styling, too.  

If you haven't checked out Adore Home yet, I suggest you stop what you're doing and click over to them right now. Not convinced? Here are a few sneak peeks from the book that were featured on the Adore Home blog:

All images via Adore Home