Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The End

It was a somewhat busy week (hence the late post) so I didn't get much done. I was going to make it a "best of" week and feature my favourite pages, but I just couldn't decide on just a few. I've posted 14 updates and with summer upon us, I'm finding less time to do this and fewer pages that need doing. I've had a blast working on Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal, but I think it's time to draw a close to this adventure...the weekly posting part anyway.

Thanks to everyone who made comments and dropped by to see how this adventure was going. Thanks to Shann at Illusion-Esk for playing along and to Cindy at Cindy's Love of Books for coming up with the idea.

Here are the links to the updates in case you missed one or want to take another look: The Beginning, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV.

I have a few other projects in mind and hope to start one of them soon. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

In The Book of Fires, young Agnes learns that she is pregnant and runs off to London leaving her life and struggling family behind. Alone and scared, she ends up on the doorstep of Mr. Blacklock, a pyrotechnist, a fireworks maker. Soon she is working as his assistant, but continues to hide her condition. When a young man delivers some supplies to the workshop, Agnes sees a way to get out of her predicament and hatches a plan. Little does she know the Blacklock has been busy making his own plans.

This debut book by Jane Borodale was great. While the beginning of the story was not uncommon, the stuff that followed as well as the ending were extraordinary. The writing was lovely and fit well with the time period (1750s). I know it took me a little longer to get to this one, but I had a number of books set in England/UK and I tried to spread them out a little. I'm so glad I finally got to this one. I loved it.

It was a little odd that Agnes ended up as Blacklock's assistant so quickly. Perhaps her saw that she was desperate or he saw something else and didn't want to send her away. Whatever the reason it probably saved Agnes's life.

I adored Agnes. I didn't always agree with her decisions, but she stole my heart right from the beginning. I kept hoping that she was going to find someone she could confide in. The others in Blacklock's employ were a eccentric bunch. With all of their bickering and mistrust, it was hard to tell what really was going on there. I found it hard to like Blacklock. He kept disappearing and working in secret. I was hoping that he too would find a confidante.

I loved all of the information about fireworks. Some of the chemistry and preparations were over my head, but it was still really interesting stuff. We almost take fireworks for granted now. It was great to read about the art as it was hundreds of years ago.

The ending was really good and a huge surprise. I wasn't expecting that at all. I read part of it twice because it confused me and I was unsure if I read it correctly. I should probably leave it there before I reveal something I shouldn't.

Favourite quotes:
The listening ear should always be left ajar to possibility.

New words:
ague (page 6) - fever
coppice (page 19) - wood
gibbet (page 39) - gallows
malapert (page 105) - bold in speech or behaviour
jerkin (page 133) - sleeveless coat or tunic
victuals (page 147) - provisions
orpiment (page 183) - yellow mineral
assizes (page 192) - inquest
periwig (page 193) - hairpiece
fustian (page 206) - cotton-linen cloth (in this case)
burette (page 278) - tube for measuring liquid

I'd definitely recommend this book.

Want to read another review? Here's one from Meaghan at A Cineaste's Bookshelf and another from Heather at Books and Quilts.

For more information about this book or to have a peek inside, please visit Penguin'swebsite.

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

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

The Book of Fires: A Novel by Jan Borodale, Viking (Penguin), ©2010. ISBN 9780670021062(Hardcover), 356p.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Guts - Part XIV

It's that time again to bring you up-to-date on my adventure with Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal. This week was a little busy with appointments and painting, but I still managed to work on a few pages.

Here's my update for week 14 of my journal wrecking adventure:

A Place for Your Grocery Lists: This page was a work in progress. I usually make my grocery lists on scrap paper or on the back of a used envelope. I trimmed a few of them to fit on the page. I basically just added a few more lists that had accumulated and wrote another list around the edge of the pages.

Create a drawing using a piece (or several pieces) of your hair: When we were kids, we used to dip a piece of string in paint, lay it out on a piece of paper, fold over the paper (or put another piece of paper on top), place one hand over the paper and pull out the string to create a print. When I first saw this page, I was going to use several pieces of my hair in place of the string. Then six weeks ago, I got my hair cut short. I still loved the idea, but I no longer had the hair to do it. So, I cheated. I substituted a piece of string for the hair and used primary colours to reflect the childhood aspect of the project.

Bring This book into the Shower with You: I wasn't going to totally destroy all of the work I did in this book by exposing it to water. So I enclosed it in a Ziploc bag to protect it. It stayed nice and dry while I had a shower. [Note: This is not a paid announcement for Ziploc. ;) ]

As you can see in the last photo, I added a few more stickers to the cover.

Links to other updates: The Beginning, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII.

I should be back next Sunday for another update.

Photo Friday - Stand Out

For more "Stand Out" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.
For more of my submissions, please see my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cool Water by Dianne Warren

Cool Water leads us through the lives of the residents of Juliet. There's Lee and his farm; Willard and Marian, who run the drive-in; Norval, the banker and his wife Lila; Vicki and Blaine and their 6 children; Lynn, who works in a restaurant and her husband Hank; and of course the camel. Like a lot of small towns, everyone is connected to everyone else in this anything-but-sleepy town in drought-prone Saskatchewan.

I loved this book. It worries me a little when I hear such good things about a book as I did with this one. I usually expect too much and finish the book disappointed. This was not the case here at all. The book more than exceeded my expectations. It was fantastic. Really, really good. In its quiet unassuming way, the story kind of snuck up on me and sucked me in before I knew what was happening. I was halfway through the book in no time. Despite the sadness and suffering in the story, it still felt light and airy. It is also quite funny at times.

I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favourite character. I really liked several of them. Even though Marian said very little, she stole my heart. I really felt sorry for Norval, who knew everyone's financial woes. Vicki was stuck with 6 kids and very little income. There wasn't one character that I disliked.

I was a little surprised by the camel until I thought about it for a bit. Drought-prone, sand, hot. Of course, Saskatchewan is a great place to have a camel. I don't know why they don't have more of them.

Besides the title, there were several references to water: a creek, a swimming pool, all the talk about waiting for rain, etc. I was so caught up in the story that even I felt relief when the characters had a chance to cool off.

The setting of the story was of great interest to me. While I don't live in Saskatchewan or in a small town, I was born and raised on the prairies; right next door in Manitoba. I wouldn't live anywhere else. Usually this time of year, we start praying for rain; for relief from the heat, for the garden and for the farmers. That's not the case this year. The prairies have had rain than we can handle. More is on the way. Many farmers' fields are underwater, The Red River Floodway is in use to keep Winnipeg from flooding; and the mosquitos are multipling quickly. We are all about extremes here. Anyone have a giant umbrella?

Highly recommended. I'd look forward to reading works by this author.

Want to read other reviews? Here's one from Melanie from The Indextrious Reader, Luanne from A Bookworm's World, and one from the Winnipeg Free Press.

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

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

Cool Water: A Novel by Dianne Warren, HarperCollins, ©2010. ISBN 9781554685585(Hardcover), 328p.

The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning

In The Sea Captain's Wife, Azuba desperately wants to join her husband Nathaniel on his ship. However, he has other ideas and leaves her at home while he goes on a lengthy voyage. Upon his return, he learns of an unfortunate incident and realizes that he has little choice but to take Azuba with him on his next trip. Azuba has no idea what's in store for her. Rough waters, horrific storms, pirates, mutiny, starvation; all are featured in this harrowing tale of life on the high seas.

I loved this book. Written entirely from Azuba's point of view, the story really gives the reader a sense of what life was like as a sea captain's wife in the 1860s. From the loneliness of being left at home to travelling the dangerous waters on a ship, we see Azuba's life and know how she's feeling every step of the way.

I loved Azuba. She had this romantic notion of being a sea captain's wife and being on board the ship. It seemed that no matter where she was, she met some pretty tough challenges, yet she persevered. Even though it's very much Azuba's story, she wasn't the one that stuck with me long after the book. It was Nathaniel that I worried about. Azuba adapted to changes as they came; Nathaniel life was on the water. I wondered how he fared in the end.

All of the nautical details were extremely interesting: mizzenmast, gig, gamming chair, sails and so on. I also loved all of the descriptions of life at sea. I think I had the same misconceptions that Azuba had about living on a ship. I know better now. I'm sure Powning did massive amounts of research in order to get the details down. Well done.

I loved being reminded of a simpler time with regards to communication. Does anyone write letters and send them by snail mail anymore? I know I don't. I can't imagine writing a letter to someone with the knowledge that it's going to take months to arrive at its destination. The letters between Nathaniel and Azuba took months to arrive as did Azuba's letters to her parents. Nowadays if someone doesn't get our email within seconds, we know something is wrong.

A glossary has been included at the back of the book. Surprisingly I knew a few of the words listed: crazy quilt, guano, hardtack, phrenology, sextant, and a few others. I wish I had read this section before I had started reading, though. It could have been helpful with some of the nautical terms as I read the story. As it was, I didn't know it was there until I finished the book. Also, I know that glossaries don't usually include page numbers, but I wish they had been included here. That way I could go back and find the words within the story.

New words: The text contained lots of new-to-me words. Here's the list (I didn't bother including any of the words included in the glossary):
barque (page 39) - boat - also bark
erysipelas (page 70) - bacterial skin disease
portmanteaus (page 75) - large suitcase
gimballed (page 85) - ring for holding a compass steady
chivvied (page 93) - urge or harass
bowsprit (page 96) - that spear-type thingy on the front of the ship.
pestiferous (page 122) - annoying
torpor (page 177) - inactivity
ameliorated (page 194) - to make something better
slovenly (page 251) - sloppy
limned (page 256) - to draw or paint a picture, especially in profile
obeisance (page 307) - bow, genuflection
ephemera (page 348) - short-lived

Highly recommended. I have The Hatbox Letters sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I can't wait to read it now. It should be really good.

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

There's also a mini-site for The Sea Captain's Wife that features lots of information regarding the book including a Bibliography, a section on nautical terms, as well as short articles on ports of call from the book and some interesting history.

For more information about this author and her other works, please visit Beth Powning's website.

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

The Sea Captain's Wife: A Novel by Beth Powning, Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), ©2010 ISBN 9780307397102(Hardcover), 361p (plus Glossary).

Photo Friday - Heavy

For more "Heavy" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.
For more of my submissions, please see my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wreck This Journal - The Guts - Part XIII

With the big Bloggiesta this weekend, I completely forgot to post my progress on Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal. I completed one that was a work-in-progress and started two others.

Anyway, here's my update for week 13 of my journal wrecking adventure:

Burn This Page:I just added some flames. Ok, so they don't look like flames, but I tried. I should have looked it up on the internet to get an idea of what they should look like, but I didn't think of it until it was too late. I'm going to stop here before I wreck it more than I already have.

Do Some Rubbings with a Pencil:I tried a few items (on scrap paper) before settling on coins. I think the paper is a little thick to get many details. If you look closely enough, you can make out the twoonies.

Glue in a Page from a Magazine. Circle Words you Like:We don't have many magazines in the house. The only ones we get are the free ones that come with the newspaper. I couldn't find any articles that I found appealing, but I did find these great pictures of diamonds. Who doesn't like diamonds? I made my husband study the pictures while I was taking this photograph. The page looks like it needs something else. Probably a work in progress.

Links to other updates: The Beginning, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, Part XII.

I'll see you next Sunday for another update.

Bloggiesta - The Finish Line

I made it. The finish line. Woohoo! I'm so glad I joined in on the fun for this Bloggiesta. I had a blast and got some stuff done on my blog. Of course, I didn't get everything done I wanted to, but I now have a nice list to tackle in the future. I think my first Bloggiesta was extremely successful. I can't wait for the next one.

The mini-challenges I completed:
Mini-Challenge: Blog Improvement Project
Mini-Challenge: Clean Up Your Reader Feeder
Mini-Challenge: Create a Favicon and Gravatar
Mini-Challenge: Set up RSS Feeds

Other tasks:
- New layout. (This was a huge accomplishment for me.)
- Cleaned up a few tags and links.
- Created a template for reviews.
- Started reviews for 12 future reads.
- Started my review policy. (not enough to enter the mini-challenge).
- Wrote two reviews.
- Added some publisher links to my new link page.
- Review some of the other mini-challenges for future consideration.
- Added a few blogs to my Google Reader.

Total time spent:
about 13 hours over the 3 days.

I'm afraid I forgot to count the number of other blogs I visited or how many comments I left. I was quickly overwhelmed by the RSS Bloggiesta feed. I know I didn't get to everyone, probably not even a quarter of the participants. I hope to visit more of them in the next couple of weeks.

A huge thank you to Natasha at Maw Books Blog for hosting this Bloggiesta and for making it a whole lot of fun.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bloggiesta - Day Three - Accomplishments

Today (Sunday) was not a good day for blogging. I had good intentions in the morning, but that was before I saw the weather forecast. It was going to be a beautiful sunny day and since we've had lots and lots of rain in the last few weeks with more to come in a few days, I just had to get outside.

I managed to get a few bloggy things done anyway:
- wrote one review

- Mini-challenge: Getting out from underneath the feed reader. I created folders, used Google Trends to weed out a few blogs and renamed some of them to include the blogger's name.

- added a few blogs to my reader.

I still have to added up all of the time I spent and make a final list of everything I accomplished. I'll post that later.


Bloggiesta - Day Three - The Home Stretch

Yesterday I spent the day doing review related items:

- created a template for reviews (a few of them actually)
- started twelve reviews for future reads
- started on my review policy
- wrote a review and started another one.

Other things I did yesterday:

Flashback Mini-Challenge: Gravatar and Favicon. I created my favicon today. It was fairly easy and I love it. (I did my gravatar yesterday).

Mini-Challenge: Set up RSS and Email Subscriptions - I did this yesterday, but I wasn't sure it was completed. With Sarah's help, it's done. Added my link to Mr. Linky.

Added some publisher links to my new link page.

I also looked at some of the other mini-challenges and bookmarked them for later. These are ones I won't get to this weekend, but I'd like to tackle them a some point.

On deck for today:
- finish one outstanding review.
- start another one for a book I'm almost done reading.
- Mini-challenge: Getting out from underneath the feed reader.
- Read more of the RSS Bloggiesta Feed. I didn't do this yesterday and have lots to catch up on.

I still haven't added any new blogs to my Google reader. I'm going to make a point to add some today.

That's about it for now. Have a great day everyone.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bloggiesta - Day Two

Yesterday I had a lot of fun setting up my new layout. Thanks for all of the positive comments so far.

Other things I did yesterday:
Mini-Challenge: Blog Improvement Project. I admit I did the minimum on this. I listed one short term goal and one long term goal. For me that's not enough. I'm going to make note of this item and think about it in the weeks to come.

Mini-Challenge: Set up RSS and Email Subscriptions - I had tons of trouble with this mostly because I didn't understand what I was reading. I didn't know what to do. I finally figured it out and it turned out to be quite easy. I still don't have my head around feeds, so that's something I'm going to have to work out later.

Created a Gravatar. Easy peasy.

Cleaned up a few tags (more to do) and a few links (again, more to do).

Started going through the RSS feed for Bloggiesta and quickly got overwhelmed. I visited a bunch of sites, left some comments on posts, but I mostly concentrated on Bloggiesta posts to see what others were doing and to offer encouragement. This was a dangerous thing for me. Seeing what others were doing gave me many, many, many more ideas on what I could/should do on my blog. I've added them to a list for later.

On deck for today: Reviews!
- write (or start writing) my two outstanding reviews.
- create templates for reviews/future reads
- Take more breaks.
- Review policy - I might get to this today.
- Go through more of the RSS Bloggiesta feed. Make some comments, connect with more bloggers, find some blogs to follow.

Oh, a quick update: Welcome to my new followers. Thanks a lot!

That's about it for now. Have a great day everyone.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Layout!

It's Bloggiesta time and I'm having a blast! I spent this morning doing a few cleanup tasks and then tackled a new layout.

I lost a little time (about 1/2 hour) because stupid IE and the beautiful new Blogger Template Designer were not cooperating. The preview wouldn't fully load so I couldn't see what my blog would look like with the new layout. Not cool. Anyway, I switched to the MacBook to for a bit and ta-da!

So, what do you think? I'm thrilled with the daisy background, but I'm still tinkering with the text colours, fonts and layout . I'm relieved that I got this far. It wasn't that hard, but a little daunting.

I'm not going to mark this one done just yet, but it's a start.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's Bloggiesta Time!

I'm so excited to be participating in my first Bloggiesta. What's a Bloggiesta you ask? Well, it's a blogging marathon taking place over three days, June 11 - 13. It's hosted by Natasha over at Maw Books Blog. Here's the signup post and all of the details.

My main goal is to connect with other bloggers and to find some new blogs to read and follow. For me a huge added bonus would be to gain some new followers, but I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't. I just want to have fun, meet some new people and catch up on some blogging tasks.

As far as blogging tasks go, here's my list:
- New layout
- Clean out and add my to Google Reader
- Clean up Edwards Magazine links and other links
- Clean up tags
- Write reviews
- Write Review policy page
- Write an About Me page
- Clean up/add to sidebars i.e. GoodReads
- Add to Blogroll
- Create templates for reviews/future reads
- Create a cheat sheet for HTML codes
- Visit the Blogging Tips Group on the Book Blogs Ning and find ways to improve my blog
- Participate in some mini-challenges, which might cover some of these items.

And a few maybes:
- Create a Facebook page for my blog
- Create a Favicon and/or Gravatar

Now that I look at the list, I'm not sure how I'm going to get that all done, but we'll see. I'm planning to spend at least 3-4 hours a day on this. I don't want to burnout on my first Bloggiesta.

I'm probably forgetting something but I think I'm ready to go.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Photo Friday - Aqua

For more "Aqua" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.
For more of my submissions, please see my PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Something New!

My Wreck This Journal adventure is on hiatus this week in order to give you a sneak preview of my next project: How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum by Keri Smith. In case you missed it, here's my review.

The thing I love the most about this book is that because the book isn't "wrecked" like in Wreck This Journal, I can do the Explorations again and again and again if I want to.

Exploration #9: Case of Curiosities
Collect objects that you do not understand or have meaning for.
Alternate: Miniature Museum Collect only very small things. Store them in a mint tin or small box.

My Results: I chose to do the alternate on this one. I'm still in the process of finding small objects, but I've collected a few as you can see in the photo. The box has a lid and dividers to keep everything nice and neat. I've even included a slip of paper on which the Exploration text is printed.

Exploration #18:Structure
Document part of a building(s) that most people ignore (examples include the ceilings, bathrooms, corners, closets, and the insides of drawers). Pay attention to the hidden places.
Alternate: Document the corners of your home.

My Results: Our bathroom has outdated and worn facets/fixtures. Once upon a time, I'm sure they were nice and even now they have a certain appeal. I picked these because eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) we are going to have them replaced and I wanted to have photos to remember them by. I've assembled the photos on a scrapbook page.

That's the preview of my next adventure. Next week I hope to return to my Wreck This Journal adventure. After that I may alternate between the two or do some of one then some of the other. I'm going to play it by ear.

See you next Sunday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

In Black Water Rising, Jay Porter is a lawyer with a not-so-promising practice and a chequered past. During an outing with his wife, he rescues a woman from the bayou waters. Instead of becoming a hero, his good deed leads him down a troubled path and puts himself and those he loves in danger. From the front lines of the civil rights movement in the 60s to the upper levels of Houston's politicians and businessmen in the 80s, the story centres on Jay, who can't seem to catch a break and find a safe place to settle down.

I really liked this book. It's intelligent and well written. I loved how the author tied crime, politics, labour disputes, and the civil rights movement all together to tell this story. The tension of the civil rights movement and Jay's past involvement added an entirely different dimension to the story that kept me interested until the very last page.

I had heard great things about the book and was really looking forward to reading it. While I found it to be really good, I'm not sure that it lived up to that hype that I'd heard. The story featured good characters and plenty of action, but I may have been influenced by the really intense thriller I read just prior to this one.

As for characters, I loved Jay. I thought he was a fabulous character, who tried to run from his past but didn't manage to get too far away from it. I was got caught up in his story and was cheering him on from my favourite armchair. I just wanted him to return to his wife safe and sound.

This book was won numerous awards and was nominated for a number of others. Attica Locke is definitely an author to watch.

New word alert:
stevedoring (page 118) = dockworker
sorors (page 270) = sorority sister

Favourite quotes:
...it's only your mind that can't move out of the prison of its past.


Want to read other reviews? Here's one from Heather at Books and Quilts, one another from Deanna at My Tragic Right Hip and another from Carina at Reading Through Life.

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

For more information about the author, please visit Attica Locke's website.

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

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke, HarperCollins, ©2009. ISBN 9780061735851(Trade Paperback), 427p.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Photo Friday - Arranged

For more "Arranged" photos, visit the Photo Friday website.
To see more of my submissions, go to the PhotoFriday set on my Flickr page.