Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Guts Part III

I'm really starting to have fun with this despite not having much time again (we are still painting). Anyway, I managed to get a few pages completed or started in my journal. Here are this week's accomplishments:

This page is for Handprints or Fingerprints. Get them dirty then press down: This was fun to do. I used two stamping ink pads and my pinky to get the prints. I had a little trouble coming up with things to make them into. I also had trouble removing the ink from my fingers.

Make a Paper Chain: I added some colour to the page. I'll probably leave it as is with every second section coloured rather than doing them all. If you remember from last week, I refused to cut up this page because on the back side was the page for fruit stickers. Anyway, I made the chain out of cardstock and then flattened it so that I could close the journal.

Close the Journal. Write/scribble something on the edges: I knew I had to do this page soon because it was already having trouble closing the journal. I wasn't sure of what to write, so I settled on "Books Just Want to Be Free!!", the tag line of Bookcrossing. On the other side I wrote the website URL:, which just happens to be my favourite website.

Cover This Page in White Things: A work in progress. I cheated a little by first adding some blue cardstock so that the white items would stand out. It's also going to absorb some of the glue that I'm using. I learned the hard way (on the stamp page) that the glue can seep through several pages while it's drying.

Create a Non-stop Line: Another work in progress. I'm getting really tired of this one. Can you tell? I'm torn between quickly finishing it up and putting it away for a few weeks to come back fresh and eager to do it right. Hmmmm...stay tuned.

Write a List of More Ways to Wreck This Journal: No explanation necessary. Purely spontaneous.

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

Update: Don't forget to check out Cindy's progress at Cindy's Love of Books.

See you next Sunday for another exciting update.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

In Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, CeeCee's life has not been ideal for a twelve-year-old girl, up until now. However, it may be about to change. When her mentally ill mother dies, her father is unwilling or unable to care for her, so he decides to pack CeeCee off to live with Aunt Tootie in Savannah. Not a great situation as far as CeeCee is concerned. She doesn't know this Aunt Tootie and doesn't know what to expect. She remains scared and apprehensive about the move, but doesn't have any choice. What she doesn't know is that this could be the best thing that's ever happened to her.

This is the best feel-good book I've read in a long time. Set in simpler times, it warmed my heart with its charm, humour and Southern ways. The characters were quaint, strong and fun to read about. The whole story was delightful and I especially loved all of the stories the characters had to tell.

All of the characters, most of which were women and good solid role models, were great, but my favourites were CeeCee and Oletta. CeeCee was wise beyond her years and really needed someone to love and accept her. Oletta gave some really good advice. I think she needed CeeCee as much as CeeCee needed her.

My one little complaint is that at times, CeeCee felt like vehicle to introduce some of the other characters. We got to know CeeCee along the way, but a few times the story seemed to go from meeting one new character to another without a lot happening in between.

There was a notable shift in the story towards the end that I quite enjoyed. I don't want to give too much away, but it had to do with story-telling.

Favourite quotes:
Don't go wastin' all them bright tomorrows you ain't even seen by hangin' on to what happened yesterday.(page 290)

She wore her sadness on the outside, like a heavy winter coat. (page 114)

Momma had been gone for only three days, and already I was facing the single biggest lesson of my life: death changes everything.(page 36)

Want to read other reviews? Check out these from other bloggers: Jo-Jo Loves to Read, Pudgy Penguin Perusals and The Book Chick.

Highly recommended.

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

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

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

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel by Beth Hoffman, Viking (Penguin), ©2010. ISBN 9780670021390(Hardcover), 306p.

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training by Tom Jokinen

In Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training, Tom Jokinen takes us behind the scenes of the funeral home business. He presents the options, the various traditions, the embalming, the burial, some of the history and much more. It's all there. No more wondering what goes on behind all of those curtains. Jokinen wrote this book after being an apprentice undertaker at a Winnipeg funeral home.

I really, really enjoyed reading this book. The only creepy thing about it was the fact that I enjoyed it so much. At first, my shoulders were a little scrunched up by my ears and I didn't want anyone to know I was reading a book about death and the funeral business. It made me a little uncomfortable. After awhile though, I really started to relax and readily shared my new knowledge with my squeamish and "please don't tell me anymore" husband. At one point my husband remarked that the book sounded a little morbid. I sort of agreed, but explained it this way: "It's like reading about the car dealership business, with a different product." I think that was an "aha" moment for both of us. The funeral home is a business. They just have a product no one wants to talk or think about all that much.

The book was extremely enlightening. I learned a lot about the funeral director's job, the funeral home's business in general and lots of different facts about death and dying in this country, in the USA and around the world. A few of the details may not be for the faint of heart, like Jokinen's descriptions of the embalming. His commentary about his experiences helped me accept the procedure for what it was and didn't gross me out one bit.

Jokinen presented the material with a great sense of humour ("never lick anything in a funeral home"), but remains respectful throughout. It doesn't come across as a long sales pitch in favour of any one option. There's a lot of information about one particular funeral home, but only because that's where he apprenticed. I don't think it's overwhelming or biased in any sense.

Jokinen also wrote about the various traditions including those of the Jews and Mennonites, which have tight guidelines or rules about funerals and burials. The book hints at an interesting question: Are they restrictions or freedom of having to make tough choices in a time of great sorrow? My vote is for freedom. Some of the choices are agonizing, not to mention darn near impossible when having to make those decisions with family members who insist on being obstacles to the whole process. If some of those decisions could already have been made...hmmm....I guess I digressed there for a minute. Sorry about that. Needless to say, this book brought out a few unresolved emotions I didn't know I'd buried (forgive the pun).

The author also touched on some of the way-out-there ideas, such as being made into a pencil after death (pages 221-222). Interesting, eh? He also explained some of the greener alternatives which may be the way of the future.

One of the exciting things about the book is that it was set in my home town, Winnipeg. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the various landmarks, streets and establishments that were familiar to me. I especially loved the history of the funeral homes in this area. Fascinating stuff. Having said that, I still think it would be informative for those who live outside of the area and may not be familiar with it. There's plenty of information about the industry in general.

My favourite interesting fact in the book was that according to Jokinen, as of the printing of this book, there is no law in Manitoba (Canada) prohibiting the scattering of ashes as long as it's done discretely. I won't explain further as to why I found that fascinating. My one take away from the book: Funeral homes are businesses. Businesses have to make money. If you remember that and what that entails, you are much better off.

New word alert: miasma = cloud, mist

Favourite quote:
On being a funeral director:
Funeral 101: developing a detached engagement with technical details and zero or minimal engagement with the emotional ones.(page 43)

Highly recommended. Really!

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

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

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-training by Tom Jokinen, Random House, ©2010 ISBN 9780307355683(Hardcover), 277p.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Guts - Part II

I didn't get that much done on the journal this week. Too much painting and running into the big city for supplies and stuff.

Here's a few pages I managed to work on:

Create a Nonstop line: I admit I was inspired by a page I saw on the Flickr group for this one. It's going to take some time to finish it up. I have an idea on how to make it go a little faster.

Make a Paper Chain: I was dismayed to find out that this page was on the back side of one of the fruit sticker pages. I couldn't possibly cut it up. So I decided to color the page (I'm working on that) and use some coloured paper and to make the chain. Next I'll figure out how I'm going to close the book once the chain is in place.

Tear this Page Out, Put it in Your Pocket, Put it Through the Wash, Stick it Back in: This was rather fun. I'm surprised that the page survived at all. I'm also surprised that the page shrunk (or it that shrank?). Anyway, it's a little smaller. I was pretty careful in folding the page and shoving it as deeply as I could into the change pocket of a pair of jeans. I figured that would give it the greatest chance of survival. When it was dry, I wrote in the particulars of the event and added some colour to the page. The picture here shows the page before it was inserted back into the book.

I did a little on the sewing page and collecting stamps page, but not enough to warrant photos.

Links to other updates: The Beginning, Part I.

Update: Check out Cindy's progress over at Cindy's Love of Books.

See you next Sunday for another update.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book of Souls by Glenn Cooper

In Book of Souls, Will Piper, newly married and retired, is once again pulled into the mystery surrounding the ancient library he discovered a year ago. This time two former Area 51 workers, representing the 2027 Club, contact him regarding one of the books. The one from 1527 has landed in an auction and they want help recovering it. At first Piper's a little reluctant, but then agrees to help them. They soon garner the attention of the watchers (government agents) who want to keep the book's contents and its existence a secret from the world. Things get even complicated for Will when a beautiful young woman enters the picture and a secret document is found hidden in the book. He's going to have to do a lot of work if he hopes to solve the mystery "that will affect the fate of all humanity."

After reading Cooper's first book, Library of the Dead, I anxiously awaited the publication of this book. Now that I've read it, I can tell you I was not disappointed; I devoured it in a matter of hours.

This book recaps some of the information discovered in the first book, but still contains plenty of mystery and intrigue as well as a whole new set of surprises. Like the first book, the story jumps around to three different time periods. This time it's the 14th century, 16th century and present day. Cooper masterfully constructs the story so that it's very easy to follow and fun to read.

I loved how the author created a scenario in which one ancient book affected the lives of three influential figures: Shakespeare, John Calvin and Nostradamus. It's was ingenious how Cooper imagined these three would have come across the book and how it shaped their lives.

My one small complaint is that this book seemed to lack a little of the punch the first one had. The revelations from the first book were so stunning, it would be hard to top them. That's not to say this book isn't exciting. It's just that if I had to pick a favourite it would be the first one where the idea of the library and its implications were ground-breaking.

Cooper is slowly convincing me that this library of the dead exists. That's because the characters in this book are waiting the "Caracas event", which isn't all that far from Haiti. With what happened there (January 2010) and the number of dead, it's not hard to see that perhaps Cooper is onto something. Pretty spooky. ;)

I'm pretty sure this book can be enjoyed as a standalone book. However, if you haven't read either of the books, I'd suggest starting with the first one. If for no other reason than it makes sense to start at the beginning of the story.

New Words Alert:
licentiousness (page 251) - depravity
primogeniture (page 259) - first-born's right of inheritance
enigmatic (page 277) - mysterious
lassitude (page 284) - exhaustion
truculent (page 322) - hostile

Highly recommended. I can't wait to read more books by this author.

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

For more information about the author and other interesting stuff, please visit Glenn Cooper's website.

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

This review is also available on Edwards Magazine Book Club website.

Book of Souls by Glenn Cooper, HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9781554683116(Trade Paperback), 426p.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

Eternal on the Water is about love at first sight, living with a devastating illness, fulfilling promises and enjoying the time we have. For Mary, an expert on crows, and Cobb, a professor, it was love at first sight when they met along the Allagash river in Maine. Cobb soon learns that Mary might have a devastating illness, but he isn't deterred. Together they travel the globe; the waters of the Allagash, to kayak, camp and talk to the Chungamunga girls; Indonesia, to visit Mary's brother; Yellowstone National Park, to study crows; and finally back to where it all began. To fulfill a promise. To say goodbye.

I adored this book. It's beautifully written, expressive and lyrical without being wordy. Monninger is a wonderful story teller. He takes his time with the story and focuses on the joys in Mary's life. His descriptions of wildlife and nature are outstanding and gives the reader a real sense of being there. He doesn't spend a great deal of time describing the illness (Huntington's disease) or it's symptoms. However, he does give the reader a sense of what Mary and her loved ones are experiencing. In that way, the book is incredibly sad.

The story possessed a dream-like quality. There was a little tension and conflict here and there, but for the most part it was even keeled and felt otherworldly.

Mary's study of crows was fascinating. The book is filled with stories and interesting facts about them. I learned something new and gained a new appreciation for them.

I loved both the main characters, Mary and Cobb. Even though I'm not sure I believe in love at first sight, I knew they did and I felt their passion for each other. I deeply respected Cobb's choices and wished many times that I could be as brave as he was.

The ending was incredibly sad and because of that, I had a hard time finishing it. Even with just 4 pages to go, I had to put the book down twice because I couldn't bear to go on. I knew what was going to happen, but I didn't know the specifics and was not prepared for it. Despite that, I loved every minute.

Favourite quote:
Mary to Cobb after she present him with an everything-knife. In a way, Mary was describing their relationship:
Remember, it may decide to leave you. Don't fight against it and don't blame yourself if it happens. The knife may be on a journey of its own(page 298).

Highly recommended. This is not a book I'll forget anytime soon. I look forward to more works by Joseph Monninger.

For information on Huntington's in this country (Canada) and how you can help, please the Huntington Society of Canada.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Simon and Schuster website.

For more information about the author, please visit Joseph Monninger's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon and Schuster for this review copy. Thanks Anneliese.

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger, Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster), ©2010. ISBN 9781439168332(Trade Paperback), 344p.

Wreck This Journal - The Guts - Part I

If you read my post earlier in the week, you might remember that I decided to join Cindy from Cindy's Love of Books on her journal wrecking adventure. We are both using Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal for this project.

I've decided that some of the pages are going to be works in progress. I'll do a little each week until I'm either happy with the result or I just can't possibly do anymore with it. Progress will depend on inspiration and time. I've included all of the pages I've started on and will post more photos as more work is done on them.

Anyway, here's what I have done to date:

This Book Belongs To: A work in progress. Needs more colour.

Poke Holes in This Page Using a Pencil:I'm somewhat happy with this one. I'll probably doodle a little more to fill in some of the white space.

Collect Fruit Stickers Here:Needless to say I've been working on this one for awhile. We eat lots of bananas, Ambrosia apples, avocados and lemons. No rhyme or reason. Pick up a piece of fruit, peel off sticker, place in book. Not that imaginative, but it works for me.

Sew This Page Sewing on paper is not as easy as it looks. It takes time. It was fun, though. This is another one that I'll work on as time permits. It just occured to me that I could cut the page from the book, do some more sewing and then glue it back in. That would be so (or sew) much easier. I'll give it some thought.

Collect the Stamps Off of All Your Mail: Now that we are getting less snail mail this one is going to be harder to complete. However, I recently found a stack of old stamps a relative had been saving. Some of them will complete this page nicely.

A Page for Four-Letter Words If I'd been thinking I would have varied the letter size and used different writing utensils to create this page. It's pretty plain and maybe too literal.

Anyway, that's it for now. Click here to see what Cindy did this week.

I forgot to mention that if you'd like to play along, check out Cindy's original post about the book. [You don't need to buy the book to do so.]

See you next Sunday for another update.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Beginning

Recently, 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.

Having purchased the book some time ago, but not having really done that much with it, I decided to join Cindy and post about my journal-wrecking adventures.

Tune in on Sundays for updates.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last Words by George Carlin with Tony Hendra

Last Words is the autobiography of George Carlin. With the help of his friend, Tony Hendra, George started writing his autobiography in 1993. When George died in June 2008 at the age of seventy-one, the book remained unpublished. Tony was left to finish the job and give us George's "last words".

I loved this sensational, well-written autobiography from the man who loved words. It starts off with a bang and remains interesting throughout. Tony Hendra provides an excellent introduction about how and when the book was written. The book then goes on to cover George's life: childhood, days in radio, comedy with Jack Burns, meeting Brenda (his wife), his on stage live performances and much more. Before I read the book, I really didn't know much about Carlin, but I suspect that the book doesn't hide much. It outlines his triumphs and failures, the drugs (his addiction), the alcohol (Brenda's addiction), the comedy, the arrests and the heart problems.

Each chapter is preceded by a photo. It was neat to see how George changed/aged over the years. The story also detailed the changes George experienced in his lifetime. As the world changed, he changed. As he changed, his comedic focus changed. While his comedy is not the whole focus of the book, fans will be glad to see that some of his more famous routines have been included (at least snippets of them anyway).

I was familiar with some of Carlin's earlier work ("Dirty Words", "Stuff"), but his later routines were new to me and surprised me a bit. I was particularly intrigued by his "The Planet is Fine" notions as well as his take on groups. Funny and thought provoking.

Favourite quotes:
On the way George and Patrick were raised by their mother:
The way Patrick [George's brother] puts it is concise: Mary wanted two Little Lord Fauntleroys. What she got was a pair of hardened dog turds. (page 45)

On his long hair:
...I always had long hair -- only I used to keep it inside my head.(page 141)

From one of his routines:
I got fired last year in Las Vegas for saying shit. In a town where the big game is called craps.(page 147)

On why his "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" is one of his favourites:
...if for no other reason than the grief it caused people who deserve to have grief caused to them.(page 162)

On his responsibilities to his audience:
Get laughs, of course, dazzle them from time to time with form, craft, verbal fireworks, but above all engage their minds.(page 246)

Highly recommended. This book is a definite must read for fans. Those looking for a really good biography/memoir will also enjoy it.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Simon and Schuster website.

For more information about George Carlin and his work, please visit George Carlin's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon and Schuster for this review copy.

Last Words by George Carlin, Free Press (Simon and Schuster), ©2009. ISBN 9781439172957(Hardcover), 344p.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Canada Also Reads - Time to Vote!

Way back on February 14, 2010, I posted about the Canada Also Reads competition sponsored by the National Post.

Now it's time to vote for your favourite. Click here to do that.

As I stated before, one of my all-time favourites is in the running: The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Buchanan. I just adored this book. Here's my review in case you missed it the first two times I posted it.

Don't just take my word for it. Tish Cohen (author of Inside Out Girl and Town House) is defending the book in the competition and has written some lovely things about it. Click here to see what she has to say. She's pretty convincing, eh?

I've already voted. Don't miss your chance to vote for your favourite.

Oh and good luck Cathy!