Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Guts - Part VII

I didn't have much time to work on the journal this week. (I'm starting to sounds like a broken record). I only manage to do a little on a few pages. Here's my update for week 7 of my journal wrecking adventure:

Press leaves and other found things: Just a few items I found around the house/garage: bread bag closers (whatever they are called), two leaves, circular piece of painted dryer sheet (leftover from another page), QC sticker from new underwear, parking receipt. A work in progress.

Pour, spill, drip, spit, fling your coffee here: My morning coffee applied with an eye dropper.

Collect Your Pocket (I'm Doing Dryer) Lint, Glue it Here: I thought about making a picture with it (there's actually an artist who does this), but I couldn't come up with enough colours. So I'm gluing the stuff I collected randomly. Dryer lint is quite delicate and will most likely disintegrate with handling if I don't do something to protect it. I'm thinking hair spray. Another work in progress.

My poor journal doesn't even close anymore now that it's filled with crap.

Links to other updates: The Beginning, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI.

See you next Sunday for another update.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine: A Novel by Lauren Willig

In The Temptation of the Night Jasmine: A Novel, Robert, The Duke of Dovedale, returns to England after being in India for a number of years. He soon becomes reacquainted with his distant cousin, Charlotte. It seems that there's an immediate attraction, but Robert has returned to avenge the murder of his mentor and doesn't need any distractions. Meanwhile, Charlotte stumbles upon a plan to being harm to the King and embarks on a little spying adventure of her own. The two run into each other a number of times and seem destined to be together if only these other endeavours would get out of their way.

I absolutely loved this book. This story of historical fiction transports the reader back in time with words and customs of the times. In addition to being filled with intrigue and tidbits about espionage, it's also funny, touching, romantic and charming. I can't vouch for its historical authenticity, but I can say it's a beautifully written story with lively characters. While there is some romance in the story, it's not gushy or bodice-ripping.

This book is the fifth in the Pink Carnation series, but it's definitely a standalone book. I haven't read any of the others and would not have known it was part of a series had I not been told.

The story jumps between 1800s and present day, with the majority of the story taking place in the past. To be honest, there was a couple of times where I was so wrapped up in the historical story that I completely forgot about the present day one. It felt a bit jolting to return. The present day story was just ok. I found it a little hard to believe that Eloise couldn't ask Colin about his occupation.

I loved all of the characters, especially Robert, Charlotte and Henrietta. The men in the Hellfire Club (the men's club that Robert had to infiltrate) and their actions were a bit much at times, but they were interesting to read about.

My favourite quote comes from Robert:
There is far more dust and dung than there are knights in shining armor left in the world.

New Word Alert: The book contained lots of words that I didn't know. I'm guessing quite a few of them are words from the period. Here's a sampling:
abnegation (page 207) - to give up or renounce something
alacrity (page 30) - promptness
ducal (page 36) - belonging to or relating to, or like a duke or dukedom
duenna (page 97) - woman guardian
embrasures (page 312) - tapered opening
mummers (page 50) - actor
oubliette (page 132) - dungeon with a trapdoor at the top as its only egress
pelisse (page 340) - military garment or woman's coat trimmed with fur
peregrinations (page 355) - journey or voyage
priapic (page 163) - relating to or showing a preoccupation with mail sexual activity

The Reader's Guide at the back of this edition offers the reader some insight into the book, the series and the history behind the story. It's well worth the read.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author. She's now one of my favourite authors. I hope to track some of the earlier books in the series.

If you liked this book, you will probably also enjoy The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson (my review.)

For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin website.

For more information about the author, her other books and other cool stuff, please visit Lauren Willig's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin Canada for this review copy.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine: A Novel by Lauren Willig, New American Library (Penguin), ©2009. ISBN 9780451228987(Trade Paperback), 468p.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My Little Red Book Winners!

The winners of My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff are:

Missy B.

I hope that each of you enjoys the book as much as I did. Please check your inboxes! You have until Wednesday, April 28, 2010 to send me your address.

A huge thank you to Hachette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway.

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

In The Janus Stone, the bones of a child are discovered under a doorway during the demolition of a Victorian mansion while evidence of the two-faced god, Janus, is unearthed at a Roman site near Norwich. Ruth Galloway, head of the forensic archaeology department at the University of North Norfolk and an expert on bones, decomposition and death, has been called in to give her advice. She wonders if the findings at one site help her get to the bottom of things at the other. She has her hands full with work and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Harry Nelson when she discovers that her queasiness has nothing to do with the bones.

I loved this book. It's a perfect blend of mystery and archaeology that will kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. It definitely belongs in the cozy genre, but I'd place it towards the edgier side of things. It's modern and smartly written, rather than cute or quaint (in an old-fashioned sense). Usually it takes me a 10 or 20 pages (sometimes a lot more) to settle in and get comfortable with the writing and characters in a book. Not so with this one. After just a couple of pages, I let out a huge sigh of contentment. I knew it was going to be an enjoyable read.

Even though this book is the second in a series, I believe it can be read as a standalone book. A couple of times, though, I wished I had read the first book in the series, The Crossing Places because the characters spend some time referencing what happened in that case.

I loved all of the information regarding archaeology and the Roman gods and goddesses. It was utterly fascinating. In my early adult years, I briefly considered entering the field of archaeology, but that didn't happen. However, I still love reading about it. Even though I was engrossed in the story, I still managed to mix up the two dig sites a couple of times. Frustrating! I think it would have helped to have a map or other pictorial aid to go along with the story.

Ruth was a great character and my favourite. She was 40-something and overweight to which I can relate. Her staunch opposition to any organization religion was mildly irritating, though. It felt pushy.

This book sort of reminded me of a few books I read by Aaron Elkins, many of which deal with archaeology and anthropology. If you enjoy his books, I'm sure you'll like this one, too.

Highly recommended. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for The Crossing Places and any other books Elly Griffiths writes. I love her work.

For more information about this book, please visit the McClelland & Stewart website.

For more information about the author and her first book, please visit Elly Griffith's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Random House Canada for this review copy.

The Janus Stone: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths, McClelland & Stewart, ©2009. ISBN 9780771035876(Hardcover), 335p.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stolen by Lesley Pearse

In Stolen, a woman is found washed up on the beach. She's barely alive and no one knows who she is until Dale, a friend, comes forward and identifies her as Lotte, a woman she worked with on a cruise ship some time ago. Lotte has been missing for a year and has no memory of where she's been or what's happened to her in that time frame. As the story progresses, we learn more about Lotte's horrific ordeal as her memory returns and she relays the events to her friends.

I sort of enjoyed this book. Although it's not really classified as a mystery, the story was filled with plenty of intrigue and suspense that kept me interested until the very end. The writing was easy to read and straight forward with nothing overly complicated. I especially liked that the story was interspersed with Lotte's memories as they came back to her.

Having said that, the story felt like a parable at first. It felt like a lesson was looming and it made me a little wary. After awhile, the story changed up a bit and I realized that I was wrong about it. I think that this initial reaction removed me from the story, though, and I had trouble connecting after that.

The characters were just ok. While I liked Simon and his partner, who were kind to Lotte, I didn't feel connected to any of the others. The characters evolved as the story went on, but it would have been nice to see more of that. I was perplexed by the mean characters who seemed particularly nasty and very easily provoked almost to the point of being unnatural.

I liked the background information on Fern and Howard, however, unless I missed something I'm not sure what the point was of bringing it up so near the end of the book. I didn't glean anything pertinent from that section and wasn't sure why I was reading about their history at that point.

Lesley Pearse has a large backlist and I'm sure her fans will love this one. I would probably read another book by this author given the chance, but I wouldn't run to the book store looking for her next book.

Want to read another review? Here's one from Jonita and another from Luanne.

For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin website.

For more information about the author and other cool stuff, please visit Lesley Pearse's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin Canada for this review copy.

Stolen by Lesley Pearse, Penguin, ©2010. ISBN 9780718152857(Uncorrected proof), 385p.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Guts - Part VI

For the past several weeks, I’ve been wrecking my journal. Cindy from Cindy's Love of Books had also purchased the journal (Wreck This Journal) and invited others to join her in posting about their adventures. Her original post about the book can be found here.

Despite having a crappy week (see here) I got some work done on my journal. Here's my update for week 6 of my journal wrecking adventure:

Infuse this page with the smell of your choosing:When I first looked at this page, I thought, “Hmmm...smell? That’s so visual. Not!”. So I tried to find something that was visual and smelly. So here we have a Bounce dryer sheet with some thinned down paint dripped onto it.

It’s also interactive. Viewer can open the leaves (folded bits) to reveal the message.

A place for grocery lists:My grocery lists are mostly scribbled on the back of used envelopes. Here are a few I rescued from the recycle bin.

Write One Word Over and Over: I’m done with this one for now. I might go back and put in more “words”, but I’m happy with it as it is.

Trace Your Hands:I’m also done with this one. I like it.

I also worked on Collect Your Pocket Lint, Glue it Here, but I changed it to dryer lint. Collecting pocket lint would take way, way too long. I’ll have a photo next week, I hope.

Links to other updates: The Beginning, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.

Last week, Heather of Book and Quilts announced that her daughter Shann was also working on this book. Here’s Heather’s post and Shann’s post.

MacBook update: I’m getting there. Part of the problem is that I haven’t hooked up my Wacom Tablet or ergonomic keyboard yet. The small touch pad thingy (technical term) is neat but not practical for everything I do. Also, when I was doing this post and copying the text from Pages (Apple's Word processing software), I was getting some pretty strange results; it took forever to fix. Anyway, I'm frustrated, but it's done.

See you next Sunday for another update.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lousy Week and Computer Problems AGAIN!


I usually don’t post personal stuff here, but we’ve had a pretty lousy week, which includes a back-in-the-shop-computer. I wanted to let people know that I’m still here, even if I’m slow in responding or posting.

Here are the highlights of this past week: bad news about our house (about $15,000+) , ineffective prescription drug (major heartburn), a dead computer (once again) and a not-so-quick trip to the emergency room (not related to the above mentioned drug). To top if off, my twin sister “forgot” to call me on my birthday. I called her, but she hasn’t returned my call. Nice, eh? *sigh*

Anyway, the one bright spot all week is our huge impulse buy. Well, sort of impulse. My husband had been talking for months about buying a portable (laptop) computer. When my computer died this week, I mentioned that I should have bought a Mac instead of my stupid HP. One thing lead to another and 4 hours later I was back a home with a new MacBook. Once my PC is fixed, I’ll probably return to using it at least for the time being. It’s only 1.5 years old...far too young to be put out to pasture even though I’m pretty fed up with it. My husband will probably take over this laptop. :( If I can figure out how to get my camera hooked up to this thing, I'll post some pictures of the Mac. Those Apple folks really know a thing about design. Even the box is pretty.

In the meantime, there’s a learning curve associated with this MacBook so expect me to be slow at responding. Also, I’m having some trouble with my email. If you sent an email that requires a response and I haven’t replied, please email me again.

I also don’t have access to any of my data which included some rough outlines of reviews that I should have posted. Not sure if I’m going to start from scratch or wait for my PC to return, but I should have a couple posted by April 23, 2010.

Of course, I’m still behind in reading and posting reviews, but I’m catching up. If you have questions or concerns regarding this, please email me.

Things have got to get better, right?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Guts Part V

For those of you just tuning in, Cindy from Cindy's Love of Books came up with a great idea. She purchased Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal and invited others to join her on a journey of journaling. Her original post about the book can be found here.

This week I worked on a number of pages. We are still doing renovations around the house and some stuff around the yard now that it's nice outside, but I made sure I got some work done on the journal, too. Here's my update for week 5 of my journal wrecking adventure:

Create a nonstop line: Finished! It was torturous, but it's done.

Trace Your Hands: I liked the tracing one from last week so much I decided to do something similar. If I had given it some more thought I would have done it a little differently, but I'm happy with how it's turning out so far. It's a work in progress.

Write One Word Over and Over:I decided to take the literal approach when selecting my "word" for this page. My husband chuckled when he saw it. I just shrugged. It's me. Another work in progress.

I also worked on Cover this page with white things (found a few more items), Press leaves and other found things (not sure what to do with this yet, but found some dried up leaves outside that I set aside) and A place for your grocery lists pages (saved a few grocery lists and added them to the page). I'll include photos of these at a later date.

Links to other updates: The Beginning, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

See you next Sunday for another update.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bone China by Roma Tearne

Bone China follows the four generations of the de Silva family from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) to London, England. One by one they realize that their homeland is much too dangerous and they must escape the lawlessness and corruption. First, a few of the sons move, then others follow. Settling down, fitting it and getting used to the cold is not as easy as they hoped. Assimilation and the tragedies they face slowly take their toll as the characters keep their secrets, commit their errors and try to begin again.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Tearne's a superb writer and a wonderful storyteller. The novel is rich in details about the time period and the area. I found the social aspects of country's fight for political independence from Britain particularly intriguing. I really don't know that much about Sri Lanka, but Tearne teaches me a little more each time I read one of her books.

The characters in this book were plentiful, varied and flawed. I cared about them, worried about them and often thought of them when I wasn't reading. My favourite character was Grace, the matriarch. She had to deal with her children and her drunkard husband, Aloysius. While she loved her family and did what she could to save them, she also took care of herself and her own needs. I really liked reading about Jasper, the talking mynah bird. He offered some comic relief to the story. Well, at first anyway. He goes from all-knowing and all-seeing to being totally confused about what was going on. Myrtle, Grace's cousin and live-in help, was also interesting because she was not well liked and liked no one. Her vengeful diary entries punctuate the story and add little tidbits of information about the characters.

The title of the book comes from the bone china that Grace collected and cherished. For me, the bone china, which is referenced many times throughout the book, ties the story together and acts as a symbol of family, generations and home. I think it reminded the family of all they have gained and all they have lost.

New word alert:
harridan = an insult - an offensive term for a woman that deliberately insults her age as advanced and her temperament as assertive.

Favourite quotes:
He was well aware that his wife was corseted in good manners, bound up by good breeding, wrapped in the glow of a more elegant world than the one he had been brought up in.

Why couldn't the silly bugger stop sniggering like a smutty schoolboy?

She [Savitha] could stretch a single complaint into a thesis.

I've also read Tearne's first book, Mosquito (my review.) You can tell by my review that I loved it, too.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by Roma Tearne.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author, her other books and other endeavours, please visit Roma Tearne's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

Bone China by Roma Tearne, HarperCollins, ©2008. ISBN 9781554684168(Trade Paperback), 400p.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Little Red Book - Review Repost and Giveaway

Last year I had the privilege to read and review a wonderful book called My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. Well, she has a new edition coming out soon and Hachette Book Group has ask me to repost my review and giveaway a few copies. How great is that?

Here's my review from a year ago:

My Little Red Book is a wonderful collection of stories about women's first periods. The stories come from women from different walks of life, different age groups and different cultures. Because of this, each story was unique, yet equally fascinating.

This book is awesome. While I was reading this book I kept thinking "Where has this book been all my life? Why didn't someone think of this before?" If someone had told me years ago that I'd be reading a book on menstruation (Argh! I hate that word), I would have told them they were crazy. I not only read this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The collection reminds us that even though we are in many ways different from each other, there's a common bond with share with all women. That bond should be celebrated and talked about rather than hidden and silenced.

Gloria Steinem's "If Men Could Menstruate" was priceless...and so true. Also, I especially loved the section on "Euphemisms and Code Words" for periods. Some of them made me cringe a little ("Arts and Crafts week at panty camp", "Ordering l'omelette rouge") and lots of them made me laugh out loud ("Having the painters in", "Cleanup in aisle one", "Closed for maintenance".)

It's amazing how many women mentioned Judy Blume's book Are You There God? It's Me Margaret in their stories. I wonder if anyone realized at the time of its original publication just how many women (or generations) would be affected by the book. I know it was really popular when I was a preteen/teen.

I'm not going to share my first story (it's mostly unremarkable), however, I will say that I've always hated my period. Ok, that's a pretty strong word, eh? Let's go for not-liked-very-much-at-all. Better? I didn't think it was something to celebrate...more like something to hide or be embarrassed about. However, now that Nalebuff has issued this "call for a change in attitude", I can celebrate the 120 or so periods I have left. [Yes, I've counted...using mid-fifties as a guideline for menopause). So...Yippee! Period. Bring it on. I'm ready for you now.

Highly recommended. I can't say that enough. This book would make an ideal gift for any woman in your life...daughter, mother, niece, aunt, grandmother, sister, cousin, friend. Pick up a copy for yourself, too. The royalties from this book will go to a worthwhile charity.

For more information about the book, visit the book's official website.

To take a peek inside:

See what Rachel has to say about the book:

GIVEAWAY: I have 5 copies of this fabulous book to giveaway.

To enter, leave a comment below with a way for me to contact you. If I can't contact you, you can't win.

For a bonus entry: Follow my blog. In a separate comment let me know that you are a follower. New and current followers are eligible. Again, please include a way for me to contact you.

You'll have until midnight (CDT), April 23, 2010 to enter.

The giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only. No P.O. boxes, please.

Five winners will be picked in a random draw on April 24, 2010. Those winners will be notified by email and have until noon on April 27, 2010 to respond with their mailing addresses.

Good Luck!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old, finds the body of a stranger in the cucumber patch. Finally something interesting is happening around Buckshaw, her home, and she's pleased to be a part of it. As you might have guessed, Flavia is no ordinary youngster. She has her own laboratory where she mixes chemicals to create fantastic poisons; some quite benign and some definitely deadly. She's determined to ferret out the numerous secrets that abound and solve the mystery that's shown up on her doorstep.

Fantastic book. I knew with all of the buzz surrounding this book and the numerous awards its won, I was bound to enjoy it. However, I did more than that. I loved it. Absolutely! Set in the 1950s in an English mansion, the story was charming, inviting and featured a great mystery. Honestly, it really didn't even matter that much how it turned out. I just loved reading about Flavia and the other characters in this setting.

Speaking of Flavia, she was delightful. I think she found the whole mystery situation quite amusing. Her penchant for poisons and knowledge of them were astonishing. I often had to remind myself that she was only eleven-years-old. She seemed much older. Her interactions with adults, especially Inspector Hewitt, were very mature. We get to see a little of her child-like playfulness when she's dealing with her sisters, Feely and Daffy.

Flavia's father was a avid stamp collector which allowed the author to bring in all sorts of interesting philatelic (stamp collecting) information. I particularly liked reading about the Penny Black stamp.

I loved the final scene between Flavia and Inspector Hewitt. Much like a final duel, they were still feeling each other out, each determining how to get the upper hand. Awesome. I hope Flavia encounters him (or similar characters) again.

Favourite quotes: There were lots of great lines in this book to choose from. Here are two of my favourites:
...silence is sometimes the most costly of commodities. (page 219)

I gave Father a silent hug to which, although he remained rigid as an oak, he did not seem to object.(page 221) This line from Flavia made me laugh out loud. On the face of it, it's sad that Flavia's relationship with her Father was such that a real hug would be out of the question. However, how could he object to a silence hug? Would he even know he was receiving one?

New Word Alert: This book had numerous new words for me. Here's a sampling:
budgerigar (page 5) - small bird
pinioned (page 7) - hold down
factotum (page 19) - menial, gofer
aeons (page 78) - era, age
cogitate (page 153) - think
boulevardier (page 160) - man of the world, a fashionable sophisticated man who treats life with light-hearted cynicism
netsuke (page 179) - toggle on kimono cord
prestidigitation (page 184) - conjuring, sleight of hand used in performing magic tricks.

Highly recommended. I can't wait to read Bradley's next Flavia installment, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.

If you love Flavia as I do, you might want to check out the The Flavia Fan Club. It contains lots of author information as well as updates on future books.

For more information about this book, please visit the Random House website.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, Anchor Canada (Random House), ©2009. ISBN 9780385665834(Hardcover), 370p.

Wreck This Journal - The Guts Part IV

I didn't have a very productive week and only worked on a few pages. Too many other things going on right now. I'm still having fun, though. Anyway, here's my update for week 4 of my journal wrecking adventure:

Sew this Page:I really didn't know what to do with this page when I started out and it really shows. I'm not happy with how it turned out. A mish-mash of stitches going higgly-piggly all of the page. I've stopped here because the page is getting quite soft and I fear that it will rip with any more handling. Did I mention that paper is not easy to sew? It's so unforgiving. I mostly let the needle guide my way. It obviously couldn't make up its mind as to which way to go. I've added a few buttons (sewn on) and a few straight pins as fillers. My favourite part of this page is that I left the needle in the upper right hand corner, right next to the picture of the needle. It's still threaded. I still need to get the page back into the book.

Trace the Things in Your Bag (or Pockets). Let the Lines Overlap:I selected a few items from my purse and traced them here. I coloured in a few of the overlapping sections. I'll probably leave it here rather than add more colour. The page features four things I never leave home without: my casino card, my worry stone, my house key and of course, my marvellous Midol (labelled pain relief).

Collect the Stamps off of All Your Mail: I've added enough stamps to cover the pages. Now I'm just wondering how to finish it off.

I also worked on Write One Word Over and Over and Cover This Page Using Only Office Supplies pages. We went grocery shopping, so the Collect Fruit Stickers Here page got a few more stickers. I'll include photos of these at a later date.

Links to other updates: The Beginning, Part I, Part II, Part III.

See you next Sunday for another update.

Happy Easter.